Friday, 15 January 2010

The thaw delivers


I'd planned to be out at first light this morning, but didn't get to Rainham early enough. Instead, a text from Dave Morrison told me the price I'd paid - a Woodcock along the approach road to the reserve centre. By the time I did manage to get to the site there had been two further sightings, and Dave, still on a roll, produced 10 unseasonally early Oystercatchers flying down river which I just caught in time.

I walked the roadside scrub anyway, without joy, and while cursing my luck I idly scanned the distant scrape through the fence. A flock of Greylags was unsurprising, but as I panned left through them a flash of black, white and grey caught my eye - Barnacle Goose! It was slightly apart from the flock, but also not associating with a group of Canada Geese nearby. I called the centre to put the news out and went straight round to get a few record shots.

Clearly unringed, it fed continuously while it was in view. Was it a hungry migrant, on the move after the thaw? Although odd feral Barnacles occur in the Lea Valley and elsewhere in London, they never seem to appear at Rainham. Interestingly, it appeared to have moved on by late morning, and couldn't be refound.

After that and a group of five Ruff on the scrape, I headed round to Wennington Marshes where there was an impressive gathering of several thousand gulls opposite the tip. I hadn't gone through more than a few hundred before my gaze fixed on a juvenile Glaucous Gull, standing out like a sore thumb among Black-headeds and Commons. This was my bogey larid for Rainham, and one of two reported here in recent weeks. Andy Tweed turned up moments after it had moved on, unfortunately, but he had more success on the river nearby with a drake Ruddy Duck among the wigeon and teal on the rising tide - a rare bird at Rainham these days.

Having twitched that, I decided to head back to the reserve centre for lunch, veering off at the last minute to the Stone Barges in case John Archer's two Bar-tailed Godwits at nearby Crossness had joined the 'Blackwits' at their roost. Bingo - they had! I also diverted back to Aveley Bay, where Andy's earlier Corn Buntings had now departed, but a single Serin (the brighter of the two birds) put on a brief show nearby.

After late refreshments back at the reserve, a last scan of the river on the falling tide produced a Grey Plover lying towards the Kent side, where it eventually landed. I also upped the day's Yellow-legged Gull total to six - three adults and single first-winter, second-winter and third-winter. With the light now fading fast, the day ended as it had begun - with me failing to find Woodcock, though I did get a Blackcap as a consolation prize. Tomorrow is definitely another day.

Rainham patchlist additions today (Barnacle Goose excluded for the time being):
81. Oystercatcher.
82. Glaucous Gull.
83. Ruddy Duck.
84. Bar-tailed Godwit.
85. Grey Plover.
86. Blackcap.

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