Trip reports

RSPB Rainham Marshes, Essex.

RSPB Rainham Marshes, Essex.
Shoveler - Reg Cox

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Only 21 people braved the cold weather to this very good reserve on the banks of the River Thames. On arrival the sun was shining brightly and the temperature was around 2C, but with an easterly wind, it felt like -2C.

There was a good selection of wildfowl and in the bright sunlight they looked brilliant in their fresh breeding plumage, particularly teal, pintail, shoveler and wigeon. Small flocks of lapwings, golden plovers and dunlins were present and when these took to the air their twisting and turning was a wonderful sight. On the scrapes, the only other waders we managed to find were just three ruffs and a couple of curlews. A pair of displaying great crested grebes caught our attention as they came together lifting their heads and rising up out of the water.

To the far side of the reserve two marsh harriers hunted over the reed beds and we saw a kestrel hovering but apart from that we found no other raptors. In the past this reserve has always given us at least one peregrine sighting but unfortunately not today. A barn owl had been seen by a member of the public but sadly not by the group.

In the scrub and willow surrounding the reserve, along with lots of the more common birds, we found redwings, reed buntings and a pair of stonechats, and heard a green woodpecker and a Cetti's warbler.

After having lunch in a draughty hide we left the reserve to look out over the muddy shore of the Thames, which was now at low tide. Here we found 21 avocets just loafing on the edge of the water; most just standing on one leg! Several common redshanks were dashing about and a group of about 12 black-tailed godwits were busy feeding in a muddy creek. A couple of common gulls were also among the herring and black-backed gulls. Nice to see, albeit briefly, was a rock pipit along with a meadow pipit.

The warmth of the visitor centre was a most welcome retreat with hot tea and snacks before a final hour spent overlooking a nearby scrape. This pleasant bright chilly day produced no rarities but we did see around 52 bird species.

Reg Cox.