My first few visits to Rainham were quite good. In December 2005 when the reserve was still being developed and was in fact "closed", special arrangements were made when the Sociable Plover appeared there. We returned shortly after for a second viewing plus the added bonus of a few wintering Penduline Tits there. We returned again in Feb 2006 just to year tick the Penduline Tits.
Above Sociable Plover and Penduline Tit at Rainham in Dec 2005
Then things started to sour a little with two visits and two dreadful days for the putative SLATEY-BACKED GULL. And then last Saturday we dipped for the third consecutivevisit to Rainham with the elusive BAILLON'S CRAKE.
But the Baillon's Crake continued to perform during the week, and we planned a return visit. The reserve was being opened up at 05-00hrs on Saturday morning, and that meant a 02-00hrs departure time. My only concern was that instructions on the Birdforum thread kept saying that it was best to sit on the right hand side of the hide. I'd got visions of the hide tipping up as everyone stood on the same side. We had a good journey down, arriving at Rainham smack bang on 05-00hrs, and we parked behind the other ten cars already parked up. I walked at a brisk pace through the darkness to the hide, and managed to get a good standing place immediately behind those on the front row (and that just happened to be good old Brocton Ian). Then we all waited for it to get light.
At about 06-10hrs, mumblings came from the middle of the hide. The bird was on show. Walking in front of the reeds, behind the Coot. I couldn't see it. I scanned frantically. I then realised they had forgotten the key bit of the directions. It was on the far pool, not the near one that we had all expected it to be on. And there in the early morning light was the juv Baillon's Crake, standing in full view.
We watched it until a Coot chased it off, and as the light improved, there were two more fleeting flight views. At 07-20hrs, it came out and worked the stretch of reed bed straight in front of the hide. These were the views we wanted, and the click of the cameras was almost deafening. At 07-30hrs it went into the reeds, and that was time for a mass exodus of the hide. Those who had made the effort to get up early were well rewarded. Those late comers we passed on the way back to the car had a six hour wait until the next sighting.
A packed hide at 06-50hrs
The juv Baillon's Crake
At 08-00hrs, we ha our breakfast, thanked Howard for his excellent organisation once again and headed back to Staffordshire. We arrived at Branston Pits at 11-00hrs and carried on our normal days birding. Two ticks in eight days isn't too bad a start to Autumn 2012.