Sunday, 2 August 2015

Not that summery at Rainham

Last week, for me, was mostly about researching lesser-known Philippines scops-owls. So it was nice to get away from that and spend a morning at Rainham on Wednesday with Shane, even though the reserve was very much not at its best on this cool, breezy and cloudy July day.

We were early, as usual, so took a walk along the river. The tide was half-and-half, and on the mud were Black-headed Gulls, a few Oystercatchers and a lone Curlew. Also a tangle of washed-up branches surmounted by a shoe.

Flocks of Goldfinches were jingling away as they moved between thistle clumps. Among them were a few Linnets, including this one.

We also saw a Sparrowhawk flying up the path ahead - it even landed briefly on a fence but I didn't manage a photo. We turned back and entered the reserve, heading clockwise and meeting the usual big flock of House Sparrows outside the visitor centre.

Plenty more Goldfinches on the way to Purfleet hide. Here's a juvenile, looking as drab as can be.

From the hide we could see three or four Little Egrets, a few glum-looking Mallards, some Coots, a Redshank, and this lovely summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit, sadly a bit far off but still a treat.

We carried on along the trail. When the sun was out, in sheltered spots we found numerous Gatekeepers, the males desperately trying their luck with the females (this is one of the latter).

The channel leading to the riverside was a Water Vole-free zone (as was everywhere else). This Coot tried to compensate by striking some sassy poses.

From the MDZ, no Kingfishers about but a Little Grebe with two small chicks right in front of the window. The usual photographic difficulties from this spot meant my pictures of them aren't up to much, but it was lovely to watch them being fed by mum/dad.

The wind was really blasting around the Dragonfly pools, which is probably why we saw no dragonflies there, nor any Beardies. We carried on to the Tower hide, and from here could see... more of the same really. These Shovelers came over quite close, but there was nowt to do about the sludgy light.

Onwards. The pool at the point where the path turns back was very low, with lots of exposed mud on which a young Pied Wagtail was strutting about. Approaching the Ken Barrett hide I photographed a typical Rainham Kestrel and Marsh Frog.

We stopped in the grassland area to look for Wasp Spiders, and found several (with the help of other birders who were already there). They are still quite small, though if they carry on scoffing prey of this size they will soon be big and beefy.

The Chicory is out in this area and looking great, and many of the Ragwort clumps were festooned with Cinnabar caterpillars.

The sky by now was looking really ominous, as you can see on these two pics. You can also see that the young Starlings now have full-on spotty bellies.

I stopped by 'Willow Emerald bridge', as these damsels are now starting to appear at various sites. None here today but through the haze of willow leaves I got a shot of a pair of Holly Blues in amorous mood.

Into the Cordite, and sitting on the first bit of signage was this huge and evil-looking horsefly.

Much more appealing - a Red Admiral going to town on the abundant Buddleia blossoms.

A couple more flutterbies - Large White and Peacock. There were also a few Speckled Woods about, but not a single Meadow Brown nor any skippers. While I'm on about insects, we did see two dragons over the morning, both big'uns and quite possibly early Migrant Hawkers. Nearby(ish) Wat Tyler Country Park has some Southern Migrant Hawkers at the moment (check out Marc Heath's amazing photos of them here) but none have yet been found at Rainham.

Just a few more from the last bit of path betwen the woodland and the visitor centre - Volucella zonaria hoverfly, juvenile Reed Warbler, Tree Bumblebee and a Grey Heron.

The weather now looked so menacing that we opted not to do a second mini-loop but went home. Naturally, on the way the clouds dispersed and the sun came out, but never mind. I think a mid-August visit is probably on the cards.

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