Thursday 6 April 2017

Birthday Patchwork

6th April 2017

So what does any normal person do on their birthday? Well, go to work of course and just to make it extra fun you go in early and have a wander round on your tod at 6.30 in the early morning light.
It was in fact a plan well executed and yes, it is one of the perks of working at RSPB Rainham Marshes which I am sure you do not begrudge me too much for having.

The driveway was alive with sound as I bumped my way in with the now numerous Blackcaps trying to out-sing the Song Thrushes, Robins and Wrens. I headed up onto the river wall and looked down on the mist rising in wispy tendrils from the pools, rills and ditches scattered across the marsh.

I closed my eyes and took it all in... Redshanks and Lapwings were both very vociferous and it sounds like there may be even more Redshanks on site than in previous years and a Snipe ‘screeped’ as it took off. 

Skylarks sang down from high above and Linnets were once again twittering from all around me. Cetti’s Warblers shouted at each other and the Sedge Warblers have now warmed up sufficiently to throw out the full performance of amphetamine fuelled techno scratching. I suspected that there would be the odd freshly arrived monotonous Reed Warbler too today with its rhythmic grind and gurk... I would have to wait and see.

I could hear Gadwall fart and quack as the males gave chase to a luckless/lucky female and similarly the Shelduck were engaging in more whistling courtship flights.

Gadwall chase
Eyes open again and a scan round added the first female Marsh Harrier of the day being followed by the Crows who were in turn followed by the Lapwings while I could now see the Linnets with beaks full of nesting material. The Thames was mirror calm but very quiet with no Common Terns today and there were only two Curlew in the bay.
I came down through the river wall gate and soon found myself with an obliging male Skylark sitting on the handrail serenading his woman as she poked around just off the boardwalk. 



Reed Bunting
Reed Buntings sang ‘did did did diditit’ and two pair of Bearded Tits were moving about at the Dragonfly Pool end. I perched here for a little while in the hope that they would come out but they were being furtive but the Cetti’s Warbler alongside me was loud and showy but always managed to keep some curving briars between me and him.

I only saw it because of the reflection
Cetti's Warbler
The Little Grebes are nesting within four feet of the boardwalk again. Let’s hope that they do not get spooked by too much attention like they did last year but they will chose to nest as close to us as possible!
The Target Pools were glorious in the rich light and the remaining duck shone. Five pair of Pintail and several of Wigeon were amongst the other species and Shoveler numbers are suggestive that we might have a few pairs stay and breed again.

A shiny male Lapwing ambled round the path in front of me picking up worms

Lapwing and Redshank were scattered all over this area too and displaying birds could be seen further back across Wennington so hopefully this means that the new anti-predator fence in working. A lone Sand Martin zipped around and one of the male Marsh Harriers was soaking up some early rays on a gate post and showing no interest in the duck at his feet.

Urban Marsh Harrier
And the Box Buzzard
Another two pairs of Bearded Tits pinged and the first Reed Warbler (of two) was found as predicted. I was hoping for something different on Aveley Pool but it was a picture of calmly floating wildfowl and not much else until a Water Rail popped up at my feet, looked up, grunted and scuttled off on spindly toes!

Preening Mute Swan that I think had actually dozed off
A superb breeding plumaged Grey Heron
The huge Willow that was tidied up after the winter’s storms is greening up nicely and there is nice fresh understory of plant appearing in its old shadow and the log piles we created are being enveloped by the rising Nettle beds.

Back into the woodland where a pair of raucous Jays were a welcome sight and the first birds since a single in January. Just where our birds go until April is a mystery but there are often missing until this time of year. 

A few early rising butterflies were on the wing with Small Whites and Speckled Woods seen and I got dive bombed by a Lapwing on my final approach to the centre where the rest of the day was spent engaging with the multitude of visitors on such a magnificent spring day and sneaking a look a lemonoidal Jack Snipe...

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