Having worked my day off yesterday, I returned to the office today tooled up with the idea of a quick outing to Rainham if the Glaucous Gull reappeared. Sure enough it did, so I left the office mid-morning and was there just after 11am.
I met Howard Vaughan at Aveley Bay, and almost immediately we heard a Lapland Bunting - a distinctive call which we both know. The bird must have been on the wing, and we assumed it had probably pitched down on the saltings. But we were torn between an immediate search for it or trying to locate the Glaucous Gull, which we knew was in the area, and a first-winter Caspian Gull which Howard had found just before I turned up. We decided to get the gulls out of the way first but could locate neither, despite helpful gen on the Glauc by phone from John Archer. We did, however, get onto a different first-winter Caspian along the foreshore between the bay and Coldharbour Point. I ran back to the car to get my long telephoto lens, but naturally it had wandered out of view among the thousands of gulls present in the meantime. My first site Great Crested Grebes of the year, five on the river, and a Ruff on the foreshore were little compensation.
Before hitting the saltings we lucked into a Serin, conveniently pinned down by Andrew Verrall and Reston Kilgour (to whom thanks), and then the search for the Lapland Bunting began in earnest. With swelled ranks now, we spread out and walked the saltings, flushing 30+ Common Snipe, a Jack Snipe, three Rock Pipits and a Water Pipit in the process, but sadly no 'Lap'. With hindsight, it had presumably come off the saltings and was flying up towards the dump; hopefully it will reappear another day.
I then went down towards Coldharbour Point, scanning the gull throng distantly from the south end, and had two more Caspian Gulls - a cracking summer adult which on size and structure was a female, and a smart third-winter type. Photos were all but impossible, especially as I was asked to vacate my position by one of the site staff just as I got onto the third-winter; I understand that Andy Tweed, watching from another spot, had four different Caspians on the dump (two adults and two first-years) , so it seems that the Rainham total today could be as high as a record eight individuals (with several of the first-years individually identifiable) . Also in the area were five Yellow=legged Gulls (three adults and two first-winters), a large first-winter gull which seems to have been a Herring x Glaucous hybrid, and another Herring type with a very Caspian-like bill profile.
After calling in at the Stone Barges car park, where a quartering Short-eared Owl over the dump slope was another welcome find, I zipped round to the reserve centre in time to catch a pair of Bearded Tits (above) at incredibly close range along the boardwalk nearby. A Cetti's Warbler was also calling in the reedbed.
I got back to the office a little later than expected, but it was a very worthwhile foray with five additions to my Rainham patchlist:
74. Lapland Bunting
75. Great Crested Grebe
76. Caspian Gull
77. Jack Snipe
78. Short-eared Owl