Welcome to the Buteo Wildlife blog, a record of some of the wildlife that we have been seeing and occasional identification articles that will hopefully be useful for those trying to learn about wildlife.

If you enjoy reading this blog, join us on one of our tours - days and weekends looking for wildlife. Visit our website for details: www.buteowildlife.co.uk
Note that tours with clients may not always feature prominently on this blog because we are unlikely to have time for photography when out with clients - and walls of text don't tend to make the most interesting posts. If there is time for a few snatched photos they may not always be of the highest quality - but we'll use them anyway!

To try and keep posts in chronological order they may sometimes be given earlier dates/times than when they are actually posted. Apologies, for this - it's not meant to mislead anyone (and we will try to avoid this happening too often).

7 January 2013

A new year, a new year list (1st January 2013).

Keeping lists of what you have seen is a common thing with birdwatchers, with some far more interested in listing than others. In reality all birdwatchers can be said to keep lists, even if they have no idea of what the total number of bird species they seen is, they still know when they see a species that they have never seen before - so there is a mental list of birds they have seen in their memory somewhere!
Along with 'life lists', 'country lists', 'county lists', and 'patch lists', a very common thing is to keep year lists - the species seen within a defined area during each calendar year. Some UK based birders make a real effort to see as many species as possible within Britain and Ireland each year, but it has been some time since I've made any real effort to achieve a high year list total.
This year I thought that I would try something a bit different, and I will be keeping a 'photographic year list'. Each bird species only needs to be identifiable from the photographs for it to count - the photos don't need to be a particularly good (although I intend to finish the year with good photographs of as many of the species on the year list as possible). I will be posting photos of all species on a new personal blog (Birds, Dragonflies, and other wildlife), but will also post monthly updates on this blog.
I started the year with a trip to the Southend area in south-east Essex, passing a small flock of Waxwings in roadside bushes on the way - part of an influx into the UK this winter. First stop was Gunners Park where a Long-tailed Duck and a Common Scoter had taken up residence on the park lake. They were easily located almost immediately upon arrival, and I spent some time watching and photographing the pair (both females) which had chosen the relatively sheltered lake instead of the sea less than a hundred meters away, which is the habitat where both species more typical spend the winter.
Both were diving frequently, and also spent some time bathing and preening. They were obviously wary, and stayed more or less in the middle of the lake, but were close enough for some fairly decent shots. At one point the scoter showed a strong objection to one of the many Black-headed Gulls on the lake - with good reason because the gull was trying its luck, and hoping to snatch any food that the scoter had surfaced with after diving!
Many of the Black-headed Gulls were having quite a lot of success with diving for their own food, plunge diving from the air, and coming up with what looked like worms of some sort.
Other Black-headed Gulls, along with Herring Gulls and a few Common Gulls made the most of the opportunity to steal bread people were throwing for the Mute Swans and Mallards on the lake.

After I was satisfied that I had some reasonable photos of the Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter, and taking a look at the waders on the foreshore (which included Oystercatchers and Sanderling) I headed for Southend Pier to see what the rising tide might bring in.
The pier extends 1.3 miles out into the mouth of the Thames estuary, and as a result can be a good vantage point from which to observe birds that normally stay out at sea. In addition Mediterranean Gulls frequent the end of the pier in quite large numbers, and Turnstones, joined by an occasional Purple Sandpiper, come to the pier to roost at high tide. I had no luck with Purple Sandpipers today, with just a single Dunlin joining the roosting Turnstones, but an estimated 40 or so Mediterranean Gulls,of various ages, were around.
Adult Mediterranean Gull

2nd Winter Mediterranean Gull

Both Grey Seal, and Common Seal surfaced close to the pier, and single a Great Northern Diver, and a Red-throated Diver were seen distantly, as well as a Great Crested Grebe. Guillemots showed much better, with some very close to the end of the pier, and perhaps a dozen or more seen in total.

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