Sunday, 12 January 2014

Raptor Delights at Wallasea Island

Deciding to stay relatively local today, we headed for Wallasea Island.

Wallasea Island is currently being transformed from farmland into wetland, using earth excavated from the Crossrail project the land will be transformed into marshes, lagoons and mudflats. The project is due for completion by 2020 and is estimated to cost 50m.

Sunrise over Wallasea Island

Arriving just before sunrise, the marshes were still in semi darkness. Shortly after parking the car in the first lay-by Brian spots a Short-eared Owl flying low just above the ground. With some directions I'm on the bird, it flies a short distance across the marshes and drops down among the taller grass and out of sight.
As the sun rises a harrier is spotted drifting across in front of the far bank, as it circles round it's clearly a ringtail Hen Harrier.
Although the sun is bright and there is very little wind it's still bitterly cold. But the regular sightings of raptors warms us up. 
The Hen Harrier is briefly seen perched on a post and then in flight again being pursued by a Marsh Harrier that didn't look to thrilled to have it hunting in the same area.
Kestrels are a regular sight hunting across the marshes, but a male Merlin found perched on another post was a nice bonus. After watching it for several minutes it flew from the post low and fast.
Corn Buntings were frequently seen and heard overhead, and also perched in a tree close to the car park.

Corn Bunting

From here we headed for the Essex Wildlife Trust site at Abberton.
First stop is the Layer Breton causeway. Two male Smew are quickly located and as luck would have it they drift closer along the edge of the reeds and although still distant the camera comes out for a record shot. A scan of the islands picks out three Snipe, but no amount of scanning could turn any of them into Jack Snipe. 


Crossing the road two male Red-Crested Pochards are found among the numerous Commons, and as we are watching them one of the male Smew flies overhead.

It's my first visit to Abberton since the work here was completed. The second causeway has now been widened and several car parking spaces are now provided. As we leave the car we bump into Nick C, well away from his normal habitat at Wanstead.
Three Pintail, several  Goldeneye and two flyover Goosander were highlights from here. 

A brief stop at the visitor centre for a much needed coffee and it was back in the car and another drive round to Layer Breton Causeway.
The Greylags had by now started to feed on the short grass and Nick had already located the two White-Fronts among the flock. He also put us onto a pair of Scaup on the opposite side of the causeway before we left for home. 

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