Trip reports

RSPB Rainham Marshes Saturday 12th March 2016

Saturday, 12 March 2016

RAINHAM MARSH Saturday 12TH March 2016

Before we left Two Waters our erstwhile treecreeper spotter Jane Pate notched one just 20 yards away on one of the willows by the Gade.

After a stop for breakfast at Sainsburys, next to Lakeside, we met up at the 2 storey modern centre which overlooks the whole of Rainham Marsh. I renamed it Collared Dove Central,- as even the house sparrows of which there were dozens, were outnumbered by this most attractive member of the dove family. Pairs, closely perched, festooned the bushes around the feeders and there was much gentle mutual grooming taking place.

The reserve just separated from the Thames by the sea wall is fenced off to secure the freshwater section. The circular walk at the edge of the reserve is 2 kilometres round which took us in and out of the reed beds and a small woodland area. Several explosive songs from cetti warblers were heard but not seen, apart from a pair that Jenny and Marion saw at the top of a tree just 100 yards after we left the Centre. We continued clockwise

On the first lagoon, the Purfleet scrape. several black tailed godwit flew in to join 30+ golden plover , 20+ lapwing and 30+ black headed gulls. The wigeon were numerous ,over 60, but the many other types of water birds were not present in great numbers. A canada goose, 2 little egret, 2 shelduck, a shoveler, 3 pintail, a dabchick and even the coot and moorhen were in small numbers. We progressed through the woodland area past the 'cordite store' and saw the usual suspects blackbird, blue, great and long tail tit, goldfinch, chaffinch and robin.

Then in amongst the reeds wrens called and several reed buntings clung to their swaying perches as a jay flew overhead. In the distance were some very high electric pylons, outside the reserve, and a kestrel was espied clinging diagonally to one of the top struts.

We reached the Ken Barrett hide and looked out over the Aveley pools. The number of different species increased as teal, mute swan, pochard, tufted duck, a great crested grebe , common gull and greylag were added to the list.

Out of the hide, whilst on the board walk toward the Shooting Butts hide, a raptor was perched on top of another distant electric pylon. Bigger than a peregrine falcon some of the reserve volunteers said it had been about for several weeks and was a possible escapee raptor cross.

On the Butts scrape several redshank flew in and pair of curlew called as they foraged among the marsh grass on the far side of the scrape watched by a grey heron. A skylark rose up and sang its welcome to Spring

At the shooting butts numbered 1 to 8 a short eared owl flew around the building and dropped into the reeds. It had been seen earlier perched on number 6. Also seen perched at this location was a young kestrel which eventually took flight. What a tremendous transformation had been effected on the area by the staff to change it from its old military use to a wildlife friendly reserve.

Hoping, but in vain, to see bearded tits, previously seen in the reeds by the dragonfly pool, nevertheless we were treated to some wonderful close up views of a dabchick just a few yards away in a small clump of reeds.

We then left the reserve through the one way turnstile onto the sea wall. From which we saw a cormorant over the reserve on one side and the river Thames to the south on the other. The tide was in with few mudflats populated by small numbers of wigeon, mallard and a single avocet. We returned to the Centre and spent the last half hour down at the viewpoint overlooking the Purfleet scrape again. Some of our group had seen a couple of kingfisher earlier. Two snipe, cunningly camouflaged as ever, amongst the grass, were at the waters edge, and a small flock of dunlin and 3 great black gulls were seen to add to those already observed at the beginning of our walk.

Then the most spectacular sight of the day as thousands of black headed gulls wheeled around high above the reserve. They, we understood from the RSPB volunteers, were gathering prior to their return across the North Sea back to the continent. From the same viewpoint they also pointed out 3 distant marsh harriers as 3 pheasants dropped into the scrub below us.

A final view of the house sparrows, chaffinch, starlings, goldfinch and collared dove on the feeders whilst underneath crouched a very large well fed black cat waiting for any careless avian.

No rain, plenty of blue sky and sun, and although cold, the surprising absence of wind enabled us to have a glorious day at this excellent reserve under an hour away from Hemel.

Altogether at least 63 different species had been seen by the group.

Finally many thanks to the drivers, who drove the 50 odd miles each way to the reserve. We really do appreciate you taking us for a very enjoyable day out.

Report by Alan Corner


Jane Pate, Chris and Mike Ridley, David Jones, Alan Corner, , Michael Howard, , Mike Bassett, Cliff Parslow, Patricia Harrison, Caroline Slatter, Ian Parker, Dave Jones, David Brown, Jenny Anderson, Marion Osman, Marion King, Ron King