Orwell Estuary at Levington, February 2015

It’s a short 40 minute car ride down the A14 to this quiet inlet on the river Orwell. We had timed the trip to coincide with acres of mud and hopefully loads of ducks and waders. We were not disappointed, although it is difficult to align peak bird numbers, with a tide that brings the birds close to the observers on the bank, on any second Thursday of the month!

The telescope came in handy for the most distant birds however. We had good views of the many teal, dunlin, lapwings and golden plover on the mud, interspersed with godwit, wigeon, tufties, shelduck, oyster catcher, great crested grebe, and a hard to spot ringed plover, all espied against the backdrop of the evocative bubbling curlews.

The bird of the day was possibly the beautifully marked, drake pintail, which dropped onto the mud in front of us but frustratingly slowly disappeared down the bank of a drainage channel. Some of the party imagined a flight of brent geese but they morphed into wigeon as they landed; or perhaps they burrowed into the oozing mud to while away the worst of the winter weather. No wonder they are a dark, muddy colour! Dissent in the camp and not a few smiles.

We had hoped for short eared owl but had to be content with kestrel and marsh harrier, both at some distance.

Over a tasty lunch at The Ship Inn we totalled the day’s bag at 32 different species, (well 30 actually but Gill and Pete added two more later, magpie and snipe), not seen by all but all seen by someone. OK, one or two were heard only but that counts as well for discerning birders.

We must try to time our visits to estuaries for when a high spring tide is 2-3 hours before its zenith. This will drive the birds up the mud and towards the viewer as the tide advances but not so high that they fly off elsewhere in search of still exposed mud.

Thanks to Sally and her team of researchers for organising this day and the repast, another grand day out.