As I was due to return from my friends in Essex today, my friends kindly arranged to go for a walk at Rainham Marshes today, which saved me having to charge through the early morning rush-hour at the QEII Bridge.
We met at 10.00 am and headed straight for the spot where grasshopper warbler had been reported. Irene had been lucky enough to see this bird when the group visited earlier this year, so we were relying on her to help in our quest. However we didn’t need to go far down the path just outside the reserve before we could hear the distinctive “reeling” of this lovely little bird. Just to hear it was great but then it really thrilled us with good views too. Even though the wind was blowing the bush around violently the bird continued to sit up singing away and showing off for all he was worth. We watched and listened, delighted that our ears were still catching the high pitch, and eventually had to drag ourselves away but not before we had a good but rather speedy view of a sparrowhawk hunting low over the fields.
There had been reports of yellow-legged gull and with hundreds of gulls on the river, the reserve and over the nearby fields and landfill site it really was asking the impossible to track an individual bird down, we did see black-headed, herring and lesser-black-backed gull. Eventually we contented ourselves with the wildlife we could identify, and enjoyed peacock, red admiral, essex skipper and small skipper, along with occasional dragonflies and damselflies (not quite as numerous as they had been at Old Hall yesterday). We saw family groups of coot, great crested and little grebe, young blue tits, greenfinches, goldfinch, house sparrow and adult blackbird and reed warbler carrying food. A kestrel hovered near the railway line, patrolling his patch diligently.
Marsh frogs were calling, a lizard was sunning itself on one of the wooden bridges and we saw several feeding stations and latrines for water vole (although the animal itself eluded us today). A rather large thistle was later identified by the staff as a cotton thistle. We noted chicory, purple loosestrife, ladies bedstraw, several pea and vetch varieties amongst others.
A new hide has been opened recently, and although it currently has no real view, hopefully the plans to landscape the area and instal a further scrape will provide excellent viewing opportunities in the future.
Time marched on and the call of the cafe proved too much, tea and cake needed to be sampled before we embarked on the journey back to Kent in the evening rush hour.
Another great day out, well worth the £3 toll money . . . and a free hearing test thrown in what more could you ask for!