Serin,Isla's middle name...

Serin,Isla's middle name...

Monday, 31 January 2011

Dartford or Bust

Got up a bit later than i had liked this morning but within 20 minutes of waking i was up and out,off to the Ingrebourne Reservoir to see the possible ring necked duck hybrid reported yesterday.It was very easy to find as a couple of birders were already there and dave and gerry put me onto it straight away,we had good views of the bird and stayed there for a good 40 minutes,we also had 4 White fronted Geese on the reservoir along with Pochards,tufted ducks,Great Crested grebe to name a few.I also had a Yellowhammer on the southern edge of Bonnetts wood when i was parking the car to get to the Reservoir.It got me thinking that when the extension of Bonnetts wood is complete,it may give good views over the reservoir,giving more birds to see.
I then decided to head to Ripple NR where a Dartford Warbler has been seen for the last two days but on arriving there it was obvious it could be a bit of hard work as there is some work going on and it was very noisy.


I have never been there before but it is a lovely little site surrounded by houses and on one side a road which runs next to marshland and then the Thames.We didn't see the bird but had a nice walk round and saw a few birders,all looking for the Dartford.Birds we did see were good numbers of Tits,blackbirds,robins,chaffinch,magpies,pigeons a couple of Wrens and Great Spotted & Green Woodpeckers.After an hour or so i left as i had to get home.After lunch we took the nipper out to the swings,she seemed to enjoy herself on the swing as you can see.

After that we went for a drive,seeing a Peregrine first then off to Thorndon CP where we were lucky enough to see a Tawny Owl through the woods onto a post,a cracking bird and a new one for me this year.Margate at home tomorrow night in the Ryman Premier League but i hope to get a bit of birding done in the day first,may pop back to Barking and have a good 2-3 hours over there this time.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Let's all laugh at Tottenham

Was a funny old weekend with no birding whatsoever due to football and a sick missus.The weekend started with me off to Gatwick early Saturday to pick Gary up who has been on a cruise,we got back around 12 and then over to Hornchurch to watch us beat Horsham,unfortunatly the players didn't read the script and we were beaten 2-0 by a shit team who had 2 shots on goal all game,scoring with both of them.Don't think we have played that bad since we lost 7-1 to tonbridge in October.Got our old friends from Margate coming down to the Bridge on Tuesday and we must win that game.
Today I woke up with the intention of doing a bit of local patch birding but what with alices tonsillitis and the Australian open tennis final being on the birding took a back seat for the first time this year.Murray lost in straight sets and then I remembered Arsenal were playing so I shot down the LT club to watch it with Fingers & Youth along with my Nipper all kitted out in her Arsenal clobber,we won 2-1 and were a bit lucky.Then it was off to see my mum and dad or granny and grumps as they are known to the nipper.Firstly we settled down to watch Man city grab a late equaliser against the mighty notts county,then it was the great ESPN comedy 90 minutes as Fulham smashed the hapless Tottenham tosspurs 4-0,meaning unless the deluded fools win the champions league then their poxy superstition of winning something when the year ends in 1 will have gone tits up again,better luck next year

Friday, 28 January 2011

Bonjour Franckie

Started the day off watching Tennis with the Nipper,watching the Super Scot Andy Murray win in 4 sets.The missus was shopping and then she had to go to the doctors as she has now been diagnosed with Tonsilitus,so thats two of us on penicilin at the moment,albeit mine is more serious as i stand to lose a tooth.
I popped over Bonnetts Wood after lunch,which consisted of a bit of Jerk Chicken from Tescos,nice chicken but not much Jerk in it.
On arriving at Bonnetts i decided to head back to the Wooded area i found yesterday,2 wood pigeons and a Goldfinch was all that i saw on what became an occuring theme for the Afternoon.On coming out the woodland i took some pictures of the Reeds,or lack of them.I am no expert on reedbeds and although these are only small,very small in fact,the have held Reed,sedge,Grasshopper & cettis warbler in the past although unless they spring back up they won't be holding anything this spring.
 

I don't know if anyone reading this knows if the reedbeds will recover but if you do let me know.In some pictures they look quite thick but i can assure you they are not.
I decided after this to go to scan the fields as i didn't have long left,about an hour,apart from 3 Stock dove,a couple of Greenfinch,2 Chaffinch,tits and a Goldcrest my bird of the day was 2 House Sparrows,only my second for the site and a year tick for the site.I went home to find out that The Mighty Hornchurch have signed a Frenchman who goes straight into the squad for tomorrows game,Francky Koudaya who has played for Huddersfield town & accrington Stanley this season already,quite exciting really,if you are not doing anything tomorrow pop down to see if the chap is any good.£9 is a good bargain.May get a bit of birding in early before football tomorrow but will wait and see.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Its Cold Outside

Popped over Bonnetts in the freezing cold this morning,got over there just after 8am and made sure i was wrapped up very warm,even so,i was freezing all morning,despite having two sets of socks on inside my wellies,which were well used today.
I started off in Parklands Car park where i had 4 mallards,5 Moorhen,2 Coots,3 Cormorants and the usual tits,plus 7 Ring necked parakeets.I then crossed over onto my patch,the now legendary Bonnetts wood.Today turned out not to be about specific birds but numbers and large numbers of thrushes in general.I went up to the higher ground near the horse paddock to see if there was anything around and i straight away had 2 Pied wagtail and a few chaffinch,then a large flock of Redwing,probably around the 40 mark came down and i watched them for a while before another larger flock of around 100 birds joined them,Redwing explosion at Bonnetts.They didn't stay long though as a Large Female Sparrowhawk put them all up back into the trees,another large flock appeared and went in to the Alder trees but these were Fieldfare and around 50 of them.Then in the farmland far out another Fieldfare flock landed,around 80 birds followed by a small flock of 20-30 Linnets in the same field.Pheasant numbers were good as well with 8 males and 5 females seen throughout the morning.The usual gulls were over the fields as well,at least 20 black headed gulls and a few herrings and 3 Lesser Black backed gulls were a late addition.A jay flew into the woods as did a Green Woodpecker which could then be seen at the top of one of the biggest Alders.
I decided to scan the fields again to see what was in the distance,52 Stock Doves were way out and 3 Red Legged Partridge were also seen.
I then decided to move down by the Bridge and to explore some new land which i haven't been onto before,to be honest i didn't know if the Forestry commision owned the land but i thought i would have a look anyway,glad i did.It is a little piece of woodland but very wet and boggy,straight away i flushed a Woodcock out into the open,next was a Great Spotted Woodpecker and in the distance i could see good numbers of Redwing,Chaffinch,Goldfinch feeding on the floor,I could also see Moorhen and a couple of Mallards but as i got closer these dissapeared.I went as far as i could before it got too boggy and turned back.


The top picture is looking into the wooded area from the Bridge,the next two are when i got through the wooded area into the flooded area,will go back and investigate more tomorrow.
On leaving the woods i decided to call it a day for the morning anyway,on the way back to the car i bumped into the local ranger for the site and asked him a few questions about the site and the proposed extension i have heard about,he confirmed that it would be starting late summer and should be open by the end of the year and will comprise of some new woodland and pathways,i should imagine there will be some grassland areas,at the moment it is just earth piled up high as it is an old landfill site but it should make Bonnetts wood more diverse and hopefully within 10-15 years alot more birds will turn up,what with the older part of the site maturing all the time it promises to be an exciting future at Bonnetts.
I went back over to Bonnetts around 3.30pm for an hour or so to see if anything else was about,i was a bit worn out from nipper running me ragged round the house for 3 hours,little nutter lol,anyway,i had a lovely Kestrel and a goldcrest as soon as i got there,didn't see too much for the next hour as i was either talking or it was just freezing cold and all the smaller birds had probably seen sense and hid away for the rest of the day,it really was a horribly cold wind.Anyway,i decided to have a look by the bridge and while i was on my way there i noticed a large bird on the telephone wires,at first i thought it was a crow but it was actually a Buzzard just looking darker and small as it was on the pole,as soon as it flew up you could see its size and it was a cracking way to finish off a nice few hours at the site.I won't be making any early morning trip there till at least Sunday now,maybe even monday as i have a busy weekend ahead,although i may try to get over there late morning tomorrow.
                                                         

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Spot the Bittern

Sorry i haven't been on here the last couple of days,have had a bad tooth,went to the dentist on Monday to have an X ray on it as it had been causing me all sorts of problems and still is,the result is that i have to have one tooth taken out although until i get there they are not too sure whether its my wisdom tooth that needs to come out or the one next to it,no wonder the NHS gets such a bad name,clueless is the word.
Although the pain was quite bad on Monday morning,the invention of cocodimol has somewhat made life easier and not restricted me too much.I went over Bonnetts Wood early on Monday,in fact at 6.30am as my tooth woke me up,as it didn't start to get remotely light until about 7.30 i spent an hour wandering around in the dark looking or hearing what was about,not too much to be honest,certainly no signs of anything untowards,this changed somewhat once it got light as at about 9am i had a Female Merlin fly over the site on its way to Ingrebourne or at least in that direction.Other birds i saw that morning were Green & great Spotted Woodpecker,Greylag & canada goose flying over,4 Rooks,3 Pheasant,2 Red Legged Partridge,22 Cormorants heading towards Parklands in dribs & drabs a massive number for parklands,only usually see 4 or 5 over there,12 fieldfare,8 Redwing and 48 Stock dove in the field.As i was leaving i had a Goldcrest by the Car park and a Kestrel over head.I went back again about 3pm for a couple of hours where i had 42 Parakeets,another site record for me,the most i have had is 27 before,also 42 Fieldfare and a male sparrowhawk.
Tuesday....One other thing though,i took this picture below on Monday,I know Upminster has some good schooling but i didn't know we had intelligent Horses who can read signs!!!
                                                              
I went on another Boozybirders trip to Dungeness and the surrounding areas led by Birding Guru Howard Vaughan,we set off at 6.15am and headed down to Dunge picking up Howard en route,we arrived just before 8am at the ARC pit car park,the same place where we actually finished the day.En route to the Car park we had 8 Whooper Swans and approx 53 Bewicks in the fields just before the car park.After we all met we went down to dungeness,near the lighthouse to do a bit of seawatching,we could of stayed there all day such was the action,it was unbelievable and something i have never seen before on that stretch of the coast.As soon as we arrived we were rewarded with views of a Female Merlin flying across the Shingle,then about 20 Red Throated Diver went south.As we approached the beach we could see hundreds if not thousands of auks stretching as far as the eye could see,guillemots & razorbills,i have only ever seen large numbers like that in northunberland when i was a youngster so to see that many birds was totally amazing,everywhere we scanned there were more and more,there were also many Gannets & a few Kittewake which just added to the experience.We watched them for half hour or so before driving to Dymchurch to look for reported Northern Long tailed tits,for you non birders,Northern Long tailed tits are not beer drinking,wife beating long tailed tits but the same as our Long Tailed tits but have full white heads where ours have a white streak instead,on the way there we stopped to look at the bewicks again and also had 3 Marsh harriers.We got to Dymchurch and couldn't find them so headed back to the car,as we did Howard spotted one in a tree and we all just about managed to get onto it,another 10 minute of the area couldn't relocate the birds so we decided to call it a day and head to Dunge.We arrived at dungeness in search of the Glossy Ibis but once on the sight we were told it hadn't been seen for a week or so,shame but thats the way it is with birding and i have seen enough this year already.We pulled into the car park and most of us headed to the loo as it had been a long morning,i say most of us headed to the loo but this was in fact because the loo was near the feeder where tree sparrow had been seen and we all managed to get it without too much problem.After Lunch we headed around Dungeness where the first bird we had was a Smew from the hide,as well as Goldeneye and the usual ducks.Next was a Beautiful Slavonian Grebe which certainly caught the eye of Tony who went back later to get more shots of the bird,i am sure a beautiful relationship is on the cards!!!,we left and went to another chance which had smew and a few golden birders who had been looking for black head grebes???.As we left and walked we saw a large bird out towards some Pylons,it was a Raven,a quality bird for the day and one you wouldn't of seen in that area 10 years ago,but we did yesterday,we also had 2 peregrines to add to our impressive list.
Next we headed to another hide where Black necked grebe had been seen,we got it with no problem,another magnificent bird,we stayed viewing the pit for a while before leaving and continuing the circuit.We then had a lovely Male Marsh Harrier and decided to view it from a raised bit of land,as soon as we got up there i found a bittern which i was a bit slow in calling as i wasn't sure if it was a bittern or marsh harrier to start with,but seconds later another bittern flew out the reeds and i called it straight away lol
We walked back to the car park now all content but still hoping for maybe a dartford Warbler but no such luck although we did hear a Song Thrush who was trying to sing but probably just felt a bit too cold to come out with his full repertoir.Next to the ARC Pits,we had some redhead smew(female) and Goldeneye but we had come to see A Drake Smew,in fact we saw 2 and i found them both,well chuffed as its nice to pick birds up when going on a trip with experienced birders,Drake Smew (male) are lovely birds,the redheads are lovely but the drakes are stunning,i don't think the people of the UK who don't bird realise the beautiful birds we have on our islands but they are here and in good numbers.Our final bird of the day was a Bittern,which we actually had before i found the Smew but we also saw it after,just after another Marsh Harrier was found.The Bittern was originally standing in shallow reeds about 15 foot from our hide and stayed there for a good 3 minutes before heading to thicker reeds,we then looked from another angle where we found the bird again lying horizontally in the reeds,they are so hard to see as they are so well camoflauged.I have a rubbish picture taken from my scope and i phone underneath,i know they are crap but thats all i can take with at the moment lol,not sure you can see too much of it lol.All in all a wonderful day and once again many thanks to Howard who manages to see anything there is to see and much more.
Told you it was rubbish,but anyone who can blow up rubbish pictures like that may just be able to see it lol
As for today i have booked my tooth removal service for next Thursday and spent an hour or so over Bonnetts Wood and didn't really see anything apart from a lovely Water Rail and a kestrel,apart from that it was very very quiet although the forestry commision people were there and i did speak to them over their plans for extending the site,more on that when i have got some more details off them,back over there at first light tomorrow morning though.
                                                                        

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Pinky sort of velvety day

Today was the day when I went on my eagerly awaited trip to North Norfolk with the Boozybirders,led by Birding Guru Howard Vaughan of Rainham Marsh fame.I woke up at 4.45am and made the short journey to Brentwood to meet up with Graham Thomlinson(father of Hornchurch legend Andy and another keen lover of ze birds),I was very tired as nipper decided to keep me up all night and I only got about 3 hours sleep,little darling.We made the way up to Thornham Harbour,stopping briefly for a sausage sandwich in sleepy Hunstanton and arrived about 7.45am.As we got out of the car,we were informed that we had just missed the Northern Harrier by about 1 minute,looks like the sausage sandwich was responsible for us dipping on this bird,but dipping on birds is something the boozybirders don't take too kindly to so we soldiered on in the drizzle to glorious titchwell,one of Norfolks premier birding reserves.Once at Titchwell the weather picked up,or at least stopped raining,almost as soon as we got there the bird fest started with Whooper Swan,Barn Owl,Water Rail,Redpoll all seen in the first 5 minutes past the visitor centre.We carried on up the walkway towards the beech scanning the vast areas of the reserve picking up Hen Harrier,Marsh Harrier,skylarks,waders,geese in fact it was more a case of what didn't turn up,there were 3 drake goldeneye seen with at least 2 females,waders included spotted redshank,ruff,godwits,dunlin,redshank, turnstone and oystercatchers.We carried on and were rewarded with Twite,feeding with skylarks,meadow pipit and water pipit all cracking birds.We then headed to the beach in the now glorious sunshine.


We stayed on the beach for around an hour and was rewarded with cracking views of Common Scoter,I didn't count them but there must of been 5-600 maybe more with the odd Velvet scorer thrown in for good measure with Eider,slavonian grebe,goldeneye,red brested mergansers all seen on the sea,10 Snow buntings was another cracking addition as were sanderling which got to within about 10 feet of us.We then walked back slowly towards the cars,stopping every now and then to scan on the off chance of seeing the Northern Harrier but with no luck,we decided to go to Cley,another big gun on the North Norfolk Coast so it looked like we had dipped on the harrier,but after a quarter of a mile of the journey to cley competed (about 2% of the journey),we was flagged down by a happy Howard who informed us they had the bird,so I jumped out the car and was straight on it,only dissapointment was that not everyone got to see it,so let's hope it sticks around,anyway seems like a perfect opportunity to go back soon!!!l
On our way to Cley we encountered 3 more Barn Owls,2 in a field and one a mile or so further on,will post a picture of one of the barns when it is sent to me by Graham(if you are reading this,can I have a copy lol)
We pulled up at Cley and made the shortish walk to the east Bank,where the American Wigeon has been seen,we got it as soon as we arrived,a lovely bird and s lifer for me,also at cley in our brief stay was a whooper swan,plenty of wildfowl and a female sparrowhawk.By now it was about 2pm so we headed to Burnham to try to catch up with the Rough legged buzzards of which are wintering in the area,we arrived,parked up and got very muddy walking to the viewpoint,we had views of a pale common buzzard and then was told where one of the rough legs was which was grately appreciated.As soon as we got to our viewpoint we were given some info that two birds had been seen on the dunes,we got on them straight away.By about 3pm the light was starting to fade but the spirits wasn't,thousands upon thousands of pink footed geese were all around us along with the Brent and waders and we continued watching the rough legs,geese and harriers right until it was time to leave,even on the walk back we had 4 waxwings which was a cracking way to end the trip,a nice bit of fish and Chips in Swaffham finished it off nicely on the way home,a cracking trip and great company,off to bonnetts early in the morning,I know it won't compare but I will have a go!!!!
Pictures of some pinkies,albeit on my crappy i phone
Oh and it looks like i made the right decision to go Norfolk instead of Football away to Carshalton in what was by all accounts a pathetic game of football in the 0-0 draw,which probably actually favoured us being the away side and above them in the league.COME ON YOU URCHINS

Friday, 21 January 2011

A Very Brief Visit to Bonnetts this morning

Had a very brief visit to Bonnetts Wood this morning in glorious Sunshine,albeit a little bit cold.I had a walk through the ever growing woodlands to see if i could flush any woodcock,snipe or Jack Snipe out of the long grass but nothing was doing.In the wooded areas were plenty of Goldfinch,a flock of 23 being good number for Bonnetts,with them were 6 Chaffinch,4 Greenfinch a small flock of 7 Long tailed tits and a couple of Redwing.
Over the Farmland were 2 Kestrels about 500 metres apart and as usual plenty of Black Headed Gulls with the odd herring thrown in for good measure.A Lesser Black Backed Gull was also out there and a Grey Heron Flew over towards Rainham.Good numbers of Blue & Great tits as usual and a lovely Great spotted woodpecker was in the Willow by the Bridge.No sign of any big rapters but i wasn't over there too long as i had to get home as the missus was going out.I get home and she is not going out now so we are going to take Nipper someone,at least it will give our house a rest as she has wrecked it the last couple of days and continues to keep saying whooooosethat at everyone who comes on the tele or at any photo she tries to pull down,got a feeling she is going to be a right handful,anyway,looking forward to my trip to Norfolk tomorrow and hopefully a few rareities.Certainly going with the right person to find them,step forward H....

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Its a Peregrine,i tell thee

Spent a few hours over Bonnetts Wood today,in two stints.I started off around 9.30am over there but it was very quiet,in fact it remained very quiet all day,but this doesn't neccesarily mean that there will be nothing over there,as i say,it was quiet this morning but i did still manage 2 kestrels,a Sparrowhawk,Green Woodpecker the usual tits & finches including 22 Long tailed tits,these were actually across the road in gerpins lane,next to the tip,there was alot of birds feeding on the ground including Chaffinch,Greenfinch,blue tits,Great Tits,blackbirds and 1 mistle thrush.I have often seen Sparrowhawk going in here and will be checking it out further.I left Bonnetts around 10.45am and came home.
I have decided to concentrate my Patch list to Bonnetts Wood this year,i will still be doing year lists for Ingrebourne & Rainham but as i may be doing alot of birding in between jobs when i start work i need somewhere where i am only 5 minutes from the car in case i have to dash off to a job.Also i really enjoy it over there and you don't get the amount of dog walkers at Bonnetts as you do Ingrebourne.
I went back over there at 3pm and immediatly bumped into Les Harrison who is another local birder,who has some fantastic shots of birds i have seen.We walked round to the top of the hill as Les was heading back to his car,it was still quiet but we decided to go through the bushes,as soon as we did we flushed a Woodcock out of the bushes,a good year bird for the site.I walked a bit further with Les past the Alders & other trees but nothing else.I carried on on my own and set up scanning the fields,plenty of black headed gulls out on the fields,50 Skylark were flying high.Other birds were 8 Stock Dove,2 moorhen and a pied wagtail.
I then decided to set up for the last half hour or so to look over the fields and trees for any other sightings,maybe the odd Owl.For some reason,i started scanning all over the back of the woods,i usually do this but not as far as i did today,something stood out and straight away i saw a bird,A Peregrine,i watched it for a while before moving towards it by a couple of hundred yards,then i tried to take pictures of it through my i phone and through my scope at 60 magnification but the picture was rubbish.
Anyway,i went home after that,on the way back to the Car i had a lovely goldcrest making it 3 new birds for the day on bonnetts wood,i have started a Website for Bonnetts wood at http://bonnettswood.webs.com/
to put all my sightings on there.I am not very good with anything technical so if it looks rubbish please let me know,in fact if anyone has any suggestions i would be grateful.
                                                 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Rainham or Bust

Just a quick entry before i set down to watch Leeds United aka Dirty Leeds V Arsenal on the box tonight,not having Sky Sports its nice to see a bit of live footy on the tele,especially the mighty Gunners.
Popped down to Rainham after i had been to the Doctors,who have assured us the Nipper is fine,best to check! She has actually perked up this afternoon,actually she has been a right handful since i got home,tearing everything in site,the other night she tore a page out of my Collins Bird Guide,naughty little rascal.
Anyway,back to Rainham,was a nice sunny afternoon and on arrival we was informed of some white fronted geese,we checked from the centre and there were a couple of birds way out next to some canada geese,there were 2 that looked like white fronts but as i found out sunday there are greylags with white front,from that distance we couldnt be sure,we went around anti clockwise,starting off around the woodland area where we had a lovely female Blackcap along with the usual tits & finches and the odd thrush.Moving round we had good views over the reserve and there were some very skittish birds,Graham had a Merlin but i didn't get onto it quick enough but it must of been as at that point the birds were going mental and no Peregrine around.Starling numbers were in the Thousands,many on the Electricity Wires.We headed to the New hide where we spent an hour or so watching 19 Ringed Plover,Lapwing,Teal,Wigeon etc.The geese we saw from the hide were Greylags with their White front Gear on,canada geese and possible Pink foot but i couldn't get a good enough view on it although the bill looked ok,thats about all i could see to ID it.
We decided to head back via the seawall but one last scan over Aveley Flash produced a Female Stonechat,my first Stonechat of the year,they seem somewhat scarce at Rainham this winter.Checking the Thames on the way back just produced the usual gulls with a few Redshank on the other side.
We went into the visitor centre where i jumped on a slice of chocolate cake,job done,then i went home,or at least that was the plan,driving past Bonnetts Wood and it was still light was an opportunity too good to turn down so i decided to have a mooch about for 45 minutes,unfortunatly it more or less produced nothing,no Sodding owls once again,may try again tomorrow,until then got a difficult decision to make,Saturday Hornchurch are away at Carshalton but there is a birding trip to North Norfolk with Northern Harrier,American Wigeon,shorelarks,twite etc etc etc etc & etc on the menu,i know where i think i will be going and its nowhere near Sarf London...


                                                           

Ooooor Kestrel Manouveres in the semi dark

Woke up bright and early,cold free or at least my body was.The missus phoned in sick at work as the nipper still hasn't shaken off her cold and we are taking her back to the doctors at lunch time because she has what sounds like a smokers cough (she doesn't smoke,she is 10 months old)
While they were both still asleep i decided to sneak over to Bonnetts Wood before first light to see if any late night owls were just getting home after a night out on the tiles.No such luck but i did have a few other birds in the 2 and a half hours i was over there.The first bird i had was a Kestrel on the telephone post which then flew up and hovvered over the long grass,it dissapeared not to be seen again for an hour or so,probably had a bit of brekkie.This was followed by 3 cormorants in the space of a minute flying towards parklands.I then had 3 Green woodpeckers and a lovely Song thrush,the same bird as yesterday i would assume.I then had 21 Ring Necked Parakeets,obviously also going to Parklands where they seem to annoy the local residents with their constant squawking.
2 redwings flew over followed by 3 fieldfare.There were plenty of Jays around,i saw at least 5 and heard another couple.In the distance over the fields were 30-40 black headed gulls.I moved further along by the stream,below are a couple of photos from this morning,somewhat different to last night lol

Other birds seen were 4 greenfinch,4 Chaffinch,blue tits,great tits,2 moorhen,lovely large Female Sparrowhawk,3 Rooks,Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few Rabbits.I ventured down to the pond (above) and there was a Heron there although i am pretty sure there is no Fish in the Pond.
After this i went down to the back field where i had another 12 fieldfare and 8 long tailed tits
18 Stock Doves flew over towards the tip.2 Mute Swans flew towards and over the tip and i had in the distance 2 Shoveler which landed in some woodland where there is a small pond,the first i have seen at the sight.6 Snipe flying over was my final birds for the morning and a good way to finish.
Anyway off to take the nipper to the Doctors,although she seems to have livened up this morning and is crawling round the flat saying her new groovy catchphrase of "whooosthat" whenever she looks at a photo of anyone,once down at the doctors i am off to Rainham Marsh RSPB for the afternoon with Graham Thomlinson (father of Hornchurch Legend Andy Thomlinson),laters for now...
                                                             

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Nearly a Spring day

Ok,i may be getting carried away withe the Spring bit but io woke up this morning for the first time in over a week without a runny nose and the sun was out,i decided to go to Rainham Marsh today,got there and the Sun was out,it almost felt like a spring day,albeit a cold one.I decided to walk Clockwise round the Reserve,in fact i went to the New hide and then came back again but on the walk there and while i was there i saw some interesting birds.Walking past the next hide to be constructed i had a Kestrel overhead and then a bit further down i could hear the Skylark,i love hearing Skylark when the sun is out whatever time of the year and it made it feel somewhat springish.2 Corn Bunting and a flock of 40-50 Linnets were around as were 3 Meadow Pipit.Still no Kingfisher for me this year,had hoped to get one today but no such luck,must try harder.I arrived at an empty new hide and a quick scan over the very high water on both sides of the hide produced thousands of ducks,the usual suspects,wigeon,teal,shelduck,shoveler,mallard,tufteds and at least 8 pintail,9 ringed plover were way off on one of the spits as were 4 snipe although i was told there were 14 on one island near the Ken Barrett hide although i couldn't see them.There were around 40 Golden Plover with hundreds of Lapwing.Out the Back were the Wildfowl,not many waders around that side.
I stayed in the hide for a couple of hours but all in all it wasn't that busy,i thought there may be more waders but it may be because of the high water.I decided to head back along the sea wall,again,nothing apart from a pair of Great Crested with Redshank,a few Dunlin and Curlew on the Far Bank of the Thames.
I then headed over to Bonnetts wood,arriving at 3.30pm with a nice sunset over the trees(pic Underneath)
There wasn't too much going on with no Owls or Kingfisher yet again but i did have 3 Green Woodpecker,1 Great Spotted woodpecker,1 song thrush,moorhen,Heron,8 linnets and a fox,i stayed there till 5pm when it was dark so sodded off home,cold.Supposed to be the same weather tomorrow so i will have to have some more of that,hopefully a few nice birds will turn up,maybe the odd owl.                                                      

Monday, 17 January 2011

Just a Quickie

It finally stopped raining here in dreary Upminster around 2pm by which time i just had to get out,i am not one of those who can sit indoors all day unless i am watching footy or Test Match Cricket so i though i would have a couple of hours down at Bonnetts Wood this afternoon,hoping for Owls and a Kingfisher.
I must say,that although i hope for Owls i very rarely see any,apart from Little Owls which are quite common,well as common as they could be round here.I hear Tawny Owls around here but they are a bird you don't often see.I haven't seen Barn Owl around here for 7-8 months now and that was just a very brief glimpse and before that it was a year or so since my last sighting.Both sightings have been in or around Bonnetts Wood,there is a refuse tip next door and i saw 2 fly from Bonnetts over the tip where we lost them,the Ingrebourne Valley has the odd report of Barn Owl as does Rainham although i did hear that one bird which was a regular broke a wing a while back and was unable to fly so i would assume it perished,sad as i love Owls.
On arriving at Bonnetts one thing stood out,the amount of water around,i knew we had had alot of rain the last week since my last visit but didn't expect everywhere to be flooded,the long grass which is usually damp soggy ground in the winter with tufts of grass and often holds snipe and woodcock was like a lake and the little brook which runs from parklands was like a small river,still didn't get the Kingfisher though.


I set up overlooking the Farmland hoping to see quite a bit before setting down at the south end of the area to laterly look for owls,on the farmland i had 4 red legged partridges,10 down on last week!! A green Woodpecker was back and forth in the area and a Kestrel was hovering over the farm to the north.Apart from the odd greenfinch,chaffinch and tits that was it apart from a cettis warbler i heard in the distance.2 Mute Swans flew west as i was about to leave and go to the other end.I set up about 3.50pm but by now my feet were getting cold inside my wellies,i found a new way to keep them warm,stand in water,it worked,after 5 minutes my feet weren't cold,i just couldn't feel anything!!!
I then got talking to a bloke walking his dog who lived on the same road(gerpins lane),he asked what i was looking for so i told him,he said he often gets Barn Owls in his garden and on xmas eve he said he also had a Little Owl,he said he doesn't see the Barn Owl that often,about once or twice a week!!!
That would do for me,so i stood there for another hour before deciding that i wasn't going to see bugger all today and headed off home,i left bonnetts wood and travelled back home past Parklands,while coming round the bend something to the left of me(over the farmland i look out to from Bonnetts) flew behind some bushes,it was white but due to the light that is all i saw,not even a second had passed,i don't know if it was a Barn Owl or a gull but i have a hunch it was the former but i will find it soon,maybe tomorrow,maybe another quickie trip to Bonnetts,as for tomorrow,i haven't worked out where i will be birding,it is supposed to be a reasonably nice day but money is tight so i might just have to stay local,should be starting work again in a few weeks so need to get as much birding done as possible before then.

Bloody Computers

My computer is experiencing difficulties with the most trivial of tasks,which is why i have not posted anything on here since Thursday,but don't think it's been quiet as that is certainly not the case.
Starting on Friday and overnight there were reports of a Slaty Backed Gull at Rainham discovered late on Thursday i believe by Dominic Mitchell who i met briefly when i saw the Grey Phalarope back in December,a belated thanks for that one and for this.
Slaty Backed Gulls are from Asia,i believe Japan to be one of their hotspots,i am not a gull person to be honest and i would never picked up such a bird so hats off to anyone with the patience to do so,it certainly has caused quite a stir with debates on Birdforum reaching nutters proportion,there really are some nutters out there who go birding or more so twitching,although i am pleased to say not everyone is the same.
Anyway,i started the day at home and while on the phone to Alices mum and holding the baby in my other arm i noticed at least 6 Waxwings in the Apple tree at the bottom of the garden,within a second or two a couple of psycho Magpies with double attitude had come down and frightened them off,naughty,naughty very naughty.Since then 25-32 have been seen in Sainsburys Car park in Hornchurch with all sorts of puns about collecting treble nectar points.Anyway,off to Rainham i decided to go,i originally wasn't that bothered about the Slaty backed Gull as i have said i am not a gull person,it all gets too confusing for me but i decided to head down to that area anyway to see if anything was around.I managed to get the Little Owl that Shaun Harvey had told me about in Launders Lane,cheers Shaun.I then proceeded to coldharbour lane where reports were coming in that it had been seen,i saw all the Twitchers there but carried on driving past as there didn't look like being too much going on to be honest,i parked up half a mile or so near Aveley bay and after 20 minutes or so of scanning the Thames with nothing of note,i bumped into a poor lost soul who couldn't find the crowds for the Slaty Backed,i said i would give him a lift and as soon as we got there we were rewarded with magnificent views of the bird and the crowd was only about 40-50 birders,on Saturday well over a thousand turned up.The arguements continue to rage on Birdforum about is it or isn't it a Slaty Back but most of the people in the know seem to think it is so i am ticking the bugger until told otherwise,since then i have been reading up on gulls so i may just make a gullet yet,certainly alot more interested in them now than i was before.
Saturday,Me and Graham Thomlinson (father of AFC Hornchurch legend Andy Thomlinson) met up about 11am at Brentwood with no definate plan of where to go,my plan had been to go to Upminster common early in the morning and then on to meet Graham but that plan was scuppered with me feeling like shite due to a heavy cold but i couldn't sit indoors all day so i decided i should still go out for at least the afternoon as AFC Hornchurch were not playing till the Sunday.We decided on East Mersea and off to Cudmore grove we went,probably not the best choice seeing as soon as we arrived we was struggling to stay on our feet with gusts in excess of 30 mph probably higher,we walked to stone point and set up there for a while with views of an Eider duck being the only thing near enough to get our scopes on in the Blackwater.We checked the flats and there were good numbers of Dunlin,curlew,oystercatchers and redshank,along with a Purple Sandpiper which is a year bird for me,there were about 30 Brent Geese in the field next to us but nothing to compare to Old Hall last week,we had a few flying in off the sea as well,probably about 250 birds seen in total.We then decided to move out of the wind behind a bank right next to the water,this turned out to be a good idea as over the next couple of hours we had 2 Slavonian grebes,at least 2 Red Throated Divers a Hen harrier way out and just before we left 2 Red Brested Mergansers,there were probably more but it was so hard trying to keep focused we just settled for what we had and with the weather as it was it wasn't a bad haul.We walked back to the car getting another 50-60 golden plovers and Sanderling.
We left the Island and decided,even though the light was going to be fading soon to go to look for the Hawfinch we had seen briefly last week but after 20 minutes or so there was no sign neither of the red kite either.The only other plus note for Saturday was that Arsenal spanked West ham to give me local bragging rights although on seeing the game the opposition really isn't up to much.
Sunday-Alices 23rd Birthday!!!
I took her to Rainham Marshes for her Birthday :)
In all fairness she loves the place so i agreed to go with her,sheerly to support her on her big day,so off we trudged.In all fairness it was pretty quiet on the reserve,by the time we got to the New hide most of the waders i had spotted earlier from the northern boardwalk had dispersed,golden plover,redshank,black tailed godwits etc,we got into the hide and straight away locked on to two very odd looking geese,it turns out they are Greylag Geese with white fronts but i thought they were a hybrid,certainly had a few of us stumped for a few minutes,a sparrowhawk landed on a post directly in front of the hide then underneath and back round.The only other bird of note was a Ruff on the Target pools,apart from this it was quite quiet and i didn't get to look around properly as alice was now tired and wanted her din dins,so off we went round to Alices parents for dinner which consisted of Coq Au Reisling(dunno if this is how it was spelt but felt alright in my large belly)its now early afternoon Monday and only just stopped raining and i still have a cold but may sneak out for an hour or twos birding in a little while,and AFC Hornchurch won 2-1 away at Cray Wanderers yesterday to get our promotion push back on track,all our rivals drew so happy days indeed.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Not an Owl in Sight.

Had two shifts over the Ingrebourne Valley today,the first i went to the Berwick ponds end to look for Bittern,i have also seen Little Owl that end as well in the past.I parked up and put on me trusted wellies as we have had a bit of rain the last couple of days and it looked a bit wet.I went onto the pond,which is in fact a large reedbed area a good 3 or 4 acres in size and produces birds such as Bittern,Marsh Harrier,Bearded tits,kingfisher,grebes etc.Today it produced none of these,although i did get some Teal,Shoveler,pochard etc from another pool out the back,i also had some Mute Swans on the Main pool.I decided to go for a walk which wasn't really my intention as i only had a short amount of time.I headed up to the side of the Valley where you are in an elevated position and decided to look over the Country Park(above).The valley was flooded as the river had burst its banks but there was very little activity on the flooded land,just the odd moorhen,coot and teal where in winters gone past there has been much more in the way of wildfowl,i hung around scanning the Valley for about half an hour hoping to see a wandering Harrier,Owl or Bittern but nothing.I decided to have a walk through the scrubland and trees and on doing so was nearly run into by a fox which came across my track without seeing me,as soon as he did he was off,then i flushed 6 Pheasant from the bushes,i took a walk up to the path which leads to the Bridge over the Ingrebourne and looked around in the Horse Paddock but once again nothing.I had to be back home to take Alice and the Nipper to their friends for the Afternoon so decided to call it a day(or Morning) and headed off back to the car,i got to the car and realised i still had 40 or so minutes till i said i would be home so decided to head to the Field with the horses on Berwick ponds road which is still part of the Ingrebourne Valley.On arriving there was a flock of around 400 starlings whirling around the field and another smaller flock of 80-100 Fieldfare.There was also around 40 Stock doves and 6 Rook,12 Pied Wagtail and a Grey Wagtail went over towards the Valley.
I dropped Alice and nipper round to her friends at Elm Park and decided to go back over to the Valley,this time the Hornchurch Country Park side
On arriving at the park i saw a kestrel hovering over the kids swings but to be honest this was about as good as it was going to get,i scanned the flooded meadows from the other side(above) and aprt from a small amount of Teal,the odd Shoveler and a Water Rail there wasn't much happening,a few chaffinch & greenfinch were around as the usual flocks of tits,i moved further down to the viewing platform but once again nothing apart from 2 Mute Swans,i then decided to move onto the Hill to scan the area i had scanned in the morning,i was there for an hour and can honestly say i saw nothing apart from the usual stuff and 8 Long Tailed tits behind me,i called it a day around 4pm and went to pick Alice and the Nipper up.Not sure where i am off to tomorrow,think i am out with the nipper and the baby but i am sure a bit of birding will be on the cards.                                                                       

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Muddy Boots

Got up late this morning,due to a lie in with the nipper after mummy went to work,got a bit of a cold,probably due to all the birding i have been doing in the rain the last couple of weeks,unfortunatly today was no different although the rain did hold off until around 1.30pm.
I left home at 9.30 and decided to head to Canvey West Marsh a new Reserve on Canvey Island.I dropped the nipper off round nanny sheilas who looks after her on a wednesday,an arrangement that started when me and Alice were both working.I then proceeded to the petrol station where once again i am being ripped off at £1.29 a litre of fuel,5 years ago it was half the price,disgraceful.I put a tenner in,don't get me very far nowadays.
I decided to go across country hoping to see some farmland birds and i was rewarded with a yellowhammer on Dunnings lane and further along i watched a flock of over 500 wood pigeons flying hurridly off as a male Sparrowhawk was threatening them.I then had 10 Red Legged Partridges around Conway road,near Orsett and 2 Corn Buntings.I got onto the A13 but by the second Basildon turn off i could see the A13 clogged up so decided to get off and have a look down at Wat Tyler Country Park near Pitsea.I drove all the way to the end and parked up,there was already a bloke with a scope scanning the fields of gulls,he was looking for anything unusual ie iceland  glaucous but after scanning them there was nothing unusual.His name was Nik,nice bloke,probably around my age and a fan of the old darts,also a member of the Essex Birders site i use.We then went to another viewpoint but this again proved on the whole fruitless although there was plenty of birds on show.
I then decided to head to Coalhouse Fort near Tilbury,its a funny site,the Fort itself i believe used to be an artillery battery and i can imagine it can be quite a scary place after dark but all around it there is plenty of wildlife.The fort is on the banks of the river thames and was probably built a few hundred years ago (i will check this out once i have finished todays entry).I went up to the path by the thames and straight away i had 22 Corn Buntings,always nice to see in good numbers as they are a declining bird in essex and many other counties.Then i scanned the foreshore where there were good numbers of dunlin,redshank,godwits,curlew and ringed plover.A single Sanderling was also a nice bird.
I then had 3 Snow Buntings over my head and landed in the scrub just before the foreshore.Wasn't 100% sure what they were first off but one showed very well on a tuft of grass so i could confirm its id.
I had 12 ducks way off in the distance,over the kent side of the thames,they looked like eiders but in the poor light there was no way i could say for sure.
I then scanned to the East and in the distance i could make out a harrier,first of all i thought it was a marsh but i moved about 200 yards further on and it was in fact a female hen Harrier.a cracking bird which after a few seconds took off in the wind giving me lovely views of the bird.The only other action by now was lashings of rain and 3 police boats speeding down the Thames,i got a picture of them on the  phone,crap but still a picture,the 3 dots in the middle are the boats speeding down the thames probably going to some crack house in tower hill.

After this i decided to head back as the rain was quite heavy now,by now the dunlins had started coming in in huge flocks doing arial displays around the thames.I also had a Little grebe on the small lake by the fort,which probably used to be a moat.I got briefly attacked by a yorkshire terrier which was probably about 30 seconds from getting kicked into the moat as its owner didn't seem too bothered that it was attacking me,all 1ft 6" of it.Message to dog owners....I do not want to have your dog all over me,i do not want your dog rubbing crap all over me and i don't want your dog annoying me when i am looking at birds,if you can't control your poxy dogs then put them on a lead,but judging by some of the dog walkers i met today it may be better if the owners were actually put on leads.With this i got out my very muddy new boots and went home via orsett,although i saw nothing but the 10 red legged Partridge i saw on the way there.A good day but something about Coalhouse fort just doesn't sit right with me,despite fabulous birds and good numbers it just doesn't have the sex appeal of many other birding sites along the thames,don't know if anyone else agrees,perhaps i just visit it when its grey and gloomy,still,i am sure i will be back there in the next few weeks,may try it on a warmer sunnier day though.
                                                                 

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Back to winning ways

Just got home from football with AFC Hornchurch,where we won 3-2 away at Concord Rangers in the Essex Senior Cup 4th Round.A competition we won 4 years ago and lost to Colchester United 2-1 in the final last season.We was 2-0 down after about 15 minutes tonight but battled back to eventually win the game.This was yet another game where i didn't have a drink,you have to go back to November 20th since i drank at a football game and then another 3 weeks before that,hopefully the fat git has lost a bit of weight in that time but don't hold your breath.
Ironically i spent most of my day looking at Canvey Island where Concord play as i visited Two Tree Island near Leigh on sea,it overlooks the Thames Estuary and Canvey island and is a good place for all manner of birds especially waders,wildfowl and Brent geese
(looking out from Two Tree Island onto Canvey point and the Thames Estaury)
I arrived around 10am as the tide was out,there were still a few of the usual suspects wading around,redshank,black tailed godwits and oystercatchers,i also had a few brent geese in the distance but not a great deal was happening,i decided to go to the hide overlooking the Lagoon to see if there was anything going on,as i got there a bloke came out with a picture of a robin,which he had taken from about 2 foot away just outside the hide.I set up the scope in the hide and sat down to observe the lagoon for a while,within a minute or so,we was joined by another interesting being,The Robin.He had jumped into the hide with us and was all over the place,not one bit bothered by our presence,he actually seemed to enjoy us being there
What a cheeky fella
I stayed in the hide for about an hour,the Robin was with us most of the time,at one point he was standing on my scope!!!
From the hide we had the usual waders plus wigeon,teal and a little egret but not much else.By about 12 0 clock i was feeling peckish so decided to venture down to Southend seafron for some good old fashioned fish and chips,well Saveloy and Chips anyway.I done a bit of estuary watching towards Shoeburyness and watched the waders coming back and forth for about an hour or so before going up towards rossis ice cream parlour which is famous for not just ice cream but Rossi the Ring billed gull,he was on the lamp post just past Rossis and out on the groynes were a couple of Med Gulls with the Black heads,a nice couple of year ticks for me.
I headed back to Two Tree for an hour or so as the waders would be coming back in on the rising tide but although i did see some spectacular dunlin action to rival what i saw on Sunday at Old hall i didn't see any Knot action as i had to leave about 3.30pm(an hour or so before high tide)
I did manage however a Sanderling and a green Sandpiper which was my favourite bird apart from the robin
I think i will hit West canvey marsh romorrow and then maybe back to Two tree to see some Knot on the rising tide as i missed it today,although high tide is at 17.24 tomorrow which is dark although i should see some good action upto about 5pm.Hopefully the weather will be good as its supposed to be upto 13c,wierd.
                                                             
                                                                     

Monday, 10 January 2011

New Boots at last

Ventured down to Bonnetts Wood this morning.After yesterday i thought it would be a bit of an anti climax but decided to go down anyway to see if any yellowhammer or ingfisher were about,unfortunatly for me neither were around.I started off in the Car park at Parklands which is across the road from Bonnetts Wood,as i got out the car i heard the squaking of parakeets,i used to enjoy these birds but i now find them somewhat irritating,especially over parklands as they seem to have taken over the place.A make Sparrowhawk then swooped in front of me,hopefully after the Parakeets!!!
I walked the short walk across the road onto Bonnetts wood but it seemed dead,i walked along a little and all i could hear were the usual tits & chaffinch.A kestrel overhead hovering was a nice site,then in the distance i had 14 Red Legged Partridge,very high numbers for the area,have had that amount before over there but not for a couple of years.The highest i had in the area last year was 5,they are probably being bred for shooting.A couple of jays and a mistle thrush were next then 80 fieldfare in the fields in the distance.I decided to go for a walk up onto the old dissused excavation site which runs down to berwick pond road but again zilch.I decided to head back but stopped for a while to see if any kingfisher came along but again zilch.
Went home,tucked into a bit of last nights chinese for lunch,job done.I took alice and the nipper down to be weighed,i thought they would only be 20-30 minutes in there as per usual but an hour and a half later they came out.
Then we went down to lakeside to get me some waterproof boots,can't keep using my wellies,although they are fun at splashing around in.May try the boots out in the morning although i havent decided where to go yet,somewhere coastal me thinks.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Paradise in Essex

Got up bright and early this morning,putting yesterdays defeat by Lowestoft out of my mind as i went on a days Birding with Graham thomlinson,father of Hornchurch legend Andy Thomlinson.
We met at 7.40am at the Brentwood post house and headed off to the Essex Coast,starting with an Inland Reservoir Site Abberton.As we turned off the A12 at Silver End i noticed a sign for Braxted Park,which is where a small amount of Hawfinch have been reported recently.As far as i know they are one of only a few remaining Hawfinch left in essex,so we decided to go for a look.After about 5 minutes these little beauties obliged from high up a tree,a cracking view and a new bird for me.
After this we made our way to Abberton,stopping every now and then to check out fields for Partridge,thrushes etc and we saw quite a bit,a male sparrowhawk hunting near braxted park was the highlight.We stopped off just before Abberton Causeway to an area with many Geese,there were around 50 White fronted geese in the fields,lovely birds and then we saw 6 Grey Partridge far out in the fields behind the geese,both year birds for me.We decided next to check out both the causeways,the main one didn't have too much on either side,just the usual ducks with around 40 bean goose flying over at one point.We decided to go to the other causeway to see if there was anything over there,it didn't look too busy but when we got there we knew we had made the right choice.3 Goosanders,5 Goldeneye,2 Egyptian Geese,bean geese and 5 pink foots were the highlights along with some other nice wetland birds.
We then left,around 10am to go to Old Hall Marshes,for my sins i have never been there before,what have i been thinking for the last few years,the place is absolutely mental and today was probably my favourite days birding.Don't get me wrong,it probably doesn't get close to rivaling some of the sites in Norfolk for range of species but it is an absolute gem and definatly the best site i have been to in Essex,the amount of birds is simply staggering,hundreds of thousands,wouldn't be surprised if there were millions scattered around there and the surrounding areas.
We started off in the car park,i once again didn't manage to wrap up too warm but as it happens,despite the strong wind at times and the fact that we was exposed a lot of the time i never really felt cold,perhaps it was because i was so focused on the birds,i just didn't feel it.From the car park we saw 2 green woodpeckers,we left the car park and into a field,upon us were thousands of Brent Geese,around 4000 i would say,with the Brent geese (below)were Barnacle Geese or at least a few,probably 40-50 nothing like the thousands of Brent.
                      


As soon as i saw them all i knew i was in for a good day.We watched the geese for a while before heading up on to the sea wall of the Salcott channel.Once up there we had wonderful views of the whole reserve,or at least as far as our eyes could see,the Long walk is around 8 miles and would of taken us about 2 days at the rate we was going,stopping every 30 yards to look at something new.We decided to take the short walk,about 2-3 miles but we did walk further as we twice went off the walk to try a bit of the long walk.
While up on the sea wall we had a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by a Peregrine,a Merlin dive bombing every few seconds,Avovcets,Ringed Plovers,Black tailed godwits,dunlin,spotted redshank,redshank,grey plover to name a few.Thousands and thousands of waders,thousands and thousands of ducks & geese,it really is a special place.We spent 6 hours just looking at birds,the last one we had was a Barn Owl,i would say at least a mile in the distance but managed to just about confirm its id as it turned and we saw its lovely colouring.we watched the waders coming in on the rising tide and some of the acrobatics they performed,especially the dunlins was simply breathtaking,it just made me think why i love birds so much,to see such action just about whenever you want,if you want it enough makes it all worthwile and reminds me that just seeing the birds is better than just ticking them down and moving on to the next one,don't get me wrong,i will continue to do lists but they are nowhere near as important as just seeing the birds in habitats like this.
Our plan was to finish about 1.30 and to be home by 2.30pm but we left the reserve about 4.15pm as it was just too hard to tear ourselves away from and we only did the short walk,one last surprise as we was heading away from the reserve were 3 Bewicks Swans to add to my year list.Old Hall Marshes,a very special place.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

The referee is a complete and utter tosser

Just got back from the Bridge where i have just seen Hornchurch lose 2-1 at home to Lowestoft,who are now two points ahead of us with 3 games in hand.Only plus point is many of the other teams at the top all dropped points,so apart from Lowestoft going above us it looks like not too much harm done.
I arrived over the ground at 8am this morning to see if the pitch was playable,pitch was fine despite the heavy rain we have had for the past 3 days,i was quite surprised.The referee came just after 9 and passed the pitch fit,as long as we tended to the few dodgy patches that were still there,this took us half hour or so and then i went home to get ready for the Big match.
I arrived back at the ground at 12,i get there early to sell the 50/50 raffle tickets,the proceeds of which go to our away coaches to away games,the other half goes to the winner,todays prize was £90,i didn't win it,then again i don't enter it as if i did win too many people would moan at me.Another reason why i got down there early today was so i could watch my other team,the mighty Arsenal.Message to Wenger,you nearly cost me twenty quid you stupid french idiot,play your strongest team in our national cup competition you halfwit.Luckily a penalty by cesc got me out of trouble and also saved me from the humiliation in the bar before the game.
Hornchurch were 2-0 down after 5 minutes,pathetic start although we should of been 1-0 up had our centre forward just smashed it into the net instead of trying to play like Arsenal by chipping the keeper from twenty yards.We did start playing better as the half went on but from the moment i saw the referee i knew he would be a jumped up little twat.
At half time we went in 2-0 down and knew that Big Jim our Gaffer would shake them up and they came out a different side after the Break.From the start of the half to the end of the game we battered them but a mixture of bad luck and this useless idiot of a referee ensured that we lost.Half way through the half our centre forward was through on goal,he was then blatently pushed by their centre half,the linesman flagged but the referee waved play on,for one split second i was so incenced i was going to jump over the barrier to remonstrate with the idiotic ref,Lawrence our disabled fan actually did try to get over,this is not the first time he has tried it and is usually quite funny to watch,Big Love goes out to Laurence lol mate.
Five minutes later we got the goal back and piled onto them till the end,at the end of the 90 minutes the referee then added 10 minutes injury time,the only thing he got right all game but after 6 minutes of the injury time one of our players was scythed down and all hell broke loose,he was sent off but then for no reason he decided that one of our players had to go even though they were 50 yards from the incident.After this the free kick was taken and he decided not to play the 10 minutes,therefore we lost.I am debating whether to write to the FA To complain about this idiotic halfwit and speaking to a few fans after they all agreed what a twat he was.Absolute idiot and i hope i never see him again.I will calm down in a minute!!!
Off to Abberton & then Old Hall Marshes tomorrow and hopefully may get time to shoot into fingrinhoe or onto Mersea Island at some point,fancy adding to my Year list which i should at those reserves,happy days...

Friday, 7 January 2011

A Barmy Januarys Day

Wet wet wet was the order or the day when i got up this morning,and i don't mean some dodgy 80's Glasweigen cheesey pop Group,i meant Rain Rain Rain.I resigned myself to the fact that i wouldn't be doing too much birding today so sat down to watch the feeders,two Blue tits in an hour put me in the mood to get out the house and by 11 0 clock it had stopped raining.
I decided to venture over to Bonnetts Wood to see what was on offer,hoping for Snipe,woodcock,kingfisher and Yellowhammer and anything else that could turn up but i didn't think i would see too much on arriving as there was a twat on a motorcycle shooting around and the all too usual gunshots in the background.I decided to have a little wander around and to try to get over the top onto the old tipper site which seems to be dissused for now,i managed to get onto the land but it was so boggy underneath i decided to go back down to the bridge and stick to the pathways.On heading back down i had a Green Woodpecker and then a couple of Jays flew out of the Oak tree near the path to another just down the stream.The Shooting seemed to have stopped as had the idiot motorcyclist,hopefully he fell off and broke a few bones,i have no sympathy with little chav oiks who think they can ride their pathetic little motorcycles or mopeds around nature reserves and the likes,hope they all break bones.By now the sun was out with blue skies all around,a quick look on the old trusted thermometre showed the temperature as 12c,in January???? Whatever next,actually not too much in the way of birds for the next half hour or so,just the usual tits & finches and a lovely male Kestrel.I decided to head up the stream towards Parklands but before i get there a quick scan over the reeds and then fields produced a Buzzard,it was perched on an old Oak tree about 1/4 mile away but i got lovely views of it,it was being mobbed by two carrion crow but didn't look too bothered to start with but then took off as the crows started actually going for its head.About 60 linnets were over the farmland and landed although i couldn't get good views of them due to the fact they landed on a sunken part of the field(although i did get them later).I then had 2 skylarks over the Farmland,pretty sure these were not Lapland Buntings but you can never be too sure ;).Suddenly about 40 foot in front of me a Buzzard Flew across my eyeline,i got onto it and followed it into some trees the other side of the stream,then another one flew exactly the same path and into the same patch of trees,a few minutes later one of them came out and flew back over Gerpins Lane tip which is adjacent to the tip.The other Buzzard never re appeared,perhaps heading over towards parkland.
Shortly after that i had a Lesser Redpoll looking lost just by the tip,good views for a minute or so,then the last action of the day was c80 fieldfare and then 12 redwings heading towards Parklands.
No new year birds for me today but an enjoyable Afternoon in the Sun and mediterranean temperatures lol
lets hope the Rain holds off for the most part before Saturdays Visit of Lowestoft in the Top of the Table Ryman Premier Clash between AFC Hornchurch and Lowestoft,a must not lose game for either club.Fingers Crossed,come on you mighty Urchins

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Probably a Skylark then!!!

Woke up this morning to find a rain soaked Upminster although by 9.30 it seemed as if the rain was letting up somewhat so i decided to have it on my toes to RSPB Reserve at Rainham Marsh.
I arrived around tennish but the rain had got heavier again and after much deliberation i decided to go for it on to the Reserve.I started out with the intention of just getting to the Ken Barret hide and taking it from there,on leaving the visitor centre i noticed all the wigeon had got up,a quick scan above and i was onto a Peregrine(although i will probably be accused of actually seeing a kestrel,that comment will become clearer later on).Once in the hide after about 20 minutes walk i set up with 3 other blokes who apart from the Wigeon,teal,shoveler & lapwing visible had seen nothing,a few Snipe & redshank later i decided to head to the New hide on the other side of the reserve.I wasn't really dressed for the occassion as i had a jumper and a bodywarmer on and no waterproofs,but i was already soaked and thought bugger it.
As we headed around the Northern Boardwalk a quick scan of the pool revelead 2 Pintail,lovely ducks.Walking further up the Boardwalk we had 2 Bearded tit actually bounce across the boardwalk before picking up another one on the Reed Mace.
We entered the hide and straight away was on 30 Golden Plover as well as redshank and small amounts of Dunlin,which grew as the tide came in on the Thames.Then i was alerted to some smaller birds feeding about 150 yards from the hide,straight away i knew they were Lapland Buntings,11 is a big number for this area so i guess i shouldn't be too dissapointed by someones comment who arrived once they had dissapeared that they were probably "damp Skylarks" but seeing as i have seen probably hundreds of thousands of Skylarks over the years as dumb as i can sometimes be they were not Skylarks.Every other person who saw them had the same ID,one bloke put the record in the visitor centre book and coincidentally his name was K Burgess (not a relative,i don't believe).Seems that unless one of the London/Essex hierachy actually see the birds then they simply don't exist lol,am happy i saw them and happier the bloke who made the comment didn't.As another local birder i know said to me in a phone call a minute ago "I Don't know why you bother,i don't anymore"
Anyway enough of the Lapland bunting/skylark/wet House Sparrow debacle,after seeing the buntings we were alerted to a Marsh Harrier which was a site tick for me.Then a group of Black Tailed Godwits arrived over Aveley Pools which was a nice year tick for me.I stuck it out in the hide for another hour or so,in which time the birder(s) who made the comment came and went after a while scanning the area but they had gone.I decided around 2.30pm to make my way back to the Visitor Centre where my old mate Rumbo was waiting for me as we were popping out for a drink to see him off as he goes back to Ibiza where he lives tomorrow.
So an eventful day and some nice birds although obviously not accepted by everyone but thats just life i am afraid,some you win and some you lose.I put the call out and some saw it and others didn't.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Redpolls Galore

A quite quiet day today compared to yesterday,no gunshots and no psycho dog walking ladies.I started off the day at Belhus Woods Country Park and ended it at Belhus woods Country Park,7 hours of Birdwatching,kerching.Only 3 new species today (possibly 4) but a good walk with good company and a bit of time in the Afternoon on my own getting lost in woods just before dark.
I started in the main car park where i bumped into another birder (his name escapes me but i have seen him on certain birding sites before).We spent the first hour or so looking for the Marsh Tits until we were finally rewarded,the wind was quite strong today compared to previous days and it seemed to have an effect on some of the birds with numbers well down on previous days.In the Woods we also latched onto 3 Goldcrest and 10 siskin.We then bumped into Malcolm who i know from Rainham Marsh RSPB as he works there as a volunteer and i have spent a few hours with him before at certain reserves,he also Supports Aveley who are in the same league as the Mighty Hornchurch,remember them??? They lost to Romford last night :(
Malcolm told us about the Smew that was reported yesterday,he had it Boxing day but i have not seen it but me and the other birder decided to head up to the Scrape to see if it was up there.we scanned the Scrape and while there was plenty of Wigeon,teal,shoveler,mallard,geese etc there was no sign of the Smew.We walked round and at one point flushed a Woodcock from the Long grass.We carried on around the scrape but no sign and decided to head back to the car park as the other bloke had to dash off.Once again we bumped into Malcolm and chatted for a while.Malcolm was going to pretty much check all the other lakes so i decided to go with him,over the next couple of hours we saw many birds including the Red Crested Pochard i saw on Monday and many other water birds but still no Smew or Redpoll.
We bothe went back to the Car park as i wanted to head home for something to eat and malcolm was going to rainham for the Afternoon,birding.I left and ventured into Aveley as i quite fancied walking round Belhus again looking for the Redpolls,so got a sausage & chips at the chippy then headed back.
I pulled back into the car park right next to the feeding station and straight away had Marsh tit & Nuthatch on the feeders,i am starting to wonder if there are more than 2 Marsh tit at Belhus as quite a few other birders have said they have had Marsh tit recently in other areas of the park and a few of the records seem to overlap when there are already 2 birds reported at the feeing station.Anyway,i ventured to the lakes,stopping breifly to look at a great spotted Woodpecker through the scope.Arriving at the back lake i heard 4 siskin in the Alder trees and then heard Redpolls,i had good views of them in the Alder trees and 15 were Lesser Redpolls but one was very pale and looked like a Mealy but i am not too confident of the ID as its not a bird i am over familiar with although it sort of looked out of place in the scope with the other birds.
By now it was starting to get dark so i ventured back into the woodland for what i thought would be a 5 minute walk back to the car park,i went that way just in case there was any Owls that had decided to come out to play a bit early (not actually sure how many tawny owls are in the woods,some said upto 5 pairs but that seems alot for a small woodland,someone else said it would be lucky if there are 1 pair!).
In the end after half an hour i finally made my way back to the car in time to beat the car park being locked.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Pile of poop

I went down to the Bridge tonight to watch the FRIENDLY between AFC Hornchurch and local rivals Romford.We lost 3-0.Played crap although to be honest only had two players who started the game saturday,one of those went off after twenty minutes with a broken arm and tommy black who has not played for a while limped off around the same time.The rest of the team were made up of trialists and players coming back from injury with another couple who are around the first team,it showed as a few of them didn't look bothered.Thats the last time i get excited about a friendly half way through the season.
On a plus note we did raise £75 from the half time travel which goes towards the coach travel for our away game at Cray Wanderers Sunday week,a game i will have to miss because its Alices Birthday.
Popped out about 3.30pm earlier for a bit of birding round the corner where the horses are at Park Farm.
Had a nice Goldcrest(which is good as they don't seem to have suffered too much in our recent cold spell),a Green Woodpecker,18 Long tailed tits,80 fieldfare,23 Redwing and a Mistle thrush.
The aim was to see if i could see any owls lurking about but didn't hold out too much hope and that was the right way of thinking as i heard none.I did however,have an altercation with a lady who said i shouldn't be out standing on the edge of farmland/woodland looking menacing at that time of day as she felt threatend.The only person who was ever in any danger was me as one of her 3 alsatians came charging upto me causing me to slip over,i told her this and the fact that someone with binoculars is usually just doing a spot of birding but she just seemed a stupid cow and i told her so as she was beginning to irritate me once she said that this land,which is also a PUBLIC FOOTPATH is for dog walkers not Birdwatchers.Oh do piss off love!!!!

The Guns Of Upminster

Popped out first thing to Belhus woods CP,just to see if i could add to the year list in the hour i had before i had to pop into Hornchurch on an errand.I managed one new species for the Year,a male Lesser spotted Woodpecker.On top of that i had 1 marsh tit on the feeder in the visitor centre,2 nuthatch,treecreeper,coal tit and a mistle thrush as well as the usual finches.Had hoped for some redpolls which are on site but given the fact i only walked around 500 yards in total i didn't have much chance,will probably get back there tomorrow.
After i had been to Hornchurch i decided to come back and have my first wander over the Valley this year,my local patch.
I crossed the road into the bushes and was immediatly rewarded with a Goldcrest and then a Song Thrush ,Both new birds for the Year for me.I decided to go round the edge of the woodlands and onto the farmland.In the distance i could hear alot of shooting,not sure what they were shooting but it was definatly having an effect on the birds i could see,many were taking off at the slightest noise.4 Rooks & 8 Stock dove in the first field near me were good birds for that field which apart from the usual Lapwings is usually pretty bare.Into the second field which ends up meeting the woodland area that runs up from the hospital.I had 5 redwing & 4 fieldfare straight away and many tits & finches in the trees as well as Great Spotted Woodpecker.Into the woods and with a tit flock were 8 long tailed tits & another 2 goldcrest.I then ventured out on to the PUBLIC FOOTPATH and scanned the fields but nothing,absolutely dead apart from one Skylark.I carried on then stopped at a junction with another track and looked up to see a Buzzard being mobbed by 8 crows.BANG...AND ANOTHER BANG....i was being shot at,or at least thats what it felt like.Seems like the farmers there don't realise a public footpath is for the public.A quick middle finger and a jog behind the hedge and i was off again,every now and then turning round to make sure i wasn't being shot at.I carried on along the PUBLIC FOOTPATH but it was dead,just one robin.I didn't expect it to be busy with birds but in recent years i have at least had the odd yellowhammer,corn bunting,partridge this time of year but with trigger crazy farmers around its no wonder there are no birds left.
After leaving the PUBLIC FOOTPATH i ended up in Berwick Glades,again nothing but the odd woodpecker,gull or mute swan flying over.I then travelled down to Hornchurch Country Park where i had a Bullfinch just before the Bridge,a little Egret on the pool to the right of the bridge and i saw a cettis warbler and heard 2 more (all 3 year birds for me).The Sun was coming out now but it was becoming very hazy,i made my way up to the little hill to scan the valley,on the way there i had a Male Brambling on the junction of the two paths,up the hill i set up the scope and almost straight away was on a Male Marsh Harrier.I kept losing the bird as i got talking to a few people,one a nice chinese lady who wanted to know what the heron was and another bloke who had lost his dog.I am sure the lady was chinese but she may of been Korean,if so the bloke may have lost his dog forever.
On scanning the fields another loud gunshot went off from the other side of the river,about 80 teal a few shoveler and mallards all went up and never came down again,obviously as pissed off with the shooting as i am.On this note i decided to leave and go to the Berwick Glades Car Park where Alices mum was picking me up as i hurt my leg when the farmer first shot a loud one in my direction.On the way back i had 35 linnets & 8 long tailed tits.I scanned the reservoir/fishing lake at the back but it was still frozen with around 80 lapwing and plenty of Black headed gulls on it.
Tonight i am at the Bridge to watch the eagerly awaited Havering Derby between AFC Hornchurch & romford(groundsharing squatting pikeys as the are also known),the game is a friendly but i have just informed the Hornchurch Chairman that defeat is not an option and i will not be happy until we have demolished them and sent them back to where they are currently squatting.

Monday, 3 January 2011

They Do Ron Ron Ron

After an impeccable nightimes sleep from the nipper after the previous nights bedlam i woke up at 7am ready for a mornings birding with fellow local birder and another Hornchurch fan,Ron Colson.
I arrived at Belhus Country Park at 7.30am on the hope of catching a few birds before the maniac dog walkers turned up and i was in luck,the first car in the car park.I walked down to where i had seen the Marsh tits yesterday but they were not there,although i was treated to a festival of noise from the other tits,nuthatches,treecreepers & woodpeckers,it was not too far short of a spring morning had it been a few degrees warmer.I had hoped to maybe catch a Tawny Owl in the woods but heard or saw nothing.After poncing about in the woods for an hour or so i decided to head back up to the car park to meet Ron,who was there waiting for me.We decided to head back down to the feeders as Ron had not seen the Marsh tits yet and after about 20 minutes looking for them we decided to give up till later.Although we had by this time seen Nuthatch,great tit,Long tailed tits,blue tit,green Woodpecker,jay 2 goldcrest and heard treecreeper.
We decided to head to the scrape/conversation area to see the Red Crested Pochard male that i found yesterday.On the way we stopped in a field where we saw Redwing(12) fieldfare (20 with another flock of around 30 in the trees to the right),there were good amounts of greenfinch as well.Ron had to dash back to the Car because he had forgot to pay the £2 car park fee(rip off merchants and i can't help thinking that many birders do not bird Belhus because of this reason),in the meantime i had a flock of 12 goldfinch and a meadow pipit,both year ticks for me.Once we got to the scrape,it looked like much of the ice from yesterday had thawed overnight although there was still quite a lot of ice on there.We looked out from in front of the hide to see around 150 wigeon,a few teal,around 30 pochard,2 ruddy duck,plenty of black head gulls as well as mallard,greylag & canada geese.Numbers of gadwall were quite low but we couldn't locate the Red crested Pochard.I decided we should move further around the scrape and as soon as we did we locked on to it,once again getting cracking views.We stayed at the same spot for about an hour,watching the birds,chatting about the mighty AFC Hornchurch etc and scanning the fields behind us.At one point we were convinced a tuft of grass in the distance was a funny bird but under close inspection it was exactly what it said on the tin,grass,a Water Rail in the reeds was another year bird for me.We decided to head off across the farmland and as we got to the other side we latched on to about 12 goldfinch but one or two looked a bit different and under closer inspection,one was a chaffinch,the other a linnet.Not too sure why they were not with their mates but the linnet was another year tick for me.
From there we decided to venture a bit off track towards a fishing lake i know,just as we climbed over a fence onto a track i locked on to around 8 snipe in the distance,not sure where they were off to,they seemed to be following the M25 north which was in the near distance,perhaps they were on their way to watch Lowestoft v concord in the ryman premier league!,still,another year tick for me.
After about 10 minutes of walking through bushes and nettles we arrived at a bit of farmland(dissused farmland by the look off it)next to the pond.After a quick jimmy riddle in the nearest bush i then had 6 stock doves in the distance but not too much else,Ron then alerted me to some Shoveler on the pond so we decided to get a bit closer to check it out.As we arrived at the pond the majority was still frozen solid but the part that wasn't held 4 male shovelers,2 female and a couple of Mallards.We made our way round the pond which i believe is a dissused fishing pond for tunnel AC,scanning the reedbeds we didn't see anything but it looks like it could throw up the odd delight so i may try and get over there again soon.We left the pond and walked back down a track towards the country park a quarter or so of a mile away,we decided to again head off track and towards the M25,maybe there were some waders or geese in the grassland that is usually flooded this time of year but after about 400 yards we saw some dogs in the distance and under further scanning realised that it looked like a bit of a scrap yard so we turned back before we could be made into scrap metal ourselves or chewed to bits by the local nasty dogs.Back on the track we headed to another pond i know,i believe most of the ponds round there are ex gravel pits which we excavated for the M25 then turned into ponds as a way of getting nature back into them.Again,this one was frozen solid.Ron then threw a stone up into the air to land on the Pond,nothing,just a thud and a pretty noise on the ice.It was then that i started throwing stones higher onto the ice trying to break the ice(for wildlife helping purposes obviously!!!),after the 5th stone i decided on a bigger stone and a more ferocious throwing action,it was then that my newish I phone,fell out of my pocket and cracked the screen a lot easier than the Stone cracked the ice.Thoroughly pissed off now as i only bought this I phone 2 months ago after smashing the last one falling off my bike i rang the missus to tell her (the phone actually still works and i can still use all the functions on it,so not too bad)who told me what a fool i had been and asked if i knew what time it was as i had promised to be in by 12 and it was about half 12,i decided then that we should have a slow walk back to the car park and to have one last look for the Marsh Tit for Ron.We arrived back at the feeders around 1pm and within 5 minutes were rewarded with our first Marsh tit,as well as good views of nuthatch.Another Marsh tit popped on to the feeders and started us thinking about how long the Marsh tits had been at Belhus,if they have or will breed and how many are actually there,as it seems that Belhus can be very underwatched for the size of the place.I left around 1.15pm to go home before taking Isla to my mums to wish her a very happy birthday.
As far as football goes,it was a decent day in the Ryman Premier this afternoon with kingstonian losing 3-1 at home to Horsham in their game in hand on us at the top end and Canvey beating Billericay who were above us a few weeks ago.Our opponents at the Bridge next Saturday,Lowestoft beat Concord rangers 2-0 and are now a point behind us with 3 games in hand but at one point were 12 points behind us and even then still had two games in hand.Tomorrow we have a "friendly" against romford at the Bridge(our home) if you can ever call a game between the two clubs a friendly,personally i hope we batter them!!!!