Thursday, 13 February 2020

GARDEN HAWK

This young male sparrowhawk stopped off in Andy Field's back garden in High St North on Thursday 13th.

It looks like it left the garden empty-handed on this occasion.

A walk along the Strood seawall on Thursday 13th produced views of 6 avocets along the channel, buzzard, stonechat, grey heron and 2 little egrets in the fields, while a red-breasted merganser was seen amongst the boats opposite the Hard.

Offshore from the Esplanade, two great northern divers, red-throated diver and fifty great crested grebes were seen on Thursday by Martin Cock.
At East Mersea a barn owl was seen by the East Mersea bus turning circle late afternoon on Thursday by Michael Thorley, also a fieldfare seen. Steve Entwistle reported four red-legged partridges near Bocking Hall with another four near Bromans Lane on Thursday morning, also a mistle thrush and fieldfare east of Weir Farm. 

There were plenty of ducks and waders on the grazing fields at the country park on a sunny Wednesday 12th. Here a group of wigeon was feeding by the water's edge while a large flock of several hundred black-tailed godwits were roosting.

At least a thousand wigeon were feeding in the fields, with 20 shoveler, 50+ teal and 9 greylag geese also. A roost of 50 herring gulls in the fields was unusual.
Counts made by Andy during that Wednesday afternoon high tide included 720 black-tailed godwits, 200 lapwing, 460 redshank, 318 dunlin, 137 curlew and 16 snipe. A buzzard flying over the fields flushed off many of the birds.

At the park pond the female pochard was with nine tufted ducks with another five tufteds on the park dyke. Also on the pond were 16 gadwall and 12 little egrets.

A flock of 70 brent geese dropped into feed in the flooded horse paddock by the Golfhouse. Earlier 500 brent geese had been grazing a pasture nearer Ivy Farm until some horses walked over to them.

By the foreshore 24 sanderling were feeding with 50 turnstone prior to high tide.
In the Colne fifteen red-breasted mergansers were seen by Andy.

A pair of mistle thrushes was feeding in a horse paddock near the East Mersea bus turning circle.

A female kestrel perched on railings by the seawall at the country park on Wednesday, photographed by Andy.

Andy also snapped these two pictures of the over-wintering pair of stonechats on Wednesday at the park.

The pair was by the tarmac ramp at the park mid afternoon, the female stonechat pictured here.

On Tuesday 11th along the Strood seawall, a Mediterranean gull, kestrel, 55 shelduck, 3 little egrets, 3 rock pipits and 30 wigeon were the main birds noted on an otherwise quiet walk.

Monday, 10 February 2020

STROOD SURGE TIDE

The forecasted surge tide combining with the high spring tide and the strong wind, whipped the sea up to the height of the Strood seawall on Monday 10th. In places the sea overtopped the seawall and water poured down the inside, a good forty-five minutes before the predicted high tide.

As water began to pour down inside the seawall, it all seemed very precarious and so I cut short my walk. The sea had risen quickly up to the height of the seawall on the outside and all along the water was waiting to flood over at any moment! The path inside the seawall is about three metres lower than the seawall top and it seemed quite daunting to see how much sea was being held back by the seawall! However unexpectedly the sea stopped rising and even started to recede forty minutes before the predicted high tide, which was just as well for here and other parts of the Island.

The lifeboat was called into action to go to the aid of two cars that had broken down on the flooded Strood causeway.

A bedraggled kestrel perched over the path down the side of the Firs Chase caravan site on Monday 10th. The tail feathers don't look in very good condition and it seemed to have splayed them to dry them.
A common buzzard was seen landing on the seawall during the very high tide, maybe looking for prey forced to flee the floods. All the saltmarsh around Ray Island and along the Strood channel was submerged an hour and a half before high tide. Brent geese, wigeon and shelduck along with various wader flocks were flying around. In one of the Strood fields, three Mediterranean gulls were roosting with black-headed gulls and common gulls, also 20 redshank and 30 dunlin dropped in.

A male sparrowhawk almost crashed into the bird feeders in the Firs Chase garden on Monday, in its pursuit of the small birds. It spent a few minutes walking on the ground and clambering amongst the ivy at the base of the tree as if looking for a bird hiding. A collared dove looked down anxiously!
Another sparrowhawk also visited the feeders the previous day, narrowly missing the coal tit visit and also the male blackcap.

On Saturday 8th, offshore from West Mersea, two great northern divers and two red-throated divers were seen by Martin Cock, while a great northern diver was seen from the Monkey Beach by Jonathan Bustard.

A flock of 200 brent geese along with the black brant, was seen feeding on the East Mersea Youth Camp on a windy but sunny Friday 7th. Also 60 curlew were feeding beside the geese. On the flooded marsh next to the boating lake, 20 redshank, pair of shelduck, little egret and six mallard were present.
A little owl was seen flying from a tree beside the Waldegraves fishing lake on Friday, while offshore 30 sanderling were on the shingle island.
Martin Cock reported two green sandpipers, merlin, two marsh harriers and a buzzard at Maydays on Friday. Michael Thorley saw a redwing in a paddock west of Meeting Lane.

Sunny and still on Thursday 6th during a morning visit to Cudmore Grove. One of the highlights was watching a barn owl hunting the grass field to the north of the park entrance at 9.30am. The calm sea during the morning high tide allowed 560+ great crested grebes, ten Slavonian grebes and four red-throated divers to be counted. Six red-breasted mergansers were seen further up the Colne.

On the flooded grazing fields at the park on Thursday, there was no sign of the ten white-fronted geese, although 600+wigeon, 140 curlew, 300 black-tailed godwits, 40 shoveler and 13 snipe were seen, while a muntjac deer was browsing in the corner near the pond. On the park pond ten gadwall were seen and on the dyke were 8 tufted ducks. A flock of 500 brent geese flew off the field between the Golfhouse and Ivy Farm, and six little egrets and an avocet were on the saltmarsh pools.

Martin Cock and Andy Field saw two firecrests in Shop Lane on Thursday, while offshore from West Mersea were two great northern divers and a Mediterranean gull.

A visit on Tuesday 4th to the Golfhouse seawall provided views of 400+ brent geese feeding in the field near Ivy Farm. In the Colne was a red-breasted merganser, a bar-tailed godwit was on the mud and a little egret and 8 linnets were by the saltmarsh.
On the park's grazing fields, 300+ black-tailed godwits, 10 greylag geese, 500 wigeon and 20+ shoveler with 8 tufted ducks on the dyke. Fifty golden plover were on the nearby mudflats. No sign of the ten white-fronted geese.

Belated news - the elusive wintering black guillemot was seen near the West Mersea Hard by Doug and Tina Holden on Sunday 26th January.

Birdwatchers thinking of visiting Cudmore Grove need to be advised that the decaying and tired 25 year old bird hide overlooking the park pond has been closed for good now, as it had become unsafe to use. It is hoped a replacement hide will be installed sometime in the future, if and when funds become available, according to park staff.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

CLOSER VIEWS OF WHITE-FRONTS

The ten white-fronted geese were feeding in the grazing fields close to the horseride path on the northern edge of the country park on Monday 3rd, allowing Andy Field to take these two photographs.

The white-fronted geese have spent most of their time over the last month feeding at the back of the fields, so it's nice to now see what they look like close-up! 
Also seen by Andy on the fields were 14+ snipe and 300+ black-tailed godwits, while the water rail was watched feeding by the edge of the pond. Also at the pond a pochard was seen briefly and a wintering chiffchaff heard by Martin.

Along the Strood seawall on Monday 3rd, three buzzards, 92 shelduck, 50+ curlew, 10 little grebes ad four little egrets were noted.
On Sunday 2nd along the Strood seawall, the male stonechat, one corn bunting, rock pipit, buzzard, 20 golden plover and six Mediterranean gulls were the highlights.

Steve Entwistle found two firecrests near Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane on Sunday, also eight red-legged partridge near the Dog and Pheasant pub.

A large flock of 1500 brent geese was feeding on the grass on the Reeveshall fields on Saturday 1st.
Two pairs of overwintering stonechats were still on their respective fencelines, while 25 stock doves and 200 starlings were also feeding in the fields. In the Pyefleet three red-breasted mergansers, 500 dunlin and 20 knot were of note while a marsh harrier was flying over Langenhoe.

At the country park Andy Field saw the ten white-fronted geese, 650 black-tailed godwits (including five colour ringed birds) and at least ten snipe in the grazing fields, while the water rail showed well at the park pond again.

The male blackcap visited the Firs Chase garden again on Saturday.

On Friday 3rd a stonechat, ten Mediterranean gulls, marsh harrier, kestrel, 100 wigeon and 70 golden plover were seen along the Strood Channel.

A pair of stock doves has been visiting the Firs Chase garden in recent days, feeding on some scattered bird-seed. The male has been heard singing from nearby tree-tops. 

The coal tit has still been visiting the Firs Chase garden feeders, while a sparrowhawk suddenly appeared and landed amongst the feeders as the small birds went into hiding.

The first frog of the spring was seen on Sunday 2nd, hopping along a pavement in St Peters Road. The following day a dead toad was seen on the road in Firs Chase, close to the pond where it was heading. I think these first appearance dates are the earliest I've seen previously by a week.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

PINTAIL ON POND

A smart male pintail was an unusual visitor to the country park pond on Thursday 30th. It appeared to be paired up with a female mallard, feeding together on the flooded area of the grazing field and when they landed on the pond, the male started displaying to his companion. The ducks flew off when a dog on the loose spooked them. Also on the pond were 9 tufted ducks, 15 gadwall and 25 mallard.

 
The ten white-fronted geese were still in the park's grazing fields on Thursday, feeding at the back where the grass is still lush. Also in the fields were 8 greylag geese, 1500+ wigeon, 300+ black-tailed godwits, 3 snipe and 6 stock doves. A female stonechat was perched up beside the dyke, while at the back of the fields a muntjac deer was feeding.

A flock of 100 lapwings was in the grazing fields, as well as three in the Golfhouse horse paddock, while 150 brent geese fed in a field beyond the Golfhouse. On the mudflats at Ivy Dock 100+ avocets were resting.

In Chapmans Lane on Thursday a little egret was feeding in the horse paddock.

At Maydays farm on Wednesday 29th a ringtail hen harrier flew over fields near the farm and then landed in a game cover crop near the seawall for about ten minutes. It flew off towards Reeveshall. Two marsh harriers were also seen while one buzzard sat in a field near Haycocks Lane, also beside  the Lane were 15+ corn buntings, 6+ yellowhammer and 30+ chaffinches.

From the Esplanade on Wednesday a great northern diver, 7 red-breasted mergansers and 10 great crested grebes were offshore.

A black brant was feeding with 200 dark-bellied brent geese in a field to the east of Waldegraves caravan site on Tuesday 28th. The brant is in the picture above with its head down, showing a blacker back about a third in from the right! The flock was quite distant and always walking away.
A small flock of 15 ringed plovers arrived in the field just before high tide
Along the Waldegraves beach were 80+ sanderling feeding just before the high tide. A great northern diver and Mediterranean gull were seen offshore. Around Waldegraves and Cross Lane were a kestrel, grey heron, 15 goldfinches, 2 coot and 50+ moorhens.


One brent goose was feeding by itself inside the Waldegraves caravan site on Tuesday.

The coal tit and male blackcap were seen at the feeders in the Firs Chase garden on Tuesday.

A kestrel perched on various bushes inside the Strood seawall on Monday 27th. A common buzzard was also perched at the back of the Strood fields. Ten Mediterranean gulls were resting by one of the floods in the field while the stonechat was still by the dyke. Along the Strood channel were 2 avocets, 3 little egrets and 82 shelduck. Beside the caravan site was a goldcrest and 30 goldfinches.

David Allen reported on Sunday 26th seeing a great northern diver, 10 sanderling, 16 great crested grebes from West Mersea.

Two great northern divers were seen by Andy Field off the Esplanade and another from the Monkey Beach on Saturday 25th. At Cudmore Grove 7 Slavonian grebes offshore, ten white-fronted geese and 4 snipe were seen in the fields by Andy.

A red squirrel was seen in the Firs Chase garden on Sunday 26th and the day before too, where one was seen stripping bark from a branch nest to the roadside, before carrying a mouthful back over the road, through the cedar tree, along our roof and then across to a neighbours garden.
A red squirrel was also reported crossing Bromans Lane on Tuesday 28th while the previous week Andy Field watched one overhead crossing branches over Shop Lane near Fishponds Wood on Sunday 19th.

Saturday, 25 January 2020

GRAZING FIELD GODWITS

A group of some black-tailed godwits digiscoped on the country park grazing fields on a dull Friday 24th, seen during a walk around the site with Charlie Coltman. There were 300+ black-tailed godwits in the fields along with ten white-fronted geese, 1500+ wigeon, 20+ shoveler, 100 lapwing, 50 curlew along with a few dunlin and turnstones too.
At the park pond eight tufted ducks and ten gadwall were of interest here, while the water rail was heard calling.

A grey seal came close to the East Mersea Point on Friday 24th, spending a few moments bottling at the surface, in between diving under to feed.
Also seen at the Point were 17 red-breasted mergansers further up the Colne, ten sanderling, 8 bar-tailed godwits along with hundreds of common waders feeding on the receding tide. A rock pipit and four reed buntings were in the saltmarsh and an avocet was on the pools.
Offshore from the park during high tide were ten Slavonian grebes and 112 great crested grebes.

A mistle thrush was by the bus-turning circle by Ivy Lane, while 30+ curlew were in the field by Bromans Lane.

At West Mersea on Friday 24th, the firecrest was seen by Andy Field again by the Firs Chase caravan site.
Paul Hargreaves reported on Friday a great northern diver and 12 sanderling from the Esplanade and four Slavonian grebes from Coopers Beach.

Along the Strood seawall on Thursday 23rd was this regular male stonechat by the dyke.
A firecrest was seen briefly with three goldcrests in the hedge down the side of the Firs Chase caravan site earlier on the walk. The coal tit was in the Firs Chase garden at the feeders again.
Noted in the Strood fields were a common buzzard perched at the back, ten Mediterranean gulls were with some black-headed gulls by a flooded area, 29 golden plover, ten ringed plover, also 15 reed buntings and 30 meadow pipits, while two corn buntings flew over. A marsh harrier flew over the Ray Island saltmarsh.

A family group of brent geese was feeding close to the saltmarsh along the Strood on Thursday.

At Firs Chase on Thursday, the coal tit and blackcap were seen at the garden feeders.

On Wednesday 22nd Andy Field and Martin Cock saw two hen harriers at Maydays Farm - a nice male and a ringtail, also a fieldfare there too. Offshore from the Esplanade was a great northern diver while from Coopers Beach were two Slavonian grebes.

At the country park on Monday 20th twelve white-fronted geese were in the grazing fields and the water rail showing by the park pond, seen by Charlie Coltman.

Andy Field checked the harrier roost on Langenhoe Point from the Shop Lane seawall on Sunday 19th and counted a ringtail hen harrier, 13 marsh harriers, peregrine, 2 buzzards and merlin.

Offshore from the Esplanade on Saturday 18th David Smith saw a great northern diver, 2 red-throated divers, 6 red-breasted mergansers, Mediterranean gull, 30 sanderling, 2 marsh harrier, sparrowhawk and a buzzard.
 The male blackcap was seen at the Firs Chase garden feeder on Saturday 18th.
Michael Thorley saw the little owl in his back garden near Meeting Lane, East Mersea a few days earlier.


Friday, 17 January 2020

FLASHES OF BLUE

Clouds soon appeared late morning along the Strood seawall on Friday 17th after a bright start. Two flashes of brightness seen during the walk were two kingfishers flying low along the borrowdyke, one bird following the other. A short while later one was seen perched on a bramble bush over the dyke.
Nearby the male stonechat was seen again, having not been spotted over the last fortnight, also 6 reed buntings present too.

A common buzzard flew over the Strood channel towards Ray Island, passing over some of the 105 shelduck resting on the mud. Nine avocets and 100+ wigeon were seen along the channel.
A sparrowhawk flew over Coast Road near the Hard.

On Thursday 16th a flock of 30 fieldfares with a single redwing and a few starlings flew over Meeting Lane in East Mersea heading towards Bocking Hall. A common buzzard and sparrowhawk were also seen near Meeting Lane, while two marsh harriers were flying over Reeveshall. Two Mediterranean gulls were feeding in fields with black-headed gulls. Two green woodpeckers and two great spotted woodpeckers were seen between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane.

A rainbow appeared over the Colne with one arm shining down near the Oyster Fishery in the afternoon of Wednesday 15th. I joined Andy Field on the seawall near Shop Lane to watch the harriers going to roost on Langenhoe. Once the rain had cleared a ringtail hen harrier and 16 marsh harriers were watched dropping into the reedbed for the night. Also seen were 15 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet, also 200 black-tailed godwits and 200 avocets while 2000+ knot were  flying over the Colne.

Mammals seen that late afternoon included a distant sighting of what looked like Chinese Water Deer feeding on Reeveshall, also two brown hares while in Fishponds Wood were two red squirrels chasing each other round the trees. Three red squirrels were also seen the next day on Thursday, in the Fishponds Wood area, two chasing each other again, with a third one in a nearby copse.

Three great northern divers were offshore from St Peters beach on Wednesday 15th. A peregrine and three marsh harriers were seen flying over Packing Shed Island / entrance to Salcott Creek area. Six reed buntings and a rock pipit were by the St Peters beach. 
A red-throated diver was seen by Andy Field from the Esplanade on Wednesday morning.

Along the Strood channel on Tuesday 14th were 18 avocets while two Mediterranean gulls were in the fields.

On Monday 13th there were 22 Mediterranean gulls roosting beside the standing water in one of the Strood fields. A peregrine perched on a tree at the back of the Strood fields for fifteen minutes, while a couple of hours later a peregrine was also seen over the marshes at the back of the Hard, maybe a different bird. Two common buzzards and marsh harrier were seen along the seawall, as were 70 shelduck, 18 avocets and a rock pipit.

Monday, 13 January 2020

PEREGRINE IN PEAR TREE

It was bright and breezy along the Strood seawall on Monday 13th, with this redshank standing on seaweed covered posts as the tide came in. Eighteen avocets and 70 shelduck were noted along the channel. One rock pipit was feeding along the side of the seawall.

A peregrine perched for over quarter of an hour on the old pear tree in the middle of the fields up towards Whittaker Way. A couple of hours later a peregrine was also seen from the Hard, as it flew over the saltmarsh near the entrance to Salcott creek. Maybe two different peregrines seen that morning. A female marsh harrier flew low over the edge of the Ray Island saltmarsh, while one common buzzard flew over the Strood fields and another circled near Strood Hill.


Amongst a group of black-headed and common gulls seen at the pools on the Strood fields on Monday were 20 Mediterranean gulls with a further two resting on water in the Strood channel.

A pair of stock doves was seen at the top end of the Firs Chase caravan site on Monday.

Helped Andy with the monthly Wetland Bird Survey on Sunday 12th, counting the waders and wildfowl along the north side of the Island. Highlights included a close view of a merlin, 18 red-breasted mergansers, 3 stonechats and four marsh harriers. At the country park the ten white-fronted geese were still present along with pale-bellied brent goose, 1000+ wigeon, 260+ black-tailed godwits, also a snipe on the saltmarsh, 30 sanderling on the Point and the water rail feeding beside the park pond.

Charlie Williams also helping with the bird count on Sunday walking the Strood section saw the black brant, pale-bellied brent goose and a greenshank.

Also of interest along the north side of the Island was another sighting of Chinese Water Deer. This is the fourth time this winter that this deer has been seen running across the big expanse of Reeveshall into the cover of the reedbed of Broad Fleet. There has also been a recent sighting at Bower Hall of this deer. Chinese Water Deer are a slightly bulkier version of a muntjac deer and with a teddy-bear type look to the head. These deer have been spreading down the north-east coast of Essex from Suffolk, after first been seen in the Walton Backwaters in 2015.
A grey seal resting on a pontoon in the Pyefleet was the other mammal of note on Sunday.
 
A pair of swans swam gracefully across the Strood reservoirs on Saturday 11th, also here was a pair of little grebe and a tufted duck. A common buzzard was in a hedge on Strood Hill while in the Strood fields were 20 Mediterranean gulls and a sparrowhawk flew low over the fields.
In Firs Chase the coal tit and the female blackcap were at the garden feeder again, while a red squirrel was at its nut feeder.

Two great northern divers were seen offshore from the Esplanade by Andy Field on Saturday 11th. 
In the country park grazing fields on Saturday, Andy saw ten white-fronted geese, 800 brent geese, 1000 wigeon, 350 black-tailed godwits, 150 curlew, 100 lapwing, 100 redshank and 8 eight greylag geese.

Members of the Colchester RSPB Members Group enjoyed a chilly walk around Cudmore Grove country park on Friday 10th. One of the bird highlights was four Slavonian grebes offshore, although only one was reasonably close in. Also offshore were 100 great crested grebes and two eider.
On the grazing fields were ten white-fronted geese, 10 greylag geese, 200 brent geese, 200+ black-tailed godwits, while 23 sanderling were at the Point. On the park pond were 18 gadwall and the exotic white-cheeked pintail feeding under the weeping willow.

At West Mersea a great northern diver was seen offshore from the Esplanade on Friday by Barbara Leport.