Monday, 7 May 2012

Is spring here yet?

I'd spent the last couple of days in Hampshire with my parents, relaxing in front of a log fire. So much for it being May. Although, for a couple of hours early on today, the sun was shining and there was a enough of a southeasterly to waft a Whinchat and 8 Wheatear into the paddocks. A Hobby was also a welcome sight, as well as the first real numbers of Swifts pushing through - including 100+ at Southmere along with c.70 Swallows (and lesser numbers of Sand and House Martins). The Thames, however, was naff with just the usuals and no waders.
It was back to business at Crayford, where with no sign of the recent Iceland Gull, I immersed myself in gull rings and plucked half a dozen NTGG birds out of the birds feeding on glass(!) at Viridor Recycling Centre. If ever anyone thinks their birding is quiet, go and have a look at your local gulls for rings - I've now had near on 50 ringed birds in London this year.

So, with it all quiet on the local front, John A and I needed a fix and met up with Graeme S to have an afternoon at Elmley RSPB, Kent. And what a jolly nice jaunt it was too. People go on about the walk at this reserve. It's not that far you know you lazy, useless pussies. Honest, it isn't so that myth is over with. So a couple of Black-winged Stilts were seen on the flood from Southfleet Hide; nice for a few seconds before the realisation set in that having tons of Avocets in this country is bad enough, so why do we want even more raucous, territorial wader monsters to overpower our lovely indigenous waders?
A poor photograph of two waders
So, I quickly moved on to a quality bunch of 5 Spotted Redshanks - not quite jet black, but they were getting there. So much better than Avocets and Stilts! And even better were a couple of continental Black-tailed Godwits near Counterwall Hide; picked these birds up at range initially based on their overall peachy/orange appearance, leggy look and then the bills were both gleaming orange from the base to a 2/3rds to 3/4s to the tip. Also good to compare these to a totally separate flock of passage Icelandic birds that looked more squat and with a redder bill base and darker tip. And they never mixed... so interesting stuff there.
An equally poor photograph of two different waders
Upwards of 80, probably 100 or so, Whimbrels present too plus a couple of Barwits, a few Turnstone, 3 Grey Plover and a Little Tern. With Yellow Wags, Marsh Harriers everywhere and 85+ Med Gulls Elmley is a seriously under-rated spot. Many thanks for the late Gordon Allison for making the reserve what it is today.

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