Thursday, 17 July 2014

Rainham Marshes in Mid-summer

2nd July 2014

Another visit to Rainham Marshes on a lovely sunny day in the hope of getting some photos of Water Voles or Bearded Tits. A few yards along the clock-wise route brought me to the bridge over the stream just before the Purfleet Hide, where I had been advised that Water Voles had be seen regularly over the past few days. I settled down for what could be a long wait with only a singing Reed Warbler to keep me company. Although it was clearly unconcerned by my presence, it remained tantalisingly behind a few Phragmites stems so it was not possible to get a shot in the open, but mustn't complain.

At that point I could hear some movement in the reeds just below the bridge and I could just about make out a Water Vole well hidden in the reeds. It was feeding on some stems and therefore was in no hurry to come out so I had to be content with just a beady eye peering at me. Eventually it did move further back into the reeds only to break cover further downstream.

A little further along the stream my attention was drawn to a pair of Little Grebes that were feeding their young. The male was very active bringing food to the chicks including some very large dragonfly larvae, but the female stayed well inside the reeds with her young on her back. During all this activity yet another Reed Warbler and Water Vole were on show.

Moving on to the dragonfly pools I came across another pair of Little Grebes with young, although this time the young were much larger and quite confiding. Also sunning itself on the boardwalk was this male Black-tailed Skimmer

I was now approaching the Butts Hide, an area of grassland which turned out to be insect city. Skippers were making the most of the flowers of Creeping Thistle like this Small Skipper. However, I was particularly pleased a shot of a second skipper because when I got it home I could see by the black ink dots on the underside of the antennae that this was an Essex Skipper. There was also a Meadow Brown.

Also feeding on the Creeping Thistles was this rather attractive micro moth which turns out to be Sitochroa verticalis. This is a resident in the south of the country, but can sometimes be increased by migrants. Also on the thistles were a number of Soldier Beetles and Thick-legged Flower Beetles.

Dragonflies were relatively few and far between but that was more than made up for by this cracking male Ruddy Darter with it crimson abdomen and jet-black legs.

And finally on to the cordite stores to see if I could add to my hoverfly list. There was certainly a good number nectaring on the brambles, but most were readily recognisable as the more common species. Then, just as I was about to call it a day I found this stripey individual nectaring on Hogweed, which I have subsequently identified as Cheilosia illustrata, a new species for me and now number nine on my list of species.

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