Bering the dutiful son I am, I very generously offered my services as tour guide for mother's day and ended up taking a small family gathering round Rainham Marshes. A strange experience because, for the first time, I was the knowledgeble patch birder showing newbies round his domain. It was quite fun.
The usual wildfowl out on the lakes and visible from the centre - Wigeon, Gadwall and Shelduck, but no sign of Teal. In fact, there was a distinct lack of Teal even from the Ken Barrett hide, where you usually find a few pairs. Saw some Little Grebe and Mallard though, which utterly failed to make up for it. Also netted me a Kestrel on one of the pylons past the woodland path - my one and only raptor of the day.
Only saw 2 lapwing all day, but they were determined to compensate for lack of numbers with sheer noise. Some impressive flying and tumbling from what's usually one of the more 'boring' birds if you're a Rainham regular. Lapwings? interesting? I know, shoot me. There was the obligatory Little Egret standing next to a Grey Heron in one of the rear lakes - always nice to see. A Skylark showed some psychic potential as it piped up while I was explaining to the family that usually there are a few Skylark singing around this area. Didn't show itself, but it must have been close.
Most exciting find of the day (and a year/life tick for me) were two Wheatear hopping round a field full of sheep and picking up stray invertebrates. Exciting times. Smaller birds encountered included a Reed Bunting, a Robin and a Greenfinch among the Goldfinches near the feeders as we were heading back up to the visitor's centre. I also heard a warbler in the reedbeds. My limited experience led me to ID it as a Cetti's, but I really need more practice and wouldn't be confident enough yet to tick it.
Non-bird (and therefore inferior) life consisted of 2 Water Voles and 2 Red Admiral Butterflies.
The drive home saw me catching Parus's Common Crane madness as I thought I saw something bulky and grey with a very long neck standing in a river and visible from the Upper Rainham Road. We were moving too fast and there were too many passing bushes for me to be anything near certain about what I'd seen, and Parus rightly points out that if it was there surely someone would have seen it by now. Still, I'll be making sure I walk past that stretch next weekend - you know, just in case.
It was a fine day for a walk, and the rest of the family seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves, so hopefully they won't be looking at me quite so strangely next time I announce my intention to spend a whole day there pigeon fancying. Maybe they'll also eventually understand that £400 I've just spent on a spotting scope as well, but I won't be holding my breath. Not sure I quite understand it yet myself.
Tower Bridge news was equally good - right place at the right time today as I saw a Wren hop out of a hedgerow next to the main walkway into the tower and then hop back in again. I've long suspected Wrens for that spot, but the view was never clear enough to be more than a flash of brown and a muttered curse at the density of the bushes. Unmistakable little bird, and it takes the site total up to a whopping 26! Titchwell eat your heart out.