Monday 7 June 2021

MOT Day - a chance for a south Essex wander - 7th June 2021

Today was a car day which meant that I had to drop my Roomster off in Rainham early doors leaving me to head off and explore for several hours. I retraced my route back to Rainham Tesco, past Rainham Hall and then over CTRL and onto Rainham North.  


There were Sedge and Cetti’s belting out as I walked down and I could hear Song Thrushes and numerous Whitethroats while the verges were burgeoning with flowers now although the reappearance of Giant Hogweed in some sizeable clumps was worrying.

Giant Hogweed - feels like it is propping up the pylon

Dittander - I think




There were plenty of Bumblebees in attendance with Common Carder, Early, Red-tailed and Buff-tailed with the Hawkweeds and Tufted Vetch being particularly popular. Oedemera nobilis dotted purple Salsify and yellow Goats Beard like little iridescent green jewels and there were a few blue Damsels drifting around.


Queen Early Bumblebee - Bombus pratorum


Tufted vetch

Oedemera nobilis

Rainham West was much the same but I did find two male Cuckoos and a showy Cetti’s Warbler. I was on the listen for Marsh Warblers but I do not think we have been graced this year.  

Cetti’s Warbler


It was good to find Water Dock thriving in the one section of the channel alongside the silt lagoons that I could see into and even the dumpy little Horse Chestnut was still flowering and looking very healthy!

Water Dock

Pink Horse Chestnut


Towering Hemlock


The Dog Roses were blooming in every shade of pink through to white and Cinquefoil crept across the path with yellow Rockrose-like flowers. Down at the Barges the Thames was still coming in slowly but was very tranquil and I could see where each diving Common Tern hit the water.  I could hear Oystercatchers and a brood of Shelduck were on the mud just beyond Tilda where the Feral Pigeons were sheltering on the jetty put of the strong sun.

Dog Rose





The scrappy piece of path past the factory is always covered in flowers and I suspect the pulverised rubble that makes up the area is what makes it so good.  There were swathes of Oxeye Daisy and Hedge Cranesbill and the Dogwood flowers were being attended by countless Buff-tails and Honey Bees along with e few Helophilus pendulus and Parhelophilus sp and a plump Tachina fera.

Oxeye Daisy

Wild Carrott



Tent of Spindle Ermine?

Buff-tail on Dogwood

Parhelophilus sp

Tachina fera

I found but lost a fine Crab Spider on a Daisy but a Malachius bipustulatus was a little more obliging. Holly and Common Blues zipped around and a Brimstone posed nicely for me. I think that the lilac Scabious that I found is Small rather than Field and there was a good patch of Purple Toadflax.  A sollitary Crossbill flew over calling.


Purple Toadflax

Scabious and Malachius bipustulatus


Common Blue

The clump of Tansy has come up well again and the unopened heads look like pale broccoli florets! The Oxeye Daisies followed me all the way back to the road and I found a patch of Kidney Vetch and pink Yarrow amongst them along with a very fine Mother Shipton with her long wobbly nose.



Viper's Bugloss


the Daisy loving Dichrorampha alpinana

Mother Shipton

Kidney Vetch


I came back up to Tesco and from the Red Bridge over the Ingrebourne there were over a dozen Banded Demoiselles flouncing around on the Branched Bur-reed below.  The females were particularly green and shiny.

Banded Demoiselles

I made it as far as the main lake beyond the Albion Pub where the Black-necked Grebes bred all those years ago and spent a wonderful hour watching dragonflies around the margins. Black-tailed Skimmers were literally emerging and shimmer winged tenerals regularly fluttered past me and into the Vetches to finish off the drying process.  One Emperor was not looking too great and one of her forewings looked unlikely to unfurl all the way.


Black-tailed Skimmer

Down at the edge I lurked at the various fisherman spots and was rewarded with some great views of Four Spot Chaser along with single Hairy Hawker and Broad Bodied Chaser and Common Blue, Blue tailed, Azure and Red-eyed Damselflies.  It felt like summer.

Four Spot Chaser egg laying sequence - you can see the eggs in the top shots

Red-eyed Damselfly


The best was still to come when a pair of green eyes stopped in front of me but it was too small to be a Norfolk Hawker. It was a male Downy Emerald, a species I have only seen in Epping Forest in Essex but I seem to recall that Ian Plume photographed one in the Valley the year before last.

Downy Emerald

Two males were present but one had this bay sewn up as his and battled all comers until a big Hawker came in and nearly snaffled it. But it was not just any big dragonfly but a fine male Lesser Emperor with sky blue sadle glowing on each turn. I saw him a few times but never long enough to get the camera up.

Downy Emerald

Two female Scaeva pyrastri were caught egg laying – my first of the year but there was generally a dearth of flies. 

Eristalinus sepulchralis

Scaeva pyrastri

Scaeva pyrastri

Helophilus pendulus

Larionoides cornutus


I apologised to the Swans and Greylag family that I had no leftovers and started to head back to pick up my car from Brian.  It was now very warm and I was glad to get in the car and head towards East Tilbury with the windows down.  




It always seems to take and age to get to Coalhouse Fort from Rainham but soon I was heading out along the concrete river wall path where I spent many a day checking through the waders over the high tide on the silt lagoons or watching flock of Lapland and Corn Buntings feeding in the inland fields.  It is all very different now and the old silts have become a botanically rich grassland and it was the Orchid meadow that I was after. It was at the far end but the wow on seeing a carpet of lilac and purple scattered amongst the Yellow Rattle was worth the walk in the sun.

However I became very confused very quickly.  I have barely seen an open Common Spotted Orchid in Kent and yet here there were hundreds of neat little pale triangles and amongst them were some towering cigar shaped  ones that I presumed were Marsh.  I gingerly approached, being very careful where my feet went, to get a closer look but it was not till I got home that I think I was able to get a handle on what was going on.  

Common Spotted, Marsh types and almost spent Green Winged

Common Spotted

Some of the cigar shaped ones appear to be Southern Marsh but most appear to feel like Marsh Orchids but have Common Spotted lip patterns and shape thus making them hybrids.  I had been told about them down here but just surprised how impressive and vigorous they were.  

Common Spotted


Pretty sure these two are Southern Marsh

Whereas all these Marsh types show Common Spotted lip patterns and spotty or even stripy leaves- I think!

If my labelling is incorrect please do message me and let me know.  Amongst them were what I am sure were the nearly spent spikes of Green Winged Orchid but I was so distracted by the grandeur of the hybrids that I never took a close up shot!

I looped back along the riverside of the path getting my fix of a Thames Barge with the sails up and finding several Green Hairstreaks and Wall Browns along the path.  Some years I never see a Green H but this year I can’t miss them!

Tatty Wall Brown

Green Hairstreak

Burnet Companion

Grass Vetchling

Interesting Clover

There were lots of Whitethroats in song but no Gropper for me but I was happy with a huge orange Queen Brown Banded Carder Bee trying to hang onto the already drooping flowers of Tufted Vetch.  

Brown Banded Carder Bee - Bombus humilis

Brown Banded Carder Bee - Bombus humilis

I was home and happy by half two but looking at those Orchid pictures only confused me further so after dinner it was a short run out to Holborough Marshes to look for some Early Marsh Orchids that Ian had directed me too.  His directions were spot on and I soon found two almost spent spikes  in a glorious meadow that was also brimming with Common Spotteds in various shades and the first flowers of Yellow Flag dotted between great billowing clumps of Hemlock Water Dropwort.  A Spitfire roared overhead.

Common Spotted


Early Marsh

Hemlock Water Dropwort

Yellow Flag

I called in on my Peregrines on the way home and was delighted to see that my two fluffy white young were moving around and look fully feathered.  They were making so much noise and tucking into dinner with aplomb while mum sat nearby being equally vociferous and I actually think she was trying to persuade them to take to the air.


A most pleasing way to end my day...

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