Wonders of a Winter Walk
Winter can be a magical time to go for a walk on one of our nature reserves. The crisp frosty mornings, whistling wind and the symphony of wintering wildfowl and waders can be a hugely rewarding experience. If winding marshes with fantastic chances to see birds of prey are what you’re after, Tollesbury Wick nature reserve is a great site to see raptors, as you walk along the seawall overlooking the coastal grazing marsh. Kestrels, marsh harriers, sparrowhawks and buzzards patrol the skies, watching over the hundreds of wintering waders and ducks that take up residence in the lagoons. If you’re lucky you might catch a glimpse of a hen harrier or a peregrine falcon that occasionally pay this reserve a winter visit.
Thurrock Thameside Nature Park has recently made colour sign-posted trails for people of all abilities to enjoy a winter walk. Head down to the estuary hide to see the thousands of avocets that flock here in winter. Sometimes the birdwatching opportunities even start as soon as the car park, as the last few years have seen short-eared owls taking up residence, obligingly posing for photos and hunting during the day, giving visitors a real treat.
Rambling through fields with hedgerows, you can see thrushes that have travelled over from mainland Europe, coming to feast on berries and crops. Redwings and fieldfares are smart looking winter visitors, travelling in large flocks and chattering away as they gorge themselves on winter berries. Abbotts Hall Farm in Great Wigborough can be a good place to see these birds in action.
The coast sees birds flock together tightly in the colder months and one spook of a predator can cause wading birds, in particular dunlin and knot, to create murmurations in the skies, not unlike starlings. Walk along the seawall at Bradwell Shell Bank nature reserve on the Dengie peninsula during high tide for a chance to see this spectacle.
If you’re stuck for Christmas present ideas and would like your purchase to help a local charity, Essex Wildlife Trust has a variety of Christmas hampers you can buy, full of local produce, Essex Wildlife Trust produced bird seed, a re-usable coffee cup and much more. Pop in to your local visitor centre to find out more.
An EWT Chistmas hamper