Friday, 30 January 2015

A New Year Visit to the Lea Valley

19th January 2015

A new year, a new start, and where better to start than at Fishers Green in the Lea Valley. And yes, I do spell Lea with an "a" as it follows the course of the old River Lea and not the much later Lee Navigation. First stop was the Bittern Watchpoint which was very quiet, so then on to the viewing platform just outside. The drake Tufted Ducks were resplendent as usual against a deep blue background, even saluting as I took their picture.

The finch flock on the bird crop past Holyfield Farm were difficult to see as they would fly from deep within the hedge and then dive straight into the crop to feed on the floor. However, on the way, we were entertained by this female Stonechat which followed us along the path.

On the way to Hooks Marsh Lake a little Jenny Wren was occupied trying to find some morcels of food down at water level and provided a few opportunities.

However, the target today was Goosander and we eventually saw a pair from the bridge. Unfortunately, we were looking into the sun, but it was possible to work our way around them to a fishing stage quite close to where they were feeding, and now had the sun behind us. Quite pleased with that as Goosanders can be very flighty and difficult to get close to. A very good start to the year.

Monday, 26 January 2015

A Return Visit to Mistley Quay

14th January 2015

After my last most successful visit to Mistley Quay I just had to go back again, but this time right at low tide. Unfortunately the fence was still in place although the birds had changed. The Goldeneye were still present but were keeping their distance and hugging the shade. However, there were a number of other subjects queuing up to have their photo taken. I had assumed that this Black-headed Gull was sitting around waiting for food but it was clearly an anti-fence demonstrator as it suddenly shouted out "Get that blimin' fence down!!!"

Much of the action today was fly-bys although one or two of the Goldeneyes did pose as they swam by.

However, what was different today was the number of Pintail present and so close. They have got to be my favourite duck.

But the stars today were a couple of Harbour Seals that were playing in the channel and not at all bothered by my attentions.

It was quite hard photographing them as most of the time only half of their head was showing above water although one did eventually haul itself out on the far bank. And even Harbour Seals enjoy a mud slide !!!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Walls at Mistley

7th January 2015

After a superb morning at Mistley Quay and high tide approaching it was time to move a few hundred yards west to The Walls, a road that runs alongside the estuary. We parked on the road just 10 yards from the beach and there was already a small huddle of photographers standing just off the pavement, unbelievably just 20 yards from a flock of 200 Knot settled on a muddy spit.

As well as this roosting party there were a number of smaller flocks which were keen to do a bit more feeding before the mud was entirely covered.

With the tide rising even higher there was a fair amount of movement which gave some opportunities for flight shots.

Apart from the vast numbers of Knot and a handful of Redshank, the only other wader that was represented was this relatively small gathering of Black-tailed Godwits.

Well, what an amazing day. This was my first visit to Mistley and as a bird photography site it has gone straight into the top ten, and I don't think it will be long before I come back.

Monday, 19 January 2015

My First Visit to the Mysterious Mistley Quay

7th January 2015

Mistley Quay used to be an open ancient quayside on the banks of the River Stour. This was a popular place with the locals who used to bring their families to feed the famous Mistly swans and take in the breathtaking view.

However on 17th September 2008, amid chaotic scenes of public protest, a 2-metre high, 130-metre long fence was erected across the historic public quay by the landowner Michael Parker of Trent Wharfage Limited (TWL). It is designed to block access to and from the River Stour and ends 500 years of free access to the water.

Since then a legal battle has been raging where Essex Council have designated the quay as a village green which should have full access to the public and are contesting the erection of the fence in court. Sadly after six years there has been no resolution. The only satisfying aspect is that persons unknown have cut large holes in the fence and have framed then with wood to prevent injury so that birders and photographers alike can still carry on their pursuit. There is even a small hole at waist level so that children can feed the swans. For more information go to

During low tide the River Stour at the upper reaches is mainly mud with a couple of deeper channels that are always open. Luckily one of these channels runs past the quay so that if anything is around it is likely to be at a maximum range of 40 yards. A pair of Little Grebes kept well away but a Great Crested swam past quite closely.

But the stars today were the dozen or so Goldeneyes that were hanging around the area giving lots of opportunities for some shots.

What a fantastic place........and now on to "The Walls".