Sunday, 22 February 2015

Wrabness Scoterless but Essex Success from Bradfield

Sat 21st Feb 2015,
A trip to the Stour estuary in sunny Essex with Paul F. Wrabness was the first location visited as our target bird a Surf Scoter was last reported near buoy no4 at the end of Wall Lane. The sat-nav worked it's magic as usual despite Paul ignoring it on a couple of occasions. On arrival we soon located buoy no4 but no sign of the Surf Scoter. The ducks on offer were; Great-crested Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Wigeon and Teal. Lots of Brent Goose too. The tide was quite away out and a good selection of waders were on the mud; Redshank, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone and Oystercatcher. Gulls; Black-headed, Lesser-black Backed, Great-black Backed, Herring and Common. We stayed for a couple of hours regularly checking rba and birdguides but no news. As the tide was a long way out our logic suggested to us that the Surf Scoter might seek deeper water downstream. We headed about a mile and a half downstream and parked in a nature reserve car park. After studying a map we made our way through some woods in the rough direction of the estuary. Fairly soon we arrived at some kind of construction site. We were the "wrong" side of a railway line too!  A brief discussion and we headed back to the car park and then back to buoy no4. The tide was a bit further in but still no sign of our target bird. A couple of other birders arrived soon after and then after a few minutes they informed us the Scoter had been spotted upstream from Bradfield near buoy no8. They knew how to get to the location "Shore Lane" and kindly waited for us to follow them. Shore Lane is full of deep potholes so if you ever need to view buoys 8 upwards park where the potholes start and walk! There were six birders in total viewing the area near buoy8 and the birder who we had followed soon picked up the Surf Scoter. It was very distant and on the Suffolk side of the estuary. Lucky for us the light was good. We watched the Scoter for some time as it dived and stayed under for quite long periods. So where to go next? Not sure how or why but we decided to go to Lakenheath Fen (Cranes maybe?). Passing through nearby Manningtree we spotted a couple of birders viewing the estuary so we stopped in case they were viewing the Surf Scoter at closer range. Unfortunately they weren't but some close in Pintail were nice to see and then nice views in flight. We exchanged some banter with the other birders whom coincidently we had seen in New Brighton the previous Saturday. Onwards to Lakenheath. Reed Buntings on the feeders outside the vistors centre and 3 or 4 Cetti's warbler calling but not showing themselves and a Common Buzzard were noted on our walk to the Joist Fen viewpoint. We spent some time at the viewpoint hoping to see Cranes but nothing doing. Paul had a couple of glimpses of Bittern as it flew up then dived back down into the reed bed and I had a brief and unusual view of a Bittern swimming quickly across a channel in the reeds. About 6 Marsh Harrier including 2 males were also seen here. A wander back to the car park along the embankment and a Barn Owl showed quite well which we thought at the time was a nice end to our birding day. As we neared the end of our walk back to the car park a Great White Egret flew to the back of the washland.

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