Trip reports

Abberton Reservoir and Fingrinhoe Wick, Saturday 11th February 2017

Abberton Reservoir and Fingrinhoe Wick, Saturday 11th February 2017
Egyptian Geese - Jill Griffin

Saturday, 11 February 2017

RSPB Local Group Outing to Abberton Reservoir & Fingringhoe Wick
Saturday 11th February 2017

We met at Two Waters on a very cold damp dreary morning which did not augur well for our visit to Essex. Our breakfast stop at Sainsbury's Chelmsford fortified us before we reached the Layer Breton Causeway. Our day list had started as we approached the causeway with a sparrowhawk speeding a few feet off the ground along a roadside hedge. Rook, carrion crow, blackbird and a common buzzard had also been spotted. The bitter cold intensified on the causeway. Visibility was restricted as 3 grey heron, a cormorant, and a few herring gull and lapwing flew by over the east section. A group of 20 plus common gulls bobbed about 50 yards off shore and a gorgeous male smew, near to a goldeneye. popped up further out. Along the water edge were a varied selection of mallard crosses from black to white, Aylesbury ducks, a greylag, mute swans, coot, moorhen jackdaw, black headed gulls and some tufted ducks. Pied wagtail foraged in the grass on the bank along with a dunnock and starling.
The reservoir on the west provided us with a great variety of waterfowl including shoveler, greylag, common pochard, great crested grebe, tufted ducks more goldeneye and many wigeon. Among the gulls were common, herring and black headed. Grey heron and some cormorant flew over and several more perched in the trees to the east toward the new embankment and the main reservoir.

Frozen stiff, we left the old causeway and warmed up in Abberton Visitor Centre passing over the new Abberton Causeway. We then ventured out toward the Gwen Hide, A pair of egyptian geese flew in and gave us a lovely view as they landed just about 10 yards away to start grazing and then flew down to the waters edge. At the feeders blue tit, great tit, house sparrows, and a reed bunting fed.
There are three hides on the edge of the main reservoir, and at the first, the Gwen Hide, the freezing mist reduced visibility. At the waters edge redshank, lapwing, canada geese, tufted duck were evident as we left for the Island Hide. This was disappointing - as it was at our last visit - and so we went towards the Bay Hide and saw a song thrush on the path. Either side, the saplings had grown and gave a flock of long tailed tits, blue and great tits, and dunnock cover as they passed through. A magpie flew over as we reached the Bay Hide
Stunning views of 5 goosanders repeatedly diving, entertained us as several great crested grebe paddled by in front of a flock of 50 plus great black backed gulls and 50+ black headed gulls sitting on a sandy bank. A large flock of greylag geese grazed behind them. At the waters edge a meadow pipit drank between some teal, coots, and moorhen as 3 grey heron flew over. More goldeneye and tufted duck dived in front of us
After a brief return to the Visitor Centre to warm up with some snacks we drove off to the last reserve on our visit to the Essex Wildlife reserves.

Essex Wildlife Trust's first nature reserve and visitor centre, is set in a spectacular position overlooking the Colne Estuary. A bay window in the centre gave us excellent views of the fields and hedgerows down to the salt marshes so we could eat our lunch and watch the birds at the same time. The tide was in and the salt marsh was dotted with water. At the feeders 3 moorhen fed acrobatically as a pretty partial albino blackbird joined in. Blue and great tits, dunnock, chaffinch, robin, and house sparrows occupied the feeders and a great spotted woodpecker flitted to and fro. Then 50 yards away in the hedgerow the bright red breast of a male bullfinch appeared. A marsh harrier was briefly seen over the salt marsh and another perched on a gaunt tree at the edge of the field. A couple of little egret were on the salt marsh and 4 pheasant fed in the margins to the hedgerow as 50+ lapwing flew overhead.

We walked down to Robbies Hide and saw some lovely waders. At the waters edge 4 oystercatcher, 2 elegant grey plover, about 10 redshank, 6 black tailed godwit ,a small group of dunlin, 3 ringed plover and some busy turnstones pecked in the mud, Further into the river a flock of 30 + brent geese landed and over 50 avocet dropped in to join the dozen or so shelduck, wigeon, gadwall, Flocks of dunlin flew upstream
A few of us walked to the northern extension of the reserve, to the very new Margaret's Hide. This hide is located on the bank of the River Colne, about a 30 minute leisurely walk from the centre. On the way we inadvertently flushed out c. 10 pheasants and 2 wrens along the foot path, and observed a few black tailed godwits feeding on the nearby mudflats. And what a spacious and comfortable hide we found! Being circular and located on a 'finger' of land jutting out into a tidal lagoon, it provided a 300 degree panoramic view of the tidal mudflats and small mud islands. Because of its location and being sited at a relatively low level, it offers both superb views and great photographic opportunities. At high hide, the water probably comes within about 5 yards of the hide. However, it was several hours after high water when we were there, with a vast area of mud and mid islands around us. There were still many waders to be seen including numerous ringed plovers, grey plovers and redshank feeding in reasonably close proximity to the hide, whilst c.150 golden plovers rested on a high mud island. We also sighted little egret, grey heron and a marsh harrier (causing the waders to briefly take flight). For anyone visiting this reserve in the future, it must be THE hide to visit particularly within say an hour of high water, when very close views of the birds feeding on the mud and at the water's edge should be possible.

We returned to the lake next to the Centre and the Thurstable Hide. Unfortunately no bittern this time but there were over a dozen dabchicks, making a dreadful amount of noise as they chased each other through the 20 + coot the 3 teal and the sedate gadwall. Another marsh harrier flew over the lake . Then a final visit back to the Centre for a cup of coffee and a gorgeous slice of cake and then we headed for home.
Despite the intense cold and absence of the sun we had experienced an excellent days birding and collectively saw a total of 67 different species.

Bird highlights for me were the goosanders, the smew and goldeneye and the egyptian geese. Also the Margaret Hide adds a wonderful experience to this impressive reserve.
Many thanks once again to the drivers who make such days out possible.

Jeanette Gosney, Alan Corner, Ian Parker, Anthea Lovatt, Dave Jones, Mike Bassett, Jill and Derek Griffin, Camilla Bignall, Michael Howard.
Alan Corner and Ian Parker