A few pics from today’s jaunt into Essex with the Rainham crew. We started at Abberton for the last chance to see the wintering Spotted Sand, before major works start tomorrow to raise the water level by 3 metres!!! It was absolutely freezing until the sun crept up above the cloud, but the sandpiper was happily pottering about on the dam, looking well settled in. Not great light for photography (taken at ISO 1000), but these are way better than the digiscoped shots taken in 2009.
Other birds noted on the reservoir included 4 Smew (3 lovely ‘white-nuns’ together plus a separate redhead), plenty of Goosander, single Whooper Swan and a Spoonbill. Next stop was the causeway across to Mersea Island, where we were pleased to pick up wintering Greenshank and Spotted Redshank amongst commoner waders.
In slightly higher temperatures (the dizzy heights of 4 degrees C!) the Blackwater Estuary from Rolls Farm was excellent as usual: 5 Slav Grebe and 3 Great Northern Divers were conservative counts, plus there was a single Red-throated Diver and loads of showy Red-breasted Mergansers. Looking back inland, a Barn Owl was dozing in the sunshine and a couple of Buzzards drifted about. It always amazes me how few people seem to know about this site – where else in the SE can you consistently get good views of Slavs and GNDs in these numbers?
After a brief and unsuccessful look for Hawfinches, final stop was a slight detour to Westcliff-on-sea, to pay my annual homage to Rossi! He was typically obliging, flying to land on the lamp-post over the car just as we were parking – I’m sure some of the other guys will have better photos.
A group of Turnstone made good photographic subjects in the fading light, before we headed back towards London in the sunset. 112 species in London and Essex in 3 days… nothing spectacular in terms of numbers, but good fun and great company!