It was one of those days when everything went right. A day that was so much fun you just want to wind back to the start and do it all over again.
First up was Rainham RSPB. This is the first Autumn for the new reserve, and already it’s delivering the goods. Leaving my camera at home paid off immediately with a Sparrowhawk right over my head. At the Aveley lagoons there was a Spotted Crake giving infrequent but reasonably close views – a long time since I saw one of these. Around were small numbers of Green Sandpiper and Ruff, with a Wood Sandpiper, a couple of Greenshank, a couple of Dunlin, and a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper which showed well close up, then flew around and sat preening a distance away. There were a few Wigeon amongst the Shoveller and Teal, and plenty of Little Egrets and Herons, and a few Hobbies giving a hunting exhibition in the background.
Then attention shifted to the gulls. Amongst the BH, LBB, and GBB gulls there was a number of Herring Gulls. I found one gull that was a definitive juv Yellow-Legged Gull; tertials had pale cream tips only forming a chocolate band, and the rest of the plumage at rest and in flight was a text book YL Gull. I think there were others, but it was nice to nail one of them.
I wandered round the rest of the reserve in the company of another Herts birder. The sun shone, we exchanged gossip, birding stories and jokes, and saw Wheatear, close-up Heron, and a Hobby posed on the fence for extended viewing.
Just when I thought birding doesn’t get much better than that, it did. On the way home I called in at our local puddle SLRS. Its small, its miles from the sea, but its ours (there's a picture from last week at the bottom to illustrate). There were 3 Lapwing, 5 Snipe, and oh-my-god-knock-me-down-with-a-feather a juvenile Little Stint. I shot home, made a few calls, and was shortly set up on the bank of the Stort with local birder Steve admiring the Stint out in the open. Perfect light, perfect vision, and a good distance, we spent an hour or so just admiring a text-book Stint and Snipe.
The strange thing is that the bird that really left an impression was the Snipe. A bird hidden in reedy corners on dull November days, today they were feeding out in the open with sun on their backs. The fine barring, rich buff and brown markings and unique shape were perfect today.