Our last outing of the year was to be at Rainham Marshes in Essex. The day dawned grey and wet and did not look promising. However, ever the optimist, I believed the weather man who said it would improve as the day wore on, and consequently we set off to make the most of it. On arrival we met up with others from the Gravesend RSPB group and proceeded to go round the reserve.
Not only did the weather improve considerably but we also saw some great birds. Dunnocks greeted us in the car park along with the robins and collared doves. Looking out of the centre over the feeders several goldfinch, great tit and chaffinch were busy feeding. The first pools held lots of wildfowl. Teal, wigeon, gadwall, mallard along with a solitary grey heron. Moving through the wooded area we had blue tit, wren, long tailed tit, song thrush and, for some of us, a brief sighting of a female bullfinch. Cetti’s warblers were to be heard but not seen as usual and a hoped for sighting of a Dartford warbler eluded us. We added more ducks to our list at lunch time along with some well camouflaged snipe before then setting off to the new large hide. From here we could see large numbers of lapwing mixed with golden plover and dunlin feeding and preening on the flooded fields. When they all rose in the air we knew something had to be on the hunt and true enough two marsh harriers were seen above.
By now the sun was trying to come out and we had our first great sighting of short-eared owl flying along the sea wall. The second was to be shortly after when one of the group spotted it land in some rough grass off to the left of the path.
It stayed there for some considerable time and we were able to keep viewing it as we walked along round the reserve. A few stonechats were evident on fences and posts and also we added curlew and black-tailed godwit at the last hide.
With a total count of 52 birds for the day I think it was well worth making the effort.
Thanks to Terry for the photograph of the short eared owl and Steve for the photographs of the flocks of lapwing, golden plover and dunlin.