Our Big Garden Birdwatch takes place this weekend and we’re working hard to make it the biggest and best we’ve ever had in the South East.
Please do spare sixty minutes over 28, 29 or 30 of January to check out the birds you see at home*. You can share photos too, just tag them #BigGardenBirdwatch and post to any of the following RSPB social media pages:
Robin - Helen Mathias
Please record the highest number of each bird species you see touchdown in front of you over your chosen hour, and if you’ve ever seen any of the following at your home. At home if you look out on a garden or open space. You can do the Big Garden Birdwatch from work, your allotment, your partners, your parents’ or even your favourite outdoor space. Wherever you are, please take part.
Great crested newt – new for 2017
Mole (or molehills) – new for 2017
Stag beetle – new for 2017
You then have until Friday 17 February to upload your sightings to our webpage: www.rspb.org.uk/Birdwatch [NB - the reporting page goes live on Saturday].
Even if you can’t take part yourself, we’d welcome help to spread the word. Please direct people to the webpage to download a participants’ pack: http://bit.ly/2hBeLKM
Or, direct them to our regional blog for info and links: http://bit.ly/2jmc7Zd
Many thanks and have fun!
And do not forget to come into the reserve shop and stock up for the weekend on all those lovely things to entice the birds into your garden. With the cold spell set to last they really need your love and attention!
We have some good offers on at the moment including...
Thursday dawned gloomy and grey but there was no frost but the wind more than made up for it keeping temperatures below freezing today for anyone brave enough to linger outside. Just how the boardwalk work party stuck at their task today is beyond me... hats off.
My first job this morning was to top up the feeders and water and put out the 14 apples I had brought in. I have found over the years that birds are more likely to attend apples poked up in a tree if they are at least slightly opened up so I cut my ones in half and impaled them on various bits of Willow and Hawthorn in the wildlife gardens on both sides of the centre.
I had not even made it inside before the first Blackbird and Fieldfare came down to investigate and I had the pleasure of watching these along with Redwings, Starlings and a female Blackcap all day as they took charge of their own particular segment.
Blackbird - Helen Mathias
It was nice to be inside in the warm watching the dominance swing back and forth between the thrushes in particular. One of our female Blackbirds was especially stroppy and would see off any Fieldfare within four feet but it was the posturing of the Fieldfares that captivated me.
They were already fluffed up against the cold but when disputing some fruit they would droop their wings, raise and expand their lavender grey rump and spread and flick out that solid black tail whilst holding it vertical so that the other bird was in no doubt as to the meaning and all the while ‘chacking’ and rattling at each other.
Fieldfare - Helen Mathias
Obviously there was one other bird that I was hoping to entice down and it took no time at all for ‘Punkzilla’ the first winter male Waxwing to come down to sample the fruity delights. He obliged for the more hardy punters all day and even I was tempted back outside to get some apple shots.
It was a great day for engaging with the visitors – not too busy and having plenty to show them from the inside over a coffee is always a bonus. I have been amazed at the number of regular birding visitors over the last week who had never seen a Waxwing and delighted at the huge smiles that have ensued. There were plenty of finches and Sparrows around the feeders and a party of Long-tailed Tits moved through while a Cetti's Warbler once again showed very well.
Gratuitous Waxwing shoys by me...
Scanning around today gave views of the Marsh Harriers and plenty of bewildered Snipe that are obviously at a loss as to what to do with the marsh still ice locked. One of the Ravens, the big male I think, flew back towards its Kentish territory with a full crop and a beak full so I suspect that they already have hungry young despite the weather.
Seventeen Avocet were picked out amongst the Lapwing, Dunlin and Curlew and three Grey Plover were indeed just that today.
I have been steadily checking gulls behind ships heading up and down the Thames since I have been back but have seen nothing of note but that changed today with Caspian, Yellow-legged and an adult Med during the course of the day on the far side and then this afternoon a chap ambles in to have a look at the Waxwing and asks if I had just seen a first winter Glaucous Gull go up river behind the last ferry... umm... no...
I was sure that it had not come right past the centre as I was glued to the gulls behind that ship and so I set about scanning everything on the river floating out with the tide and loafing on the Kentish bank. Much to my delight fifteen minutes later I picked up a 2nd winter Glaucous – not a 1st winter – well to my right motoring into town. It was very pale and patchy and clearly not a biscuit coloured bird but it was gone before I could even get a shout out. Pleasing but frustrating at the same time so I resumed my scanning and suddenly there it was – a monster rich tea Glaucous Gull sat on the mud by the Darent Barrier. This time I was able to muster the troops and over the next 30 minutes before we shut up for the day everyone (who was vaguely interested in a huge gull at huge range) saw it parading around and even making a few short flights after getting repeatedly poked by a Great Black-backed Gull.
A 1st winter Glaucous Gull with Common Gulls - I know it is rubbish but it was on the other side of the river and it was nearly dark but you can see the white wing tips!
So from no Glauc to two and nine Larids for the day without leaving the centre... so thank your James for the initial white-winger heads up!
And to round my day off a Woodcock flipped from cover as I left and headed into Purfleet...
It has been a good morning and I have barely set foot outside the visitors centre. It was very cold again with a thick frost and no hope of the ice melting across the pools and the Common Snipe were all initially huddling along the edges although most have now woken up and are now probing the margins which appear to have defrosted slightly. I could not find a Jack Snipe but fortunately on flew in off the saltmarsh and landed out back but out of view.
Thrushes were very evident with over 20 Fieldfare and at least 50 smart Redwings with their flashing supercillium and scarlet flanks. They were feeding on the remaining haws and have not yet tackled the big fat rosehips.
Down she goes!
Song Thrushes and Blackbirds were amongst them and included our very rusty coloured female. She posed very nicely before the early frost dissipated.
The best was still to come when a young male Waxwing appeared just outside and as I type this he is still making visits to the bushes along the riverwall and in the wildlife garden. There has been a very large national influx and flocks have been seen in nearby Harold Hill and Pitsea so it is great to have our own one as part of the story. Hopefully he will attract some more but at the moment even a single Waxwing is capable of making every visitor smile...
He has the red waxy tips and a super big punky hairdo like an adult but the yellow edges of his primary feathers only go down one side and not around the tip which is how we know that he is one of last years young.
What a cracker...