Just playing catch up... I have not really had much in the way of opportunity to get out since New Year as I have been on Jury Service since the third but I have now been freed of my citizenly obligations! A few good books have been digested during the interminable waiting including the wonderful Wild America written by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher on their travels during 1953 across North America – (Jono- if you are reading this, you would thoroughly enjoy it and are more them welcome to borrow it).
A brief escape did see me head north of the Thames and into my home county. Unsurprisingly the weather was grey and dreary but at least it was not raining. Three Waxwings were perched up in Pitsea as I had an early coffee and later on over 50 were seen there! The light was, well, not existent so here is one of the flock of 13 currently residing at the top of my own road.
I headed to Goldhanger to have a look at the Blackwater and hopefully its winter duck but I was chancing my arm with the tide as I had not checked before leaving. The small playing field where you park up was covered in thrushes but there was not one Redwing or Fieldfare in sight. I counted 67 Blackbirds and three Song Thrushes hopping around purposely, stopping, heads cocked to one side, listening to the sound of earthworms going about their business in the darkness below, before a quick stab brought them to the bright world above – before entering darkness once more.
|Worm doom awaits...|
As I reached the river wall I was pleased to find that the tide was almost all the way in and infact was probably just on the turn. Dark-bellied Brent Geese in pleasing family parties chatted as they grazed along the edges while a part of Redshank and Turnstones were roosting temporarily on a wooden slip way.
A flock of Lapwing and 36 Golden Plover broke from the ploughed field opposite where they had been invisible against the sods and the latter quickly returned and disappeared from view.
The river was actually very disappointing and despite the generally flat light, no wind and little swell there was scant reward for my scanning around.
Flocks of Dunlin, Knot and Turnstones interspersed with Bar-tailed Godwits, Grey and Ringed Plovers whizzed by on their way to the roost site a little further on opposite Joyce’s Farm and a raft of several hundred Shelduck were steadily drifting out with the tide alongside Osea Island opposite. I eventually picked up some diving duck and over the course if the next hour I did manage to find a flock of 15 feeding Scaup, 20 Mergansers and Goldeneye, three Scoter and two flying Long-tailed Ducks but it was all far too far away to be described as enjoyable. Only one Great Crested Grebe was seen and three Little Grebes mid channel were where I expected Slavonians to be.
Meanwhile the huddling waders of the roost put on a good show on their saltmarsh islets and just over 200 Brents paddled between them. I checked for anything different but other than a pleasing number of extra juveniles with their parents there was nothing new.
|Four species napping|
The wind had got up and the cloud base was dropping further so I retraced my steps past even tamer Brents and moved on to Abberton Reservoir.
I started on the Layer Breton and quickly had Smew in view with three gleaming drakes and five female types giving wonderful views at the southern end by the weir. Diligent scanning did not reveal any Bitterns of the drake Ring-necked Duck but there was a large swirling mass of feeding Shovelers with attendant Coots and a Buzzard and female Marsh Harrier were hunting the far west end.
|Smew - surely one of the best lookign ducks in the world...|
Wigborough Bay looked superb and was populated mostly by Pintail with 210 counted. I scanned the large athya flocks for the absent Ring-neck to no avail but I did find a female Long-tailed Duck feeding actively with Goldeneye and sometimes so low in the water that only her head and ridge of her back were visible.
Golden Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff fed around the edges but I had to wait until I was on the Layer-de-le-Haye causeway before I saw any gleaming pink Goosander with 26 actively hunting.
I toyed with heading to the centre and around the trail and wisely thought better of it after a glance skyward and I only had a further twenty minutes on the LBC before the heavens opened and the rain arrived that followed me all the way back home...