16th February 2014
The visit wasn't actually planned, the objective of the day being to explore the River Crouch starting at North Fambridge. We set off in brilliant sunshine on the two and a half mile round trip taking in three hides and returning along the river wall. Everywhere was quiet, with what birds there were being very distant, and conditions under foot were atrocious. As a result we decided to abandon the rest of the recce and call in at Hanningfield on the way back.
That too was desperately quiet and I had forgotten the height of the chain-link fence along the causeway. I was remarking on the fact to a lady photographer who was trying to photograph ducks through the fence when she said that her home patch was Two Tree Island at Leigh-on-Sea. Two Tree is a place that crops up from time to time in conversation and normally comes highly recommended. I made a mental note to try there next time but Andy then discovered that it was only half an hour away so we set off to make the most of the day.
We had been told to drive to the farthest car park next to the slipway which we did. Being a sunny Sunday there were a number of families and dog walkers enjoying the sea air and the immediate surrounds did not look too attractive from a birding perspective. However, the tide was in and around the top of the slipway were a dozen or so Turnstones running around at our feet, totally unperturbed by the comings and goings.
The lady at Hanningfield told us to go as far west as possible and visit a hide overlooking a saline lagoon, so we set off. By now the tide had started to go out and, being so close to Southend, was exposing acres and acres of mud. This was attracting all the local waders that had been sitting out the tide on their roosting areas and we were able to watch thousands upon thousands of Dunlin, Redshank, Knot, Oystercatchers and Bar-tailed Godwits flying past. An amazing sight.
We eventually arrived at the hide and settled down to take in the scene. Apart from the expected Oystercatchers and Redshanks, I was somewhat surprised to see a Grey Plover right in front of the hide as, although they are common in the Thames Estuary, they seldom venture from the beach and mud flats. This was certainly an unexpected opportunity.
But the star of the show today was the Greenshank that was feeding right next to the Grey Plover. Greenshanks are not a particularly common wader and extremely hard to get close to, so this was indeed a superb bonus.
What a superb area and is now on my list of places to visit.