Sunday, 4 March 2018

Beast from the east birding... just!

School stayed open all week. And so it should have done, despite a moderate amount of snow. But what that meant for birding was unfortunately no snow days for me. So Saturday was the first time I was able to get out and experience what the cold weather had done to London's birdlife.

I started in Rotherhithe, at Russia Dock Woodland, where Thursday's snowfall and easterly winds had produced a remarkable record of a forlorn looking Dunlin (I'd seen an iPhone video of it!) and Richard PJ managed to flush up a Woodcock the same day. There was still considerable snow on the ground first thing, and so I did a thorough sweep of the area and it produced - I flushed a single Woodcock from undergrowth to the right of the Stave Hill entrance, my first one ever in Rotherhithe. Very happy when a plan comes together, it was off to Canada Water to pick Dante up. While waiting, I had a new BTO metal-ringed Black-headed Gull so should hear about that sometime this week.

We did a sweep of a few Rotherhithe sites that I'd not done beforehand, but there was little except a few Fieldfares and Redwings moving through, and so we ventured on to pastures new. Dante had done really well on Thursday and Friday at the O2 Greenwich, with a Little Gull, 2 Kittiwakes and a Golden Plover highlighting events, but I didn't really fancy that this weekend. After a brief stop in Woolwich opposite Thames Barrier Park, where there was little, we headed to Thamesmead and the small lake adjacent to the Morrison's. Here on Thamesmere the day got going again with a 2nd-winter Caspian Gull (or more likely Caspian Gull with Herring genes) on the ice - a nice showy bird, calling like a Caspian Gull but without the P10 mirror as well as feeling a bit Herring-like facially. I'll let you have this picture that makes it look most Caspian-like :)
Caspian Gull (or hybrid) Thamesmead, London 3rd March 2018
Next up on the ice here was a white-ringed Black-headed Gull from a scheme I didn't immediately recognise. So getting cr-birding up on the phone and a quick check revealed it was from Croatia. Marvellous, and so I quickly emailed the details to their gull guru Luka J, and within 15 minutes he'd emailed me back saying it was indeed one of his from the rubbish dump in Zagreb: -
Black-headed Gull SN2N at Thamesmead, London 3rd March 2018 - ringed at Jakuševec dump, Zagreb, Croatia on 26th Feb 2017 and seen at Mannheim, Baden-Württemberg, Germany on 23rd Dec 2017
Onto Crossness, where we had a decent walk - firstly to Barking Bay where a number of waders (including 2 Avocets and a Grey Plover) were distantly foraging on the mud on the other side of the river. And then we walked east, where a handful of Lapwings on either the path or any area of decent grass were evidently products (victims) of this cold snap. As were the remarkable numbers of Dunlin present, with upwards of 500 birds milling about.
Lapwing Crossness, London 3rd March 2018
A drake Pintail too was a good record, along with another Avocet and Grey Plover, as we walked from the golf course towards the outfall. 54 Shoveler, 69 Fieldfare as well as a dozen Wigeon were also fallout from the week's 'beast from the east'. Really great stuff, topped off by a male Black Redstart on the walk home.
drake Pintail Crossness, London 3rd March 2018

Dunlin Crossness, London 3rd March 2018

Avocet Crossness, London 3rd March 2018

male Black Redstart Crossness, London 3rd March 2018
A check of Southmere, Thamesmead produced half a dozen Pochard and a load of gulls but little of interest in them, and a rather disappointing Crayford continued the trend. As the gloom increasingly descended, we stopped off at Danson Park where there was a single North Thames ringed Black-headed Gull. And that was that for a decent Saturday's birding.

Today was much quieter, largely because I was hemmed in by a sporting event for several hours as well as doing some pre-trip planning for Easter. But I did manage to get out around Rotherhithe - two North Thames ringed and two metal ringed (one German and one British) Black-headed Gulls. Another week of madness at work before those Wheatears and Sand Martins start arriving! Possibly.

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