Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A Birthday Walk

Yesterday was my birthday and where better to start the day than at Rainham Marshes. I had intended to spend most of the day on the reserve, I did this a few years back and saw a Stone Curlew on my birthday at Rainham. Alas, no such luck this year, the sun was shining and in the woodland out of the wind it was quite pleasant. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker appeared high up on a tree in the cordite store. I could clearly see the red patch on the back of it's head and then knew it was a male. Lots of bird activity around the woodlands, with many of our common species singing and displaying, I stayed an our or so soaking it in. A pair of Long-tailed Tits appeared to be nest building and I managed a picture of one.

Out on the reserve the wind was whipping across the openness and the sun had disappeared add to this the fact that many of our winter visiting species had headed back north, and our summer visitors are still making their way to us, birding was quite and I finished around 1pm.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Strumpshaw Fen

Yesterday I joined RSPB Havering Local Group's coach outing to Strumpshaw Fen, with 30+ members on the coach we headed to Norfolk in good spirits. The weather forecast was for overcast with the possibility of a shower, which was spot on and the brief shower arrived as we sat in Fen Hide! Not great conditions for photography, but I gave it ago.

The reserve has a great mix of habitats from extensive reedbeds, wet grassland and wet woodland and a range of pools, wet ditches and ponds. Started and the finished the day in the woodlands, where we had great views of Marsh Tit, Nutchatch, Treecreeper and Goldcrest along with the usual woodland birds. Possibly the commonest bird here is Pheasant they were in every habitat with the exception of the ponds! and their calls were a characteristic of the day. Also saw five Red-legged Partridge and Great Spotted Woodpecker.

At the end of the day I had seen fifty species and a great day was had by everyone.


Great Tit

Marsh Tit

Marsh Tit

 From the Fen & Tower Hide, Marsh Harriers were seen over the reedbeds, possibly twelve different birds. A Red Kite was a surprise, there are apparently not too many in Norfolk and very strange to see it over reedbeds.
male Marsh Harrier

male Marsh Harrier

male Marsh Harrier

pair Marsh Harriers

Red Kite

Red Kite

female Marsh Harrier

female Marsh Harrier

Marsh Harrier

Red Kite

Red Kite (above) and Marsh Harrier

Red Kite (above) and Marsh Harrier

Peewits a distant memory?

Growing up on the edge of the Chilterns in the 70s & 80s, I can remember that almost every farmland field had at least one pair of breeding Lapwings. Displaying pairs in March and April with their loud 'peewit' calls and aerial acrobatics was a common sight and an almost continuous soundtrack to a walk in the countryside.

Sadly Lapwings have declined continuously on lowland farmland since the mid 1980s, with a 49% population decline between 1987 and 1998, The decline has continued and since the mid 2000s the decline has steepened!

There is strong evidence that the cause of the decline is due to loss of habitat and changes in farming practice. In particular the change from spring to autumn sowing, drainage of grasslands and loss of mixed farmland have all lead to the decline in our breeding Lapwings.

The images below were all taken at RSPB Rainham Marshes on Friday, and I really do fear that the only chance we will have to see and hear the Lapwings display is on nature reserves, a very sad situation indeed.

Play the soundtrack, look at the images and let us hope that this is not lost from our countryside!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Spring at Rainham

Popped into Rainham today on my way home from Langdon Hills. Managed to find one bunch of daffodils which with a bit of maneuvering on my part I managed to get the centre in the background!

Definitely more Chiffchaffs now present with many singing as was a male Blackcap. Raven flew past twice and both times I was too slow for a photo! Male Kingfisher put in a very brief appearance and two Little Ringed Plovers between the MDZ and Purfleet hide were good to see.

Three different Common Buzzards went over

An oddly marked Carrion Crow

male Reed Bunting

Little Grebe

Friday, 20 March 2015

Rainham Marshes

Spent the morning on the reserve. I got there early for the solar eclipse but the cloud was 100% and a little murky, I did notice that it got a little gloomier and the temperature dropped a few degrees, but that was it sadly!

Great views of a Water Vole and my first Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover this year were the wildlife highlights.

Water Vole

A Little Egret takes off

high flying Sparrowhawk goes over

Spring is bursting. Goat Willow Salix caprea

Apparently there are over 266 insect species associated with our native willows (the second most hospitable after oak), making them a vitally important species for wildlife.

Goat willow (Salix caprea)
Traditionally used as fodder for goats, this is one of our most recognisable willows, with its eye-catching fluffy yellow catkins in spring and silk grey buds in autumn. Although often found along streams, riverbanks and in reedbeds, it is also more tolerant of drier conditions than other native willows.