So early in the morning - just as the sun was rising .....
I laid down a carpet of stale teacakes, old toast and crumbled old scones on the beach across the road from a famous ice cream stand; Rossi's at Westcliffe on sea.
Down came a collection of gulls and waders; mostly black-headed but also three mediterranean gulls, a few common and herring gulls and . . . .
Rossi, the ring-billed gull. Bird number 249 for the year and only 3 to go to beat the NMYLR.
Waders such as sanderling and turnstone came very close to feed on the crumbs.
The important business done it was time to head back towards Harwich to visit the omitted RSPB reserve, Stour Estuary. Also needed to visit Wallasea Island RSPB reserve as I hadn't been able to get to this one back in January due to the snow back then. Got there and explored the huge expanse that, from the artist impressions in the portacabin, will be a major reserve in a few years time. At the moment there are some interesting creeks with waders such as avocets, grey plovers, godwits etc on them. Otherwise the area is an immense area of flat grassland just waiting to be landscaped.
More cycling filled up the rest of the day and I reached Old Hall Marshes much to the surprise of the staff there who hadn't expected me to be back. Slept there and in the morning, bright and early, I set off for the Stour estuary reserve. Through Colchester and along the main Harwich road, reached the reserve car park in a large oak and sweet chestnut wood, reputedly planted by the Romans. Explored this but very few birds then went to the estuary itself eventually finding the hides and viewpoint. Brents, pintail, shelduck and the common waders seen with goldcrest and bullfinch the better birds in the woods along the way.
Back to Maldon via Colchester, B & B in Langford nearby.
Cycled to Rainham RSPB reserve for the promised return visit and was met by Howard Vaughan by the shop. By now absolutely shattered so accepted the proffered hot chocoalate before heading out along the reserve pathways to 'bird'. Cetti's seen, stonechat and water rail also.
Now Howard had suggested asking for a room at the Premier inn nearby but there was no room there so I ended up sleeping in a 'proverbial' stable near to the reserve [!]. Very comfy too but the heavy frost in the morning was a shock.
Early morning birding at Rainham, lots of birds including sparrowhawk, marsh harrier, many waders and gulls seen. In fact over 50 species by lunch.
Goodbye to Howard, Brenda and everyone, cycled along the Thames cycle path, meeting some people on a West Midlands Bird Club outing from Solihull. Thanks to Mr Boyle for the donation for the RSPB. The cycle along the old A13 with a cycling equivalent of a motorway was great; much better than the sleet and slush negotiated back in January.