Sunday, 2 May 2010

Mixed fortunes

Four of the 12 Bar-tailed Godwits that dropped in at Aveley Bay this morning in heavy rain.

Pouring rain and strong north-easterly winds can only mean one thing: it's a spring Bank Holiday. It was sheeting it down at 6.20 am this morning, but with an easterly element to the poor weather meaning the possibility of a 'seawatch' at Rainham, I headed down to the Thames.

Just before I got to Aveley Bay to check the mud a timely call from David Bradnum told of 11 Bar-tailed Godwits there - a good omen, surely. He had gone when I arrived but the birds were still present, along with a further Bar-tail, five Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper. No sooner had I set the scope up than - bingo! - three cracking summer-plumaged Black Terns came across the river. I rang David, now at the reserve centre with Andy Tweed, and they picked up two of the birds from there. By the time I joined them and Jono Lethbridge for a session on the balcony, several Arctic Terns had flown by - but they had forgotten to call me!

Bob Watts then phoned with the relatively earth-shattering news that London's second-ever American Golden Plover was at the London Wetland Centre. He and we hummed and haaed about going, but eventually my nerve cracked and Jono, Ruth Barnes and I set out in my car - I was going home from there, but David Bradnum would go a little later and bring the other two back to Rainham. The only fly in the ointment of this plan was the unwelcome news, as we steamed along Victoria Embankment in central London, that the bird had flown off high to the west. Grrrr!

Continue or abort the mission? We opted for the latter (sensibly as it turned out), and arranged to meet David instead at King George V Reservoir, where a decent showing of terns made for an appealing rendez-vouz, even if it's not too handy for the City. On our way there, news of a possible Pomarine Skua at the site focused our minds; it had turned into an Arctic by the time we hit Sewardstone, but it was still a cracking London bird. On arrival we exited the car Sweeney-style and I picked it up immediately in the distance over the north basin; Ruth got on it too but the bird vanished before Jono could get a glimpse (apparently it flew over a bank and off to the north, we learned later).

Down at the reservoir shortly after, the terns were showing very well: 49+ 'commics' included at least 15 definite Arctics and a Common, but better still was a smart and close Little and up to three Blacks (all found earlier by Ian Lycett and others). And to cap off the morning, while tern-watching news broke of a singing Wood Warbler up the road at Fishers Green, a capital scarcity which the three of us duly nailed (thanks to Roy Woodward), along with Garden Warbler and Nightingale singing in the background.

The Black Tern was Rainham year-tick number 127, while London year-list additions today were as follows:

162. Black Tern.
163. Arctic Skua.
164. Arctic Tern.
165. Little Tern.
166. Garden Warbler.
167. Wood Warbler

Common Tern at King George V Reservoir, during a weather-induced movement of four tern species up the Lea Valley.

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