I was unable to go with the group on the November outing but a few members travelled to Abberton Reservoir and enjoyed a good day and fortunately the weather was fine. The reservoir is one of the most important in Britain for wildfowl. It is a Ramsar Site (Wetland of International Importance for birds), a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated under the EU Birds Directive, and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to wildfowl. It is also one of Europe’s top wetland sites and is of international importance as a safe haven for wild ducks, swans and other water birds, whether resident, passing through on migration or over-wintering. It lies close to east-coast migration routes and, with its surrounding envelope of pasture and tree plantations, is a welcome sight to tired birds. Up to 40,000 ducks, swans and geese visit each year. The top seven species are Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Black-headed Gull and they cannot fail to impress; out of these seven the group spotted all but the Wigeon and Teal. Other regular visitors include Shoveler, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Pintail and Great Crested Grebe; only the Gadwall and Pintail eluded the group.
Those of you who have not visited Abberton Reservoir for a while will notice many changes as Essex & Suffolk Water’s reservoir enhancement project is well underway. These works include raising the main dam by 3.2 metres, increasing the storage volume by 58%, building a number of small dams around the edge of the reservoir and the relocation of the Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre. This new Visitor Centre is open and offers a great viewing area and from it there are walks across the reserve leading to hides overlooking the reservoir and woodland.
The birds identified by the group were: Cormorant, Canada, Greylag and Egyptian Geese, Mute Swan, Black-tailed Godwit, Lapwing, Dunlin, Great Crested, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Heron, Little Egret, Black-headed and, Great Black-backed Gulls, Shoveler, Golden Eye, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Pochard, Smew, Pied wagtail, Starling, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Magpie, Rook, Wood Pigeon Collared Dove and Kestrel.
I was personally disappointed not to have been there to see the Smew, which would have been my first sighting of one but I am told that it is fairly regularly seen at Abberton and occasionally at Heybridge Basin. The Smew, a diving duck, is the smallest member of the Merganser family and a winter visitor from the north.