Sunday 6 October 2019

Humpback Whale at Rainham Marshes RSPB

Who says looking at gulls is boring? On Saturday 05 October 2019 just before opening time from the river wall outside Rainham Marshes RSPB, London a scan across the far shore of the Thames saw several Yellow-legged Gulls on the mud amongst the commoner large gull species. Our view of the Larids was quickly interrupted as RB spotted a large mammal surfacing briefly. Was it Bob a local bull Grey Seal?

It surfaced again. It was long, dark and the body looked almost scaly in appearance or like it had a "tyre tread" texture. Almost like the tyre tread of say a dump/tipper truck. You can just about see this serrated edge in the first photo below. Within this view it then raised its tail flukes before diving, revealing splattered white undersides to the otherwise dark-edged flukes. It lowered the flukes at the same time as the lower body. A Whale sp.

It slowly headed down river being lost to view on the last submerge west of the Dartford crossing. We tried to get the message out asap for all to witness such a remarkable sight, including experts who could then pick up on the news to monitor its health.

Here are some photos of the Whale. I believe the third shows its tail-stock.

What about the birding?

A lot of movement just before opening time, again from the river wall. Bearded Tits on the move, a group of 6 looked like they could have got up from the southern end of the reserve and they left high, calling as they headed N/NE up the Mardyke. Meadow Pipits trickling through and a few Chaffinches over, House Martins noted moving high and a few Swallows as well. Aveley Bay held double figures of Avocets a lone Black-tailed Godwit and Ruff with Teal numbers on the increase. In a warm spell during the afternoon up to 4 Buzzards were in the sky over the reserve with at least 2 others moving through, and a couple of Sparrowhawks kept an eye on the Buteos. Almost forgot, around 10 Yellow-legged Gulls on the Thames shore and a Brent Goose did a u-turn over Aveley Bay and headed west mid morning.

Whale Update - Tue evening

On Sunday its identity was confirmed by observers along the Thames as a Humpback Whale and it's health was monitored since by interested expert parties. It was found to beach on Monday and sadly found dead off Greenhithe late on Tuesday. A very sad end to a beautiful creature.