Sunday, 5 December 2010

Weekend news

Four bunting species at Rainham on Saturday included this male
Yellowhammer (above) and up to nine Corn Buntings (below).

I set a slightly obscure personal record at Rainham Marshes yesterday, with four bunting species in a day - no mean feat in London in the 21st century. First up was a party of six Corn Buntings on the snow-covered saltings (nine were seen by Dave Morrison), followed by a welcome call from Jonathan Lethbridge alerting me to a pair of Yellowhammers - my first at the site since 2006. After a group of us had finished watching them, David Callahan and I proceeded to grill a very large Linnet flock to try and dig out a Twite.

Linnets massing at Rainham, seemingly without any Twite - so far.
Though Linnets dominated the loose gathering of more than 400 birds to the tune of about 90 per cent, there were also varying quantities of Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting. After about 40 minutes some of the birds settled by the path at Wennington Mound, so we worked through them one more time. Very quickly I was stopped in my tracks as the larger form of a brown, streaked bunting with a pale bill, rather plain face, chestnut wing panel and two white wing-bars scurried into view. As I stumbled to articulate what I was looking at, David almost simultaneously shouted: "Lapland Bunting!" He'd also got onto the same bird, and we watched it before phoning the news to Jono and the others. I should have taken photos while I had the chance, however, as before long the flock took off, flew over the edge of the dump, regrouped and settled further away.

Despite 10 of us searching for another two hours or so, we couldn't relocate it in the mass of birds, which were by now spread out more widely away from the path. No doubt it is still present and hopefully it will be refound. Other species of interest included 12 Northern Pintail, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, six Grey Plovers, several European Golden and Ringed Plovers, c. 1,000 Dunin, one Bar-tailed and two Black-tailed Godwits, and about five Yellow-legged Gulls.

Sunday's routine was interrupted by the astounding news of a juvenile Common Crane which had arrived at Beddington, on the opposite side of the city (amazingly, the second site record this year). Bob Watts and I responded immediately, and fortunately the bird stayed settled on a small island on the main lake. Time was short so we didn't linger, but it was great to see this species in London after the disappointment of the trio at Tyttenhanger that proved to be ringed, and thus probably released birds. Thanks to Franko, Johnny Allan and the Beddington birders for getting the news out so quickly, and for enabling access to the site.

An unexpected addition to my London list: juvenile Common Crane.

London life list:
275. Common Crane.

London year-list update:
207. Common Crane.

Rainham patchlist 2010 update:
158. Yellowhammer.

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