Our second coach trip of the year took the group to Fingringhoe Wick and Abberton Reservoir, two Essex Wildlife Trust Reserves near Colchester. The weather forecast was wet and cold, but we were lucky and although there were a couple of showers we managed to be in hides on both occasions. On the journey we spotted Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and some rather dodgy farmyard geese!
From the visitor centre at Fingringhoe we walked through scrub areas where there were Robin, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Magpie, Carrion Crow, and Great Tit. I managed to miss the Kingfisher seen by several people at the first pool. At the first viewpoint overlooking the River Colne we found huge numbers of Avocet in deep water with their bellies submerged – their tails sticking up in the air as their heads dipped into the incoming tide for food. Also enjoying the plentiful food were Shelduck, Dunlin, Redshank, Grey Plover, Knot, Cormorant, Brent Geese, Teal and Wigeon.
Two birds gave us some interest – they were Common Scoter. We usually have to console ourselves with rapid and distant fly-pasts at Dungeness so we were delighted to have the time to watch them and debate their identity [for which see later]. Curlew were calling and as I scanned I realised there were probably 40-50 individuals. Black-tailed Godwit were more distant but in a large almost solid bank of birds further down the river. Some noticed the odd Bar-tailed, but I was not so diligent. Sally heard the pipe of an Oystercatcher and within minutes one appeared – flying swiftly from left to right.
Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Black-headed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull were also seen along the river. Whilst on the marshes Little Egret prodded about in the muddy ditches, some watched a Marsh Harrier hunting – a sight so reminiscent of North Kent.
As we moved to the second hide we added Grey Heron and with better views of the Scoter, there began a debate on the possibility of Redhead/Smew. Out came the books, down when the heads as we trained all the ‘scopes on the two sleeping birds. Opinion was divided, but eventually we persuaded ourselves that our original decision was correct – or was it??
We just had time to walk along the pool to the north of the access lane and explore the two hides there. We managed to add Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Wood Pigeon. As Roger and I returned to base we spotted a Kestrel, and seeing some more Egrets I decided to scan the fields looking for a Great White which had been reported there in the last few days. I missed out on the Great White, but I did spot a male Hen Harrier – a delightful sight as it skimmed over the field spooking all the small birds as it went through, even some of the Little Egrets were flushed, brilliant to see.
Next stop was Abberton, and from the visitor centre we could see Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and many Great-crested Grebe. As we moved along the side of the Reservoir we spotted Great and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Black-headed gull and Pochard. Two Greylag Geese flew in to join several others sharing a field with a large group of Canada Geese. Grey Heron and Little Egret were standing along the edge of the water – perfectly still and merging with the landscape. Cormorants were sharing a narrow sandbank in the middle of the reservoir with Crow, more gulls and a Pied Wagtail. Half a dozen Lapwing were also added to our list.
Back at the visitor centre some took advantage of the tea and cakes – the rest of us decided to try to find the Black-necked Grebe which had been reported. On quick scan with the telescope and it was tracked down. As it constantly dived to feed it was a challenge to get everyone on to it, but I think all those interested did see it eventually, and we were able to leave for home satisfied with our day.
The immense improvements and building works have had an impact on Abberton since my last visit, and it will probably be much improved in a few years when the landscape has recovered and the planting matured.
As you can see my photographic efforts were pretty poor today, so if anyone has better shots, please upload them to our gallery – we’d love to see them.
Special thanks to Sally for arranging the trip and to those who helped to make the day so successful. Don’t forget – Minsmere next May!