Several times a year I get together with some friends, Pam and Ken in Essex. Ken and I usually take the opportunity to do some bird-watching in Essex. Our latest exploits took us on a return visit to Fringringhoe Wick, an Essex Wildlife Trust reserve, set alongside the River Colne.
The usual culprits announced themselves early with Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, and Coot in the first couple of minutes from the car park. Chaffinch (all female) and Greenfinch were utilising the easy pickings on the bird feeders in the visitor centre garden. I also saw my first Great Tit for a long time, nearby.
As we wandered around the reserve, the faint purr of a Turtle Dove was heard. From the hide overlooking the estuary we saw probably 100 Redshank, a couple of Common Sandpipers, Black-headed Gulls, several Shelduck, Oystercatchers, and Black-tailed Godwit. Given the numbers of the latter which I have been seeing at Oare recently, there were significantly less, but as the day progressed more came in on the rising tide and there must have been around 70 birds in the end. Curlew similarly increased with the tide, as they came in to roost on the marshes, preening and settling down for a rest from the frenzy of feeding, before the tide turned and they all dispersed again.
Lesser and Greater Black-backed gulls were strutting about on the mud flats, patrolling their patch with zeal. Several Common Tern flew up and down the river, often carrying food.
Green Woodpecker called on and off throughout the day, but we only saw one bird. We had great views of a Great-spotted Woodpecker at one stage too.
Little Egret prowled around the scrapes and along the ditches separating the fields, looking for food. In the pool there were several Little Grebe.
After lunch we decided to investigate the inland lakes and heath area, before moving back to the river. Ducks were in eclipse and the females can cause confusion at this time of year, but we managed to get good views of Mallard and Tufted Duck. A Little Grebe was training it’s young in the art of feeding (and making a noise), using contact calls to constantly keep the youngster in line.
As we moved away from the lakes, a Bullfinch flew away from us, perching in a bush just long enough for us to see it was a male, then dipping away, not to be seen again. As I do not see them often throughout the year, there is always an extra pleasure in getting any sort of view.
From Geedon Bay Hide we found more Redshank and Common Sandpiper, usually they kept just far enough away for us not to be able to get a decent photograph, although I am sure Ken did better than me!
At one stage a group of waders flew into the reserve and down into a scrape that was out of our view, so we decided to go and see what they were – definitely not Redshank. On the way we caught up with Blackbird, Wren, and House Sparrow. From the viewpoint overlooking the pool we caught up with a group of several Greenshank, and Spotted Redshank. Great to see, close enough to enjoy and identify, but just a little too far for a photo – again! – story of my life really.
Throughout the day we also saw many butterflies including Gatekeeper (which seem to be the most common around at present), Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock and Speckled Wood. We also found a wasp-imitating Hover Fly, which I believe to be Volucella inanis – the Yellow-nosed Hoverfly.
Thousands of waders and wildfowl use the estuary in the winter and as many as 700 Avocets can be seen, which bodes very well for our Winter Coach Trip there (and Abberton Reservoir) on 17th November.