Birds of Wivenhoe

edited September 2012 in Wivenhoe Wildlife
Hi All. I am new to the forum but many will have seen me out and about "pounding the beat" looking for birds. A couple of people I have come across have expressed an interest in finding out more about what birds can be found - and where and when - in the locality. This year I am embarking on the exercise of putting together a "patch list" - an aggregate of different bird species observed over 2012. As I write, the total is currently 96 species, which includes Peregrines, Glossy Ibis and Spoonbill (all seen by telescope from Alreasford Creek); Buzzard, Marsh and Hen Harriers, Avocets and a host of other widing birds, Little & Tawny Owls, Corn Buntings, Brambling, Redpoll, Bullfinch and Kittiwake.

To this end I see that there would be a mutual benefit in keeping people posted as to what I have seen and where I have seen it, so that others might keep the bulletins going...

Also, (Dr) Chris Gibson (of this forum!) and internationally renowned bird illustrator (and local "Birdwalk" operator) Richard Allen have agreed to offer contributions toward a presentation titled "Birds of Wivenhoe", where we can host a live presentation to show people the best birds and best places to look for them, with some good birding tips and some general bird knowledge. this could also include a section on garden birds and their identification. I would like to charge a small entry fee which can go to charity.

It would be good to guage whether there is any interest from the forum. If there is enough, I can make some arrangements and get some publicity going...





  • That's an impressive list. From this list, I've managed to see avocets and hear tawny owls, in Wivenhoe for 28 years. Er... that's it. Must try harder.
  • I've seen a robin! lol
  • I'd be up for that Glyn.
  • I know nothing about sea or river birds, but I have seen people feeding seagulls on the quay, is this good or bad. I feed garden birds, but is it OK to feed gulls and is bread OK. ? Any advice please.
  • All that sounds like a great idea Glyn. 96 species is a very impressive count and Kittiwake was a good spot. I'd never imagine that they could be seen in Essex.
  • Yes, I thought Kittiwake preferred  high cliffs.
  • edited January 2012
    They do need cliffs for breeding, so I don't think any breeding pairs have been seen in Essex (I've only ever seen them in Shetland). I presume the ones recorded in Essex are passing through - any more info on your Kittiwake sightings Glyn?
  • Hi All. Re Kittiwake sightings - yes, absolutely, this was a juvenile bird looking quite lost. what often happens is that birds migrate up rivers (programmed to follow coastlines) and then once they see coastlines on both sides, they realise something is wrong and pick up height for a good look at where they should have gone before - most of the time - turning around and re-tracing. This can happen quite often with skuas and particularly young Gannets in the autumn, so if you see a huge, grey, cigar-shaped bird with a six foot wingspan flapping upriver or over town, don't be too surprised!

    The nearest breeding Kittiwakes to here can be seen on high buildings or platforms on the coastine of Suffolk; Sizewell and Lowestoft to name a couple. They are often seen following boats into the Orwell from Felixstowe and also less often along the Essex coast, but my inland record is quite unusual, so a real bonus in terms of compiling a year list! 

    By way of update I am now on 99, as I added Red-throated Diver and Sanderling from Bateman's Tower (the farthest outpost of the "patch") and a Woodcock on the way home.

    I have seen the Glossy Ibis on four occasions; the best time being just before dusk as it flies high to roost from Geedon Marsh, so any decent vantage point and a keen eye could reward you with a sighting of this rare and exotic bird! It looks a bit like a coathanger in flight as it has a long, downcurved bill and long legs dangling behind!

  • Thanks for that additional information on the Kittiwakes Glyn. I am told that according to the Atlas of bird sightings produced by the  British Trust for Ornithology Kittiwakes weren't recorded in the 10km square that Wivenhoe is in over the last 4 winters (2007-08 to 2010-11). So that was a great was Red-throated Diver and the others!
  • Added Snipe (Alresford Creek) and Pochard (Cemex fishing lake) today. 101 species now.
  • Re delta's Q and whether or not it is ok to feed gulls - and bread in particular - well, gulls are opportunists for the most part and thus pretty much omnivorous, so the answer is I guess it doesn't really matter. Most of the gulls on Saafend pier eat chips and they all seem healthy enough. It is most important to feed birds - particularly ground feeders - when it gets really cold and the frozen ground prevents birds like Starlings from getting their ground-based grub. Putting food out on bird tables also attracts Sparrowhawks as it concentrates small birds together. Some won't like this but more birds will survive where there is food so it balances out in the end - except that Sparrowhawks have increased hugely and are very exciting to watch on the hunt! Incidentally, Redwings and Fieldfares tend to feed more on the ground once berry crops are exhausted, so putting out fruit like old apples etc may attract a few of these Scandinavian beauties!
  • Apart from food, it's also very important to ensure birds have access to water when the ground's frozen solid, so ensure you put some hot water out in the mornings, as it'll take longer to freeze up again!  Great photos Glyn!
  • Hi there I'm new. I love birdwatching but my knowledge of waders is limited. Other than plovers, redshanks oystercatchers, little egrets and the odd lonely lapwing and a few others, they all look similar to me. So any opportunity to learn extra ' spotting skills', would be great. Love the Forum by the way! Baldeagle
  • Hello. I like the idea about the presentation Glyn. I have bumped into Richard Allen a few times as I wander around the village and river with binoculars, and he gets great reviews from friends who have gone on his bird walks. A presentation about birds around Wiv would be great. Mark
  • Agreed, it would be a great idea. I can't sort my plovers from (what I think might be) little stints.
  • The Wivenhoe Society stages occasional local interest talks for members at The Nottage. Local birder Alex Bass gave a great talk back in October 2010. I'm sure that if there was sufficient interest, Richard could be approached. His monthly birding walks out towards the Creek are well worth exploring. He knows the patch in great detail.
  • While you are out sorting out your waders (dunlin rather than little stints!), don't forget to look at the gulls - even many hardened birders suffer from 'gull blindness'... This morning off the Shipyard Jetty, there is a lovely Mediterranean Gull. Now most of the gulls down there are Black-headed Gulls, small and with black towards the tips of the flight feathers which is easily visible at rest. The Med Gull is a little larger, almost the size of the Common Gulls (which incidentally are far from common...), with a blood red beak and legs (as opposed to the more orange red of Black-headed). But most obviously it has no trace of black on the wings: they are pale grey with white wing tips.

    Like many of the Black-heads, the Mediterranean is developing the dark hood of its breeding plumage. But look closely - the new feathers are jet black, whereas those of Black-headed are brown. So the true black-headed gull is Mediterranean, while the Black-headed is brown-headed! Who ever said birdwatching is easy... If you dig deeper, into the scientific names of the species, the confusion simply deepens: Mediterranean Gull is Larus melanocephalus (which translates as 'black-headed - a good start!). Black-headed Gull is Larus ridibundus (which means 'laughing gull'), whereas the bird known as Laughing Gull is an American vagrant to our shores, and would certainly draw the crowds if it turned up on our river...

  • And this lunchtime in the same place, not so unusual perhaps but certainly the first one I have seen since we moved in in September, there is a coot swimming around off the jetty. No doubt something to do with the freezing weather, as their inland water bodies are frozen (over on Abberton Reservoir there are usually several thousand at this time of year).

    Also related to the cold weather there are lots of winter thrushes - redwings and fieldfares - flying around in flocks, looking for ripe berries to keep them going. About 40 redwings (listen for the high-pitched 'seeeep' as they fly) in a tree in the churchyard just now. Fieldfares are larger and flappier, and make a 'chakka chakka' call. With thse purely winter visitors there are also more song thrushes around than I have seen for some time, probably Continental birds seeking refuge from even harder weather over there.

  • Hi Chris. Very brave of you to admit to being a gull nerd - don't worry, I'll still be your friend :-)

    Pictures attached of Redwing & Fieldfare taken in my garden in the last 24 hours.


    Another unusual bird to look out for while it is snowy is Woodcock. These chaps (pic also copied from RSPB site) are brilliantly camouflaged on forest floors of dead bracken (as you can see!) but stick out like a sore thumb in the snow, where sometimes they will still adopt the tactic of sitting bolt still thinking you can't see them!


    And they say there's nowt so queer as folk... :-)

  • edited February 2012
    A few nice birds out today. Female Merlin on kill at Alresford Grange on fencepost dashed before I could snap it, but here are some grainy shots of the Red-breasted Mergansers (2 drakes) and drake Goldeneye on the river. Also attached is a very camera-shy male Bullfinch and a Treecreeper from Alresford Grange wood.
  • edited February 2012
    Just a reminder - it would be great if any images uploaded can stick within the forum guidelines. File sizes of 1meg plus really aren't necessary to share online.

  • There has been a lapwing on the green at The Nook for the last two days, has anyone else seen it.

  • Year's tally of species increased to 105 today with flyover Lapland Bunting for Alec Selley and me. By the way, anyone who thinks ducks are boring, look again at this drake Teal which was in the frozen dyke at Marsh Farm today! It is also worth checking the little brook which runs from behind the old fire station through the new houses, as I often find Grey Wagtail there. Attached is a dark, grainy shot of a female found today. 
  • And for all those birders who need to know the difference between a BAR-TAILED GODWIT and a BLACK-TAILED GODWIT, here are a couple of pics taken right beside the barrier this morning. The Black-tailed is rather dainty, but with rather plain, greyish colouring in winter. Its legs are longer and the bill dead straight. The Bar-tailed is much shorter legged and rather more robust, with a slightly upturned, snubby aspect to the bill. You will see that the plumage in winter is rather more shaggy...
  • @Milly.  Yes I saw the lapwing yesterday (Saturday).  It ventured down Bobbits Way and stopped on one of the gardens opposite Sainty Close.
  • Saw an avocet sweeping the shallows opposite West Quay on Saturday, and later that afternoon what seemed to be a female black-cap in my back garden. Are either of these sightings unusual at this time of year?
  • Hi Puffin. You are spot on with the sighting of Blackcap. Every year around now, we get an influx of Blackcaps from the continent (it is thought most of them originate from Germany). Several sightings have been reported throughout Essex over the last 3 weeks since we had a significant easterly wind at just the right time of year for this phenomenon. So this looks like being a good year for this influx.

    Very few Blackcaps over-winter and most arrive in the spring to breed, so these birds are a separate population.

    Well done on this sighting! I haven't seen one yet this year! Nice to know at least one is about...

    They tend to hang around evergreens and feed on berries. Mistletoe is a particular favourite! 

  • By the way, we have in excess of 500 Avocets now on our stretch of the Colne. Even if you don't have binoculars, you will often see a swirl of white birds flying around as the tide shifts. They tend to keep in tighter flocks than seagulls so they should be easily picked up with the naked eye.  
  • A decent shot of Bullfinch at last!
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