Monday, 1 July 2013

Skimmer and Sid at RSPB Rainham

I went back to RSPB Rainham today. My last visit on the 26th June was a bit of a let down due to the weather, so today with the sun shining, I decided to have another go.
I had two targets today. I really wanted to get my first photo of the year of a dragonfly. I didn't care what variety. I've seen hundreds of damselflies, and only a few brief glimpses of dragonflies, but none that I was able to photograph. I also really hoped I would see a stoat today as well. There were some fantastic photos on the RSPB Rainham Facebook page recently of him/her scampering along a path. Some of the staff have nick-named him/her as Sid.
So with high hopes I was at Rainham by 8.30am. A quick gander along the sea wall gave me good views of Linnets, Goldfinches, House Sparrrows and some distant views of a Pipit. Once on site the first bird I came across was the resident female Kestrel. She sat and posed while four of us snapped away, until we realised she appeared to have a very sore eye.
Luckily after what seemed ages, she finally opened it. I don't know if its a sticky membrane or not. It didn't appear to bother her, she wasn't attempting to scratch it, and later in the day I saw her several times hunting over the site with the eye open, so its not affecting her hunting. In fact she kept popping up wherever I went today. It felt quite nice to be accompanied by one of my favourite birds.
On a pylon by the Marshland Discovery Zone
On the roof of the Shooting Butts Hide
I was really chuffed to see this Seven-spot ladybird with its young larvae. I found lots of larvae today, but this is the first time I've seen an adult with one. What a great comparison.
All along the reeds I could hear and see brief glimpses of Sedge and Reed warblers, Reed Buntings, and the odd tantalising glimpse of a dragonfly. Skylarks were in the air singing and 'parachuting'. Apart from the somewhat gusty wind, it was turning into a really pleasant day. I decided to head back to the cafĂ© for lunch and a coffee, before exploring the rest of the site.
Just as I stepped on the bridge by the Purfleet Hide, I saw something clamber onto the boards. Sid !!!! I know from previous experience its best to stay as still as you can if you want to photograph them. Stoats and weasels have atrocious eyesight, and rely mainly on movement and smell to catch their prey. So I stood completely still. Hence my photos are sadly looking down on Sid, I'd have much rather been down on its level. After poking its head out several times, it started making its way to the other side of the bridge, and was just about to come out on the path when I was passed by  some woman, who honestly could not have missed the fact I was taking photos, but who was obviously in too much of a rush to notice, or give a damn. Sid disappeared into the undergrowth, and although I hung around for a little while, it didn't reappear.
After lunch I checked the bridge to see if I could spot Sid but to no avail. However I will treasure those moments I had it to myself. What a little charmer, and what a shame they can be such vicious little sods when it comes to their prey ! No wonder I didn't see any Water Voles at the bridge today.
I carried on my wandering, and further along by the Reedbed classroom, I caught a glimpse of something settle on the path. A dragonfly ??? Better than that, it was a stunning Black-tailed Skimmer, my first of the year, and I think its an immature male one. Jackpot !
I could have gone home happy by this stage, but I trotted on with a sly smile on my face.
On the Northern boardwalks, I found this caterpillar. In fact I found almost twenty of them spread over the area. I don't know if they are Small Tortoiseshell or Red Admiral caterpillars, but they were very pretty and roughly the length of my little finger.
The sun had bought the lizards out too, the first I've managed to photograph this year.
The one below appears to be pregnant, though I was told by an expert a couple of years ago, that lizards will puff out like this and flatten out their body to get the heat from the surface, but it sure looks pregnant to me.
So I ended up having a really good day. I got my two targets and caught the sun as well. The only frustrating thing was it was quite windy, so trying to get photos of the Sedge warblers and any other dragonflies was near on impossible. Here are pics of the best of the rest.....
male Reed Bunting
Reed Warbler
Small Skipper
Small Tortoiseshell


  1. What a great day. Love the Stoat images!

  2. Wendy.. what a fantastic day you had... and great pics of some pretty smart subjects... that Sid looks a cheeky chappie - he's got character and you captured that in his pictures.

    Great read as usual!

  3. love sid the stoat and the lizards!!

  4. Lovely blog Wendy, Sid Vicious, aptly named eh?!

  5. Friends of Lake Farm meet from 7.30pm Thursday 25th July at premises west side of the Gurdwara (Sikh Temple),Golden Crescent, Hayes. Only just now read your blogs and, therefore understand that it is short notice - but anyone is invited. I will draw attention to your concerns about the hedgerow/nests (15 June blog)and ground nesting birds disturbance. The status of nature conservation leaves a lot to be desired, too much to explain here. Next meeting on 17th October -open to all - will discuss Park's Management Plan.Email me for agendas/minutes.Interested in Tony's blog Winging It, particularly where it says that Skylarks have history of breeding at Lake Farm. Since the park's foundation in 2002 we have understood that Skylarks visited but did not breed here (unlike at Minet Country Park). The more information on this the better informed we can be in protecting the habitats.Do get in touch (or send emails to John McDonnell MP, our chair). We feel the loss of Peter Naylor who made the regular bird surveys that were published in the Management Plan.
    Regards, Robin Brown, Secretary to the Friends of Lake Farm country Park (and for Minet CP).