Thursday, 15 August 2013

RSPB Rainham Marsh - 14th August 2013

Weather: Blue skies and sun early on, clouding over in the afternoon. Very hot with a cool breeze.

Birds Total: 40
Plus: Brown Argus, Comma, Common Blue, Gatekeeper, Green-veined White, Holly Blue, Large White, Meadow Brown, Peacock, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White butterflies. Jersey Tiger, Silver Y moth. Cinnabar, ? caterpillars.
Plus: Blue-tailed, Common Blue, Small Red-eyed damselflies; Brown Hawker, Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker, Ruddy Darter dragonflies.
Plus: Grass Snake; Marsh Frog; Meadow Grasshopper; Water Vole.

It was time for another visit to Rainham in the company of my good friends Shane and Marianne, or S&M as I call them! It was forecast to be sunny and warm early on, with clouds threatening later in the afternoon. And so it proved. But it was very hot in the sun, accompanied by a mercifully cool breeze.

I met up with the guys at the Purfleet Hide. But before I got there I had seen a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets screech overhead and, just crossing the bridge towards the Hide, I spotted a Water Vole noisily munching away. It was in the shadow of the reeds but still gave a pretty good view. I texted Shane and both of them came out to have a look. After about 5 or 6 minutes it moved off under the bridge but then swam out across to the other bank, into the sunshine and proceeded to sit and eat right in front of us. We all happily snapped away at it, marvelling at how it just ignored us. There were Migrant and Brown Hawkers flying up and down the stream as well, plus the odd Darter.

After we had satiated our fill of Vole photos we went and sat in the Hide. Looking out to the Scrape we could see a pair of Greenshank; a Redshank; a Little Egret; a Snipe; a pair of Teal and about 3 or 4 Lapwing. Then a Linnet came and sat on one of the fence posts and surveyed the area. All in all, it was a pretty good start to the day.

We moved on down the trail, seeing lots of butterflies; dragonflies and the odd Reed Warbler or two, until we got to the Shooting Butt area. We were told earlier that if we were patient we would hear, and possibly see, some Bearded Tits, my namesakes! We had to wait nearly 10 minutes in the hot sun before we heard them. I had sat down on one of the benches but soon stood up again as it proved to be very hot! We spotted lots of birds flitting around the reeds but they were mainly Reed Warblers. All went quiet. Shane moved off down the trail to see if they had relocated while Marianne and I stayed put. Then we heard a rustle of reeds right beside the trail. Marianne saw a Weasel poke its nose out, spot us and move back into the reeds. We could still hear it but it never re-appeared, despite M's brilliant squeaky Weasel impersonation. Some people turned up, including Howard, one of the staff, to see if the Beardies were around. We could again hear them but then I spotted a juvenile Water Rail in the far pond, unfortunately too obscured by the tall reeds for a good photo. Then the Bearded Tits starting pinging again and a couple of them could be seen flying back and forth. It was a frenetic period of activity.

My Namesake!
Further on down the trail we came upon bushes of Buddleia, which should have been covered with butterflies. But there were only a couple of Whites, a lone Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock feeding. But then Marianne spotted a Jersey Tiger moth. We could only manage a couple of shots before it flew off. It was a first for all of us.

Jersey Tiger Moth

To be honest, the rest of the circuit didn't present anything else that we hadn't already seen other than a couple of Sparrowhawks high in the sky; a Whimbrel out in the river; the occasional flock of Starlings and the odd Swallow. But we were all enjoying the sunny day out and catching up on all the gossip - Shane had recently become a granddad. That explained the permanent smile on his face today.

We spotted more Water Voles which again gave us some great views; lots more butterflies, the star being a Brown Argus; there were a few Cinnabar caterpillars on the Ragwort; a Grass Snake giving a juvenile Moorhen the slip and the odd Cricket and Grasshopper.

Brown Argus
Cinnabar Moth caterpillar
Meadow Grasshopper, I think.
We broke for lunch where I had a very nice slice of carrot cake and a bacon sandwich before we headed back out to the Purfleet Hide. But again, before we got there we were amazed to see Ratty still munching away in the same place as before at the local Rainham Marsh's 'eat as much as you can' salad bar. After 4 hours or so of dining out it must have been close to bursting. Cue more photos.

'Ratty' getting bigger by the minute!
From the Hide we headed out down the trail until we got to the riverside path link and proceeded through the turnstile and walked along the trail adjacent to the river. This was where we spotted the Whimbrel. But not really a lot else.

One of the few Migrant Hawkers seen
Not sure what these were, anyone?
There were quite a few people about the Reserve, as to be expected in this sunny weather. But thankfully no dog-walkers. Well, other than on the public paths. The bird species total was well down on my last visit but today was more about quality than quantity.

All too soon our day had ended and Shane thankfully gave me a lift back to the station, where my train arrived on cue.

A top day out with great friends!

Marianne's Blog can be found HERE.
For more of my photos please visit my FLICKR page.