Trip Report: Coalhouse Fort Park – 14 December 2019

The walk was led for us by Steve Swinney, a keen member of the Essex Birdwatching Society, and his wife Elaine. This is their local patch. We were worried that attendance might be low as the date had been arranged at fairly short notice, and many who would otherwise join us might be doing last minute Christmas shopping. In the event we had 10 keen birders as well as Steve and Elaine.

What we couldn’t have predicted was the weather on the day. No rain, in fact it was quite bright, but the wind was very strong and gusty. Not ideal conditions for birdwatching. We hardy souls just carried on regardless.

Coalhouse Fort is an interesting site in itself and Steve told us about the history of the fort, the church and the local area as we progressed. Our first stop was the nearby churchyard, where peeking through the hedge to the trees on the other side of the field can often produce sightings of little owls. Not today. We then went along the sea wall, inspecting the horse paddocks for birds, where we saw flocks of linnets – sadly not a common sight these days. We went out to a bank overlooking the estuary where we could see many shelducks and avocets, some curlews, grey plovers and black-tailed godwits. Steve had many tales to tell us of his exploits in the area looking for birds with TV camera crews in tow; as so often, his initial recce would produce hundreds of birds, only to find the weather conditions had driven them elsewhere when he returned with the cameras. The wind was so strong on the bank, it nearly blew us over and we had to hold on to one another to stand up. After a while we made our way back to the fort where some of us repaired to the Engine Room, a cosy café where we had lunch and a chat.

Although we didn’t see a huge number of species, we greatly enjoyed the birds we did see, and we agreed that regardless of birds, we had all enjoyed a refreshing blow in the great outdoors. It would definitely be worth another visit to Coalhouse Fort – maybe on a day when the wind is not so strong! Thanks to Steve and Elaine for leading us.

Species seen:-
House sparrow
Collared dove
Wood pigeon
Stock dove
Jay (heard)
Black-headed gull
White wagtail
Little egret
Meadow pipit (heard)
Herring gull
Grey plover
Black-tailed godwit