Now they are back, or at least the Lapwing are (the Golden Plover have yet to follow suit), over 3000 crowding the pasture fields close to the farm house in recent days along with 2000 or more Starlings (many, no doubt, visitors from the Russian steppe), 500 Rooks, 200 Black-tailed Godwit and 100 Curlew while Round Marsh, the fifty acre field that is deliberately flooded each winter, freed of ice for the first time in over a month, was smothered in feeding wildfowl, 2500 Wigeon, 1200 Teal and 200 Pintail among them. They presented a fest of life guaranteed (one hopes) to raise the glummest spirit on a grey winter's day when all other life seems to be dormant.
It was not only the lives of Lapwing and Golden Plover that were disrupted by the plunge in temperatures during December, many other species were displaced from their usual winter haunts. There was an exceptional influx of grey geese into Essex, especially White-fronts, with up to 400 on Wallasea and 160 at Blue House. With them came several Bean Geese and a few Pink-feet while at Blue House the resident flock of Canada/Barnacle hybrids were joined by around 50 pure bred Barnacles, the presence of a colour ringed bird amongst them suggesting that these were genuinely wild rather than feral birds. The wintering flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese, which breed in Western Siberia, were also joined by several of their Pale-bellied cousins from Greenland and Svalbard. All these birds could have arrived from ice covered haunts elsewhere in Britain but some at least had probably fled the polders of Holland, where temperatures were on a par with those in Scotland. Such movements were commonplace in the harsh winters of the 1970s and 1980s but have seldom occured during the much milder version of the past two decades.