Blogger: Adam Murray, Communications Officer

Last June you may have remembered my Swift, Swallows & House martins - I am a bit clueless blog post, well just as think I have nailed some of my bird ID skills I recently went on my hols to Osea Island.

We went as a family with my brother and his gang and spent the time walking the island when the causeway (as seen on the Woman in Black movie) was covered by the tide. The island was a perfect tonic as there were no modern day distractions that seem to fill our free time usually. This meant that we had an excuse of not doing very much at all – just what I needed after the crazy hustle bustle of the RSPB Eastern Region office in Norwich.

Each day we would spend many hours in wellies walking the island. In the interior we spotted dancing flocks of skylarks, eyeing foxes in the distance and then the adventurers inside us would walk alongside the beaches and salt marshes to circumnavigate our little piece of Essex.  If we were lucky enough to get the tides right we would see vast numbers of birds coming into feed or queuing up ready for the seafood frenzy. The rest of my family were happy to spot a “funny looking goose” or distinctive oyster catcher with their carrot beaks. I on the other hand, trained zoologist and bitten by the RSPB bug, realised that I wasn’t just seeing a few species of animals out there on the mud flats but dozens – all ever so slightly different. However, this is my question to you – how on earth are you supposed to tell the difference? I am now going to give it a go. The keen ones amongst you, feel free to correct me, I won’t take it personally ;)

  Dunlin: Little fella, grey wings, white belly, slightly curved beak 

 Turnstone: Little, black wings, white belly, red legs

 Common sandpiper: brown body, straight beak, black eye stripe

 Curlew sandpiper: if you squidged the two sandpipers together

 Green sandpiper: dark, white bellied sandpiper that is not green

 Grey plover: a more speckly version of a turnstone

 Curlew: This one I get, bendy beak and big as a chicken!

 Redshank: Medium sized, red legs and red beak near face

  Spotted redshank: red legs, black top beak, red lower beak

So, can you see why I was confused. It doesn't help that when I was reading the information on my RSPB i-phone app it told me that these are the winter plumages of these birds - so as new species come in for the summer I will have to learn this all over again. I did however figure out that the bird call I has associated with the wilds of southern Ireland ( a previous family holiday) was not the charismatic oyster catcher but the close neighbours the curlew.

I guess the beauty of this whole thing is now, once I get my eye in, I realise how many different species find the eerie and beautiful Essex coast  a perfect tonic, just what they need.

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