At the Blue House Farm car park, while changing into ‘wellies’ and wrapping myself up against the fresh breeze, I spotted, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, blackbird, robin, collared dove, song thrush, sparrow and moorhen – but not a single member of the bird and wildlife group. Many had given their apologies in advance and those who hadn’t were no doubt put off by the overnight rain and strong winds. However, by 10.00 the rain had stopped and the wind had lessened – although it was far from spring-like. We have a group rule that at least two people have to confirm the sighting and identification of a bird before we record it – but today you will have to take my word alone; apart from those mentioned there were several that needed confirmation and these I have omitted.
As I set-off across the field to the first hide several skylarks sang as they rose into the sky and this sound accompanied me all morning. I was 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 and today the water came within a few metres of the hide. Close by there was a large flock of coots and further away many ducks, geese and some waders. I saw most of the ducks you would expect to see including, shoveler, wigeon, mallard, shelduck but not teal or tufted ducks. There were flocks of lapwing, several greenshanks, and many Canada geese.
The shelduck is more like a goose than a duck and is identified by its mainly black and white colouring and glossy green head, a chestnut band across its breast, red beak and pink feet. It is interesting that it used to nest mainly in rabbit burrows close to mudflats but recently has come inland to breed, finding holes amongst derelict buildings. The problem is that once the young are hatched they have to walk from the burrow to the nearest stretch of water that sometimes can be as much as a mile away. The shelduck’s clutches are large and quite often 20 chicks are hatched which the adult female leads along lanes and through farmland to the water. Abandoning their young in July the adults fly off for the winter months to mudflats off northern Germany but are now starting to return for this year’s breeding season, the juveniles having remained here.
Moving on to the second hide the number of birds was much reduced but here teal had congregated. The walk to the third hide was wonderful: flocks of golden plover took off from the fields, flew swirling round, separating, and then joining together again before landing elsewhere and becoming almost invisible in the grass. I also disturbed two little egrets and a grey heron as well as a small flock of Canada geese that rose noisily into the air. There were grazing sheep in the fields and just one ewe had two young lambs beside her. I saw nothing spectacular from the third hide but there was a pair of tufted ducks.
The group had chosen to visit Blue House Farm as the high midday tide would push the birds from the river to the reserve so I wasn’t expecting to see much from the seawall. The first thing I did see, a first for me, was a great-crested grebe flying down river, and later another resting on the water. There were also pied wagtails along the shoreline. Near the reeds on the landward side a pair of reed buntings perched on a fence and then dropped into the grass before moving a short way along and doing the same again.
Back at the car park I startled a small flock of pheasants. It was a super morning.
Birds: Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Blackbird, Robin, Collared Dove, Song Thrush, Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Reed Bunting, Moorhen, Lapwing, Little & Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Mallard, Shelduck, Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall, Greylag, Brent & Canada Geese, Swan, Greenshank, Redshank, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Pheasant, Black-headed Gull.
Flowers: Red Dead-nettle, Blackthorn.