Monday, 6 February 2017

Colchester to Rowhedge - a Colneside Amble - 6th February 2017

Another day away from the ranch saw me making may way against the traffic to Colchester so that Kettle could tinker with the car while I headed for my now traditional amble down to The Hythe and along the River Colne.
The first part of the walk down the hill out of the town centre is always incredibly noisy with the smell of exhausts from the rush hour traffic and other nefarious odours to encourage you to keep walking. I always marvel at the Gothic St Leonards Church jammed between the houses with its knobbly spires and fantastic gargoyles and as usual the House Sparrows were trying to be heard from the eaves of the very old house next door.

Good old fashioned tiles with lots of gaps!
 As usual the tide was going out and the usual collection of Teal, Mutes Swans, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls were feeding in the river before the road bridge. Rather than walk up the northern trail I stayed on the south side and headed along past the TS Colne Light Ship. 

TS Colne Light



...and this is what he thinks of my photography

The monster pylon on the other side held as pleasant surprise as while being arty with my camera I picked up a female Peregrine clambering around the framework.  I could not see a mate but she seemed agitated and fidgety and I suspect was contemplating breakfast.

Many of the old boats and barges moored up are in a shocking state and most appear to be inhabited to some extent but one redeemed itself with a wondrously stroppy, confrontational, life size effigy of the great Bender Bending Rodríguez from Futurama. The celebratory 50 Years of Basildon baseball hat only added to his general ‘what you looking at?’ attitude...

Onwards towards the lagoons and beyond where the weather drastically improved and blue skies appeared from nowhere. The river hosted the usual suspects on these visits with many pairs of Teal, Redshanks, ‘snickering’ Black-tailed Godwits and the odd Curlew. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Black-tailed Godwit




The mud here is so gloopy and the birds always come up filthy after having a good probe! A couple of Little Grebes and Cormorants dived and drifted with the outgoing swell and a Common Gull was having fun with a rather large leg bone which was just too big to pick up and carry off and away from the attention of the Black-heads and single Lesser Black-backed.
Reed Buntings and two Yellowhammers flicked across the river and I could hear Song Thrushes singing from various spots while the Rock Pipits once again were observed perching up on the railway lines.

Common & Black-headed Gull consider breakfast...

Little Grebe


Looking smart...

The lagoon itself was devoid of anything bar three reflective Mute Swans so I decided to venture into the unknown and keep heading east. The inland meadows were covered in the tell tale humps of Yellow-meadow Ant colonies just like at Rainham and the low light was showing them off to great effect. Curlews stalked around amongst them along with a few Starlings and Skylarks.


Anthill city!
Another bend in the Colne added Wigeon, Grey Plover, Snipe and Oystercatcher to the list along with more obliging Blackwits and a pale male Ruff with bright orange legs. 

Black-tailed Godwit

Oystercatcher with bubble gum Thayer's Gull legs!

Oik and the Wit

Ruff and Redshank

Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming in Wivenhoe Wood and I could also hear a yaffling Green Woodpecker and the plaintive calls of Bullfinch.
I had now made it as far as Rowhedge where the Godwits and Redshanks were even tamer and after procuring a fine Americano from the new Jam Jar Cafe I took myself to the nearest riverside bench and actually sat down and relaxed for ten minutes... well I never.  

Black-tailed Godwit... again



...and almost as spherical as the Grey Plover at Titchwell!

It was pretty peaceful bar the sound of the odd car and the various grumbling waders and gulls and I had a lovely young male Blackbird listening for worms on the lawn right next to me. He would lift his head right up, tilt it to one side, pause again and then strike. 

How often do you really look at a Blackbird?

I had a check to see just how far I had come and somehow three miles had slipped by which meant that I had another three to get back.  The return leg initially held the same species and a Woodpigeon dozing in the sunshine on the top of some flats looked to have not a care in the world. Eyes closed, chest out.

As long as the Sparrowhawk was not watching

An unfamiliar call reached me from the ancient hedge line just inland but I soon twigged that it was a Little owl and a bit like the Willow Tit song on Saturday, it is simply one I do not here very often at all. In fact I cannot remember the last time I saw the species. Fortunately it seemed to be calling from one of three Oaks that I could approach via the old inland river wall section. Blue and Great Tits were alarming which seemed a good sign but then a Sparrowhawk broke cover revealing itself to be the cause for concern. There were no owl noises now but I then noticed this little bundle of fierce feathers glaring at me through some old Bramble leaves. He had to crouch down to do so and so I slowly backed away and left him in situ and could still feel those yellow eyes following my every move.

Ever so slightly creepy...
Back on the trail I was starting to get back into the industrial zone with pathside Robins and Wrens for company and a plumed Little Egret was a very acceptable final new bird for the walk as I once again neared the Lightship.

Little Egret
I made it back to the workshop just as Adrian had finished things up; perfect timing after a perfect walk.

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