Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Summer in the city

A very plain-looking male Common Whitethroat at Rainham today.

With the mercury rising rapidly this morning and an early start not possible, it was tempting to pass up the chance to head over to Rainham for the first time in five days. Midsummer on the reserve can be great for dragonflies and butterflies, but bird-wise it is typically slow; I opted to go, and took the long lens out in the hope of achieving a few shots of interest.

First up was this male Common Whitethroat near the reserve centre. When you're concentrating on the shot you don't necessarily pick up on the finer detail of the bird, and only when reviewing my images back home was I struck by the lack of an obvious rufous wing panel on this male, which appears rather worn. If this bird pitched up at another wetland reserve in London it would perhaps be branded an icterops or similar, but a more likely explanation is that my monitor needs recalibrating ...

The food chain in action: one of two Hobbies feasting on dragonflies.

Notable birds were few and far between on the reserve, bar two Hobbies, three Little Egrets, a drake Eurasian Wigeon (presumably oversummering) and 50+ Northern Lapwings. Insects threatened to be of more interest, with butterflies including two Small Heaths, several Holly Blues, my first Meadow Brown of the year and a brief unidentified skipper, as well as a cracking fuchia and black Cinnabar moth.

 It's not every day you get a drive-by Marsh Harrier in London.

In a last desparate roll of the dice I decided to head round to Aveley Bay - and promptly threw a six. While driving along Coldharbour Lane next to the silt lagoons, this female-type Marsh Harrier hove into view as it circled briefly before heading off west. I had to work hard for this patch tick earlier in the year, so today's sighting was far from typical. The river itself was quiet, with the lingering Red-breasted Merganser right over on the Crayford side, just two second-summer Yellow-legged Gulls among the many hundreds of large gulls on the ebbing tide, and a single Oystercatcher. Two police vessels, a launch and a RIB, travelling at high speed suggested dubious goings-on upstream, and they soon put paid to my gull-watching efforts.

Messing about on the river: pelagic police.

Today's minor insect action has motivated me to do some moth-trapping in the garden tonight, but before I go and check the trap, here's a quick mystery bird photo from Rainham today: can you name this passerine? I'll give the answer in the next post.

Name the species - answers in the comments box please.


  1. Passer domesticus?

  2. It's not House Sparrow, I'm afraid. Thanks to another anonymous visitor for pointing out the unwitting clue I'd left - now amended! Any further guesses?

  3. David Callahan24 June 2010 at 09:07

    Juvenile Linnet?

  4. I'd go with Linnet as well but maybe not a juv.



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