Led by Jeff a dozen of us met near the British Pilot Pub at Allhallows. We took the usual footpath from the car park towards the sea wall, through the kissing gate and onto the marsh grazing. House sparrows, starling, linnet and magpie were our first sightings, and as we watched the group of linnet in a nearby bush, a few blue tit appeared, then a female marsh harrier drifted into view and quartered over the field for some time before landing in a distant bramble bush. Initially it appeared shocked that it’s weight was causing the branch to dip, but after a few flaps it seemed to settle itself on the perch.
As we approached the concrete blocks near the second gate, we reminisced about previous migrant sightings in the area, and within minutes we noticed a wheatear perched high up on one of the blocks surveying the area. It was eminently photographable – and perhaps now is the time to admit that I forgot to take my camera today – I felt bereft without it, but Sally kindly allowed me to commission her as chief photographer for the day.
Having spent some time enjoying the wheatear we moved off towards the seawall, admiring the borrow dyke behind the seawall. This was created when the soil was dug out to form the sea defences, sea water seeps through the seawall, and fresh water is added from rain and natural seepage from the fields and forms a brackish environment which provides a great habitat for wildlife.
As we approached the seawall Sally noticed a swirling mass of waders, they flew down out of view.
As we approached the river we saw hundreds of birds scattered far into the distance. Most numerous was black-tailed godwit, with oystercatchers, little egret, black-headed gull, herring gull, lesser and greater black-backed gull and curlew joining in the feeding frenzy. Continuing along the path we found a wasp spider which would not oblige by staying still and persisted in trying to elude our photography enthusiasts but Malcolm the Brave took it onto his hand and allowed it to crawl up and down his arm until it was safely placed back on a flower head where it sat obediently whilst we got our photographs.
We carried on along the seawall towards Yantlet Creek, where the mudflats spread out before us, sadly devoid of birds. I heard a common tern and spotted it circling over the buoy at the mouth of the creek, but it moved out of view before I could get anyone else onto it. As we headed past the sluice and continued along the creek, a little grebe was calling in a nearby pond, and a moorhen shot into the reeds as a dog walker came towards us.
By now we were ready for our lunch and we picnicked by the mouth of the creek. As we sat watching black-headed gulls and black-tailed godwit I spotted a sparrowhawk flying from the river and up Yantlet Creek, most of the group saw it. Soon afterwards a clouded yellow butterfly also fluttered past but so quickly only three of us saw it, much to the chagrin of Malcolm. Cormorants were posing on the buoy at the end of the creek, and swallow were whizzing past our heads in large groups.
By now several of the group had retreated with prior commitments, (including Jeff) and the rest of us took a slow wander back along the seawall, where we added redshank to the day’s list. At the footpath we decided to continue towards the caravan park as the tide was due to turn and there was a chance of closer views of some of the waders.
This was a good decision, we saw greater and lesser black-backed gull well, common gull, ringed plover, more redshank, and the best sighting of the day for me, bar-tailed godwit. We managed to spot the shorter legs, the colour spreading further down under the belly and when it flew there were no wing bars. A great piece of identification. We also saw a female common darter which was struggling to fly in the strong south westerly breeze.
The rain started to fall and we decided to retreat to the cars and consider our next step – should we continue on to another site or call it a day?
By the time we got back to the car park the rain had cleared and we felt it was too early to go home, but could not decide on where else to go – so in what has to be a first for a group trip, we went to the pub! A great time was had by all – sorry that you missed it Jeff, but we toasted your leadership.
Thanks to Jeff, Malcolm, John and Paul for leading during the day, and a also to Sally for the photographs.