We met at 7.40am at the Brentwood post house and headed off to the Essex Coast,starting with an Inland Reservoir Site Abberton.As we turned off the A12 at Silver End i noticed a sign for Braxted Park,which is where a small amount of Hawfinch have been reported recently.As far as i know they are one of only a few remaining Hawfinch left in essex,so we decided to go for a look.After about 5 minutes these little beauties obliged from high up a tree,a cracking view and a new bird for me.
After this we made our way to Abberton,stopping every now and then to check out fields for Partridge,thrushes etc and we saw quite a bit,a male sparrowhawk hunting near braxted park was the highlight.We stopped off just before Abberton Causeway to an area with many Geese,there were around 50 White fronted geese in the fields,lovely birds and then we saw 6 Grey Partridge far out in the fields behind the geese,both year birds for me.We decided next to check out both the causeways,the main one didn't have too much on either side,just the usual ducks with around 40 bean goose flying over at one point.We decided to go to the other causeway to see if there was anything over there,it didn't look too busy but when we got there we knew we had made the right choice.3 Goosanders,5 Goldeneye,2 Egyptian Geese,bean geese and 5 pink foots were the highlights along with some other nice wetland birds.
We then left,around 10am to go to Old Hall Marshes,for my sins i have never been there before,what have i been thinking for the last few years,the place is absolutely mental and today was probably my favourite days birding.Don't get me wrong,it probably doesn't get close to rivaling some of the sites in Norfolk for range of species but it is an absolute gem and definatly the best site i have been to in Essex,the amount of birds is simply staggering,hundreds of thousands,wouldn't be surprised if there were millions scattered around there and the surrounding areas.
We started off in the car park,i once again didn't manage to wrap up too warm but as it happens,despite the strong wind at times and the fact that we was exposed a lot of the time i never really felt cold,perhaps it was because i was so focused on the birds,i just didn't feel it.From the car park we saw 2 green woodpeckers,we left the car park and into a field,upon us were thousands of Brent Geese,around 4000 i would say,with the Brent geese (below)were Barnacle Geese or at least a few,probably 40-50 nothing like the thousands of Brent.
While up on the sea wall we had a Marsh Harrier being mobbed by a Peregrine,a Merlin dive bombing every few seconds,Avovcets,Ringed Plovers,Black tailed godwits,dunlin,spotted redshank,redshank,grey plover to name a few.Thousands and thousands of waders,thousands and thousands of ducks & geese,it really is a special place.We spent 6 hours just looking at birds,the last one we had was a Barn Owl,i would say at least a mile in the distance but managed to just about confirm its id as it turned and we saw its lovely colouring.we watched the waders coming in on the rising tide and some of the acrobatics they performed,especially the dunlins was simply breathtaking,it just made me think why i love birds so much,to see such action just about whenever you want,if you want it enough makes it all worthwile and reminds me that just seeing the birds is better than just ticking them down and moving on to the next one,don't get me wrong,i will continue to do lists but they are nowhere near as important as just seeing the birds in habitats like this.
Our plan was to finish about 1.30 and to be home by 2.30pm but we left the reserve about 4.15pm as it was just too hard to tear ourselves away from and we only did the short walk,one last surprise as we was heading away from the reserve were 3 Bewicks Swans to add to my year list.Old Hall Marshes,a very special place.