More time spent in the homeland of my youth and this time Cassiobury Park, a lovely place well manicured (by @ianbennell75) and packed full of childhood memories.
It was also the place I saw my first Lesser Spotted Woodpecker around 20 years ago, so it was great to return to see this scarce and localised head-banger. Such a beaut and a really smart little bird. It was really active, calling, drumming, all singing, all dancing.
I hadn't planned to head down to the Marshes this morning but after reports of a few waders and a Merg around the bay, it was evident that things were moving through.
Having got there a little too late for the early waders, there were still a few migrants around on a cool, cloudy but bright morning.
Standing by the Coldharbour Lane car park, the four brick-red Bar-Tailed Godwit were seen flying high and away over the river. Checking the foreshore on the low-tied two Whimbrel were present as they flew low toward the west. A small group of waders then flew onto the mud at Aveley Bay, that consisted of four Ringed Plover and three summer plumaged Dunlin.
There were plenty of Common Tern feeding mid-river where two Arctic Tern were picked out looking sleek and pristine.
Two Northern Wheatear flew onto the shore, and a Grasshopper Warbler reeled briefly from scrub on the reserve side. A Corn Bunting was in full song for five minutes or so before going quiet.
A Reed Warbler was singing from a bush close to the car park.
After a really successful Wildlife Explorers Group, it was only right to have a wander round the reserve. A little annoyed that I had forgotten my memory card for the camera, the cool weather produced some interesting sightings that included a vocal Lesser Whitethroat in the Woodland, and the resident Barn Owl sitting in it's box.
Small pulses of Common Swift were evident with around 25 flying low through accompanied by
six Swallow and ten House Martin.
A Whimbrel was seen flying down river and a notable sighting of a Raven that lingered over the centre of the reserve before heading off west.
A Reed Warbler was present by the western boardwalk.
12/04/16 Willow Warbler singing in Hackney Downs Park
It was cold today, a fresh northerly wind tempered the flow of migrants that saw many common and slightly more uncommon birds hit London during the working week. Of course this was Saturday, and it couldn't last but there was plenty out there if you put the effort in.
Six Common Whitethroat were scattered widely around the reserve, the first two seen in the cold of the morning by the Stone Barges where two Oystercatcher rested. A Common Sandpiper was flushed from the shore.
It was a slow start until a 1st summer Little Gull complete with it's rosy underparts flew upriver and was seen pretty much all day. There were at least 80 Common Tern grouped together by the sailing club, with at least one Arctic Tern there, a difficult task to clinch at distance.
Then the Grasshopper Warbler showed, reeling intermittently, but ignoring the unfavourable conditions by clambering to the top of the brambles not far from the visitor centre.
A Whimbrel was seen flying erratically out across the river. Three Avocet flew out towards Aveley Bay where they would remain for the rest of the day.
A Marsh Harrier circled high, the only large raptor to be seen all day. The Short-eared Owl was particularly active, seen for much of the day towards the west end of the reserve and then over the landfill. A truly spectacular bird.
The Barn Owl was in it's usual nest box. A Greenshank was present at the back of Aveley Pools.
Despite the weather, Warblers were notably conspicuous with two singing Willow Warbler, eight Sedge Warbler, one Reed Warbler, a bounty of Cetti's Warbler, half a dozen Blackcap, and a chattering Lesser Whitethroat in the Woodland.
A Northern Wheatear was seen early up on the old landfill, but then four more dropped onto the 'Ouzel' field with another three seen later towards the Coldharbour Lane car park.
Four House Martin were present around the Shooting Butts hide, where around 25 Swallow were seen during the course of the day and a single Sand Martin.
It felt like a good day for raptors as the sun shone and the day tried in vein to blow warm air through. It did at times feel pleasant but birds were thing on the ground (and the air).
Best was the Siberian Chiffchaff that called and sang it's scrambled version of the colybita classic that we are all accustomed to and seen along the hedgeline left of the entrance. It didn't hang around very long, but there were a couple of Chiffchaff in the vicinity. There were a couple of singing Blackcap there.
On the reserve, a couple of singing Willow Warbler were present as was a Reed Warbler from deep in the reeds of Bed 19.
A pair of Shoveler were roosting on Bed 17, with a few Teal there.
A Sparrowhawk flew through, and five Sand Martin were flying around the hides.
A Peacock, Brimstone, Small White, and Small Tortoiseshell were on the wing today.
It was another slow start to my visit, walking along the river wall where 13 Common Tern were seen feeding out towards the shores of Crayford, the only real sighting of note as I headed to the reserve centre.
A Willow Warbler sang from scrub close to the visitor centre as a shower passed through where a Common Buzzard soared high over. There was no sign of the Serin seen earlier in the day. A Kingfisher dashed past en route to another feeding sortie, five Sand Martin flew over Purfleet, and a lone Swallow headed north over the Woodland.
Two Curlew flew onto the Purfleet Scrape, and there were still small numbers of Wigeon and Pintail out on the marshes. Another two Common Buzzard soared distantly out towards Wennington as did a Marsh Harrier.
The Barn Owl was present in it's box and a Short-eared Owl was active mid-afternoon that would have afforded great views from the otherside of the reserve.
Moving onto the Aveley Pools, scanning through produced nothing more than the usual scattering of wildfowl. Scanning a second time, a RAZORBILL came into view, flapped it's wings a few times before settling on the water. Of course this felt extremely surreal, but I immediately raced up to the second viewpoint for a closer view where there was no sign at all of the bird.
Incredibly, a few moments later, it walked in from the right, straight past the platform and then settled down before Howard and other staff members arrived to see this unfortunate vagrant. It was of course an extremely scarce London bird.
My initial thoughts was that having been way off-course, the bird must have been exhausted after it's wayward journey this far inland. It was later suggested that it could have hit overhead power lines as the bird began to re-animate as the evening progressed. This was very good news and I hope the bird does survive to continue it's journey to far more suitable surroundings.
No skill involved, just luck, but a great way to bring up my 200th London species.
Walking back to the car park, a Water Pipit flew over calling and disappeared behind the shoreline, and my first Corn Bunting in London for a very long time was singing on the fenceline by Ferry Lane.
The weather saved us. It was beautiful - warm and still and a real pleasure to have been strolling along the pebbly shore and round the national nature reserve. The only thing missing were the birds.
Not fussed about the sea, we walked round the area not too far from the lighthouse, but there wasn't a thing to see - it was all very peculiar.
So we moved onto the RSPB reserve and ambled gently round by which time I had surrendered to making any effort to see things.
But there were a few bits and pieces including two Little Gull on Burrowes pit with a couple of Common Tern, five Sedge Warbler around the reserve, a pair of Goldeneye, and six Swallow.
A beautiful day on the Marshes and a few decent migrants seen today.
It started off slowly but then slowly picked up during the day as it warmed up.
The highlights were two male Blackcap in Woodland, at least four Common Buzzard, a single Marsh Harrier, four Avocet flew over the river wall, the resident Barn Owl showing itself from the box, two Little Ringed Plover on Wennington, a pair of Northern Wheatear on a set-aside near the MDZ, a showy singing Sedge Warbler near the Purfleet Hide, a total of eight Sand Martin, and lots of Redshank and Lapwing around the reserve.
Plenty of Peacock were seen as were a couple of Small Tortoiseshell and two Brimstone.