Our trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB this weekend was well attended with the reserve busy with birders coming to see the ‘lost’ Razorbill as well as many families enjoying the reserve.
Suffice to say our group did not see the Razorbill – we thinked it slipped off into one of the many channels while we were in the Ken Barrett hide however we saw much to make this a rewarding trip.
Our initial progress was slow as we took in the many birds just in front of the visitor’s centre including some splendid close and lingering views of a Cetti’s warbler: how often have we heard this bird but not seen it? Today we had long views and witnessed first hand its behaviour of singing from one bush then flying low to another to give another burst of song.
Looking out over the scrape we picked out many duck and wader species – by the end of the day we had: mallard, shelduck, tufted, pochard, teal, wigeon, pintail, shoveler, gadwall, great-crested grebe, little grebe, canada and greylag geese, curlew, whimbrel, redshank, snipe, little egret & grey heron.
Moving through the wooded part of the reserve we heard and saw many woodland songsters including blackcap, wren, goldfinch, greenfinch, chaffinch, linnet, great, blue and long-tailed tits, reed bunting, dunnock, house sparrow, starling and chiff-chaff. Also seen were coma, peacock and small tortoiseshell butterflies enjoying the early spring sun. Looking back towards the woodland we saw the barn owl dozing in his box. However, the odd snatch from bearded reedlings suggested they knew the weather was turning, as the wind increased and the temperature started to drop. (This was one of those days when judging the weather from the car park gave a false impression and by the time we reached the far Shooting Butts hide my decision to leave my coat in the boot did not seem such a good idea).
From here we saw, what for many was our first swallow of the season, together will good views of kestrel and more distant views of marsh harrier and buzzard. We headed back towards visitor centre, picking up skylark and pied wagtail and stopping off at the Marshland hide. Here the observation window has been screened with camouflage netting as a pair of kingfishers are nesting just outside. We were treated to some lovely views of the female kingfisher sitting on a nearby strategically placed post – well done to the reserve team to setting up this hide. It was also great to see that the reserve and hides were all fully accessible to wheelchair users.
At this point the wind was beginning to bite so we retreated to the visitor centre for some warm refreshments. Once suitably revitalised we made one final sortie along the sea wall. You may be aware that short eared owls have been seen here since the winter and you may also know that despite several visits I have managed to miss them! It looked like I was going to jinx the group’s trip as we neared the end and the wind was beginning to win the argument that we should turn back, when when of our group shouted “short-eared owl” and two magnificent owls flew up from the shoreline – as you can see from Ian’s photo – we got some splendid views.
So a great finish to day out on Rainham Marshes – our species count was approximately 50 but it was the quality of our experiences today that will stay with us.