Friday, 30 April 2010

Rainham record-breaker

Whimbrel (above) and Common Sandpiper (below) were among the waders added to the Rainham year-list today.

A combination of jet-lag and a long day in the field meant that I was up early this morning. Way too early. There wasn't much point in heading out to Rainham at 2.40 am, so I caught up with a bit of work first before setting out on a planned big catch-up day.

Having been away for two key weeks in the middle of spring migration, I was lagging behind on my patch-list. So with a full day at my disposal, I thrashed the site. Absolutely blitzed it. And when it looked like all was done, I caned it some more, just for good measure. I employed a new strategy for the day: don't walk around somewhere once when you can do it twice. In fact for the cordite and scrub, I did it three times. Excessive, maybe, but I was also targeting a personal best day total of more than 75 species - and hoping to break the mythical 80-mark.

The result was an exhausting but very worthwhile 12-hour marathon which, after starting at Ferry Lane, the tip and barges, going on to Wennington and the seawall at Aveley Bay, continuing with two tours of the reserve and ending on the silt lagoons, produced the following 15 patch year-ticks (my most productive day since January) out of a provisional total of 80 species (looks like I did it, subject to a recount):

112. Reed Warbler (dozens now on territory).
113. Cuckoo (up to three at Ferry Lane/the silts)
114. Swallow (light passage)
115. Common Sandpiper (three together just west of the barges)
116. Common Swift (100+)
117. Willow Warbler (singing male at Wennington Mound)
118. Whimbrel (one Aveley Bay and three on Purfleet Scrape over high tide)
119. Brent Goose (a dark-bellied bird on the Thames foreshore with two Great Black-backs!)
120. Sand Martin (40+)
121. Lesser Whitethroat (singing male in the reserve scrub)
122. House Martin (a single bird).
123. Greenshank (two on the reserve over high tide).
124. Hobby (one flew north-east over the reserve, chasing hirundines briefly).
125. Common Tern (two over Aveley Pools).
126. Marsh Harrier (adult female over the silts late in the day).

Conspicuous by their absence were Spotted Redshank (seen intermittently during the previous few days by others but not during this day, despite erroneous news to the contrary), Caspian Gull (a first-summer hastily identified and reported by me but soon withdrawn after better views), Whinchat (couldn't find one anywhere, despite six a short distance away at Crossness), Garden Warbler (gone from yesterday) and most dabbling ducks (Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon and Teal all having shipped out en masse in the last few days).

Ten of the patch year-ticks were also London year-ticks (Reed Warbler, Cuckoo, Common Sandpiper, Whimbrel, Lesser Whitethroat, House Martin, Greenshank, Hobby, Common Tern and Marsh Harrier), taking my 2010 total in the capital to 161 species. And while we're updating lists, 52 Common Swifts yesterday evening over the reservoir in Alexandra Park were my 67th species there this year.

One last thing noted today: a really odd gull on Rainham tip, possibly a Herring hybrid - but with what I don't know. More on that when I have the time.

Reed Warblers - one of eight warbler species seen during the day - are now on territory on big numbers.

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