Monday, 12 October 2015

Wasp Spiders at Rainham! *

RSPB Rainham Marsh - 30th September 15

Weather: Slight cloud early on, warm blue skies for the rest of the day. Strong wind.

Bird Total: 46
Plus: Harbour Seal; Marsh Frog; Mink.
Plus: 7-spot Ladybird; Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Cross Spider; Flesh Fly; Grasshopper; Harlequin Ladybird; Hornet; Hoverfly; Midge; Mint Leaf Beetle; Nursery Web Spider; Pond Skater; Slug; Wasp Spider.
Plus: Comma, Peacock, Small White butterflies.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker, Southern Hawker dragonflies.

The recent spell of warm weather continued and with the Jet Stream still north of the UK, this definitely isn't a winter's tale. Therefore, it was another chance of a day out. I hadn't been to Rainham Marsh for a while and so I contacted Shane for a meet-up.

After an expensive, long and packed journey down, I arrived at the Reserve around 9.30 to find Shane waiting for the doors to open. On the Thames Path up I could see Little Egret; Lapwing and Redshank on the embankment.

Migrant Hawker - female
When we entered the Visitor Centre we were told that about 5 or 6 Harbour Seals could be seen over on the opposite bank. Shane had arrived a little earlier and had seen a Kestrel and a Magpie having an argument. They had flown over to the Purfleet Hide, so we decided to walk around the Reserve in a clockwise direction.

On the way a Green Woodpecker flew over. There were already quite a few people in the Reserve, most of which had opted to go on the daily walk with one of the Reserve Wardens.

Migrant Hawker - male
We reached the Hide, not seeing any sign of Water Vole from the bridge or, indeed, any sign of the Kestrel. Looking out from the Hide we could see plenty of wildfowl out on the lagoon. A Grey Heron was asleep. Then a Kingfisher flew past, landing behind a clump of reeds.

There wasn't much else to be seen, especially up close, so we decided to continue our walk. Unfortunately, there wasn't much about. All we could see over the fields were Canada and Greylag Geese. Measure for measure, it was strangely quiet. The early clouds had made way for clear, blue skies and warm sun. I divested myself of my fleece.

We quickly found ourselves in the Shooting Butts Hide. More Geese were frequenting the now, dry, Target Pools. Looking out over the Butts Scrape area, into the bright sun, we could make out Little Egret; Little Grebe and several wildfowl species, including Teal, which were just coming into their breeding plumage.

However, nothing was close enough for any photos. Frustratingly, we headed off. There may not have been anything on the ground but there was quite a show above us. Kestrels and Hobbys were putting on a wonderful aerial display.

We again searched for Water Vole on the river outside but it was very overgrown with lots of bulrushes obscuring our view. A few Marsh Frogs were seen, turning into their brown, winter form. A little further on we spotted a male Stonechat, perched up on a reed. However, he was too quick for us and flew off before we could bring our cameras to bear.

We passed the area where the large buddleia bush had been chopped down to find that it had re-grown to a height of about 3 feet. On it was a Small White butterfly, one of very few butterflies seen today. Possibly because the wind was very strong, blowing like the tempest, which also made it difficult to hear any birdsong.

Rounding the bend, looking out over the Aveley Pools lake, we spotted what looked like a Reed Warbler flash past us and disappear in amongst the reeds. Then, just as you like it, while I was perusing Wennington Marsh, Shane spotted a Mink scamper past him.

There was nothing to see from the Ken Barrett Hide; no surprises there. Further on we came upon our first odonata of the day, several Common Darters sunning themselves on the trail and one or two Migrant Hawkers.

Then we found the spot where the Wasp Spiders were. We scoured the area for a while, eventually finding 4 of them. One of the Reserve Wardens was also around here, with a scope and he pointed out a Barn Owl, in a box, over the far side, towards the Visitor Centre.

We then walked through the Woodland Discovery Zone, not discovering particularly much. Certainly not many birds and only a few Common Darters. We did, however, bump into a couple who had spotted a lovely male Migrant Hawker fly in and perch up.

We broke for lunch, overlooking the Reserve, seeing the Kestrels and Hobbys flying around. One of them flew quite close but it was much ado about nothing, as it was too quick for any photos.

After lunch we decided to head back to the Purfleet Hide. Unfortunately, any birds that were about were quite distant. Shane's damaged calf muscle was playing up so he opted to head off. I hung around for another 10 minutes. Typically, just after he left a Redshank flew in, landing quite close to the Grey Heron, who had finally woken up. This set off a comedy of errors, with a couple of Wigeon moving off, spooking a Common Snipe into the open.

Eventually both the Grey Heron and the Redshank moved off. There were a couple of fly-bys from a Kingfisher, probably the same one and then I decided to walk up the trail until the turn-off up to the riverside path. Just before that I spotted several Migrant Hawkers hawking back and forth, catching midges. One of them was a beautiful female and she played ball by perching up in front of me. I spent a happy 20 minutes or so watching them, until some people walked by and scared them off.

However, the tide had come in and there was nothing out on the estuary, save for a couple of teenagers noisily riding up and down the path on a motor-scooter.

I decided to call it day and head for home. Thankfully the trains were performing today and they got me back home within a couple of hours, so all's well that ends well.

'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.'