27 May 2010

Senses working overtime

This morning was too perfect to spoil with anything as frantic as listing or twitching or even 'proper' birding – I resolved instead to simply wander around Fingringoe Reserve and embrace the sights, sounds and smells of the Colne Estuary in May.

The whole place was alive in the sunshine. The very first field that I wandered across held two red-legged partridges, two moorhens and a song thrush. Swallows swooped low over the rough grass and in the distance a little egret flapped past.

Over at the nearby lake, two red-jewelled birds swam briefly on the surface before diving under – little grebes in their finest plumage. Nearby, the first of the chaffinches, whitethoats and blackcaps sang – then suddenly the nightingale song started. It is an explosive, distintive and beautiful sound and, here at least, it is everywhere.

I strolled down to Robbie's Hide to check the tide: it was just heading out, already exposing a wide expanse of undulating mudflat, silvery in the sun. Herring gulls passed lazily by, black-headed gulls busied themselves, and a pair of shelduck just sat, their terracotta panels vivid against the silvery blue all around them.

As I headed back up the hill I started to hear more of the common birds I might expect: a dunnock, a wren, a green woodpecker and a chiffchaff. Then another familiar sound joined in: a turtle dove, drawing me back towards to the trees. Sadly I didn't find it – and it was the same story when a cuckoo started calling just a few minutes later.

Down in the far corner, where the reserve meets farmland, I found familiar farmland birds including skylarks and yellowhammer. Reed warblers sang in nearby reedbeds, and a male marsh harrier made several magnificent overhead passes.

Bird of the day: Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), a magnificent sight which is all too uncommon for those of us living in the west – fortunately they are increasingly common along the east coast.

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