I spent Wednesday getting my nose sunburned at RSPB Rainham Marshes, in company with Shane and Graham. Please take a look at Graham's brand new blog here, to read his other birding adventures at home and away.
We began with a look over at the riverside along Ferry Lane, where up to four Black Redstarts have been seen on the rocky shore in recent weeks, but I think we missed out by a few days. There was plenty of exposed mud, but no waders to enjoy it, just a few Black-headed Gulls (all in first-summer plumage, the adults have moved off to breed now), and a few Mallards, Gadwalls and Shelducks. On to the reserve itself.
We walked clockwise, calling in at the first hide but seeing very little from it. The reedbeds were alive with Reed Warbler song, but none of the little blighters would show well for us today. We had a little more luck with the equally numerous Sedgies.
Along the creek behind the Tower Butts hide, we spotted a Water Vole disappearing into its burrow, and after a short wait had a few more, similarly brief views. I made a mess of the photo opportunity when one swam briskly across the creek, much to my annoyance. We opted to go into the Tower Butts hide, and try again for the voles afterwards.
We carried on, via the feeding station where Collared Doves, Reed Buntings and the usual tits and finches were coming and going, while a Cetti's Warbler sang from its magic invisible hiding place. Then into the woodland, which is a real suntrap and consequently felt very warm indeed, certainly at least 20 degrees C. Here we heard our first Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs of the day, and then the Yellowhammer-esque rattle of a Lesser Whitethroat.
We revived ourselves with cake - I can really recommend the ginger cake with ginger fudge icing, it's amazing. Then we opted to walk down the clockwise path as far as the one-way gate, and come back by the river.
We went through the gate and up on to the riverside path. On the river, a parade of sailing boats went by one way, a couple of Cormorants the other. Looking back across the reserve, we spotted a Hobby wheeling about above the Purfleet hide.