Sunday, 20 August 2017

Biodiversity at Rainham Marshes

11th August 2017

We arrived at the visitor centre at 9.00am, half an hour before the ceremonial raising of the drawbidge, so time for a stroll along the river wall. We were met with an absolute barrage of House Sparrows, totally several hundred, which filled every bush and bramble on our journey.

Also along the wall was a small party of Linnets enjoying the new seed crop, and a Phylloscopus warbler flitting in and out of the Hawthorns which turned out to be a Willow Warbler.

Now on to the reserve which was alive with butterflies including Brown Argus, Gatekeeper, Small White and Speckled Wood.

Not to be left out of the photo opportunities a pair of Common Darters were mating next to the path.

A quick visit to the Ken Barrett Hide revealed that the previously muddy scrape was now a sea of fresh vegetation including several plants of Flowering Rush. Now I know that Flowering Rush is an invasive plant, especially at Rainham Marshes, but it is still one of my favourite aquatic plants.

One of the specialities at Rainham at this time of year is the hoverfly Volucella zonaria, the Hornet mimic. This is the largest of our hoverflies and usually quite appraochable when it is nectaring.

But THE Rainham speciality is of course the Wasp Spider, the webs of which can be found along some of the tracks. Sadly numbers are down on last year which was a bumper year, but still a pleasure to see and photograph.

But the star of the show today was this two-tone caterpillar beside the path on some Creeping Cinquefoil. This is the larva of the Comma butterfly and is brown and white to make it look like a bird dropping and therefore less likely to end up as lunch. How good is that?

Well, another great day at Rainham with the lack of birds more than compensated for by the large variety of insects and flowers. Hooray for biodiversity!!!!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Sandpipers and Garganey at Rye Meads

10th August 2017

Time for a quick visit to Rye Meads to see how the Autumn migration is getting on. At Rye Meads the water levels are kept high during the Spring and Summer to suppress the growth of vegetation thereby ensuring that there is plenty of wet mud when the levels are dropped in the Autumn. As I entered the Draper Hide I was pleased to see that the water levels were indeed much lower than my last visit exposing large areas of spits and muddy margins just in time for the first returning sandpipers.

Today there were two Common Sandpipers which were feeding non-stop, sometimes coming close enough for some shots.

There were also four Green Sandpipers enjoying the newly emerged mud and the area was large enough for the two species to share the food without conflict.

Now on to the Gadwall Hide to try and find the four Garganey that have been present for the last couple of days. I did eventually manage to track them down, but only three birds and for most of the time just two birds were sticking together.

How many times do you see a hat-trick of Garganey?

Wow, that was worth it and here is to more visits to this well managed reserve.

Friday, 11 August 2017

An Early Autumn Visit to Lakenheath Fen

4th August 2017

The day was mainly overcast with a few sunny spells but the dominating feature today was the strong blustery wind which meant that most of the birds were keeping their heads down. A few dragonflies were braving the blow but frequently took refuge in a sheltered spot to get their breath back, like this female Migrant Hawker...........

............................and this immature male Southern Hawker...............

A few butterflies were also brave enough to be on the wing including this stunning Painted Lady.

The Bearded Tits were keeping low in the reeds and Marsh Harrier numbers were well down, with just this lone male in primary wing moult flying past the Joist Fen viewpoint.

But the star of the show today was this cute juvenile Stonechat which kept us amused along the river wall. That'll do nicely!!

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

An Early Autumn Visit to Oare Marshes

30th July 2017

OK, it is only the end of July, but in the birding calendar we are entering Autumn with the start of their Autumn migration, and what better place to start than Oare Marshes in Kent. It was late morning when we arrived and the tide was out so started with a walk along the river wall. The Bonaparte's Gull was out on the mud but a little distant so hopfully will get some better shots when it transfers to the East Flood at high tide.

The only other bird of note was this lone Whimbrel which spent most of its time out on the mud but on occasions would come close enough for a couple of shots.

Back on East Flood there were a couple of Common Terns amongst the throng of Black-headed Gulls. Also tucked in amongst the gulls was the Bonaparte's which was swimming purposefully towards a nearby spit before it unexpectedly took to the air and was never seen again.

There were already some rather impresive flocks of waders present including these Redshank and the the rather colourful Black -tailed Godwits. However, the godwits were far more obliging and would sometimes feed quite close.

The comparatively diminutive Dunlin was also prsent in good numbers but a little more difficult to photograph because of the small size..............

...............and then came along their slightly larger cousin the Curlew Sandpiper with its even longer down-curved bill.

The once rare Avocets were also well-represented and were most resplendent in the afternoon sun.

What absolutely elegant birds.

Golden Plover numbers were also starting to build up with the adults still in their stunning summer plumage.

But the slightly unexpected star of the show today was this Garganey which was found feeding quietly amongst the Black-headed Gulls and the Golden Plovers.

What a fantastic end to a fantastic day!!!