Thursday, 2 May 2013

RSPB Rainham Marsh - 1st May 2013

with Shane and Marianne

Weather: Very warm and sunny with some cloud. Slight wind.

Birds seen:
Great Crested Grebe; Little Grebe; Cormorant; Little Egret; Grey Heron; Mute Swan; Greylag Goose; Shelduck; Canada Goose; Mallard; Wigeon;  Shoveler; Gadwall; Tufted Duck; Kestrel; Hobby; Pheasant; Moorhen; Coot; Little Ringed Plover; Lapwing; Whimbrel; Redshank; Common  Sandpiper; Snipe; Black-headed Gull; Lesser Black-backed Gull; Woodpigeon; Feral Pigeon; Collared Dove; Cuckoo (H); Swallow; Skylark; Pied Wagtail; Wren; Dunnock; Robin (H); Wheatear; Blackbird; Cetti's Warbler (H); Reed Warbler; Sedge Warbler; Lesser Whitethroat; Whitethroat; Blackcap; Chiffchaff (H); Blue Tit; Great Tit; Starling; Magpie; Jackdaw (H); Carrion Crow; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Greenfinch; Reed Bunting.
Total: 57

Plus: Brimstone, Green-veined White; Orange Tip; Peacock; Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies.
Plus: Grass Snake; Marsh Frog; Water Vole.

Today I met up again with Marianne and Shane for another trip around Rainham. The weather was warm and sunny with mainly blue skies and very little breeze. It was really good to be out in the sunshine again.

It took me a couple of hours to get down there, via Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street but I arrived on time to meet up with them around 9.20. We immediately headed around to Ferry Lane which is to the west of the reserve, to try and spot the Black Redstarts that had been reported there earlier. We spent some time scanning the rocks, mud flats and all the rubbish that had accumulated on the shore, but we only saw 5 Shelduck fly in to land on the mudflats in the distance and apart from ubiquitous ducks and gulls we saw nothing else. Not a great start. It might even be called a black start.

We found the Reserve already quite busy. Well, it was sunny. I was given the choice of which way around we should go. As I had never gone clockwise around the Reserve we went that way. There were plenty of takers at the feeders, mainly House Sparrows; Goldfinch; Collared Dove and various Tits.

A Collared Dove too hungry to fly away
On the trail we immediately heard lots of Warblers, mainly Reed and Sedge, teasingly hidden from view. We did see a couple but none were really very photogenic. From the Purfleet Hide we saw Little Egret in the distance; over a dozen Shelduck; a pair of Wigeon asleep; Lapwing doing their display flights and a few of the usual suspects.

Moving on down the trail we spotted Skylarks flying over; Little Grebes singing their haunting whinnying call; Grey Heron and then a Kestrel hovering in the distance. A few butterflies were about, mainly Peacocks, some settling on the dandelions. Then, over Wennington Marshes, we spotted a raptor which turned out to be a Hobby, a first for this year. I did note that numbers of most species, even here, were down.

Northern Wheatear
We moved further around the circuit, searching for more wildlife when, at the apex of the Reserve, near the firing range numbers, the guys spotted a lone Northern Wheatear. At first it flew off but I found it a little ways further on and managed to get some photos.

Then, just before the Shooting Butts Hide, Shane spotted a couple of Water Voles. So we staked out the area where we saw 3 or 4 nest holes. Sure enough a few minutes later another Vole appeared. I only managed to get off a couple of shots before it disappeared just as quickly again. We waited for a further 10 minutes but nothing appeared. So we headed off to the Hide. There wasn't too much to be seen from here but it was nice to sit down and rest my aching back. Then we decided to try and stake out the Voles again. Shane saw another 2 further up the trail but frustratingly they didn't appear again, so we moved on.

A rather poor photo of one of the Water Voles
Apart from the Voles we saw plenty of Marsh Frogs, ribbetting away and I spotted a Grass Snake in the water by the riverside path link.

I kept looking out over the lakes on the way around looking for any Waders, especially from the northern boardwalk, but I only saw one Redshank and one Little Ringer Plover in the Reserve all day. A little disappointing. Other birds of note seen today were a pair of GCGs; more Little Egrets; a lone Swallow; some Common Whitethroats and a lone Lesser Whitethroat, found in the woodland area by Marianne, who was chuffed to finally photograph one. We paid a fleeting visit to the Ken Barrett Hide and, not seeing a great deal, moved on.

Lesser Whitethroat courtesy of Marianne :)
I had just said to Shane that we hadn't heard a Cetti's or any Chiffchaffs yet when a Cetti's Warbler suddenly erupted with its explosive song. And then a couple of Chiffchaffs started up. They must have heard me complaining. We then passed through the wooded area where we sat down for a few minutes watching various birds on the feeders. It was at this point, just after we had left the wood, to return to the Visitor Centre for lunch, that Marianne heard, then spotted, the Lesser Whitethroat. We waited for a few minutes for it to appear and were rewarded with a really good, close-up view of it.

After lunch, mmm Carrot Cake, we decided to go back to the Marshland Discovery Zone, where the Kingfishers were thought to be nesting. Just as we headed off, we heard a Cuckoo, the first of the season for me. The Zone wasn't open on our first circuit. The volunteer inside said that she hadn't seen the KF all day. Not good news, so I decided to join Marianne outside who was photographing some singing frogs. Were they hoping she'd kiss them and turn into Princes?

Would you kiss it?
We then headed up to the shoreline, via the Riverside pathlink. where we spotted a Hobby, our second sighting of the day. It was distant at first, putting up all the birds, but then it swooped right over us. That definitely got the blood going.

Hobby flypast
Unfortunately there was nothing much to be seen on the shoreline other than a few more butterflies. But we were accompanied along the trail by thousands of midges and mozzies in the area.

Back at the car park we walked over to the bridge across the Mardyke to look for a possible KF on the little estuary when I spotted a  wader on the rocks. Marianne confirmed it to be a Whimbrel. Then I spotted a Common Sandpiper. At least there were a few more waders about.

One of many Peacocks about today.
The guys decided to call it a day at this point and headed off. I went back to the Purfleet Hide and spotted a Redshank being harrassed by a Lapwing whilst a pair of Pied Wagtails flew in. The pair of Wigeon had woken up and were feeding. With nothing much else about I walked down the trail a little way and spotted the same Redshank having a bath and brush-up. Then I spotted a sleeping Snipe, then a couple of Skylarks chasing each other over the marsh.

By now I was feeling exhausted and decided to head home. It was another top day out with great company - Marianne providing the ID expertise; Shane providing the spotting expertise , whilst I just bored everyone with my continuous rantings about Amwell. And the only one with a sunburned nose was Marianne.

Top carrot cake, too.