13 members and 2 potential new U3A members met at Abbotts Hall Farm on a sunny but rather cold and windy morning. Abbotts Hall Farm, situated on the Blackwater Estuary, is a 700-acre coastal farm and the Head Office of the Essex Wildlife Trust. Three other group members failed to arrive with two breaking down and having to be rescued by the AA and the third got lost! The two who had broken down saw the day’s only sightings of Long-tailed Tits.
At Abbotts Hall the group meandered down to the Wetlands Hide. The surrounding land appeared bare due to vegetation having been removed from alongside the ditches. The fields to left and right also seemed to lack bird life. Wetlands Hide is large and our group fitted in comfortably. It was a relief to shelter from the wind but that comfort was short lived because as soon as we opened the shutters the cold wind blew straight in. As its name implies this hide looks over wetlands and beyond them to Salcott Channel. The tide was rising but there was plenty of exposed mud to view feeding waders although many were a good distance away and a telescope was essential for positive identification; looking south and into the sun also made it difficult to distinguish colours. There was a wonderful Curlew who paraded himself on the top of a mud bank and the plaintive calls of other Curlews echoed over the wetlands.
After leaving this hide 8 of the group went on to Lake Hide, 2 went home and the remaining 5 went on to the nearby Abberton Visitor Centre. Lake Hide provided a surprising amount of interest with the sightings of many ducks including Pochard. The tide by then had risen too high to make it worthwhile to view the birds nearer to Salcott Channel so the group headed back to the centre and its delightful gardens in which several ate their lunch.
Those who went to Abberton had a warmer spot for their lunch sitting in the comfort of the Visitor Centre, which overlooks the reservoir. Here they spotted amongst other birds Golden Eye and Canada Geese. They then went to the Layer Breton Causeway where the two highlights of the day were sighted, a Goosander, a normally shy bird, which came close to the Causeway and members were able to get a good view of it, and 5 White Fronted Geese. Also in the trees around the Reservoir they saw at least 200 nesting Cormorants.
Birds seen: Robin, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Dunnock, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Crow, Magpie, Lapwing, Kestrel. Common Buzzards, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Herring Gull, Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Redshank, Curlew, Shelduck, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Chinese Swan Goose, White-fronted Goose, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Pochard, Golden Eye, Little Grebe, Goosander, Mute Swan, Green Woodpecker (heard).
Other: Pussy Willow, Primrose, Common Field Speedwell.
Joy Deacon & Diane Caulkett