I returned from my extended sojourn on Lesvos to be greeted by a very chilly Rainham river wall on Bank Holiday Monday morning but I was instantly warmed by the plethora of new birds for my year list that had arrived in my absence.
There were Whitethroats singing all around and performing bouncing song flights, Reed Warblers gurked and Sedge Warblers scratched and the Grasshopper Warbler briefly reeled too. Three male Cuckoos were in song and chase and a Hobby sat out on Wennington looking fed up.
|Cuckoo - Russ Sherriff|
A glance at the bay revealed three Bar-tailed Godwits - all long billed females in subdued plumage, a Grey Plover, Dunlin and six Avocet.
The marsh was littered with yellow fluffy bundles of goosey joy and both Canada and Greylags are having a great season so far and there were already some well grown Lapwing and Redshank chicks around with both species totals already being up on 2018 which is great news.
I soon found the Cattle Egret with the herd - nice of him to linger for me. There is already quite some colour on his mantle and crown and the usually black legs are turning straw coloured as he enters breeding plumage. However, he is in the bad books for snaffling several tiny Lapwing chicks...
Plumed Little Egrets were dotted about and a huge orange billed Great White dropped in from the east and promptly set about trying to become invisible in the sedge beds. This is not the black billed breeding plumaged bird that was seen last week.
Swifts descended from the heavens and zoomed past me at head height and joined the list of new UK birds for the year and Sand Martins bounced around as if joined to each other by elastic.
|Swift - Tony O'Brien|
As the tide came in the Bar-tailed Godwits came into Purfleet Scrape to have a rest up and freshwater bath and were joined by nine stripy headed Whimbrels and a brief Spoonbill rounded up a fine day.
|Bar-tailed Godwits & Whimbrel - Ian Plume|
It was good to be back despite the madness of a full on Bank Holiday Monday.
Tuesday followed a similar pattern with the Cattle Egret performing very well and Hobby numbers increasing to at least a dozen while the 'Wits and Whims appeared again at high tide.
|Cattle Egret - Ian Plume|
Arctic and Common Terns were on the move and the much hoped for Black Terns dropped in with eight dipping down to collect morsels.
Thursday was clear and bright to start with and Russ Sherriff and I enjoyed a single sum plum Knot in the Bay before work along with two Bar-tailed Godwits again and a several Avocet and two Greenshank.
The male Stonechat was singing his little heart out on the car park buddlia and I was once again surrounded by a Warbler, Skylark and Meadow Pipit soundtrack. A female Greenland Wheatear paraded along the foreshore and posed for Russ and the Cuckoos were once again putting on a great show.
|Wheatear- Russ Sherriff|
|Knot & Redshank - Russ Sherriff|
|Cuckoo - Tony O'Brien|
A quick look at Wennington added the solitary Pink-footed Goose grazing with the Greylags which is always a useful addition to the site year list. As for origin; who knows...
Friday was Hobbytastic and a similar array of waders were seen along with some good Marsh Harrier action and the sight of Andrew G retrieving one his lost party balloons from the marsh.
|Hobby - Ian Plume|
The deluge of Saturday had my KBC outing hastening back along the riverwall within a few minutes before the youngest (three year old CeCe) got washed away. Ten minutes later it had abated somewhat and we tried again with birds starting to sing again and Swifts coming down lower to hoover insects.
The Cattle Egret was busy thrashing chicks to death on the little concrete block on the marsh with Redshanks and Lapwings giving it some serious but unsuccessful attention and Avocets are still on nest watch by the Butts Hide. With a little warmth Buzzards and the Harriers got up and the Hobbies were not far behind. We may not be able to rival the 66 from RSPB Lakenheath but nine in view is still impressive.
I might as well have stayed at work Saturday night as I was back on site at 0245 to prepare for the Dawn Chorus walk. It was still and windless, the river like an inky black millpond and the only pre-dawn sounds were out on Aveley where the Marsh Frogs obviously did not mind the chill conditions and were joined by the sounds of Redshanks and Lapwings, Coots, Geese and Gadwall.
Mist started to self generate and over the next two hours the landscape came and went under an ever changing blanket of whiteness. Sometimes it would obliterate everything in a flat white carpet that I could see over with just the pylons poking out and at other times random trees, hides and fence posts would appear as the smothering layer undulated to and fro across the marsh.
It was ethereal and magical and through it came the sound of a full dawn awakening with first Blackbirds and Song Thrushes being joined by Cetti’s, Reed and Sedge Warblers, Robins, Cuckoos, Whitethroats and Wrens.
The punters were in for a real treat for so rarely do we have a perfect day for the DC walk...
I forewent my usual two hour kip after they went out and simply sat outside and watched the reserve slip backwards and forwards in time with only the drone of the A13 and tops of the pylons to remind me that the 21st century was still ticking away in the background.
I suspect that this set me up for the day as I carried on all the way through and after catching the end of Neville’s two Temminck’s Stints as they flew from Purfleet Scrape, I headed out for a circuit which although we could not find the Temms, it did result in a lovely Spotted Flycatcher in the Cordite (cheers Rich) and some spectacular Hobby action.
|Neville Smith's 'just before they flew' picture of the two Temminck's Stints - oh and a Tufted Duck|
|Spotted Flycatcher - Jim Camball|
An hour of much needed TuiNa after covering lunches and then I took myself for a walk in the woodland where I bumped into the Jacksons at the Flycatcher and from which ensued a mini Insect Afternoon like in the good old days with flies of various sizes, butterflies, the first Damsels and Hairy Hawker, Nomad and other solitary bees, five shieldbug species and even the rare Ant Mimic Jumping Spider.
|Pipiza sp - a hoverfly|
Even the delay to jump start a little blue van in the car park after we locked up did not break the spirit of a long but rewarding day although admittedly I did not get much past 8pm before the lights went out...