Posted by: Ross Gardner | April 24, 2017


The splendidly open landscape of West Canvey Marshes bears the change of season into the now firmly entrenched spring as much as any.  The thick thorny hedges belong now not only to the Dunnock, Reed Bunting and other small birds that stayed put through the winter, but also the Africa-returning Whitethroat bringing their scratchy but no less appealing warble once again to the soundscape.  The wandering trill of the Skylark may have been drifting above the open fields since the spring opened an eye during those bright days of late-February, but now they may be joined by the twitter of Swallows, swooping and scooping up the tiny insects that abound.

And the gatherings of wintering duck are no more.  The 700 hundred odd Wigeon have altogether disappeared and there isn’t a Shoveler to be seen, while Teal numbers are reduced to a straggling few.  It is easy to sound as if all this is somewhat regrettable, but not a bit of it.  Spaces and vacated just as others are filled.  The few Teal that remain might soon be gone to their breeding grounds, but the others may well stick around, or find some other corner of these of these Thames-side marshes that thankfully spread further even than the bounds of this RSPB nature reserve.

Anas crecca

Teal (Anas crecca) – male. Ross Gardner 2017.

A bright spring sun gleams the chestnut and green head colours of the little drake Teal dabbling on the open freshwater, as indeed it also does for the more uniform green of the Mallard’s.  More so in terms of the very familiar latter, this can be somewhat overlooked beauty.  A pair of Gadwall float by and the apparently duller grey plumage of the drake is given sharp relief, revealing a delicacy of texture belied by first impressions.  Once again, his (and indeed hers) are perhaps qualities easily overlooked, but lifted and brought more clearly by the easy warmth of the spring sunshine and the time and inclination to not take things too much for granted.

Anas strepera

Gadwall (Anas strepera) – male. Ross Gardner 2017.

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