Thursday, 24 May 2012

A hot one at Rainham Marshes

Yesterday I went to Rainham with Shane, and we met Andy there for a day (well, a morning) of birding/insecting/mammaling/fishing (not that kind of fishing) on this lovely gem of a reserve in east London. The clouds burned away within the first half hour and then it was hazy but hot sunshine for the rest of the day.

A Wren, singing on the sign by the riverside path. I was on the wrong side of it at first, so did the tactic of walking briskly and nonchalantly past it, eyes straight ahead, and then turning back once I had the sun behind me. It didn't mind at all when I walked past very close, but once I turned to look at it and the camera went up its little faced filled with anxiety (sort of) and it flew off. Not quite quick enough though, eh Mr Wren?

The air was filled with the discordant cries of fledgling Starlings, while their hard-working parents flew to and fro, looking for insects to stuff down the little ones' constantly open gullets.

We followed the trail clockwise, along the path/boardwalk through reedbeds that were alive with Reed Warbler song.

From the second hide, which isn't really a hide but a pleasant room with full length glass windows, with an adjacent viewing screen, we had good views of a pair of Little Grebes. The reserve is full of these little beauties, it seemed that every pool and ditch had its own resident pair.

At some point along this early part of the trail I took my best Reed Warbler photo of the day, which isn't saying much.

The tide was coming in and we saw a number of Shelducks coming in from the river, to join Lapwings and Redshanks on the meadow. One group of four went over quite low and I noticed that one bird seemed to be trying to give another a mid-air kicking.

We paused on the bridge by the one-way gate to the river path, and took a look up and down the wide ditch for Water Voles. Shane spotted one very close but it spooked and disappeared. Then another paddled across the water some distance away, and to our joy went back and forth twice more before grabbing some greenery for its lunch and disappearing among the reeds.

At the far end of the reserve we heard a Cuckoo cuckooing and soon saw it plus its mate, though not well enough for good pics. With such a healthy Reed Warbler population, it's easy to see why Cuckoos would be around.

All around the reserve we'd been hearing Marsh Frogs gurgling away and now we started to see them in the small pools.

Another ubiquitous sound was the frankly unimpressing song of Reed Buntings. They made up for their lack of musical prowess by being very showy and, in some cases, quite approachable. Who's a pretty boy, then?

Another one that showed well (though briefly) was this Sedge Warbler. If I remember rightly, it was somewhere near hear that I heard a Lesser Whitethroat, and actually SAW it outlined in a backlit tree for a moment before it flew.

A word about today's Odonata. There were a fair few damsels on the wing, lovely to see, though I only identified Azure and Blue-tailed. We also saw two Broad-bodied Chasers. I think that's what they were anyway, I had only fleeting views but did get an impression of yellowy-brownness. Also, there were plenty of white butterflies around (couldn't be sure whether we were seeing Small Whites, Green-veined Whites or both), plus Brimstones, a Peacock and, in the wooded area, LOTS of Holly Blues.

Back at the visitor centre, we sat outside in the shade, had tea, and watched the action at the bird feeders. Among several Woodpigeons we saw one Stock Dove, which landed on a nearby fence but sadly I failed to get a sharp pic. I did a little better with the Starlings, here a fledgling has taken pester power into the aerial dimension.

We shelved our plans to do the whole loop again in reverse, we were all suffering the effects of the heat. Instead we decided to walk down to the one-way gate and then back along the river path.

We'd just embarked on the path when a Hobby went over. It wheeled about, deftly hawking insects, and was joined by another. They went further and further away and we continued along the path. Then, as we neared the gate, one of them sneaked up behind us and shot past very close and low, a thrilling moment.

The walk back along the river was rather quiet. A Whitethroat sang from the bankside scrub, and over the water flew a piping party of Redshanks.


ShySongbird said...

Another entertaining post Marianne and great photos.. As I think I've said before, you have some very nice places to visit down your way! Lovely to see the Water Vole, I haven't seen one for a long time. The photo of the flying (fleeing might be more accurate) Starling hotly pursued by junior screaming 'feed me' was hilarious I thought :-) Great photos of the Hobby and lovely to see the sun drenched damsel too.

Warren Baker said...

Your flight shots are coming along very nicely Marianne :-)
Lots seen today, very entertaining post :-)