Places to see birds

Old Hall Marshes RSPB Reserve Tollesbury Wick, Essex

Old Hall Marshes RSPB Reserve Tollesbury Wick, Essex
Cormorant by Sue Tranter

November is the time of year when bird watching inland reaches a lull. The migrants have all passed through and the winter birds are yet to arrive. A time to visit an estuary where the changing tide produces a banquet twice a day for the hundreds of over-wintering waders and wildfowl. The Tollesbury area has long been renowned for its large wildfowl and wader roosts. Old Hall Marshes, north of Tollesbury, was considered a gem among the duck shoots by old wildfowlers. It was purchased by the RSPB in 1985 and is now an RSPB Reserve.

Tollesbury Wick Marshes to the south skirt the Blackwater estuary. These too have good numbers of birds and the public footpath on top of the sea wall gives good views over both the estuary and the grazing marshes. Late autumn will see the return of the dark-bellied Brent Geese from Northern Europe. They will stay all through the winter months and are usually joined by a few White-fronted Geese. Large numbers of Wigeon and Teal feed on the grazing marshes. These are often frequented by large parties of Curlew. The wader roost at high tide usually contains hundreds of Dunlin, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Redshank and Golden Plover.

In the Fleets or offshore in winter a small number of Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Long-tailed Duck, Great Crested Grebe and Slavonian Grebe can often be found while the weed seeds along the paths are foraged by Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting, and even Twite. But to watch a Short-eared Owl, Hen Harrier or even a Barn Owl systematically hunting the marshes is a very special and rewarding moment for any bird watcher; well worth the effort of a long, and sometimes muddy, walk.

Sightings from previous visits at various times of year.

Teal Wigeon Shoveler, Mallard, Pintail, Shelduck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan, Brent Goose, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Yellowhammer, Stonechat, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, House Sparrow, Starling, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Green Woodpecker.