Today Phil and I went to RSPB Rainham Marshes - Phil's first trip to this reserve. There are some advantages to having a nature reserve in the middle of a pretty built-up area. One that I discovered today, courtesy of Howard Vaughan, is that you can tell the wind direction at Rainham Marshes by what you can smell on it, indicating which of the nearby factories the prevailing wind is passing over on its way to the reserve. I've often noticed a hint of coffee and toast on the breeze at the far end of the reserve, and apparently that means a north-easterly. But what you really want to smell at Rainham, at this time of year, is Lenor (or some related cleaning product) as that means there's an easterly. Howard reckoned he could detect the merest suggestion of Lenor-esque fragrance on the breeze today but I couldn't, and there wasn't an awful lot of avian movement. Plus it was a very grey and overcast day. So don't expect anything much in the photo department...
I received a call from Shane at this point, saying he was on the reserve with his wife, Karen. Having established that Shane and Karen were going clockwise around the trail, Phil and I set off anticlockwise so we would meet S & K en route. The woodland and cordite area was very quiet, apart from quite a lot of shouting-their-heads-off-from-impenetrable-cover Cetti's Warblers. Insect numbers are really low now but we did find a Green Shieldbug, what looked like a Browntail caterpillar, and a few Common Darters still hanging on in there.
We met Shane and Karen as they were leaving the Ken Barratt hide, from where they had just seen a Kingfisher. They also reported a Wheatear and a couple of pairs of Stonechats at the far end - encouraging news. We did give the Ken Barratt hide a go but there was little to see - a few wildfowl going back and forth, a crowd of Lapwings on the grassy ridge between the lakes. We carried on.
We did go in the Tower Butts hide, but it failed to yield anything much in the bird line, just a Little Grebe, a handful of Teals and a few Coots. Across towards the Target pools, the scene was similarly quiet. Something put up what must have been almost all the Lapwings on the reserve, along with the Blackwits and a few Golden Plovers that we hadn't spotted on the deck, but we couldn't find the raptor (if it even was a raptor).
The walk back from here was rather uneventful, though there were a few drifts of Skylarks overhead and a couple of Kestrel glimpses. We also saw the only two Marsh Frogs of the day on this stretch, near the Purfleet hide.
We had tea and cake (no ginger cake available though! Rainham, I am Disappointed!), and decided to do the half-loop with a return along the riverside. With the tide now in, a few waders had turned up on Purfleet scrape, so we spent a short while perusing these, distant though they were.
The walk back by the river was quiet - a few Wigeons and Teals moving along the shoreline, Redshanks and Golden Plovers overhead. Then at the far end, looking across the Mar Dyke, Phil noticed a cat lurking close to the riverside.