21 November 2009

Back for the spoonbill

After 48 hours in bed with the nastiest little bug, I was looking forward to some fresh air and birding this morning - until the strength in my legs (or lack thereof) and the state of the weather convinced me otherwise. No matter - I have just realised that I forgot to post the sequel to last Saturday's foul-weather birding trip. After the worst that Essex weather had to offer, I vowed to return the next day...

Another day, another weather front. Bright, clear, cold, with just the gentlest of breezes – Abberton Reservoir looked like another world this morning.

Given the vast improvement in the weather, I had popped back to see if I could find some of the birds I missed yesterday. It didn't take long. With a steady scope (as opposed to yesterday when it was rattling around in a hurricane) it was easy to locate, in turn, two ringed plovers, two spoonbill, two little grebes, half a dozen snipe and a spotted redshank. The spoonbills were the highlight, my first for several years and a fitting finale for a weekend at Abberton. These splendid birds are amazing and peculiar in equal measure, particularly while sweeping their distinctive bills through water for food, in a style faintly reminiscent of avocets.

Before leaving Essex and heading back to my land-locked Warwickshire patch, I drove on to the estuary reserve of Fingringhoe to pick up a final few coastal species. As I looked out across the salt marshes and the river I quickly added to my weekend list shelduck, knot, curlew and oystercatcher. Across the two sites and two very different days I found nearly 70 species of bird, many in spectacular numbers, as well as some good company in the various hides and some interesting fungi to photograph on the way back to the car (see fly agaric and shaggy ink cap, pictured). I am a happy bunny.

Bird of the day: Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), a tall stork-like bird with a spade-tipped bill. Europe-wide it is a conservation concern, with the vast majority of British sightings being of passage migrants moving south for the winter (although a few might overwinter here). As a result it is quite uncommon and always a pleasure to see - there is nothing else quite like it.

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