Saturday, 7 December 2019

RSPB Rainham Marshes - Young Birders Walk, 12th August 2019

   In 2017, I started this blog thinking I was one of - if not the only - young birder in London, and certainly the only one from a minority background. By 2018, when I decided to give in to my 'anti social media' policy and get Twitter, it was a massive relief and pleasant surprise to find myself to be wrong, as I soon found that there were at least 5 young birders in London. Having met Howard, a real legend to the London young birder community, when I first went to Rainham in 2017, I realised that if I was going to enjoy this hobby more, I needed to meet up with some of the other like-minded young people out there. So eventually, after talking to my now close friend Sam Levy from North London, we organised a young birders walk for Rainham that he would lead. It was a fantastic start and showed that there was a social side to birdwatching that I'd never appreciated before. Although this walk had 6 people attending overall, it was a start. A year later he was leading our 4th walk, and by this point over 12 different people from in and around London had come. Although it's been difficult to organise too often, it's always something we all look forward to...

   So on the 12th August, 8 of us aged 12-19 began our walk along the riverwall at Rainham at 09:45 under the growling clouds. As it was nearly high tide, most of the waders such as the Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank and Avocet, were all flying on to the main reserve. We headed further along the river to Coldharbour Point, where there was barely a thing to be seen, except a few Skylark and Stonechat.

5 Avocets over the Thames
Black-tailed Godwits
Curlew

Curlew

Curlew

    Our trek over the mound was a dismal failure at finding any early south-bound migrants, with absolutely nothing seen. While recalling the success we had at that particular location in the spring, with the White Stork flying over our head, we noticed a few warblers lurking in the bushes at the Serin Mound. A Garden Warbler was seen briefly a few times, with a few Common Whitethroat keeping it company. At this point Calum called to us to say that he'd found an adult Cattle Egret, which was a very exciting discovery! This was also later found to be a new individual (there was a juvenile on site at the time as well) and it was a top bird to see for the day, as it was also a long overdue lifer for me. It pains me to say it but it was actually a pretty impressive find considering the distance, so I owe him one for that...

ad Cattle Egret
Grey Heron in the rain
   We hung around here for a little while but as the weather got gloomier again, we began to make our way back so we could head on to the reserve. With the water levels being so low, it was hardly surprising that there were so few birds around from the Shooting Butts Hide. However, a handful of Little Egrets, looking even more strikingly white than usual in the miserable weather, were showing well, fishing close in to the hide. Just as we prepared to leave, a pair of Green Sandpipers flew in calling with a Common Sandpiper for comparison. So we spent a little more time here in the hide, trying to pick out a Caspian Gull or something rarer, obviously without success. Seeing a Hobby though was one of only about 3 that I've seen in a quiet year for them.

Little Egret

Little Egret

Shooting Butts Hide

   Heading on towards Aveley Pools was quieter than our last visit, but a few pinging Bearded Tit caused some brief excitement, although we failed to get eyes on anything other than Reed Buntings. However, seeing a few Swifts about was a highlight considering all my local birds had left. Along with Wheatears, Swifts are by far my favourite birds so I'll never tire of seeing them!

    Our first 10 minutes at Aveley Pools started quietly, with a few snoozing Snipe loitering around the edge of the pools. A few Little Ringed Plover were also picked up as they darted around the gs main flock of waders, but as usual all the birds seemed to be very distant. The best bird from the pools was a Wood Sandpiper that I was pleased to re-find (after nicking Fraser's scope again...) The bird showed pretty well albeit distantly, and was another lifer for some of the group. While James went off in vain to try and see a Willow Emerald dragonfly, we spent a little bit more time scanning through the waders before running to the Ken Barrett Hide just before the heavens opened. 

Wood Sand record shot
Wood Sand record shot

   Despite low expectations, birding from the Ken Barrett hide was much better than expected. 2 Ruff flew in close to the hide and spent a good half an hour probing around, while a handful of Snipe were lurking at the back. 2 Marsh Harrier, a juvenile and an adult male, were quartering the reedbeds distantly while a few Common Buzzard were also up with them. With a couple of Reed and Sedge Warblers, the time we had to spend in the hide due to the rain went quickly, and we soon found ourselves watching the Barn Owl at his nest box. It was a surprise to have a female Bullfinch fly past (with the unmistakable white tail rump) as we headed back towards the visitor centre. The return walk was quiet, with a few Chiffchaff and Lesser Whitethroat being the highlights in the woodland. (Ruff video here)

Ruff

Ruff

Ruff

Ruff

Ruff

Ruff

pr Ruff

Ruff

pr Ruff 
Ruff



Ruff

pr Ruff foreground
Little Egret background
   Although I had to leave with James at this point, those who remained were treated with some lucky views of the Barn Owl which hunted close-in from the visitor centre. All in all, despite the weather, it was another very successful young birders walk at Rainham, which again produced some quality birds.Thanks to Sam for leading as well as James, Ceri, Fraser, Calum, Ben and Kabir for a top day out. Hopefully, the success we've had will only continue to grow and more young people will be able to enjoy the best that London's leading nature reserve has to offer...

the London Young Birders

Calum river-watching

The London Young Birders. Please give them all a follow on social media!
Twitter
Back - Left to Right: @CeriArcher1, @FinchleyBirder, @My_Wild_Life, @ArjunDutta215.
Front - L to R: @BRNature1, @mckellar_calum, @BirderEssex, @Kaulofthewilduk



 

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Spurn, Day 5 - 9th August 2019

   Since we'd had a few long days, and with heavy rain and strong winds forecast for most of the night and morning, myself and Sam decided to wake up slightly later on our last day in East Yorkshire. We were out of the obs by around 07:15, and managed to survive the weather to reach the seawatching hide quite quickly, where we spent most of the morning.

Panorama in the changing weather

Sam birding at the lighthouse

Seawatching at Spurn

   With the weather being as dismal as it was, we spent most of our morning in the hide looking out to sea, hoping to get a bit of luck and jam into a shearwater or Giant Petrel, or in my case a Kittiwake...
It started fairly quietly, with Sandwich Terns and Little Terns out over the waves, all while we counted the Oystercatchers as they moved in varying groups down the coastline. It was quite unusual to see them flying along the coast in this way, as the idea of 'Oik Migration' never really occurred to me - it was pretty cool watching them as they moved south though, and we had tallied several hundred by the end of the morning.
   After the slow start, things eventually started picking up with waders such as Knot mixed in with Turnstone also moving S in trickles. Gannets were the most common bird to be seen out over the North Sea, with juveniles and adults moving in good numbers in both directions. The second most common bird was Common Scoter, with most birds seen flying North, while several birds came quite close in, making for nice viewing.

ad Gannet far out to sea

Oystercatchers over the waves

Oystercatchers

Common Scoter flock

Common Scoter flock

Common Scoter flock

2 m Common Scoter

2 m Common Scoter

Oiks

Oiks

Oiks

   Every slow period was quickly followed by a succession of birds moving, with a few Fulmar soon followed by an adult Black Tern, which was being blown about all over the place as it also headed southwards. A personal highlight were finally seeing some Arctic Skuas (both pale and dark phase birds,) as they gave chase, often working together, to the Sandwich Terns who creaked frantically. Seeing them rushing at the terns was another exciting thing to see, and by the end of the morning we'd watch 6 different birds pursuing the terns a long way out to sea.
   As the morning got on, with the weather brightening up, the movement of birds slowed down; we got ready to move on, with a smart adult-summer Grey Plover coming in-off the sea being the final new bird to be seen. By around 11am, we decided to head back along Beacon Lane to Kilnsea for a final bit of birding, as we'd so far failed to find anything too rare for ourselves...

Fulmar

Fulmar

Fulmar

2 Knot and a Turnstone

summer Grey Plover - stunning bird...

   The weather had failed to bring much down and the bushes were largely quiet; a Little Ringed Plover in Borrow Pit and a few Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler were the best of a small haul. Holderness Field was similarly quiet for what we had hoped, but by this point we were already shattered and so decided to camp in the hide at Kilnsea for a little while. 
   Since it had been such a good year for the normally tricky Wood Sandpipers, I had been hoping to get some close views/photographs of them, with many people getting the chance to get normally unreal views of them. Despite getting some pretty awesome views on the Wednesday, they had largely avoided my camera, leaving me a tiny bit disappointed. So I was thrilled to end the trip by having 4 different birds zipping around on the mud very close in to the hide, allowing me the chance to watch them in detail, and take a few (quite a lot) of photos. It was an awesome late morning with a bird that I'd wanted to see for a long time, and the best way of ending my birding trip to one of the best places in England.

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea - interesting to see that after every plunge into the water, the eyes were shut.

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

Wood Sandpiper, Kilnsea

   After packing and kindly being offered a lift by a birder to Easington, myself and Sam left in good spirits recalling all the great things we'd experienced over what was an absolutely insane week. The only thing that could possibly dampen our mood was finding that all trains to London were cancelled, and having to spend an extra night in Hull... I was somewhat relieved, though mostly pretty grumpy, to return home early the next morning for a cricket match.

   The week was without a doubt the best week of my year; being able to visit somewhere I'd dreamt of going to for so long, making close friends and learning so much means I'll always love the place. 
A big thanks to all those at the BTO (Nick M, Nick W, Faye V and Shaun R) for leading the Young Leaders course, which was the most useful thing I've done this year (it's not like I completed my GCSEs or anything...) However, I would also like to give a massive thanks to all those at Spurn/those working in the Observatory who were so welcoming, but crucially my good friend Sam L for helping me out throughout the 5 days, making the whole trip/extra birding possible.

Kilnsea Wetlands

Dawn over Spurn (8th Aug)

Kilnsea Wetlands

The best home in Yorkshire - I'll be back...