RSPB Rainham Marshes 9th April 2019
It dawned murky and drizzly with low cloud and almost no wind – perfect. Andy Tweed was on site a little before me and before 730 had picked up a Scoter flock and four Mergansers drifting out on the tide. Thankfully they stayed long enough for me to rock up just before eight and collect them upon arrival from the centre.
The Scoter were typically mobile floating one way and then flying back up to do it all again. Four had gone up earlier and a separate pair joined another huddle to create a group of 18 which were with us all day. The same two groups were also seen by Dave Morrison off of Beckton SWT.
|Common Scoter - Tom Bell|
One of the four Red-breasted Mergansers was even a smart spiky headed drake and these too played with the tide. From here on it the river was watched continuously all day and it would prove to be a memorable one.
|Mergansers - Andy Tweed|
Nothing outstandingly rare was seen but there was active migration going on all around with groups of paddle winged Little Gulls flicking through at regular intervals and a total of 43 were logged including a few that spent some time on Aveley Pool where they hawked for the numerous chironomid midges that danced even in the cool air and drizzle. Most had sooty black heads and several even sported a lustrous salmon pink flush that contrasting with the smoky underwings.
|Little Gull - Tom Bell|
|Little Gull - Tom Bell|
Small numbers of Common Terns fed mid channel but no other species were seen but two rain showers each produced an Arctic Skua that literally dropped out of the cloud before powering out of the river – magic migration.
|Arctic Skua - honest! - Nick Croft|
It became our first proper wader passage day too with six new Avocet and five Black-tailed Godwits in the Bay being joined during the duration by three Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Whimbrel, 15 Dunlin, three Grey and 12 Golden Plover.
|Whimbrel - Tom Bell|
|Golden Plover - Tom Bell|
Hirundines flicked across the site heading generally west with all three species represented and fresh-in Willow Warblers were around the car park and the few Sedge Warblers that have been in for a few days have at last warmed up their vocal cords despite the weather.
A Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear were seen and a fine male Common Redstart with steely blue back and fiery red tail shivered in the bushes just along the river wall.
Marsh Harriers continued to quarter and it was good to see both the Ravens heading back east with full crops during the afternoon while Lapwings chased off everything that dared overfly their airspace. A Jack Snipe was flushed from Purfleet Scrape with a Common and performed a couple of close circuits that were admired by us in the centre.
As we left this evening the wind had picked up and the City skyscape was becoming visible for the very first time and four of this dapper Little Gulls were still dipping over the Pool and the amorphous blob of Scoters was bobbing mid-river.
To be honest today was, because of the weather and not despite it, a soul reviving boost after the dreariest of winters. I have a week to go before Lesvos beckons and hopefully there will be a few more touches of spring before head back to the Aegeon.