April, 2017

Rainham Marshes

Rainham Marshes
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Rainham Marshes

  • Dawn Chorus Walks Sunday 7 May and Sunday 14 May

    Dawn Chorus Walk

    There is nothing like hearing birds in full song at this time of the morning! A guided walk with experts will help you to identify what is out there at this time of the year followed by a much needed bacon or sausage bap and a hot drink in the café (which is included in cost). 

    We should hear Cuckoos... (Les Harrison)


    ... and Blackcaps (Lee Spence)


    ...and Reed Warblers (Jono Lethbridge)

    Sunday 7 May and Sunday 14 May 4-7 am

    Price: £20 adults (£15 for RSPB members), £10 children (£7.50 for Wildlife Explorer members).

    Meet us at the visitor centre just before 4am!

    Booking is essential  - places are limited! Give us a call on 01708 899851.

    See you bright and breezy!

  • Of Mudlarks, Plastic Pollution and Helping Hands

    As many of you will know the nature of Aveley Bay means that it acts as some sort of rubbish receptacle for the River Thames as the circulating waters of the bay collect and deposit almost anything that is floating around in the Thames on our little precious piece of saltmarsh.

    Back in pre and post Victorian times it was well known as a Dead Man’s Point where anyone unlucky enough to find themselves floating face down in Old Father Thames may well wash up where the Mudlarks would scavenge for anything valuable along the tideline. This may well include a corpse or two to sell as a cadaver to medical school or such like or perhaps just a new pair of shoes. Over the last fifteen years we have had a cow and a porpoise wash up but thankfully no humans although we have wrecks of gentlemans combs, tennis balls (usually after Wimbledon!) and coconuts... oh and several messages in bottles...

    Mudlarking about...

    Things have changed somewhat but the rubbish that now arrives over a high tide is far more damaging and disturbing. It is not the huge timbers and pieces of timber that cause a problem – in fact they are undoubtedly beneficial to the ecosystem that lives on the marsh – it is the plastic which ranges in size from litter bin covers from central London, down through countless drinks bottles to bottle tops and unbelievably the little blue plastic sticks that make up cotton wool buds! Who actually flushes these down the loo??!

    This leaves us with a job on our hands and as such we hold regular events to help tidy up this human created mess.

    This was the foreshore after the high tides of January 2014...

    Last week we had a great team from HSBC come down and join our own enthusiastic Wardening work party for a few hours of collecting. In this time they collected sixty black bin bags of plastic which they put into a huge skip kindly donated by Veolia who will themselves sort through it and recycle as appropriate.

    It was a huge skip... this is only 60 bags! We filled it by the end of the week!

    There will probably be a couple of public volunteering days throughout the year for this lovely job as well as ragwort pulling out on the marsh so keep on the blog for more details!

  • Spring in My Step

    RSPB Rainham Marshes, Friday 14th to Thursday 20th April 2017:
     
    This Easter will not be remembered for the weather and although the rain largely kept at bay it was blooming freezing with a cold wind that cut to the bone when sandals and shorts had been de rigueur just a few days before hand.
    I was working throughout the four day holiday but went in early each day and managed to at least get a circuit in before work. Good Friday was a dull and cool affair when I started my clockwise circuit.  The Grasshopper Warbler that was found by Jerry Hoare the previous day was still reeling from the Southern Trail and Sedge and Reed Warblers and a couple of Whitethroats were half heartedly in song. 
     
    Sedge Warbler
     
    The Shelduck seem to be settling down into domestic life although the females did not look impressed that the males were taking them to the Blue Oyster Club on top of the MDZ...
     
    Shelduck in love

    A Wren was belting out his song from the old wall of the Rifle Butts and the male Cetti’s Warbler at the end of the Dragonfly Pool even decided that that the light was so bad it would not hurt to perch up for a little longer.
     
    Cetti's Warbler

    Rock Wren
     
    The heavy grey weather front actually started to recede as I reached the Target pool and three Willow Warblers were singing from the Sallows as I approached but they were obviously newly arrived and swiftly moved off north one by one.

    Wigeon and Pintail were still to be found out on the pool and a pair of Avocet were getting jiggy with it and starting the process of duffing up every bird in sight. The pair of Little Ringed Plovers were wisely keeping out of the way and several nesting Lapwings were sitting tight.
     
    Avocet
     
    The male Marsh Harrier was on patrol but nothing seemed to bothered by his presence and a couple of Sand Martins zipped around. The heavy front suddenly moved far enough east for the sun to appear over the top, illuminating everything in a glorious glow but even this only lasted for about forty minutes before cloud bubbled up the west and the gloom returned for the rest of the day that I was to then spend on reception.
     
    Easter Saturday was busy again with the Grasshopper still reeling away merrily but other than a few hirundines it was business as usual birdwise. I did however have a very profitable escape into the sheltered and sunny side of the car park where the scent of the Apple blossom drew me and a host of insects in and I spent a wonderful half hour tracking 13 species of hoverfly as they commuted between the soft plump Dandelions and heavenly scented Apple blooms.  Amongst them were the nationally scarce and very tiny Neoascia interrupta, my first Leucozona lucorum of the year and several Eristalinus sepulchralis with their spotty, half hairy eyes. 

     
    Eristalinus sepulchralis
    The other species were Melanostoma scalare, Platycheirus albimanus, Eupeodes luniger, Melisaeva auricollis, Episyrphus balteatus, Epistrophe eligans,Syrphus ribesii, Rhingia campestris, Eristalis arbustorum, Eristalinus sepulchralis, Helophilus pendulus.

    Rhingia campestris

    Orange Tips battled with all three Whites, Peacocks and Small Torts for the Dandelions and Bee Flies and several male Anthophora plumipes frequented the Apple along with Early, Buff and White-tailed Bumbles and several Andrena species including haemorrhoa, flavipes and probably nitida.
     
    Green-veined White
     
    Bee-fly

    Bee-fly
     

    Andrena haemorrhoa - male

    Andrena haemorrhoa - female

    Andrena nitida - I think
    Two Nomad bees were seen with numerous red flava-types and a couple of large black and yellow Gooden’s.  It was great being able to show people so much in such a tiny area and on just two species of plant!
     
    Nomada sp - most likely flava
     
    I was on site by 0630 on Easter Sunday to leisurely open the hides with a male Greenfinch greeting me as I drove in contrasting nicely with the verdant Bramble growth.  Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were singing in the Cordite and I had high hopes of a good walk.
     
    Greenfinch
     
    It was actually very quiet with a Grey Heron bogging me from the hand rail being the southern highlight.
     
    Grey Heron
     
    A pair of Pochard were back on the Dragonfly Pool and a Sedge Warbler showed very well as the light improved. A few Swallows and Sand Martins flicked over Aveley and a White Wagtail was my first of the year here but it was hard work with little warmth to encourage anything to show a bit of spring vavavoom. 
     
    Pochard
     

    The Green Woodpecker pair were still vocal and seem to have pushed the Great Spots back to Mar Dyke trees once again and the curious ‘ticking’ Chiffchaff that Max and I had last week was still calling in the Cordite Store.

     
    Green Woodpecker
     
    The rest of the day was a bit of a blur with a sum plum Golden Plover and four Whimbrel catching the eye before the build up to the Tall Ship flotilla that was heading out of the Thames from Greenwich in the evening. 
     
    Whimbrel - Tom Bell
     
    It started getting really busy at about 4pm and by the time they started to appear not long before seven there were over 300 people in our cafe and on our river wall!  The rain held off, the sun peaked through and a great time was had by all but we did not finally lock up till just before 9pm!
     

    Bank Holiday Monday was similarly bustling and my early circuit duly added Bar-tailed Godwit to my Patchwork Challenge year list as it fed in Aveley Bay while a lagging Tall Ship, the Artemis, steamed out behind it.  I found an uber-cute brood of Lapwings running around like little dinky windup toys until Mum summoned them back to her warm breast feathers and I believe five such clutches were found during the day although I suspect I was getting a bit tired by then and everything got a little blurry!

    Bar-tailed Godwit

    Artemis

    Micro Lapwings
     
    Tuesday was technically a rest day but I still ended up at work for a cup of tea at the end of the ramp in the late afternoon where I was joined by Alison Steadman and we talked about duck identification, John Cleese and Gavin and Stacey...
     
    I have always dismissed this as a non native here but now know that it is Burnet Rose... looks like a poached egg!
     
    Wednesday’s early stroll took me along the riverside from the little car park. The tide had just started to recede and a surprising selection of waders was on show with 22 Redshank, four Oystercatchers, two Curlew, two Avocet, six Dunlin, a male Ruff, 27 Black-tailed and three Bar-tailed Godwits present and frenetically feeding on the newly exposed mud.
     
    Blackwits and single Barwit

    Ruff, Avocet, Redshank and Shelduck

    Zephyr

    Gallant

    Barwit - Dante Shepherd

    Can you see the Barwit?

     
    None of the Barwits was the bird from Monday and one of them was ringed as was one of the Blackwits with several coloured leg adornments.  Rather oddly two more tall ships also past behind the godwits as I was watching them just like on Monday!
     
    A cracking Song Thrush anvil as I came through the turnstile
     
     
    A new Grasshopper Warbler sung from the Enclosed Bay and a couple of Wheatears were using the wooden detritus as look outs. The Avocets were out on the Target Pool again but were too busy giving two silvery Greenshanks grief to continue with nuptials and the Little Ringed Plovers were similarly trying to keep out of the way.. again. I could hear Water Shrews squabbling in the ditch but as usual they eluded me.

     
    Wheatear - Mark Vale
     

    Wheatear - Mark Vale

    The unexpected sunshine was a suitable backdrop to two Hobbies that were careening about on sabre wings and were obviously catching lots of aerial morsels which I suspect may have been St Mark’s Flies as there had definitely been an emergence. They were certainly giving the previously nonchalant Sand Martins to think about and one was not quick enough and was soon being plucked in mid air.
     
    A male Orange Tip somehow taken with my phone...
     
    And so to this morning... it was cold and grey once again as I headed out but the river wall was alive with warbler song including the showy Gropper which Russ Sherriff so stunningly captured.
     
    Grasshopper Warbler - Russ Sherriff

    Sedge Warbler
     
    As hoped there was a delicate Arctic Tern in the Bay and two Common Terns were loafing off the point while the exposed mud only held five Bar-tailed and no Black-tailed Godwits today. They are such smart birds in breeding plumage.
     
    Reed Bunting
     
    The Stonechat and Gropper were both singing still from the Enclosed Bay and at long last a male Cuckoo started up and joined the Arctic Tern on my Rainham yearlist. I eventually picked him up on an Elder where he sat tail waving at the world. Seven Wheatears were dotted around the RDZ and a single Willow Warbler seems to be on territory now.

    Cuckoo

    Wheatear

    Wheatear

    War Wheatear

    The rest of the circuit was fairly quiet with nothing new in but the pair of Marsh Harriers look to have chosen a nest site and I even saw them mating which is great news. He certainly seemed very pleased with himself! 

    Just the one more day at work till I escape to Lesvos, so hopefully I can find a Swift to finish up my month nicely!
    PS:   Not got much time now but we did have a good Friday today too...  Little Tern, 5 Arctic Tern, 6 Common Tern, 2ad Black Tern, 2 Knot, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Dunlin, 10 Oystercatcher, 2 Common Sandpiper, 8 Whimbrel, Curlew, Greenshank, 2 Snipe, Great Crested Grebe, 2pr Pintail, pr Bearded Tit, m+f Ruff, 2 Little Ringed Plover, 2pr Marsh Harrier, m Cuckoo, 2 Avocet, Buzzard, 3 Grasshopper Warbler, 21 Wheatear, 2m Stonechat, Yellow Wagtail, 2pr Corn Bunting m Merlin and 6ad Med Gull!!