Thursday, 18 December 2014

MUDFLAT EXPANSE

The morning light on Wednesday 17th shone down onto the big expanse of mudflats off the country park, highlighting the maze of little channels and rills amongst the raised banks of soft mud. Thousands of waders of various kinds were spread across the mud feeding frantically as the tide receded.

One of the biggest wader flocks feeding on the mud was the very grey looking flock of a thousand knot, some pictured above. Numbers seem to have increased a lot just recently off the park, one of their favourite feeding grounds.
Flying over the mud on Wednesday morning were 500 golden plover.

Offshore from the park at the end of the afternoon 13 red-breasted mergansers, while the previous day 10 mergansers and a Slavonian grebe were seen.

The barn owl provided a great close up view as it hunted low over the long grass of the park, passing only 15 metres away from me at the end of Wednesday. A barn owl was also seen and heard calling at dusk the previous day as it flew across the nearby field to Bromans Farm.

The little owl was seen from the hide by the pond, as it sat on a garden fence just to the north of the park at dusk on Tuesday. The water rail called a few times from the pond but didn't show.

Up to 800 wigeon have been grazing the park fields in the last few days, occasionally fleeing away to the sanctuary of the open mudflats or nearby sea. Birds soon return to carry on grazing, while nearby 200+ teal and 20+ shoveler gather around the pools.

There's always a family of carrion crows perched up somewhere at the country park, watching over proceedings, this one near the pond.

On Monday 15th the Cetti's warbler from the park pond seemed to go on a very noisy tour of local hedgerows, foraging almost to the park entrance, repeatedly calling out anxiously as it flitted through the bushes. It provided some of my best ever views in the open and at one point got as close as just a couple of metres from me as it passed by.

The female stonechat was still along the seawall on Monday afternoon and a male sparrowhawk flew across a nearby field in the morning.

At least two pipistrelle bats were hunting over the park at dusk on Wednesday.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

WINTER SUNSHINE

After a chilly night, the sun rose up over the sea at about 8am on Sunday 14th with sunny periods for most of the day. The sun shone across the mudflats in front of the country park as the tide went out.

A handful of blackbirds were tucking into the cotoneaster berries on the tall bushes beside the park toilet building. These berries seem to be the last on offer around the park for the birds to eat, but they're not holding back now, gulping them down one by one.

Elsewhere around the park, two little owls were seen again by the park pond during Sunday. One bird perched in a Leylandii hedge in a garden to the north of the park, soaking up some sun's rays in the morning. At dusk the other little owl appeared from the hedge by the pond and perched up ready for the night-time activity.

A barn owl provided some nice views for the McDonoughs on Sunday afternoon in Shop Lane.

A brightly marked male sparrowhawk with a deep peach-coloured chest, flew low over the field to the north of the park on Sunday morning. In the grazing fields 200 brent geese were still feeding up till the end of the afternoon. Offshore 13 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the Colne to feed offshore just before the high tide.

There was a nice end to a sunny but chilly Saturday with the sun seen setting across the sea.
The picture below shows the sun dropping down behind the twin reactors of Bradwell's decommissioned nuclear power station.

The calm sea at high tide at the end of Saturday made it a bit easier seeing birds offshore with 3 Slavonian grebes, 26 red-breasted mergansers and 30 great crested grebes being most noteworthy.

The little owl showed again by the pond during the day both in the morning and at dusk on Saturday.

At West Mersea a male blackcap was seen by Adrian Amos in his East Road garden on both Saturday and Sunday. Along the Strood the black brant was seen on Saturday by Sean Nixon.

On Friday a flock of 20 redwings were in Bromans Lane, flying away from some of the hedgerow bushes.
In the park's grazing fields on Friday, Andy Field watched a water rail feed beside the central ditch, also 700 wigeon, 300 teal while on the mudflats 200 knot and 23 sanderling.

Friday, 12 December 2014

FRIENDLY CHAT

The female stonechat was very tame when I walked to the East Mersea Point on Wednesday 10th. It flew across and landed just a few metres in front of me, happily perching on various bush-tops whilst looking for food. Later in the day it was seen feeding along the seawall.

Scurrying along the tideline at the Point during the high tide were eighteen sanderling, some of them pictured above.
Along the edge of the mud on the outer part of the estuary 300 avocets were feeding during low tide and 500 golden plover rested nearby on the mud.

Up to 400 wigeon were feeding in the fields and at times some of them resting on the water in the dyke, as in this picture.
Also in the fields were 250 brent geese, 300 teal, 200 black-tailed godwits, 100 redshank and fifty lapwing.

In the morning a large female peregrine came over the river from the Colne Point direction, flew low over the fields upsetting many of the birds, before doing a full circuit of the fields, flushing everything off the pools. Watching the distant action unfold from the hide, the peregrine then flew even closer to the hide swooping  low over the pond that even the Cetti's warbler could be heard letting out an alarm call!

Many of the ducks on the pond had already been on high alert after a sparrowhawk passed overhead a short while earlier as it headed into the copse. Nearby the resident pair of kestrels were sitting on their usual oak tree in the morning.

Making the most of the sunshine on Wednesday morning was this fox, snoozing near the back of the park pond.A short distance away a water rail looked flustered and took to the air to fly the short distance back to the thick cover of the pond.

The afternoon seemed longer and brighter, finishing with a orangey sunset at the end of Wednesday. The kingfisher arrived back at the pond as the light faded and may've roosted in a nearby bush. The little owl was seen perched on the hedge at the back of the pond, while its partner called a bit further to the north.

On the pond 105 mallard, 14 gadwall, 18 shoveler and one little egret were noted. A pair of pintail were seen briefly on the pond in the morning by Martin Cock, who also noted a redwing at the Golfhouse.

Around the main part of the park up to 20 blackbirds have been feeding in three main flocks while at least two goldcrests were with the tit flocks.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

PYEFLEET VISITS

Waders, wildfowl and a few other birds along the north side of the Island came under the monthly scrutiny by Glyn Evans and Andy Field on Monday 8th. This female kingfisher pictured above was one of two, possibly three birds, seen on the walk. One was seen at Maydays, another one near the Oyster Fishery, possibly the same bird that was photographed a short while later, near the seawall at the Point.

Two stonechats were seen, this one photographed by Glyn at the country park and an earlier one seen at Maydays farm. A small flock of linnets and a couple of yellowhammers were also seen in fields near here.

A common buzzard was mobbed by a crow over the Shop Lane wood and a goldeneye was seen in the Pyefleet.


A small group of 7 sanderling were feeding on the beach at the Point, these two above photographed by Glyn.


Two other sanderling pictures, these ones taken by Andy also at the Point.

At least one green sandpiper was noted along the Pyefleet, possibly a second bird seen near here too. A goldeneye was seen in the Pyefleet and four red-breasted mergansers seen too.

Keeping a sly watch on proceedings was this fox showing off his thick winter coat.

Other bird counts made on Monday at East Mersea were by Martin Peers who noted a male goldeneye, 2 red-breasted mergansers, 350 avocets, 400 grey plover, 750 lapwing and 2000 dunlin along the Pyefleet.
At the country park there were 410 brent geese, 470 wigeon, 118 teal, sparrowhawk, 2 sanderling, 268 black-tailed godwits, 8 redwings, as well as the already reported kingfisher and stonechat.

Brian Cooper on Monday noted along the Strood seawall a huge flock of 5000 golden plover and also two stonechats.

Monday, 8 December 2014

CONFIDING SANDERLING

Four sanderling were feeding at high tide along the St Peters beach at West Mersea on Monday 8th. Despite the regular disturbance by dog-walkers, the birds seemed quite confiding and happy to keep switching sections of beach to forage along, sprinting away when the next hazard got too near. A similar size group of turnstones flew over to Cobmarsh away from the walkers.

Two little egrets squabbled over territory on the St Peters saltmarsh, chasing each other away from small pools and little creeks as the tide came in. Two rock pipits and a redshank were the only other birds noted here.

A great crested grebe was just offshore from the beach while on Cobmarsh 40 cormorants stood on one of the sand-spits until the tide pushed them off. Fifty oystercatchers were also resting here for the high tide.

Also seen from West Mersea on Monday by Martin Peers were a common scoter, two red-breasted mergansers, 130 cormorants, female merlin heading towards Old Hall and a high tide roost of 120 oystercatchers.

Across the Strood Channel over the weekend, three whooper swans were seen feeding in a field on Feldy marshes. First found by Andy Field on Saturday, they were very distant when watched from the Island. They were still there on Sunday. This is the first whooper swan record for the Island since 2002.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

BLACKWATER BOAT TRIP

Eight of us clambered aboard Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat on Sunday 7th for a four hour birdwatching trip up the Blackwater estuary and the nearby creeks of Salcott and Tollesbury. The wind was a bit fresh which whipped up the waves as we motored up river, heading round the back of Osea Island and as far as Northey Island until the water got too shallow.

There were good numbers of waders and wildfowl along the edge of the saltmarshes and water's edge with the high tide covering the mudflats. Sadly there were no speciality seaduck, divers or grebes to be found with the main highlights being a brief view for some of a few velvet scoter and also a female eider. At least 25 great crested grebes were seen in various locations during the trip.

Other ducks providing good views were 15+ goldeneye, 30+ red-breasted mergansers, 70+ pintail and a raft of 25+ gadwall in the estuary. Good numbers as expected of teal, wigeon and shelduck but very few flocks of brent geese.

A male peregrine provided a good view as it passed over the boat, heading towards the big plover flocks of Tollesbury and Old Hall. The biggest of the plover flocks appeared to be over the Strood Channel, just as we started with probably 4000 golden plover in the air at once.

The best views of wader flocks were in the Salcott and Tollesbury Creeks with  good numbers of avocet, bar-tailed godwits, knot and dunlin being the most interesting. At least three marsh harriers were seen on the trip, hunting low over the seawalls.

Feeding in the fish in the river were 50+ cormorants and also three common seals, one of which was leaping out of the water like a dolphin and seemingly trying to land atop a buoy in one of the creeks.

It was reported later in the day that 4 velvet scoter, 14 goldeneye, 22 red-breasted mergansers and 3 Slavonian grebes were seen by Daryl Rhymes from Goldhanger. We weren't so lucky in this area when we passed it.

The very confiding black brant, pictured above on the right, was feeding on algae just in front of the Coast Road car park at West Mersea. We watched it before we went on the boat trip and again when we returned to the car park four hours later, it was still in the same area.

It was interesting to see the old Radio Caroline boat the Ross Revenge moored inside the Blackwater, apparently it is due to start broadcasting again in the near future. Brings back a few memories of some great radio!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

INSHORE DIVER

This red-throated diver swam close inshore to the country park on Friday 5th. As soon as the camera got pointed towards it, it dived down and swam away. Also offshore were five great crested grebes but no sign of any mergansers.

There was the usual nice number of waders and wildfowl on the fields during the Friday high tide late in the morning. A marsh harrier crossed over the Colne and then passed low over the fields, scattering all the birds in their different flocks and off into all different directions. Many birds came back down a short while later such as these black-tailed godwits and some wigeon.

This mixed flock of redshank and black-tailed godwits were some of the 300 godwits and 200 redshank on the fields. Also present were 400 wigeon, 300 teal, 20 shoveler and 200 brent geese.

On the park pond the familiar ducks were 50 mallard, 10 gadwall and a few shoveler while the Cetti's warbler called briefly from the nearby copse.

Very few birds noted at the park in recent days because of the dull and damp weather.

Andy Field and Martin Cock reported seeing a green sandpiper and a stonechat at Maydays on Wednesday 3rd.
A marsh harrier was hunting the fields near Bocking Hall on Tuesday morning.