Sunday, 2 November 2008


Keen Mersea birder Steve Entwistle above, raced to the conifer wood in Shop Lane, East Mersea on Sunday 2nd to watch a small group of crossbills feeding in the tops of the trees. As I returned from my walk along the Pyefleet, I passed this small conifer wood and immediately recognised the loud calls of several crossbills nearby. Peering upwards, around four birds appeared to be feeding on the pine cones at the tops of the trees. Tantalising glimpses and normally in dark silhouette, were the only views to be had.

For an hour the birds fed quietly, spending several minutes in each tree, plucking off a pine cone and then carefully extracting the individual seeds. Luckily there was no wind as the birds could only be located by the rustling of their cones, or the clatter as a cone was dropped to the ground. The partially hidden birds could also be traced by the steady fall of the small "wings" that held the seeds in the pine cones.

One of the birds was a colourful male in an eyecatching brick-red plumage and at one point provided very good views as it clung upside down at the end of a pine branch whilst pecking at a cone. Even big Essex bird-lister Graham Ekins raced onto the Island within an hour of the birds being first seen and was rewarded with great views of this male. The other three birds appeared to be females as they were greenish in colour.
There were two crossbills briefly in this same area of woodland, two months ago but as they were seen to fly off, this group of four would appear to be different birds.

Also in the woodland were a couple of male great spotted woodpeckers on the same tree, also several goldcrests calling.

The walk along the Reeveshall seawall during the middle of the day, coincided with the tide coming in and displacing lots of the waders. The lack of wind provided a flat Pyefleet Channel and also helped to carry the sounds of the birds.

There was the nice surprise at the start of the walk, watching a short-eared owl hunting amongst a flock of sheep, flying in and around the animals as they grazed. It dropped onto the ground and I was able to get great views through the telescope of those bright yellow eyes, as the bird anxiously looked around.

A male marsh harrier flew over the same field a bit later as it crossed over to Langenhoe. At various times during the walk, three female marsh harriers were seen flying around and perched on bushes on Langenhoe. No sign of any hen harriers although one was reported a few days ago near the Strood.

Along the Pyefleet there was plenty of wader activity as the tide came in, with one last area of mud by Maydays holding about 2500 waders. Most involved 2000 dunlin, also 300 knot, 100 grey plover, 100 redshank and 100 black-tailed godwits. Twenty avocets were also noted along the Channel. The nearby Pewit Island became the popular destination for the roosting waders as they lined up together on the saltmarsh. Other waders noted included a greenshank, green sandpiper and snipe flying over the Reeveshall fields. One redshank was colour ringed on its legs with the combination of WR- GY, so it will be interesting to find out where this bird has come from.

Other birds of interest along the Channel included a female red-breasted merganser, 200 brent geese dotted along the water's edge, 2 great crested grebes, 25 cormorants and 10 little egrets.

No waterfowl of any description on the Reeveshall pool and after recent heavy rain, certainly no mud around the edge. Five pied wagtails were the only birds noted although nearby 2 kestrels perched on bushes as did a stonechat. Twenty meadow pipits, rock pipit and 4 skylarks were the only other small birds noted.

Other wildlife noted were 2 common seals near the Maydays corner, brown hare amongst the sheep, one red admiral flying fast over the fields and a late common darter dragonfly.

Elsewhere on the Island today, Martin Cock saw the kingfisher, 2 stonechats and a greenshank near the Golfhouse at East Mersea. He also saw four red-breasted mergansers from West Mersea while Steve Entwistle saw 3 chiffchaffs along Cross Lane feeding in a tit flock.

No comments: