Unfrogettable Day at Rainham Marshes

High summer is here and it has been a while since I ventured out for some birding. With yesterday being forecast as the better day of the weekend for some outdoor activity I decided to make only my second visit to RSPB Rainham Marshes.

It is an excellent reserve, located on the eastern edge of London close to the Thames estuary and despite this being something of a dry season for birds I managed to fill in five and a bit hours without even noticing the time go by.

Rainham is definitely a scope friendly reserve and fortunately I had decided to bring along my long range viewing gear. It paid off within a few minutes of arriving. My first scans of the Purfleet Scrape revealed Little Egret, Black-tailed Godwit in good numbers, a Garganey, Green Sandpiper, Snipe and hunting overhead were both Kestrel and Hobby.

A little more camera friendly were some non-feathered creatures. This Holly Blue butterfly for example.

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The area around the Woodland Classroom saw a Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff active among the trees. Active enough to elude the camera especially!

It was on my way to the Ken Barrett Hide that more non-avian wildlife availed itself of my lens. The green water here was full of movement and bubbles and a quick look revealed the reason why.

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I believe this is a Marsh Frog. They were certainly in great abundance in and around the water at Rainham Marshes.

I then spent some time in the Ken Barrett Hide watching Hobby diving and zipping across while a single Kestrel repeatedly hovered, scanning the grassland for prey.

The Northern Boardwalk brought more non-feathery wildlife to observe. This Harmonia axyridis larvae caught my eye as it crawled along the wooden planks, it’s bright orange markings making it stand out quite vividly.

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I believe this will eventually grow into a Harelquin ladybird, at least if it is not predated by any of the multitude of potential predators lurking around Rainham.

Somewhat larger and far bolder and unafraid of my presence was this cheeky Water Vole.

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We shared a staring contest of a fair few minutes, which this fearless rodent won with ease. The Marsh Harrier flying overhead was by no means a factor in me losing this eye-to-eye challenge.

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A very obliging subject indeed! Lurking just by the Water Vole were plenty more Marsh Frogs, most of them barely moving as they sat in the water or fastened themselves to the flora.

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Finally at last, some bird life within range of my camera. I had the Purfleet Hide all to myself around lunchtime and a single Black-tailed Godwit was busy feeding in the water in front of the hide. Although it was a study in perpetual motion I managed to get a few half decent captures of a bird I had previously only been able to view at long distance both at Rainham and Otmoor.

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With a fairly strong wind blowing the greenery in front of the hide constantly across my line of sight and the constant ducking of the Godwits head in a never-ending search for food I must have reeled off over a hundred pics of this large wader. They are lovely birds though especially in their orangey-brown breeding plumage.

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I was on a roll with avian action now as this juvenile Little Grebe briefly paddled into view as I was making my way back to the Visitor Centre.

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As with all Little Grebe’s there was no willingness to remain still and pose for me as it was constantly diving down and reappearing. It was only by following the very visible trail of bubbles it sent to the surface that I was able to predict where it would show next.

And where would a day to a reserve containing any kind of wetland habitat be without old faithful putting in an appearance for the camera? Grey Herons seem to be utterly oblivious to anything except what they have their eye’s on. Perfect photo material, they hunt with great patience, happy to freeze for a considerable time before making a move. It wouldn’t be a blog entry without a Grey Heron pic.

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Seeing as today was far more than just a day of birds, my last picture for this entry will be this Field Grasshopper.

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Whilst a lot of today’s bird life was at a distance, the abundance of wildlife at Rainham Marshes meant that my five hour visit was spent enjoying a wide range of interesting and diverse species.

The reserve was full of friendly staff and fellow visitors and I can recommend the sausage sandwiches and home made cakes in the cafe. These alone are good enough reason to consider a return sooner rather than later!

Please click on the pics for a larger, clearer image. Full size versions will appear on our Flickr page soon.

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