Saturday, 13 February 2016

Bearded Tit & Mongoose at Mistley

So, don't you hate it when people start sentences with "So"!, so I won't do it.

Taken literally the title of this blog should grab an extra reader or two - who will be disappointed to find that neither were present, at least not as you might expect!

Friday 12th Feb 2016 - cold & overcast with a cold wind but dry, yesterday was sunny with blue skies and would've been the better day to head for the Essex / Suffolk border / coast-ish area, but prior commitments put the kybosh on that!  Next week Tuesday looks to be the best day by far and I'm having carpets & flooring laid.  Perhaps I should suggest to the Beeb that they use my diary to forecast the weather, can't be much worse and would certainly save them a few quid!

Anyway, arrived at Mistley around 10.45 - high tide due at 14.45 - so in good time then.  On my previous visit I was told about a white bridge a bit further up the river where Greenshanks were observed along with other water birds.  So, ooops, we decided to take a trip there first, it's only a 5 minute drive along the Ipswich road and there is some parking.  On arrival we parked up and faced the elements, I was fairly warm with my three layers & decided to leave the coat in the car, the wind was cold but didn't seem too bad. We were there for about 10 minutes, by the end of it I was pleased to get back in the car.  From the bridge (which is actually called "The White Bridge" - sensible folk these country people) we could see flocks, herds or swarms of Wigeon, Canadas, Cormorants, & Teal, there were also small groups of Little Grebe, a few Redshank, a single (not so) Common Sandpiper and a few Godwits (which were called derivations of this as the day progressed!).  All were a bit distant & the light wasn't great so we headed back to "The Walls" at Mistley.

First stop was at Mistley Quay, tide was well out but in the channel were plenty of Goldeneye, Swans - of course this is Mistley after all, Pintails - half a dozen or so, a couple of distant Curlews, loads of even more distant Shelducks, and of course Black-Headed Gulls which made it clear to us that this is their turf or shoreline.  We then spotted a single bird swimming towards us from the loading quay - what's this then? Oh nice - Merganser! couple of photos and "Where'd he go?" Nowhere to be seen, how do they do that?   


There was a fellow birder on the quay with a scope so we asked :

Me:"Hi, did you see the Merganser?"
Birder: "Ar, he bon don't or tere"
Me: "Pardon?"
B: "Bugger'd off oop ter (pointing)"
Me: "Ah, gone over there"
B: "Mmm"
Me: "You local?"
B: "Mmm"
Me: "From here?"
B: "Mmmm, oer ter" (more pointing) "Yo?"
Me: "Hertford"
B: "Mmmmm"
Me: "Right, we're off to The Walls"
B: Mmmm"
The Bearded Tit (TBT): "What the f**! was that about?"
Me: "Mmmm!"

Seriously though, it is great to meet the local birders and share their expertise and local knowledge but I think I need a course in Suffolk-ese! (I know Mistley is Essex, and so am I, but our new friend was from "Oer ter" as he said and indicated - rough translation "Sorry old chap, I'm from across the estuary in Suffolk".

At The Walls the coffee van was in place and two good, hot coffees purchased.  I used my cup to try to get some feeling back in my fingers which are prone to turn white if the temperature drops below 20C which it had.

Sitting on one of the benches provided we could see one or two Godwits, a few Redshank, Swans, BH Gulls (which, I discovered later, seem to have photo-bombed virtually all of my photos today!) and large flocks of er what are they?  The tide was still a couple of hours at least from its peak so we set off for a walk along the "Esplanade" (those who know Mistley will understand the ""' 's!) towards Manningtree (or as I know the locals call it "Mant -ree").  We were observing the flocks of small-ish waders as we walked along although they were just bit too far away to be absolutely sure what they were.  Thankfully, The Bearded Tit (TBT) had his Observer Pocket Book of Birds (OPBoB) in his pocket, where else, offered it to me to assist my efforts to identify said waders.  I stood on the book but it didn't really give me any better view, if only I'd brought my Collins Guide! - note to self !

We went through the "Waders" section of the OPboB and came to the conclusion "They could be bloody anything"  but we were able to substantiate there were a lot of them! According to TBT's OPBoB most of the waders seem to have "Grey / Brown upper parts, lighter underparts" which our birds had, so we'd whittled it down to "Waders"!  It didn't help that the TBT's OPBoB was the 1907 version and showed all of the (glorious colour prints) birds as either "in summer plumage" or black & white!

As we walked and approached a flock we noticed that they would take to the wing and land, on the waterline, in the area we had just left!  So, damn!, after the third occurrence we decided head back to the bench area we'd come from previously. 

Our new birder friend had also arrived at The Walls, and was scanning the river through his scope, he smiled when he saw us and said "Mongoose" and pointed out to the left.  We just looked at each other and mouthed "Mongoose?".  The birder was pointing at his scope "Mongoose" he said, "Mongoose" - I had a look - Merganser! that's where it went! I thanked him.

We managed to get round the Swans and down on to "the beach" with backs, literally, to the wall - and out of the cold wind.  In front of us were a good size flock of  "those waders", and a number of Black-tailed Godwits, BH Gulls, Turnstone, a lone Little Egret and of course the Swans - who definitely own the place despite the best effort of the BH Gulls.  All of the waders were at the waterline and were heading our way as the tide came in and would hopefully give us some decent reasonably close views and photo opportunities.  We needed them as close as possible because the light wasn't the best.  We sat 10 maybe 15 yards apart both watching the approaching birds with TBT sitting on an old log.


Afro Egret

The Swans didn't pay much attention to us and were so close I could only get "head shots".  I took a few pictures as the tide progressed, pushing the birds ever closer, we were both happy with our positions and also with the approaching birds, all seemed settled and happily feeding or preening.





I looked over at TBT and noticed he had a new friend, who I found out later was questioning him about the birds he could see especially "the terns" which were all over the place - we knew them as Black Headed Gulls, so does TBT's new friend now!  I also noticed TBT putting his expertise as a Swan Whisperer to good use, both he & the Swan seemed "at ease" or was he just keeping his feet warm?


Natural down feet warmer
TBT has a thing about dog walkers (as you may know if you read his blogs The Bearded Tit Blog) and also a thing about feeding white bread to water birds especially.  Well today the feeders were in evidence, not loads but just enough to disturb the approaching birds which suddenly all took off and flew away,  I think that someone (well intentioned I'm sure) chucked some food to the Swans, which the BH Gulls didn't want to miss and took off in search of the food, which spooked the waders and off they went.  We just looked at each other and said "Luck".

A few did return a little later and we did get some photos of Black-Tailed Godwits, Knot (our mystery waders), Redshank, Gulls, Turnstone and of course Swans, plus Rook and Stock Dove.

All in all a most enjoyable day, a good variety of birds, some good views and a few photos too, and all for free at Mistley, can't be bad.





On a serious note we did see one Canada Goose with part of its wing protruding,  TBT informed me it was a problem called "Angel Wing" and is caused and exacerbated by the consumption of white bread and other inappropriate foodstuff.  Angel Wing prevents flight which is pretty important if you're a bird so please don't feed white bread.  Here's a link to the wonderful Wikipedia for more info.
Wikipedia - Angel Wing

















Hokey Cokey Turnstones 
















Technical tip: If your images are a bit "Darth Vader"-ish (on the dark side), "Adjust, you can the "Brightness" on your LCD screen" - eh TBT!

See you again soon.


2 comments:

  1. Mongoose and Tern! I laughed so hard, I nearly shat!

    ReplyDelete

Now is the winter of our discontent . . .

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