A dozen of us joined Malcolm and Sally for the last of their Tuesday morning walks of the summer. Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve was today’s destination, and what a great day we had!
The weather was warm and sunny and although a large group of mothers and toddlers arrived at around the same time we were soon on our way around the reserve in more peaceful manner.
Having read recently that a survey has been done of Harbour and Grey Seals in the lower Thames Estuary, it was good to see several Harbour Seals hauled up on the Dartford side of the River.
On the reserve itself there were several Little Grebe with juveniles, young Moorhen and Coot, a fledgling Reed Bunting, flocks of House Sparrow with young birds begging from their parents, young Bearded Tit feeding on seeds in the reedbeds – all signs of successful fledging. A group of over 30 Goldfinch with many young birds included, were flying between the larger shrubs along the side of the path.
A Grey Heron was standing with its wings outstretched, presumably enjoying the warm summer sun, but it made a strange sight – we had never seen one stand quite in this way before. Later in the day it was spotted almost lying down on the ground with some Canada Geese and apparently mimicing their position.
I spotted three Hobby flying over one of the scrapes on the far side of the reserve, and as they moved nearer to us we could see them catching dragonflies and eating on the wing. It was a great day for Hawkers with Migrant and Brown Hawker seen in large numbers, and Common Darter were also quite numerous. Butterflies noted were Large White, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Common Blue, Clouded Yellow. Other species which added to the day were Water Vole and Marsh Frog, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Black-tailed Godwit, Shoveler, Pochard, Mallard and Teal.
Now apart from the obvious highlights there was one which I hadn’t anticipated.
We met up with two young lads – probably mid-teens. One had been interested in birds for a couple of years, the other was on his first day out. They had made the trip on public transport from Brixton to Rainham – for the more experienced lad it was his second trip in a few days – he had seen the Wood Sandpiper on his last trip and promised to show it to us! They then joined us for the majority of our walk, and their pleasure and enthusiasm was great to see. The Hobby were firsts for them, and they thought watching the dragonflies dicing with death nearby were “awesome”. We also saw a rather badly moulted Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk, and both were met with equal joy. Their interest in all we saw was a delight, and as we walked along, it was great to chat to such eloquent and enthusiastic youngsters – it made me realise that there is hope for the future with some people. After discussing options for their future birding ventures, they departed – they had of course shown us where the Wood Sandpiper was, with a Ruff nearby.
The old Pollyanna saying “it makes my heart glad” was ringing in my ears for the rest of the day.