Despite the wintry weather this weekend, I’ve been out most of both days, and seen quite a bit without going far from home. As you’d expect, there’s plenty of birds on the move in the hard weather – Lapwing, Golden Plover and other waders are popping up in unusual places; and at last, there are decent numbers of Fieldfare in the berry bushes.
Yesterday at Rainham, a while looking at the tip produced a couple of Caspian Gulls: an adult and a lovely well-marked second winter. (The fact that I use the word “lovely” probably means there’s absolutely no hope for me… though I still intend to avoid making tip-watching a particularly regular pastime!) Along the foreshore, I saw at least three Jack Snipe (there were at least seven today, I’m told), 40-odd Common Snipe and a Ruff, while down at Thurrock Thameside, a pair of Peregrines showed well on a foray out over the river. A couple of Black-tailed Godwits from a 500+ flock here were colour-ringed, but the light was too poor to make these out properly. A job for another day…
Today I kicked off at the Chingford reservoirs: the Girling was practically invisible in sleet and general murkiness, but KGV was a bit more interesting, featuring single Dunlin and Green Sandpiper, 15 Lapwings on the concrete banks and a Goosander amongst the regular Goldeneye and Aythya flocks.
The undoubted highlight, though, was a stunning Slavonian Grebe on a small pool at Littlebrook, near Dartford – thanks for yesterday’s tip-off, Andy! When I arrived, it had just eaten three small fish, and was having a bit of a rest under some overhanging branches. But after I passed the time chatting about a forthcoming trip to sunnier climes (Morocco) with Mick, Richard, and John, it slid out into open water, and sailed right past us before heading up to the other end of the pool to fish.
The ‘keeper’ rate was even lower than normal today, with the falling snow regularly throwing the autofocus off track, and you couldn’t exactly describe the light as brilliant either! But with a bit of patience, I got a few reasonable shots, the best of which are shown here. (For some really good ones, keep an eye on Mick Southcott’s website – I expect he’ll have nailed it, as usual!)
It’s certainly the best views I’ve ever had of Slav Grebe, though – hopefully it’ll hang around so I can go back on a brighter day… if we ever get one of those!