Monday, 21 November 2016

TOWIE - for real

October & (early) November forays across the border into the homeland that is Essex, county of my birth and upbringing - that statement answers a lot of your questions I'll bet!

Visits to Fingrinhoe (avec Le Tite Hirsute), Mistley and Mersea Island (twice), with differing results.

Fingrinhoe was a disaster for me photographically, I didn't drop my camera in the pond but might just as well have done. No idea what went wrong but, after reviewing them, I deleted all of the photos I taken that day - for me they simply weren't good enough.

We found Willow Emeralds here too.

The new "inter-tidal" area is impressive even given the fact that this day all of the birds were miles away and stayed there for the duration of the visit, even as the tide came in they stubbornly refused to move.  I will definitely go back, I can see the potential there and others do get good shots so it's me!

Cakes & tea were good as always, and the staff very friendly and helpful, it's a nice reserve to visit if you find yourself at the back of beyond with a few hours to kill. (I mean that in a nice way - Essex people will understand!)

Here are my photos from today

Mistley at the beginning of November is a great way to start the wader season.  The day I decided to go - because the tide was right, the weather forecast was good and the roads would be clear-ish, - was bloody freezing with a strong wind blowing.

I arrived at 10.15, my car thermometer said the outside temperature was 5.5C, high tide was 13.30 which gave me time to have a look at The Walls, and also to check out The Quay (where the wind was noticeably kinder!).  Plenty of Swans as always, and a few Black-tailed Godwits close in at The Walls, loads more at the waters edge which was still some way away, no Pintails (you will see the relevance shortly).  Walk to The Quay, surprisingly quiet today.  Highlight here was a couple of Curlews - albeit out in the estuary - busily probing for worms and other goodies, binoculars came in very handy!

Plenty of geese (turned out to be Brent) flying about but they proved elusive during my visit.  I spoke to a couple of other binocular owners who were looking for Pintails.  I knew this fairly soon after seeing them when the lady asked "Have you seen any Pintails?"- nothing gets past me these days! I hadn't I replied, she said they'd just driven down from The Walls (it's less than a 5 minute walk!) and there were none there either though some had been reported on the previous day - good news.

The tide was coming in so I headed back to The Walls, stopping off at the Coffee van for a cup of hot anti-freeze with a little milk, to quote Coop (that's Coop not Co-op) "Damn fine coffee" shame there was no Cherry Pie, I settled for a Mars bar.

I had walked about 10 yards and looked out into the river, in front of me I spotted a male Pintail,

where had that come from? Mrs Woman said there weren't any just 5 or 10 minutes ago, and there weren't any here when I arrived.  A quick scan of the area revealed about a dozen of the little buggers beauties, and what's more they weren't going anywhere - most of them were "asleep",

which gave me time to at least have a few mouthfuls of "Exlir de Java" to stave off the cold a bit.

An hour and a half or so later I went back to the Anti-freeze van, another cup please - bliss - and sat in the car, which had been in the sun, reviewing the photos - mainly Black-tailed Godwits and Pintails with the odd Turnstone thrown in. 

They generally looked OK so, apart from being frozen, I was feeling "positive" and the car was nicely warm.

Coffee finished, Mars bar finished 12.15, I had to be home for 3.00 so plenty of time. Hit the road Jack! Car thermometer still said 5.5C - see I told you it was cold!

Shelducks - forgot the Shelducks!

Slight detour on the way home - Tesco, Bishop's Stortford, target Waxwing.  I arrived about an hour later, no hurry so steady drive.  Found the area where the Waxwing had been reported for the previous few days and parked up.  Why wasn't there anyone else here? Didn't bode well at all, but I'm here now so have a look around.

I found the Silver Birch referred to in the sightings reports and also the favoured Rowan tree - still with plenty of berries, but despite looking for 15 minutes, no sign of the Waxwing. Mumbling to myself  "That's why there's no one else here - obviously". I walked down a couple of the other roads on my way back to the car but no sign anywhere - no sign of anything birdy actually. I arrived at the car, I still had more than an hour before I need to be home so a final quick look around.  Silver Birch first - nothing, Rowan next - nothing, except a Blackbird which flew off, and there, sitting behind where the Blackbird had been a single WAXWING! - Gotcha! except it was in the branches and didn't look like moving any time soon.  I moved along the path, across the road and along that path too and managed to get a couple of shots of a sort, then it moved forward a little giving me better views which I just went for! some turned out OK others didn't but at least I had seen it and had a few photos to prove it.

What a great day -  120 miles, Pintails & Waxwing, good hot coffee and a Steak & Cheese sub with red onions and green peppers for lunch at 3.00pm!

Mersea Island 11/11/2016)  - a birders paradise (except for the dogs!) again avec Le Tite Hirsute!

Mersea on a sunny November day when the wind is no more than a feint breeze is almost idyllic, it's certainly popular especially with dog owners who take advantage of the good conditions to bring out their pets to be emptied (c.The Bearded Tit).

Today was no exception.  We started at West Mersea, I wanted to try to see some Sanderlings along the beach.  As we headed out onto the beach a couple of dogs had just finished exercising their owners and were busy ignoring their requests.  Deepjoy - that's probably scared off everything then.  Quick scan of the area found a few assorted gulls further along the beach by the groynes and I couldn't see anything else - but the walk would do us good.

Walking along that shingle beach is hard work for a person of my years so at the first opportunity I headed onto the sandy bits which was (a). easier going, (b). quieter, (c). there is no (c) - Oh yes the sun is "It's behind you" (panto season is nearly here!).

Anyway along the beach I spotted "something smaller" landing between the groynes, we kept walking and found a group of about 10 Sanderlings busily scampering along the hide tide line, feasting on sand flies and the like, they just didn't take any notice of us and kept feeding.

We got a few shots and then the inevitable dog arrived on the scene, and the Sanderlings departed. 

We saw them land back down the beach, away from the dog, but others had entered the beach.  Our chances had gone, we headed back, chanced upon a couple of Turnstones and watched as the dogs scared off everything.

But I had seen and photographed some Sanderlings which was why I came here today.

We headed to the "harbour" - just gulls and a few geese, so off to the East end and Cudmore Grove Country Park.  Not great but mainly due to the tide being out, the waterline was just off the coast of Belgium by the look of it!

Plenty of geese & wildfowl in the meadow area, and the ancient hide hid us OK, but the benches don't move and the top of the door is about four feet off the ground (it's made for little people!) but I managed OK, just.  As we left the hide I exited first and being well over six feet tall I did an exaggerated duck to get out through the hobbity door, my companion, being a little shorter thought it would be a good idea to try to simply wallop his head on the door frame! At least I made sure he was OK before I started to take the pi.. anyway off to the shoreline.

Hang on, there's no water, and no birds either, I did warn that the tide was wrong but didn't expect the Essex coast to be quite this dry!  We had a walk around, didn't come across anything close - a large group of Avocet in the distance and large flocks of (what turned out to be) Golden Plover, again at a distance.  We cut our losses for today & headed homeward.  I was happy enough with the Sanderlings.

We pulled onto "The Causeway" at Abberton Reservoir on the way back but the levels were well down here too due to "workings" according to the notice but I suspect the Belgians had been here before us!

There was a rumour of a Bittern from the Causeway but not for us, nor the reported Slavonian Grebe, though there was a Great Crested trying to pass itself off as Slavonian which was a surprise given our Brexit vote in June!

Mersea Island (2) 18/11/2016 - sans Le Tite Hirsute who is in Ghana.

A much better day birding-wise, but cold & windy, and, despite the BBC forecast (or maybe because of it!) quite dull just 10 minutes after arrival at the Seaview Avenue car park. I paid 20p for 2 hours parking - HCC please note!!!!!! 

A walk into the "breeze" towards the town, along the beach.  A few other idiots were out but only a few, and so was the tide but that gave the chance to get closer to the waterline and hopefully "sun-side" of the Sanderlings.  I found a few scurrying around along the waterline and they were reasonably compliant once they realised I didn't want to do them any harm. 

Some nice shots, and a bonus Curlew,

plus the usual Turnstones. 

I watched two Brent Geese flying the same way as I was walking, the wind was giving them more trouble than it was giving me, they were flapping away and almost stationary!  About 45 minutes later I was in the Seaview CafĂ© with a mug of tea and an egg sandwich, which was prepared and served in less than 10 minutes (RSPB Rainham Marshes please note!).  Review of the pics so far - some decent shots I think.

Off to the east end, high tide is about two and a half hours away.  I headed straight to the coastline to find the water very much back in the UK! and in fact most of  "The Point" and surrounding area was definitely liquid rather than pebbles or marsh.  Only a few birds along the waterline and I stayed very much on the "sea wall" well above the high tide mark.  I thought about going on to the point but decided to see what happens when the tide gets in - good job I didn't go on as the tide, probably helped by the wind, covered all but the tops of the scrub and the pill box!

I found several mixed groups of Grey Plovers, Dunlin, Knot, Turnstones & Redshanks clinging on to any "land" they could find

until the tide finally took it from them and away they went. 

I waited for an hour after high tide hoping they'd come back but probably needed another hour at least before the mudflats started to be exposed for them.  At least I know now! (Thanks to Seymour Birdies for his advice re-Mersea, and his ID skills which are second to none!) 

. . . and in deference to Mr. Birdies, the "star of the show" today were definitely the Sanderlings at West Mersea, I could watch them scurrying about for hours!

Definitely heading back soon! A great place to visit.

Free viewing of more pics on Twitter at @RonBaber - you don't need to sign in, just search for me from the logon page.

Hope you have as much fun out and about as I do !!

Back in December - probably!

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