Thursday, 22 November 2012

Desert Wheatear at Abberton

To finish off a very successful day at East Mersea I decided to call in to the Layer Breton causeway at Abberton to see if any owls were on show. However, as soon as I got out of the car, the first thing I did was to scan the distant pylons for Peregrine Falcons and sure enough one was clearly visible on one of the cross-structures. I pointed it out to another birder nearby who was clearly delighted to have seen it and said that it had rounded off a superb day.

He said that apart from lots of wildfowl, he had spent some time watching the Desert Wheatear by the Layer de la Haye causeway. I knew that the bird had be around for the last few days but did not know that it was still present and showing well, albeit distant, from the visitor centre. He told me to look out for about 40 birders down the bank as I drove into the car park.

It was now 4.00pm and so I only had about half an hour of light left so I made my way round to the other causeway and the visitor centre. As I entered the car park I looked to my right expecting to see the crowd but there was no-one there. There were, however, a number of people standing around the car park, some of them crouching down and pointing their cameras under cars. Luckily for me, the wheatear had moved from the house-high pile of sand on the building site and was now feeding in the car park itself, seemingly unperturbed by the interest it was attracting.

The light was now getting poor and so I set my camera to ISO 1600 and started clicking. Considering the gloom the results were not bad.

Desert Wheatears are rare birds to the UK and this was only the third record for Essex, the first being in 1958 and the second in 1987. What a fantastic way to end a perfect day.

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