Posted by: Ross Gardner | February 11, 2018


Crouch Estuary, Hullbridge

The stark beauty of the winter estuarine landscape (River Crouch, Essex)

From the warm comfort of home, sorting through images of hot and humid Borneo, to the wintry chill of an English marshland offers an unsurprisingly sharp contrast.  But in need of a blast, today this is exactly what I did.  The tropical forest has wonders, almost, it seems, at every turn, such is the density of life within them.  It is a starker beauty that resides over an Essex estuary in February, but a true beauty nevertheless.

A keen wind rendered the relative mildness of 6 or 7 degrees celsius almost academic, gusting in across the expanse of salt-marsh and grey river water with cheek-stinging efficiency.  A blast was what I wanted and a blast was what I would get.  Such trifles of the weather though, had little evident effect on the quantity of birdlife strewn across the mud exposed by the receding tide, although perhaps even they were given to more of a huddle than usual.  But still the Dunlin scurried and delved, the Teal shuffled along the water’s edge and the Lapwing wheeled over the grazing marsh beyond the opposite bank.

Even with presence of some 90 or so Avocet lined up along the wind-ruffled ebb, the Golden Plover were arguably the most worthy of particular note.  Maybe 400 gathered closely over a small of area of mud, confiding on the ground as they would a flock in the air.  They of course lacked the more striking, black-fronted summer plumage, such as might be seen in the UK on their upland breeding grounds; upwards of 50,000 pairs might breed in Britain, with numbers of individuals quadrupling with winter migrants from the further north.  Yet even now, garbed in their winter drabs, they retain much about them to still warrant the name.

Golden Plover flock 2 (scaled)

Golden Plover (Pluvialis apricaria). Ross Gardner 2018.

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