Sunday, 27 August 2017

Horrid autumn- 27/8/17

A Horrid factoid- The wreck near the start of the causeway, found ad nauseum in any google image search of Horrid Hill, is the tug boat "Waterloo".  She was built in 1891 by Thomas Scott of Goole, Yorkshire, and was originally called "No. 6". She had probably often sailed past that most famous of U.K. bird peninsulas, Spurn, but somehow came to be a Feral Pigeon perch next to the estuary's not-quite so good peninsula.

Yes, the Power Station is in the background- this was 10/5/13

The Waterloo was known as a 'Tom Pudding' tug. 'Tom' meant large (think 'Tom Tit' for Great Tit) and 'Pudding' from the tug's removeable compartments which looked like black pudding. Each compartment could hold 40 tons of coal which would be hauled up by crane directly onto waiting ships. They were most commonly used on the Aire and Calder canals in Yorkshire, from around 1865 right up until the mid-1980s, moving coal from open cast collieries of South Yorkshire down to Goole. In truth, the Waterloo may not have seen Spurn that often, but still more than me (never been).


Point- Three Willow Warbler, singles of Blackcap, Garden Warbler and Linnet.

Viz mig- zilch

Offshore- Peregrine lazing on Nor.

So, time to spare.

Spent it making some sense of the wader movements from roost. A spring high at about 04:30 had pushed many of the Rainham Saltings roosters (predominately Redshank) out north onto Nor and Friars. Birds that roost here, just north of Horrid Hill, do not usually follow the tide out alongside the roost, but return to their favoured feeding areas. Whilst there is usually one big movement, quite a few birds tend to leave in dribs and drabs. Such small numbers often fail to register but can amount to a sizeable proportion of a roost.

Early-returning waders can be back to their feeding zone some time before they can set to feeding. From the go, Redshank were heading back to the just-uncovered Rainham Saltings roost site, where they waited for the mud to uncover. Birds moving slightly later tend to head for two main 'waiting zones' around Rainham Saltings, one along the northern edge close to Mariners Creek, the other the sheltered south-east corner of the saltings just above the Bloors drain.

Not all the species favour the Nor walls; Black-tailed Godwit for the main part, will use central Friars. Others may go that little bit further for safety. Curlew will use Friars, but change for Bishop to the north (or even Oakham over the main channel). Similarly, Oystercatcher are happy on neap tides on Friars (parts of the beach are slow to go under) but on springs prefer to put their toes on the hard concrete of the northern seawall at Kingsnorth. Only a small number of Oystercatcher make an early return to Rainham saltings, their preferred feeding being the shell beds east of Bishop and Friars.  

Blue- Oystercatcher   Pink- Turnstone   White- Grey Plover
Red- Redshank   Green- Curlew   Yellow- Black-tailed Godwit
This all goes to explain why Horrid is often quoted in 'Where to watch' guides as one of the better places for viewing waders. Timing is of course everything. Return movement may well start from around the 5.3 metre mark on the ebb, with largest movements usually over by around the 4.4 metre mark- but things can and do vary.

The tide would be good for the following morning as well, a good chance to make some comparisons. That is, if the migrants weren't keeping me busy..

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