Last Wednesday Keith and I decided to try and catch up with the White Stork that has been wintering on Tilbury marsh in Essex. This is one of the birds from the re-introduction scheme hosted by the Knepp estate near Horsham in West Sussex, where last year the first White Storks were hatched in the UK since 1416 (the last recorded breeding record). Interestingly the female of that pair was an introduced bird from the Knepp project, but the male was a wild bird, one of a handful that visit the UK every year.
It was a bit of a convoluted journey for us travelling from North Kent involving train, ferry, bus and train before arriving at East Tilbury and walking south from the station towards the River Thames. The Stork has been regular in a field by the quarry at the edge of the town and we soon arrived there and begin to search, but no sign of the Stork. So after a while we decided to continue down towards the river and have lunch in the café at Coalhouse Fort (much to be recommended!).
After lunch, we went for a walk along the sea wall. A lovely Stonechat was the first thing we saw on the saltmarsh and out on the mud were good numbers of Black-Tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Avocets and Shelduck feeding on the rising tide. In the grounds around the fort there was a small group of Redwing and 7 Little Grebes on the moat.
But with time going by we decided to leave Coalhouse and make our way back to the Station and have another look for the Stork on the way. This time we were more fortunate and the Stork was in it’s usual field and although rather distant we spent some time watching it before commencing our journey back to Kent via train, bus, ferry and train.
Other species such as Oystercatcher and Redshank were seen on the river at Tilbury Ferry and in all I had seen 39 species in a good days birdwatching with the Stork being the highlight and my first definite UK sighting of this species (I had a high flying possible sighting in 2012, but as I didn’t have binoculars with me at the time I could never be sure).
But the day wasn’t over. As I walked home from the station a bird flew out from the Tarn. At first I could only see the shape and thought it was the Grey Heron, which regularly frequents the islands. But as it crossed in front of me I could see it was all white and realised it was a Little Egret, my first record for my local patch.