RSPB Rainham Marshes 24th September 2018
This morning was the first proper cool autumnal start that we have had. It was crisp and cold but without the frost and the early sky was so unhindered by cloud that the higher you looked the deeper the post-night-time blue became.
I headed along the river wall in conditions so different from the wonderfulness of yesterdays low cloud, murk and rain with the mist rising, steam-like from the Thames but only down river of the barrier. Harbour Seals were hauled out on the Kentish bank while Bob the bull Grey Seal did what he does best mid channel.
A Grey Heron perched up on the hand rail by the Purfleet Hide and Cetti’s Warblers were vocal from the ditch where Little Grebes trilled. I would go onto see eight and encounter 14 more Cetti's as I made my way!
Chaffinches and Greenfinches headed west along with many Meadow Pipits. Most were too high to see but a concerted effort to count the latter today past the 500 mark.
My first Skylarks of the season were noted on the greensward and just under 200 Teal squibbled noisily on the mud of Aveley Bay with 101 Black-tailed Godwits along the tide line and eight Avocets scything through the mud a little higher up. There were no terns to be seen but I did scan for any errant skuas that may still be stuck within the river system from the previous day.
|Cormorant sentinal by the MDZ|
Stonechats clicked away in the Enclosed Bay and a female Sparrowhawk attempted to catch the Goldfinches and Linnets and spooked several Reed Buntings from cover.
|Too quick for me...|
I came off the river wall and through the turnstile gate to be greeted by one of our young Kestrels in an Elder while the first Bearded Tits of the circuit pinged from the reeds. I would go onto find at least 12 before the Butts Hide.
A glance up towards the A13 had me looking at four large dark birds gliding west... ‘Cormorants’ I thought but something was wrong... oh yes I have binoculars... oh... Gannets...
Yep, there they were, four pristine juvenile Gannets cruising in formation, banking in unison and generally looking rather cool. They were not quite what I was expecting this morning but the day after a storm does indeed sometimes bring us some much appreciated leftovers.
I followed them due west towards the Winscanton building where they would rejoin the Thames on their journey. I put the news out immediately in the hope that someone up river would pick them up but although at least one more was seen over London a little later this quartet were seen no more and I suspect that they gained height and sighted on the south coast.
|Simply superb Gannets...|
The Pectoral Sandpiper was not on the Tringa Pool which looked even better in the dry and although there were no waders, there were 14 White Wagtails, 5 Pied Wagtails and three Yellow Wagtails feeding across the extensive muddy areas while more Teal sucked mud around them.
All three hirundines were scooting over Aveley Pool and Snipe and Green Sandpiper fed along the back edge.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps called in the woodland and six vociferous Jays were bouncing around while small groups of Chaffinches in the treetops looked fresh in.
|Chiffchaff - Barry Jackson|
A hearty breakfast set me up for the day but even looking from the windows produced good birds with two Buzzards and two juvenile Marsh Harriers spiralling north, dashing Kingfisher, more views of our stealthy Sparrowhawks and a steady passage of House Martins and Swallows.
|Kingfisher on the move today - Tony O'Brien|
I escaped again mid-afternoon as the Pec had reappeared and ambled through the woodland passing Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Green-veined White on the way while the smell from the flowering Ivy was almost overpowering.
Needless to say it was occupied but countless Ivy Bees, Wasps and a multitude of flies.
The Pec was still present on the Tringa Pool and although the light was somewhat taxing, it was good to watch it in the dry in the loose company of an adult male and juvenile female Ruff.
|Pectoral Sandpiper - will try for better tomorrow|
|Pec with its huge Ruff buddy|
|That's better... a lovely shot by Russ Sherriff|
There were still a good scattering of all three Wagtails but the water level had risen a good couple of inches or so since my morning visit and much of the mud was now submerged. This was not due to pumping but the natural way that the reserve fills up following rainfall. Perhaps it will not be too long till the scrapes fill up once again.
|Amazing just how quickly the water rose...|
Marsh Frogs, Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters filled the remainder of my second circuit in the now quite warm sunshine and Small Coppers basked in the grass but there was one last treat in store with a Short-eared Owl flying over the centre as we were locking up and flop flop flying away and up the Mar Dyke having spooked all the Woodpigeons in the Cordite.