A rather grey morning with a chilly, freshening breeze that kept our group moving along the seawall in an effort to try and keep warm. There were however a few hints of spring, the bill on the Heron fishing in the low water channel was starting to turn the yellow-orange of breeding colours, and the Oystercatcher pair had returned to their territory near the barrier noisily proclaiming ownership.
On the river there were lots of Redshanks and Lapwings feeding or huddled up against the wind, while on the marsh a small flock of Greylag Geese grazed. Also on the marsh a pair of Stonechats eventually gave themselves up to everyone. These delightful little birds will set up a winter territory together, perching up on top of brambles and thistles and dropping to the ground to feed before returning to a perch, typical “chat” behaviour.
Meanwhile across the river a male Marsh Harrier was perched in a low willow allowing reasonable “scope” views, it was then joined by two immature harriers and all three were briefly in the air together circling over the reedbed.
Back on the river there were several small groups of Little Grebes, (also called Dabchicks), totalling twenty birds maybe, and a Buzzard drifted out over the wood.
Into the shelter of the wood and we could watch Grey Plovers feeding alongside Shelducks and a few Avocets and Curlews. There were also some Wigeon and Teal dabbling along the water’s edge with above them wheeling flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover which had probably been spooked by the Sparrowhawk we saw later on.
So far small birds had been hard to find, but in the weedy field behind the dead trees there were bouncing flocks of Linnets, Skylarks and Chaffinches, and best of all a couple of Corn Buntings which gave good views perched on wires and brambles. These were once a common farmland bird with their “jangling keys” song a familiar sound on open farms with some wild margins and ditches.
Braving the wind at Whitehouse beach we saw a pair of Goosander on the river, a lone Brent Goose, and large, active flocks of Dunlin, Golden Plover, Avocet, with a few Knot, Shelduck and both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits.
We didn’t linger in the biting breeze on our way back, but a Great Tit did serenade us from the wood, at least he thought spring was coming.
Recent sightings: Two Water Rails on Ferry Marsh, the Peregrine on her usual pylon, and reports of a Great Northern Diver on the river towards Alresford Creek.
Next Walks: 9th Feb, 23rd March 10am £8
16th March Blackwater Barge Cruise from Maldon https://www.swallowbirding.co.uk/section834203.html
Exhibition: 1st April – 16th June 2019 The Naze Tower (PV 6th April) http://www.nazetower.co.uk/naze_home.html