22 October 2006

On the Essex salt marshes

A wonderful Saturday spent on and near the Essex coast.

First to Abberton Reservoir, a huge body of water not far from the coast which attracts huge numbers of wintering birds. This trip saw plenty of Coot, Tufted Duck, Pochard and various gulls out on the water, as well as some Black-tailed Godwits and a couple of female Pintails. On the nearby Peninsula Trail however I found my star birds - a small flock of 17 Red-legged Partridges. Not a rare bird, but one I don't see on my patch, so these great views were a real pleasure.

Then off to the nearby Blackwater Estuary where I walked across the RSPB Old Hall Marsh reserve. This is a beautiful but desolate spot, acres of saltmarsh with traditional farmland nearby. It is also a birding paradise. Hundreds of dark-bellied Brent Geese were sweeping in off the coast, along with thousands of Wigeon. Overhead flew flocks of Golden Plover and Lapwing, with the occasional Curlew or Little Egret. I also found got great views of a Sparrowhawk, a Kingfisher and a pair of Stonechat.

55 species in all, which is no mean return for a morning's birdwatching - and I was able to add half a dozen more the following morning at Hatfield Forest. Thank you Essex.

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