Trip reports

RSPB Rainham Marshes (Leader Warren Mann)

RSPB Rainham Marshes (Leader Warren Mann)
Tufted Duck [Richard Hanman]

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Only five of us braved the heavy traffic and the cold winter rain. One of our number was Terry who had travelled from his new home in Ipswich to meet up with us. He sent his best wishes to all his friends at the Group. We decided that as the Visitor Centre was now open, it would be a sensible to stay there for a while and start by having a good look at the feeders and the Purfleet scrape beyond. We soon racked a good number of common garden birds on the feeders such as tits and finches, together with a reed bunting, and on the scrape there were many ducks - tufted ducks, mallards, wigeons, pintails, a few shovelers, shelduck and Canada geese, and single teal and gadwall. There were a number of lapwing, a single curlews, lesser black-backed gulls and redshanks, and the inevitable coots.

The rain had slackened somewhat, so we ventured outside and made our way to the bus stop aka the Purfleet Scrape view point. We saw more of the same, plus snipe, moorhens, black-tailed godwits, crows and golden plovers. Further down the trail we saw dunnocks, pochards, grey herons, herring and black-headed gulls, and greylag geese. We had been tipped off by a helpful volunteer that the cordite store was worth a look, but we only added robin and long-tailed tit to our list. It's an early birdwatcher that catches the worm or whatever.

We backtracked slightly so we could walk through the wet woodland and were immediately rewarded by the sight of two redwings. We then heard a drumming great-spotted woodpecker and several Cetti's warblers and saw a greenfinch and a pair of pheasants. Back on the main track by the pylons we had two sightings of a kestrel and found two barn owls in their nest box. While admiring them we also managed to see a gswp and another kestrel.

We were now walking through the reed bed on our way to the Ken Barrett Hide in the dry, and we saw little and large in the shape of a wren and mute swan. The hide yielded nothing new, but we got a good view of several teals and the sight of a crow attacking the carcase of a large bird; presumably a victim of the recent cold spell. The Northern boardwalk and the viewpoints over the Aveley Flash, in addition to views of many of the birds seen previously, gave all of us a sighting of a great-crested grebe and a common gull; two of us heard a water rail, and one of our party had a kingfisher zip across his view as he was 'scoping the far reed bed.

As we neared the Shooting Butts hide we saw our first marsh harrier of the day. There were a large number of birds in front of the hide, but unfortunately most of them were Canada geese. Looking the other way over the Target Pools also revealed large numbers of birds, but no new ones to add to our list. So we moved on and not far from the hide we had good views of a linnet and further views of marsh harriers including a nice male. Further down the track we saw meadow pipits and little egrets. We decided to go off-piste and left the reserve to go down the Thames riverside path. The tide was coming in but there was enough mud to interest a number of waders including a few avocets, and in a little creek we at last saw our first stonechat of the day.

Our little party split up, some following the siren call of the cafe, whilst an intrepid pair continued down the track in an unsuccessful attempt to locate jack snipe seen earlier in the week. Most of us reunited in the cafe, and while enjoying our mandatory coffee and cake, the ever-helpful Howard Vaughan pointed out to us that the incoming tide had pushed more birds onto the scrape including good numbers of dunlins and a single ruff. This brought up our total of birds seen and heard to a respectable 59. A very enjoyable day was had by all and we made our way back to our cars in pleasant sunshine.

Warren Mann