Sunday, 17 January 2010

Tale of Two Marshes

I visited RSPB reserve Rainham Marshes yesterday for the first time and had 3 target species which were : Caspian Gull which would be a lifer , Glaucous Gull and Serin which would be 2 very good year ticks .

I made my way to the visitors center and got positive news on the Serin and Glaucous Gull  but no news of any Caspian Gulls, i decided to head off to try and see the Serin first, its been awhile since i have seen one and i set of along the seawall towards the Mound where it had been seen mostly , the weather turned quite nasty on the way there and things looked dodgy wind and driving rain is not the best recipe to see a small passerine !!!  However i continued in my task and had 2 Reed Buntings fly across the path in front of me which were shortly followed by a pair of Pintail, checking over the reserve as i went i soon added 3 Curlew, 50 odd Canada Geese , approx 100 Wigeon and several small flocks of Starling and Chaffinch were flying around in no particular direction.

Having reached the mound still in driving rain and strong wind i was the only birder there ( i wonder why that was............. ) i gave it half an hour and only me and a lonely Blackbird which seemed to be looking at me in a strange way were present so i headed back towards the reserve when i flushed a small finch from the side of the path i noticed two smallish wing bars but didn't get anything on the rump , it also had a notched tail , i did not hear it call although woolly hat and wind in my ears might of been the reason for that, alas sadly it flew away from me and out of sight so it could have been the Serin but i am not 100 % sure so won't count it , of note it was seen again later that afternoon in the same area , perhaps i am being to fussy ???

Having got back to the reserve and making my way to Target Pool where the Glaucous Gull had been seen earlier, my pager went off  informing me of  a Caspian Gull  on Averly pool Rainham marshes , HELP which pool is Averly ?? panic took over and half way around the reserve which was devoid of birders at that moment i remembered i had a map the warden gave me stuffed in my pocket ( Doh ).

Checking the map told me i was on the wrong side of the reserve Damn ( to be honest that was not the first word that came to mind ! ) anyhow i had to go past Target pool to get there , as i arrived at Target pool i asked if the Glaucous Gull was still about and the news was negative it had flown off 20 mins ago , great my day is going really well , then the nice chap said , and i quote " but i do have an adult Caspian Gull in my scope if you want to have a look " OMG i could have kissed him ( sorry no confessions there i was just so excited about the Caspain Gull ) so i gratefully accepted his offer and was soon looking at a superb adult Caspian Gull , what a stunner and all credit to the guys for picking that one out amongst several thousand gulls not sure if i would have been so confident if i was on my own as i have very little experience with Caspian Gulls .

Having had good views of this stunner i set up my scope and decided to check through the gulls myself then after about 20 mins i came across a first winter Caspian Gull roughly the same time as the other birders present, this was much more easily identifiable ( if that's a word ? ) it had a very white head and breast which was quite bulky the mantle was very pale almost appearing white in certain lights , noticeably long black bill the wing coverts were pale brown with even paler edges , it stood up a couple of times showing its long legs, i was much more comfortable and confident with this bird than i was with the adult , i also saw a second 1st winter Caspian Gull abit later on , so after spending 2 hours gull watching i had scored with 1 adult and 2 1st winter Caspain Gulls  .

So very happy with this i made my return journey back to the visitor center adding 10 Snipe , 10 Shelduck and a Sparrowhawk to my Rainham list , What a great reserve and one i will be visiting again .


I popped into Oare briefly on the way home and added 50 Avocets, 500 Dunlin and 20 Brent Geese to my year list , other birds of note here were : Pintail approx 50 , several Snipe and Curlew plus good numbers of Wigeon , Shoveler and Tufted Duck .