The October evening is calm and mild and the clouds high and unthreatening; there are long views south across the coastal pastures and beyond to the low hills on the far side of the river Crouch. Rooks and starlings are feeding on myriad craneflies (Tipulids) that are taking flight; the brief flight period has shifted from September to now over recent decades driven by the warmer and milder autumns.
Three bird hides overlook reed-fringed fleets, which are mostly dried out with empty expanses of crusted white mud. The wetlands are ringed by electric fences, to keep foxes and badgers out during the breeding season when breeding waders are most vulnerable. The first hide with turfed roof and solar panel has the appearance of a military observation post. The only area with much water is in front of the middle hide; a flock of teal sleep on a spit of rich brown mud and snipe probe in the shallow water. There are a handful of green sandpipers that always call, a ringing klew wit weet weet, as they take to the air and two fly high south, silhouetted in the evening light.
A young kestrel, with moulting tail feathers, hunts large dragonflies from a vantage point of tall docks that bristle with rusting red seeds. Lapwings fly in loose, unhurried flocks across pastures bordered by unkempt hedgerows. The evening drifts effortlessly into a peaceful dusk; a lone mute swan labours low in the ungiving air from the middle of a huge green pasture to the far side of a great expanse of rough grassland to land with a final swivel of wings into a hidden mere.