Tuesday 9 May 2017

Back on the Rainham tick trail

Once upon a time I used to bird Rainham Marshes. Predominantly this was in the carefree days of gainless unemployment - bird reserves are a magnet for the jobless and retired, or so my local Whatsapp group keeps telling me with message after birdy message whilst I'm firmly ensconced in a concrete jungle! As a result of being out to pasture I saw countless good birds there over a happy two year period. I say countless but I am of course lying, for I counted them all... this is after all what birding is mostly about.

In the space of those two years my Rainham list increased by a whopping 43 species, and I was on 140 to start with! I saw all sorts of goodies in a London context, including Hen and Montagu's Harrier, Spotted Crake, Snow and Ortolan Bunting, Merlin, Great and Arctic Skuas, Slav Grebe, Pink-footed Goose, Eider, Kittiwake, Gannet, Manx Shearwater..... Those two years were a huge amount of fun.

It gets progressively harder of course, and in the intervening six years since then I've only added nine more species. One of those was last night, a Quail singing on the edge of the tip at the west end of the site. This is only the second I've ever heard (for I did not see it) in London, a seriously decent bird, and it took my Rainham total up to 192. Or as I prefer to call it, eight away from 200. Oh yes, the irresistible lure of the nice round number.

There are some glaring gaps. Siskin and Lesser Redpoll for starters, and Tree Pipit. Raven is pretty regular at the moment and I still need that, as well as nearly every Heron bar the obvious ones. And a Black-winged Stilt must drop in one of these days surely? Doable in other words, although it will require some effort and some jam. The trouble is that I just don't go there enough any more, and reports of Siskin are not going to get me moving very fast in that direction. Last year I got two site ticks, Razorbill and Dusky Warbler. I 'needed' Razorbill for London, and also jammed in on a famous twitcher very unfortunately tripping over an electric fence. Of course I enjoyed the bird more, what are you talking about? The Dusky Warbler was only the second one ever for the capital, and whilst I had seen the first I suppose I must have been a loose end or something. Lesser Redpoll however? Meh. If I can somehow get over the limiting factor of not being impressed enough to drive twenty minutes for common birds that I can easily see two minutes from home on foot.....

However as I type this there is news of either a Franklin's or a Laughing Gull near the tip. Whilst the thought of a Gull is frankly appalling in May and only marginally better in winter, this would be a proper London tick and could tempt me back over. I am joking of course, I would never go anywhere for a Gull. Ahem. But the excuse I might use is that the birding there is just really nice and I will see infinitely more Whimbrel, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Redshank than I will in Wanstead.

One of my above average Rainham ticks


  1. I went to Rainham this evening for the first time since that Baillon's Crake. Had spent the day enjoying some birding in Suffolk (Big Reed Warbler) and Essex (tiny Stint) and thought I'd give the old reserve a go for the gull. Met up with Dom Mitchell for the first time in about five years. No luck unfortunately but maybe it will reappear in the morning.

  2. And now to ruin your day 2 Black wing stilts at Rainham - Alan

    1. au contraire, buying the winning lottery ticket on the way home!