I have continued with my attempts at a pre-work amble along the riverside path but the rain stymied my Monday morning attempt leaving effectively birding from inside the Centre for the day but it had its rewards with a surprise winter plumaged Guillemot bobbing out with the tide and avoiding the attentions of the larger gulls. Auks are always rare birds this far up river and this was my first for several years. A glance the other way and the pair of boisterous Ravens could be seen bounding around out on the marsh without a care in the world. It’s nice to have them back.
Even so it has been a quiet start as we nose our way into September but there is a definite autumnal feel to things now with a trickle of Meadow Pipits ‘seeping’ south and a few Chaffinches bounding west.
Tuesday 10th saw a notable increase in warbler numbers along the path side bushes and I intercepted almost 30 each of Blackcap and Chiffchaff as they foraged through bushes with a good number of the usual tits. Willow Warblers, both ‘throats and singles of Reed and Sedge Warbler were also encountered. The birds were moving steadily west, feeding as they went. I was hoping for something scarce amongst the roving flock and was rewarded with an immature Redstart shivering that fiery tale with an olive Chiffchaff giving it grief.
The Avocet flock has now reached the heady heights of 37 and 71 Black-tailed Godwit were feeding along the edge while the formers were working the mud amongst an daily increasing flock of Teal.
The river has also been quite busy with military hardware on their way to the event at the Excel centre in Docklands. The HMS Argyll (F231) has been up here before and is 30 years old now but none of us had ever seen the RFA Lyme Bay (L3007) before with its curious split hull for being able to act as a repair dock while at sea (if I have read things correctly!). A small odd looking white vessel was identified as the DSSV Pressure Drop USNS Indomitable (T-AGOS-7) a United States Navy Stalwart class ocean surveillance ship. The river is never quiet nowadays.
HMS Argyll (F231)
RFA Lyme Bay (L3007)
DSSV Pressure Drop
Back at the Centre the Starlings were entertaining themselves with the light cones and once again providing suitable entertainment with their antics. As usual every Starling was spaced equidistant from its compardre.
With some warm spells during the day, I managed to escape back in the Wildlife Garden and Cordite for a spot of impromptu invert hunting and as it turned out, autumn fruit finding.
The yellow composites were still attracting a variety of hoverflies including Syrphus ribisii and Episyrphus balteatus as well as a spiky little Tachinid and a few of the three Carder Bees. Small and Green Veined Whites joined them. Dark Bush Crickets chirped at my feet and I managed to find a stridulating male Field Grasshopper and could even see his hairy belly which was quite handy as the pronotum was actually quite poorly marked.
Little Tachinid - Siphona sp
Green Veined White
Brown Banded Carder Bee
Shrill Carder Bee
The Ivy was pretty much in full flower and was weighed down with Honey Bees, stripy little industrious Ivy Bees, Wasps, a few bumbles and many flies including my favourite Hover, Myathropa florea with its Batman mark. Eristalis tenax, many Syrphus and a fine Volucella pellucens were also noted while Red Admirals and Speckled Woods also nectared.
There is plenty of autumnal fruit to provide sustenance throughout the coming months and some of the leaves have started to change to reflect the season.
Old Mans Beard flowers
Old Mans Beard seedheads
Dog Rose Hips
Rosa rugosa hips
The Sedum flowing around the Centre is still a magnet for bees and the same three Carders as well as a few variously faded Buff-tails were busily harvesting with countless Honey Bees from our still active colony. A Bee Wolf paid a brief visit but unlike the other day, failed to catch a hapless HB for the nest burrow.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Bee Wolf with Honey Bee
Mottled and Green Shieldbugs wandered around and Garden Orbs had strung their webs between gaps through the flower beds.
Wasp Spiders are now mostly over but there is still a small cluster near the pay and display machine and one now skinny mother guarding her poppy seed head-like egg capsule within which lies next year’s generation of stripy hunters.
Wasp Spider with egg case behind
From the window we can see where Jamie, Phil and Paul have begun the task of clearing swathes of phragmites to create openings and channels within our peripheral reedbeds. Team Challenges over the next few weeks will see the removal of literally tonnes of reed from where they have cut and as the marsh wets back up these places become the best places for encountering Water Rails, Bearded Tits and Cetti’s Warblers during the winter months.
Jamie hard at work
I managed a stroll along the river wall again this morning before the current weather front pushed in from the south-west. There were still quite a few warblers to be seen but numbers were definitely down on Tuesday. Yellow and Grey Wagtails called overhead and three Tree Sparrows coasting west at height along the wall were the first for the year and always one I hope to encounter at some stage in the autumn. To think we used to see three figure flocks here even into the early 1990s. Now they are practically non-existent in the entire south east and are certainly extinct in Essex as a breeder.
Swallows and a few Sand Martins flicked south with Meadow Pipits heading the same way slightly higher up but it was the seven Whinchats in the Ouzel Field that kept my attention for twenty minutes as they fed from the fence line and sallied forth after the countless black flies dancing around the reed heads and willows.
They will soon be off to Africa to flycatch around Elephants and other big game...
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