Sunday, 19 May 2013

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park - 18th May 13

Weather: Cloudy and overcast. Slight breeze.

Birds seen:
Little Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Greylag Goose; Shelduck; Canada Goose; Mallard; Tufted Duck; Buzzard; Kestrel; Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Curlew; Bar-tailed Godwit; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Herring Gull; Common Tern; Woodpigeon; Cuckoo (H); Swift; Ring-necked Parakeet; Green Woodpecker (H); Swallow; Skylark; Wren; Dunnock; Stonechat; Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler (H); Reed Warbler (H); Sedge Warbler (H); Lesser Whitethroat; Whitethroat; Blackcap; Chiffchaff (H); Blue Tit; Long-tailed Tit (H); Starling; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Goldfinch; Linnet; Greenfinch (H).
Total: 46

Plus: Fox; Brown Hares; Highland Cattle; Rabbits.
Plus: Green-veined butterfly; St. Mark's Fly.

Thurrock Thameside Nature Park is a new Reserve recently opened by David Attenborough. Nearby is Stanford Warren Nature Reserve, which we also visited.

So, today, Jason and I decided to pay a visit. It took about an hour or so to get there, amazingly finding the Reserve despite no visible road signs until we were virtually on top of it. On the track leading to the car park we spotted our first Skylark, the first of many.

The newly-built Visitor Centre is large and well laid out, with a panoramic roof top viewing platform with free-to-view telescope. Built on a former landfill site, with superb views over Mucking Flats SSSI and the Thames Estuary (SPA). It has a small cafe and a gift shop plus the usual facilities.

When we walked through the door we were met by one of the staff who explained the lay-out of the area, gave us a map and what had been seen so far.

We then set off on one of the trails. Passing not only cattle but dog-walkers; joggers and cyclists. A lot of the trails in the area are public footpaths. The map of the area and trails wasn't very extensive, so we followed a stream until we found a sluice gate, leading us over the stream to further trails.

We soon encountered our first birds of the day, a lovely pair of Linnets. These were followed by sightings of Stonechat; Whitethroat, both Common and Lesser and Goldfinch. Swallows and Swifts were flying around above us and the familiar sound of a Cuckoo could be heard in the distance.

We were told that there was a wader scrape somewhere in the area but we failed to find it and ended up looking out over the estuary and the Thames. We made our way back to the VC for some lunch. No carrot cake on offer!

Afterwards we headed down to the nearby Hide, the only one in the area so far, which gave views out over the estuary. Feeders were close by but, oddly, nothing was seen on them. The tide was out and, apart from BHGs, we could only see Shelduck. There were a few waders in the distance but they were too far away for positive ID.

Outside, on the gorse, were more Skylarks, Linnets and Stonechats. Earlier we were told that a Short-eared Owl had been seen over the fields so we set off in search of it, Jason being keen to see an owl. Unfortunately, it eluded us but we did see more Skylarks, close up, while, in the nearby farm, we spotted a fox. A Kestrel hovered in the distance, giving good views.

The trail circled around to where we had been in the morning so we took another fork and followed it until we came across two lakes, which we were unable to enter as it was for fishermen only. But we could see a few birds on and over them, Common Tern; Coot and Tufted Duck. We walked further down the trail until we came to a main road, so we decided to back track. It was around here that I was surprised to hear, then see, a Ring-necked Parakeet flying over.

I was just thinking that we had only heard Reed and Sedge Warblers around the nearby reed-beds when we heard the distinctive calls of both Cetti's and Chiffchaff. Then a Blackcap flew by. Little Grebe could heard and, scanning the reed-beds, spotted it diving for fish. More Whitethroats were seen and heard.

We soon made our way back to the Hide to watch the tide coming in. More Shelduck were seen and I counted up to around 40. About 8 Curlew put in an appearance and the familiar sound of piping Oystercatchers could be heard and a few minutes later we saw a couple of pairs flying in. We eventually spotted six of them in total. People came and went in the Hide and one of them, a guy with a scope, spotted a pair of BarWits out to the left, on one of the spits. A Little Egret could be seen feeding in the shallows. There were lots of BHGs around and, although I scanned all of them, the previously reported Med Gull was not seen.

Apart from other people and the birds, there were plenty of St. Mark's flies about, the first I've seen this year. Whilst the only butterflies I saw were a few brave Green-veined. No Dragons or Damsels.

Time was against us and so we headed off. Although only recently opened TTNP seems to be a really nice Reserve to visit. If I make further visits I would probably concentrate on the Hide.