Friday, 29 January 2010

Patchlist: ton up!

Some of today's Rainham birds, from top: Corn Bunting, Rock Pipit, Ringed Plover with Northern Lapwings, and third-winter Yellow-legged Gull.

With rain lashing against the windows as the alarm went off at 5.30 am, it was hard summoning the will power to head out for an early start at Rainham. But I'm glad I did, because it proved to be a very productive session - by no means sensational in Rainham terms, but almost everything fell into place, despite the weather.

It was a certainly a damp and dismal start at first light. Walking along the seawall at Aveley Bay I picked up two distant passerines in flight that were almost certainly Corn Buntings, but they were heading away and the visibility was poor. My frustration was quickly forgotten, however, with my first Barn Owl of the year. I walked the seawall towards Coldharbour Point, where thousands of gulls were massed on the foreshore. They were mainly small gulls, and I felt sure there must be a Med among them. After 20 minutes of scanning, bingo - a first-winter walked into view. The hordes were then flushed by a birder walking the seawall from the other direction, but I imagine this bird was probably the one reported later, with an adult, on the other side of the river.

Shortly afterwards a call from Dave Morrison put me onto a very distant Knot on the saltings back at Aveley Bay - presumably the same bird seen earlier in the week. I continued beyond Coldharbour Point and, as luck would have it, then picked up a definite Corn Bunting in flight. Fortunately, it circled around and came back down on the tip slope to give itself up nicely for the scope and the camera. A search along the foreshore nearby failed to produce the still-needed wintering Common Sandpiper, so I headed back to the car and drove to the reserve, where Dave had had a Ringed Plover - another year-tick - from the Ken Barrett Hide.

On arrival, no one inside the hide had seen the bird, but a quick scan showed it was there sure enough, hunkered down among the Lapwings, which promptly started to give it some grief. Pleased to have notched up another year-tick for the site, I realised I was now on 99 for Rainham for the year. Could another be found for the big 100? I walked the scrub hoping for a Great Spotted Woodpecker or Mistle Thrush, but no joy, so for a last gasp attempt at the ton I then checked the ditches near the entrance gate - yes! A Kingfisher flew up from the main channel, my first at Rainham for the year. The icing on the cake was a female Sparrowhawk raiding the feeders at the centre for patch-tick number 101. The best of the rest included a minimum of seven Yellow-legged Gulls (at least four adults, two third-winters and a first-winter) , but unlike last week there were no Caspian Gulls today.

Those patch-ticks in full:
95. Barn Owl.
96. Mediterranean Gull.
97. Knot.
98. Corn Bunting.
99. Ringed Plover.
100. Kingfisher.
101. Sparrowhawk.

Thanks to Paul, Howard and especially Dave for feeding me their news today.

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