Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Magnificent Seven visit Rainham!

RSPB Rainham Marsh - 9th February 15

Weather: Slight cloud, some sunshine. Quite cold with a light breeze.

Bird Total: 52
Plus: Brown Rat; Grey Squirrel; Cat!

It was a last minute decision to head down to Rainham Marsh today. My friend Barry had said that he would be driving down there with a few friends and asked if I wanted to come along. Of course! So, picked up at Harlow station, we headed down arriving shortly after 10. There were seven of us, maybe a little too large a crowd for my liking, but it was Rainham and a day out!

We decided on a counter-clockwise route, heading towards the woodland, as Bullfinch had been seen earlier. Unfortunately, we didn't see any.

Just before we started on the circuit, we could see lots of Lapwing; lots of Ducks, Geese, Mutes and Coots; Golden Plover and Little Egret, out on the marsh.

It was strangely quiet in the woodland, seeing only a few birds. A few Robins posed for us; a few Thrushes were flying around; there were a fair amount of Tits and Finches and then we heard a Cetti's Warbler. Stopping briefly at the feeder area we could see the usual birds plus a few Brown Rats, hoovering up the seed remnants. But we did see a lone Kestrel, sitting atop the wires.

A little further up the trail we bumped into a couple of friends of mine, who I knew from the Lee Valley. Together we all spotted a pair of Stonechats nearby.

The reedbeds were quiet as well, only the trains hurtling past to our right disturbing the peace and quiet. We eventually arrived at the first Hide, the Ken Barrett. Although the seats here are very comfortable, being the best seats I've ever sat on in a Hide, there weren't too many birds about. We could actually see quite a lot of birds further out, but it was a struggle to identify most of them, as they were very distant.

The new birds that we did add to the list here were Shelduck and Grey Heron. After about 10 minutes we moved on.

We strolled up the Northern Boardwalk, still struggling to see any further birds, but that was quite possibly because everyone was busy talking and not looking. There weren't too many passerines in the reeds around us, other than a few Reed Buntings, quite possibly because we had spotted a cat on the prowl. But there were plenty of wildfowl out over Aveley Pools, albeit again distant.

We reached the Shooting Butts Hide not adding anything more to the list. From this Hide we could see lots of stuff, but only Mutes and Coots and a few ducks were close by, outside on the Butts Scrape. Looking out from the opposite direction, over the Target Pools we could see lots of activity. Large flocks of Lapwing; Golden Plover and Starlings were being put up. Eventually we could see a lone Marsh Harrier gliding the thermals, flying towards the sewage works.

Scanning the area further, we spotted 4 Pintail, all asleep. As were lots of Shoveler; Teal and Wigeon. They must all have had a heavy night. I knew the feeling.


Moving on, despite looking out for Bearded Tit and Bittern, we could only see Little Grebe; more Shelduck and more Little Egrets. Then, high in the sky, we spotted what at first looked like another Marsh Harrier, but turned out to be a Raven. It had caught something and was trying to feed on the wing. It eventually landed in the field to finish off whatever it was.

There was only the resident Little Grebe seen from the Marshland Discovery Zone and a Sparrowhawk flyover. It wasn't until we arrived at the Purfleet Hide that things started to happen.

Initially, there were only lots of Lapwing out there, on many of the little islands. But then a drake Teal swam in close, feeding. Shortly after, 3 or 4 Common Snipe could be seen. Then a lone Dunlin arrived close by, in amongst the Lapwing. A few minutes later a lone Redshank flew in, calling and also landed in amongst the Lapwing. Lastly, a lone Pied Wagtail could be seen having a wash and a brush-up. It was an exhilarating 30 minutes or so.

Further out, we could see lots more Wigeon and Shoveler. More large flocks of Golden Plover and Dunlin were being put up, possibly by a microlight that flew over. It was fantastic watching the flocks change shape and colour as they flew around.

Outside, on the way to the exit, we spotted another Stonechat. As it was only just after 2pm we decided to take a walk down the riverside path. From here, looking out over the river we could see several waders poking around the little pools. We were looking into the sun but it was eventually decided that most, if not all of them, were Redshank.

It was a pretty good day out, lots of birds, lots of people plus one moggy! Thanks to my friend, Barry for the invite and the lift!

'I'm not much of a storyteller. Interesting how that all started.…'

For more of my photos please visit my Flickr site.