January Birdwalk

A rather grey morning with a chilly, freshening breeze that kept our group moving along the seawall in an effort to try and keep warm. There were however a few hints of spring, the bill on the Heron fishing in the low water channel was starting to turn the yellow-orange of breeding colours, and the Oystercatcher pair had returned to their territory near the barrier noisily proclaiming ownership.

On the river there were lots of Redshanks and Lapwings feeding or huddled up against the wind, while on the marsh a small flock of Greylag Geese grazed. Also on the marsh a pair of Stonechats eventually gave themselves up to everyone. These delightful little birds will set up a winter territory together, perching up on top of brambles and thistles and dropping to the ground to feed before returning to a perch, typical “chat” behaviour.

Meanwhile across the river a male Marsh Harrier was perched in a low willow allowing reasonable “scope” views, it was then joined by two immature harriers and all three were briefly in the air together circling over the reedbed.

Back on the river there were several small groups of Little Grebes, (also called Dabchicks), totalling twenty birds maybe, and a Buzzard drifted out over the wood.

Into the shelter of the wood and we could watch Grey Plovers feeding alongside Shelducks and a few Avocets and Curlews. There were also some Wigeon and Teal dabbling along the water’s edge with above them wheeling flocks of Lapwings and Golden Plover which had probably been spooked by the Sparrowhawk we saw later on.

So far small birds had been hard to find, but in the weedy field behind the dead trees there were bouncing flocks of Linnets, Skylarks and Chaffinches, and best of all a couple of Corn Buntings which gave good views perched on wires and brambles. These were once a common farmland bird with their “jangling keys” song a familiar sound on open farms with some wild margins and ditches.

Braving the wind at Whitehouse beach we saw a pair of Goosander on the river, a lone Brent Goose, and large, active flocks of Dunlin, Golden Plover, Avocet, with a few Knot, Shelduck and both Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwits.

We didn’t linger in the biting breeze on our way back, but a Great Tit did serenade us from the wood, at least he thought spring was coming.

Recent sightings: Two Water Rails on Ferry Marsh, the Peregrine on her usual pylon, and reports of a Great Northern Diver on the river towards Alresford Creek.

Next Walks: 9th Feb, 23rd March 10am £8

16th March Blackwater Barge Cruise from Maldon  https://www.swallowbirding.co.uk/section834203.html

Exhibition: 1st April – 16th June 2019 The Naze Tower (PV 6th April) http://www.nazetower.co.uk/naze_home.html



 LS-France (812x1280) (2)

  Exhibition of linocuts by Richard Allen for the book “The Long Spring” by Laurence Rose
16-18th March 2018 “The Shed” Wivenhoe Bookshop

Richard will be exhibiting a series of linocuts depicting Laurences travels through Europe as he follows the Spring from Spain to Norway. There will also be some new “Garden Birds” linocuts for sale, as well as prints and cards.

PV:Fri 16th March 6.30-7.30pm The Shed, Wivenhoe Bookshop, exh continues Sat 17th 11-4pm, Sun 18th 11-4pm

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Laurence Rose “The Long Spring” (Bloomsbury, Mar 2018)

A talk by the author at The Nottage, Wivenhoe, 7.30pm Fri 16th March 2018
(details from Wivenhoe Bookshop)

In The Long Spring, Laurence evokes the landscapes, sounds and colours of Europe at its most vibrant. And as a lifelong naturalist, his journeys tracking the world’s most significant and beautiful phenomenon – spring – were a chance to explore the past, present and future of our connections to nature, reflecting on three decades of work and travel in Europe and his own long relationship with wildlife.

Laurence Rose is a naturalist and conservationist whose work has ranged from creating urban greenspace to advocating global treaties. He has worked for the RSPB in roles as diverse as nature reserve management, international capacity building and community engagement. Laurence is also active in the arts, as a creator, curator and administrator, often working with artists inspired by nature.

Allen-Richard-Wren (2)

Birdwalk Sat 17th March 10am £8pp limited places, please book
A gentle two and a half hour stroll along the river to watch and identify the many waders and wildfowl that winter on the estuary, we may also hear the first Chiffchaffs, new in from North Africa.

Maldon Barge Trip


Barge Trip – Birdwatching Cruise and Walk – Maldon 11th March 2017

A perfect spring morning for a cruise down the Blackwater estuary aboard Topsails barge Kitty(1895). After a warm welcome from the crew we set off down river accompanied by wheeling flocks of Black-tailed Godwits heading off to roost, and groups of Teal and Brent Geese along the muddy margins. We had already seen Greenshank and Little Egret before we left and as we gently cruised past Heybridge and Northey Island we saw more waders,(Dunlin, Avocets and Redshank), and wildfowl,(Wigeon and Pintail), as the incoming tide pushed them off the marshes. Around Osea Island the mirror calm conditions were good for birding, not so good for sailing, but as we drifted two seals gave distant views, as did a Slavonian Grebe with Great-crested Grebes, and a flock of Long-tailed Ducks, a rare sight in Essex waters. Returning back up river a Peregrine flew over, and we saw more waders and a group of Little Grebes, before tucking into our hearty soup and rolls for lunch. The walk along the promenade gave us good views of mostly the same species including some godwits moulting into summer plumage before their migration to Iceland, and a flock of Golden Plover dropped down onto the mud.


Black-tailed Godwits 500+ including some in summer plumage

Greenshank 4 a scarce winter bird in Essex

Long-tailed Duck 19 seen in a tight flock all diving together, it has been a good winter for this species, normally only one or two are seen each year.

Peregrine 1 probably a male, (females are noticeably larger), pity it didn’t hang around

Avocet, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Shelduck, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Slavonian Grebe, Little Grebe, Great-crested Grebe, Cormorant, Kestrel, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull

Richard Allen richardallenillustrator.com twitter: @richardallenart


With all these freezing weather some unusual birds having been turning up on the tidal Colne, frozen out from the local lakes. Twelve Goosander including these splendid males looked good in the dawn sunshine last week.

Goosander 20.1.17


Saturday 19th March – Sunday 3rd April 2016


Geedon Gallery, Jaggers, Fingrinhoe, Essex CO5 7DN

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Excellent winter birding at Mistley Quay and Abberton Reservoir

Mistley Dec 2015 (1280x909)


Zoological Society of London

I’ve been working on several projects with Paul Pearce-Kelly at London Zoo and the Species Recovery Programme. This is the latest completed work showing the Fregate Island Beetle and the Enid Snail, both endangered endemics from the Seychelles. The next group I’m working on is the Partula snail from the Polynesian islands, many species have been driven to extinction or are only found in captive breeding after the unfortunate introduction of the carnivorous Rosy Wolfsnail.

FregateBeetle-EnidSnail (905x1280) Partula 1

Xmas Print Exhibition

Aldeburgh Contempory Arts 21 Nov – 6 Dec 2015, Private View Saturday 21st Nov 10am -2 pm

Will be showing linocuts from my book “Coastal Birds”

Aldeburgh Contempory Arts, 187 High St, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5AL

BrentGeese Avocet



Birdwalk News October 17th

A rather grey autumnal day with a nippy north-easterly breeze which brought some Scandinavian winter visitors our way. Newly arrived Meadow and Rock Pipits flitted around the saltmarsh, a flock of Fieldfares flew over calling “chack-chack-chack”, and three flocks of Redwings flew steadily west, pushing on with a tail wind behind them. Overhead a single Siskin called and kept on going, while in the bushes Goldcrests gave their thin high pitched calls, but proved difficult to see. It has been a particularly good autumn for Goldcrests with hundreds of this diminutive bird arriving on the east coast. Its amazing to think of a bird the size of a man’s thumb and weighing less than a 10p piece flying across the North Sea at night. In fact they use to be call the “woodcocks pilot” as people believed they crossed the sea on the back of Woodcocks which often arrived on the coast at the same time.

On the river the waders were jumpy, an unseen predator putting them all to flight and providing us with a spectacular aerial display. A large flock of Dunlin flashed white, then grey, while Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings joined in with the show.

We also had very good views of two “pairs” of Grey Herons on the near shore, along with numerous Little Egrets. Further along towards the point Avocets, Ringed Plover and Curlews showed well, and some exceptionally close Grey Plovers allowed us to admire their delicate grey plumage and large dark eyes.

At Alresford Creek there were a few recently arrived Wigeon and Teal, and a scattering of Brent Geese, and out in mid-channel a single Great-crested Grebe dived for sprats along side several Dabchicks. All in all a good mornings walk.

Recent sightings:Goldcrests have continued to arrive in force, listen for their thin “zree-zree-zree” call almost anywhere there are bushes. A Peregrine soared over the Sailing Club with a pair of Stonechats on the nearby marsh, Glyn has also seen Black Redstart here.

Also most unusually two Ravens flew high over my garden uttering their distinctive croaking call. A bird long extinct in Essex, but starting to make a come back.

Next Birdwalk Sat 14th November 10am £8 email or call 01206 826753 to book