Trip Report Rainham Marshes RSBP 14th April

On a fine spring day twenty of us set out to explore the delights of this flagship RSPB reserve.

On leaving the visitor centre we stopped to listen to Cetti’s warbler singing loudly close by and also heard a lesser whitethroat.  Both were elusive although some members of the group did get sightings.  We were denied the usual variety of tits and finches that we have enjoyed previously as the feeders are not in use due them attracting rats.   

Further on where the path forks at the viewpoint overlooking the pools good views were had of a pair of little ringed plover and a common snipe showing in full sun.  Lapwing were doing aerobatics and making their characteristic calls and we had good views of shoveler, tufted duck, pochard, gadwall and great crested grebe, including a nesting pair.

We continued north on the eastern edge of the reserve along the short boardwalk and Malcolm spotted a pair of common redshank displaying.  This path led to the woods where the trees are covered in new leaves and many covered with blossom – it was commented that this seems very early!  Chiffchaff were in full song and several were seen.  We had good views of a long-tailed tit, that we think was nesting nearby, and heard regular calls from Cetti’s warbler.  Closer to the ground there were large numbers of shield bugs closely accompanied by medium sized spiders, although the bugs didn’t seem bothered and the spiders didn’t seem to be hunting so one wonders why they were so close together?   

Speckled wood © Jim & Claire

The Cordite Store was our next stop.  The vegetation has been heavily cut back and many of the large bushes that usually host lots of butterflies are no longer there, however, thanks to those in the group with keen eyesight we did see a good range of butterflies including speckled wood, peacock, small white and orange tip, and a solitary large red damselfly.

We continued through the woodland where a wood warbler had been seen the previous day, but, it seems it had moved on.  

Large red damselfly © Jim & Claire

The path then turns left to follow the northern boundary and it was disappointing to see that the boardwalks that are along this whole side of the reserve are still closed off.  On a more positive note we heard several sedge warblers and managed excellent views, thanks to Hazel’s telescope.  Reed warblers were not quite so obliging as although we could hear them they weren’t seen. A bonus was a bearded tit seen flying in by Sally and, not to be outdone, Malcolm spotted a grey heron flying through.

Reaching the north west corner of the reserve we paused to listen for grasshopper warbler that had been reported and to try for views of bearded tit, however, as it was nearing lunchtime the groups commitment to the task was flagging!

Lunch was taken in the Shooting Butts hide where marsh harrier were seen at a distance and we then continued south past the reed beds where many in the group had fleeting glimpses of bearded tit and common whitethroat were sitting up singing loudly throughout.

Having arrived at the Southern edge of the reserve we followed the path back towards the visitor centre stopping at the Marshland Discovery Zone which is set up to view Kingfisher.   This was very popular and as we were a large group we didn’t stay long.  However, Hazel noticed that the sun had a large ‘halo’ around it – a very unusual effect.  It seems that this is caused by ice crystals high up in the atmosphere, truly a really unusual sight.  Also from the boardwalk we had views of a kestrel and water vole, which Norman was able to photograph.  Several little grebe were calling along this stretch and seemed really close and we were serenaded throughout by plentiful marsh frogs!

As we neared Purfleet Hide we became aware that there were reports of grasshopper warbler being heard and Sue kindly offered to find out details from the Visitor Centre.  It seemed the bird was along the Thames footpath near the area known as the Serin Mound.  (Where Serin was seen several years ago). There then followed a debate – do we want to walk all that way on the off-chance given that it is late in the day and we are tired (oh and the Visitor Centre loos are in the opposite direction)!!  The quandary was resolved when it was realised we could drive to a small car park close by Serin Mound. So, leaving a few to enjoy a well-earned cup of tea most of the Group headed off.

It’s at this point in a trip report that there should be a build-up to a high point.

It is true that the views from Serin Hill were excellent – many avocet feeding, lapwing displaying, a common buzzard posing on a post, common whitethroat posing, wrens singing etc.  You can probably guess what comes next – nothing was heard from the Grasshopper Warbler – still there’s another day! As a group a total of 51 species were seen & heard.

Thanks to all who joined us for an excellent day and to Steve for his excellent photographs.  

Claire & Jim

Sun aura © Jim & Claire

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