Friday, 28 December 2012

The Allure of the Essex Marshes

Well, East Mersea to be precise. Today I shot through Abberton Reservoir without stopping as I wanted to get to the island before high tide for two reasons. The first is that the high tide brings the birds closer for photography and the second even more important point is that if you don't arrive before high tide you may be prevented from getting on to the island at all due to The Strood, the causeway linking it with the mainland, being flooded.

It was a beautiful sunny day with no wind, and as I made my way down the path past the hide there were a few Chaffinches flitting around in the Hawthorns, including one particularly tame male individual.

The floods were frozen over with very few birds around so I continued down to the sea wall. At this point it is customary to scan the sea for sea birds although up to now I have been particularly unlucky and previously have only seen a few Eider, some fly-past Red-Breasted Mergansers and a seal. But today, not too far away on a calm sea was a dark-looking duck. I only had binoculars with me so took a couple of shots with the camera and enlarged the image to reveal that it was a female Common Scoter. Common Scoters are found in large numbers along the North Norfolk coast but are not as numerous off the Essex coast and this was my first for Mersea. A bit too distant for a decent shot but sufficient for a record.

I continued east along the sea wall and followed it round into the mouth of the River Colne and past the Oyster Fishery. Here there were a couple of male Red-breasted Mergansers fishing off-shore, but again only close enough for some record shots.

I started the walk back only to see that a couple of hang-gliders were flying low over the park and had put every bird into the air with flocks of Lapwings, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwits flying in all directions. The godwits sought refuge in one of the fields behind the sea wall along with a handful of Curlews. As I approached the Curlew took to the air but I was clearly too far away to worry the godwits and was able to get a shot off.

When I got back to the Point I walked along the beach and as I appeared at one of the pools from behind a suaeda bush I was confronted by a Little Egret. I am not too sure who was the most surprised. Luckily I had my wits about me and was able to rattle off a couple of shots before it took to the air. The pale lower mandible and the lack of a long crest makes this a juvenile. Also on the pool was a Redshank showing off his reflection in the flat calm water.

On the shoreline the usual suspects were much in evidence. A small party of Turnstones scurried ahead of me, only taking to the air when I got a little too close.

But while I was on the tide-line how could I ignore Calidris alba, the White Calidrid or Sanderling? Not only are these stunning as they race in and out of the surf, but they are also confiding. Just look at the following shots to see what I mean, all taken at a range of 8-10 yards.

1 comment:

  1. There always seems to be a single female Common scoter in the mouth of the Colne every winter,I,ve seen one from colne point for the last 3 ys,like to think its the same bird every year..