Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Return to Wallasea Island (The Sequel)

After days of dark clouds and heavy rain, the weather finally abated and gave us blue skies and a chilly ground frost that warmed my heart. The bird I have been chasing for a few weeks now doesn’t really enjoy damp wet conditions and so with my new fur-lined trapper hat attached to my head, I headed out to the Wild Coast Project at Wallasea Island. I was a man on a mission but a man without wellies which would prove to be only a small oversight as it would turn out.

Reed Bunting
So I had light, I had a camera (of sorts) so all I needed was the action. I’m still not totally sure about my little Nikon in terms of its ability to do what it says. The Sports mode seems to blur things even more than the Auto mode and everything else seems to do nothing I need. I did get this smart Reed Bunting though so it can do it when it wants but I need good light.

The mudflats held pretty much the cast I would expect for this feature. Dunlin, Common Redshank, Shelduck, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Curlew and a few Black-tailed Godwits. As I trod carefully along the seawall trying hard not to slide in the rivulets of muddy water that lay hidden below innocent patches of grass, I noted Meadow Pipits and a few Skylarks. Every now and then I would stop and scan the distance – across to Foulness Island and Holiwell Point for a glimpse or suggestion of the star performer, a real A-Lister, the Hen Harrier. Nothing doing. Was I going to fail again or would this epic end happily ever after?
View across to Foulness Island
After about 1.5km beyond the earth conveyor belt, the reserve comes to a halt. There is no access beyond this for mere mortals like me. A couple of other birders obviously have special needs or rather privileges as they were able to go beyond this point without a care in the world.

Common Buzzard
In the distance on Foulness, a Buzzard perched on a mast. It stayed on that mast or one nearby for a good hour but was difficult to see clearly (as you can see) and I missed it in flight the few occasions it moved from one perch to another. You see, a Rough-legged Buzzard is also on Foulness and although I’m 95% sure this is the common variety, I just wonder if there’s a ghost of a chance...

After some time spent scanning the horizon, an agile raptor flew low across the banks of the shoreline on Foulness. At first I thought it was a Marsh Harrier due to the darkness of it’s appearance but as it flew out into the sunlight more, I could clearly see the telltale tail with the white rump that meant I had a 'Ringtail' or rather a female Hen Harrier. Eventually it disappeared behind some farm buildings and was gone. I was well happy.

I decided to head back along a path that would test Indiana Jones, as I hoped from one safe bit to the next while still trying to keep one eye out for birds. And then it happened; the twist in the storyline. Just when I thought it was safe to go home a happy man, a raptor flew right beside me, teasing me with it’s beauty and grace. Another ringtail but this time I could almost touch it. It quickly realised its mistake and started to veer away from me. I quickly grabbed my compact and tried to zoom in on it but it was all a bit fiddly and the result a bit pointless.

Hen Harrier in flight from me.
It is a terrible image, heavily cropped and as it faded into the distance and the hairs on my neck calmed down, I knew I had to have a proper camera with a decent lens. It’s the only way now and although this may well take me two years to save for, it will be worth it.

Wallasea Island

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