Monday, 10 May 2010

Early doors

Upper two images: Grasshopper Warbler at Rainham and a female Northern Wheatear (perhaps leucorhoa) with damaged bill.

Dawn hadn't broken by the time I arrived at Rainham this morning, but the early start was essential. I was looking for Grasshopper Warbler in a quiet corner of the marsh, and the earlier the better for this songster - except that today it wasn't singing. I knew I was in the right area for a territory and persisted, and eventually found not one but two birds - the male just occasionally emitting a few seconds of reeling. Perhaps the fact that he's already paired up, and there are no rival males nearby, means he doesn't need to sing any more.

Mission accomplished, I headed for Aveley Bay to look for waders, but a single Redshank was a paltry showing after yesterday. There were terns on the river, however, and among 20+ Commons was at least one Arctic moving downstream. I checked the mud in the bay again and four Grey Plover, three of them in immaculate breeding dress, had appeared from nowhere. They went back there too after being disturbed by a Carrion Crow, but apparently they reappeared in the bay later on. Also at Rainham were four each of Whimbrel and Oystercatcher, three Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Greenshank and eight Northern Wheatears - but still no Whinchat for the year.

By late morning I was on the road to the Lea Valley, but failed to connect with the Turtle Dove(s) reported at Holyfield earlier today and yesterday. I did connect with Jono, though - he had heard one 'purring' but not seen it. A scour of Hayes Hill and Holyfield Farms failed to produce any notable doves, but from the hill-top viewpoint a Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank and two Little Ringed Plovers on Langridge Scrape and four Hobbies, Cuckoo, Garden and Willow Warblers, Lesser Whitethroat and Yellowhammer all made the diversion worthwhile.

I detoured further still en route home to Tyttenhanger but missed the Black Redstart there. Amazingly, Bob Watts found one this evening in Alexandra Park, on my doorstep, so I managed to see one today after all (plus another Hobby there). A long day ended in company with four other birders in Regent's Park, waiting for a repeat showing of the European Nightjar they had seen over the Open Air Theatre yesterday evening - an amazing record. Tonight's performance was cancelled, with the bird a no-show, and instead we were treated to the rather lamer spectacle of eight Red-crested Pochard chasing each other around high in the sky as the light faded. Good to have met Adrian Morgan, however, and learnt some more about London's Peregrines. Year-list totals as of tonight:

Rainham
129. Grasshopper Warbler.
130. Arctic Tern.

Alexandra Park
69. Black Redstart.
70. Common Whitethroat.
71. Swallow.

London
169. Grasshopper Warbler.
170. Wood Sandpiper.
171. Black Redstart.

Below: the business, or what? Breeding-plumaged Grey Plovers at Rainham today.

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