This visit to Tollesbury was a first for the Group, but unfortunately it rained heavily the whole morning and members did not see it at its best.
The reserve, 600 acres of coastal grazing marsh, sea walls and saltings, shows how traditional coastal farming with grazing livestock can encourage a superb variety of wildlife. The reserve is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and forms part of the Mid Essex Coast Special Protection Area for wild birds and is a Wetland of International Importance, in particular because of its over wintering birds.
14 members, including one new member, braved the weather and met in the Woodrolfe Green car park. Unfortunately, just as we were setting off it started to rain really heavily and 3 members decided to go home. The rest of us made our way to the Reserve, passing the Marine Pool, the Marina and Clubhouse on the way. The public footpath follows the sea wall, giving an 8 km walk from the marina back through the village to the car park. In view of the weather we decided just to visit the hide, which is about half a mile from the entrance to the reserve. On the way 6 more members decided to return to the car park and go on to Abberton where we all hoped to meet for lunch.
The remaining 5 of us reached the hide very wet but were rewarded to see a large number of birds in the inland water in front of the hide. We spotted Canada & Greylag Geese, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Curlew, Wigeon, Common Sandpiper Lapwing, Starling and a Gt. Black-Backed Gull. 3 Snipe flew up from the bank and a pair of Mute Swans flew overhead. On the way to and from the hide we saw a Rabbit, Wood Pigeon, Little Egret and Goldfinches.
4 wet and bedraggled members left for home but I (Diane) had remained dry and went alone to Abberton to see if any of the half dozen were still there. I learnt that two had gone straight home but four remained and were enthusiastic not only about the birds but also about the chocolate cake! Their sightings were: one wet Wood Pigeon, Crow, Lapwing, Little Egret, Cormorant, Coot, Teal, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Great-Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull & Mute Swan.
As the weather cleared a little the five of us drove to the nearby Layer Breton causeway and sighted Greylag Geese, Shoveler, Gadwall, Mallard, Pintail, Moorhen, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Mute Swans, Starlings, Magpie, Pied Wagtail and a Chinese Swan Goose. Sheila circulated the following information – “The Chinese goose is a breed of domesticated goose descended from the Wild Swan Goose. Chinese Geese differ from the wild birds in much larger size (up to 5-10 kg in males, 4-9 kg in females), and in having an often strongly developed basal knob on the upper side of the bill. The knob at the top of the beak is more prominent on males than females. By 6-8 weeks of age, the knob is already pronounced enough that it can be used for sexing. Chinese Geese are a close cousin of the African Goose, a heavier breed also descended from the Swan Goose.”
Our new member was a novice birdwatcher and it was a good test for us to point out the features that distinguish one bird from another. When we were trying to point out a Shoveler which she couldn’t find and then said ’is it that ducky thing?’ we realised we needed a bit more practice on this as the ‘jizz’ (shape and movements of a bird, its personality) should have been our starting point
Although a fragmented day all those that endured the rain had some rewarding sightings.
Jill & Ken recently spent a few days in Yorkshire and say that on the River Wharfe there is a well-established, naturalised population of Mandarin and they saw over 60 of them.. They also saw Goosander, Grey Wagtail, and watched two pairs of Dippers fighting over territory.
Joy & Diane