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.

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