Saturday, 21 January 2017

An Hour after the Snow in the Purfleet Hide at Rainham Marshes

13th January 2017

It had been snowing all morning but forecast to clear up by 11.00am, which is when we drew up in the car park. For once the forecast was spot on, as when we got out of the car the snow stopped and the sun came out and we were welcomed by the friendly resident Dunnock.

The first port of call today was the Purfleet Hide. During my first ever visit to this hide I had an amazing time photographing drake Pintail right in front of the hide and Wigeon grazing on the grassy bank just yards away. What amazing potential this hide had. But ever since then, and I have visited it several times, it has always been dead with all the birds concentrated at the far end. But today was different with a host of subjects awaiting their turn to be photographed.

By now the sun was right out and the light was absolutely fantastic and made this Heron sitting hunched up in the reeds positively shine. The Gadwall, Shoveler and Teal, all looking resplendent in the summer attire, got the same treatment.

As usual the waders, mainly Redshank, Curlew and Dunlin did indeed stay at the far end, and it was only the when the large flock of Dunlin were spooked by an invisible predator that they gave a photo opportunity. Whatever it was, was also causing the wildfowl to panic.

But then there were the stars of the show. A lone Snipe broke cover and started to feed along the margin of the nearest bare island and was totally illuminated by the sun

It then decided that a bath was in order and gave a fine display in front of the assembled crowd, before moving on to the bank for a spot of preening.

But my favourites today were the Wigeon which had gathered on every piece of land in front of the hide and gave everyone a wonderful display against a back-cloth of dark blue water.

Lots of whistling going on, and with the breeding season just round the corner, also some arguments.

Unfortunately at that point the sun went in, but what an absolutely fantastic way to spend an hour after the snow had cleared.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Snow Buntings at Jaywick Sands

5th January 2017

It was the 24th November 2014 that I last photographed a flock of eight Snow Buntings at Jaywick Sands ie two winters ago. A group of six has been reported again this year so time for a trip to see if I could find them, but as I was in the area I made a small diversion to Colne Point at the mouth of the River Colne.

Colne Point is a rather desolate area with just a handful of residents at Lee-over-Sands and is primarily saltmarsh. I made my way to the Jetty Hide and gently opened the flap overlooking the creek. The tide was still out so there was a large expanse of mud with a trickle of water down the centre. Not many birds around with just the usual suspects ie Redshank, Grey Plover and Oystercatcher.

On the way back to the car there were several pipits flying round the marsh, nearly all Meadow Pipits, but luckily the one pipit which landed on a post instead of dropping down into long grass was this Rock Pipit. How lucky is that?

Anyway, back to the business at hand so on to Jaywick Sands to search for the Snow Buntings. I walked along the sea wall and on to the beach and headed straight for the spot that they seemed to like in 2014. To my utter astonishment they were in exactly the same place to within + 10 yards, but this time only six birds.

Then a rather strange thing happened. They suddenly rose into the sky and after a couple of laps of the beach landed on the piles of huge rocks that form the breakwaters of the sea defences. I have seen hundreds of Snow Buntings scurrying round on the tide wrack on beaches, but have never seen one on a rock!!

What a fantastic end to the day and especially at a place where I spent so much of my childhood and learnt much of my early birding.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Waders at Fingringhoe Wick

2nd January 2017

After a fantastic morning at Abberton, time to move on to Fingringhoe Wick. High tide was at 2.30pm, so that gives us 3 hours of incoming tide to hopefully photograph some waders. As usual the incoming tide caused considerable movement amongst the wildfowl particularly the Brent Geese and Shelduck, but a particularly welcome guest today was the female Goosander which took refuge from the river but kept her distance.

As the water crept in and started to cover the mud the number of waders increased, although those that came closer were the usual Redshank, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover.

However, an unexpected bonus was this Kingfisher which flew out to a tree on the mudflats. I am not quite sure what it was expecting to catch in those murky waters.

By now the tide was well in and large numbers of waders were leaving the mud on the river and flying into The Retreat to roost particularly Avocets, Curlews, Knots and Dunlin, and the wheeling flocks of waders were most spectacular.

But the best was yet to come. On my way back to the car I decided to call in to the scrape to see if there were any more waders there. However, as I gently eased open the hide flap, there right in front of me was another cracking Kingfisher, this time much closer. What a fantastic way to end the day.