Having had reports of a recent sighting of a Great Grey Shrike we changed our location from Two Tree Island to Heybridge Basin – and we weren’t disappointed: not only did we see the shrike but also large flocks of feeding waders and several other birds we don’t normally see.
The Great Grey is the largest European shrike, about the size of a blackbird. It is a regular but scarce visitor to the UK.
Shrikes are solitary and are often seen on prominent perches, and this one was no exception, so we had several long and clear sightings of it. It is a boldly patterned bird in grey, white and black. Noticeable features are the broad, black eye mask, the long rounded black tail edged with white and the black wings.
According to the RSPB only 63 birds are present in the UK from October to March.
The rising tide had pushed the feeding waders close to shore and there were large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits (now in winter plumage) intermingled with Redshanks and Lapwings. Heard before they were seen, several hundred Brent Geese flew up river and landed on the water. On the far side, near a small exposed island, an equally large flock of Avocet fed; occasionally they would lift up and their whiteness glowed in the sunlight. At 11.00 we heard the Maldon Remembrance Day gun firing marking the start of the two-minutes silence, which we observed accordingly; startled by this bang all the birds rose up noisily. Both the place for remembering and the sight and sound of these birds rising up were quite special.
Chilled by the fresh wind we made our way back to the Basin and warmed ourselves with refreshments in the lock side pub.
Birds: Great Grey Shrike, Wren, Starling, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Kestrel, Lapwing, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Dunlin, Avocet, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Canada & Brent & Geese, Shelduck, Cormorant, Lesser Black-backed & Black-headed Gull.
Flowers: Red Clover, Yarrow, Bristly Ox-tongue, Bramble
Other: Seven-spot ladybird