With another glorious Autumn day forecast I took myself over to Essex for the day to have a poke around Abberton Reservoir. I made good time and was the only person on the layer Breton causeway to start with and therefore had the Great White Egret fest to myself as at least six birds moved around the willows and hunted in the shallows.
|Great White Egret
It is such a delight to see these imposing herons on many a day out it will not be long before they join Cattle and Little Egrets on the county breeding list.
|Great White Egret
The causeway was covered in geese with the once scarce Egyptian Goose showing why they are such an adaptable species and there were at least 60 loafing on the concrete while Pied and Grey Wagtails ran amongst them.
|Mute Swan cygnets - part of a family of six
I checked the diving duck that I could see but the view east was predictably glared out and the west end was made up mostly of swirling flocks of eclipse Shoveler spinning around in an effort to draw up something edible from the depths in duck powered vortices. I bumped into Lesvos Trevor and we moved around to check on the screens around Billets farm and although the light was pants and the heat haze abysmal we still did quite well and found several more Great White Egrets, small groups of Pintail and Wigeon and thanks to Richard Allen, a Wood Sandpiper with a Common Sandpiper, two Ruff and one each of the ‘Ringed’ Plovers.
A Wheatear was on the wires and small flocks of Sand Martins and Swallows drifted through while both Whitethroats, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were in the hedges with a Long-tailed Tit flock. Yellow Wagtails called overhead but there were no Cattle Egrets with the sheep.
Down at the Layer-de-le-Haye causeway we added another Great White and a distant Black Tern and a juvenile Marsh Harrier hunting the edge was one of four seen.
Lunch beckoned and so with a final 13th Great White in the next bay up and a hunting Hobby, I headed back south towards RSPB Old Hall and made an approach from the Salcott end.
A pleasant riverwall amble was taken over the high tide and thankfully the cloud was starting to build up and the at least the nearer birds were no longer shimmering blobs!
|Looking south to Bradwell Power Station
After a nice chat with a local out training his gun dog puppy in the art of swimming in the tidal channels I set about scanning for waders roosting up on the saltmarsh and was pleased to find 70 Grey Plover mostly in varying degrees of summer plumages, a single brick red Bar-tailed Godwit and 23 Greenshank. Little Egrets dozed amongst the latter and others were still checking out the still rising creeks.
|Grey Plovers and a single Turnstone
I could see four sleepy Spoonbills way out on Pennyhole I think and Green Sandpipers came up from every ditch as I walked along.
I was hoping to find the Cattle Egret flock but the herds I could see were way off in the wibbly wobbly distance so I pressed on to check the group closest to my bit of the river wall alongside the Salcott Channel and rather smugly discovered seven of these fierce looking egrets eyeing up the cows for suitable fly related snacks.
Keeping track of them was difficult and seven was the most I regularly counted at once. All had orange bills but I am not sure how quickly juveniles lose the dark colouration to their bare parts.
The cattle were around a great drying pool which had Green Sandpipers, Yellow and Pied Wagtails, Linnets, Reed Buntings and three Whinchats feeding around it. I contemplated conducting the rest of the ‘small’ circuit but I was already nearly two miles from the car and it felt like unexpected rain was not too far away so I retraced my steps adding three Marsh Harriers in the process before calling ornithological proceedings to a close for the day.