Saturday 20 October 2018

No tiny thrushes, pretend felines, orange orioles, stripey sparrows or vivid warblers on the patch but I am looking!

The working week so far - 15th-20th October 2018

It’s been another long but fruitful week at RSPB Rainham Marshes with some quality early morning escapes reaping rewards with a mixture of misty starts, glorious sunrises and grey gloominess.

Tuesday was especially glorious and I picked up seventy species from a three hour engagement session with my scope on the river wall which was quite pleasing.  The Lady Daphne Thames barge was cruising up and down under sail and Harbour Seals and Porpoises were seen on the mirror like Thames.

Dragons and Damsels were still on the wing and I counted six species of butterfly too including three richly coloured Clouded Yellows and this slightly worn female, found by Jerry H, that was definitely white above in flight making it of the scarce ‘helice’ form.

Common Darter
‘helice’ Clouded Yellow

There was even time on the way home to stop in and look for the Beluga off Gravesend and amazingly I saw it almost immediately surfacing under half way across, blowing a little puff of spray into the air before that pinky white curve of a back took it back under.  I was lucky to get six cracking views in just a couple of minutes before continuing with the shopping!

No whale image but some arty river, turbine, cobweb combo

The Cattle Egret has performed well every day and I saw it on each of my early visits and then subsequently from the centre window during the day. Pat Hart got some superb footage of it feeding on the cows on Friday afternoon.

Cattle Egret - Tony O'Brien

Wednesday the 17th was miserable and grey with drizzle and low cloud which meant it was actually good for small bird passage and my circuit produced 17 Blackbird, 155 Redwing, 19 Song Thrush, 7 Water Pipit, 36 Meadow Pipit, 3 Rock Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Brambling 39 Chaffinch, 6 Siskin, 21 Greenfinch, 140 Linnet, 58 Goldfinch, 4 Chiffchaff, 3m Blackcap, a very late Reed Warbler, 13 Cetti’s Warbler and at least 12 Stonechat. 

Grey Heron
Mono Marsh Harrier

Most of the small stuff was heading west and the thrushes were literally dropping out of the sky into cover.  It felt Ouzelly but I could not find one. My site year tick came in the shape of a solitary Coal Tit that moved through the bushes outside the centre window. October seems to be the best time here to connect with this almost annual species which is surprisingly rare in the immediate area.

Our staff and volunteer BBQ was held that evening and it was great to watch the mists fill up the marsh and spread and rise eerily towards us while the moon and Jupiter shone behind us over the building.  The marsh itself was fairly quite although Lapwing and Redshank were obviously roosting on the Purfleet Scrape and Pipistrelle Bats zoomed around under the balcony.

Thursday and Friday was again glorious and a Ring Ouzel was indeed found along the river wall with some Blackbirds. This fine male very quickly went to ground and was not seen again. Stonechats were everywhere with at least a dozen on the circuit and Water Pipits had returned to the newly profiled areas in front of the Butts and Ken B Hide where Grey, White and Pied Wagtails also scurried around.

Stonechat - Tony O'Brien
The clear blue skies made for difficult skywatching but ten minutes with Tony O’Brien at the end of the ramp resulted in a fantastic Peregrine and Common Buzzard session.  Both birds were youngsters, as was the Marsh Harrier seen shortly afterwards. 

Common Buzzard -Tony O'Brien

Marsh Harrier -Tony O'Brien

Peregrine -Tony O'Brien

Jackdaws were on the move on Friday with 306 counted heading west in the first few hours which is most unusual here and a smaller number were seen today heading in the same direction. I wonder where they have come from? Similar movements were recorded across the London area over the last two days. Even the Barn Owl came out to play one evening and started hunting along the river wall.

It started chilly this morning but my Kids Birdwatching Club should have been undertaken in shorts and a t-shirt by the end as the temperature soared.  With such clement weather again, it made seeing the smaller passerines heading over high a real problem but the ears were working and Siskin and Redpoll were both picked up with other finches on the move.  Eighteen Avocet were in the bay and seemed to have a colour ringed individual with them but a better view will be required and just over 100 Black-tailed Godwit and a couple of Curlew loitered on the last of the tidal mud.

The Skylift 3000 extreme haulage barge that has been loitering off of Coldharbour Point all week was finally towed back down river although it did not seem to have rescued Submarine underneath it!

The Marsh Harriers and Buzzards were excellent once again but I had to wait until quite late in the day to get a good view of the Cattle Egret which had undergone some sort of miraculous cell division and become two which was most pleasing and not wholly unexpected.

Marsh Harrier
A BOC shot from Roy Woodward at the moment but will replace when I get the original!

Two on one - David Dent

A Bittern was found on Aveley Pool shortly after we passed by and showed well for an hour but promptly walked away before any of the other regulars could get there but at least we now know that it is back for the season hopefully.   

Duck numbers are slowly climbing with about 40 Wigeon around now and 12 Pintail but Shoveler and Teal are the predominate species still.

Jamie being as industrious as ever with his pie clearing endeavours!

In the woodland the Ivy was covered in Honey Bees and Wasps but there was no sign of the superb Hornet I saw earlier in the week. Just one Hoverfly species was present – Eristalis tenax but there were several nectaring Red Admirals and Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters were using the Ivy as a perch to chase down any passing smaller flies.

Red Admiral

Migrant Hawker
My final look out of the window as the shutters rolled across was of the two Cattle Egrets running along the back of Aveley Pool hot on the hoofs of their favourite young cows...

Let’s see what tomorrow holds...

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