Monday, 6 April 2015

Hanningfield res. & Orwell Estuary 1st April 2015

today was the day... The day my snorers (you'll find out on the next blog), I mean Grandparents and I travelled to Ipswich, our base for Minsmere. We thought the journey would drag on, so wasn't lively. At about 13:30 we needed to stop off for a lunch break...

Instinct sniffed out a nature reserve, like a (needs to be related to birds, ummm) Kestrel looking for a Field Vole urine in grass using ultraviolet vision I worked out a route to a nature reserve. Hanningfield Resovoir is the name, in Essex.

"Chiff, chaff, chaff, chiff, chiff, chiff, chaff, chaff". This was what welcomed me, a Spring migrant from Africa... The Chiffchaff, a small, and what some people would call boring bird, I would have to completely disagree. To me they epitomise Spring with their somewhat repetitive jingle. We arrived at the visitors centre and were pleasantly surprised that it was free but of course we had to donate after for such a fantastic reserve. A very friendly man gave us an insight on what was around inc. I quote "We have a Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier..." and so on and so forth. But would you really put a Marsh Harrier before a Buzzard? Well I know I certainly wouldn't! Anyway, we reached the first hide and said hello to a (posh word incoming) white speculum... So what's that, a Gadwall you say? The speculum is the part of the wing near to the tertials, just a tad further away from the body of the bird compared to the closest the tertials.
  Check that speculum out! I then decided to do a bit of Gulling (watching gulls), there were many rafts of Black-Headed Gulls fishing along the surface and could be misconceived as a Tern. Funnily they shouldn't really be called Black-Headed for two reasons in my opinion: 1. in the Summer their hood is not black it's brown! 2. In Winter plumage they don't have black on their head apart from an earspot... So if I was the naturalist 400 or so years ago I'd call it the White-Eyelashed Gull... Sounds good! Anyway nothing stood out in the flocks. My Grandma then reminded me "Are the Marsh Harriers overthere?" Took me 5 seconds to look over to the small reedbed and 5 milliseconds to narrow down an Adult Female! The first for my Grandparents!

As you can see from these shots it was very distant but recognisable which is all you need. It disappeared for a few minutes so I decided to look over the treeline and spotted some tiny birds darting around, a mix of Sand Martin & Swallow, and for those wanting to know more birding vocabulary, Hirundines.  Both the first for me this Spring, which is rather late to be honest. However, seeing Swallow at this time is still fairly early so pleased... Wait on, this blog is not about timing! It was fnatstic to see probably the most beautiful bird in the UK the Swallow this year, who cares about the timing! 

 The next hide produced excitement from the highly terrortorial Coot. Sadly I wasn't able to catch all the action on camera but did tell the "story", sorry for the cringe! My photo below shows the partner of the bird to the far left fending off the bird bird in the middles partner! Look at the confrontation between the two in the middle, they weren't a happy bunch.
My Granddad spotted a Female Teal close by having a little shake, but for me trying to wash yourself in the mud isn't the most sensible idea, but that's just me.

While I was concentrating on the ducks close by my Granddad pointed out some courting Great Crested Grebes, a well awaited first for me (not the bird the court). Every wildlife program in the Spring will show film of this so it was a great surprise! But as usual they had to be on the other side of the planet, photography wasn't easy today! 
The next hide had an artificial island in front, many birds were oppurtunistic on it including some Snipe! My favourites, they were so kind to be two planets away this time just nudging on Saturn (thanks Google!) Tell me if you can spot them in the comments...

I was on the trail of the Gulls again, this time I was succesful however. Mediterranean Gulls were the possibility so to find one after being there was a large surprise! If you've read my previous posts you'll know the key idetification features are the solid white wings. So put it this way it's the only one flying... 

We had completed all the hides now! Our time had come to move on, but not before finding a pair of Oystercatchers, 6 Pied Wag, and this odd Goose, it's a hybrid Greylag x Canada Goose...

Sadly we had to leave the reserve but thankfully gave a good contribution... An hour or so after that we had arrived at Ipswich, yayyyyayyayyayyy! But that's not the end of my adventures is it! I wanted to see more, so journeyed down to the local estuary called the Orwell. I wasn't expecting much but turns out (thanks to my friend David) one of my Gulls I had found was a rare subspecies... When I saw it I was confident in it being a Yellow-Legged Gull, however the pale mantle (back) doesn't meet the Yellow-Leg standards. There was only one other alternative, an Omissus Herring Gull.  No I'm not an absolute genius by identifying this! The next day at Minsmere one of David's friends who is apparenly "the fourth best guller in Suffolk!" Which is just a tease from their club, said it fits Omissus which is a very good record and I'll submit it.

As you can tell I borrowed Simon Kings shot which turned out fantastic ;)
Linking back to Hanningfield this bird was nearing Pluto, but still got a photo!!!

Hope this is not too long just wait till the next blog! I think you'll be reading into the 22nd century!



  1. Spotted the snipe, Alex! :)

  2. Well done Mary, did you know a group of Snipe is called a wisp?