Hi Everyone,

Wow May has flown past here (no pun intended), it’s been a really busy month with lots going on. Our reserve is full of breeding birds, our lapwing and redshank are providing some really good numbers. Our warden’s have completed several breeding wader surveys and are very happy with the numbers. Due to the shrubby brush in the centre of the reserve being slightly taller than we usually see at this time of year some of our counts are on the conservative side as its not possible to safely enter some of the zones without disturbance.
Avocet are also breeding successfully and the first avocet young have been seen practicing feeding with their tiny curved bills dipping and sweeping in the Purfleet Scrape visible from the Visitor Centre. Redshank and lapwing young were also seen creeping out of the brush at the back of the Purfleet Scrape today from the Visitor Centre. 

I have to start with just the cutest pic I've ever seen of bearded tits/bearded reedlings - a capture from today by Andy Gibbons made us all melt at the Visitor Centre this afternoon and the lovely thing is that you can see the sexual dimorphism of these two fledglings, the female having the darker bill and the young male the brighter yellow bill.  What a lovely spring capture this is.  Thanks Andy for sharing with us. 


Bearded Tit Fledglings by Andy Gibbons, young female left and young male on the right

Once we have our nest numbers finalised I will write another update so watch this space!

May’s Ornithological Highlights

Early May saw the welcome return of the cattle closely followed by the arrival of the cattle egrets with a wonderful apricot blush to the back of their heads ready for breeding season. Warmer weather brought the insects out in abundance and so 6 hobby arrived to enjoy the feast, alongside good numbers of swift, sand martin, swallow and house martin have been zipping about all month.

Pic: Andy Reid – hobby

On 8th May four wood sandpipers were showing nicely, on the 9th skylarks entertained us on the landfill sight. A number of cuckoos arrived and are still within the reserve eyeing up suitable nests to plonk an egg into, they seem to be keen on the areas where our reed warblers are nesting, they can lay up to 20 eggs (one per nest). The males can be heard calling throughout the reserve almost constantly. On 12th May FA Cup Final Day, the Goodyear blimp paid us a visit! It was a gorgeous hot day here and we were thrilled to see a pair of spotted fly catchers arrive and head to a favoured tree in the cordite store, making sallies from the top branch and snapping their beaks around unsuspecting flies! A difficult tree to get a good photo as the sun was behind but several of our keen photographers got some lovely shots.  

Spotted Fly Catcher: pic John Humble

Breeding season is in full swing throughout the reserve including the woodland, Andy Gibbons grabbed this lovely photo of fledgling long tailed tits. Aren’t they gorgeous!

Long Tailed Tits: Pic Andy Gibbons
Last weekend we had a lovely short eared owl fly through keenly expertly up by Ben one of our young ornithologists who grabbed a quick record shot from the river wall.  Grey plover and spoonbill were on the Target Pools last weekend and the dartford warbler is now back on the river wall near the turnstile gate.  Grasshopper warbler joined the choir on and off all month and was seen and heard today near the Giant's Chair! 

Plenty of invertebrates are up and about now and enjoying the warmer weather. We have had a small explosion of green hairstreak butterflies right next to the Visitor Centre which has pleased a lot of our lepidopterists. I even saw one myself whilst filling our bird feeders, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch a photo but regular visitor Lawrence Rogers was and has allowed me to share his pic below:-

Pic by Lawrence Rogers – green hairstreak

Current butterflies on site include:-
Small copper
Green hairstreak
Holly blue
Common blue
Speckled wood
Painted lady
Orange tip
Small tortoiseshell
Green veined white
Large white
Red admiral
Small white
Small heath
Large skipper
Brown argus

Andy Reid – red mason bee

Thank you to the WEX Club! 

Our Wildlife Explorer’s club is building in numbers and last month the children built a new natural water feature next to our bird feeder area to the rear of the Visitor Centre. Just this week the newly fledged starlings and parents have discovered it – I now must fill it at least twice a day as they bath so exuberantly. So thank you WEX club from the starlings. I’ve also seen tits and finches drinking and having a tiny splash around too.

Sparrow Terrace: Sponsor a Sparrow

Do you look up on your way in? It’s lovely to stop and watch our busy sparrows in and out of their terrace houses. Phil & Kerry have put three more new Sparrow terraces up a couple of weeks ago, very kindly donated by visitors. So this sparked an idea, Sponsor a Sparrow, we hope to fill the whole side up with these terraces creating more homes for the ever increasing population of Sparrows we have here. They often resort to nest building within our window shutters which is not safe for them so we would love to have more terraces to erect.

It’s very rewarding to see the sparrows eyeing up the terraces being installed to then see them moving in within minutes! Leonora made little plaques which go on the bottom of the terraces and they have the name of your choice inscribed. Each sparrow terrace supports 3 families of sparrows. So if you would like to Sponsor a Sparrow and help us provide them with affordable housing then you can visit us on reception and make a donation:-

Sponsor a Sparrow Family (one hole in a 3 hole box) one name plaque - £20
Sponsor a whole Terrace (3 holes, 3 sparrow families) three name plaques - £48

New Faces

We have welcomed some new staff here this month, Milo Sumner our new Site Manager, Tallulah Gullett as Visitor Experience Officer, Elaine Sharp Catering Manager and Joan Smith as Assistant Catering Manager. The reserve is full of energy and positivity so come down and say hello and make them feel welcome.

RSPB Rainham Marshes has joined 19 other reserves around the country to run an RSPB Big Picnic event. We have two fabulous fun trails featuring our new Characters Detective Hoot and Constable Crumbs – join up as a Wild Detective and help them solve the whodunnit mystery! Some old-fashioned family games in our picnic area are there for all to enjoy. Pick up a lovely individual picnic box from the café to enjoy out in the reserve but remember #leavenotrace #leavenothingbutfootprints! All packaging is biodegradable.

So that’s all for May’s update. Have a lovely month everyone and I hope to see you in the reserve very soon and thank you all for visiting and supporting our Reserve.


Visitor Experience Manager
RSPB Rainham Marshes