Mid-December and there is just too little daylight to do everything I want to do. Work, of course, takes up most of the light during the week and I had to work yesterday too so I had to wait until today to travel the relatively short distance to Walberswick to look for the Grey Phalarope. I arrived at the harbour car-park in bright sunshine. A line of birders was stood on the bank by the car-park so I was hopeful the phalarope was showing, however the news was negative. Yesterday it had been showing opposite the Southwold Harbourside Inn so I was expecting to have to walk along the river wall but the Environment Agency were at work rebuilding the bank where it had collapsed during the floods and the footpath was closed.
I suggested that it was worth walking down the path from the Common that led to the bailey bridge across the river but with seemingly little enthusiasm from the other birders I headed off to Palmers Lane on my own. The pull off before the No Vehicle Access sign where I parked my car was empty but nearing the river wall a few other birders had obviously had the same idea and were converging on a man wearing a fluorescent jacket and Environment Agency logo who was guarding the fence closing the river wall footpath at its western end. Fortunately he was happy to allow us to walk along the undamaged part of the footpath up to the barrier marking the newly repaired but as yet unwalkable section with him escorting us. It turned out that early in the morning the Phalarope had been up by the common path but had flow eastwards towards one of the middle pools that now covered what had previously been grazing marshes. The weather had suddenly become very gloomy and for a while there was no sign whatsoever of the phalarope. Suddenly I spotted the bird through the reeds feeding in the channel near the river wall away to our left. It picked its way to and fro across the channel coming gradually closer but seeming to stop at a band of reed debris where it would turn and head away from us again. I've said it before but I'll say it again that phalaropes are my favourite group of waders. Although a little more robust than Red-necked this was still a dainty bird especially when it started preening itself delicately flicking its bill though its feathers.
It was too distant and too dull for me to take any photos but there are some excellent photos on the Suffolk BINS website.
Many thanks to the Environment Agency guy for being so helpful. Talking to him it seems the Environment Agency are working flat out from 6am right in the night to 1am every day to try and repair the broken sea-defences before the next big high tides on 18-19th February. The digger at Walberswick is one of the few floating diggers in the country, there being no room on the seawall for a conventional tracked digger, so its going to be kept busy.