On 4th Febuary I found myself staying with friends down in Essex after a gig at the Barbican in London the previous night. We were due to stick around until after lunch so I decided to make my way down to the Colne Estuary. Based in Wivenhoe near Colchester, my mates are fortunate enough to live right by the Colne Estuary, not far off from the fantastic Fingringhoe Wick reserve. The Colne Estuary around Wivenhoe and Fingringhoe is is particularly fantastic for waders in the winter months, and the saltmarsh has also held Glossy Ibis in the recent past. Walking south from the village itself in the direction of Brightlingsea sees you pass through an area of deciduous woodland which is reliable for Nightingale in the spring and summer months. I have heard this species a couple of times here but astonishingly have not been lucky enough to see one there as of yet. Once you are beyond the woods the estuary becomes more extensive, allowing views towards Fingringhoe on the opposite side.
With only an hour or so available to bird the area, I decided to not go any further than the edge of the woods, about a mile south off Wivenhoe. At first I occupied myself by working through a 400+ strong group of Dark Bellied Brent Geese. My efforts to dig out a hrota were in vain, but seeing Brents in these numbers is always a fantastic experience when you are a NE Scottish birder that never sees them from one day to the next locally. Aside from a few small assortments of Dunlin and Lapwing, there was not much else going on until I got beyond the woods and the estuary opened up. This was where all the wader action was, as I quickly connected with a flock of 80 Avocets roosting by some 200 Dunlin and 150 Redshank. One of the things I love about Essex birding is its large wintering flocks of Avocet; such elegant birds and just a great wintering species to have in decent numbers. Not a great deal of other places you can go in the UK to find such flocks. Whilst you can take them for granted after a while in Norfolk to a certain extent, they have an even greater buzz to them when you see them down in Essex. That made the day, so I headed back towards Wivenhoe pleased. As I approached the village, a female Marsh Harrier showed a treat and a Stock Dove flew over.
Whenever I am in the area I am always reminded of how much I’d love to have the Colne Estuary as a patch. It is certainly brimming with potential for rare waders, wildfowl or a scarce Ardea. In the past I’ve had Turtle Dove from my friends’ back garden, something I’d love to still be the case but probably isn’t any longer unfortunately. I am hoping to visit again in early April to allow for chances of connecting with a Nightingale or two, which arrive there as early as the second week of that month, so there may well be a post on how I fare in that respect within the next couple of months. I leave you with some photos of the estuary and prime Nightingale habitat…
Thanks for reading,