Sunday, 23 July 2017

A Couple of Days with the Beardies at Rainham Marshes

13th and 17th July 2017

It's that time of year again when the young Bearded Tits have left the nest and are starting to entertain the crowds with some photo opportunities, so off to Rainham Marshes to try my luck. The Beardies had been showing around the Dragonfly Pool, so I set off in a clockwise direction along the southern trail.

Just past the Purfleet Hide a Reed Bunting was singing its heart out on a Phragmites stem, so a good start to the day.

There were also a number of young Reed Warblers around, and the bird in the second photo is not long out of the nest as the feathers on its head and breast are still in pin.

But now on to the business at hand........Bearded Tits!!! In the nest and when they first fledge the juveniles are fed an insect diet, but after a while they convert to their more natural seed diet. As with all seed-eaters they need to eat some grit to help grind up the seed in their crop, and a grit tray has been provided in the Dragonfly Pool for this very purpose.

Apart from being very useful for the young Beardies, the tray is also useful for birders and photographers hoping to get some views as it provides a focal point, although they can of course been seen anywhere in the surrounding reed beds.

Juveniles can be readily identified as they have a dark patch between the eye and the bill. The males have orange bills and the females brown bills, so one of each in these shots. I only included these shots to explain the purpose of the grit tray as I normally prefer to photograph them in their natural surroundings, so lets see how I got on.

Luckily the male juvenile left the tray and explored the reeds around the margin of the pool allowing some much better shots to be taken. Just look at that most amazing pattern on the back.

It then transerred to another pool and began scavenging amongst the debris at water level, a behaviour characteristic of Bearded Tits

This is the juvenile female of the brood.

The juvenile male and female obviously had a very strong bond as they were also close by and on several occasions snuggled up to each other for security.

But then, as a bonus, the adult male appeared and posed above the reeds on a Phragmites stem...........

.............before diving into the pool for some low-level feeding in true Bearded Tit style. What absolutely fabulous birds and a few hours over a couple of days well spent.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

The First Aveley Bay Challenge at Rainham Marshes

12th July 2017

So exactly what is the Aveley Bay Challenge? Well, the Aveley Bay Challenge Cup is awarded to the group of waders that were the last to leave Aveley Bay on an incoming tide. As an adjudicator, whose decision is final, I arrived on the river wall at 1.30pm, plenty of time before high tide at 4.00pm.

At this time there was a vast expanse of mud stretching from the visitor centre to the Stone Barges, but there were surprisingly few waders, and luckily they were fairly concentrated in a relatively small area, so this is where I set up camp. Species present were Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit............

...............Redshank and the honorary non-wader species Black-headed Gull..............

..........and Dunlin..........Interestingly. as the tide came in it surrounded the mud bank they were standing on and very soon it was only half the size of a tennis court. For some reason the long-legged Curlew left quite early, but I suspect that this was more to do with river traffic than the tide.

Aren't the Black-tailed Godwits looking resplendent in their summer plumage?

By far the most numerous birds were the Black-headed Gulls including just one juvenile bird.

The second species to throw in the towel were the Redshank, which circled a few times but then set off, presumably on to the reserve. The Dunlin also disappeared but I didn't manage to get a shot of their departure.

That left just the Black-headed Gulls and the Black-tailed Godwits which were getting ever-restless with every breaking wave.

The Black-headed Gulls left in ones and twos and very soon the Black-tailed Godwits were proclaimed the winners of the very first Aveley Bay Challenge...........but just how long would they stay? All the mud had now disappeared below the waves and the godwits were just standing there as the water crept up their legs.

Then panic starting setting in and there were a few hops and jumps........

................and eventually............THEY'RE OFF!!!!!!!

What a fantastic couple of hours well spent. Let's hope the Aveley Bay Challenge will become a regular event!!