Saturday, 14 August 2010


Green Sandpiper (left) and the first Wood Sandpiper (right) of the autumn at Aveley Pools.
My last five visits to the Rainham area produced 13 shorebird species on each occasion – a bizarre and slightly unsettling coincidence. Standing on the viewing platforms at Aveley Pools has seemed like Groundhog Day, to the point where I felt I knew each Dunlin and Green Sandpiper personally. Almost invariably, on each trip there were 12 ‘core’ species and an unexpected extra, typically Avocet, Curlew or Ringed Plover.

Today was surely going to be different. With unsettled weather the last few days and a very high tide at dawn, I was hoping to break the jinx. I laid in until 4.45 am then headed to the reserve, reaching the platforms before it was properly light. The rain had replenished the water levels enough to make the smaller, muddier pool again the more attractive for shorebirds, and I wasn’t disappointed – there were good numbers of various waders on show, as expected.

The Wood Sand was constantly on the move; two others were reported later in the morning.
I saved the best until last, however, when a final scan of the western edge of the main pool produced a dapper Wood Sandpiper tiptoeing along the margins. Sadly, there was also an adult Moorhen breathing its last gasps in the shallows, a very sad sight; it died within minutes.

Completing the sandpiper trio in front of the Ken Barrett Hide was this smart Common.

The morning’s haul was otherwise excellent, and after a couple of stops along the river, waders headlined with 16 species: Wood Sandpiper, 5 Green Sandpipers, 4 Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, 4 Redshank, 10 Black-tailed Godwits, Whimbrel, 7 Common Snipe, 3 Oystercatchers, 4 Avocets, 10 Ringed Plover, ad Little Ringed Plover, 50+ Northern Lapwing, 6 Dunlin (3 juvs), Sanderling, 2 Ruff, Eurasian Wigeon, 10+ Little Egrets, 5 Yellow-legged Gulls, 2 ad argentatus Herring Gulls, 10 Common Terns, Marsh Harrier, Ring-necked Parakeet, Yellow Wagtail, Northern Wheatear and numerous warblers, including many Acrocephalus, 3 Cetti’s, and single Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler.

Two of the four Avocets on Aveley Pools this morning.
The Wood Sand was a Rainham year-list addition, and my 26th shorebird species at the site this year:
137. Wood Sandpiper.

In other news, several short visits to Alexandra Park over the last week have added three species to my site year list:
78. Lesser Whitethroat.
79. Whinchat.
80. Rook.

Rooks are rare in built-up London and this was a juvenile in identikit Carrion Crow plumage, so an excellent find by Gerry Rawcliffe. The Whinchat, one of two found by Bob Watts and the first returning birds locally on autumn passage, was also a tick for my London year list:
191. Whinchat

For those who have yet to savour the unique delights of birding in the shadow of Alexandra Palace, on the eastern slopes of the North London Heights, we have arranged a guided walk and ringing session for tomorrow morning, and all are welcome - see for more details.

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