Sunday, 7 November 2010

Eyes to the skies

Common Buzzard over South Ockendon this morning.
What started out as yet another effort to locate Grey Partridge in the London Area today turned into a very enjoyable morning’s visible migration watch and exploration of a rarely visited site near South Ockendon. I was in good company with Dave Morrison, who knows the area well.

A few of the thousands of Woodpigeons streaming south-west.
 Early on in the morning it became clear that, with a cloudless sky, low temperatures and a north-westerly wind, ‘vis migging’ was where the main action was going to be. Our eyes were on the skies more than the ground, and the totals were as follows: 11 Gadwall, 31 Red-legged Partridge (in coveys of 21 and 12), two Little Egrets, a Common Buzzard, 143 Northern Lapwing, one Common Snipe, 2,580 Woodpigeon (mostly flying south-west), nine Stock Dove, five Ring-necked Parakeet, a single Woodlark (bird of the day!), 52 Skylarks, four Song Thrush, 25 Redwing, 121 Fieldfare, 44 Chaffinch, one Brambling, 15 Goldfinch, three Siskins, 10 Lesser Redpoll (including a flock eight with two Siskins), five Reed Buntings and a single Yellowhammer (plus one very well-seen Fox).

You will have noted from the above that no Grey Partridges were found. I went on afterwards to Orsett Fen and notched up a further 81 Red-legs, as well as 200+ Stock Doves and 1,000+ Woodpigeons (all on the deck), but again no Grey Partridges. The more these searches draw a blank, the more convinced I am that the species no longer exists in the wild in our area, and that the very few birds seen from time to time are either releases for shooting or their offspring.

Common Teal - one day surely a Rainham Green-winged is on the cards.
Plenty of European Golden Plovers and Northern Lapwings today.
 I spent the last couple of hours at a rather quiet Rainham Marshes RSPB. The car park was almost full but so was the cafĂ©, leaving the reserve to just me and a handful of others. Best of the bunch were four showy Bearded Tits at the dragonfly pool, but on the circular walk I also noted five Northern Pintail, good numbers of Eurasian Wigeon and Common Teal, two Little Egrets, Water Rail, 127 European Golden Plover, 300+ Northern Lapwings, three Common Snipe, three Cetti’s Warblers and a Goldcrest (a site rarity this year) in the woodland.

Star billing at Rainham went to this very confiding Bearded Tit.

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