Friday, 29 April 2011

On the move

A flock of Bar-tailed Godwits reorients eastwards along the Thames at Rainham.
It was a good session on the patch at Rainham this morning, with yesterday's weather forecast hinting at the possibility of passage along the Thames today. The wind seemed more northerly and the atmosphere drier than forecast, but that didn't stop good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits from passing through the London Area. These birds are 'overspill' from the regular mid-spring passage up the Channel, which yesterday reached epic proportions - Portland logged a record day count of just over 6,000 birds, far eclipsing its previous highest spring total of 4,266 and record day total of 2,500. Further east along the south coast, Dungeness Bird Observatory also hit the headlines with a record-breaking 7,317 Barwits moving east.

With the vast majority of birds heading straight up the Channel and the North Sea, it takes a favourable wind, poor visibility and preferably rain for London to derive benefit from such movements. The first two factors came into play today, which meant I recorded a personal best of 44 Barwits at Rainham this morning. Always great to see these birds in spring, when they vary in plumage from washed-out greyish-brown to the deepest brick-red of just about any shorebird.

This Hobby was presumably new in on the tip, and was later joined by several others.
Other migrants this morning included Hobby, Eurasian Curlew, two Common Sandpipers, six Common Terns, Yellow Wagtail, three Northern Wheatears and a skulking Grasshopper Warbler far more easily heard than seen.

Three of a kind: this adult male Northern Wheatear ...

... and presumed first-summer male (note incomplete mask and slightly browner wings) ...
... kept company with this female along the sea wall at Aveley Bay.

Far less showy was this Grasshopper Warbler, which never fully emerged from cover.

I checked the barges car park in case more godwits were roosting over the high tide, but instead came away with two third-calendar-year Yellow-legged Gulls.

One of two second-summer Yellow-legged Gulls in the barges area. No adults for more than a month now.

As I drove away from the site, past the new marshland landscaping along Coldharbour Lane, I noticed a small bird distantly at the edge of a pool. A quick check revealed it to be my first White Wagtail of the year, albeit one missing half of its tail.

This White Wagtail (a first-year male?) looked pretty dapper, the lack of a full tail excepted.

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