Friday, 17 May 2019

Rainham Marshes

Yesterday unusually for me I spent the afternoon on the reserve, I'm normally there early mornings. But, I got to admit I found it so relaxing just wandering around in the warm sunshine and trying to photograph anything that came in range and some that didn't of my lens. At times I could have just sat the whole time either, watching the Lapwings and Redshanks chasing off intruders to their breeding area and some had chicks to defend. Or just watching the Swifts at times flying so low and making a subdues screech as they chased one another, but more about them later.

The first sign that breeding is well underway was soon after leaving the centre and came across this Coot feeding a very young chick. Some say the chicks of coots look ugly, but I like them with their colourful retro look.
The Cattle Egret reappeared quite distantly and obviously close to a Lapwing's nest who persistently harassed it until it flew off.

Warden of the marsh - This is one of the old names for the Redshank due to their loud noisy calls that warn every other denizen of the marsh of the impending approach of trouble.
Pair of Avocets seeing off a Canada Goose and her goslings just out of the picture who had ventured just too close to the Avocets nest.
Shelduck flies in front of The Butts Hide
And has a wash and brush up!

Feeling much better and cleaner now!
Just a final wing stretch and I'm done!
My first dragonfly of the year a female Hairy Dragonfly
I could sit and watch Swifts for hours

I was sat near the river wall taking these pictures of Swifts

To get these three Swift images I must have deleted 3x as many, they are so quick it's amazing how many times I just got blue sky!

Swifts - They truly are the masters of the air, which isn’t surprising as pretty much their whole life is spent on the wing. At the end of the day, as the sun slowly disappears below the horizon, you can watch the swifts circling higher and higher into the darkening sky. They quickly become indiscernible dots, barely visible with binoculars, then, they are gone, to spend the night sleeping on the wing. I can’t prove they sleep while they are up there, but I can imagine them catching forty winks. Early morning as the sun rises, they descend, and you can if you are looking be lucky enough to see them appear again, almost as if by magic.
Throughout the day they will feed on airborne insects, they are expert bug munchers, hoovering them up as they fly. I find it fascinating watching them do this. Although you almost never actually see their prey. The way they are able to manoeuvre tight turns so smoothly, at times they flutter their wings to stall themselves as they take the catch. Then, with still wings and without appearing to change their body shape, they accelerate, cutting through the air at speed, and in seconds they are out of sight. They do absolutely everything on the wing, including mating and I’m surprised with all the advancements in photographic technology, that this most intimate of moments have not been captured on film. Maybe it has and I have missed it, either way, there is a challenge for someone?
Often, you are aware of their presence, not by seeing them but hearing them. This for me is one of the key sounds of summer. A fairly high pitched short scream, often emitted as one chases the other during their courtship display, or really excited short screams as a group of them chase each other, and I’m sure they do this, simply because they can!

Masters of the sky, certainly, but on the ground, they are the complete opposite. If they ever do become grounded, they are literally helpless. Rather than feet and legs they have claw-like feet in the centre of their belly, these are perfectly adapted for nesting on cliffs and ledges, but useless on the ground. With their long wings, once grounded they literally cannot flap them without hitting the ground and therefore can’t take off from the ground. Some years ago, I was fortunate to find one grounded and so was the swift. I couldn’t see why it had become grounded, when I picked it up, it didn’t appear to be injured, so with my heart in my mouth, I tossed it into the air, without having any idea if it would fly or crash back to the ground. It flew! And I hope went on to have a long life.
 Note: Swifts need your help.
They’re some of the last spring migrants to arrive, but the first to leave. You’ve probably seen them speeding through the air, screaming their heads off, or swooping into crevices in buildings.
But they’re in trouble. Swifts are now on the Amber List – they’re birds of Conservation Concern. Their numbers have declined dramatically in the past 10 years; we’re not sure why, but one of the possible reasons is that their nest sites are being destroyed.
We’re working with swift groups around the UK. Your information will help our knowledge of swifts so that more nest sites can be provided and protected. Tell us where you see swifts and help us to help them. 

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