Monday, 14 March 2016

Wonderful Wildfowl @ Mistley!

Mistley Walls - 25th February, 16

Weather: Sunny with slight cloud. Very cold in the wind.

Bird Total: 43

A text the previous evening from Ron, inviting me down to Mistley with him, was too good an opportunity to miss. I had intended to visit Amwell, to try for the Bittern again. 'Sod the Bittern!' I thought, this was a much better plan.

The Tide time was a little earlier today, so we had to be in place before 11. It was cloudy and overcast when we set off, but the clouds had given way to sunshine by the time we arrived. It was warm in the sun but there was a wicked wind blowing in from the Estuary, making our eyes water. Ron's fingers again suffered.

However, this time, I was armed with my magic scarf, which kept most of the cold out. Ron was also armed with his magic snood, making him look a bit like Dick Turpin!

We headed straight for the Quay area. However, this time there wasn't too much about. A lone Pied Wagtail greeted us as we arrived. I then found myself being molested by the car. Somehow, I had managed to get my jacket caught by the car-seat and struggled to free myself. Ron had obviously had a crash-course in trapped passengers and helped set me free.

There wasn't too much on the water, but on the shoreline we found several sleepy Pintails; lots of Shelduck; a couple of wandering Curlew; a few lively Redshank and then I spotted about a dozen Avocet, way out to our left.

Ron decided to chance his luck by photographing the nearest Curlew and the Pintail, before we arrived at the Walls. The Mistley Swans were there, as usual, to greet us. One or two of them waddling up to us, obviously looking for handouts. We didn't have anything for them, but they were more than compensated for, by plenty of other people handing out lots of white bread. Tut, tut!

We decided to take a stroll, towards Manningtree. Out on the estuary, we could see plenty of birds, including loads more Pintail and Shelduck, with other assorted wildfowl, including Teal and Shoveler. Waders were again in abundance, with Oystercatcher; Lapwing; Black-tailed Godwit and Redshank in particular.

Another Wied Pagtail flew close to us, while Ron photographed the Gulls. 'What's that one, then?' Don't start that again!

The clouds finally gave way and allowed the sun to shine. The wind dropped, slightly, the sun began to warm us up, while the mudflats were, well, muddy. I noticed the Alpacas from the last visit were conspicuous by their absence.

We duly arrived back at the Walls and picked out a spot to stand and wait for the Tide to bring the birds in. There were a few other hardy souls, also armed with plenty of optics, waiting around, as well. None of them mentioned a Mongoose. I practised a little, by photographing the world-famous Mistley Swans. Well, that's what the locals call them.

The birds started to arrive, mainly the Pintails and the Shelduck. Which was a surprise, as I always thought they kept their distance. There were quite a few Pintails around here, now. Some of them floated in close enough for a few modest shots. As did the Shelduck. The rest still kept their distance.

Ron's fingers had started to turn white, so, while we waited for the waders to arrive, headed for the 'War Wagon' aka the 'Refreshments Van'. A hot coffee soon warmed Ron's fingers up enough to start taking photos. It also helped that the wind had suddenly dropped.

And soon the waders started teasing us, by getting closer. However, it was a little different this time around. The Blackwits; Redshank and Turnstones kept their distance, while we didn't see any Knot at all, today. We did see a lone Avocet, but it kept its' distance, too.

This time, it was the turn of the wildfowl. Pintail and Shelduck of course, but we also saw plenty of Teal; Wigeon and Shoveler, all coming in close, to feed. A pair of Canada Geese and a pair of Greylag Geese were picking their way through the maze of Mute Swans, trying to get to the free handouts.

I had just started snapping away at the birds when my camera suddenly went dead. Argh! The battery had chosen this particular moment to run out. Snatching the keys from Ron, I ran back to the car to get the spare one. I returned just in time to see most of the waders fly off.

'What happened?' I asked Ron.

He nodded his head towards a few noisy families who had turned up, throwing white bread to the assembled Swans and Geese and Gulls. A pair of Stock Doves had just flown in, close to the water and the resultant chaos with the bread scared them away almost immediately. Their flight had also unnerved the waders and, they too, flew off.

So we just concentrated on the wildfowl, the Pintail and Shelduck in particular. A few Black-tailed Godwits had hung around. However, there were so many birds wandering around it was difficult to pick out an individual. I felt like a predator, trying to choose a single bird to lock on to. Reminiscent of my mis-spent youth! Ahem.

I decided to move down the shoreline a ways, while Ron moved in the opposite direction, towards a pair of Pintail, which had drifted in close. I utilised my best fieldcraft skills (!) to move in amongst the reeds, popping up to try and capture some Blackwits on camera. Unfortunately, my 500mm lens was a tad too heavy and I couldn't keep it still in the strong wind that had returned. It made my eyes water, anyway. The wind, not the lens.

So I headed back, towards Ron. More Pintails had moved in closer and allowed a few more, modest shots. By now, the Tide had almost come in and nearly all of the smaller birds had flown off. Only the wildfowl hung around a bit longer.

We decided to walk back along the Walls, towards Manningtree again, looking for any birds that hadn't flown off. Ron spotted a lone Little Egret fly past and land not too far away. Unfortunately, our fieldcraft skills weren't quite good enough and it spotted us, flying off.

A few 'scenic' and 'arty' shots later we decided to drive over to the White Bridge to see what was about. Not much. It was also cold and windy and the few parking spaces were already occupied.

'Do you fancy a wander?' Ron asked.

And so we headed for Flatford Mill. However, the car-park was charging £3.50 and I only had £2 on me. We drove around it twice, before deciding to call it a day and headed for home. There didn't seem to be much about anyway.

And then I panicked, thinking I had lost my door keys! We stopped, I got out of the car, again managing to get my jacket caught up and then started searching my pockets for said keys. Ron picked them up, off the seat and dangled them in front of me. They had fallen out of my pocket. Thank God! I thought they might of fallen out while I was photographing the birds, back at the Walls.

There would have been no point in returning, as they would have been underwater by now. I had a spare set, with friends, anyway.

Soon, I was dropped off and arrived home to a warm house and an even warmer cup of tea. With a few 'Suggestive Digestives' to dunk. Ah, bliss!

Thanks to my good friend, Ron, for another great day out.

'In 1969, Buzz Aldrin claimed $33.31 in business expenses for travelling from
Houston, Texas to the moon and back again.'