Friday, 27 November 2009

Rainham Marshes

The first of my book-signing trips was to this frankly awesome reserve on what was once a forbiddingly desolate and scary bit of East-end wasteland (though even then great for birds if you had the cojones to go there). Unfortunately the weather was a good deal less awesome - blowing a gale and periodically flinging down bucketloads of chilly rain.

We had a little walk before the signing began at noon. The feeding station was teeming with hungry Greenfinches, Goldfinches and House Sparrows. Just beyond that we found Mr Stonechat obligingly posing on one of the few bits of scenery that wasn't being thrashed about by the wind.

Rob glimpsed a mustelid disappearing into the undergrowth on the trail. Given that he at first called it as a Rabbit I decided it must have been a Stoat on size, though I didn't see it myself despite much encouraging pishing. Dammit.

Around the small pools and ditches were numerous Wigeons, Teals and Canada and Greylag Geese, while a lively flock of Starlings strutted about in the rough grassland, taking flight and moving a few feet further down whenever the trail took us too close to them.

Then I had to go back to the visitor centre but Rob continued and did the full loop around the reserve, finding on his way a few more birds including a similarly obliging Ms Stonechat:

... and a Cormorant flapping low overhead, creating an impression of what it must have been like for our ancient ancestors when a pterodactyl cruised by almost low enough to interfere with the power lines (or something).

After the signing was done (13 books signed, not bad for such a filthy day) we nipped down to the far end of the reserve to see if we could find the Serins (we couldn't) and photographed what at first we thought might been a Jack Snipe in the reedy pool near the Serin mound (it wasn't). By 3.30 pm it was pretty much dark so we headed home. According to the very friendly and helpful Howard Vaughan, the Penduline Tits will show up in early December if they are going to (only one blank year in the last six or so), so I can see us being back at Rainham before too long.

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