I got into work a little early today and took myself out onto the Southern Trail for a short walk before things warmed up too much. My hayfever was already bad so I stopped to rest my eyes for a while and decided to take the opportunity to open my senses to what I could experience around me.
Being on the borders of a marsh always gives you the best chance of a wide selection of wildlife but could I identify more than just the birds with my ears? Were my other senses going to get a work-out too?
Warblers made up most of the bird song with shouty Cetti’s in three directions and I could even tell when the Sedge Warbler left his perch and climbed in his display flight before descending to the other side of the path. Reed Warblers were stationary to my ears while singing but the more I listened the more pings and chirps from Bearded Tits became apparent.
A Little Grebe trilled from the channel and I heard the cluck of a Moorhen and the ‘shew shew’ calls of roving flocks of juvenile Starlings. Lapwings and Redshank were heard as they commuted too and from the Thames where I could hear the thrum of a tanker working its way upriver.
A group of Gadwall flew over making their curious little dry quacks and the whirring wings and croaks of Pochard whizzed by. A couple of Swifts sounded like they were chasing each other way above me and I could hear Herring Gulls conversing as they drifted overhead.
Somewhere further down the Marsh Frogs were getting going and I could hear the different tonal hums from Bumble and Solitary Bees attending the Hemlock of Hogweed alongside me.
But did I cheat and have a squint at the plants? Nope… I could smell them. The warm musky odour of Hemlock is very much a summer scent of Rainham Marshes and swathes of it line the paths and distant Silt Lagoons which means that you smell it whilst driving along the A13 at this time of year.
Hemlock - purple spotted stems help you identify this species from other less harmful umbelifers
The Hogweed is similarly distinctive if you are close to it, getting its name as it does, from the strong waft of ripe pig sty that emanates from its blousy heads. Both these species are equally attractive to Flies as Bees. I was struggling to pick up the buzz of flies from the buzz of bees!
There were other smells to be collected as I sat and pondered with the, well, rosy fragrance of the many bowed boughs of Dog Rose, the tickle-your-nose peppery oilseed type Brassica and the warm, slightly cloying scents of both Dog Wood and Elder.
Your brain is a very clever organ and cleverly shields you from background sounds and it was not until I decided to listen for them that I heard the A13 droning in the background and the quiet thunder of a Eurostar train which I suspect was a shorter commuter Javelin as it went by all too quickly.
Pity that the purple mounds of Tufted Vetch are scentless!
Having rebalanced my head and given my puffy eyes a rest I re-opened them to the glare of a stupendously hot Sunday morning and carried on my loop.
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