Sunday, 28 February 2010

Mersea Birds

No, silly, not the girls.

On Friday, Anna invited me to go to Mersea with her friend Ron who is a birding enthusiast. He's got the right kind of binoculars (bins, as they call them) and a camera with a good zoom. I walked up to his place on Hythe Hill to meet Ron and Anna at 10. Then we drove out to Cudmore Grove on the northeastern edge of Mersea. From there, you can see out to open North Sea and left across the Colne to Brightlingsea. In between you can see the giant turbines from the Gunfleet Sands wind farm standing up over the low strip of land at Point Clear. To the right along the coast is West Mersea, the more populated side of the island, and across the Blackwater Estuary, the Dengie Peninsula juts out. The foot ferry to Brightlingsea leaves from the edge of Cudmore Grove. The ferry starts back up in April and I plan to make good use of it, walking from campus to Brightlingsea and then ferrying over to Mersea.

The winds on Friday were westerly and quite strong. It was my first time crossing the Strood when it wasn't all mud. To the right side, the water was choppy with waves. To the left, it was flat. At Cudmore Grove, the wind blew constantly at our left shoulders, pushing us towards the sea. We walked through the grass and out to the sea wall. A few skylarks were about and jumped straight up into the air in song. It's a very unusual way to take off, straight up. It's the avian equivalent of the F-35 taking off from an aircraft carrier. My first skylark sighting. I'm not sure what the fuss is about.

It was just past high tide and the water was quite high. The tops of the sea defences were visible between the waves. Unidentifiable black birds bobbed on top of the water. The fresh-water inland lake (due mostly to recent rainfall) was full of birds. We saw pochard, wigeon with their yellow foreheads, tufted duck, mallards, muted swans, gadwall, little grebes, coots, moorhens, an unindetifiable wader (which I think was a redshank, but my company disagreed), and some grey looking goose in the background. We saw lapwings in the field along with a pheasant. In the distance, we spotted jays and crow-type birds (they were either crows or rooks) and magpies. Along the trail we saw a robin, some type of tit, and a chaffinch. It was a good day for spotting birds. Dougal, the keeper of Cudmore Grove, dropped into the bird hide where we were seeking shelter from the relentless wind, and told us about a pair of waxwings that had been spotted on the other side of the island. We were headed there anyway, later, for lunch, so we decided to stop by the Co-op and see the birds. Sure enough, they were sat up in a tree, rose hip, I think he said. They're little grey birds with a tuft of feathers at the back of their heads. With binds or a good lens, you can see the hint of rose and the vivid yellow feathers that line the edges of their tails. It was a rare sighting and the twitchers were out with their mega-zoom lenses.

We stopped at the Coast Inn for lunch. It was lovely. We sat in front of an open fire and enjoyed a good chat while we warmed up. Ron showed us the beautiful picture he snapped of the waxwing. Outside, the wind continued to blow and the sky was broken up by layers of 3-D clouds, rays of sunshine, splashes of blue sky, and the mud reflecting back the light.

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