Its been a while since I visited Rainham Marsh and so I set off accompanied by it's namesake William Marsh. Bill had been hopeful of seeing 25 species, but I upped the ante to 60 species to give us a challenge.
One of the reasons for wanting to go to Rainham was that there had been a lot of Rock Pipits on the foreshore, so that was the main quarry for the day. Instead of entering the reserve on our arrival, we kept to the Thames wall and scanned the salt marsh. There were about 12 pipits around of which perhaps as many as eight were Rocks, but they were difficult to see, because as soon as they landed they were obscured by the vegetation. However, after a while I managed to get a couple towards the western end where there is more mud and was able to get a couple of shots. Not brilliant but I'll be back.
We then entered the reserve and made our way in an anti-clockwise direction past the cordite stores, through the willow carr on the boardwalk to the first feeding station. A few Reed Buntings and Greenfinches were the order of the day but I could not resist a shot of a loving pair of Collared Doves enjoying the weak winter sun.
The rest of the circuit was fairly quiet and it wasn't until we got back to the new hide overlooking Purfleet Scrape that things perked up. The advantage of this hide is that the water is only a few feet away from the hide and therefore any birds that venture close are eminently photographable. Unfortunately, up to now and presumably because the hide was new, I have never seen any birds remotely close but today was an exception. For there, right in front of the hide was a superb male Wigeon grazing on the grass. What a fantastic subtle colouration these birds have.
But for me the most memorable birds of the day were a pair of fantastic Pintail, probably my favourite duck, both of which came reasonably close with the female even leaving the water to graze on the grass alongside the Wigeon right in front of the hide.
So what was the species tally for the day? Well, due to the high water levels which reduced the number of waders present and the inexplicable lack of Peregrines and harriers we only managed 51, well short of our target, but a great day nevertheless.
For better reproduction of my photos, see my photo gallery at flickr.com/photos/seymourbirdies