Friday 24 February 2017

Doris Day

Doris Day...  RSPB Rainham Marshes 23rd February 2017

Well, we all survived the rather angry attention of Doris yesterday. She was with us from breakfast, whipping up a frenzy of rather irate white horses across the turbulent Thames before occasionally vaporising the spume into a wall of hurtling mist that would hit the windows of the centre like a stampede. That old and wondrous Guinness advert kept springing to mind...

The building shook, the floor vibrated, the light cones thrummed and the windows bowed – it was all quite exciting really!

The sky was constantly changing with skudding dark blankets, white streamers and longitudinal pillows laden with rain that we never saw. Splashes of sunshine zoomed across the marsh resulting in the multitude of Black-headed Gulls sheltering there to flare shining white momentarily before returning to greyer shades.

The gulls saw quite a bit of my attention yesterday and they were constantly circulating with flocks in the hundreds resting up before heading back to the river only to be replaced by the next wave. They would land in the water of the Winter Pool and all hunker down and face into the teeth of the gale but were seldom still for long and would all slowly shuffle onwards so that they ended up on the grass in one amorphous mass of white. Only a few Common Gulls were amongst them and the big gulls were mostly riding the weather out on the river and elsewhere as very few were in the flock. Using jizz as an identification was almost pointless as every bird was crouched low and had its head pulled in but not tucked in and had no neck!  I did eventually pick out a first winter Yellow-legged Gull and a smart winter adult Mediterranean Gull for my troubles.

Black-headed Gull mass
The wind was making the Lapwing typically skittish with careening flocks being blown around with 200 silvery Dunlin and 55 Black-tailed Godwits while the Marsh Harriers and pair of Ravens were thoroughly enjoying the conditions with little flapping and lots of playing around. At one stage the big male Raven came so close to the window you could see his shaggy beard and glint in his intelligent eyes.  

The male Peregrine was not helping with the general mobility of the birds and huge young female decided that the best place to have a bath was in the middle of the flash where the Black-headed Gulls were resting up!

As the day wore on even more gulls came in and with a little low sun it became the skyscapes and struggling ships that took our attention before we finally closed up to go home but with the QEII bridge closed and traffic gridlocked in the area that was going to be another story all by itself...

Struggling up river - Tony O'Brien

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