London Natural History Society The place for wildlife in London

London Natural History Society - The place for wildlife in London

Essex compiled by Howard Vaughan

RSPB Rainham Marshes

It was a quite a disappointing end to the year with none of the hoped for wintery push that would have brought a bit of sparkle. There were still some notable sightings though with a Cattle Egret from the 16th-20th taking centre stage. Given the national influx this is just as likely to be a new bird rather than one of the October duo. A Bonxie was found eating a deceased Guillemot on the river (3rd) and a female Goosander (27th) was also seen but otherwise it was quiet with just a Little Stint (sporadically from the 13th), seven Knot (30th), two Turnstone and an ever increasing Avocet flock – peaking at 22 on the 31st – amongst the commoner fare. Both Woodcock and Jack Snipe were seen out on the marsh but duck numbers were still low, mirroring the water levels. At least six Water Pipits were regularly seen out on the pools and a male Merlin made a couple of sorties after thrushes and Skylarks. Similarly, a ringtail male Hen Harrier that arrived on the 5th for ten days was also seen going after small birds while up to six Marsh Harriers, two Buzzards and three Peregrines were daily hunters. A Red Kite on the 13th would prove to be the last of the year. Short-eared Owls became more visible with at least four over the Christmas period while five Barn Owls were somewhat of a surprise and unusually our birds were often active from mid-afternoon. A Little Owl was seen near the railway and 229 Stock Doves were out feeding on Wennington. Gull wise it was quiet with peaks of 14 Yellow-legged Gulls and two Caspians.

Metropolitan Essex (LHNS area)

Wanstead Flats got the month off to a great start with Yellow-browed Warbler from the 7th that spent into the New Year working its way around the island in Alexandra Lake. Firecrests were seen in the nearby Wanstead Park, Hatch Wood and Mardyke Valley while there seem to be a good number of Chiffchaffs wintering with up to a dozen around Beckton STW. A Treecreeper was a very good find at Fairlop Waters and a Short-eared Owl became fairly regular there from the 19th. At least one Bittern continued to be seen at Seventy Acres Lake along with up to 18 Goosander and a single Smew. Both species were also seen at Connaught Water with three Goosanders also in Weald Park from the 27th. Both the male Scaup and Black-necked Grebe remained at Walthamstow Reservoirs and a Caspian Gull was seen there on the 28th. Some serious gulling between the Thames Barrier Park and Lyle Park revealed at least five different Caspian, ten Yellow-legged and an adult Med Gull. Three Red-crested Pochards were on Hollow Pond (19th) and a single Scoter was on the Girling (14th). Mandarin numbers seem to have been dropping in recent years in Epping Forest so counts of 26 at Strawberry Hill Pond and 30 at Connaught Water were encouraging. Two Waxwings were seen in the Mardyke (9th) with another over Walthamstow (30th) and eight in Harold Hill (from 31st). Perhaps we will get a Waxwing Winter after all? A skein of 44 White-fronts overflew Upminster on the 2nd with two more with the Greylags in the Mar Dyke on the 26th. Down on the Thames at West Thurrock Marshes there were ten Avocet, 1400 Dunlin, two Grey Plover and two Jack Snipe on the 24th with another Jack Snipe in the Ingrebourne Valley the same day. The Rainham Marshes Hen Harrier went roaming on 11th and was seen at Gallions Reach and Barking Bay before returning to the reserve.