The Stour Estuary is a long straight body of water barely contained in the low hills of the Essex and Suffolk border; the land appears to be gently sinking into the sea. There is a scattering of moored yachts in the centre of the inner estuary; dinghies or perhaps canoes are crudely sheeted and bound on ramshackle, wooden trestles piled in the saltmarsh.
The coastal promenade at Mistley known as ‘The Walls’ is proof that birds and people rub along together quite well. A flock of godwits have their bills under a wing and their eyes closed just 20m from where people sit and stroll or enjoy a sandwich and cuppa from the popular roadside cafes. Most of the birds are neatly tucked up on one leg and then move with an ungainly hop rather than walk. As the tide goes out hundreds of godwits, redshanks and oystercatchers feed at the water’s edge in a long and untidy line.
A large flock of mostly female mute swans (pens) and a few wigeon gather on a freshwater stream outfall to drink. Birds dip then raise their heads on their long necks in elegant unison; they are reminiscent of the wind section in a big band getting in the swing.