Essex Wildlife Trust
A wetland site of international importance for wildfowl. Up to 40,000 ducks, swans and geese visit each year. Excellent bird watching opportunities and fabulous views over the reservoir.
The huge expanse of Essex & Suffolk Water's Abberton Reservoir is one of Europe's top wetland sites. It is of international importance as a safe haven for wild ducks, swans and other water birds, whether resident, passing through on migration or over-wintering. It lies close to east-coast migration routes and, with its surrounding envelope of pasture and tree plantations, is a welcome sight to tired birds.
Up to 40,000 ducks, swans and geese visit each year. The top seven species are Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Black-headed Gull and they cannot fail to impress. Added to this there can be hundreds of Shoveler, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Pintail and Great Crested Grebe. In the spring there is the unusual sight of Cormorants nesting in trees, one of the few places in Britain where they do this. They began in 1981 and have continued ever since.
Late summer brings the spectacle of large numbers of swans and ducks moulting - replacing their worn-out feathers - on the reservoir. Safety is vital while they do so because they replace all their flight feathers at once, which means that for a while they are unable to fly. In dry winters water levels fall temporarily to expose large expanses of mud. This attracts large numbers of passage waders such as ruff and spotted redshank from the coast. The surrounding farmland, too, is of value to birds. In winter thousands of golden plover may be seen there, along with small numbers of migratory geese and swans. For the keen birdwatcher the reservoir boasts an impressive list of rarities visiting briefly in winter or passing through on migration.
Essex & Suffolk Water’s reservoir enhancement project is well underway at Abberton Reservoir and making excellent progress. The concrete edge has been removed and a lot of re-profiling work has been done leaving shallow muddy margins and large areas of rough grassland.
Visitors can still enjoy walks on the new Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve. There are stunning panoramic views across the reservoir and surrounding villages from the higher ground. There are 2 hides overlooking the reservoir, and one in the new woodland. The Visitor Centre offers a great viewing area, toilet facilities, and a well-stocked shop, including binoculars and telescopes, wildlife books and DVDs, bird food and feeders, gifts, greetings cards, hot and cold drinks, packaged snacks and ice creams and for the children we have our new Middleditch Wild Play Area. Staff and volunteers are happy to explain the reservoir enhancement scheme to visitors, so do please call in and see us.
The Visitor Centre is 6 miles SW of Colchester on the B1026 (a minor road linking Colchester and Maldon) just S of Layer de la Haye - follow the brown and white "Abberton Reservoir visitor centre" signs.