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.

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