The last few days have seen some of the harshest winter conditions in many years and the reserve did not escape lightly. I was fortunate to be away until Wednesday morning but by the time I fought my way back in on Friday it was apparent that birds were having a very hard time of it.

Snow time - Tony O'Brien

We re-topped the feeders, put out fresh water and Dean went and got some emergency apples for the ravenous Fieldfares that were scavenging around the centre looking for the last of the rosehips.

Fieldfare - Tom Bell

They were very grateful and within minutes each apple half had an attendant thrush. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were amongst them while a good flock of Chaffinches and House Sparrows fed with the Starlings and Collared Doves under the feeders where we had put out some cut up bacon and bits of cheese.

These three shots by Tony O'Brien

As the tide came in it became apparent that all the waders were seeking refuge in the upper sections and even on the bank and over the next few hours we got superb views of eight Jack Snipe, 26 Snipe, Golden Plover, two Grey Plover, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit, six Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, 35 Lapwing, three Ruff, two Avocet, nine Redshank and 120 Dunlin along with all the regular dabbling ducks pushed out from the marsh.

Lapwing - Steve Cullum

Jack Snipe - Tom Bell

Starlings were fossicking in the detritus flicking reeds and rubbish aside in the search for sandhoppers. Skylarks and the three Pipit species fed amongst them and the waders along with Reed Buntings and several fluffed up Stonechats.

Meadow Pipit - Bernard Bradshaw

Pintail in the murk - Tony O'Brien

Everything had to keep its eyes open as both the Sparrowhawk and Kestrel were hunting the same area but the Carrion Crows were no threat on that day as they were preoccupied with looking for stranded rodents.

Saturday basically saw a repeat action of this scenario.

The river itself was quiet with not that many gulls moving despite the howling easterly and poor visibility but we did pick up ten dapper Little Gulls with jet black underwings heading out of the river.

Little Gull  - Dante Shepherd took this lovely shot just up river at the O2 on Friday and it was probably one of the ones that came past us!

The marsh itself was almost completely frozen although the Coots had managed to keep one section of Aveley Pool open and the Marsh Harriers seemed to be paying them special attention in the snowy conditions.

Coots in a Hole - Bernard Bradshaw

Young male Marsh Harrier - Tom Bell

Out on the trails the Bullfinches were seen again in the woodland and the Robins were appreciating handouts from the few visitors that we had while a couple of Water Rails were seen scampering across frozen gaps.

Frozen - Bernard Bradshaw

Water Rail - Tony O'Brien

Waiting Robins - Tom Bell

Ben with the Robin... 

Bullfinch - Steve Elwell

And so here we are on Sunday in a balmy 9c with only a hint of the snow that covered the ground. The Fieldfares have dispersed and the waders are back on the muddy foreshore but the marsh itself is still largely locked up with ice although the remaining Lapwings have even started to display once again…

You can’t stop Spring…