Monday, 6 September 2010

Rainham Marshes

I forgot to take any scenic pics of Rainham, so apologies for that. For those who don't know, this is a newish RSPB reserve by the Thames in the grotty heart of east London. The RSPB have turned a rough (in all senses of the word) bit of neglected former army training ground into a lush and thriving reserve of grazing marsh with shallow lakes and deep, reedy ditches. Of course, everywhere you look there are pylons, flyovers and other urban landmarks, but don't look too far and you'll just see flowers and water and wildlife.

Having said all that, it was a rather quiet day. We just walked the reserve trail rather than the river path, being knackered from aikido, so missed the chance of interesting birds on the Thames. However, what we did see on the reserve was quality stuff.

Marsh Frog (Rob's pic). There were several of these, lying around in the shallows. This introduced species is Europe's largest frog, and is a spectacular shade of green. We also saw one Water Vole, and I took a photo of it which is too embarrasingly bad to reveal here.

Rainham has a super-swanky visitor centre, and now also the swankiest hide I've ever seen. On two levels, it is spacious, comfy, has lighting (and, I suppose, heating), comfy and easily moveable seats and windows with a top and bottom glass panel that slide open independently. On view is a marshy soggy area that is probably going to be great in winter, though today there wasn't much to see apart from Gadwalls, Teals, Shovelers, a Little Egret or two and a lot of geese.

Then someone drew our attention to a young Fox making his way along the grassy bank that screened the marshy bit off from the path. This enchanting youngster was searching for something to eat, and made little pounces and dashes into the long grass. His left hind leg was injured, the poor love.

My lens/teleconverter decided to violently misbehave about now, and I couldn't take more photos. The cute Fox was by now right in front of the hide, and too close for my 420mm anyway, but I would have liked a frame-filling pic of his beautiful eyes.

Rob carried on taking pics until the Fox had gone beyond the reach of the 70-300mm, then we took the lens and teleconverter off, tried the camera with just the lens (fine), then replaced the teleconverter. It behaved itself for the rest of the day, so fingers crossed...

How's this for a demonstration of (not much) depth of field? I should have stopped down for a few more shots really. I will next time, promise. This was one of three Common Lizards we saw towards the end of the walk, all relaxing on the boardwalk and enjoying a brief interval of sunshine.

We paused by the feeding station that you can see from the ramp up to the visitor centre. There were several Collared Doves here, sitting around on the sticks from which the feeders hung, not doing much. Then one of them decided to either hump or fight with one of the others (it really wasn't clear what was going on) and a few moments of excitement ensued.

On the drive out, we saw a Hobby. Bird of the day, even though it was only glimpsed through the car window.

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