What a glorious day we had for our Raptor Ramble. Perfect conditions with total calm and warm enough not to need heavy coats. We held our usual orientation chat about the island from up on the sea wall overlooking Allfleets Marsh with the water millpond still at high tide. The group were then privileged to have an early view of the new trails that provide access around the new lagoons and open grassland areas. These will soon open to the public once work has completed on final sections of fencing and the new viewing screens.
Our first raptors were quickly picked up with Kestrels hovering over the grassland, often with an accompanying squadron of crows harassing them, and at least two Marsh Harriers working the tall vegetation towards the lagoons.
Having stopped to admire the new sluice works that now feed the Grass Farm lagoon and the surrounding ditches we walked out to the viewing screens overlooking the lagoon and the partially filled Acresfleet pools.
Small groups of Teal and a few Mallard were disturbed from the ditches and Reed Buntings showed atop the rough vegetation. A reasonably close Rock Pipit in one ditch allowed comparison to the nearby Meadow Pipits. Skylarks were overhead giving their characteristic short trilling calls.
A Buzzard was hovering out towards the Water Vole habitat to our west and further Marsh Harriers, including a super adult male were watched. The pools held a good number of Lapwing and a single Ruff allowing everyone to enjoy good views in the scope.
A scan of the south fields turned up a distant adult male Peregrine which took flight whilst one participant was viewing through the scope so everyone saw it power across the fields and out towards Pool Marsh lagoons. The arrival of this predator amongst the flocks feeding and roosting there was electric! Hundreds of Teal took to panicked flight and large flocks of both Lapwing and Golden Plover milled around in the sky along with Starling and smaller birds.
A further scan across the fields turned up a very distant Merlin also just sat out on the recently harrowed ground. We walked a little way to get a bit closer and were able to get slightly better views although against the light. A Merlin in flight attracted attention as we watched it drop down well to our east and then realised our original bird was still present. Two Merlins in as many minutes! The fields were spotted with feeding Common and Black-headed Gulls and many Carrion Crows that were persistently pestering the Kestrels and Marsh Harriers
A slight detour to check on some small birds by a gate again produced Reed Buntings and a couple of Green Sandpipers flew over and dropped into the pools. Our slow walk back was enlivened by Pied Wagtails, super views of a 2nd year male Marsh Harrier and a Little Egret in the ditchline and a stop to test out the new seats whilst admiring the Ruff that was still present with the Lapwings.
Back at the car park some of the group took their leave whilst others walked up onto the sea wall where numbers of waders were now visible feeding as the tide was dropping. Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Grey Plover and good numbers of Redshank were all seen together with a few stately Curlew. Several Grey Herons were along the old sea wall together with Little Egrets and Shelduck were filtering through the mud to extract small snails.
All in all a super walk with a pretty good five species of raptors enjoyed within a couple of hours, demonstrating what a super site Wallasea is for these species. With Short-eared Owls now back on site and seen later that day and Little Owl on a telegraph post just the other side of the causeway near Lion House that same evening there is no shortage of birds of prey. Who would be a vole?