Monday, 24 October 2011

Weekend trip to the Wash with the RSPB Hemel Group (22nd-23rd October)

22nd October

My fourth time to the coast in four weeks.  A lot of traveling but the journey and experiences were all worth it.  Last weekend I left at 6:15am for the Wash, on the Lincolnshire coast with a kind member of the RSPB Hemel group who offered to bring me there and back.


As we left so early there was enough time to have a short drop in at the RSPB reserve at Frampton Marsh that offers amazing views over thousands of wetland birds that frequent the muddy scrapes infront of the small visitor centre.  The reserve lies directly behind a sea wall that was originally planned to reclaim the hinterland, but is now far more productive thanks to the simple addition of water.  From the car park I already got my first year tick, the hedge directly next to the visitor centre hosted several Tree Sparrows and the feeders were also well used by several Goldfinches.  The large number of birds on the scrapes was difficult to estimate and counting species seemed the best idea as we only had time between 9:00 and 10:45am to scan the masses of Wigeon, Teal, Greylag Geese and Lapwing for anything more unusual.  As we made our way to the first 360 hide a gaggle of several hundred Brent Geese came flying over the sea wall and directly over my head to land in the neighbouring scrape, an awesome spectacle and a great way to start the day.  Several other highlights were also condensed into the short space of time that we had as I picked up on a fast flying falcon heading inland, its profile seemed to suggest Merlin, however I was only able to pick up on its silhouette.  The morning also passed with regular sightings of Redshanks, Skylarks and Kestrels.  The East Scrape seemed to be much more attractive to wading birds including 16+ Black-tailed Godwits on the single scrape as well as several more spread around the reserve.  Other waders included several Dunlin and 2 Ringed Plovers, a Snipe and Curlew.

Frampton Marsh, view over the scrape infront of the visitor centre


We met up with the rest of the Hemel RSPB group at the Boston Marina were we took the Boston Belle boat out into the Wash.  As we waited for the water level to rise sufficiently for the boat to leave a Grey Wagtail past overhead as did a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  After a long wait for the boat to finally leave a Peregrine was pointed out perching on the Boston Stump.  Most of the wading birds that we saw along the river were extremely numerous including Redshanks, Curlew, Dunlin, Golden Plover and even from the start Bar-tailed Godwits were frequently seen.  Fewer Black-tailed Godwits were present but surprises came in the form of a Ruff feeding on the bank of the River Haven on our way down to the estuary.  As we came closer to the mouth of the estuary numbers of Brent Geese rose considerably and by the time we reached the Wash itself wader numbers and duck species such as Wigeon, Shelduck and even a 1st summer Eider were present.  The highlight of the trip though was a close up view of a Merlin perched on the man-made channel wall.  Dozens of Little Egrets were also on the estuary as were 18 Common Seals, Great Black-backed Gulls, a passing flock of probable Sanderling and occasional views of a confident Peregrine making short swoops at several species of birds in the water as we made our way up the Welland.  A Sandwich Tern was also lingering and was seen plunging for fish into the water.  At least 4 Marsh Harriers were seen at one time including 1 ad., and 3 darker birds most likely 's.  Less common waders that we encountered on the way included 2 Greenshanks, 1 Grey Plover and several Ringed Plovers which brought our total number of bird species seen on the trip to over 50 species.  However, most spectacular of all was the classic view of thousands of Knot taking to the air in their impressive aerial maneuvering flight.

The Boston Stump, on which one of the Peregrines was perched on our way out to the wash, possibly the same bird seen hunting over the wash as we didn't see it later on our return.

thousands of wading birds, mostly Oystercatchers in this photo

 It doesn't look like much but there were thousands of birds lining the coastal stretch of the Wash, also hosted the huge flocks of Knot

roosting Oystercatchers

 hundreds of Oystercatchers resting and waiting for low tide


waders everywhere

 Brent Geese over the Wellan, RSPB Frampton Marsh to the south (left)

 Wigeon, not in strict formation

Brent Geese

 My best shot of the regular flypast flocks of Brent Geese as we returned op the Wellan


 Curlews bill caked in mud to the very base

 trying desperately to try and get a decent shot of a Redshank in flight

the only Grey Plover on the cruise

 the only Grey Plover seen on the trip showing its black auxiliaries

Common Sandpiper


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