Friday, 27 February 2015

Bittern and a Newt

Spent most of the day at RSPB Rainham Marshes today. A frosty start but a beautiful sunny day. Started at the stone barges and walked along the river to Coldharbour Point, here I saw a Water Pipit. Well to be honest it saw me first three times! as I tried to get views of it on the deck for more than a second, flighty bugger! Retraced my steps and spent the next hour or so on the serin mound. Decided to take some landscape shots, which I'm rubbish at, sat down to swap the lens back to the longer focal length one, I had got one off when blow me a Bittern got up and flew across to the main reedbed on Wennington Marsh. I left the camera and grabbed my bins because this is the first one I have seen at Rainham. I then waited another hour, camera in hand hoping it would fly again, of course it didn't!

On the reserve and just past Purfleet hide walking clockwise I spotted a Smooth Newt attempting to cross the path, I stood there for 40 minutes photographing it and pointing it out to anyone walking ensuring it crossed the path without getting squished. I'm certain I haven't seen any Newts at Rainham before, more to do I guess with me not looking rather than them not being there!

 Some views below from the serin mound

Two minutes after taking this the Bittern flew from the reeds middle right and landed just behind and to the right of the square beige box in the middle!

A Buzzard spiraled over mobbed by crows

A few other species seen on the reserve.

Mute Swan



Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Monday, 23 February 2015

A Bullie!

Spent a few hours at RSPB Rainham Marshes today and at last I connected with a female Bullfinch! I've lost count of the number of times I've walked around the woodland area this year! As is often the case it was only brief views with this quite wary species. Other highlights today was a female Blackcap again feeding on apples near the visitor centre. Another over-wintering species a Chiffchaff near the cordite. Two Peregrines hunting across the reserve regularly putting the hundreds of Lapwings, 100+ Golden Plover and around 300 Dunlin to flight. Also a Ruff between Purfleet Hide and the MDZ. Great day at times sunny, cold southerly grew in strength with rain as I left at 3pm.
over-wintering Chiffchaff

Little Grebe from the Ken Barrett hide

Coot on the terrapin pool

Little Egret over the northern boardwalk

Lapwings over butts hide

Little Grebe
Golden Plover

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Rainham Marshes

Spent a couple of hours this morning watching the gulls near the stone barges. I had hoped to see the Iceland Gull which was seen earlier in the week, but to no avail. I was well compensated though with a smart adult Mediterranean Gull in near full summer plumage. Also saw Oystercatcher and Grey Wagtail. Walked to the reserves visitor centre by which time it had begun spitting with rain. After a bite to eat Howard found yesterday's two Ruff.
Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull

Mediterranean Gull


Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Hampton Nature Reserve

Last Thursday I attended a Froglife training day in Peterborough. The day focused on habitats and their management. Looking at why management is carried out; what are the benefits of doing so and what might the consequences be if we did nothing.

A very interesting day, with the highlight being my first ever visit to Hampton Nature Reserve! The reserve is a three hundred acre site on the edge of Peterborough and is home to Europe’s largest population of Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus), estimated at over 30,000 individuals. The area is a former clay extraction site for brick production which has left a legacy of over 300 ponds and an amazing array of species, both aquatic and terrestrial. The site is legally protected as SAC, SSSI and Natura 2000 site.

The site is managed by Froglife and owned by Value Nature, part of the O&H Hampton group.

view looking southwest across part of the reserve

reptile basking area
Above shows a south facing bank, there are lots of open bare areas ideal for reptiles to bask and the scrub at the top of the bank provides a safe refuge for them if disturbed. You may just be able to see in the above image that the scrub is being managed to give it more edge and a scalloped look. This allows reptiles more security from predation!

Below this part of the reserve has a real uniqueness, due to the way the clay had to be extracted in these linear lines with the earth piled into small heaps. Although my images do not do it real justice, some compare it to a moonscape but, to me it looks much more like a sand dune landscape!

These two images probably show off the mounds and pools landscape best and note just how close to urban development the reserve is!
This whole area is in early succession and is low in nutrients which is good as this suits the rare species that the area supports. Succession is probably being held back by a combination of things; grazing there are lots of rabbits and deer; and a domination of a single Calamagrostis grass species which grows quite matted and suppresses the growth of other species.
Paul talking about management for the Great Crested Newt and and one of the rarest plant species in the UK the Bearded Stonewort

This is a fabulous and unique area and probably not at its best in early February! The site does not have public access but I hope I get the opportunity to return later in the spring when it will look very green with a riot of colour as the flora blossoms.

Friday, 13 February 2015


A visit to Rainham Marshes at the moment and you may notice lots of apples which have been halved and impaled on trees and fences around the centre. It looks a little like a larder of a vegetarian shrike! But these apples are proving very popular as a food source. While I was there this morning starlings, blue tits, blackbirds and possibly up to five Blackcaps were all tucking in.

Starling enjoying the apples

female Blackcap tucking in

male Reed Bunting around the feeding area

Great Spotted Woodpecker dropped in to the feeding area

Red patch on the back of the head identifies it as a male

male Chaffinch near feeding area

Blue Tit

Great Tit

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Rainham Marshes

Spent a few hours on the reserve today. Added four species that I hadn't seen yet this year Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Peregrine and Common Buzzard.

Blue Tit in the car park

Plenty of Golden Plover on the reserve

And Dunlin

Honestly this is a Peregrine, I just wasn't quick enough to get it coming towards me

Reed Buntings coming in to breeding plumage