Wednesday, 31 December 2008


The last two days of the year have been chilly although the sun managed to shine on the Tuesday but not on Wednesday 31st. There was another nice sunset to admire from the park beach, pictured above on the Tuesday late afternoon.

On the sea there was the notable count of 6 Slavonian grebes, snoozing in a small group on Tuesday but no sign of them on Wednesday. Instead there were 10 red-breasted mergansers and 25 great crested grebes offshore, as well as 200 wigeon.

The 27 snow buntings were seen on both days both on the beach and also on the frozen flooded section of grazing fields. Also seen on the fields were 500 wigeon, stonechat, 50 goldfinches, 15 black-tailed godwits, 3 snipe and a little egret. There was also the unusual sight of a green sandpiper flying over the fields on Wednesday, calling as it passed over.

From the Point 130 avocets were roosting on the mud near Ivy Dock on Tuesday and a common seal was seen in the outer river. Amongst the 50+ turnstones along the beach at least 8 sanderling were noted.

The park pond wasn't completely frozen over and on Wednesday 14 gadwall, 70 mallard, 25 shoveler were the main ducks on show. A fox caused a minor panic at the back of the pond amongst the waterfowl, before it wandered away. Five stock doves flew into the trees to roost late on Wednesday, 3 snipe fed in the nearby field, two water rails called and a sparrowhawk dived into the hedgerow.

The barn owl was seen early on Wednesday morning flying along the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane. On Tuesday morning the barn owl was still out hunting fields near Bromans Lane.
Martin Cock saw 2 short-eared owls at Rewsalls Marshes on Wednesday, stonechat and a little owl. There was also a little owl perched along Chapmans Lane in the early evening on top of a speed-limit sign. When I reversed the car back for a closer look, it had switched road-sides and provided close views as it perched on a fence.

Although the temperature was close to freezing, 4 winter moths were noted just after dusk in the car park on Wednesday evening - the last species of any kind noted at the park for 2008!

Monday, 29 December 2008


Visited the Rewsalls Marshes next to the Coopers Beach caravan site in East Mersea on Monday 29th. The sight of some motorbikes scrambling across one of the fields suggested it was going to be a disappointing visit as I'd hoped to see some short-eared owls.
However I needn't have worried as I was quickly rewarded with telecope views of 2 distant short-eared owls hunting low over one of the long grass fields.

After watching the two short-eared owls, one pictured above, for several minutes from the top of the seawall, another much closer owl was spotted flying away from the nearest corner, only 50 metres from me. It must've been hiding in the long grass nearby before it got up and did some flying around. Walking along the seawall for 800 metres, I got very good views of one of the other owls, which was active for at least half an hour. At one point it flew fast and low, chasing away one of the other owls from its favourite field. The owl came back and sat on a fence-post for five minutes, providing good close views.

A pair of stonechats were the only other birds of interest on the lower marshes, along with 4 meadow pipits, kestrel, 5 greenfinch and one goldfinch. In the adjacent dyke there were 18 mallard, 2 teal, little egret and 2 redshank.

The biggest concentration of birds was on a big wheat field behind the marshes where 1000 golden plover, 500 lapwing, 60 turnstone, along with one or two grey plover, curlew and dunlin. Some of these waders were using the field because of the high tide.

No mud on show during the walk along the seawall. The only bird of interest at sea was the usual group of great crested grebes with at least 50 noted.

Sunday, 28 December 2008


Managed two walks along the Strood seawall on Saturday 27th and then again on Sunday 28th. There was no mud on show on either walk, although the tide was just starting to turn on the Saturday, whilst the next day the walk coincided with the approaching high tide.

Dotted along the edge of the saltings were groups of mixed waders especially redshank, grey plover, knot and dunlin. As the tide began to drop, several small flocks of knot totalling about 150 birds flew up from the south-west towards the Strood causeway. Three black-tailed godwits were noted on the first walk but strangely 3 bar-tailed bar-tailed godwits were seen on the following walk.

The most eyecatching flock was a big brent goose flock of about 2500 birds feeding on the Peldon fields opposite Ray Island. On both days geese were arriving from surrounding areas, especially Salcott Channel direction, to join this main gathering in the area. On several occasions the geese were disturbed and the huge black mass rose up in the air calling loudly. A female marsh harrier on one occasion and then a small yacht sailing up Ray Channel sent all the birds flying off in different directions.

Amongst the mass melee were 6 pintail flying about, as well as 700+ wigeon, 200 teal, 100 shelduck and 1000 golden plover. To add to the confusion and the need for the birds to stay alert, a peregrine was seen flying over the saltings at the north-east end of the Ray Channel on the Saturday. A male marsh harrier was also seen on this walk flying high above the Channel towards Old Hall to the south-west.

Most bird interest inside the seawall was on the Saturday walk with a kingfisher briefly glimpsed dipping into the reedbed in the dyke the main highlight. The pair of stonechats were seen along the side of the seawall while in the big grass field pictured above, 25 linnets were feeding with a small group of starlings and lapwing. Six reed buntings were noted and also 3 meadow pipits.
A female marsh harrier was seen hunting over these fields at the start of the first walk which was nice to see. A little egret stood briefly in the field, later seen feeding along the Channel side. On Sunday a pair of stock doves flew onto the Island from the Feldy direction to the west.

Thursday, 25 December 2008


A little bit of local excitement at the country park pond on Christmas Day when this very colourful male mandarin duck was found, on the left slightly blurred in the photo above. The males are unmistakable with their red bill and a general light brown plumage with ornate feathers. The most eye-catching part of the plumage are a couple of brown sails that stick up from the back of the body.

This mandarin was first seen swimming across the midle of the pond but soon hid itself inside one of the willow bushes for over an hour. It could easily have remained undetected amongst the low branches, although after a while it emerged to give good views when it stood on a low branch.

This is the first sighting of a mandarin duck on Mersea and luckily a few of the local birdwatchers were able to put their Xmas lunches on hold, so that they could marvel at the sight of this new bird for the Island. The duck is normally native to the region of China and Japan but has been bred in captivity in this country for some time. Some birds have escaped into the wild with a small breeding population now established in many places including Essex.

Other birds seen at the pond today included male and female sparrowhawk, 3 fieldfares, lesser redpoll flying over and a water rail calling.

Walking along the seawall towards the East Mersea Point, it didn't take long to track down the regular flock of 28 snow buntings feeding on the beach. At one point they flew round and landed only about ten metres in front of me, providing me with very good views.

In the river Colne, 5 red-breasted mergansers were noted and a couple of common seals but not much else. On Langenhoe Point a male marsh harrier was seen flying along the seawall. Something spooked masses of lapwing into the air with about 1500 rising up, being joined by 1000 golden plover over the Pyefleet Channel.

Five hundred wigeon were feeding in the grazing fields, some pictured in flight above. Also in the fields were 20 black-tailed godwits, 10 redshank, 2 snipe and a few brent geese.
Not many waders to be seen during the morning as the tide was covering the mud. Fifty turnstone were seen resting on the tops of the wooden posts opposite the park, as the tide came in.

This is the moth trap at first light in the back garden at the country park on Xmas Day morning - empty! The cloudy sky during the night and the still conditions seemed to be worth putting the trap out. However the slight drop in temperature kept the moths away. There was one mottled umber seen nearby and four winter moths near the windows of the house. A late night walk also provided glimpses in the torchlightof two mottled umbers fluttering under the shelter of some trees.

The most unexpected sighting during the midnight walk for Monty the canine companion and myself, was coming across a badger near the car park, opposite the information room. The badger seemed very surprised in the torchlight and quickly sprinted away.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008


Another dull and cloudy day at the country park on Xmas Eve but as usual a walk around the place was brightened up by several interesting bird sightings. This group of alder trees in the picture above, have provided food for a dozen goldfinches. The trees were only planted 5 years ago, putting on some very impressive growth and laden down with cones and catkins. The male sparrowhawk perched up in one tree in the morning, no doubt on the look-out for a finch lunch, and then a female sparrowhawk flew past the hedge in the afternoon. At dusk 25 goldfinches gathered in the car park bushes for their regular night roost.

Offshore the morning high tide provided the highlight of the day with views of a small group of Slavonian grebes for the second day running with at least 4 seen just to the west of the park, opposite the Fen Farm caravan site. A scan of the calm sea also produced 30 great crested grebes and 2 distant eider but not much else. Yesterday there was the notable count of 5 Slavonians in the same area and also 6 red-breasted mergansers.

At the Point 3 snow buntings flew around and settled on the beach to feed. On the return walk along the seawall the regular flock of 28 snow buntings were watched flying unusually from the west, back towards the Point. Also at the Point were the stonechat pair, rock pipit, sanderling and a reasonable count of 110 shelduck on the high tide with a further 24 off the park. The female sparrowhawk was also hunting low across the saltmarsh here in the morning. In the distance a female marsh harrier was seen quartering Langenhoe Point.

Even as night falls, the huge windfarm jacking-up rig, the Excalibur, towers over the grazing fields from its mooring in the river Colne. The flooded areas still attracted at least 500 wigeon, 100 teal, 20 black-tailed godwits and yesterday 34 shoveler were also present. On the pond 2 male pochard were new in, joining the 5 tufted ducks. A hundred curlew were disturbed off a nearby field and passed over the pond. The loud squealing duet of two water rails were heard on Tuesday from the thick reedmace stands around the pond.

An initial view of a peregrine was nearly dismissed until it passed over the grazing fields and sent all the wigeon into a panic. The peregrine kept heading inland and calm soon returned to the area. A kestrel had a very vociferous confrontation with a carrion crow which ended with the kestrel taking refuge in its large nestbox in the nearby oak tree.

A barn owl was seen again early on Tuesday morning hunting over the fields at the west end of Bromans Lane. At nightfall the local male tawny owl was heard near the entrance to the country park. Later in the evening two male tawnies were calling to each other at the Fen Farm caravan site. On Wednesday late afternoon the pair of little owls did a quick duet to each other at Bromans farm.

Received an interesting report from a regular dog-walking couple who had a good view on Saturday 20th of a waxwing sitting on top of a small tree near the car park. The bird apparently perched up for some time so that they could see the crest on the head. Unfortunately the lack of berries around the park meant the waxwing didn't hang around and hasn't been seen again.

Two reports about woodcock include one seen at the end of the November flying out of a ditch near the park entrance and another bird by the cliff-top on Monday 15th December seen by Ian Black.

The relatively mild evenings recently with cloudy skies and lack of wind has brought one or two moths out. The trap was left on near the park's car park during Monday night and checked on Tuesday morning. A small collection of moths were later discovered which made it worthwhile with 2 dark chestnuts, one pictured above, also 6 mottled umbers and 5 winter moths.

There was the very unusual mid-winter sight of a pipistrelle bat hawking around the park entrance on Tuesday as darkness fell. It's obviously mild enough for the bats to avoid hibernating so far but there's never been any bat noted so late into the year here before. Another mammal noted earlier in the day was a weasel darting about on the grass on the edge of the car park.

Sunday, 21 December 2008


There were good numbers of wigeon pictured above, in one of the grazing fields at the country park on Sunday 21st. When the sun came out at various times during the day, it was about 12 degrees but the breeze had a chill in it when it turned cloudy. It ended up being quite a pleasant shortest day of the year.

The wigeon that have spent the last few days in scattered groups locally, were all to be seen together grazing the very flooded field with 600 counted. This tally virtually doubles the biggest flock to be seen on the fields up until now this winter. Around 300 brent geese also joined the wigeon for a short period, although during the afternoon 500 geese were feeding in the nearby wheat field. Twelve black-tailed godwits, one curlew and 20 teal were the only other birds feeding with the wigeon.

The other concentration of ducks locally was on the park pond where about40 shoveler was a good tally here, also the 12 gadwall and 4 tufted duck with the usual mallard. On Saturday there were 45 shoveler, pochard and a roosting little egret in a bush.

At the Point there was the familiar sight of the regular snow bunting flock with 24 birds seen feeding on the beach. As on previous days, the flock soon took to the air and disappeared, presumably to the Point Clear beach. In the river one eider and a red-breasted merganser were noted along with just the one great crested grebe. Six pintail flying into the river was an interesting sight for here.

Waders of note to catch the eye were 1000 golden plover flying west over the park, 12 avocets heading back up river and 15 bar-tailed godwits doing likewise. Various wader flocks could be seen flying around in the distance over the mudflats, these being mainly knot and dunlin.

There was the nice sight of two barn owls still hunting in the early morning over fields by the East Mersea road near Fen Farm. There were two sparrowhawk sightings during the day by the car park, including the colourful male seen perching on the garden fence.

The moth trap operated during Saturday night at the park with little interest other than this mottled umber moth. A typical winter moth with the first one of the season being seen five weeks ago in mid November. The predominantly cloud-free night-sky must've restricted the moth activity, as they prefer it when cloudy. There were about 5 winter moths fluttering around one corner of the car park just after nightfall on Sunday evening.

The only other insect of note in the moth trap was this diving beetle - a relative of the Great diving beetle. Slightly smaller than the Great, this strikingly big beetle pictured above has a yellowish margin only along the edge of the body but not around the thorax. When it toppled itself onto its back, it appeared to have a dark underneath. This I believe is the distinctive feature of Black-bellied great diving beetle - a beetle that's not been recorded here before.

Friday, 19 December 2008


Local birdwatcher Richard Brown has kindly passed to me, one of his photos of a great northern diver that he saw earlier this week from the Hard at West Mersea. There have been at least a couple of great northern divers seen in recent weeks from the Esplanade and Mersea Quarters.

The first half of Friday 19th provided plenty of sunshine, after another eye-catching sun-rise, (pictures further down this page). A walk across the country park to East Mersea Point produced a few interesting sightings. However the view was dominated by a huge structure, used for installing the nearby offshore wind-farm, temporarily resting here in the Colne estuary, pictured below. This massive structure and crane appeared to be similar in height to a 12 storey skyscraper, so certainly very tall.

Any worries about this structure impeding the commute-route of the snow bunting flock crossing the river, were soon dispelled when 28 birds were located on the beach early in the morning. As in recent days they appeared very flighty and readily took to the wing and flew around a few times before settling nervously back down again. Yesterday there were 30 snow buntings present at the Point.

Other small birds at the Point included rock pipit, 4 noisy dunnocks, 3 skylarks, 4 reed buntings and a pied wagtail, while further along the seawall were the stonechat pair.

The only birds in the river seen from the Point were 3 female eiders, a red-breasted merganser and a great crested grebe. Yesterday a common seal was in the river while at high tide in the afternoon, 17 red-breasted mergansers and 2 eiders were offshore from the park.

A barn owl was being mobbed by some carrion crows as it flew along a hedge up from the Golfhouse at about 8.15am. Wildfowl numbers built up during the morning in the grazing fields with 500 brent geese and 250 wigeon seen. At the park pond a water rail called, a little egret nearly stopped off at the pond, while the ducks of interest here amongst the usual mallard, teal, shoveler and gadwall, were a pochard and 3 tufted duck. Two stock doves were seen flying off the grazing fields.

The moth trap was put out at the country park on Thursday night as the weather seemed suitable, for the 58th session of the year. This dark coloured moth pictured above is the aptly named December moth, one of 3 found in the trap. This is quite a common moth with one night's haul 4 weeks ago totalling 11 individuals.The only other moths found were 5 winter moths. All the moths arrived within the first 3 hours of darkness, when the temperature was still about 8 degrees above zero.

Tim Mendham reported seeing 2 red admirals flying around near the Victory Pub in West Mersea on Tuesday, which is unusual sighting for December.

The sun rising above the sea, south-east of the country park at 8am this morning.

The tide was on its way out and masses of waders were arriving in their hundreds all the time. Dunlin and knot were the most numerous although a large flock of 1000 golden plover passed overhead. Five bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point, while various small groups of black-tailed godwits fed on both sides of the river Colne. On the mud by Brightlingsea were 25 avocets.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


After some recent dull days, the sun shone all day on Wednesday 17th. The highlight of a walk to the Point at East Mersea was finding this very tame snow bunting pictured above. It was happy to try and blend in with the shingly surroundings along the beach, rather than fly away when I walked past it. It allowed me to get within a couple of metres of it and I was able to see it eating the seeds off some stalks of grass.

Having thought this was the only snow bunting around, I was pleasantly surprised to see the main flock of 28 birds take off from the beach further round the Point. They called out as they flew away, sadly heading east across the river to the beach at Point Clear. Over the last fortnight, this flock has regularly commuted betwen the beaches on either side of the river Colne.

This giant structure in the picture above, used for installing offshore wind-turbines has been dominating the Colne estuary in recent days. Even a common seal seemed to be trying to get a closer look at it. Two female common eiders were feeding in the river with a couple of gulls close-by ready to pounce on any food items brought back to the surface. One red-breasted merganser and a great crested grebe were also seen.

On the mud the usual 800+ golden plovers roosting in two groups either side of the Point. On the Brightlingsea side of the river were 24 avocets feeding along the water's edge. A group of 220 brent geese were grazing algae on the mud near the Point, only one youngster in this group.

On the grazing fields there was a varied but small number of waders and wildfowl, although the majority of wigeon were resting or feeding on nearby saltings and mudflats. Two snipe, black-tailed godwit, curlew, redshank and 30 brent geese were noted in the mid-morning. Also in the area, 2 stonechat, rock pipit, 2 reed bunting and 30 goldfinches seen.

At the park pond 12 gadwall as always fed in the open water amongst the usual mallard, shoveler, teal and 3 tufted ducks. On Tuesday there were 5 tufted ducks and a pochard here.
A male sparrowhawk dropped onto a pool of water near the pond for a drink, while later a kestrel was seen bathing in a puddle in the car park.

At the end of the day 5 winter moths were seen just after dark in the car headlights in the car park area with a further 5 along Bromans Lane, despite the temperature being only 2 degrees above.

Martin Cock saw the great northern diver and a Mediterranean gull from the Esplanade at West Mersea today. Yesterday he noted two short-eared owls in the long-grass fields at Rewsalls Marshes by Coopers Beach.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


It was another sunny but chilly day at the country park on Wednesday 10th. As in recent days there was a good selection of waders and wildfowl enjoying the flooded fields, pictured above. In one corner 300 wigeon whistled as they grazed with a few brent geese for company too.

A confiding group of 25 black-tailed godwits probed the waterlogged pasture, as did a few redshank and some curlew. A dozen snipe took rapidly to the air when I had to enter the fields. They would've stayed concealed amongst the grass tussocks if they had stayed still.
During a quick glance to the east side of the fields, the large distinctive shape of a female marsh harrier was flying along the seawall.

Having to take a colleague passed the park pond, unfortunately disturbed masses of ducks which took to the air. Usually the ducks don't get disturbed at this pond and they are allowed to feed or rest in peace. However it was very impressive seeing huge numbers flying off with about 250 ducks of several species. Normally from the hide, many ducks stay hidden in the reeds but on this occasion everything revealed itself, in several large bursts of dispersal.

Most of the ducks were mallard with over 100 seen with 100 teal, 40 shoveler, 10 gadwall and a few tufted duck. The mute swans, coots, moorhens and little grebes stayed put.
On Tuesday a water rail was heard squealing from the edge of the pond.

There has been more barn owl activity over the park in recent daylight hours both early morning and late afternoon. On Monday morning a barn owl flew across the park entrance as the park opened at 8am. Later in the afternoon at about 3pm, a barn owl flew back over the same area, followed by a second owl. There was the nice but brief sight of both barn owls hunting in parallel over two different grass fields on either side of a hedgeline near the pond. I can't remember seeing two barn owls together over the park before. The following afternoon on Tuesday, a barn owl was seen hunting over the main part of the park, in the last half-hour of daylight.

Martin Cock saw two snow buntings on the beach at East Mersea Point on Tuesday.

Just at sun-rise on Monday morning two big flocks of cormorants crossed south-east over the Island, with about 150 birds heading out to sea from their night roost at Abberton reservoir.

There was a report of a woodcock being seen over the park about a fortnight ago, sometime in late November - the only report I've heard, of one on the Island so far this winter.

Sunday, 7 December 2008


The clear overnight sky provided a memorable sunrise over the sea to the south-east of the country park at about 8am on Sunday 7th. For a short spell in the middle of winter, depending on cloud cover, the sun can be admired rising above the sea, even more so if it coincides with a high tide. At other times of the year, it's not so impressive when it rises over the land. The lack of wind meant the sea was flat and calm but it was also very chilly. The tide was just starting to uncover the mud and many waders and brent geese were busy feeding close-in.

Five hundred brent geese were taking the opportunity of the lack of humans walking along the beach, to tuck into the mass of algae on the mudflats close-in. Amongst the usual waders arriving in their droves were 20 sanderling feeding with some dunlin.

Out on the sea from the park were higher numbers of grebes than of late with at least 100 great crested grebes counted as far as the eye could see. No doubt more would've been seen further to the west. Scanning the sea revealed 4 slighter smaller, Slavonian grebes feeding closer-in than the other grebes. Normally only one or two Slavonians are seen from the park, on one or two days during the winter, so this is quite a good count for the park.

The hard frost could be seen all round the park, covering all sorts of surfaces and many puddles stayed frozen for most of the morning. Some parts of the park that remained in the shade all day, stayed frosty.

Before I had reached the Point, I could see a big flock of snow buntings flying away from the beach, having been disturbed by a yacht mooring close to the beach. The flock flew across the river Colne to Point Clear. After a while, the flock was located using the telescope as it fed on the Point Clear beach - in the clear conditions a distance of half a mile (3/4 km).

The 28 birds then took off and came back to East Mersea Point, circling round 2 or 3 times before settling down to feed amongst the strandline seaweed. Members of the Essex Wildlife Trust group from Havering in south Essex were rewarded with great views of a flock of 36 snow buntings here at the Point on Saturday - the largest count so far this winter here.

Before the peace was disturbed by a water skier, 4 eider were seen feeding up-river and also 10 red-breasted mergansers and about 10 more great crested grebes. On the nearby mudflats 95 avocets were roosting opposite Ivy Dock, while a big flock of 700+ knot were feeding south-west of the Point. The usual good variety of waders seen with 15 species noted during the early morning walk to the Point. A common seal was seen in the outer part of the river.

Three foxes were seen snoozing in the morning sunshine, sheltering beside some bushes near the park pond, seemed an uncommon sight. Two foxes were snuggled up together in the long grass and had been seen doing some mutual preening, while the third fox was only 5 metres away.

In bushes around the pond, were small numbers of greenfinches, blackbirds, 5 jays, great spotted woodpecker and 12 goldfinches feeding in some alder trees. A snipe was seen on a boggy section of the field. The previous day there was a very colourful male sparrowhawk which perched briefly on a fencepost near the pond. Also on Saturday, 3 tufted duck, grey heron, 8 gadwall, little grebe, mallard, teal present as well as a weasel in front of the hide.

The frost on the grazing fields thawed out during the morning, although these mute swans pictured above had to admire their reflection through a layer of ice. In the fields 300 brent geese and 200 wigeon could be seen grazing but not many waders other than a few lapwing and curlew. The regular pair of stonechats were still along the seawall but the sight of 13 long-tailed tits passing low along the wall seemed adventurous for them, although 2 goldcrests turned back. Twenty meadow pipits and pied wagtail pair were seen in the fields.

Martin Cock saw our familiar friend of recent winters, a single bar-tailed godwit in full summer ginger plumage amongst 40 other bar-tails in normal pale plumage, opposite the Youth Camp. Also a rock pipit noted along too on his Sunday walk here.

The last wildlife of the day were 4 winter moths fluttering in the car headlights, just outside the park along Bromans Lane, shortly after dark with the temperature already down to just 2 degrees above zero.

Friday, 5 December 2008


It was a bright but chilly start to Friday 5th with the sun shining across the river Colne just after dawn, as pictured above from East Mersea Point. Despite the calm waters of the river, there wasn't much to see except a few great crested grebes and a common seal. Three red-breasted mergansers flew into the river as the tide receded, although a short while later another four flew back out past the Point.

The was no sign on the beach here of any snow buntings which have been present in varying numbers, on and off over the last week or so. In the sea-blite bushes a group of 6 reed buntings were noted. Waders noted included one sanderling, 24 avocets and a couple of golden plover roosts totalling about 700 birds.

There was still a cold mist hanging low over this frost-pocket area around the park pond first thing on Friday. It soon cleared and later in the afternoon 3 little egrets were seen perched in some bushes overhanging the pond while nearby a grey heron was seen walking across the field. At the end of the day there was the unexpected sight when closing the park, of this young grey heron standing in the middle of Bromans Lane in the near darkness. It slowly wandered off towards some bushes, probably waiting to check out some nearby ditches.

Tucked inside the copse behind the pond, the sunshine highlighted the red coat of a fox settling down for a nap.

In the grazing fields 25 black-tailed godwits and a dozen or so redshank fed around the flooded areas and a group of 12 snipe were seen circling above the fields before dropping down. Once the frost had thawed, 200 wigeon were seen in one of the fields, although there were still a few feeding on the nearby saltmarshes. In the dyke 6 little grebes were noted and the pair of stonechats were still present along the seawall. There have been small groups of brent geese scattered around the coast although the last flock to feed in the fields was about 400 on Tuesday.

A sparrowhawk came across the river Colne and over the saltmarsh on the Point, before scattering many of the birds on the fields. A short while later a merlin flashed over the middle of the main part of the park from the west and it too, headed across the grazing fields creating a little bit of panic ahead of it. As in recent days there has been a kestrel regularly perching up in trees around the park.

Even with several recent frosty nights, this winter moth was found on a lighted window at the country park on Thursday night. A few winter moths were seen last week and no doubt a few more will still be seen in the days ahead, probably in the car headlights on a milder winter's night.

There was the nice view for about five minutes of a barn owl hunting over the grass fields on the north side of the park, an hour before darkness fell on Thursday night. The Bromans Lane tawny owl called at dusk as did the little owl from the nearby Cosways caravan site.

There was the nice sight of 28 snow buntings feeding on the beach at the Point on Thursday afternoon. Several times the birds rose into the air, their white wing-panels flickering as they flew around before settling back down again. Local birdwatcher Richard Brown sent me this picture of one of the obliging snow buntings that he managed to photograph last Sunday. Other local birds that he has photographed can be seen at -;

Also on Thursday there were good numbers of waders beside the Point as the tide came in with about 2000 dunlin and 200 knot, 300 golden plover as well as redshank and grey plovers. On the grazing fields 65 black-tailed godwits and 25 redshank were seen feeding, as were the 200 wigeon. The "charm" of 50 goldfinches were still present in one of the fields.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008


The country park at East Mersea was coated in frost at the start of Wednesday 3rd. Everywhere was coated with ice particles such as this late-fruiting blackberry. The clouds returned shortly after sunrise which meant the frost stayed around until the middle of the day.

This little gorse bush near the car park always adds a bit of colour with its bright yellow flowers to the dull winter days. A female sparrowhawk weaved in and out of some of the bushes and trees in the car park, sending some of the small birds diving for cover. It even had a half-hearted lunge after a rabbit which was scampering back to the safety of nearby bushes. A fieldfare could be heard calling from Bromans Lane and there was a single redwing noted in the park.

All sorts of interesting patterns were being traced by the frost, such as the venation showing up on this hornbeam leaf as it lay on the ground.

Despite the south-facing beach and the shelter of the nearby cliff, the frost formed on many objects along the beach here too including the many clumps of seaweed, pictured above and below.

At low tide during the morning, a group of 200 knot fed on the mud quite close in to the beach, while in the distance a group of 15 avocets could just be made out. There were hundreds of other waders that were mainly a mix of dunlin and knot.

In the afternoon the sun managed to thaw out all the frost although some ice remained on various puddles, pools and ponds around the park. In these two pictures taken just to the west of the park, the sun is slipping down beside the distinctive "twin-towers" of Bradwell nuclear power station.

On the calm sea at high tide, there was a group of 150 wigeon resting on the water, opposite the park grazing fields.

All the duck activity at the park pond had managed to keep most of the water free from freezing over. A lot of ducks were hiding amongst the stands of reedmace but there appeared to be about 100 wildfowl present at dusk. Most were mallard but quite a few teal and shoveler present with 8 gadwall, 3 tufted ducks and a pair of wigeon. A grey heron rested on a low branch, while the usual little grebes, mute swans, coots were noted and moorhens flew onto the waterside bushes to roost.

The distinctive squealing sound of a water rail was heard shortly before dusk. Water rails regularly winter by the pond but so far this one hasn't shown itself since it was first heard about a month ago. A kestrel flew passed the pond and landed in an owl nest-box in an oak tree at the rear of the grazing fields. It appeared to be using this box for it's night-time roost. As the light faded a fox was seen crossing the field to the north of the pond.

The regular Bromans Lane tawny owl was seen again in the car headlights in the first part of the evening, perched on a low branch by the Lane.

On Tuesday Roy Bloomfield saw 2 snow buntings at East Mersea Point, while earlier in the day a lesser redpoll flew over the park calling.

Monday, 1 December 2008


The picture doesn't show how chilly the wind was blowing along the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 1st. Luckily the showers that had been forecasted never materialised, so it was great to see the blue sky again after recent grey days. Visibility was good looking away from the sun but it was a challenge keeping the telescope steady in the strong wind.

Managed to cover 2.5 kms of the Reeveshall seawall along to the Maydays section and then back again to Shop Lane, in which time the tide had covered all of the Pyefleet mud. The main waders on show were dunlin, grey plover and redshank, while several large groups of oystercatchers headed east to roost. Rat Island and especially Langenhoe Point held the largest concentrations of waders at high tide, with the latter holding about 2000 birds of various wader species. Twenty avocets were seen feeding in the Pyefleet, one snipe flew off the saltmarsh while a green sandpiper flew out of a Reeveshall ditch.

In the Pyefleet, 200 shelduck, 10 red-breasted mergansers, 4 great crested grebes, plus several hundred wigeon loafing along the edge at the western end, pictured in the middle distance in the picture below.

This picture is taken at the corner of the Maydays seawall looking westwards as the tide comes in. A common seal was seen in the water near here, one of the regular sites for the seals. No sign of the dozen twite that have been seen recently along this section of the seawall. The only small birds noted were 12 goldfinches, 3 pairs of stonechats, 2 rock pipits, 15 skylarks and a large flock of about 70 corn buntings which perched up on a Maydays bush.

Marsh harriers were constantly seen both over Reeveshall and on the Langenhoe area. At least two female / immatures hunted over the the former areas with a further 4 birds seen during the walk over the latter area of Langenhoe. Other than a couple of kestrels the only other bird of prey noted was a common buzzard flying low over Langenhoe, which at one point had a tussle with two of the harriers.

On Reeveshall 50 brent geese including 3 youngsters, fed in the grass field, while 200 golden plover roosted in another. There were also 25 stock doves, a few curlew and lapwings seen in the fields too. Four little egrets were either sheltering from the cold wind by the seawall or finding rich pickings by stalking the water-filled ditches.

At the beginning of the day a barn owl was the first bird of the day to be noted, swooping past the entrance gates as I opened the country park at 8am. The owl first headed to the area of long grass behind the car park, before heading swiftly over the big arable field to the west towards Fen Farm.

Richard Brown had good views of 17 snow buntings back at East Mersea Point early on Monday afternoon.

One of the plants that has been catching my eye in recent days along Bromans Lane in East Mersea, has been this cow parsley in flower. Normally seen in flower during the spring and early summer, this just seems to show how topsy-turvy the seasons are!