A large group of 26 keen birdwatchers met in the carpark at Riverside Country Park, Rainham. Although it was sunny, a really cold wind swept away any warmth. Clearly the song birds didn’t like it too much either and they kept a very low profile. We did manage to hear and see blackcap, chiffchaff and wren – the latter doesn’t seem to care what the weather is like and they were shouting out their song at full volume. Perhaps it helps to keep them warm! The tide was out, leaving the saltmarsh and mudflats exposed and we saw a good range of waders and wildfowl. One or possibly two whimbrel caught our attention – these are passage migrants and will be gone in a few days. Likewise, the greenshank that we saw was just stopping off to refuel as it journeys north. 50+ brent geese were still feeding offshore but any day now they too will leave to find breeding sites much further north. In contrast the black headed gulls and (4) mediterranean gulls that we saw are local breeding birds.
But where were all the Spring migrants that we hoped to see and hear? One swallow, a few notes from a whitethroat, and not a peep from a nightingale. And then ….. we spotted a turtle dove sitting out in the “sunshine”. True – it did look a bit cold and neither did it “purrrrr” (perhaps it was female), but a very welcome sighting nevertheless. Let’s hope that lots more arrive in the country and that they have a good breeding season. They need it. Turtle doves are still being shot on passage and their population decline continues. Come along to the next group indoor meeting in May (details in our programme) to find out how the RSPB and others are trying to change the fortunes of this wonderful bird.
One other highlight of the day was Trevor searching for and finding two adders basking in the lee of a bush. A male and a female “entwined” – and therefore distracted enough to allow us good views. Thanks Trevor!
A sharp shower of sleet and hail “enhanced” our walk back to the visitor centre. Quite a nice morning really!
Thanks to Steve for the photographs