Sunday, September 26, 2010

Essex and Back

View from our hotel room. Note strip of lawn through railings.

Right from the outset, at the very beginning of our planning stage for this U.K. trip, the Blackwater Estuary was always going to be an integral part of the itinerary. As a former history major, indeed as a current continuing student of history, it was one of those corners of English history that I had somehow always managed to miss visiting and once in Australia the distance seemed impossible.

The key to a quick, untroubled, journey down to Maldon, or more specifically Mersea Island, appeared to be the A14. Using our AA road atlas we plotted the route: head for Lichfield and Tamworth [A38, A5], connect with the M42 until it hit the M6 at Junction 4 and join the A14 at Junction 19. That would lead us to the M11 and eventually to the A120, A12 and finally onto the B1025 into Mersey.

And all went to plan until we hit the outskirts of Colchester, At this point the earlier free flowing traffic became an agonising snail’s pace; a long series of roundabouts and bumper-to-bumper tail-gating.

We did of course eventually manage to crawl our way around Colchester and join up with the B1025 all the way to Mersea Island.. Given that it was still too early to check into our hotel we veered off to the left on crossing the causeway. This took us to East Mersea, the more agricultural of the two Mersea Island townships.

We added Dunlin and Ringed Plover almost immediately on reaching the estuary.

Other than the one lunch appointment with another of Fay’s cousins we got in as much birding as possible, visiting Abberton Reservoir, paying a second trip to East Mersea and following a number of routes around West Mersea. New additions were made to the Trip List although the Cetti Warbler – and the vaguely possible Lapland Bunting [which the RBA pager had been dotting both north and south of Essex] - eluded us.

Oddly enough, one of the best sightings of the two days was a bird we hadn't even considered as a possible. Our room at the "Victory At Mersea" hotel opened out onto a balcony overlooking the boatyard and estuary but with the concrete carpark immediately below us. At the edge of the carpark, between it and the road, was a narrow strip of lawn. I was enjoying the first cuppa of the morning on the balcony when I happened to look down towards the aforementioned lawn and there, almost unbelievably, was a Green Woodpecker!

Green Woodpecker

Image from English Country Garden website.

Trip List: 96 Staffordshire List: 58

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