14 February 2015
Gunners Park, Wrabness and Wallasea IslandOther than a close encounter involving a mobile phone call while parked nose to nose at the Lydd Cattle Egrets in the pouring rain I haven't seen Gary this year, so when he suggested a day out in Essex I quickly agreed. We started just after dawn on a grey and drizzly morning in the glamorous location of a car park at Gunners Park Shoeburyness. There were just two other cars when we arrived but within half an hour the car park was full and there were hundreds of joggers clambering for their organised exercise. We walked around the various patches of bushes seeing good numbers of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a few Chaffinch but there was no sign of the Serins. We walked out into the wet grass surrounding the site finding a pair of Stonechat, seeing a flyover Little Egret and a Redshank but still no sign of those small yellow finches. As the joggers departed we decided we should push on and drove over to Wrabness.
We found a small community store in the village that had a great little cafe for lunch, then parked up in the Essex Wildlife Trust car park and wandered down to the river. After checking a mixed flock of Brent Geese and Wigeon we climbed onto the river bank where I soon located the immature drake Surf Scoter. It was pretty distant, feeding among Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser so we walked along to the hide where the views were slightly better. There were huge numbers of waders feeding on the exposed mudflats. A Snipe flushed from the eel grass, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank, Knot and Dunlin feed among flocks of Lapwing. With little chance of the Scoter coming closer we decided to head back south and our final stop of the day at the RSPB's new Wallasea Island reserve.
There is much ongoing development work as they shape the land, construct paths, a visitor centre, some floods and the hides and it may be a few years before it is complete. However they have seeded the area as a giant bird table and it has attracted over 300 Corn Bunting as well as plenty of food for raptors. I soon located the Rough-legged Buzzard which gave superb views as it persistently hovered over the field. A female Hen Harrier drifted in and soon the two raptors were fighting. There were at least five Kestrels, but none of the Short-eared Owls that have been seen most days. As the light faded we headed home, having enjoyed a good day out in some new sites and seeing a few good Essex birds.