I try and avoid London to the best of my abilities, but having a sister that out grew the confines of Skelmanthorpe more or less straight after leaving school, it was obvious she would move down there as soon as it was feasible. It is fair to say that we are polar opposites when it comes to rural and city life, she got bored in the village and I hate the city. I don’t mind the odd weekend down there though if it’s a must? Times are changing though and for the worse. I remember getting exited as a kid at the mere mention of a trip to the Natural History Museum, when I asked Miss Piggy and Junior where they would like to go I found myself trudging around London trying to find Pineapple Dance Studio, embarrassing. I did a deal that if we went to Pineapple Dance Studio on the Friday I got to go to Rainham Marshes on Saturday!
I’d never been there before and I really enjoyed it. I had kept my eye on the reports from that area during the week and with sightings of Hoopoe and Black Winged Stilt, I was pleading for them to hang around until Saturday. Unfortunately they didn’t, but I did at least add a few migrants to the list in the few hours I was there. The reserve was alive with Cetti’s Warbler too, they were singing at various points on the circular trail. I tried my hardest to photograph one but it’s like taking a picture of a mouse, the second you see it, it’s flitted out of view. If they didn’t sing you would be very hard pushed to find them. They say that if a person entered bushes wearing illuminous clothing and you could still see them, the bushes are not dense enough for Cetti’s Warblers? Rainham Marshes is a combination of pools, reed beds and disused World War bunkers and buildings that were used to train soldiers to spot submarines invading London up the Thames. There is a large refuse tip nearby too, which in the winter attracts huge numbers of gulls, which occasionally draw in a few of the rarer species. The Eurostar is constantly flying past too giving the reserve quite an industrial feel, with the surrounding pylons playing host to a pair of Peregrines.
New birds for the year, apart from the Cetti’s Warbler, included a pair of Little Ringed Plovers and singing male Blackcap, Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler.
If you want to view the Thames River element you have to leave the reserve through a one-way turnstile. After two minutes of being on the “outside” I wanted to get straight back in! I was met by a skinhead who was the typical cockney geezer, bare chested with t-shirt tucked in jeans, he quenched his thirst with a nice can of Stella while being pulled along by his straining Pit Bull Terrier which was aptly named Blade. He actually asked if I’d seen anything decent which broke the ice and suddenly I didn’t feel as vulnerable. The concern being that Blade was desperately trying to sniff my groin and was constantly being pulled back which seemed to rile him? If talking to a stranger with no shirt on isn’t awkward enough, having a Pit Bull Terrier stretching on its hind legs inches from your cock certainly gets the heart beating. We must have bonded though, as Deano departed he offered me an out stretched fist and as I touched my knuckles on his, he muttered the word “safe”. He then reached into his carrier bag and offered me a Stella. I declined but the generosity was very much there, God bless you Deano and Blade.....safe.