Tuesday 27 April 2021

RSPB Rainham Marshes - Winter leftovers, dazzling Greens & sky watching memories - 27th April 2021

My intention was to get in early for a nice pre-work riverside amble but the A2 was in a somewhat debilitated state and I ended up on the ‘Southern Country Route’ before popping back out in Dartford and attacking the Tunnel. As such my time on the wall was foreshortened somewhat and the actual amount of walking curtailed even further by me finding a huge white winged gull on the other side near to the Darenth Barrier.

I had to wait for the early haze to lesson but it became clear that it was a monster 2cy Glaucous Gull with all the right proportions in all the right places complete with hefty black tipped pink bill.  It was very aggressive and kept the smaller Herring Gulls at bay and often gave a long call with the head and neck held straight up and the wings kept in which I am not sure I have seen before.

It poked around at something dead on the tideline for about half an hour and then flew slowly up river when the plumage tone changed from the almost burnt out white to a good hint of classic biscuit. It looked even more massive in flight.  This was certainly not on my radar for a fine late April morning and with a 2cy Caspian and a couple of immature Yellow-legged Gulls adding to a good low tide gulling session.

An award winning scoped image of the Glaucous Gull with a stilt legged 2cy Caspian Gull in the foreground

Andy Tweed's 'atmospheric' shot as the Glauc flew up river...

Thirty-two Common Terns were actively fishing mid river and two bouncy Arctic Terns went past but as is often the case did not linger.

My time was up but it was a good way to start the day.  The plan for the day was to try and get to the end of the Ramp for a late lunch high tide especially after a Curlew Sandpiper came in yesterday on it but in the meantime there were distractions closer to Reception in and around the top end of the car park.

A small dingy looking butterfly whizzed past me as I was on the phone to the butterfly loving Colin Jupp and the brain said Green Hairstreak for no good reason at all. I followed it and eventually it landed and proved me right - I then got off the phone to Colin!.  It was incredibly fresh and on looking at the pictures I took the wings were not quite fully flat and inflated which probably explained why it stayed around a very sunny Honeysuckle patch for about an hour during which time it attracted almost every visitor who passed by.

Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak and with a Box Bug in the last two

Rhombic Leatherbug

Mottled Shieldbug

Seven Spot Ladybird

There was plenty else to see around the same clump with faded male Anthophora plumipes and two of their kleptoparasitic buddies – Melecta albifrons which were my first for the reserve. Andrena flavipes dotted the Dandelions and another small bee has left me asking questions while there were several Nomads to test my patience once again.  With help from Tony M I now know that the small ones I have been seeing for the last few days are in the Nomada flava/panzeri/ruficornis group. I also saw a couple more today along with two wholly black and yellow types that I think are both Nomada goodeniana and Nomada marshamella. There is so much to learn.

Andrena flavipes

Andrena chrysoceles

Nomada goodeniana

Nomada marshamella

A couple of furry ginger Osmia bicornis were around one of the old bee houses while several worker Bombus pratorum were on the last of the Rosemary flowers and Bombus pascorum were on the Apple blossom with many Honey Bees.  

Bombus pascorum

Bombus pratorum

Osmia bicornis

Osmia bicornis

Osmia bicornis

There were Dark-edged Bee Flies in attendance at the Forget-me-nots and a tatty Gymnocheta viridis basking on a trunk as they are prone to do while a smart little fly has been identified as a Morellia sp but the estimable Phil C.  There were several Hoverflies with several species around the prolific fruit trees including my favourite Myathropa florea.

Dark-edged Bee Fly

Dark-edged Bee Fly

Dark-edged Bee Fly

Morellia sp

Gymnocheta viridis

Helophilus pendulus - female

Myathropa florea - male

Eupeodes luniger - female


Bulbous Buttercup

Bosun Berry - a Gooseberry - Blackcurrent hybrid


Pisaura mirabilis

There were other Butterflies too and the warmth in the enclosed car park made them hyper active and difficult to get close to but there were several Orange Tips and both ‘small’ Whites along with Small Tortoiseshells, Peacock, Comma and my first immaculate Speckled Wood of the year decked out in chocolate and cream with a hint of green on the body ‘fur’.

Speckled Wood



Small Tortoiseshell

Lunch at the Ramp was not the wader fest that Andy Tweed and I were hoping for but it was nice just to sit on the bench and miss Phil Street being with us and reminisce about numerous Raptor O’clock sessions here over the years while watching Grey Plover, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwits and Whimbrel come and go and Hobbies hawking invisible insects high above us.

Bar-tailed Godwit and Whimbrel

Both Ravens made an appearance and several Buzzards and Marsh Harriers circled over and late on there was a pulse of Sand Martins and Common Swifts.  The Avocets seem to be expanding onto another island and even the Jack Snipe popped back out for brief bobathon along the margins.

Raven in the haze

It felt good to be warm for the first time in what feels like a month and even if that is it for the week, it was good to share our thoughts of our missing friend and feel him sitting there beside us, leisurely slumped in his garden chair, hat and sunglasses on and staring at the blue for a passing raptor or two...

Ruth, Phil, Jonathan and the Averys


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