Monday, 4 September 2017

Horrid autumn- 4/9/17

Point- "After the Lord Mayor's show..." Hardly anyone completes that saying anymore- "...comes the sh*t-cart". Today stank of it. Just one Blackcap at the Point.

Viz mig- Just as bad. One Meadow Pipit west in 110 minutes.

For me, the answer was simple. The overnight rain had started too early. Any birds knocked down were further north. An inshore site such as the south Medway needs perfect timing to bring down numbers. Ideally rain starting an hour before sunrise, with a south-westerly wind bringing it up to meet the migrants.

So, what filled the notebook instead? Two things:

1) Great Crested Grebe- feeding behaviour. 71 could be counted between Bartlett and Half Acre, with a dozen or so working the edge of Rainham saltings together, picking at something on the mud up to a neck's reach out of the water. One bird even waddled up the flat for a short while before returning to water, though it did not attempt to feed, which would have been extremely unusual- the remaining birds' behaviour was rare enough. The birds feeding on the tide edge could, just, have been feeding on items floating in trapped pools on the mudflat edge- however, this was low tide and quite a steep shelf. There could, perhaps, have been a little vegetation present, a small remnant of sea-grass perhaps? Picking at things on floating plants is known, but things such as remains of snails found in stomachs are mainly put down to being remains from the stomachs of fish prey. It could just be another little-recorded foodstuff, shrimps, but not to know. Certainly something I'd never seen before.

and 2) Grey Plover distribution. My notebook is grid-lined. Makes mapping easy, and today I annotated the northern half of Rainham Saltings. Solitary, territory holders vs. non-territorial groups. At least six birds were holding ground. Harder to tell if more in the centre of the flat, where the mixed stream of waders congregated, or if lone birds were just outliers from the groups- themselves a little hard to quantify as most groups were small, just threes, fours and fives. The slowness of today's neap tide probably had something to do with that. My interest stemmed from the theory that some birds refuel, others stage; we have no idea of just how long many will actually stay on the Medway for; it just seems an idle thought to me that why go to the effort of setting up and defending a territory for just a few days? Surely it will be these same birds on these same tideways in a few weeks. An excuse to map again then, and perhaps get some better looks at wing stretches for wing moult. Always something to keep you entertained on a quiet day.

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