Dawn Marsh Harrier

Dawn Marsh Harrier

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Surfer Dudes Hit the Far East!!!

This Saturday's goal was the long staying Surf Scoter in the Stour Estuary on the Essex/Suffolk coast. I didn't expect to wake up to a sprinkling of snow in Herts but that was never going to stop a pair of intrepid explorers like me and Sharpy.

 The previous day the bird had been showing well around buoy 4 viewed from the end of Wall Lane, Wrabness, so this was our first port of call. Good numbers of common waders such as Dunlin, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew and Bar Tailed Godwit, greeted us as we arrived on the beach. A thorough scan through the ducks on the water only turned up Wigeon, Goldeneye and Shellduck along with large numbers of Brent Geese.

After an hour or so, a drive further downstream in search of a different vantage point proved unfruitful. We returned to Wrabness in the hope that the now rising tide would have brought a new avian cast to the estuary. There were certainly more ducks on the water now and a displaying pair of Red Breasted Merganser were a welcome year tick but still no sign of our quarry. However, it wasn't long before news broke that the Surf Scoter was lurking around buoys 8 & 9, which unfortunately were on the Suffolk side of the estuary and we were on the Essex side. We could see that there was a point jutting out on our side, which we figured was roughly opposite buoys 8 & 9 but this was going to be a hefty walk, if indeed it was accessible at all. As luck would have it, a friendly couple of locals taking a stroll, informed us that we could drive to this point and gave us directions to the end of Shore Lane in Bradfield. 10 mins later we had the' Surfy' in our scopes. It was quite distant and certainly too much to ask of my 300ml camera lens but as it drifted slightly closer to us we enjoyed decent scope views with it's pale nape patch glowing brightly in the sunshine. 'Mission accomplished.'

With plenty of hours of daylight left we opted to head for RSPB Hockwold Fen ( or Lakenheath as it will always be to me). As we followed the road along the estuary we spotted a birder viewing the water, and realised it was a guy we'd met only a week earlier in Cheshire. The small world of birding eh? We stopped to exchange pleasantries and enjoyed close views of the group of 9 Pintails he was watching.

So onwards to Lakenheath where we spent a largely uneventful but pleasant couple of hours in the winter sun, adding some different species to the day list. As we walked back along the river, a wonderful little ghost in the form of a Barn Owl appeared over the reed beds.

These magnificent, enigmatic creatures never fail to get my pulse racing. For a delightful 10 mins or so we watched as it quartered the reeds, occasionally halting, twisting and dropping like stone, wings folded overhead and talons extending towards an unsuspecting prey. Fantastic!!! Excuse me getting all whimsical but I love these things.

We walked on towards the car park agreeing what a perfect end to the day the Barny had been, but the day had one more surprise in store as a Great White Egret came gliding over the lake and in to roost.

As we left the sun went down on yet another thoroughly enjoyable day in the field and I was off home to drink white wine and dream about Barn Owls. Perfect.

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