Monday 28 May 2018

Bank Holiday Delights

RSPB Rainham Marshes 27th-28th May 2018 

It is nice to have so much to write about at work at the moment and as spring draws to a close and the emphasis moves over to breeding success and the wondrousness of insects it is rewarding to snatch a few minutes here and there to absorb the marvels around you.

The great storm of Saturday evening prompted an early start yesterday and a yomp down to Aveley Bay to see the last remnants of Arctic bound migration in action. Twenty-one spangled Grey Plovers – most in their best tuxedos were dotted around the mud along with 51 rotund Ringed Plovers, 11 chequerboard Sanderling and a very pale Dunlin with a restricted black belly patch. A pristine sum plum Turnstone flicked seaweed on the rocks and three Avocet and a couple of Oystercatchers were noted along with our resident Redshanks. 

Some of the Grey Plover flock

Grey Plover - Andy Reid

And a great videon from Pat Hart here

A glance behind revealed a Spoonbill on the History Fields but I could see no black and suspected that it was a new adult.  Our Marsh Harriers were getting a serious hammering from the Redshanks and Lapwings and every Carrion Crow and Magpie but not Rook was given similar short shrift.

Quality Spoonbill

The rest of the day was largely spent on the riverwall opposite the centre engaging with the public using our path with able assistance from Sim, Robyn, Amy and my eyes on the sky Pat, Ruth and Phil. By the end of proceedings we had notched up a nice round 90 species including a few additional Grey plovers, Turnstone and Dunlin, five Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Ruff, several gleaming Med Gulls, sooty Black Terns, Yellow Wagtail, dashing Hobbies and even the Raven.

Today I repeated my early visited but with clear skies and no rain there was un-surprisingly a dearth of waders in Aveley Bay although two Sanderling did appear from nowhere. Fifteen Ringed Plover and a Dunlin left quickly and headed high and north into the hazy blue while Shelducks chaperoned three broods.

 And another Pat Hart video...

The Spoonbill was still dozing on the History Pool and photos confirm it to be a new adult as I suspected.  Hobbies and Cuckoos zipped around but it was ornithologically quieter than Sunday.  

Spoonbill - Phil Wallace

Hobby - Les Andrews

A short pop down to the woodland allowed me to find several more of the smart little hover with the big nose – Anasimyia lineata - that I first found on Tuesday along with Myathropa florea, Eristalis arbustorum, Xanthogramma pedissequum, Tropidia scita and some Parhelophilus on the now very fragrant Dogwood. Phil Collins has successfully identified one of the males as P. versicolor (the one without the stray hair tuft!) so we now just have to confirm whether  we have his tufted compatriot P.frutetorum!

Anasimyia lineata

Anasimyia lineata - not sure how i have missed this species here before

Broad-bodied Chasers dashed around the Cordite and Hairy Hawkers and three Damsel species were around the woodland bridge where I also saw Neoascia interrupta (making 25 species this week) – a really tiny hover – and a not so tiny Grass Snake that sinuously slithered through the weeds.

I did not linger long out as it was seriously hot and humid and was not expecting to have Ian Bradshaw calmly announce at just before five that he had seen a male Mandarin out on the marsh.  He seemed genuinely surprised at my wide eyed look and vaguely twitching limbs...

Now, I have a bit of history with this species on the reserve. There have only ever been two records and the last was on the 12th March 2009 – which was perversely the last day off sick that I had. I was phoned about the bird and then disseminated the news, ensuring that all the locals connected. It was gone the next day and so nine years later I was somewhat keen to connect with this drake.

But where was it? From the Butts Hide of course and so at 5pm as we closed up I picked up my gear and headed back out into the heat for a full circuit with the hope of a reserve life tick at the end of it.

The birding gods were kind and a quick scan from the Butts Hide revealed this drake snoozing in the lush grass and although I could only see its head and an orange sail I was a very happy bunny.

Mandarin - exciting isn't it?

Happy Bunny

My quick walk provided me with five broods of Shoveler, two of Pochard and Great Crested Grebe and a plethora of Mallard, Coot and goose broods indicating that a very good breeding season is underway.

Great Crested Grebe family

Pochard family

The male Marsh Harrier was once again taking a beating from over forty frantic waders and a Water Rail became the 101st species for the three days of the Bank Holiday.

Time for a cold beer I think...

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