Sunday 3 January 2010

Essex Winter Birding. Dreadful.

A terrible day out today spent largely on the Essex Coast. Not year-listing, no no no. I was accompanying some rabid year-listers, but personally I was just hoping for a Robin or two, a couple of Blackbirds, and possibly a Fieldfare or Skylark. Took Bradders' new Subaru as my car is hors service.... Very comfy, very warm, good fuel economy, but oddly has a boot where the sub-woofer should be. Still, despite the lack of bass, it seems to go OK.

Gutted of Wanstead, Show-home Shaun, Hawkeye Hawkins, The Blowmonkey, Dave "McRae" Bradders, Martin Redsy

Met Hawky, SHS, Monkey and Redsy at dawn at Abberton for the long-staying Spotted Sandpiper. Not a filthy year-tick, we were there as Redsy needed it. Altruist that I am, I needed to help show him where to go, which fence to hop and so on. Yes, I was just helping. I didn't even scope it. In fact I had my eyes shut, er yes that's right, yes, my eyes were shut. But as I was walking back it flew past me. Sorry. It was no good pretending I hadn't seen it, or trying to string it into a Common Sandpiper, it was too late. So a bad start to the day. I also very unfortunately saw a Spoonbill, a Whooper Swan, 2 Jays, many Goosander, an Eygptian Goose, and four Smew, all of which were year ticks. I would have stayed in the car, but I was getting too hot. All I wanted to see were Wigeon actually.

After this disaster we carried on to the causeway at Mersea Island, as I like the landscape there very much. Whilst admiring the various views through my scope and binoculars I sadly noticed some Brent Geese, Oystercatchers, Knot, Turnstone, and a Grey Plover. And then before I could stop myself, I identified a Spotted Redshank. I just blurted it out. Hoping against hope I had got it wrong and it was in fact just a Redshank, I hurried to get a better view, and was aghast to see not only a spanking winter-plumaged Spotted Redshank, but also a Greenshank right next to it. Aaaargh, 100 for the year!


Could it get any worse? Well, yes. Next stop the point at East Mersea where I hoped to get some nice shots of the shingle. Luckily it was devoid of Snow Buntings, but whilst looking at a Harbour Porpoise - quite safe, I don't keep a mammal year-list - some Avocets flew past. Damn it. And then whilst panning to see which yacht was the biggest I noted a couple of Eider and distant Red-breasted Merganser.

Slavonian Grebe

It occured to us that Roll's Farm near Tollesbury might be good for some Skylark and Fieldfare flocks, both of which I had already seen this year. Whilst scanning the Blackwater Estuary for these, we saw a Red-throated Diver, at least three Great Northern Divers, and up to six Slavonian Grebes. These things can't be helped I suppose, but to say I was disappointed is an understatement. To make matters worse, Hawky found a Barn Owl that I instinctively looked at before I realised what I was doing, and a bloody Kingfisher called right in front of me as we were walking back. Bradders dropping his pasty and then treading on it briefly lightened my mood, but then I added up what I seen and realised I was on 108 for the year, and immediately sank into a deep depression.

Unbelievably unlucky to run into this

The boys decided that they would cheer me up with an ice-cream. There didn't seem to be any place to get one nearby, so we drove to Southend as Rossi's ice cream parlour is usually pretty good. As we parked the car I looked up and saw a Ring-billed Gull on a lamp-post. You could not have written it. I mean what were the chances of that? Gutted, absolutely gutted. Inconsolable, I stared at the sea, trying to ignore the Med Gulls. To take my mind off these, I took some pictures of the Turnstones. Kneeling down to get a more pleasing angle, my day got worse as I squidged straight into a turd. I would have thought that Essex was quite a long way to take your dog for a walk if you live in Cornwall, but it seems that distance is no object when it comes to pissing me off. This was the absolute low point of my day, but the highlight of four other people's. Would have been five, but Redsy had left us by then. Quasi-amusing pictures coming to a blog near here soon I suspect. I wiped most off with a broad-leaved plant, and then went to a cafe where a waitress kindly squirted table-cleaning stuff on my leg and gave me some napkins.

Finished the day off with about 20 Bar-tailed Godwits as I was admiring the setting sun on Two Tree Island. What difference does it make frankly? I was barely registering any pain at this point, it was all over. 25 year-ticks in a day where I hadn't thought I'd get any, and a new total of 111 which matches exactly what I was on by the 3rd January last year. This isn't looking good. Wanstead tomorrow. I shall steadfastly ignore any Goldcrests, and I hope those two Firecrests have left Reservoir Wood, as my treble figure of eight loop through there might otherwise see me bump into them.

1 comment:

  1. Some nice photos and sightings - I really should make a point of getting to Rossi's. Mind you it would onvolve photographing every gull to make sure I got a ringbilled and med as I still havent worked out my gulls...:D