For a while now I've been trying to find a local patch. There are plenty of green areas in and around Dagenham (Where for the short term future I reside), but finding a greenspace where I feel comfortable walking around with Binoculars and a Camera with Telephoto lens hasn't been easy. I live wedged between 2 parks, I have Parsloes park on one side, and Mayesbrook park on the other. For birding Mayesbrook is miles better than Parsloes, but it is also full of Dagenhamites. I suppose my regular spot it Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve, but is a distance to drive to, and lets face it a local patch should be local. Fortunately a contact of mine of Flickr, Steve Drake, put me on to The Chase LNR in Dagenham. I'd been to the Chase before, but just thought of it as an area for Anglers, but I was very wrong. It has large swathes of rough Grassland, many differing bodies of water from Angling Lakes, small ponds, and mud banked lakes, so there are plenty of opportunities for all sorts of species.
Cormorant fly past
On my first visit to the Chase I got up early as I wanted to be there for the dawn chorus. An advantage of the Chase is that you can gain entry from anytime of the day. The car park is open from dawn til dusk, but as the fishermen are there all night I think you can get in at any time. I arrived at 5:40am, and the first call I heard as I got out of the car was the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker as it flew over the car park. A good start, and as I started my walk onto the reserve I was bombarded with Blackbird, Robin and Wren, then the finches started in followed by the warblers with Whitethroat and Blackcap both giving their all. The one that I was really listening for though came in at about 6am. The sun was now up and bathing everything in a warm orange glow, when I heard "Cuckoo cuckoo" from a tree in the distance. As far away as I was, about 100 Metres I could see the cuckoo half way up a large tree, next to a pair of Wood Pigeon. I saw where I needed to go. Luckily I printed out a map of the site, which is available here http://www.dagenhamchaselnr.org.uk Unluckily however I left it at home. So after I made my way back to the car park, away from the riding school I found a path to a small reed edged pond, and there in the tree above my head was the Cuckoo. I watched for a while as he made the call. Although I've heard Cuckoos before, I'd never been this close, and to watch the bellows style action as the noise is created was wonderful.
Walking on water
I carried on my walk around, noting the different species I saw, however I probably missed loads as I was trying to take in where I was and where I was going. I kept forgetting I had a camera with me, so I didn't take many shots, but I will on my next visit. So I think I have found my patch. It's close to home, still a drive, but just a 5 minute drive. Lots of different habitats, and the ability to off road it a bit. There are no real paths to lead you around, which I really like. It's probably my only criticism of Rainham Marshes is that you have to stick to the paths. So I'll be going back soon, and hopefully the camera will get a little more use next time. I have started contributing lists and photos to http://www.dagenhamchaselnr.org.uk so take a look, there's even a picture of me on there, I'm the one in the blue shirt who, if you squint, looks like Brad Pitt. But you really, really have to squint... Practically close your eyes even.