Saturday, 9 March 2013

Four go to Rainham Marshes

Went out with three of the Barnes Birds today, back to Rainham Marshes where I visited last week. Weather was cloudy, misty, overcast and a bit chilly, but the company was great ! I also got to meet the famous Howard, one of the many friendly staff at the RSPB site. He published my Marsh Harrier photos on his blog last week.
Elaine, Gina and myself (Susan met up with us later) started off along the woodland walk where we got lovely close up views of Reed Buntings, Blue and Great Tits, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, a lone Redwing in a tree and Robins. Elaine put out some food for them near the feeders and an obliging Robin and a Blue Tit came down to pose for photos. From there we made our way round the back of the site. All the usual ducks were to be seen. Tuftys, Shovellers, Shelduck, Wigeon, Mallard, a couple of Pintail plus Great Crested Grebe and several Little Grebe 'trilling'. We also saw numerous Little Egrets being very active, having the odd squabble and flying around the site. Lapwings, Dunlin, Starlings and Golden Plovers took to the skies regularly and we spotted a Kingfisher flying fast across the centre of the site. From there we made out way to the old gun ranges. This is where I had the great views of the Marsh Harrier last week, and almost on cue, it came up from almost the same place. Sadly this time the views of it were quite distant, and the misty cloud didn't really help with any photos we tried to take. Continuing around the circular walk we saw more Little Egrets and Lapwings, heard lots of Skylark (but only had brief glimpses of a couple) and more Reed Buntings.
Susan then arrived and we went back to the cafe for lunch. While we were there reports started to come in of a Black-necked Grebe on site. By the time we had finished our lunch, the sighting had grown from one grebe to three. So off we went around the site again. A nice gathering of friendly people were at the edge of the Aveley Pool. The three grebes, one in winter plumage and two in beautiful summer plumage, were eagerly pointed out to us Barnes Birds. They were so far out though, that none of my photos came out but such nice folks these Rainham lot are. They shared not only their scopes, but also their in-depth knowledge of the best places to see the Black Redstarts that had been regularly seen a couple of miles away.
So we decided to take a trip down there. On the way back to the car park, we joined the sea wall and flushed a couple of Pipit. Bad photos again due to the awful light, but I think that at least one was a Water Pipit (or a Wipit as we were calling them). As this area is really Elaines patch, and she knows the site better than us others, she assured us we would see pipits. I threatened to expose her on here if she didn't, but she came good. Although Elaine, I would have liked a Mipit, Ripit and Wipit !! Maybe next time mate ?
We left the RSPB site in a good mood, just cursing how the weather was affecting our photo taking ability's, and made the short car journey to Ferry Lane. As soon as we parked up we could see three other birders looking around. Brenda, another of the friendly RSPB staff, had described in detail where to look. And she wasn't wrong. In a large area of undeveloped land, was a female Black Redstart sitting on a huge chunk of concrete. Gina had already played us their song on her android app, so it was easy to hear another one in the scrub, which then took flight, landed briefly on the roof of the nearest warehouse and flew across and over the sea wall. A beautiful male Black Redstart in full breeding plumage. We re-located the male after much searching. Surprising how something so colourful can get lost amongst the rocks so easily. By this time more birders had arrived, so we pointed out where both birds were. We then went back to see the female again. She had moved along to a pile of bricks, concrete slabs, old barrels, and large concrete tubes. Taking photos through double layered mesh fence proved difficult. But we did witness her taking what looked suspiciously like nesting material into a crevice. Hope the site is left un-developed while they raise their chicks. We were pretty sure we had heard more than two birds, but could only ever find one male and one female at the time.
Next port of call was to try to locate Short-eared and Barn Owls. Sadly Susan said goodbye at this point and went home. Elaine, Gina and I drove another short distance and began our search but failed. We saw the Marsh Harrier again, but not a sign of any owls. Another birder came along and dismayed us with his great tale of how he'd seen a Barn quartering exactly where we were, just a couple of days ago. But we found nothing. We drove a bit further down, where another friend of ours, Jason, had seen SEO and Barn last week. Again we saw nothing except the Marsh Harrier again. We looked and we looked and we scanned and we scanned. Then I caught the briefest of movement out of the corner of my eye, and fixed my bins on a Barn owl sitting on a post. It was very active. Flying off low, swooping down to the ground, flying to a post and repeating again. After a while it dropped into the grass and we lost sight of it. Again the weather plus the distance of the bird sighting meant I got no photos at all. After hanging around for a while, and meeting several more birders going past, we called it a day.
And to me, it was a great day. The weather may have been pretty crap, visibility was even crapper, but the company and the Black Redstarts certainly made up for it.
So big thanks to my Barnes Birds mates. Cant wait until we do it again.
male Black Redstart
distant misty view of Marsh Harrier
male House Sparrow
spot the female Black Redstart
male Reed Bunting
Blue Tit (food courtesy of Elaine)
Water Pipit ?


  1. well done on the black red......

  2. Very nice Wendy.... reckon that the pipit is a Rock. No big superc and quite dusky underneath. The problem this time of year is that these are Scandinavian Rock Pipits and they start to look water pipitish as they moult into summer plumage!