So, a scorching September day with a SE wind. Migration mayhem or Summer birding doldrums? I headed to the Thames Estuary to find out, first stop Canvey Point
A row of empty benches meant I had clearly got this wrong, as at even slightly productive times there are a few locals set up here. I sat and admired the expanse of calm estuary that high-tide had brought. Slowly some birds appeared - a small party of Teal
upstream, a few Swallows
from over my shoulder, some adult Mediterranean Gulls
flying around easily picked out by their plump appearance and translucent primaries. Then a distant Black Tern
, juvenile presumably from the darkness of the plumage, flying strongly out then back up the estuary. Most intriguing was a bird the size of a very small skua flying rapidly but gracefully low over the river. Uniform brown, I realised I had no idea what family it belonged to. Eventually it rose up and I could see an extended neck and head so I guess a wader of some description but honestly I have no idea. Moments like that make sea-watching fun.
There were 4 cetaceans mid stream, the curved backs and fins breaking the surface. Eventually one came far enough out to reveal a bullet head - Porpoise
. Very nice too. Then a Clouded Yellow
over the memorial lawn.
And so on to East Tilbury
. It is over a decade since I last went so this was a trip of rediscovery. What a place! Titchwell on my doorstep! Masses of birds round Coalhouse Fort
, mainly Starling
and House Sparrow
but a Blackcap
and Willow Warbler
, then Stonechat
on the way to across there grassy area along the sea wall to the estuary. The estuary is hard to watch as the grass hides the near mud, but the tide was falling so soon the mud became exposed a long way out. Some belting Grey Plover
made the trip worthwhile just for their sparkling plumage alone. There were Bar-Tailed Godwit,
, and Turnstone
with them. A Hobby
was hunting behind the sea wall then over the estuary, and a Marsh Harrier
came over from Cliffe., and Kestrel
gave four raptors in as many minute. An adult Yellow-Legged Gull
was feeding on the foreshore. A weasel
ran out of the grass then back between my feet.
I walked back and round Coalhouse Fort to the structure due south of the fort. On the way there was juvenile Whinchat
, and on the estuary upwards of 800 Avocet
that all took off and flew further upstream. Just an awesome sight, the stuff of TV documentaries. A flock of 20 Commic Terns
and 2 Sandwich Terns
appeared and sat on the mud. Better birders than I would surely have picked up some Arctics but distance, heaths, blah blah. 3 Seals
were hauled up on the mud - Common Seals? - Finally as I sat by the estuary I found 2 juvenile Curlew Sandpiper
amongst the Dunlin
and Ringed Plover
and a late Common Swift
barrelled over going E down the river.
The whole area was full of insect life too. There was what I am calling "Thames Bee" as I have seen this elsewhere in the estuary - blackish with a narrow white band top and bottom of thorax and a whitish tail. Possibly Shrill Carder but I need to see more of this one to have any idea. There were lots of Wall Butterflies
, some Small Heath
and a couple of Small Copper
, and lots of odanata. I could spend all day here and still be seeing stuff. Expect more!