Won­ders of a Win­ter Walk

Essex Life - - ESSEX WILDLIFE -

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.

GIFT IDEAS

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.

Tolles­bury Wick

An EWT Chist­mas ham­per

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