What can be a better start to the New Year than a day in the sunshine with a group of jolly friends? Well, that was just how it was with the group at their January meeting – not only that, but it was a joy to see lapwings rising in hundreds, Brent geese cackling and a flock of curlew feeding in the field.
Eleven of us gathered in the car park of Blue House Farm and spotted the usual birds taking advantage of the feeders: chaffinch, dunnock, blackbird, robin & sparrow. As we set off across the field to the first hide several skylarks were sighted, a meadow pipit and various other birds but what we liked most were tiny newborn lambs. Apparently they were ‘a mistake’ caused by a ram having gained access last year to a field of sheep – they were cute but we felt for them because although the sun shone the wind was cold. We were pleasantly surprised to find that although wet underfoot it wasn’t too muddy, and so it remained for the rest of the visit.
The first hide looks north over an area of flooded fields where we saw large flocks of lapwing and wigeon, some golden plover, shovelers and a variety of geese and ducks. We wondered what was causing the lapwing to rise in great numbers and from the hide could see, as we expected, a bird of prey was the culprit. It took some time to identify but we agreed it was a hen harrier. One member heard a snipe close to the hide but it wasn’t seen.
Moving on to the second hide the number of birds seen was much reduced and the third was almost devoid of bird life. We decided to return via the seawall but as the wind had by now become strong and bitter many walked in the shelter of the wall. Not much was on the river and the tide was high but there was a great-crested grebe and on the lower section a stonechat was spotted.
As we have done for several years January is the month for our group lunch and with others joining us, swelling our numbers to 21, we enjoyed a lunch in the Ferry Boat Inn.
Birds: Blue & Great Tits, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Sparrow, Blackbird, Starling, Robin, Stonechat, Collared Dove, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Magpie, Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Pheasant, Hen Harrier, Moorhen, Great-crested Grebe, Mallard, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, Greylag, Brent, Barnacle & Canada Geese, Pintail, Little Egret, Black-headed Gull.
February 8th – Abberton Reservoir. Meet 10.00 in the Visitor Centre
March 8th – Rainham Marshes (RSPB). Meet 10.00 in the Visitor Centre