Friday, 22 May 2015

Rainham and the Gentlemen of Science

'Gentlemen of Science' is the collective name for employees of Birdwatch magazine, past and present, and pre-me they were all indeed gentlemen. Yesterday I met up with two of the gents, Ian and Simon, for a birding morning at Rainham. We've been trying to organise this trip since late January, so it was a pleasure and a triumph to finally co-ordinate ourselves to do it. Ian met me at Woodford tube station and from there we drove to the reserve and, after a chat with Howard, went down to the start of the trail.

While we waited for Simon, we were entertained by the musical stylings of this Whitethroat. Soon Si arrived, and promptly found a couple of Little Ringed Plovers. We continued to scan the scrape for a little while, but found nothing else very exciting.

We walked anticlockwise, and I was pleased to see lots of damsels out around the woodland area.These are both male Azures but there were also Blue-tailed about. The first one was doing that wing-cleaning-with-the-abdomen thing, or perhaps just flipping me the bird.

We also saw a couple of dragons round here - a Broad-bodied Chaser which sat down and posed nicely, and a Hairy Dragonfly which didn't.

On Aveley Pools were the rather lame collection of wildfowl you'd expect for May, plus a surprise - a pair of Wigeons. Everything was miles off, though these weed-dancing Great Crested Grebes were just about in camera range. Lots of Swifts zoomed about overhead, a Cuckoo flew over, and a couple of Hobbies frolicked in the sky out towards Wennington.

While the gents scoped the far shore, I stared at the reeds until a Reed Warbler popped out into view.

At the next viewpoint over the pools, this trio of hormonal Gadwalls put on a bit of a show, circling over the water with much argy-bargy between the two drakes.

Ian spotted this magnificent Drinker caterpillar which was bimbling along the raised edge of the boardwalk.

A little further, we paused for me to take a few (dozen) photos of this typically fearless male Reed Bunting which was delivering his boring song from a pathside reed stem. He seemed to have a curiously dingy grey underside, plus that twisted outer tail feather.

Where the path turns left to Butts hide, we noted two distant Kestrels, one of which briefly became less distant. A Common Buzzard drifted high overhead, causing the birds out on Wennington Marsh to stare up at it but not to flush.

On to Butts hide, from where the gents picked out a very distant group of small waders on the shore of the Target Pools - three Dunlins and four Ringed Plovers.

I was more diverted by the two very agitated Redshanks that were calling incessantly and circling the hide, at times so close that they seemed about to come in and join us. We could hear the piping of Redshank chicks nearby, perhaps too close to the path or the hide for the parents' comfort.

At one point, one of them pitched down into the vegetation right by the path, and sat there for a moment looking fraught. Meanwhile, another Cuckoo shot past.

We carried on, taking a moment to enjoy a couple of high-up Hobbies and the many Swifts sharing their airspace.

At the Dragonfly pools, we heard a bit of pinging and a pair of Bearded Tits came chasing over the reeds, sadly not pausing long enough for any photos.

The pair of Mute Swans here have a brood of five small cygnets, which they were leading through the narrow watery cut-throughs at a very sedate pace. They swam under the bridge as we walked over it, and we had very close though not very photo-friendly views of the little fuzzballs.

The Kingfishers nesting by the MDZ are due to fledge any day now. Unsurprisingly nothing happened during the two minutes we spent in the hide.

We actually spent a lot longer watching a couple of Marsh Frogs in the little area of water next to the MDZ. Two were calling loudly, puffing up their impressive face balloons, and apparently in pursuit of a third. I don't know anything about Marsh Frog breeding biology but this did look like courtship behaviour - maybe they spawn much later in spring than Common Frogs do.

A little further along we found a pair of Coots, each one tending a single gawky chick.

That was almost it. On the feeding station by the visitor centre were House Sparrows feeding their fledglings, a charming but too-distant-for-photos sight. And then this still-smart Peacock appeared and posed very nicely. I can't decide which of the pics I prefer so here are both of them.

And finally... as we enjoyed a quick cuppa in the cafe before home-time, this curious thing came floating down the Thames.

1 comment:

Shane said...

Hi Marianne glad you had a good day out and saw a reasonable amount not every day you see a giant Rugby ball on the Thames ��