Thursday, 11 February 2016

COLD AND CALMER

Amongst the large flock of 3000+ dark-bellied brent geese feeding on Reeveshall, was this very pale coffee-coloured brent goose photographed by David Low during his visit on Friday 5th. This pale or leucistic coloured bird has not been seen here before and certainly stands out, as in the picture above. Also seen were three pale-bellied brent geese.
Before a marsh harrier flushed off the flock, David managed to count 34 juveniles among 2646 brent with more geese arriving to peak at 3114 birds.


After recent days of wind, cloud and rain, it made a change to have some blue skies and calm winds. The very high tide on Wednesday 10th, flooded the top of the beach on the East Mersea Point, even getting inside the pillbox there. It's not often there's a large pool of water left lying on the beach, as above.

As the tide went out in the afternoon, 70+ bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point, 8 red-breasted mergansers were by Langenhoe Point and a rock pipit was on the beach. A sparrowhawk flew low over the Point and crossed the river.

Offshore on Thursday 11th the calm sea from the park late in the afternoon saw 690+ great crested grebes, 10 Slavonian grebes, great northern diver, 7 red-breasted mergansers and a common seal.
The day before 3 Slavonian grebes were seen with 200+ great crested grebes. offshore from the park.

On Wednesday from the Esplanade, Andy Field noted great northern diver, red-throated diver, 2 Slavonian grebe, guillemot, 8 red-breasted merganser and a Mediterranean gull.

Numbers of birds on the park's grazing fields has been fairly constant over recent days. Up to 500 black-tailed godwits have been present for high tide, some pictured above. Also 1000+ wigeon and 200+ teal on fields too.

On the pond 10 tufted duck and 12 gadwall have been of note here, while 20 goldfinches have been seen at the park in recent days.

The sea was whipped up by strong winds on Monday 8th, luckily most of the waves weren't quite reaching the bottom of the cliff at this eastern end.

At West Mersea an Arctic skua was seen chasing gulls near the entrance to the river Blackwater on Sunday 7th by Andy. A great northern diver was also seen in the river.

Friday, 5 February 2016

SQUIRREL SURPRISE

This red squirrel posed nicely for Andy Field alongside the Fishponds wood in Shop Lane on Wednesday 3rd. It paused long enough for Andy to get his camera out of the bag and take several shots.

The red squirrel was seemingly commuting between the conifer wood and a nearby garden where there's a feeder.

The two brown hares were snuggled up close to each other in a field near Bromans Lane on Friday 5th. Despite the loud bangs from the bird scarer in the middle of the field, the hares stayed motionless during the day.
Still present in the field were the eight red-legged partridges.

Elsewhere on Friday, Andy Field had five goldcrests in the Shop Lane wood, 2500 brent geese feeding on Reeveshall, while at the Youth Camp, 19 corn buntings were seen.

On Thursday the barn owl put on a nice display of daytime hunting towards the end of the afternoon at the country park. It did a lot of quartering of the areas of long grass, when allowed to by the mobbing magpies. The barn owl was also out hunting fields to the north of the park on Tuesday.

At the park pond the Cetti's warbler and the water rail were both heard calling but not seen on Thursday.

From the Esplanade on Wednesday at least one red-throated diver was seen offshore by Andy, while the day before 200+ great crested grebes were seen.

During a walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 1st a ringtail hen harrier was seen high over the Geedons, a pair of marsh harriers over Reeveshall, 2000 brent geese also here, 8 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet and 20 linnets on the saltmarsh.
There was no sign of the common scoter which was seen on Sunday in the Pyefleet.

Friday, 29 January 2016

THEY THINK IT'S ALL OVER

The first toads are already out and about, first seen by my wife Nolly - which means the toads must think the "winter" is over! Eight toads were counted on the folly footpath between Firs Chase and The Lane in West Mersea in the evening of Friday 29th.

The toads were trying to home in on the pond located in a nearby garden - a regular breeding site for them.

This is by far the earliest sighting of the year for these toads - they've never been seen in January before heading to this pond. Previously the earliest I've seen them was on the 10th February 2011, which itself was about ten days earlier than usual here.

Having just got into the house from photographing the toads, Nolly then tells me our dog Ben had located a hedgehog in our back garden! After a bit of searching it was relocated under an old wooden crate. After a minute or so, it retreated back under cover and was then left in peace.
Other than seeing a hedgehog dropping in our garden last summer, this hedgehog is the first one seen here for about ten years.

Seeing the toads and the hedgehog on the same mild but blowy evening, makes it feel like spring's arrived!

A windy walk along the Strood seawall on Friday morning provided views of the male stonechat, 2 green sandpipers, rock pipit, 8 reed buntings and a marsh harrier east of the Strood road.

For once the kingfisher at the park pond perched on the near side closest to the hide on Thursday 28th. The orange bill shows up well here indicating this is a female kingfisher, rather than the black bill of a male.

A siskin was seen feeding in the alders with some goldfinches near the park pond on Thursday by Andy Field.

The little owl was seen near the Youth Camp entrance on Wednesday 27th by Martin Cock. The black brant was reported by George Brown near the West Mersea Hard on Wednesday.
At Chapmans Lane 50 fieldfares were in one of the fields on Tuesday 26th.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

BIRDS ALONG PYEFLEET

There was good variety of birds seen along the north side of the Island on a sunny Monday 25th by Glyn Evans and Andy Field during their monthly wildfowl count. All photos by Glyn.
Eleven little egrets, one pictured above, were seen along the north side from the Strood to the country park.

A male common scoter tucked into the back of Peewit Island in the Pyefleet was the most unexpected bird. A rare visitor to the Pyefleet in the best of years and this one maybe the first scoter beside the Island this winter.

 One of 700 brent geese noted during the walk.

 Dark-bellied brent goose seen in flight.

 The main wigeon flock is on the fields of the country park, 515 birds were counted.

 A pair of wigeon seen in flight.

 Almost 350 teal were noted, again most of the birds seen on the country park fields.

 A male reed bunting in its winter markings with faded black head.

 Five corn buntings were seen to the east of the Strood. 

 Skylarks are singing in the sky when the sun shines.

Other birds of note along the walk were hen harrier, 2 short-eared owls, 4 marsh harriers, 2 common buzzards, green sandpiper, one red breasted merganser and 10 lesser redpolls.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

SUNRISE OVER MUDFLATS

It was a sunny start to Monday 25th with the sun seen rising over the mudflats in front of the country park.
As it began to get light, two big flights of 250 cormorants flew over West Mersea heading out to sea for the day's fishing.

From the East Mersea Point on Monday this group of 500+ golden plover roosted on the mud, as did another similar sized flock on the south side of the Point. Also roosting were 100 avocets, 200 knot and 300+ dunlin.

In the river 9 red-breasted mergansers and five great crested grebes were noted along with a common seal.

In the field to the west side of the country park 1000 brent geese including the pale-bellied brent, were being repeatedly scared off the wheat crop. Also here 110 curlew, 2 red-legged partridge in one field and 6 others to the north while two brown hares crouched low most of the day.
At the end of the day a pipistrelle bat flew through the park entrance hawking back and forwards as it made its way to the car park.

Along the north side of the Island Glyn Evans and Andy Field noted common scoter behind Pewit Island, hen harrier and 2 common buzzards over Maydays / Reeveshall, short-eared owl on Langenhoehall, five marsh harriers, while 7 lesser redpolls were east of the Strood.

Seen during the birdwatching boat trip on Sunday morning in the Blackwater estuary closest to West Mersea was the male eider, yellow-legged gull on Packing Shed Island, red-throated diver near Cobmarsh and in total four great northern divers, as reported by Andy Field.

Offshore on Saturday 23rd from the park were 6 Slavonian grebes and 320 great crested grebes while in the Colne were four red-breasted mergansers and a common seal.
At the Point was a rock pipit, 2 linnets and 500 knot were on the mud.

On the grazing fields 1000 wigeon, 300 golden plover and 200 black-tailed godwits, while four tufted ducks and ten gadwall were some of the ducks on the park pond.

From Coopers Beach at least four of the Slavonian grebes were seen offshore and a stonechat inside the seawall, by Steve Entwistle on Saturday morning. The eider was seen from the Esplanade as was the great northern diver on Saturday.

Roosting on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse were several hundred waders comprising knot, grey plover and dunlin.

The pair of kestrels have been seen at some point each day on their nesting tree, here the male pictured at the top, at the back of the park's grazing fields.
The sparrowhawk has been seen on a couple of occasions near the pond.

The camera strained to snap this red squirrel in the half darkness just as the day was breaking at 7.20am on Monday 25th in the Firs Chase garden. It was unexpectedly disturbed from the nut feeder, when I went outside to check the nut level in the box. The squirrel scampered up the tree and disappeared along one of the branches. Judging by the falling nut levels, one of the red squirrels has been a regular visitor here in recent days.

Friday, 22 January 2016

EIDER OFFSHORE

A male eider was watched offshore from the West Mersea Esplanade on Tuesday 19th by Martin Cock and Andy Field. It was also seen again on Thursday by Moira Jackson. Eider have become quite scarce in recent winters so it was nice this one especially this smart adult male.

Also offshore was the great northern diver seen on Tuesday and by Moira on Thursday who also reported five sanderling and a Mediterranean gull. Four red-breasted mergansers from the Hard on Tuesday.

The calm sea first thing on Tuesday morning from the country park helped provide a count of four Slavonian grebes and a large count of 430 great crested grebes offshore. Three Slavonians were seen again the next day by Andy.

From the Maydays seawall on Tuesday two short-eared owls on Langenhoehall, four marsh harriers on Langenhoe ranges, merlin, pair of stonechat, goldeneye and 1000 brent geese were all reported by Andy and Martin.

One of the short-eared owls on Langenhoehall was seen by Moira, as was a kingfisher by the Strood. 

Three days of frosty weather saw over half of the park pond freeze over. Here some of the 70 mallard are standing on the ice during Tuesday afternoon. Four tufted duck were amongst some of the other ducks here making use of the unfrozen section.

A common snipe fed in the grass by the pond and a water rail was seen near the pond on Wednesday by Andy.

Gadwall numbers have doubled at the pond during this cold snap with 25 being counted on Thursday 21st. Ten of the gadwall were unusually for here grazing the field in front of the hide, a pair pictured above.
Also on Thursday a sparrowhawk perched up in a tree over the pond, a grey heron noted, two green woodpeckers and at least 25 magpies gathered to roost.

The barn owl has been out hunting over the park and nearby fields most recent afternoons just before dark. On a couple of dusks, it has flown close to the hide including passing right over the top from behind. On Friday at dusk the barn owl caught a vole and ate it whilst perched on a post and rail to the north of the park. It was also seen over the park a couple of times last weekend by Neil Mortimer.

On Wednesday 20th a sparrowhawk flew alongside the car park at the park, also now 8 red-legged partridges in the Bromans Lane field.

Waders were gathering at the East Mersea Point on Friday 22nd as the tide came in. The main birds pictured above were 250 knot and 200 dunlin along with a few shelduck.
Along the beach were 20 sanderling on Friday while in the river a red-breasted merganser flew out and a common seal was noted. A rock pipit was seen feeding in saltings near the seawall.
Twenty-five blackbirds, 2 song thrushes, 2 goldcrests and 10 goldfinches fed in the car park on Friday.

On Thursday 21st on the mudflats off the park, 500 knot and 100 avocets were feeding while on the grazing fields 1000+ wigeon were seen.

A grainy picture of a fox taken as it started to get dark at the park pond on Friday late afternoon.

The sun setting over a calm Blackwater, as seen from the Esplanade on Tuesday 19th.

Monday, 18 January 2016

SHOWY STONECHAT

The colourful male stonechat showed well again along the Strood seawall on Monday 18th.

The stonechat has covered the full length of the seawall at times since it arrived a couple of months ago to spend the winter here. It seems to have got used to people walking past it when it's been feeding on the side of the seawall.

Not many other small birds noted on a chilly but bright morning, ones or twos of reed bunting, linnet, meadow pipit and skylark.

This little egret seemed less wary than expected and appeared a bit poorly beside the seawall. It could fly a short distance but some of its feathers were muddy, which is unusual to see. Half a dozen other little egrets were seen in the fields beside ditches.

One of the regular green sandpipers flew out of a ditch and 500 wood pigeons were tucking into the rape crop.

Usual selection of waders and duck along the Channel with the tide at its lowest. The big brent flock was on the Peldon fields.

A big gathering of 40 blackbirds were feeding on the windfall apples at the Nothe, near the Firs Chase caravan site, as were 3 fieldfares.