RSPB Rainham Marshes 18th-19th January 2020
It was a working weekend for me and unlike the weather of
recent weeks it was absolutely glorious on both days.
If memory serves me correct I started my monthly Kids
Birdwatching Club (with the blessing of Peter Holden) in the autumn of 2007 to
encourage budding naturalists to venture outside with their parents and
assorted other guardians. It harked back to the ‘good old days’ of the YOC which
myself and the majority of my ornithological peers came up through. We are all
still birders and good all round naturalists and most of us work within the conservation
field. I am proud to say that some of the next generation of young
ornithologists started at our little Saturday club and have been to or are at
Uni studying environmental degrees, or volunteering on RSPB reserves or at far
flung bird observatories.
Fast forward to Saturday just gone and with a nice clear
crisp day I was not surprised to see a couple of our regulars arrive (Ben M,
Georgia and Max) but by the time I left to go out I had 13 keen youngsters (and
their taller chaperones) in the party. Many
were new to the reserve but all were keen to learn and that went for the all
important parents too. It was a wondrously eclectic group of people with two
families of Asian descent along with Polish, German, Hungarian and English. Having such a large group meant that the walk
took a wee bit longer than usual but everyone stayed with me and had a great
time. It gave me hope that parents are
starting to buy into the idea that getting their families out into the natural
world is a vital part of their kids upbringing as well as broadening their own knowledge
and enjoyment of the world around them. It was a crazily busy day back at the Centre and the rest of
the day was a blur but with some big skies to round things up
Sunday night saw a proper dip in temperature and a thick
frost coated everything upon my arrival. With time to spare I picked up my
camera and bins and headed out for a loop around the woodland snapping at
magical frosty moments as I went. This
was my first proper sunshine day with the camera and I was keep to have a play.
Song Thrushes were still in full voice with seven males belting out between the
Centre, Woodland and Mar Dyke with a back ground of numerous Robins and a few
Noticing that the feeding tables and photo hide feeders were
empty I started to head back for supplies pausing to watch 18 mellifluous
Curlews mournfully depart for the river from the islands in Purfleet Scrape.
|Curlew and Teal |
They had been spooked by a female Marsh Harrier who then
headed across the Thames to Dartford Marsh.
The whistling and grunting Wigeon flock evacuated the grass for the
mostly unfrozen water in their escape from her eyes but the 35 Pintail present
just continued to doze in neat lines around the edges.
I loaded up with seed and headed straight back out for round
two. The birds were very grateful and
were coming down as soon as I started to wade back to the boardwalk – it is a
bit deep out there! I might have accidentally taken some mealworms down there
with me and three different Robins came to hand for their breakfast.
Your age or experience is irrelevant with moments like that.
You cannot fail to marvel at the fact that this, quite literally, featherweight
ball of fluff perched on your open hand has consciously decided that you are not
a threat but are in fact quite the opposite. That trust is very special. Dunnocks and even the Great and Blue Tits are
becoming bolder and I suspect that they too will soon be partaking of handouts.
Today was about taking the education volunteers around the
marsh for a Howard’s eye view of what the reserve has to offer. These ladies and gentleman give their time
freely to run our school holiday and drop in events as well as full on school
visits for some of them.
The weather stayed true and once again a glorious circuit
was undertaken. We started along the river wall with countless gulls along the
river and two Harbour Seals hauled up on the Kent side. Rock and Water Pipits
called and a small group of Fieldfares chacked from the now sparsely berried
Back on the inside, Yvonne
suggested that the sun bathed fence alongside the Mantlet would be a good place
to look for sunning inverts. We were not disappointed and soon found a couple
of Nursery Web Spiders, a Nettle Bug, a Seven Spot Ladybird, a big fat Calliphorid and one of our funky rare
Weevils – Larinus turbinatus with his
chunky shoulders and pretty straight snozz.
|Nursery Web Spider - Pisaura mirabilis|
|Nursery Web Spider - Pisaura mirabilis|
|Weevil – Larinus turbinatus |
|Weevil – Larinus turbinatus|
Marsh Harriers quartered the Target Pools and Starlings, Lapwings,
Wigeon, Teal and Common Gulls were frequently spooked and three Buzzards
circled overhead. There are very few finches around though and although the odd
Skylark was heard singing, there are no flocks anywhere on site and only a
handful of Reed Buntings and Meadow Pipits.
A Police Helicopter spooked all the geese from Wennington and
they all made a b-line for Aveley Pool where they made a cacophonous landing of
Canada/Greylag honking, splashing and wing noise all backed by a low golden
The Woodland was now quiet of Song Thrushes and there was
quite a crowd of Robin admirers as we ended our way back for lunch.
|This Mottled Shieldbug was found back inside the Centre|
I had another new potential pond dipping volunteer arriving
so I quickly introduced Ellie to the team before dashing off on more errands
but this did then allow us the chance of a walk around the trail from 2.30 onwards.
Two circuits in a day – what is the world coming to.
We headed clockwise round so that I could show her some of
the education infrastructure and I discovered that Bulgarian Ellie is also a
birder so she was very pleased when the Firecrest popped out just in front of
us at the entrance to the Cordite. It showed amazingly well for ten minutes
much to the delight of others who came along before continuing on her circuit
through the brambles. The Song Thrushes were all going strong again and a Chiffchaff
flicked its way alongside the Tringa Pool fenceline.
Four different Marsh Harriers were now out over Wennington and
I reckon that there are six on site this winter with two adult males, a young
male, the well marked adult female and two more brown ones. Cetti’s Warblers accompanied us the whole way
round with calling rather than singing birds in the majority.
Up on the river wall there were two Avocets in Aveley Bay
but despite the perfect conditions the Short-eared Owls refused to come out and
play but it was a glorious evening with a blue sky sunset and a mirror calm
golden Thames to round off a genuinely pleasant weekend on the ranch doing what
I think I do best.