Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Spoony, Gargs and Ron the Weasel

Shane texted me yesterday asking if I would like to go to Rainham tomorrow (ie today). I usually have to say no when this happens, because of work, but with no birding since Cornwall, a sunny day forecast, and all manner of tempting birds reported at Rainham lately, this time it had to be a yes. We arrived at 8.30am-ish and took a riverside walk before meeting Graham at 9.15am and getting onto the reserve when the drawbridge dropped at 9.30am. It was a still day with hazy sunshine, and got sunnier and breezier as the day progressed.

A couple from our quick riverside stroll - Dunnock almost but not quite hiding, and a Grey Heron on its way somewhere.

There were lots of Cetti's Warblers around, on our lap we heard them pretty much everywhere and there must have been at least 15 singing birds.

They were also pretty showy for Cetti's - these are four different individuals. Unfortunately I was not on great form camera-wise, and none of my shots were really up to much.

There were a couple of singing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, which I think by now probably ARE proper migrants rather than lingering winterers.

We walked anticlockwise, visiting the cordite store where we saw... not much, though the warming air was bringing insects out (more of those later). Reed Buntings and Wrens were in fine voice.

Emerging from the wood, we paused to scan the marshy shallow pools on the left here, where a pair of Garganeys has been for the last few days. Graham found them very quickly. They were distant and there's an annoying fence here, hence shoddy pic, but it's always nice to see the 'summer duck'.

On to the Ken Barratt hide, which is a horrible hide for photography (sorry guys but it is!) - seats too low and too far back from the windows. Not much to see here, though we were entertained for a while by two female and one male Pochard, all feeding enthusiastically.

Carrying on from here, we had a brief, close view of a female Bearded Tit which (I think) was carrying nesting material.

As we got near the Target Pools we had a scan for the juv Spoonbill that was found yesterday. Amazingly, four Spoonies in all were here yesterday - but the other three were in Aveley Bay first thing and flew off to destination unknown. The young bird on the Target Pools stuck around though, affording distant but nice views.

On the boardwalk near Tower Butts hide, a Common Lizard, found by lizard-whisperer Shane.

From the Tower Butts hide, a near-silhouetted Little Grebe catching flies.

And looking the other way, a couple of record shots of Spoony. Note the Pintails among other wildfowl in the second pic. In fact, every regular British dabbling duck species was on the reserve today, though Wigeons were down to just a handful and will probably be gone by this time next week.

Speaking of ducks - three badly lit drakes on the move. Mallard, Shelduck and Shoveler.

There must be quite a few pairs of Lapwings nesting on the meadows, and they all rise up in outrage if a corvid dares to fly through their airspace. This Carrion Crow kicked back... but the Lapwings still chased it away in the end.

This Skylark was in the same area near the Tower Butts hide. Also from here we had a distant female-type Marsh Harrier, the only raptor of the day.

We were just rounding the corner by the Dragonfly Pond when Shane, who was a few paces ahead, stopped us and pointed at the side of the boardwalk. For a moment we all stared at nothing, and then a Weasel popped its adorable little head out of the exact same gap where I'd seen one disappear on a long-ago previous visit. But this time, the Weasel didn't vanish for good. It really wanted to keep heading along the path, but we were in the way. There followed a wonderful minute of Weasel-watching as it crossed from side to side, ran towards us a bit, paused, nipped under the boardwalk and then out again, before finally rushing away for good when a group of children approached. Here are what I think are my best photos of it.

After THAT, the day could be declared nothing but a triumph. If you are wondering why 'Ron the Weasel', Howard V referred to a regularly seen Rainham Weasel a couple of years ago as Ron, though of course there are probably quite a few Weasels on the reserve, and some of them might even be females. Though I suspect this one was a male as it was fairly big for a Weasel.

The loop was rounded off with these Marsh Frogs near the MDZ. The Kingfisher mesh is in place, and Graham managed to see one of the Kingfishers later as it belted across the fields on its way to the nesting bank. Rumours of a Spotted Redshank and Yellow Wagtails came to naught, but we did score a male and a female Wheatear near the MDZ, and had fun watching Lapwings chasing each other about from the Purfleet hide.

A bit of a surprise right by the visitor centre - this very big Brown Rat sitting by the side of the path. I just had time for one pic before a child rushed over with the intention of stroking it, something that the rat evidently didn't want to experience as it turned tail and disappeared into the reeds. And then we were back at the visitor centre for tea.

We opted to do a mini-loop of the woodland area after tea, as it was by now quite warm and we hoped more insects might be out and about.

This proved to be so, with loads of Small Torties and Peacocks on the wing, feeding on Blackthorn (I think) blossom and breaking off now and then to chase each other in soaring spirals. Also seen - a couple of unphotographable Brimstones, and this Small White.

It's now the season to waste hours photographing small hovering things in flight. A Beefly and a Drone-fly kept me amused so long that the guys disappeared and it took us a good 15 minutes to relocate each other. All that for some not-very-sharp pics. It does make me happy to see them again though, especially the Beefly with its fat furry bum and ridiculous drinking-straw beak.

The feeders had been empty on our first look round, but now were full, and drawing in Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Reed Buntings.

On the way back towards the visitor centre, I stopped to admire this Magpie as it peacefully preened in a pathside tree.

We gave the Purfleet hide another go, but all was quiet. The bridge here has a sign saying that Water Voles are being seen here, but we didn't. We did see these two Mute Swan cygnets. The lead bird is of the Polish form, with white juvenile plumage and paler bare parts than normal.

Last pic of the day - this splendid Dandelion. All in all a great visit to Rainham, with the Weasel (whether it's Ron or Rhona) my Species Of The Day by an East London mile.

ETA - I have JUST realised that 'Ron Weasel' is a Harry Potter reference. So I guess it would be Ron or Ginny.


Penny Taylor said...

Weasel bounce is best thing ever!

Shane said...

Great report and photos Marianne I especially love the Weasel you got much better ones than I managed. You were very quick to blog about the day I was impressed when I found it first thing this morning during my tea break.

Graham Canny said...

Another great and informative report! Really great photos, too. Love the Weasel!

It was a really great day out. Thanks for your company!

Phil said...

Great post Marianne.
Particularly like your pics of the Weasel. They're weasily the best!! :-))

Warren Baker said...

I love weasels Marianne, just looking at their furry feet always makes me smile :-)