Barge Trip – Birdwatching Cruise and Walk – Maldon 11th March 2017
A perfect spring morning for a cruise down the Blackwater estuary aboard Topsails barge Kitty(1895). After a warm welcome from the crew we set off down river accompanied by wheeling flocks of Black-tailed Godwits heading off to roost, and groups of Teal and Brent Geese along the muddy margins. We had already seen Greenshank and Little Egret before we left and as we gently cruised past Heybridge and Northey Island we saw more waders,(Dunlin, Avocets and Redshank), and wildfowl,(Wigeon and Pintail), as the incoming tide pushed them off the marshes. Around Osea Island the mirror calm conditions were good for birding, not so good for sailing, but as we drifted two seals gave distant views, as did a Slavonian Grebe with Great-crested Grebes, and a flock of Long-tailed Ducks, a rare sight in Essex waters. Returning back up river a Peregrine flew over, and we saw more waders and a group of Little Grebes, before tucking into our hearty soup and rolls for lunch. The walk along the promenade gave us good views of mostly the same species including some godwits moulting into summer plumage before their migration to Iceland, and a flock of Golden Plover dropped down onto the mud.
Black-tailed Godwits 500+ including some in summer plumage
Greenshank 4 a scarce winter bird in Essex
Long-tailed Duck 19 seen in a tight flock all diving together, it has been a good winter for this species, normally only one or two are seen each year.
Peregrine 1 probably a male, (females are noticeably larger), pity it didn’t hang around
Avocet, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Shelduck, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Slavonian Grebe, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull
Richard Allen richardallenillustrator.com twitter: @richardallenart
I’ve been working on several projects with Paul Pearce-Kelly at London Zoo and the Species Recovery Programme. This is the latest completed work showing the Fregate Island Beetle and the Enid Snail, both endangered endemics from the Seychelles. The next group I’m working on is the Partula snail from the Polynesian islands, many species have been driven to extinction or are only found in captive breeding after the unfortunate introduction of the carnivorous Rosy Wolfsnail.
Birdwalk News October 17th
A rather grey autumnal day with a nippy north-easterly breeze which brought some Scandinavian winter visitors our way. Newly arrived Meadow and Rock Pipits flitted around the saltmarsh, a flock of Fieldfares flew over calling “chack-chack-chack”, and three flocks of Redwings flew steadily west, pushing on with a tail wind behind them. Overhead a single Siskin called and kept on going, while in the bushes Goldcrests gave their thin high pitched calls, but proved difficult to see. It has been a particularly good autumn for Goldcrests with hundreds of this diminutive bird arriving on the east coast. Its amazing to think of a bird the size of a man’s thumb and weighing less than a 10p piece flying across the North Sea at night. In fact they use to be call the “woodcocks pilot” as people believed they crossed the sea on the back of Woodcocks which often arrived on the coast at the same time.
On the river the waders were jumpy, an unseen predator putting them all to flight and providing us with a spectacular aerial display. A large flock of Dunlin flashed white, then grey, while Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings joined in with the show.
We also had very good views of two “pairs” of Grey Herons on the near shore, along with numerous Little Egrets. Further along towards the point Avocets, Ringed Plover and Curlews showed well, and some exceptionally close Grey Plovers allowed us to admire their delicate grey plumage and large dark eyes.
At Alresford Creek there were a few recently arrived Wigeon and Teal, and a scattering of Brent Geese, and out in mid-channel a single Great-crested Grebe dived for sprats along side several Dabchicks. All in all a good mornings walk.
Recent sightings:Goldcrests have continued to arrive in force, listen for their thin “zree-zree-zree” call almost anywhere there are bushes. A Peregrine soared over the Sailing Club with a pair of Stonechats on the nearby marsh, Glyn has also seen Black Redstart here.
Also most unusually two Ravens flew high over my garden uttering their distinctive croaking call. A bird long extinct in Essex, but starting to make a come back.
Next Birdwalk Sat 14th November 10am £8 email or call 01206 826753 to book
Birdwalk News September 2015
A fine warm sunny autumn morning for the first walk of the new season, and there were plenty of birds to enjoy. The estuary was full of waders newly returned from their high Arctic nesting grounds. Some, such as a particularly smart Grey Plover, still retained their summer breeding plumage, although most of the Knot, Black-tailed Godwits and the scattering of Dunlin, had moulted into their duller winter attire. Amongst the commoner waders we had good views of three rather dapper Ringed Plovers, much smaller than the Grey Plover and with a smart black “ring” across the white breast.
Whilst watching the waders a seal swam past and later on gave a good performance as it fished the shallows. Overhead a Buzzard was mobbed by crows as usual, and a few late Swallows headed south, while nearby a Reed Bunting gave good views.
Further along the trail a Great-spotted Woodpecker played hide and seek around the bare branches, in a sunny corner some Linnets perched up, Goldfinches sang, and a couple of warblers,(Blackcap and Lesser Whitethroat) proved had to see well.
Returning to the river there were more waders, a fishing Common Tern, several Little Grebes and the usual Little Egrets.
Recent sightings:The super moon has been impressive the last fews days, and has coincided with the arrival of the first Goldcrests and Redwings of the Autumn.
The next couple of weeks should see the first returning Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal.
Next walk 17th October 10am £8 call 01206 826753 to book