Saturday, 9 February 2019

RSPB Rainham Marshes - Young Birders Walk, 4th January 2019

In August last year Sam L and I organised a London Young birders walk at Rainham Marshes which was a good chance to meet new people and see some good birds, so after an extremely disappointing Christmas which involved Short-eared Owl dips and cancelled birding to Sheppey and the Sussex coast, my only birding of the holiday was to meet up with the others at Rainham again on the 4th. Fortunately I got a tiny bit of luck, in that the day dawned fairly clear although freezing. After leaving at around 9am, I arrived in the car park shortly after 10 where I walked down the river path to meet the others, who were watching Stonechats and Rock Pipits whilst waiting for me. Another piece of luck was that, this time, (especially gull) expert  Dante was joining the group, and it was nice to meet him for the first time. In advance apologies for the mostly poor pictures - I was testing out the new kit and fiddling with settings again, so most pictures were messed up but I'm getting used to the lens a bit more now...

Walking down the path resulted in several Rock joining the Mipits in the trees, as well as thrushes on berries. Waders were also present, with Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit and Snipe all seen. We decided to continue walking down the river towards an area called 'Stone barges' where there were gulls and a few Peregrine. We also had 2 Water Pipit, meaning we'd seen the 3 common British winter pipit sp. Then Dante pulled off his magic, finding a 1st-winter (2cy) Caspian Gull from a long way away, just from its back. It was a lifer for Kabir and only my 2nd, so was a pleasing bird to get. Although we got closer the pictures weren't much better, as I'd messed up the settings but I got a few pictures.
After another Water Pipit went up we started to head back towards the nature reserve, with Linnets, Skylarks, Sparrowhawks all stopping us. Once we'd reached the reserve, another Linnet flock was seen with one unusual call heard on Serin mound, that reminded me slightly of Twite. Dante then found a 2nd-winter (3cy) Yellow-legged Gull miles away while 2 Marsh Harrier were circling. 
As we approached the visitor centre we stopped to have a look at the river again briefly, with thrushes the only moving bird, and ducks and Reed Buntings for company.

We had a lunch break while waiting for Ben - who was coming after school - to join us. However, with no contact we headed off through the woodland, and then Ben had to meet us where the Barn Owl was. 
While Dante looked at gulls at over a km distance and Calum constantly argued with me, we hurried our pace as it got darker, reaching the Shooting Butts hide by about 15:30pm. Here we had Ruff, ducks, Snipe and news of a Short-eared Owl via my mum, seen by someone else. We paced towards the river front, where no owls were seen. I had to leave then as we were getting late back, but pipits kept me company walking back. 

It was another great meet-up with 73 species and plenty of year ticks (which I'm only doing to see how many species I can get with a year with little birding.)
Thanks to Sam L for leading once again with Dante S, and all the others (Calum M, Kabir K, Alex L and Ben.)


Redwing u-turn 

Mipit - lots of these about



Mipit and Redwing

Gulls over the tip

Reed Bunting


Rock Pipit - the first I've seen in London



Marsh Harrier



Stonechat guide



Gulls inc the Caspian

1w/2cy Caspian Gull

Gulls inc Caspian

Gulls inc Caspian
Thanks for reading :)


  1. Hi Arjun - if you're really keen to see a little owl, I'd be happy to show you where one nests a short walk from Morden Hall Park. It's often looking out during the day and there's always a decent chance of seeing it. It's rather shy, though, and makes itself scarce pretty quickly. Simon

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