Friday, 3 July 2009


Discovered masses of crab-shells washed up along the high tide-line along the Pyefleet at Reeveshall on Thursday 2nd. Conditions in the estuary must have been just right for a mass shedding of shells by the local shore-crabs, as they outgrew their old shells and new ones grown in their place. A close look at these crabs revealed them to be empty inside, with the top part of the carapace shell unhinged along its rear edge.

The shells appear to have been left after one of the recent high spring tides, the highest being about a week ago. All along the back of the saltmarsh were hundreds of thousands of these mainly tiny crab-shells and very little else.

There was a interesting selection of birds on the Reeveshall pool and the sight of 3 grey herons, one pictured above, is strangely uncommon here. Just the one little egret present but in recent years they have outnumbered the herons.

The most eyecatching bird was a male ruff sporting a thick buffy neck recalling the mane on a male lion, while its body and wings were pale grey with black barring. The bird was almost in its breeding plumage and very different from the usual plain ruff that pass through the Island. On such a hot day the thick set of feathers around the neck looked more suited to the winter-time.

Also on the pool were 7 greenshank, 4 spotted redshank, 3 green sandpiper, 10 lapwing, 5 redshank, avocet briefly, 2 little grebe, curlew, black-tailed godwit. Numbers were slowly building up nicely as the tide covered all of the mudflats along the nearby Pyefleet Channel. However a low flying plane flew so low over Reeveshall that all the birds flew off leaving the pool nearly deserted.

Along the Channel just before high tide, 20 black-tailed godwits and an avocet were the only waders seen. During high tide a few hundred waders gathered to roost on Pewit Island with curlew, redshank, oystercatchers, black-tailed and bar-tailed godwits noted. Ten little terns hunted along the Pyefleet.

Marsh harriers were showing well as usual on both Reeveshall with 4 birds seen and also on Langenhoe where about another six birds were seen. One harrier had a half-hearted swoop down at a brown hare which had to jump out of the way to avoid being snatched. On Langenhoe a male harrier returned to the Point carrying food which it passed to a recently fledged youngster. A rival male quickly joined in and was chased off before it could steal the food off the youngster.

A lazy song of a male yellowhammer drifted nearly 400 metres in the warm evening air while a bit closer to the seawall, a corn bunting also sang. Overhead three skylarks seemed more vocal than of late as they all tried to outsing each other.

After the sun set the sand martins gathered in huge numbers for the night-time roost above Reeveshall. Earlier in the evening about 400 birds had been flying around over the fields. My last scan of the area before leaving just as darkness descended, around a thousand sand martins were now present. The flock at times gathered together in dense numbers before dispersing over a wide area. Last summer a similar sized flock was seen to drop down very suddenly into the Reeveshall reedbed.

Amongst the large numbers of meadow brown butterflies along the seawall were a couple of painted ladies and a male ruddy darter was seen by a ditch.

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