Eight of us met up at Rainham for this Sunday’s walk, ably led by Sue and Ian. The weather was cloudy but warm, and the car park was busy with visitors. On our way through the visitor centre we delivered the latest batch of used stamps for the Save the Albatross Fund. Don’t forget to save your used stamps – but please do not trim them, our expert volunteer will ensure they are trimmed and sorted correctly to make most value from your donations!
We were soon off to find some birds and on the pools ahead were little egret, wigeon and a large group of greylag geese. Rooks and crows were studied as there had been reports of a couple of ravens on the reserve in the previous few days, but they eluded us on this occasion. From the scrub behind us a Cetti’s warbler treated us to its full song, a real delight after a few months of absence.
Along the edge of the path we noted the bright blue of chicory flowers, which then prompted some of the group to reminisce about Camp Coffee! Meanwhile back with the avian specialists we were adding moorhen, magpie, teal and chiffchaff (another species starting to exercise its vocal chords again). In the old Cordite Store we found more chiffchaff and a great spotted woodpecker, which gave us the opportunity to set up the telescope and get great views. Some noted long-tailed tits here, whilst others watched low swooping swallows and sand martins. Migrant hawker dragonflies were out in numbers, enjoying the warm weather and the shelter of the paths.
The distinctive sound of ring-necked parakeet rang out and we did see a pair of them on several occasions throughout the day. Blue tit, crow and cormorant were our next sightings as we continued along the boardwalk.
Some of us had already made the acquaintance of our next challenge – to spot a barn owl in its nest box. In the spring before the trees were in leaf, friends and I struggled to locate the box, but finally found it and the distinctive head of its occupant just peeking out! At this time of year it was even harder with the heavily laden boughs drooping across the box, but with some helpful fellow bird watchers who had a telescope trained on the spot, everyone finally had a view. Marsh frog were calling intermittently and were found dotted around the reserve in the ditches and quieter pools. As we moved along the path we also found three spider species; a superb wasp spider, several garden spiders and a rather smart individual with white “eyes” on the back – good spot Sally – which goes by the scientific name of Araneus quadratus or four spot orb weaver.
Several grey heron were spotted around the reserve, some obviously juveniles with their plumage still developing. Mallard, little grebe, a couple of pochard, lapwing, gadwall and snipe were soon found by Ian and seen in the telescope. Shoveler, shelduck, coot and mute swan completed our selection of water birds, whilst hobby and kestrel gave us some interesting identification issues.
Just as Sally commented on the lack of gulls, several of the black-headed variety landed at the far side of the pool in front of us – how often does Sally do that?! Around the reed beds we finally caught up with a very smart reed bunting in beautiful chestnut plumage which contrasted against the pale reed stalks but matched the reed mace heads giving it surprisingly good camouflage.
We also found a sedge warbler in the same area where the protection of the reeds around a small pool provided a great habitat for them to feed up safely. Goldfinch were heard around the second half of our walk and up to 35 were seen in one flock.
After lunch – where we found a couple of chiffchaff feeding in a hawthorn nearby – several of us stayed on to wander along the sea wall and look for roosting birds along the side of the river, it being high tide. Lesser and greater black-backed, herring and more black-headed gulls were seen along with several mallard. Back at the centre collared dove, large numbers of house sparrow and starling were feeding.
Thanks to those who attended, but especially Sue and Ian for leading, and providing us with a couple of anagrams – late and pines – answers on a postcard . . . . . . . .