Posted by: Ross Gardner | October 12, 2014

Flocks and hoppers

Having very recently written of the momentary merging of the seasons before they go their separate ways.  Among the peaceful solitude of the grazing lands and marshes of the Crouch Estuary I found this again to be wonderfully set out.

In the one instance, making my way along the seawall, with the narrow estuary water to my right and the flat grazing marshes of Blue House Farm (a fine Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve) spreading away to my left, a billow of distant wings smudging the sky over the horizon directly ahead would turn out to be a flock of Golden Plover.  There has always seemed to be a faithful patronage of these birds, usually of a couple of hundred or so, that choose this stretch of the Crouch as their winter quarters  On this occasion though, I estimated around 400.  Given that come mid-winter many thousands will gather around the Essex coast, this is a modest number, but still enough to make for a fine sight and to capture that essence of wildness that can so often be found around the coast during the autumn and winter with their often spectacular gatherings of birds.  As many as 60,000 Golden Plover breed among the British uplands, before dispersing to the coasts, where they will be joined by migrants to comprise a winter population of more than 400,000.

A distant flock of Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria).  Ross Gardner 2014.

A distant flock of Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). Ross Gardner 2014.

On the other hand (quite literally as it happened), a quiet reeling sound drew my attention to the long sward on the shore side of the seawall.  A movement and a Short-winged Conehead jumps, before attempting to conceal itself among the blades.  I am lucky that my ears can still pick up so high-pitched a stridulation.  A sound to provide a whisper of the summer.  They do tend to be a rather coastally distributed species of bush-cricket, as regular readers might recall from another post not so long ago, back in August.  As I tried to coax it into an advantageous position for photographic purposes, it first alighted onto my binoculars, before accepting my hand as a viable resting place.  Considering I took it one-handed, I was quite pleased with the picture I ended up with.

A tame Short-winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis).  Ross Gardner 2014.

A tame Short-winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis) – female. Ross Gardner 2014.

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