Friday, 26 March 2010

Garganey and Glauc

Top: the first Little Ringed Plover of the year. Below: today's Glaucous Gull on Wennington Marshes. Can you spot the Yellow-legged Gull in the first image?

I should have been at Rainham earlier this morning, but while on the North Circular Road a warning light announced I had just seven miles of fuel left in the tank. As Rainham was about 15 miles away, it was a challenge I couldn’t resist; rather than turn off and queue in Sainsbury’s or hunt for diesel elsewhere, I eased off the gas and managed to freewheel most of the way to the A13 and the Shell garage by the Barking fly-over. Ultimately pointless, I know, but it somehow made the journey marginally more interesting.

The reserve itself was rather quiet, bar four Common Chiffchaffs and a couple of Cetti’s Warblers in the scrub area. Interesting waders were conspicuous by their absence, so after photographing a colour-ringed Herring Gull (A48T black code on white) I headed on to the Target Pools.

Here, after repeated scanning through the ducks on the far side, my gaze landed on what was clearly a female Garganey. This past winter I have searched endlessly through the teal and wigeon for Green-winged and American respectively, to no avail, so this was a minor success. But what was most striking about it was not the striped ‘face’ and loral spot so much as the clean white throat, a character I later checked in the literature. All too quickly, however, the bird sailed out of view.

I walked on to the Marshland Discovery Zone, where a Little Ringed Plover – seen first by Peter Hale – was another welcome summer visitor. But that was as good as it got, so after a quick lunch I repaired to the barges, adding Water Pipit, and then to Wennington Marsh. Viewed distantly from the tip entrance, there were hundreds of gulls way to the east. The first scan, unavoidably through a chainlink fence, produced nothing. But I always try to scan at least twice (you rarely pick everything up in one sweep) and I’m glad I did; first came a second-summer Yellow-legged Gull walking through the throng, and shortly after a head with a bicoloured pink-and-black bill poked out at the back of the crowd. A moment later the bird lifted its wings to confirm my suspicions: second-calendar-year Glaucous Gull.

After grabbing some poor record shots I rushed round to the viewing mound and the got these closer images. It was the last good bird before I left mid-afternoon, bringing the tally to a close at 65 species. Highlights: Garganey (female), Peregrine Falcon (adult), Water Rail, Little Ringed Plover, Glaucous Gull (2cy), Yellow-legged Gull (3cy), Water Pipit, Cetti's Warbler (two), Common Chiffchaff (four).

Rainham year list:
106. Garganey
107. Little Ringed Plover

PS A flying visit to Alexandra Park yesterday didn’t produce the Willow Warbler found by Bob Watts, but three Common Chiffchaffs were the 60th species of the year for my site list.

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