Monday, 10 August 2009

The best and worst of the EWT

Having a cultured evening in tonight. It was going to be spent in the Royal Albert Hall but my company for the evening had to cancel. After a day of work I wasn't really feeling up to dragging myself alone across London and getting home at half eleven, so I'm listening to Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto on the radio instead. One of my top 3 pieces of classical music, would love to see it live at some point. It also means I can skip the Stravinsky and play Monkey Island until the Tchaikovsky comes on. Just about to start. Exciting stuff. If the post seems somewhat more lyrical than usual today it's because I'm feeling inspired.

*volume UP*

Had my first ever trip to the Essex Wildlife Trust reserve at Abberton Reservoir on Sunday morning, guided by an old hand. It was a bit good. We started on the Causeways outside the enclosure and saw much wildfowl on the scrapes accompanied by several waders, some of which were life ticks. Saw some more Green Sandpipers to add to the one I saw at Rainham last week, several Ruff, a flyover Blackwit, Common Sandpipers, one Wood Sand (lifer) and a Greenshank. Also picked up a couple of Yellow Wagtails (lifer) hiding among the Pieds, which was ultra-cool.

Pictures below. The old camera made the trip rather than the new one, because having tried handling both a scope and a 300mm lens, I never want to try it again. Actually, I'd forgotten how much fun it can be just to point and shoot.

Abberton from the Causeway

Some poor quality phone/scope action. Yes that is a Red Breasted Goose. Yes it's also untickable. Very cool looking bird though.

From here we moved onto the reserve proper, scoping out from the visitor's centre and wandering round to the first hide for a closer view of the scrape. Very impressed with the centre - good selection of books and optics, a minimal amount of expensive tat and, like all good visitor's centres, some feeders set up right outside. The optics are where the RSBP usually falls down for me. They're so focused (hah) on selling their own brand stuff that they often neglect to stock decent 3rd party equipment. A couple of Opticron scopes (other than the fairly unique Might Midget which turns up everywhere) wouldn't hurt. Also, Abberton sell out-of-date crisps for 30p a bag. Bargain.

Not a whole lot turned up on the Reserve itself, and not for lack of effort. Very specifically, no Black Terns showed themselves. Only 2 life ticks for me this weekend, what a pity.

Abberton's Tern Island, complete with young Common Tern

View from the centre

So how does Abberton Rate? Excellent really. Lots to see, good facilities, only con for me is that it's a bit out of the way.

How does Abbots Hall Farm rate? It doesn't, because it was closed. Mid afternoon on a sunny Sunday in the middle of the school holidays, and it was closed. Apparently It's closed every weekend. Now Parus assures me that it's one of the EWT's best, so it seems crazy that they'd shut it on what could possibly be their busiest days, but there you go. This is the worst of the EWT - you'd think they didn't like money. Still, by that time Abberton had already made the drive worthwhile so it was difficult to stay annoyed.

We finished the day with a trip to Mersea Island, since we were out that way anyway. Apart from having the biggest mixed flock of Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins I've ever seen, there was nothing there but people. Maybe it'll be more bird-friendly in Winter.

That's it for the birding. I'm just left to report that the Violin Concerto was amazing and Julian Rachlin is clearly a young violinist to look out for in future. His encore was a stunning Bach Partita for solo violin, beautifully played. The Tchaikovsky gets a regular airing so I've no doubt I'll get my chance again in the next couple of years. Well worth listening to.

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