I made three very un-Wendy-like mistakes today. I forgot my hat. I forgot my gloves. And I forgot my painkillers. By lunchtime I was ready to come home, I was cold and my back hurt because I was trying to correct my posture for my bad shoulder, but that didn't stop me enjoying my brief few hours at Rainham.
The signs were looking good whilst I was waiting at Barking train station. A calling Grey Wagtail landed just in front of me, and luckily my camera was all ready to fire.
I was on the river wall by 8.30am. Reports had come in yesterday of a Northern Wheatear being spotted. I couldn't locate it though, and all I saw were gulls, a Great Crested Grebe, Shelducks, Redshanks, Reed Buntings, Magpies, House Sparrows and Crows. Several Lapwings, Mute Swans and Wigeon flew over.
The kind guys at the centre let me on site early. Maybe my windswept frozen look tugged at their conscience. The feeders by the centre were busy with Goldfinches, Greenfinches and more House Sparrows.
My first port of call was the MDZ hide, to warm up and look for the resident Kingfishers. The hide window is screened off with camouflage netting so the Kingfishers, which were yesterday excavating a hole in the bank on the left, wouldn't be disturbed by us human beans staring through the glass at them. You can see through some of the netting though, but the problem for me is the seating in there has no back to it, so I spent most of my time slouched forward, which my shoulder did not thank me for.
I waited for an hour and the only bird I saw was a Little Grebe.
From the Shooting Butts Hide I had distant views of two Buzzards, and then a Marsh Harrier came along. I hoped and prayed it would come nearer but it didn't so you'll have to make do with my dreadful photo below.
The object in front of the second pylon from the left, is a Marsh Harrier.......honestly.
Making my way back to the centre for some lunch, the loudest noise I could hear were Little Grebes 'trilling'. There were loads of them. I also heard a couple of Cetti Warblers singing and a few calling Wrens. Birds that could be seen included Little Egrets, Lapwings, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Reed Buntings, very vocal Redshanks, Skylarks galore, Grey Heron, Carrion Crows, Black-headed Gulls, Herring Gull, Mute Swans, Wigeons, Shelduck, Shovellers, Mallards and the usual under-stated Moorhens and Coots.
I also heard a solitary frog calling. I couldn't locate it but as I hit the boardwalk bridge I found not one frog, but twelve, all sunbathing.
Below is my worst photo of the day. I was so busy focusing on the two front frogs, that I missed the shot of the day on the frog at the back yawning.
After a spot of lunch and a very much needed coffee I headed round to the woodland feeders. By this time my shoulder and back were really protesting so I didn't stay for too long. However I did manage to photograph both female and male Greenfinches, my first of the year. Also seen on the feeders were the usual Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinches and a male Reed Bunting.
All through the woodland the air was alive with calling Chiffchaffs. I spotted at least five birds but couldn't photograph them for various reasons. At least one had a very yellow-white belly, a more strikingly yellow eye stripe and a paler bill than the others. Possible Iberian ? Could be. There are reports of them popping up from the south coast right up to the borders of Middlesex at the moment. The song appeared to be softer and quicker than the Common Chiffchaff.
So a very pleasant few hours spent at one of the best RSPB reserves in the south of England. As always the staff there were fantastic, the food delicious and the birds were great. If only I hadn't left my hat, gloves and painkillers at home, I would have stayed until closing.