Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Mystery of Mistley!

Mistley/Abberton Reservoirs - 2nd October 15

Weather: Warm and sunny throughout.

Bird Total: 39
Plus: Small White butterfly.
Plus: Common Darter, Migrant Hawker dragonflies.
Plus: Bluebottle; Crane Fly; Cross Spider; Flesh Fly; Grasshopper; Hoverfly; Midge; Nursery Web Spider.

It was time for a long, overdue visit to Mistley Walls. I had heard many great things about this place from other Birders and so looked forward to my first visit. My birder friend, Ron, offered to drive down. He duly picked me up and an hour or so later, we were arriving at the seaside. He had shown me some of his photos from an earlier visit, promising me some really good close-up views.

Mistley is not a wildlife reserve, just an Essex coastal area, near Manningtree. However, it is part of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Stour Estuary has large numbers of waders visiting, when the tide is out. The tide was due to come in around 3.30 today and we wanted to be in place an hour or so beforehand. It did indeed look to be a perfect place for Waders.

All we had to do was wait and look out, over the estuary and watch the tide slowly push the Waders towards us. Even the weather was playing ball, as for once, the bright sunshine was behind us. The birds should come to us.

However, we had a little time before that, so we decided to pay a visit to one of the local cafes for a spot of breakfast. Bacon sandwiches and a hot mug of tea went down a treat. We looked out over the, fenced off, Quay area, as we had our breakfast, where we could see a few Redshank wandering around.

Herring Gull
Black-headed Gull
Then we made our way back to where we had parked the car and picked out a nice spot to sit and wait, not too far from Hopping Bridge. I practised a little beforehand, photographing some of the Gulls that wandered in close. I was also trying to brush up on my Gull IDs. Quite a few Mute Swans had turned up as well, obviously looking for handouts. Apparently, the Swans are famous around here.

A couple of Rooks had also showed up and cautiously edged ever closer. I scanned the area, including the opposite bank, which looked to have loads of Shelduck, all lined up.

There were quite a number of birds starting to congregate on our part of the shore, mainly Redshank. There were a few Turnstones running around, in between the many Redshank. A lone Black-tailed Godwit was on the periphery.

Ron spoke to one of the locals, who confidently informed us that the wind was blowing in the wrong direction, which had made the Godwits fly to the other side of the estuary. That was a little disappointing to hear.

I looked out again and noticed that the tide was now coming in and starting to push the birds towards us. However, it was coming in at an angle and, although it should have pressed them towards us, the birds started flying up and further down the shoreline. It forced us to move with them.

By now, a lot of them had actually flown off and over the estuary, towards the Blackwits. A few of the Redshank did cautiously move towards us, but not nearly as close as I would have liked. We could see a couple of little sandbanks, where groups of Redshank were congregating. Eventually, they all moved off as well. As did the Turnstones.

I was a little disappointed but not too surprised. I only managed a few shots of the birds, all of which were distant and not worthy. However, it was only my first visit, after all. Maybe a few more visits over the winter would prove more productive.

We walked back to our original spot and took a few more photos of the Mute Swans. Ron then suggested that we pay a visit to Abberton Reservoirs, which was fairly close-by. I had visited only once before, late last year.

This way to the birds!
So, 30 minutes or so later, we were parking up at the Visitor Centre. After a quick cup of tea, we headed down to a couple of the Hides. At the Island Hide we spotted 3 Ruff, my first of the year. There were plenty of wildfowl and a pair of Lapwing on show as well. We paid a visit to another Hide, which didn't yield too much else and then decided to head off to the Causeway.

Here we found a pair of Great White Egrets; a few Little Egrets and some Grey Herons. There were lots of wildfowl here as well. A few other people were about, some feeding the ducks and geese. At first, I thought I spotted a Swan Goose, which was here last year, but, looking at the photos later, proved to be just a Greylag Goose. A Kestrel hovered not too far away from us. Pied Wagtails were flying in close.

However, it was getting late in the day and so we headed for home. A very good day out but overall it proved to be a little disappointing, possibly because my high hopes had been dashed. Maybe future visits would prove luckier.

'A failed attempt provides an opportunity to try again with better odds of success.' Kris Howes.