As I had been with friends in Essex, my Wednesday walking friends kindly suggested that we met at Rainham, thus saving me the early morning Dartford crossing experience!
We met around 10.00 am and once again layers were the order of the day as it was a bitterly cold day. A pied wagtail met us in the car park. After we had checked in we moved off to do our usual anti-clockwise circuit, stopping at the feeders where there were 8 collared dove on the ground, numerous chaffinch, greenfinch and house sparrow enjoying the peanuts and seeds.
Pintail and cormorant flew from the river onto the scrape to join teal and wigeon. A stock dove sat hunched against the wind on a nearby muddy island. Reed bunting and more chaffinch fed along the side of the boardwalk. From the hide we could see coot, moorhen, lapwing, pochard, tufted duck, gadwall and starling which were joined by herring gull, black-headed gull, common gull and greater black-backed gull. Greylag and canada geese were at the far side of the pool and two grey heron stood completely motionless in the reeds – just their heads showing. A snipe was pointed out to us by another birdwatcher, hard to see and deep in the bank – a good spot by the gentleman.
As it was nearly lunch time we decided to return to the visitor centre, have some lunch, warm up and then to the second half of the reserve.
The southern path took us past an area where bearded tit had been showing well over the last few days – until we got there of course! We blame Steve and Angela . . . .
We walked briskly to warm up and get us to the far hide as quickly as possible. An Iceland gull had been reported. When we arrived, the gull was pointed out to us – thankfully, as it was almost impossible to see. As I watched with the telescope I saw the all-white gull, with no black on the wing tips. It moved to a slightly worse position, but as it did so the whole bird was visible for just a few seconds. Another gull moved in front of it and our chance was gone. Only the head was visible – it could have been almost anything.
Mute swan and little egret were seen from here along with a huge number of gulls, some were slipping and sliding on the frozen pool, their legs reflecting in the sunshine.
We returned via the ‘bearded tit’ area and although we saw a beautiful stonechat there was nothing else braving the icy wind.
Along the seawall, we found a rock pipit picking about in the rocks in typical style. More shelduck were on the nearby bay, with black-tailed godwit, dunlin and redshank feeding on the receding tide.
A juvenile gannet had been reported, along with a little gull but both eluded us on this occasion.