Monday, 24 November 2008


A day of contrast between the morning and the afternoon on Sunday 23rd as shown in the two photographs above of the beach at the country park. There was a feeble dusting of snow in places early in the morning which struggled to settle. The biting cold wind then whipped up, stinging the face with wintry rain, followed by a torrential downpour late in the morning. By contrast the afternoon was glorious sunshine with hardly a cloud in the sky, as in the second picture above.

It was a bit unfortunate that I'd arranged that Roy Croucher, visiting from France, should come to the country park for some typical winter birdwatching on the Essex coast, along with mutual friend Bob Graves. By the end of the morning walk to the Point we were drenched and it ended up being pointless trying to peer through binoculars or spectacles as they were coated in water!

We battled our way along the beach and were finally rewarded with some waterlogged views of four snow buntings, feeding on the grassy part of the Point. A little further along we saw the snow buntings again but this time with five birds. In the rain we couldn't be sure if this was a different flock feeding 40 metres apart. However a visit back to the area in the afternoon sunshine, revealed a single flock of 8 birds. Finding some snow buntings on the morning walk provided a drenched reward for braving the elements. Andy Field had seen 5 snow buntings two days earlier, on Friday at the Point.

Some of the other birds noted at the Point were 5 sanderling, several knot and 3 bar-tailed godwits along with the other regular waders arriving to feed as the tide dropped. In the afternoon a marsh harrier glided south over the Point and then across the river Colne, as it headed for a late afternoon hunt at Colne Point. A common seal was seen in the river just off from the Point.

Along the seawall 2 stonechats, a few meadow pipits and skylarks were the main small birds noted. At least 200 wigeon were feeding either on the saltmarsh or on the grazing fields, many whistling loudly as they took to the air. Also in the fields were a handful of black-tailed godwits feeding with some curlew, while 2 snipe were seen flying away.
At the park pond a snipe flew off calling, while the usual ducks of shoveler, gadwall, teal, mallard and wigeon were still present.

One section of the grazing fields is looking like a flooded water meadow after all the recent rain, as shown in the picture above. Hopefully as winter progresses, the waterlogged fields should provide good feeding for the ducks and waders. Only a handful of brent geese were seen in the fields, as the main flock were feeding elsewhere in East Mersea.

In a field to the east of Manwood Grove near Shop Lane, there was an interesting mix of waders on Sunday morning. Fifty lapwing, 100 golden plover and about 50 curlew, along with some gulls and rooks, were busy feeding while the tide was high on nearby mudflats.

On Saturday Martin Cock saw a short-eared owl fly out of the long grass at Rewsalls Marsh near Coopers Beach. This follows a recent sighting by Michael Thorley of two short-eared owls here. Graham Ekins noted 2 great northern divers, 2 goldeneye, 4 common scoter, red-breasted merganser and a Mediterranean gull, off-shore from West Mersea on Saturday.

On the mammal front, I received an interesting report from local resident Rosemary Dickson about a muntjac deer seen early in the morning in the country park about a month ago. This is the first report of a muntjac at the country park, other than two strandline corpses in recent years.

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