Trip reports

Coach Trip to Abberton Reservoir and Fingringhoe Wick, Essex. 22 February 2015.

Goosander on water

Sunday, 22 February 2015

If you try planning birding trips you soon find that some date and venue combinations are problematical because of tide times, and in some cases there just won't be an ideal date available.
Of course Abberton Reservoir isn't affected by the tide but neither does it offer enough interest for a full day visit so we need to combine it with another site and this time we decided on Fingringhoe Wick. The time of the tide was not ideal at Fingrinhoe but the situation at Tollesbury, our alternative, would have been the same so we worked with what we had.
An uneventful drive from Bexleyheath brought us to the first causeway across Abberton Reservoir and as usual we got out of the coach to traverse on foot checking out the birds on the water on each side. We were very fortunate on this visit the weather being sunny, not too blowy, and my main target species were "in the bag" by the time we got to the coach at the far end. Goosanders, both male and female were showing well, as were smew of both sexes. One brilliant-white male smew that displayed its diving skill at a range of only about sixty feet from the roadway gave the photographers among us a rare opportunity. Plenty of others birds were observed here including a distant marsh harrier perched in a tree, various ducks including goldeneye, common and black headed gulls and a number of snipe, in a couple of groups, resting on small islands. A large airborne flock of birds that we took to be golden plover flew over at quite a height but landed in a field at extreme range. After a few minutes on the coach we arrived at the second causeway, newly constructed since my last visit, from which we were able to see large numbers of lapwing and golden plover, a ruff, and more sawbills. At the far end of the causeway a close male goldeneye once again set the shutters clicking.
The "new" visitor centre, much closer than its predecessor, provided a warm welcome and by the time I arrived some of our group were already enjoying hot drinks and bacon sandwiches produced by the reserve staff. The area around the Centre, where the newly planted hedges will take some time to mature, is still very open but the meadow pipits, skylarks and stonechats we encountered obviously found it to their liking. The two hides were visited and one of them gave us very good views of a flock of black-tailed godwits feeding along the shoreline.
At about midday we were back on the coach and heading for Fingringhoe which we reached after a thirty minute drive on what must be some of the narrowest roads in Essex. Those who hadn't eaten already made use of the warm visitor centre here and then explored some of the paths leading to the riverside hides and viewpoints. Because of the state of the tide there was little in the way of mud for birds to be feeding on but we managed to find redshank, grey plover, curlew, avocet (that I missed) a flock of Brent geese and distant marsh harriers. I had hopes for the scrape but after dragging a small group of trusting souls along a very nasty muddy path found it well flooded and devoid of birds. Back at the centre we were able to watch some more birds from the comfort of soft seats, do a bit of shopping and get in a last coffee. So that was it, as someone said, "a day of two halves", the first half excellent but the second half a bit disappointing. I managed 54 species for the day but the total for the group 70, which I thought was pretty good.
Fortunately the rain forecast for late afternoon didn't arrive until we were departing, so we got that bit right!