Tuesday, 13 December 2011

An afternoon at Rainham

Another late post, but not quite as late as the last one. Rob and I went to RSPB Rainham Marshes on Saturday, where we met Becca. Rob was carting the Sigmonster around so when Becca called to say she'd arrived I went back along the trail to meet her, and Rob carried on, in an anticlockwise direction.

This Kestrel caught our attention as we made our way to the first hide, flying across to land briefly on a pylon.

The trail passed a very sheltered small pond where numerous Goldfinches and Chaffinches were bathing, then drying off in the thick bushes that surrounded the water. Pity they were all too tucked away for decent photos.

From the first hide, a very large flock of Lapwings plus a few Golden Plovers was on view, wheeling about and then settling on the banks and islands of the scrape. A few Teals paddled about nearby.

Looking along the trail to the side I could see Rob standing at a viewpoint over another lake, along with a bunch of other birders. We went to join him, and he broke the news that the Sigmonster wasn't working. The camera couldn't detect it, autofocus didn't work. We tried my camera body on it to no avail. So poor Rob had to carry what was now a useless 6kg lump around the rest of the trail.

We paused at a turn in the trail to look at a Peregrine, perched high on a sadly rather distant pylon. Then I looked down and saw an RSPB sign right in front of us saying that we should check the pylons for Peregrines. I guess we did that the wrong way round, then.

On to the fancy new hide, where Rob spent some time trying without success to get the Sigmonster working again, while Becca and I photographed the only nearby birds, a small party of Pied Wagtails. Further out, a quartet of Skylarks explored a muddy spit of land.

On the homeward stretch of the track now, we stopped to admire this Reed Bunting, one of a pair hanging around the reedy ponds, and I thought I heard a Bearded Tit call but couldn't see it.

Passing a reed-lined ditch, we stopped when we heard a pretty loud rustling from the opposite bank. The whatever-it-was moved along the bank and then emerged at the water's edge, revealing itself to be a very fine-looking Fox, and eyeballed us with no apparent concern before continuing on its way.

Just before the  last hide, a cracking male Stonechat popped out of the undergrowth and struck a series of photogenic poses along the fence-posts.

From the last hide, overlooking grassland and a narrow loop of water, there wasn't a lot to see except half a dozen grazing Wigeons and a depressed-looking Grey Heron. Not long after we arrived, the heron stalked about a bit and then flew off, so we left too.

Back at the visitor centre, Rob dumped the dead Sigmonster in the car and we walked along the riverbank a little way, before it got too cold and dark.

The foreshore was quiet but we did see a few Redshanks, plus this spectacularly well-endowed Curlew.

These four Shelducks leaving the reserve and heading out along the Thames seemed a fitting way to end a very enjoyable day.

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