Thursday, 10 April 2014

RSPB Rainham Marsh - 8th April 14

Weather: Mainly overcast and cloudy, some sun but with a very cold wind.

Birds Total: 47
Plus: Green-veined White, Orange Tip; Peacock, Small White, Speckled Wood butterflies.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bee-fly; Bluebottle Fly; Buff-tailed Bumble Bee; Cleg-Fly?; Dock Bug; Green Shield Bug; Marsh Frog; Nursery Web Spider; Parasitic Wasp; Tawny Mining Bee.
Plus: Bluebells

Today I had decided to pay my first visit of the year to Rainham Marshes, in the company of my birdy friends Shane and Marianne, or S&M as I call them! Shane graciously picked me up at the station and the three of us headed for the Reserve.

The weather forecast for today had changed every couple of hours over the last few days with a final forecast of cloudy early on, brightening up later. But it proved to be quite cloudy all day, with the sun only poking out intermittently. There was also a very cold wind coming in off the Estuary, with a few spots of rain later in the day. And I had dressed down in anticipation of a warm day. Well, the recent good weather had prompted my decision. It was very cold in the wind but quite warm in the sun.

When we arrived at the Reserve we found the 'drawbridge' to the Visitor Center was still up. We were finally allowed entry around 9.40 by Howard, the Reserve Manager. I think he must have had an extra bacon buttie! After setting up we headed off. We first checked the feeders, finding only Collared Dove and Goldfinch. Then we spotted a Grey Heron. Shane tried getting closer for a photo but it predictably flew off.

Because of the cold wind we decided to head around the Reserve in an anti-clockwise direction towards the Woodland area. This area proved to be the most productive all day and we eventually ended up here as well. The first sightings of the day were Little Egret; Shelduck and Lapwing, all out on the main lakes, with Blackcap; Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff all singing around us. In fact, we heard these 3 pretty much all day, with the Cetti's seemingly everywhere. Although Marianne and I saw a couple Shane unfortunately managed to miss all of them.

A few Goldfinches were the first birds to present themselves as photo opportunities. There were quite a few of them around the woodland today. Then Marianne spotted a Green-veined White butterfly, my first of the year, followed quickly by a Peacock. Then a Chiffchaff flew in and landed on a nearby tree. Cue more photos. A Green Woodpecker then flew over, yaffling away. Then a Greenfinch called out its wheezing call. Just as we spotted it, it flew off. A couple of Reed Buntings flew in to the trees. We didn't know where to look!

But, because of the very windy weather, birds were quite scarce, probably wisely choosing to keep their heads down. So we began looking at the foliage all around us. We had heard a few Marsh Frogs calling out but we only managed to spot one, right beside the trail. I resisted the urge to prompt Marianne to kiss it to see if it would turn into a Prince! We also noticed that there were lots of 7-spot Ladybirds about, which was nice to see after last years low count.

We eventually headed off around the trail. A Kestrel could be seen over the marsh hovering. A pair of GCGs were at the far end of the lake. But most birds were hugging the shoreline because of all the 'White Horses' being blown by the wind. We then arrived at the Ken Barrett Hide. I quite like this Hide, if only for the comfortable cushions to sit on. Outside on the lagoon we could see Canada Geese; Mute Swan; Pochard; Coot; Grey Heron and Little Egret. All of which were again quite distant.

Bluebottle Fly

Buff-tailed Bumble Bee
We moved on. Although we could see plenty of birds out on the lakes from the northern boardwalk, again hardly any were close to us. Although the bird of the day, a Bearded Tit, flew right past us and into the reeds. Unfortunately it didn't reappear. We then heard and spotted Skylarks doing their aerial singing display. I figured they were very brave in this wind.

A Cleg-fly I think, but probably just a Hoverfly

Parasitic Wasp
We arrived at the Tower Hide and sat down for a few minutes. Personally, I was glad to be out of the wind. Outside we could see plenty of Shelduck; Wigeon; Teal and Shoveler. A pair of Mute Swans were just in front of the Hide, as well as a sleeping GCG. Outside, despite looking, we failed to spot any Water Vole activity.

There wasn't too much to be seen on the return route until we arrived at the Marshland Discovery Zone. Kingfishers were nesting outside but failed to show themselves. A pair of Little Grebes did though, with one of them quite close in, returning to the surface with a fish every other dive.

Nursery Web Spider

Tawny Mining Bee
Moving on again we managed to spot at least four Redshank out on the Marsh, before they and some Lapwing were put up by an overhead Peregrine Falcon swooping over.

Then it looked like it was going to rain so we quickly headed for the Purfleet Hide. Just outside the Hide a Work Detail were busy erecting a fence, making quite a noise about it. It looked just like a typical scene: one person doing the work, with the other four standing there watching. Predictably this had scared off any birds that may have been just outside the Hide. Away in the distance we could see Lapwing; Teal and Wigeon.

Dock Bug
Green Shield Bug
We broke for a quick lunch. I was delighted to find Carrot Cake on the menu. After a quick discussion we decided to head back to the woodland area where we spotted lots of insects about. Dock and Green Shield Bugs; various Bees and Flies and then Speckled Wood and Orange Tip butterflies. We did the
circuit here a couple of times, mainly to try and see another Cetti's Warbler, for Shane.

Around 2pm we decided to call it a day, but not before seeing some Bluebells out by the car-park.

It was a very nice day out with the guys. The wind did spoil things a bit but the woodland area more than made up for it.

To see more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.