News broke late Thursday night of a probable SLATY-BACKED GULL at Rainham in Greater London. It was seen again several times during Friday afternoon, and so we decided to head down on Saturday. It was a good decision as finally, late on Friday evening, its identity was confirmed following a series of flight shots published on Surfbirds. CJW was working all weekend, and so Carl joined us today. We set off at 04-30hrs and enjoyed an easy and trouble free journey to Rainham, arriving just after 07-30hrs. Howard was on hand as soon as we arrived and guided us in to a space in an already packed car park. In the early morning light, we set off for a 25 mins walked along the river side to the tip. It was quite windy, but fortunately dry.
As we were walking along, three cockney geezers in front were staring at some gulls flying over in the gloom. We asked them what they were looking at - they thought they had just seen the SLATY-BACK fly over. Interesting we thought. We eventually arrived at the tip - and we were confronted with a long line of birders all standing on top of a bank jammed up against the fence. We tried a few places first before we eventually joined the end of the line. This was to be our home for the next four hours.
We just spent hours scanning through the thousands of gulls in flight over the tip and those sitting on the deck. There was very little calling out in our area and we had no knowledge of what was going on further down the line. We just hoped the pagers would produce the goods. There was some early excitement as someone just a bit further along shouted up for a Doctor. The ambulance turned up eventually about an hour later. The poor bloke had waited so long he walked off with the paramedics.
At 12-15hrs, I finally decided to leave my spot just to stretch my legs at the bottom of the bank. I was starting to feel the effects of standing in a strong wind all morning. I noticed a small commotion along the line and then people started running. I returned to my spot and informed the others. The story was that two Belgians had seen an interesting bird with two LBBG's over the tip and it had flown towards the river. This seems to sparked the beginning of the end, as the tipping also finished and most of the gulls started to disperse. Some birders went to the river, some stayed at the tip, others just stood around talking like they had all morning.
We decided to walk down to the riverside. There weren't really many birders down here, and what few gulls were widely scattered on the river and the banks. We just walked along, and eventually got back to the car. And that was that. First twitch of the year and it ended in a most frustrating dip, made even worse when rumours came out that it had been claimed at 08-00hrs on the tip, and a Norfolk birder had been watching it for ten minutes sitting by a pond on the tip itself. The forum was also full of glimpse-it records (I'm sure I saw it but for only 15 nanoseconds but I returned home and checked my field guides and saw a space on my list and my mate saw it yesterday and I'm sure it was it)
Yes, right. Of course you did. And we saw a 10ft tall deep sea diver coming out of the Thames!