Tuesday, 17 January 2017

BLACKWATER BOAT-TRIP

Despite the rain through most of Sunday 15th, there were still smiles on the faces of this group of mainly local birdwatchers having just spent four hours on Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat in the Blackwater and nearby creeks. The waters were flat calm but the lack of wind couldn't clear the low mist which hung low over the Blackwater on our journey from West Mersea to Osea Island near Maldon.

Graham Ekins has kindly shared these following photos which he took during the boat-trip. At the start of the trip we joked at the light-weight umbrella he pulled out of his bag. However it turned out it wasn't for him but to keep his big camera and lens dry when not in use, so that it was ready to be swung into action at a moment's notice. Despite the rain and very dull conditions Graham managed admirably to take these pictures.

Before climbing aboard the boat this black brant pictured above was seen on the mud at the Hard, as was a pale-bellied brent goose.

Three sanderling were feeding by the Hard, a few seem to have started feeding in this area which they've not usually done before.

One of the many ever-present turnstone also seen feeding by the Hard.

As we motored just past Packing Shed Island a shag was seen, the only one seen on the trip.

Five great northern divers were the only divers we saw - surprisingly no red-throated divers.

Two of the great northern divers came together and stayed above water for some good views through the murk and drizzle.

A male long-tailed duck was seen in Salcott Channel and then again in Tollesbury Fleet.

The long-tailed duck dropped down to feed with a group of little grebes in Tollesbury Fleet.

There was no sign in the mist of the 16 long-tailed ducks seen recently near Osea Island.

A flock of 16 scaup in the Blackwater near Goldhanger was of note, as flocks have become much scarcer off the Essex coast in recent winters.

At least 60 common scoter were seen during the trip, this flock taking off from the water. One group of common scoter was seen in the water with the scaup flock.

Other birds of interest seen from the boat were 50+ red-breasted mergansers, 100 goldeneye, 4 gadwall, marsh harrier, 30 avocets, 100+ bar-tailed godwits, 150+ cormorants and five common seals.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

HIGH TIDE ALERT

The Island was on high alert on Friday 13th for a tidal surge which thankfully wasn't as high as predicted. There was quite a group of folk went down to the waterfront in the middle of the night to see what the high tide was like. Pictured at the bottom of the Lane in West Mersea at 1am Saturday, the tide seemed like one of the familiar very high spring tides. This one seemed about a foot lower than the surge tide in 2013.

The sun shone onto the beach at the country park early on Saturday morning, where the recent high tides seemed to have spared the cliff at this eastern end, although some small slumps at the west end.

The Coopers Beach seawall had taken another pounding from the sea during Friday night's tide with several sections very vulnerable to collapsing completely and the sea ready to flow in behind.

Birds seen in the Coopers  and Rewsalls area on Saturday morning included a common buzzard, stonechat, 2 little egret, 80 curlew, 200 brent geese, redshank, 3 teal, little grebe, 4 sanderling, 20 turnstone, 3 fieldfare, 60 linnets, 10 reed bunting, 30 chaffinch, 6 stock dove, 9 skylark and 12 meadow pipit.

A sparrowhawk and 80 skylarks were seen near Bromans Lane.

The water rail and Slavonian grebe were seen at the country park by Steve Entwistle on Saturday, also 1000 golden plover at Chapmans Lane and a tawny owl at the end of the day near Manwood Grove.


Friday, 13 January 2017

COLOUR-RINGED REGULAR

One of our regular black-tailed godwits known as OYO-OLO, after its colour-ring combination, was photographed again in the park's grazing fields on Wednesday 11th by Andy Field. It was the only colour-ringed godwit amongst a small group of 16 that dropped in for the high tide roost.

This female black-tailed godwit was first ringed at Levington on the river Orwell in Suffolk in November 2011, a month later it was seen at Cudmore Grove and since then it has been seen on 26 other occasions all in north Essex, other than a sighting on its breeding grounds in south Iceland in May 2014. It seems very fond of the Stour estuary at Mistley where it has been seen 15 times but also Cudmore Grove / East Mersea where it has been seen eight times.
There was an interesting switch of estuaries last winter by this godwit when it was seen on the 7th and 16th December 2015 here at Cudmore Grove, then moved to Mistley on 24th December before being seen back at Cudmore two weeks later on 8th January 2016.
It has also been logged elsewhere at the Hythe, Fingringhoe and Old Hall Marshes.

Other birds seen on the park's grazing fields on Wednesday were 100+ redshank, one knot, common snipe, 700 wigeon, 25 shoveler, 6 greylag geese and 10 curlew.
At the back of the pond the common buzzard was perched in the copse, while a water rail fed along the pond margin in the morning and 50 wigeon were grazing the grass in the same paddock, 70 were there the previous day.

At the Point a red breasted merganser was in the Colne and a rock pipit was in the saltmarsh. A marsh harrier flew over Ivy Farm heading northwards.
The covey of eight red-legged partridge was in the field by Bromans Lane.
A shag was seen from the St Peters beach on Wednesday by Andy.

On Tuesday 10th the glossy ibis was seen on the Ray Saltings and at least one Lapland bunting and 100 linnets in the Strood fields by Steve Hunting and Colin Mackenzie-Grieve.

It was a bit bleak on a cold and windy Friday 13th for a walk along the beach to the Point - a dusting of snow lying on the beach first thing.
A peregrine flew over the clifftop and out over the foreshore early on Friday, while at the Point a red-breasted merganser and a common seal were the only things of note here.

Two snipe huddled down behind some rush clumps in the fields while 500 wigeon and 100 golden plover were the main flocks here. On the pond two tufted duck were present and 20 blackbirds in the car park area.
Eight red-legged partridge were still present in the Bromans Lane field first thing Friday.

The glossy ibis was seen again at the Strood on Thursday 12th by Martin Cock.

Monday, 9 January 2017

EYES ON THE DIVER

A dozen members of the Colchester RSPB Members Group had an enjoyable and rewarding time during their annual winter visit to the country park on Sunday 8th.
The weather was brighter and calmer than predicted and also much better than some of the group's previous January visits.

The highlight was the black-throated diver - digiscoped above, which was still present in the Colne for it's seventh day. We enjoyed watching it on a calm river slowly drifting down with the tide towards us while we stood on the Point.

Also in the river were seen 4 common scoter, 12 red-breasted mergansers and a common seal while beyond the Mersea mudflats from the park were 5 Slavonian grebes, 75+ great crested grebes and a peregrine that was chased off its prey on the water by some gulls.

Waders seen on the mud included 100 avocets, 300 golden plover, 1000 knot while on the grazing fields a lone ruff was a notable find as it fed with the wigeon. Before a small purple balloon dropped from the sky a single snipe was seen briefly but 500 teal flew off and some of the 700 wigeon looked worried too. A small flock of 25 linnets flew around the fields and 2 rock pipits flew over the saltmarsh.

A distant peregrine was perched on the regular post on the Geedons, a sparrowhawk flew along the back of the fields and at the end of the day a common buzzard was mobbed by crows near the pond.

At dusk the water rail fed along the edge of the pond and five little egrets appeared to come into roost for the night perching on the trees. A pipistrelle bat was hawking insects just inside the park entrance as darkness fell on Sunday.

Earlier in the day the tawny owl was seen in the tree by Manwood Grove, while at West Mersea 2 great northern divers, 4 red-throated divers and 2 shags were seen by Andy Field and Adrian Kettle.
Two short-eared owls were seen on Langenhoehall marsh on Sunday by Martin Cock.

On Saturday 7th 4 common scoter were seen in the Colne by Liz Huxley while at West Mersea a red-throated diver and great northern diver were seen by Steve Entwistle.

On Friday 6th three red-breasted mergansers and a common seal were in the river while at the park pond the common buzzard perched inside the copse and the Cetti's warbler was in the bushes alongside the hide.
A barn owl perched by the East Mersea road near Meeting lane just after dark on Friday 6th.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

COLNE BLACK-THROAT

There was the scarce local sighting of a black-throated diver in the mouth of the river Colne for three days. First noted by Steve Entwistle on Monday 2nd in the outer part of the river, then very close in to East Mersea Point on Tuesday 3rd when Andy Field managed to take these photos. It was still present mid-river on Wednesday.

Even at a distance the distinctive white thigh patch towards the back of the flanks could be seen. The more commonly seen red-throated diver holds its bill up at a steeper angle, has a paler face and lacks the white thigh-patch. The diver is currently in its winter plumage without the black-throat.

The black-throated diver is the scarcest of the three divers to visit Mersea waters with the last one seen from the park being over five years ago.
Tuesday was a good day for divers with Martin Cock seeing all three divers in the day with 2 great northern divers and a red-throated diver off the Esplanade and this black-throated diver later from the Point later in the morning.

A common buzzard was seen inside the copse behind the pond on Wednesday and at one point seemed to drop down to the water's edge which got some of the ducks a bit concerned.
Two water rails fed along the edge of the reeds on the field side, while on the nearby grass about 70 wigeon were grazing.

It was quiet enough along the seawall near the Point on Wednesday morning that 200 wigeon were happily grazing the top of the seawall.

At dusk six Lapland buntings were heard calling from the long grass on the main part of the park and were seen flying a short distance before landing, most likely settling down for the night. First ever time Laplands have spent the night on the park.

A tawny owl was seen in a tree late afternoon on Monday 2nd by Andy at Manwood Grove near Shop Lane, also present again on Tuesday afternoon. There have also been a couple of recent reports over the last week of a tawny owl being seen and heard in West Mersea, near Firs Chase and near the Co-op.

As the sun went down behind Bradwell on Thursday afternoon, 8 Slavonian grebes, 27 red-breasted mergansers and a common scoter could be seen on the calm waters.

At Coopers Beach on Thursday a stonechat, 10 sanderling, 300 golden plover, 200 brent geese and 2 little egrets were noted.

The previous day a velvet scoter was seen by Sean Minns from the country park.
Offshore from West Mersea on Wednesday 17 red-breasted mergansers, great northern diver, 70 great crested grebes, shag, 11 sanderling and 2 Mediterranean gulls were seen by Steve Grimwade.

There was a report of a male Reeves pheasant seen in a garden near the Barrow, visiting over recent days.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

TUFTY & TUFTLESS

Tufty, the red squirrel, was back in the bright sunshine in the Firs Chase garden feeder on Monday 2nd. It stayed around for about 15 minutes feeding on hazelnuts and peanuts. The rich orange-brown fur seemed in very good condition and this regular visitor with the very long ear tufts has been seen here before.

Several times the squirrel would climb down the tree to take another nut from the feeder, before climbing back up to eat it on the big limb above.

Tufty had been enjoying the nuts all to himself for quite a while until a second red squirrel suddenly appeared from above and then a chase up and around the trunk ensued. After a minute or so, Tufty retreated having had his fill and he disappeared up and away.

With Tufty gone, "Tuftless" took over at the feeder, doing the same procedure of collecting a nut and taking it to eat on the limb above. Both squirrels were quite noisy eaters as they chewed their way into the hazel-nuts with a loud scratching sound.

The photos of the two squirrels provide a good opportunity to spot the differences in colouring and markings. This tuftless individual has a slightly duller head with darker ears, while the end of the snout seems less pale in this squirrel.

The squirrel coat on Tuftless seems much darker in the bright sunshine as it climbs down the trunk.
When it had finished eating one of the hazel nuts, it then groomed the long tail, passing most of it's length through its mouth like it was brushing it! Looks like both squirrels have been looking after themselves well!

The photos were the best of seventy images taken through an open window at the end of the house - fortunately the sun was shining on the whole trunk when the squirrels visited around noon on Monday.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

COLOURFUL KINGFISHER


Happy New Year to all.
The colourful gem of a kingfisher brightened up the start to the New Year on a dull Sunday 1st along the Strood seawall. The kingfisher perched obligingly on the metal piping beside the seawall sluice, for Andy Field to take this photo.

The kingfisher seemed to like this area of the sluice, perching on the inside of the seawall as above, as well as the outer side above the outflow.

It was watched several times during the seawall walk, flying back and forwards along the dyke. Each sighting involved the same male bird with its all black bill.

Andy and I were joined on our New Year's Day bird-bash by Jonathan Norgate - and Ben the JR too! Seventy bird species were logged during our extended morning walk between the Hard and the Strood reservoirs, proving a very rewarding session for a circuit just a short walk from our houses.

Amongst the highlights was the glossy ibis seen over on the Ray saltings opposite the houses on the Strood causeway. At times the ibis dropped down out of view in the saltings and was seen to make a few short flights with the tide coming in.

There were lots of finches and buntings feeding in the weedy field along the Strood with two Lapland buntings flying overhead calling being the most notable. Also 50 corn buntings, 50 reed buntings, 100 linnets and 20+ skylarks were regularly flying about over the field.

A female merlin flew low over the field and then crossed the Strood channel and perched on a tree on Ray Island. A kestrel hovered over the fields, a marsh harrier flew over the Peldon fields and a male sparrowhawk was displaying over the caravan site. Five marsh harriers were also seen in the air near the Old Hall marshes. A peregrine was seen from the causeway by Adrian Kettle while he watched the glossy ibis.

A green sandpiper flew along the dyke, 3 little egrets and 2 grey herons were also present while 500 brent geese were feeding in the wheat field by Strood Hill. A pair of stonechats were on the saltmarsh in front of the caravan site.

The main waders of interest along the Strood were 20+ avocets, 2 knot, 20 black-tailed godwits and at least one bar-tailed godwit.

Seven Mediterranean gulls were on the field behind the Strood reservoirs with another bird seen flying over the other Strood fields. Ten redwings were in a hedgerow near the Strood Hill. On the reservoirs a great crested grebe, 4 little grebes, 12 tufted duck, 20 mallard and ten coots were seen.

Birds seen along the Strood seawall during late morning on Saturday 31st were kingfisher, green sandpiper, pair of stonechat, snipe, 24 little grebe, 2 marsh harrier, 13 avocet, 10 bar-tailed godwit, 50 corn buntings, 30 linnets, 100 linnets, 2 meadow pipits, 2 rock pipits, 2 Mediterranean gulls, and there were two sanderling seen by the Hard car park.

A woodcock was seen at Maydays farm on Saturday by Martin Cock.

The tufty red squirrel made another appearance at the Firs Chase feeder mid afternoon on Sunday. It spent about ten minutes feeding on the nuts.

Tufty has some very long ear tufts and has become very recognisable and with some well manicured nails too!

Two red squirrels were on the Firs Chase cedar tree at the same time on Saturday morning with this individual pictured above lacking any ear tufts and having a greyer head. Both squirrels were taking nuts from the feeder but would take them up onto different tree-limbs to eat. They would only pass each other on opposite sides of the tree! They then both scarpered up and over Firs Chase after about ten minutes - with one following the other

Jon Norgate reported seeing a red squirrel along Shop Lane on Saturday 31st.

Andy Field recorded this short video of the water rail at the park pond filmed the week before Xmas - to view click on: Water Rail, Cudmore Grove CP, Mersea Island