Thursday, 8 January 2015

A Train Ride on Southend Pier

19th December 2014

I must have been about seven years old when I last had a ride on the train on Southend Pier so probably about time for another go. The pier at 1.34 miles long is the longest in the world but is incredibly fore-shortened by my 400mm lens. The train runs every half an hour and is a bit rickety, which accounts for its snail pace, but at £2 return one mustn't grumble.

On our arrival at the end of the pier our first visitor was a Carrion Crow which seemed to know that if he sat there long enough some kindly soul would share some of their sandwich. Well, unlucky chum as we had left ours in the car.

One of the jettys was rammed with roosting Turnstone at a density of about 70 per square yard, and it was some time later that they were joined by a single Dunlin. Even when he had his head tucked in asleep he still managed to keep his beady eye on us.

Eventually the peace was shattered when a Peregrine Falcon flew by looking for lunch and spooked all the gulls, waders and feral pigeons on the pier.

Anyway, getting back to the plot, the main purpose of todays visit was to photograph the colony of Mediterranean Gulls that spend the winter here. Birds were always coming and going and the maximum count that I could manage was 34, although I am sure that at times this would be exceeded. Many of the gulls were ringed and one ring that we managed to read showed that the gull was born on 2003, ringed in Belgium in 2005 and since then has commuted to Southend Pier, Zeeland, back to Belguim, France and Pitsea.

All three plumages were present although the vast majority were adults. These three birds still showing brown juvenile feathers to a varying extent on the wings are 1st Winter birds.

Despite much searching I could only find one 2nd Winter bird

But without any shadow of a doubt the stars of the show today were the adults with their gleaming red bills. I think a return visit in the spring will be in order to try and get some shots in summer plumage.

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