First trip of 2016 to Rainham RSPB on Saturday 09 January 2016 and it didn't disappoint. Loads of Lapwings looking well in the neutral light were present at high tide on the Target Pools and were joined by about 80 Golden Plovers, 25 Black-tailed Godwits and a very skittish Dunlin flock (300?) that made their way back to the Thames as an adult Peregrine patrolled the marsh. A male Marsh Harrier quartered nearby Wennington Marsh. Despite the ever increasing showery conditions a Dartford Warbler was quite showy just beyond the northern boardwalk and off site a Water Pipit called in flight touching down briefly on the shore. About half a dozen calling Rock Pipits were more obliging and it was nice to study the subtle difference of the call- Water Pipit "wist" and Rock Pipit "weest".
The highlight for me though was chasing the Siberian Chiffchaff found by Paul H mid pm near the Serin mound. After a delay we got cracking looks at this bird as it fed along the bushy edge. It called several times, a clear distinction "peep", and from a later study spot on with the recordings on 'Xeno-canto'. Seeing this distinctive bird, tristis, whilst classified as a subspecies of Chiffchaff was as good as seeing a lifer! I'm sure I've heard one in Norfolk in the '90s and perhaps had unsatisfactory views of a couple in the Midlands one winter as well. Always wanted to have a good look at one of these and this bird was stunning. Dull in colour looking essentially brown on the upperparts and very pale underneath. Dark bill and legs and a white supercillium with a hint of dark line above. Chestnut/Warmer tinged ear coverts and green wing panel noted. Take a look at the excellent photos of Paul H and Shaun H for more plumage details.