Sunday, 10 May 2015

4th May - Rainham Marshes, Essex

Our short weekend break was coming to an end, and today we were heading home.  The weather was still bright, but witjh a lot more cloud, it was though again noticeably warmer.  After breakfast and clearing away we set off for home, but with the intention of dropping into the RSPB reserve at Rainham Marshes.  This is a relatively new RSPB reserve, when I lived in Essex the marshes were known as an excellent spot for wintering duck, owls and raptors, and the nearby tip was always good for gulls, and the river could turn up almost anything.  My last recollection of the area was arriving very early one spring morning and the ditches and dykes full of the sound of Reed and Sedge Warblers singing.

As we pulled into the reserve I realised that this place had changed considerably.  The car park was full, and there were people everywhere.  We had coffee in the cafe at the visitor centre, and then set out to walk the boardwalk and path that goes around the marshes.  A few Reed Warblers were singing in the reeds along the dyke, and I was at last able to get a picture of one

Full song too, head on.

As we walked along the side of the ditch Helen pointed out a water vole swimming across.  However it was too quick for the camera and disappeared into the reeds.

Our intention was to see Kingfishers here.  A pair have a nest hole close to a hide, and the eggs had recently hatched so the parents were busy bring fish in almost every 15 minutes.  When we reached the hide we were surprised to see camouflage netting and glass windows, and a lot of noise form the people there.

We positioned ourselves and waited for the adults to arrive.

It didn't take long before the female appeared and perched on one of the sticks close to the hole.

She waited looking to see if it was safe to go to the hole.

I am pleased with this shot.

Then she went in, and was quickly out, tumbling backwards from the hole.

We waited for the next visit, and while we did we were entertained by a Little Grebe very close to the hide.

They really are a lovely little bird, the chestnut cheeks and neck standing out, along with the pale cream patch on the bill.

It fished for a while then made its way across the pool to the far side.

As well as the Little Grebe there was a Coot family with four newly hatched chicks, and in the distance a Heron feeding on the open marsh.  The Heron though was not alone, as there were also Lapwings there, probably with chicks.  The Lapwings were concerned that the Heron may decide to feed to close to the chicks so they were constantly mobbing it, the Heron stabbing out with that dagger of a bill as they attacked.

Finally a Kingfisher arrived, this time it was the male.  It too perched on the same branch, and waited.

The sexes can be told apart by the colour of the lower mandible, the females being a reddish pink, and the male a dark blue.

The male didn't wait too long, and flew into the hole.  It spent a little longer in there than the female, but finally came out again tumbling backwards, and then turned and dived into the water for a quick splash and wash, and then away back to get some more food.

We decided that was it, the hide was full now and people were talking more than they were watching so we thought it best to leave.  

We had been hearing Marsh Frogs calling when we were in the hide, and as we walked back  we found one large one on the Water Vole platform.  The green markings are lovely.

First introduced to Walland Marsh, Kent in 1935, this frog is now found in several areas of Kent , East Sussex, and Essex.

The Marsh Frog has been deliberately introduced to the UK and it has been a very  successful introduction, as the frogs have been thought to occupy an ecological niche; they choose breeding sites such as dykes and ditches not generally chosen by our native amphibians. However, the marsh frog is a fierce  predator and the further spread of this species in the UK is of concern due to the unknown impact on native reptiles and amphibians.

Marsh frogs like to spend all their time in, or within jumping distance of, water. Both powerful swimmers and amazing jumpers, they often just stand in the mud, ready to leap into deep water at the first sign of trouble and landing with a resounding plop. They are robust and warty members of the green frog group, have a laughing call and a talent for singing as we found out both here in Rainham, and recently in Majorca.  The quality of the singing is thought to be judged by females who are waiting to mate, a bit like a Marsh Frog "X Factor"

A little further on there was a cleared patch in the reeds and we could see quite a few of these really lovely looking frogs, noisy though

And that was that, another weekend away over, and another wonderful time in Suffolk.  The weather once again had been very kind, and wildlife quite amazing, probably the best trip we have had with 101 birds seen along with some great mammals, Otter, Stoat Water Vole and Red Deer, plus the Adders and finally today the Marsh Frogs.  I will publish all the Bittern pictures separately along with a video.

Birds Seen On Trip:

Mute Swan
Greylag Goose
Canada Goose
Barnacle Goose
Tufted Duck
Red-legged Partridge
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Marsh Harrier
Water Rail
Ringed Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Common Sandpiper
Black-headed Gull
Common Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Little Tern
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Collared Dove
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Common Tern
Carrion Crow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Bearded Tit
Sand Martin
House Martin
Cetti’s Warbler
Long-tailed Tit
Willow Warbler
Garden Warbler
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler
Song Thrush
House Sparrow
Yellow Wagtail
Pied Wagtail
Meadow Pipit
Reed Bunting

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