Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Chilling at Rainham

I'm so fed up with the cold weather. I'm trying to build up my running distances at the moment, with a view to MAYBE doing a half-marathon (my first since 2007) in March, but it's difficult getting motivated to get out of the door when it's barely above freezing. Motivation is a little easier to come by when the objective is birding rather than running, though, and I was pleased to accept Shane's invitation of a morning at Rainham. We were forecast greyness, so I brought the D700. In fact there was quite a bit of sunshine and the D300 with its crop factor would've been a better option. Life was simpler when I had one camera...

There was a lot of wader action as we walked out onto the reserve, heading clockwise. Overhead were flocks of Lapwings and Dunlins, and these Golden Plovers, seen in pic 1 with the Eurostar. Pic 2 is here because I was amused by the way the two in the bottom left seemed to be sharing a single pair of wings.

Water levels were very high, and there was a lovely array of birdlife on view from Purfleet hide. All three waders mentioned above were here in profusion, along with Wigeons, Teals, Gadwalls, Mallards, Shovelers and the odd Pintail, though sadly none were close enough for good photos.

Once past the water, things quietened down a lot. We clocked a couple of Marsh Harriers way away over Aveley Marsh, and 'weet-weet-weet-ing' Mipits leapt out of the rough grassland as we went by.

Little birds of the reeds were in short supply. We found a pair of Reed Buntings, but there was no sign of any Beardies and not a single Cetti's was to be heard. From the Marshland Discovery zone we could see another flock of Wigeons and a Little Grebe.

We went into the tower hide, and surveyed a scene of much water and, on the Target pools, many gulls and Shelducks, looking lovely but distant in strong sunshine. A lone Grey Heron stalked along, and on the other side, looking into the light, there were more of the same wildfowl as before.

Finally, a bird close enough to fill the frame (nearly) - juvvie Mute Swan.

We were on the return loop now, and slammed the brakes on when a Stoat bounded across the path in front of us and vanished into the undergrowth. We searched for it, I made squeaky noises for it to investigate (it didn't) and then Shane spotted it tearing along the boardwalk behind us. Always good to see a mustelid, but I do wish I could get some decent photos!

Next we stopped off at the little pools by the boardwalk where Water Rails have, of late, been showing very well. And we found one, but it was very tucked away and all my photos only show its flicky white rear end. As we watched it, a dark juvenile Sparrowhawk came bombing past.

The feeders were attended by modest numbers of Great Tits, Blue Tits, Reed Buntings and a single Robin. Goldfinches were singing and calling nearby, and as we walked on Shane found a pair of shy Bullfinches and I found a Chiffchaff.

Back at the visitor centre, I bought a cup of tea and we relaxed in the warmth for a while, enjoying a nice view of a flock of Black-tailed Godwits coming in off the Thames as we did so. Then we set out again to walk the first bit of the path again.

The sun was becoming more elusive now, but we enjoyed closer views of Teal and Wigeon from Purfleet hide.

We cut back along the riverside, walking on the low path close to the water. On the Thames were many Teals, plus a few Cormorants and a Great Crested Grebe. A few Redwings flew along the shore, including these two which just about permitted a recognisable photo.

We were almost back at the visitor centre when we found a Stonechat pair, working their way along the bankside. The male was a bit skittish but the female was a little star, flying right over to where we stood and striking a series of poses for us.


Graham Canny said...

Glad you guys had a good day! Sorry I couldn't make it - but I did manage to finally see my first Hawfinch!

Great post and photos, as always!

Maybe we could all meet up again another time! Best wishes, Graham.

Warren Baker said...

Well that was certainly more entertaining than a run Marianne :-)