Archive for the ‘Heybridge Basin’ Tag

Northern England, Derbyshire and Essex: 2nd – 10th July 2016   Leave a comment

Wales trip route

In my last post I described the journey Margaret and I took through Wales. In this post I continue the saga as we drive from north Wales to Liverpool, Southport and Blackpool in Lancashire, Leeds and Harrogate in Yorkshire, Duffield in Derbyshire and eventually arrive at Maldon in Essex.

IMG_6126 dock

I have visited most of the major cities in the UK at one time or another but Liverpool has remained an exception. Margaret was keen to visit this most iconic of cities too. We arrived in the late afternoon and booked into our hotel adjacent to the newly refurbished docks.

IMG_6105 Anglican cathedral

As it was Sunday the following day we thought we had better visit the two cathedrals straight away as services would be going on in the morning. First, Liverpool’s imposing Anglican Cathedral.

IMG_6096 Anglican Cathedral

According to Wikipedia: The cathedral is based on a design by Giles Gilbert Scott. The total external length of the building, including the Lady Chapel (dedicated to the Blessed Virgin), is 207 yards (189 m) making it the longest cathedral in the world;[n 1] its internal length is 160 yards (150 m). In terms of overall volume, Liverpool Cathedral ranks as the fifth-largest cathedral in the world[2] and contests with the incomplete Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City for the title of largest Anglican church building. With a height of 331 feet (101 m) it is also one of the world’s tallest non-spired church buildings and the third-tallest structure in the city of Liverpool. The cathedral is recorded in the National Heritage List for England as a designated Grade I listed building.

IMG_6095 Anglican Cathedral

This cathedral spent a long time in the planning phase, as it’s construction was first authorised by Parliament in 1885. The initial site was unsuitable and due to various delays (including two World Wars) the opening ceremony wasn’t until 1978.

IMG_6101 Anglican Cathedral

The beautiful Lady Chapel was the first part of the cathedral to be completed.

IMG_6111 RC Cathedral_edited-1

As the song In Our Liverpool Home goes if you want a cathedral we’ve got one to spare, Liverpool has two cathedrals. The Anglian version, although most impressive, is based on a traditional design, the Roman Catholic one is a wonder of modern architecture.

IMG_6114 RC Cathedral

The circular design and the beautiful colours are quite breathtaking. Again from Wikipedia: ‘officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King,[it] is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool and the mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Liverpool in Liverpool, England. The Grade II Metropolitan Cathedral is one of Liverpool’s many listed buildings. To distinguish it from the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, locals call it the “Catholic Cathedral.” Nicknames for the building include “Paddy’s Wigwam” and “The Mersey Funnel.” Unlike the Anglian one, construction was rapid, starting in 1962 and completed by 1967 although the site was purchased as long ago as 1930.

IMG_6115 RC Cathedral

We were glad we visited the cathedral on Saturday afternoon but wished we had come half an hour earlier as we arrived just as they were locking up and we just had time to take a few photos of its wonderful interior.

IMG_6109 China town

We completed the day with a nice (chinese) meal in Chinatown.

IMG_6135 Albert Dock

The following day we walked the short distance to Albert Dock, an area of dockland that has been renovated and turned into attractive accommodation, shops, museums and other attractions.

IMG_6150 Museum of Liverpool

We paid a quick visit to the Tate Liverpool (but although I like some modern art, I found little to my taste there) and a much longer visit to the Museum of Liverpool where we could have spent all day if we had the time.

IMG_6152 Ben Johnson painting in museum

I was very impressed by this panoramic painting by Ben Johnson (not the athlete) of the Liverpool skyline, with both the Anglican and RC cathedrals being clearly visible

IMG_6156 Town Hall etc seen from museum_edited-1

The imposing Port of Liverpool Building, Royal Liver Building and Cunard Building at Pier Head are known as ‘the Three Graces’. This photo was taken through glass from the Museum of Liverpool, hence the unusual tint.

IMG_6142 Liver Bird

On the top of the Royal Liver Building are the two Liver Birds, the symbol of the City (and the name of an entertaining 70s Liverpudlian sitcom by Carla Lane).

IMG_6177 The Carvern

But for all it’s great architecture, unique culture and importance of one of Britain’s most famous ports, Liverpool is best remembered by most as the origin of the Mersey Sound in the early 60’s, when various talented artists started to play live music in this famous club.

IMG_6160 wall of fame

Across the road from the entrance to the Cavern is the ‘wall of fame’ commissioned by Gerry Marsden of Gerry and the Pacemakers which lists all the artists who played at the club in the 60s and 70s and few who have played more recently since it was refurbished. Centre stage, of course, is kept for the ‘fab four’, the Beatles, who not only put Liverpool on the world’s musical map but changed the face of popular music for ever.

IMG_6159 wall of fame

However there is one artist I would have liked to see more than any other and his name is in the centre of this photo. I had a chance, but I was working at my father’s shop during University holidays in 1970 when Hendrix played at the Isle of Wight Festival. I could hardly go sick or just pack the job in without my father’s permission. If I had known that a few weeks later Hendrix would be dead then I might have acted differently!

IMG_6174 The Cavern

We took a look inside the Cavern ….

IMG_6165 The Cavern

….where even on a Sunday morning someone was playing ….

IMG_6173. guitar signed by Queen

…. and admired a number of guitars donated by famous artists, for example this one has been signed by all the members of Queen.

IMG_6184 Queen Vic

We carried onto St George’s Hall and Lime Street Station and the imposing statue of Queen Victoria before heading back through a series of shopping arcades and covered walkways ….

IMG_6189 Albert Dock Liverpool

…. until we were back at Albert Dock. There was much more to see in Liverpool but time was now pressing ….

IMG_6190 Nia and Graham

…. as I had a long-awaited reunion in front of me. I first met Nia in 1970 at Leeds University on our microbiology course. We worked together after University in the Leeds Public Health Lab, but in 1974 she moved to London and we lost touch. She contacted a mutual friend via Friends Reunited six or seven years ago and he put her in touch with me. In the mean time she had moved to Lancashire, brought up two children and has a number of grandchildren. She now lives in Southport with her husband Graham. It was great to meet up gain after 42 years!

IMG_6196 Southport pier

Before we left Southport we had a look at Southport Pier ….

IMG_6201 noddy train

…. which can be accessed either on foot or via a ‘noddy’ train.

IMG_6198 Southport pier

The pier overlooks the Ribble Estuary which is probably the second most important site in the whole of the UK for wading birds and wildfowl. In winter it plays host to tens, if not hundreds of thousands of waders but in July we just saw a flock of Dunlin fly by and a distant gathering of Oystercatchers.

IMG_6192 Marshside RSPB

The nearby RSPB Marshside reserve added a few new species to our trip list, but once again winter would have been the time to come. We had already agreed with Nia and Graham to come again sometime in the future, but this time in February or March.

IMG_6191 Marshside RSPB

Looking across the mud-lats of the Ribble we could see the famous Blackpool Tower and the scary roller-coaster, and that was to be our next destination.

IMG_6235 Blackpool_edited-1

I have never been a fan of the traditional bucket and spade seaside resort, at least not in adulthood. Poole doesn’t fall into that category and Bournemouth only just does. Blackpool however is the epitome of ‘tack’ with its amusement arcades blaring out loud music, multiple fish and chip shops, candy floss stalls, the three piers with their ‘faded elegance’ and peeling facades and the ever-present smell of doughnuts.

IMG_6234 Blackpool Tower

The weather soon turned bad and there seemed to be no point in going up the famous Blackpool Tower as visibility was very poor ….

IMG_6217 Tower ballroom

However Margaret, a fan of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, was keen that we visit the overly ornate Tower Ballroom.

IMG_6214 Tower ballroom

With only two couples dancing the visit was hardly the ‘Strictly’ Blackpool extravaganza but it was well worth visiting.

IMG_6204 Blackpool

I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going on Britain’s tallest roller-coaster ….

IMG_6207 horse and cart

…. or travelling in a gilded carriage ….

IMG_6221 comedy tiles

…. but I was amused by these tiles on the promenade composed of a collection of comedy punch lines and dialogues, none more so then this famous dialogue from Fawlty Towers. The sketch, of course, was not intended to be critical of the Germans but of those fuddy-duddy Brits (epitomised by Basil Fawlty) who couldn’t put the past behind them. As can be clearly seen in this photo the rain was now very heavy, so we returned to the hotel to dry out.

IMG_6224 gulls being fed

Some holiday makers complain about gulls swooping down to snatch their food and are campaigning for a cull. I think this is absurd because if they don’t want their food snatched outdoor they obviously should eat it where that can’t happen (like indoors) plus they would be better off directing their anger instead towards those to intentionally feed the gulls and teach them that holiday makers equals free food!

IMG_4885-view-from-hotel-in-Leeds-web

From Blackpool we headed east to Leeds where I used to live in the 70s and booked into a hotel on the south side of the River Aire.

IMG_6242 Harewood House

We were visiting Leeds to meet up with my old school and University mate Nigel Mackie whom I have known since 1967. Nigel greatly influenced my choice of music and my choice of politics and it is a great shame that we live so far apart. Rather than wander around Leeds again, we took advantage of the nice weather and went to Harewood House near Harrogate.

IMG_6239 Harewood House

Buddhist monks in the gardens of a stately home was an unusual sight.

IMG_6253 Harewood House

Taken from Wikipedia (again): Harewood House is a country house in Harewood near Leeds. Designed by architects John Carr and Robert Adam, it was built between 1759 and 1771 for wealthy plantation owner Edwin Lascelles, 1st Baron Harewood. The landscape was designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown and spans 1,000 acres at Harewood. Still home to the Lascelles family, Harewood House is a member of Treasure Houses of England, a marketing consortium for ten of the foremost historic homes in the country. The house is a Grade I listed building and a number of features in the grounds and courtyard have been listed as Grade I & II

IMG_6252 Harewood House

The house, the upper stories of which are still lived in, contains the usual wonderfully ornate bedrooms, sitting rooms and libraries ….

IMG_6258 Harewood House_edited-1

…. none more so than the beautiful gallery. The extensive grounds were the site of a Red Kite reintroduction program and in spite of the huge numbers we saw in Wales, it was wonderful to see these soaring over the park and even over the suburbs of Leeds.

IMG_6279-Carsington-Res-web

Leaving Leeds we drove south to Duffield in Derbyshire to visit my brother and his family. On route we called into Carsington Reservoir in the Derbyshire Dales as I know this to be a reliable site for two species we don’t see in Dorset – Tree Sparrow and Willow Tit. I’m glad to say we saw both.

IMG_4892-Dennis-Ida-and-M-web

As always we paid a visit to my sister-in-laws parents, Ida and Dennis. Dennis was full of his usual amusing stories and anecdotes – never a dull moment!

IMG_4896-old-house-Kettering-web

Leaving Derbyshire we drove south-east via the M1 and A14 to Essex. We had hoped to visit friends in Sussex on route but they had last-minute change of plans. With time on our hands we detoured to the town of Kettering in Northamptonshire where I lived from the age of 4 to 14 and I showed Margaret the house we used to live in, ….

IMG_4895-Wicksteed-Park-web

…. Wicksteed Park that I used to visit at lunchtimes as it was adjacent to my senior school ….

IMG_4898-Hawthorn-Primary-School-web

…. and my old primary school that I attended from 1956 – 62.

IMG_4905-Headlands-Kettering-web

There was more nostalgia as I returned an area known as Headlands. This railway bridge was much easier to look over then and several boys and I used to go train spotting from here. On the other side was open fields, a wood and a stream and here I remember seeing Water Voles, Foxes and a Barn Owl – all magical stuff for a kid like me. Now, of course, its a housing estate dominated by the roar of traffic on the A14.

IMG_6281-R-Gt-Ouset-Fen-Drayton-web

With time for another stop, we had lunch at Fen Drayton near Cambridge and did a little birding at the nearby gravel pits. My last visit was in 2014 when I twitched a Baikal Teal but there was nothing of that quality on view today. However on the nearby Great Ouse River we had prolonged views of a swimming Grass Snake, a species I haven’t seen for many years.

IMG_6286 Glossy Ibis

We arrived at Margaret’s daughter Anita’s place in Maldon Essex on the evening of 7th. As Anita and John were at work on the Friday we met up with Simon Cox, an Essex birder I have met on several BirdQuest trips and another ringer. He was not doing any ringing that day but agreed to take us to the RSPB’s Old Hall marshes where we found this Glossy Ibis. In spite of the recent increase in numbers this remains a fairly rare bird.

IMG_6294 cr Blackwit

Whilst staying at Maldon I took the opportunity to bird at Haybridge Basin on the other side of the Blackwater Estuary from Maldon. In a flock of 400+ Black-tailed Godwits I found three colour ringed individuals. Colour ringing is an excellent way of tracking some birds movements but the colour rings only allows a certain number of combinations and works best on long-legged birds that feed in open areas like mud flats where the ring combination can easily be read. All three birds had made remarkable journeys during their life, the best of the three I have reproduced below, showing multiple sightings in eastern England in winter and Iceland in the breeding season as well as a visit to Holland.

Black-tailed Godwit adult, male
R8-LO 15.07.10 Siglufjordur, N Iceland
R8-LO 07.03.11 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 18.03.11 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.03.12 Gansooiensche uiterwaard, North of Waalwijk, Noord-Brabant, C Netherlands
R8-LO 23.03.12 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 27.08.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 30.08.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 10.09.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.09.12 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.10.12 Heybridge Basin, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 15.01.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 22.03.13 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.08.13 Heybridge Basin,Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 12.08.13 Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E Eng
R8-LO 20.08.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 29.08.13 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 3.10.13 Heybridge Basin,Maldon, Blackwater Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 4.02.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.02.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 26.02.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 2.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 3.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 5.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 6.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.03.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 21.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 26.03.14 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 02.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 04.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 08.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 09.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 11.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 13.04.14 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, E England
R8-LO 14.04.14 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.07.14 Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
R8-LO 21.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 23.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 29.07.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 7.08.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 13.08.14 Frampton Marsh, the Wash estuary, Lincolnshire, E England
R8-LO 22.08.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 5.09.14 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 20.12.14 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.12.14 Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 17.01.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 18.01.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 20.02.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 21.02.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 01.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 02.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 23.03.15 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Suffolk, SE England
R8-LO 28.03.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 09.04.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 10.04.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 18.04.15 Arnarhóll, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 21.04.15 Arnarhóll, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 21.04.15 Vorsabær, Flói, Árnessýsla, S Iceland
R8-LO 29.08.15 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 1.09.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 2.09.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, SE England
R8-LO 11.09.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 8.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 14.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 22.10.15 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 22.11.15 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.01.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon,Blackwater Estuary,Essex,E England
R8-LO 09.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 09.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 10.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 11.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 13.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 16.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 27.01.16 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Essex, E England
R8-LO 29.01.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 30.01.16 Mistley Quay, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 7.02.16 Mistley, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 07.02.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 20.02.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 1.03.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 7.03.16 Mistley Walls, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 23.03.16 Stutton Mill, Stour Estuary, Manningtree, Essex, E England
R8-LO 9.07.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England
R8-LO 12.07.16 Heybridge Basin, Maldon, Blackwater Estuary,Essex, E England
IMG_4914-Margaret-and-Anita-Northy-Island-web

Of course we spent most of our time with Anita and John and went on a nice bike ride to the island of Northey which sits in the Blackwater Estuary opposite Heybridge Basin.

We headed home on the afternoon of the 10th after a very pleasant 14 days away having visited various friends and families and explored several areas of the UK that were new for us and driven some 1600 miles.

During the preparation of the post I found I had used up all the allowed space on this blog. This is entirely my fault for uploading high-resolution photos. As a result the last few shots were uploaded at a very low resolution and hence are poor quality. I need to decide how to proceed from here as the upgrade WordPress want me to take is quite expensive.

 

27th June – 1st July 2015: visiting family and friends in East Anglia.   Leave a comment

Rather than make a number of separate weekend trips to visit friends and family this summer we decided to fit it all into a single ten-day trip, seeing Margaret’s daughter and my brother on successive weekends (as they are working) and seeing a number of retired friends during the week.

IMG_8003 John at the canal

We arrived at Maldon in Essex in the afternoon of the 26th. The following day we all cycled along the River Blackwater and the Chelmer and Blackwater Canal for a picnic. Here Margaret’s son-in-law John surveys the canal.

IMG_8002 John, Donna, Anita & M

Anita, Margaret’s daughter, also had her old school friend Donna (also from South Africa and now living in London) staying with her. L-R on the bridge over the canal: John, Donna, Anita and Margaret.

IMG_8811 Heybridge Basin

On the Sunday morning I did a little birding at Heybridge Basin where the River Blackwater and the canal flow into the sea. The footpath, popular with locals, takes you over the canal locks and along the river bank. It was a pleasant walk but the grey clouds seen above soon closed in and it started to rain.

IMG_8799 Heybridge basin

In the winter this estuary is teeming with waders such Avocets, Curlews and Black-tailed Godwits but in late June there was little but the local breeding Oystercatchers and Common Terns.

IMG_8829 Margaret & Jennie

Late on Sunday we left Essex and drove to Cottenham near Cambridge to stay with my old friend Jennie. I met Jennie in 1972 during my last year at University whilst she was doing her PhD. From 1973 – 1976 we shared a house with three others until I got married to Janet in the September of that year.

IMG_8826 Lakenheath

Jennie is a keen naturalist but unlike me hasn’t specialised in birds. She does volunteer work at the nearby Wicken Fen, but it was to the larger and more distant RSPB reserve at Lakenheath that we journeyed. The visitor centre’s floor is covered with hundreds of beige coloured tiles, but just three are green with a sign that says the beige tiles represent the area of East Anglia that was once covered by fen and the green ones represent what is left!

IMG_8824 Marsh Harrier edit

We saw some good birds including a Crane with its head poking out of the reeds, great flight views of a Bittern and several Hobbys but it was the local Marsh Harriers that put on the best show. Here a male returns with a full crop ….

IMG_8814 Marsh Harriers food pass

… but earlier we saw a male carrying prey fly over the nest site and performed a food pass, the female (left) rose up, the male dropped the prey which the female caught in mid-air.

IMG_8841 Large Skipper

Butterflies abounded in the hot weather, I saw some Essex Skippers, a butterfly I haven’t conclusively identified before, but only this Large Skipper posed for the camera.

IMG_8886 Stone Curlew

Later we visited the nearby reserve of Weeting Heath, just over the border in Norfolk. Here we had good views of several Stone Curlew a species that now is very hard to see in Dorset or its environs.

IMG_8894-Hickling-Broad-for-blog

On the 30th we headed for friends in Lowestoft but on route we detoured to Hickling Broad in the Norfolk Broads.

Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio machaon britannicus). Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk

Our main aim was to see the endemic UK race of the Swallowtail Butterfly which has its UK stronghold in the Norfolk Broads. I have seen this species many times in Europe but I’ve never been to this area at this time of year before. After some searching we saw three but they were fast flying and I failed to photograph any. This photo is taken from the Norfolk Broads authority website.

Pacific Golden-plover Ken Harvard Hawaii

We headed south to Lowestoft and stopped off at Breydon Water near Yarmouth where a Pacific Golden Plover had been seen for the last few days. We had reasonable views but the heat haze was pretty bad and the bird often hid in the spartina grass. This photo comes from the Internet Bird Collection and was taken by Ken Harvard in Hawaii. The bird we saw was moulting out of breeding plumage unlike this one which was moulting into it and had less gold spangling on the upperparts but was similarly plumaged on the face, breast and belly. Pacific GP is a close relative of the American GP and breeds across arctic Siberia into western Alaska. The wintering range is huge, from eastern Africa across the Indian Ocean , SE Asia and all across the Pacific. There have been 83 previous records of this species up to 2013 and this is the third I have seen in the UK.

IMG_8896 Debbie, Alan & M

Then it was on to Lowestoft, the most easterly town in the UK to visit my old friends Alan and Debbie. I have known Debbie since 1974, but I met Alan in 1969. Whilst relaxing in a coffee bar at Leeds University I heard Alan defending the performance of Derby County Football Club, asking if he was from Derby I found that he not only had lived in the same area as me but in the same street! I had met his sister back then but not him. He joined us in the infamous Fraser Terrace ‘slum’ for the next three years and we have remained friends ever since.

IMG_8895 Debbie, M & Alan

It was one of the hottest days of year with temperatures around 30c, so relaxing in the garden with a bottle of wine seemed the order of the day. Note the only one falling asleep is Margaret who was only drinking water.

IMG_8934 Minsmere

South of Lowestoft lies the RSPB’s flagship reserve of Minsmere. This was the subject of this years Springwatch TV series.

IMG_8935 Minsmere

The reserve consists of extensive areas of reed bed, open water, muddy pools, heathland and woodland. In the distance is the Sizewell B nuclear power station.

IMG_8930 M at Minsmere

Behind the beach lies ‘the scrape’ an artificially built pools that are a haven to breeding waders and migrants alike.

IMG_8900 juv Avocet Minsmere

Perhaps the most famous breeding wader is the Avocet. Heavy predation of Avocet chicks by Badgers has resulted in the scrape being ringed by an electrified fence, which certainly worked as ‘the scrape’ is full of juvenile Avocets this year (compare with the Avocet chicks I photographed in Hampshire on 28th May to see how much they can grow in a month).

IMG_8918 Oyk

Other breeding waders included this Oystercatcher ….

IMG_8920Oyk pullus & Turnstone

… and the Oystercatcher’s chick wandered around in the company of this Turnstone, fresh in from the high Arctic.

IMG_8911 Spot Red

The best sighting on ‘the scrape’ was a flock of 50+ Red Knot, some still in their orangey-red breeding dress and a flock of 16 summer-plumaged Spotted Redshank (above). This species nests in boggy woodland in the arctic and uses a system of sequential polyandry, ie the female mates with one male then leaves him to incubate and raise the chicks, then may mate with another male who does the same. The females then migrate, so breeding plumage females can arrive in the UK from late June on their ‘autumn’ migration south. This species used to be much commoner in Dorset than it is today and partially breeding plumaged birds were often seen in Poole Harbour in April on their way north, but now it is mainly a scarce winter visitor to the area, a time when they are in their grey non-breeding plumage. Eastern Britain at this time of year is probably the best place to see these beautiful birds in all their finery.

IMG_8944 Framlingham

For various reasons our friends couldn’t see us in the most convenient order so by the time we arrived in Framlingham we had almost done a full circle.

IMG_5491-Terry,-David-and-M

Terry, David and Margaret. Margaret was friends with Terry when she lived in South Africa. Recently Terry moved to the UK where she met and married David. David has a strong interest in natural history, particularly birds, and being completely blind has a great interest in their vocalisations. At the temperature was in the 30s away from the coast we spent the afternoon indoors discussing music and bird song. I took this photo in a nearby church in 2014.

On 2nd July it was thankfully a little cooler. We left Terry and David after breakfast and started the long drive to Leeds in Yorkshire. This, along with a visit to Derbyshire will be the subject of the next post.

24th – 28th July 2014 – The only way is Essex   Leave a comment


Margaret’s son-in-law, John started a new job in Maldon, Essex back in March, Anita followed him in May after landing a job on Canvey Island. Margaret visited them whilst I was in Borneo but last weekend we both visited over a long weekend.

Although less than 170 miles away we found the journeys there and back to be quite tiring, mainly due to dreadful congestion on the M25. On the way up the temperature exceeded 30c which made sitting in stationary traffic jams most unpleasant.

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Maldon is a very pleasant town on the western bank of the River Chelmer.  Leaving Margaret and Anita to chat, John and I walked down to the river bank for a pint on our first evening. A line of Thames barges was docked waiting for the high tide.

 

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I have been on several foreign birding tours with Essex birders and ringers Simon and Pat Cox. We contacted them before our visit and they invited us along to see a brood of Barn Owls being ringed at a nearby reserve.

 

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Seven eggs had been laid, six hatched but one chick died young, even so a brood a five healthy youngsters shows that Barn Owls are having a good breeding season, unlike last year. Simon on the right is assisted by the local reserve warden (whose name I’m afraid I forgot to note).

 

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I had ringed Barn Owl chicks before but not Kestrels, so I was delighted when Simon took me to a Kestrel’s nest where the three chicks were just the right age for ringing. Ringing birds at the nest is particularly valuable as it defines exactly where bird has come from in the event of a later recapture.


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On the 26th John and Anita had some business in Canvey Island and afterwards we drove to Southend-on-Sea for lunch. The weather had turned rather dull but that still didn’t deter the masses of holiday makers that thronged the beach.

 

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In the 19th century it was the fashion for Londoners to take a short cruise on the Thames. Margate in Kent had good docking facilities but Southend with its extensive mud flats didn’t. Southend’s answer was to build the longest pier in the world – over one and a third miles long. The Kent coastline can be seen in the background.

 

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That evening we visited the Blue Boar, an coach horse inn in Maldon dating back to 1400. We were impressed that although John has only been living there for five months, everyone in the pubs and many passers-by already know him.

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The adjacent hotel has plenty of old world charm

 

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On the 27th Margaret and I borrowed their bicycles and cycled round to Heybridge Basin.

 

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The cycle path followed the River Blackwater which was turned into a canal in the 19th century to move timber from the Baltic inland. Here yachts wait for hide tide before departing the canal for the tidal stretch of the river.

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Even row boats have to wait until the lock gates open on the high tide.  We were later joined by John and Anita at a nearby cafe. We had planned on a late cooked breakfast but breakfasts weren’t served after 11. No worries, as we could get scrambled egg on toast with a side order of bacon, sausage and beans, ie a cooked breakfast. You could get tomatoes as well but only if they weren’t cooked as they couldn’t fry them after 11 !

 

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Margaret and I cycled back along the River Chelmer. Maldon is on the far side of the river.

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With the rising tide, the tourist carrying Thames barges were able to set sail.

 

 

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Cycling up the steep hill that leads to Maldon High street was a bit of challenge. Margaret has opted to push her bike.

 

Aquatic LB SR3

Of course you can’t be two places at once, but it was a bit ironic that I suggested  that we go to Essex in July rather than August as I wanted to maximise my chance of seeing an Aquatic Warbler in the hand at Lytchett Bay, something that was far more likely in August. Guess what, on the 25th they trapped what was not only the first UK Aquatic of 2014, the first in western Europe of 2014 but the earliest record in Dorset ever! Photo by Shaun Robson.

Aquatic LB SR1

As would be expected at this time of year it was an adult, as can be seen by the very abraded plumage. Although I saw a number of these very rare birds from eastern Europe in the hand when we used to ring at Keysworth, I haven’t seen one anywhere since 2000 and haven’t seen one at the Bay since 1983! Photo by Shaun Robson.