Tuesday, 7 May 2013

200th post...

... and it might end up being a bit similar to the 199th post, because I went to Rainham again today, with Shane, Clare and Dean. We had a lovely walk around, although the weather was not quite as dazzling as last time with a bit of grey murk around.

Shane and I arrived about an hour before Clare and Dean, so we had a wander to the woodland area, in search of Cuckoos. We met a volunteer en route, who pointed out where he had seen them just now, which was great, just not quite as great as it would have been if the Cuckoos were still there...

On the way to the woods we found this noisily singing Sedge Warbler, which showed very well for us but insisted on only doing its song flights when I was looking at something else. There were also plentiful Reed Warblers singing and refusing to show at all.

The warm weather was encouraging plenty of butterfly activity. Here's the first Green-veined White I've managed to photograph this year.

In the woods, there were several Blackcaps singing, and a Willow Warbler which was one of those intriguing 'mixed singers', its song phrases beginning with a couple of 'chiff-chaff' sounds before it switched to proper Willow Warbler descending-scale song.

Once again we found a singing Lesser Whitethroat, this one positively showing off, though sadly not as close or well lit as last week's views.

Just for balance, a couple of (Common) Whitethroats to go with the Lesser. Plenty of these around, and I somehow fluked a flight shot of one of them. OK, not the greatest ever flight shot but you can tell what species it is...

The first Comma I've seen this year. It was behaving most oddly, running about on the stony track (surprisingly fast). Nothing wrong with its wings though, as it demonstrated shortly afterwards by flying up into the scrub.

Another insect 'first' - a beautiful Large Red Damselfly. Though it's quite orangey rather than red so I guess it is not quite mature yet.

As we headed back to the visitor centre to meet the others, we paused to enjoy the lovely song of this well-hidden Linnet.

There was a sorry sight by the visitor centre, a Magpie sans tail. Wonder what predator ended up with a mouthful of iridescent feathers rather than a meal.

We met Clare and Dean and headed out towards Purfleet hide. On the way, Dean spotted a very close Water Vole from the bridge, but I just couldn't get a clear view of any recognisable part of it. I did take a photo, which shows a random area of soggy brown fur.

Pick of the birds showing from the hide were a small gang of Whimbrels. The Wigeon pair were still around too. Then there was a flurry of excitement as two Cuckoos chased through, a little far away though for good photos.

Outside the hide, a Reed Warbler broke cover for a few microseconds. Note how it's cricking its neck twisting round to see if I was pointing my camera at it.

We continued along the trail, noticing as we went that there were several Swifts around (plus one House Martin). As usual I couldn't resist the chance to take Swift photos, and neither could Clare, so we stayed there for a while while the gentlemen went on ahead.

Several interesting birds flew by over the next few minutes, including Kes the tame Kestrel and a couple of high Hobbies. Also, this high-flying, non-calling wader which at the time I presumed would be a Redshank. I was surprised to see, on (very severely) cropping the best (least rubbish) image, that it seems to be a Bar-tailed Godwit.

Then one of the Cuckoos (or a third Cuckoo) came back the other way, a bit closer this time.

Just before the tower hide, we stopped for a sit-down and enjoyed the spectacle of two Marsh Frogs having a croak-off. I hadn't realised their cheek pouches inflate quite THIS much...

I didn't stay long in the tower hide. I never seem to see anything much from there (um, apart from that one time that I found a Baillon's Crake...). Instead I sat down by the ditch that runs behind the hide to see if any Water Voles would be forthcoming.

No vole luck, but I did see a male and a female Marsh Harrier out over the Target Ponds, and the two Hobbies made a brief reappearance. Most notable, though, was this Ross's Goose, escorted by two Greylags. It is of 'unknown origin' and has been around, on and off, since the winter, but I hadn't seen it before. Cute little thing.

A random female Mallard. Can't recall where I saw her, but there were several 'three-bird flights' going on, also some involving Gadwalls.

The return half of the loop brought the second damsel of the day - a pretty fresh-looking male-type Blue-tailed. And just after this we had a very brief but close encounter with a Water Rail, which ran off out of sight into thicker reeds before I could take its photo.

A couple of the nesting Coot pairs have hatched out some of their weird-looking chicks. This baby was one of four. I don't think I've seen a baby Coot's feet before, they don't seem to have much sign of the lobes that they will have as adults.

The woodland feeding station is still operational but they will stop stocking it any day now - it's a winter thing really. Today the usual suspects were present, including this lovely Dunnock and a not-so-lovely Brown Rat foraging at ground level.

Last pic of the day is the 'mixed-singer' Willow Warbler, still chiffing, chaffing and warbling away and showing quite well. Looks-wise, it's a bit dull-toned but otherwise looks completely Willow Warbler-like to me. I'm not sure if such birds are ever considered to be hybrids.


Graham Canny said...

More brill photos, M. Glad you had another great day out, and sorry I couldn't be there.

Warren Baker said...

Loadsa great photo's today Marianne, my fav has to be the Cuckoo flight shot :-)

ShySongbird said...

Hi Marianne, Thankfully, this post popped right up where and when it should have :-) Sounded and looked like another enjoyable visit. Great photos too. Lovely to see the Cuckoo, butterflies and Odonata. Love the cracking...or maybe that should be croaking.... photo of the Marsh Frog, reminds me of my obsession with bubble gum as a child ;-)

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
Congrats on making the 200 .
Another well filled visit to Rainham Marshes , and like Warren , must go for the in flight Cuckoo as favourite .

Bob Bushell said...

Beautiful showing, and my favourite is the frog, superb.

Lou Mary said...

I love the cuckoo shot! I heard my first a couple of days ago and was searching for it but only caught a glimpse as it flew behind the trees!

Also I have a soft spot for marsh frogs and your photo is brilliant :)