Tuesday 6 September 2022

A site revisited

The other day I had to go out birding four times! This is a very good sign. For some reason I am now taking more of an interest in my year list, whereas in the spring I do not recall being as enthused. I suppose spring is exciting as everything is new and it heralds the end of the gloom, but autumn is just better - there is greater diversity and birds linger. We have had as many as 11 Whinchat on the patch recently, for multiple days. I've maxed out at seven, a little short of my record of 10 some years back, but this is nonethless very pleasing. Especially when they are accompanied by other goodies. Last week I nipped out to the VizMig spot and had six Whinchat, four Wheatear and a Tree Pipit within a hundred yards and ten minutes. Five minutes from my door! Five!! 

The Tree Sparrow seems to have gone - two days I think, possibly three. That will almost certainly be the best bird of the year. More suprisingly the Wryneck was never seen again, which is the first time that this has happened. Usually they stick but this one turned out be a one day wonder. Possibly proximity to the very loud funfair convinced it to move on, so I was fortunate to get it at the first attempt.

On Sunday a juvenile Cuckoo appeared. Remarkably this was on exactly the same day as I saw Cuckoo here last year, and it clearly can't be a returning bird! Nick found it somewhere near Long Wood, and when I toddled out a little while later I almost trod on it in the Brick Pits. It had been feeding on the ground, and on seeing me flew up and away. It did not go far, and I put it up again as soon as turned the corner. The bird last year stayed for ages, so perhaps this one will be seen again. It is only the third I've ever seen here.

Good as Wanstead Flats has been, my best birding was elsewhere. Rob suggested he might be going to check out East Tilbury, and I cheekily asked if I could join him. Before he could say no Bob, James and Tim piled in too, so much for the quiet life! And so early on Sunday morning we abandoned Wanstead and headed East. I'd not been to East Tilbury since 2011 when I was a much more active local birder in the roving sense. Rainham, Walthamstow, West Thurrock and Amwell, as well as sites like Staines over to the west. Nowadays I am almost solely to be found in Wanstead - probably to my detriment as East Tilbury was amazing.

Wanstead on Tour (photo: James H)

Paul W and Paul H, site regulars, were already there and perhaps a little dismayed to see so many birders descend. Cue many jokes about installing turnstiles, charging for entry and so on. And stringing! We had missed the flock of Little Terns, but the river still delivered over 100 Common Terns and a small number of Black Terns in with them. The receding tide exposed acres of mud upon which hundreds and hundreds of Avocets and Black-tailed Godwits fed, with smaller numbers of Grey Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and Ringed Plover. It was an extraordinary scene - the number of Avocets in particular has grown and grown, with site peak counts of 3000. All I can say was that there were too many to even attempt to count.

Yellow Wagtails zipped overhead, I was lucky enough to get a Tree Pipit doing the same. There were even some Whinchat, not as many as in Wanstead, obviously, but still a new one for my fledgling East Tilbury list. The site has changed a lot in the ten years since I last visited, and there is now a fine new series of scrapes at the far end which commanded most of our interest, not least due to the presence of some lingering Stone Curlew, a species I've not seen for ages. Egrets, ducks, a few Green Sandpiper and a Marsh Harrier completed a fine line up that saw us collectively record 70 species in our short visit. It was a great couple of hours and we all agreed we would be back once we work out how to negotiate the new barbed wire that Hawky said is about to be fitted. By him. 

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