This month, as we were allowed to meet in up to groups of six, five of our members went to South Woodham Ferrers and Diane reports follows:
The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch revealed that there was a drop in 16 out of 20 of the most spotted species. They expressed concern about greenfinches and chaffinches, which have been seen in their lowest ever numbers this year; this trend was shown in our outing today when we saw neither of these species. The only finches we saw were goldfinches that chirped enthusiastically at our meeting spot close to Clementsgreen Creek to the southeast of the town.
Had this been a walking group outing we would have taken one hour to complete the circuit but for us it was two and a half hours, highlighting how much interest we found there. This is partly due to the variety of habitats that include reed beds, pasture, fields, bushes, and trees, the creek, and also the River Crouch. It was a super day to be out, warm when the sun shone and cool when the clouds briefly covered it. The tide was low when the five of us arrived but quickly started to rise.
As so often happens sightings were slow at first and although we didn’t see huge numbers we did notch up a lot of different species. The reed beds and dykes had not only the usual coots and moorhens but also corn buntings, reed warblers, and swans. One pair of swans swam peacefully up one of the dykes when at great pace the cob turned, raised its wings, lowered its head and made off at full speed towards two swans that were minding their own business some 200 metres away; sensibly they avoided confrontation and took flight passing low over our heads.
Teal frequented Clementsgreen Creek feeding at the water’s edge. There were about 30 of them but because they had ‘social distanced’ themselves didn’t give an impression of being a large group whereas, the black-tailed godwits, feeding on the mud in the River Crouch, did. These godwits are one of Europe’s more handsome waders and in summer their plumage goes coppery-red from their head to their breast which, in the sunshine glow brilliantly. Nearby, foraging amongst the seaweed six turnstones were busy feeding. They took flight and landed closer to us on a platform in the river giving us a better look at them.
Away from the water skylarks rose from the fields singing as they went and a kestrel hovered. Greylag geese, Canada geese, shelduck, little egrets and a grey heron fed on the grassy areas. A swallow flew overhead, my first this year but others said they had seen some previously – perhaps Spring is really here.
We did have a discussion about collective nouns for birds showing our ignorance when it came to little egrets and black-tailed godwits. Well, these two birds have several collective nouns including for the little egret a ‘congregation’ and ‘wedge’ and for the black-tailed godwits an ‘omniscience’, ‘pantheon’ and ‘prayer’.
The only butterfly/moth we saw remains unidentified – it was small (about the size of a holly blue), totally white, no black spots, no black on the wing tips. It landed open winged on hoary cress – anyone any ideas?
Birds: Goldfinch, Robin, Starling, Sparrow, Chiffchaff, Blue & Great tits, Skylark, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Corn Bunting, Reed Warbler, Kestrel, Crow, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, Swan, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Coot, Moorhen, Little Grebe, Mallard, Pochard, Shelduck Teal, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Black-headed and Herring Gulls,
Flowers: Groundsel, Daisy, Dandelion, Germander Speedwell, Red Deadnettle, Hoary Cress, Blackthorn.
On 25 March Sue and Tony had a lovely walk at Marsh Farm Country Park and report as follows: We parked by the river where there are always plenty of swans (but no black one this time!) Initially there was not much on the water – the odd moorhen, little grebe and some mallards on the dykes. We then saw a mass of birds on the fields to our left which turned out to be Brent geese, Canadas and Greylags plus a flock of Shelduck and some Oyster catchers. After lunch on a rather cold bench where we spotted some red shank and a curlew, we turned to go along by Clements Green Creek where we were greeted by a large display of Teal and Black Tailed Godwits (100s) in their magnificent rusty summer plumage. We also saw a few wigeon, pochard and tufted duck. It was worth the showers we experienced on the way back!
On 1 April five members visited Bradwell-on-Sea and Diane reports as follows: It seems to be the sequence of our bird outings lately in that the first bird heard is the Skylark; no doubt habitat plays its part and today it was the farmland at Bradwell-on-Sea.
5 of us met at the car park near to St Peter’s Chapel and we set off into the chill, brisk northeasterly wind. Apart from numerous Skylarks we were also pleased to spot several Corn Buntings; one singing close by and others perched, fully silhouetted, on taller field growth or treetops. As we walked along the track other birds sang joyously in the hedge growth, drawing our attention to them: Chaffinch, Sparrow, Wren, Robin, and, nearing the Chapel, a Great Tit certainly won the prize for volume and enthusiasm.
The feeders at the Bird Observatory were well-stocked and had the usual array of finches and tits coming and going but also a Great-spotted Woodpecker.
We walked along the seawall to a point looking north, where we had hoped a rising tide would bring the waders closer inshore, but the tide was sluggish and we were only able to identify Redshank, Shelduck, Brent Geese and a Curlew. In the adjacent dyke a pair of Mallard and Pochard swam in and out of the reeds and nearby, although March had now passed, two ‘mad’ hares tussled in a field.
After several hours, and beaten by the cold wind, we made our way back to the car park and still the Great Tit sang enthusiastically.
Birds: Skylark, Corn Bunting, Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Sparrow, Great & Blue Tits, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Pheasant, Crow, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Black-headed & Herring Gulls, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Mallard, Pochard, Brent Geese
Flowers: Ground Ivy, Groundsel, Daisy, Dandelion, Alexandra, Cow Parsley, Chickweed, Speedwell, Cherry,
Other: Ladybird, Bumble Bee, 2 Hares
Diane reports above about the decline in Chaffinches and Greenfinches but I am pleased to say that in the last month or so I have had a pair of Chaffinches visiting my garden regularly and also occasionally see a Greenfinch. The Group are really hoping that we will all be able to meet together in the near future and be able to travel further afield, although I think the lockdowns have really made us all appreciate what is on our doorstep and how fortunate we are to live in such a lovely part of the country.