Trip reports

Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve (Leader Warren Mann)

Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve (Leader Warren Mann)
Long-tailed Tit (Richard Hanman)

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Five of us braved the crossing to the dark side and were rewarded by relatively light traffic and a warm sunny morning. The good weather, contrary to the forecasts of potential downpours, persisted throughout our walk.

Howard Vaughan, an old friend of Medway group, was expecting us and he kindly outlined what was about and where we might find it. Sadly that did not include the golden oriole that he had found just a few days before, nor did he think we would see any of the grasshopper warblers known to be present as we were there too early in the day and at the wrong time of year. Not disheartened we started our leisurely stroll around the reserve.

We soon picked up a number of the more common birds around the feeders, such as robin, house sparrow, greenfinch and goldfinch. We surveyed the Purfleet scrape and saw shelduck, lapwing, redshank, coot, moorhen, mute swan and little egret. As we moved to the viewing screen we heard the first of many Cetti's warblers, and we saw swallow and swift, plus an obliging whitethroat, which after its display flight posed for all of us on the top of some tall vegetation. Yeuk found a distant reed warbler and we all had excellent telescope views. At the screen we added Canada goose to our list and saw further greylags.

We then moved on through the scrub and had excellent views of a wren which had been pointed out to us by one of the helpful volunteers. We all heard several chiffchaffs but only Adrian was persistent enough to actually see one. We saw the three common tits, heard a sedge warbler and also heard and saw the first of a number of very showy male reed buntings.

At the Ken Barrett hide we saw a grey heron, but round the corner on the Northern boardwalk we had better views of the Aveley flash and saw both little and great crested grebes, cormorant, shoveler, pochard and tufted duck. We also saw a lesser black-backed gull to add to the black-headed gulls we had seen earlier in the day over the Thames. As we made our way along the boardwalk and through the reed bed we saw a sedge warbler, several more reed buntings and heard more Cetti's. Elizabeth then thought she had glimpsed one of the elusive little blighters, and not a minute later we were all rewarded by a Cetti's flying up from the reed bed, perching up on the top of a reed before giving us its song at full blast and, shortly after, disappearing into the reeds again. It was visible long enough to be appreciated by us all, but not long enough for me to take a photo.

As we approached the Shooting Butts Hide we saw a hovering kestrel, our first raptor of the day. In the hide we added two very distant marsh harriers. This was our only new bird but we were treated to a chorus by the many marsh frogs and saw several good-sized family groups of greylag and Canada geese; in both cases the goslings were quite hefty - a technical term meaning they were becoming quite mature.

As we made our way along the boardwalk a friendly bird watcher pointed out the nest of a little grebe not two metres from the path, and we had good views of both mother and chicks. We popped into the Marshland Discovery Zone, but all we saw was the perch the kingfishers had been using when nesting in the sand bank a month or two previously. Howard was right and we did not see or hear the "groppers". In fact we added just pheasant and skylark (both just heard) as we returned to the Visitor Centre only four hours after we started our circuit, having seen or heard 47 species. We had a very pleasant walk in warm sunshine, but were in very definite need of a sit down and nice cup of coffee in the cafe and in George's case, a cake as well. The highlight of our walk was the clear, but all too brief view of the Cetti's warbler.

Warren Mann