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Friday, 18 July 2014

A varied day at Rainham Marshes

Yesterday was my usual volunteering day at Rainham Marshes.
One of my tasks on a Thursday is to unlock the hides in the morning and lock them up again for closing time, so I always get around the nature trail at least twice.

Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus scirpaceus
On my morning round, this Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) was singing in the reedbed by the Northern Trail. His chosen perch on the end of this Reedmace stem lifted him above the reeds and into the lovely warm morning light.

Next to him, a Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) was also singing from the top of the reeds. I was struck by how I could see right through the raised crest showing how small his head must be under those feathers!

Reed Bunting - Emberiza schoeniclus
Later in the morning, I had reached the boardwalk between the brick targets and the riverwall turnstile. On Tuesday, folks had seen a family of Weasels playing along the boardwalk. I was hopeful, but didn't really expect to see them. Luck was on my side, however, as a youngster bounded along the trail towards me. I fired off some shots, but never got a decent focus. She disappeared into the grass. Then a second appeared up ahead, but seemed not to be as bold as it's friend, and stayed partially hidden under the side rail. It popped out for a few moments to study me, and I finally managed to get an image in focus - shame about the grass stem, though!

After lunch, I decided not to walk all round again, but to spend some time in the Woodland and then the dry grassland by the Ken Barrett hide.
On this occasion, the Woodland wasn't very productive of images, but the meadow, in full sun, was alive with feeding butterflies and hunting Ruddy Darters (Sympetrum sanguineum).

The Darters, as they usually do, were perching on the tops of prominent plant stems where they could get an all-round view. From this vantage point, they could fly (dart, in fact!) to chase any potential prey.
Dragonflies will generally only fly in warm, sunny weather. They like the heat, but, it is possible for it to be too hot even for them. Another characteristic of the Darters in very hot sunshine is that they will raise their abdomen and point it towards the sun to reduce the surface area that is exposed to the heat  - this is called  "the obelisk position".
That's what this male Ruddy Darter was doing.

Ruddy Darter - Sympetrum sanguineum

The area was also full of butterflies feeding on the nectar of Ragwort flowers. There were Gatekeepers, Small and Essex Skippers, and this lovely little Brown Argus (Aricia agestis).

Brown Argus - Aricia agestis