Sunday, 7 December 2014


Eight of us clambered aboard Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat on Sunday 7th for a four hour birdwatching trip up the Blackwater estuary and the nearby creeks of Salcott and Tollesbury. The wind was a bit fresh which whipped up the waves as we motored up river, heading round the back of Osea Island and as far as Northey Island until the water got too shallow.

There were good numbers of waders and wildfowl along the edge of the saltmarshes and water's edge with the high tide covering the mudflats. Sadly there were no speciality seaduck, divers or grebes to be found with the main highlights being a brief view for some of a few velvet scoter and also a female eider. At least 25 great crested grebes were seen in various locations during the trip.

Other ducks providing good views were 15+ goldeneye, 30+ red-breasted mergansers, 70+ pintail and a raft of 25+ gadwall in the estuary. Good numbers as expected of teal, wigeon and shelduck but very few flocks of brent geese.

A male peregrine provided a good view as it passed over the boat, heading towards the big plover flocks of Tollesbury and Old Hall. The biggest of the plover flocks appeared to be over the Strood Channel, just as we started with probably 4000 golden plover in the air at once.

The best views of wader flocks were in the Salcott and Tollesbury Creeks with  good numbers of avocet, bar-tailed godwits, knot and dunlin being the most interesting. At least three marsh harriers were seen on the trip, hunting low over the seawalls.

Feeding in the fish in the river were 50+ cormorants and also three common seals, one of which was leaping out of the water like a dolphin and seemingly trying to land atop a buoy in one of the creeks.

It was reported later in the day that 4 velvet scoter, 14 goldeneye, 22 red-breasted mergansers and 3 Slavonian grebes were seen by Daryl Rhymes from Goldhanger. We weren't so lucky in this area when we passed it.

The very confiding black brant, pictured above on the right, was feeding on algae just in front of the Coast Road car park at West Mersea. We watched it before we went on the boat trip and again when we returned to the car park four hours later, it was still in the same area.

It was interesting to see the old Radio Caroline boat the Ross Revenge moored inside the Blackwater, apparently it is due to start broadcasting again in the near future. Brings back a few memories of some great radio!

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