Saturday, 31 January 2009
There weren't many waders in the fields during the morning with 25 lapwing, 10 curlew and 20 black-tailed godwit including the colour-ringed bird for the second day. Twenty goldfinches and at least 3 skylarks were also noted. No birds of note seen from the Point although there had been a snow bunting the previous day.
On the park pond there was the usual selection of ducks with 8 tufted duck, 25 shoveler, 4 gadwall and 50 mallard. Also present were the resident mute swan pair, coots and about 25 moorhens feeding in the nearby field.
A quick walk to the far corner of the park at Ivy Dock proved worthwhile as a distant scan of Langenhoe Point revealed a ringtail hen harrier flying around with a male and a female marsh harrier. The ringtail flew around the reedbed lagoon for several minutes and had a short tussle with the male marsh harrier, before it disappeared from view. Hen harriers sightings this winter from the Island have been virtually non-existent, although there have been one or two sightings on the nearby mainland.
Martin Cock saw from the Maydays Farm seawall at least 6 marsh harriers over Langenhoe and also a barn owl at Maydays. A birdwatcher visiting the country park reported seeing a woodcock flying away from the cliff-top woodland. David Nicholls and his wife enjoyed the rare sight of a spoonbill flying east over RayIsland, as it headed towards the Strood and the Pyefleet. Andy Field saw the Mediterranean gull and an eider off West Mersea.
Ian Black reported that the shag found dead a few weeks ago at West Mersea, had been ringed on the Isle of May off the east coast of Scotland. He passed on a report from Clive Pickering who had seen 5 shags in the Mersea Quarters as well as the great northern diver. Clive also witnessed the large feeding flock of 300+ cormorants feeding on the sprats at the mouth of the Blackwater.
It wasn't surprising to see frost covering some parts of the park first thing in the morning. It was definitely a day to keep wrapped up and keep moving.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
There was the usual big number of about 500 wigeon grazing in the fields, although feeding in several different corners of the fields. The main group of waders around the main flooded area were 55 curlew, most waiting for the afternoon high tide to recede. Fifty lapwing rose into the air and then settled back down again a short while later.
At the park pond there seemed a lot of duck activity especially amongst the 34 shoveler, along with 10 tufted duck, 70 mallard and 6 gadwall. A sparrowhawk flew high past the pond attracting the attention of the local crows.
As the sun dropped down in the late afternoon, the temperature dropped rapidly too. No snow buntings could be found at the Point although Tim Mendham reported seeing 19 yesterday. The tide was just uncovering the mud and there was already a good gathering of a variety of waders such as knot, dunlin, grey plover, redshank, black-tailed godwit, turnstone and oystercatcher.
Other bird news from other birdwatchers in the last few days include one of the resident short-eared owls seen again at Rewsalls Marshes on Thursday by Andrew Thompson and a film crew. The film crew tried to film the owls on the day before but none were seen in the drizzle. Two owls were seen here on Tuesday by Richard Allen along with a peregrine and a good count of 350 great crested grebes offshore. Michael Thorley saw 2 velvet scoter off Seaview Avenue, West Mersea on Wednesday, while on Monday 5 red-throated divers and a great northern diver was seen here by Peter Triston.
At East Mersea Point there were 24 snow buntings and a Slavonian grebe seen on Tuesday by Stuart Gorman. Martin Cock on his walk along the Pyefleet saw a buzzard and peregrine over Langenhoe and a green sandpiper over Maydays on Tuesday. Martin caught up with the wintering curlew sandpiper just after the high tide at East Mersea Point on Monday.
Monday, 26 January 2009
Five Slavonian grebes were seen off shore slightly to the west of the park, while further out a red-throated diver was noted, a species surprisingly absent here until now this winter. Scattered across the water were up to 25 great crested grebes and on the horizon a big gathering of 200 cormorants probably feeding on sprats. A common seal swam eastwards into the river Colne.
High above the grazing fields 2 peregrines tussled with each other as they flew east over the river. In the park grazing fields there was a sizeable flock of 350 black-tailed godwits feeding around the vast lagoon. This very waterlogged area was also where 50 curlew, 10 redshank and 500 wigeon were feeding too.
At the park pond a pale male sparrowhawk perched on a fencepost surveying the surroundings and even watched with interest the regular well marked male sparrowhawk fly close-by. Nine tufted duck were the main ducks of note here along with small numbers of mallard, gadwall, shoveler and wigeon.
At the beginning of the day there was a nice view of a barn owl still hunting the fields beside Bromans Lane. In the afternoon a male marsh harrier was seen flying across the Pyefleet Channel onto the Island as I drove off the Island.
A visiting birder from south Essex had a rewarding visit to East Mersea reporting some of the birds mentioned above but also 4 snow buntings, spotted redshank, curlew sandpiper at the Point, while also seeing 2 short-eared owls at Rewsalls Marshes, as did Michael Thorley. Martin Cock saw the great northern diver and the Mediterranean gull from the Esplanade at West Mersea today.
Sunday, 25 January 2009
This poor harvest mouse in the picture above was still warm having just been caught by a weasel on the seawall at the country park on a dull and wet Sunday afternoon. The weasel was crossing the path just 10 metres in front, carrying the mouse but dropped it as it hurried away. At first sight the small animal was more the size of a shrew than a mouse and the warm orangey-brown coat, wasn't like the usual wood mice of the area. The long tail is a particular feature of harvest mice as they use it as another limb for gripping grass stalks.
Harvest mice numbers in the country have declined in recent years but rather conversely, a small population in the last 5 years have been discovered in the country park. Several nests of woven grass balls were found along a hedge by the park pond in 2004 and 2005 which was the first evidence that this elusive small mammal was present at the park.
One of the park fields is looking like a real water meadow with a large area now covered by water. All of the waders and wildfowl were busy feeding in the less wet field, nearer the Golfhouse, where the path pictured above, provided closer views of 600 wigeon, 150 black-tailed godwits, 10 redshank, 20 lapwing, 50 teal, 20 curlew and 25 goldfinches. There was the regular male stonechat by this path and overhead 5 snipe flew off the nearby saltmarsh.
At East Mersea Point 6 snow buntings flew around the beach a few times calling. In the river Colne around 500 gulls flew up and down one section where there was presumably a shoal of sprats for them to feed on. Three male red-breasted mergansers were the only other birds seen in the river from the Point.
The usual variety of 10 species of wader could be seen on the nearby mudflats with 300 knot and 5 bar-tailed godwits of note as well as a gathering of 150 oystercatchers. On the park pond the numbers of tufted ducks have built up to 10 birds.
The strong winds have whipped up lots of seaweed and other items onto the beach, including this surprisingly large pile of old egg-masses from the common whelks. It's usually quite easy to find one or two of these dried-out spongy egg-masses lying washed up along the strandline but not a whole heap of them.
As the park was being closed up as darkness fell, the dark silhouette of the Bromans Lane tawny owl was seen swooping around the trees at the entrance, perching up in a tree nearby. I slowly walked closer to the tree, knowing that the owl was watching me and was surprised it allowed me to walk past close-by, before it flew away.
Saturday, 24 January 2009
The tide was still heading out and there was the usual mixture of waders seen from the beach including curlew, redshank, bar-tailed godwit, grey plover, dunlin, oystercatcher and turnstone. There were probably several other species present too but the light was fading fast and most of the waders were some distance away.
It wasn't ideal time of the day or state of the tide for seeing any birds on the river although one eider was seen along with the regular small group of brent geese around Cobmarsh Island. Several hundred gulls were gathering on the water for their night-roost.
Andy Field found a guillemot on the sea from the Esplanade and also 2 great northern divers too. Martin Cock ventured out in a boat and reported seeing 2 red-throated divers a good distance south of East Mersea. Heading back into West Mersea he noted great northern diver, shag, 3 eiders and 20 little grebes amongst the boats. Adrian Kettle visited East Mersea today and saw a long-tailed duck in the Colne, also the curlew sandpiper and 2 snow buntings at the Point. One short-eared owl showed well for him at Rewsalls Marsh by Coopers Beach.
Various birders from different parts of Essex have been visiting East Mersea over the last week to try and see the short-eared owls at Rewsalls Marshes. Three birds were seen by RichardBrown on Monday with two seen by Andrew Thompson on Wednesday and one bird reported on Sunday 18th. Other birds seen at Rewsalls included an immature male merlin, 2 Slavonian grebes seen by Sean Minns and 12 bar-tailed godwits on Wednesday with a curlew sandpiper being seen by Sean at East Mersea Point on the same day. David Nicholls counted 8 snow buntings at the Point during the week.
Andy Field and Richard Hull visited Langenhoe on Sunday 18th and noted ringtail hen harrier, 2 common buzzards, 7 marsh harriers, barn owl, little owl, 3 green sandpipers and 5 stonechats.
Saturday, 17 January 2009
During the afternoon high tide, at least 70 black-tailed godwits, 15 redshank and a few curlew fed on the wetter areas. In the drier of the grazing fields 60 lapwing, 3 golden plover, 25 goldfinches and 4 stock doves were noted. A sparrowhawk scattered a lot of birds as it flew along the back of the fields in the morning, while a kestrel passing over in the afternoon also spooked a few birds too.
The Colne estuary birds seem to be getting used to this huge jacking-up barge in the river. In the foreground of this picture are 6 snow buntings feeding on the shingle beach, although too small to show up in the photo. The birds were seen at several points on the beach and at the East Mersea Point, where they fed close to some of the 50 turnstones in the area. Twelve red-breasted mergansers flew rapidly past the big barge as they headed out of the river. The male stonechat was seen amongst the sea-blite bushes at the Point.
There was a good gathering of waders on the last bit of mud near the Point with 2000 dunlin the main sight, along with 100 grey plover, 100 knot and a handful of ringed plover.
Friday, 16 January 2009
On a brief walk round the park in the afternoon coinciding with a high tide, the only waders seen were on the grazing fields. Twenty four black-tailed godwits fed in a group while dotted around the big flooded pool were six redshank. In the second field up to 50 lapwings were gathered while the 200+ wigeon had been feeding on the fields but got spooked off. A pair of stock doves sat up in the usual oak tree at the back of the fields.
The flock of 300 brent geese circled around the big wheat field on the west side of the park but didn't stay around. A redwing and 2 song thrushes have joined the 12 or so blackbirds feeding in the area of the car park.
On Tuesday the barn owl was seen early in the morning around Bromans Lane both perched on a fence and then a short while later hunting over nearby long grass. Martin Cock and Mick Brewer saw the 3 snow buntings on the beach near the park. Later at Rewsalls they saw the short-eared owl, little owl, 140 great crested grebes and a Slavonian grebe. At Maydays there were views of 6 corn buntings but few other small birds and one of the usual marsh harriers.
Sunday, 11 January 2009
At the start of the day a corn bunting was noted on a bush alongside the East Mersea road and in the Cudmore Grove car park a sparrowhawk passed over.
Most of the country park pond was still frozen although six species of duck gathered in and around the section not covered with ice. Of the 70 or so ducks present, most were mallard with a few shoveler, teal, gadwall, wigeon and one tufted duck, along with several coot and a little grebe.
A water rail was seen briefly on a couple of occasions scuttling across the corner of the nearby grazing field.
As we walked beside the hedgeline bordering the grazing field, a woodcock flew rapidly away towards the opposite side of the field, dropping down out of sight. Later on the walk, one of the members reported that the woodcock was seen again in the same area in flight. The few other birds seen on the grazing fields included at least 11 snipe feeding out in the open, 24 curlew, a few golden plover, black-tailed godwit, 5 meadow pipits and a small flock of goldfinches. There was the brief view of a sparrowhawk along the back of the fields and one fox was seen sprinting across two fields. One of the nearby pastures at Ivy Farm had a few more birds in it with at least 6 snipe, 20 golden plover, green woodpecker, fieldfare and 30 starlings.
Along the seawall the group had very good views of 3 snow buntings feeding on the beach closest to the main park. This group of buntings which appears to comprise one male and two females, has been frequenting this area for nearly a week, happily feeding on seeds amongst the grass and the strandline. Whilst walking the seawall we had views of rock pipit, stonechat, 10 skylarks and a few reed buntings.
The high tide meant there were no big flocks of waders feeding out on the mudflats, although a good variety were seen either in flight or dotted along the saltmarshes. Turnstones fed along the beach as did some ringed plovers, whilst redshank, dunlin, knot, grey plover and black-tailed godwit were seen in various small groups on the saltmarsh. On Langenhoe Point lots more waders roosted mainly oystercatchers and a few godwits. One striking ginger-coloured summer plumaged bar-tailed godwit flew around the Pyefleet.
This lagoon along the Pyefleet beside the Oyster Fishery had 3 little grebes feeding in it presumably because it hadn't frozen. Five turnstones fed nearby on a big heap of discarded oyster shells. There was a good number of shelduck seen between East Mersea Point and the Fishery with about 200 birds noted. Several red- breasted mergansers were seen both in the Colne and in the Pyefleet but only a handful of great crested grebes. One grey heron was noted in the Pyefleet although the only little egrets seen were in the distance.
Next to Pewit Island in the Pyefleet was a big group of about 1000 wildfowl, mainly shelduck and wigeon, however 2 or 3 drake pintail were of note amongst the wigeon. In the middle of the Pyefleet at least four goldeneye could be seen in the distance with a group of other ducks that looked like gadwall. In the Colne there was another group of 18 gadwall seen later, in the middle of the river. Over the Langenhoe Point, two marsh harriers were seen quartering the reedbed.
As the tide receded more waders appeared with a couple of avocet flocks totalling about 50 birds flying down the Colne or into the Pyefleet. Several hundred dunlin were also seen heading along the Pyefleet. The main flock of brent geese in the Colne seemed to be feeding in a field on the east side near Brightlingsea. A couple of hundred brent also fed in the wheat field to the west of the park.
An attempt was made towards the end of the afternoon to watch short-eared owls on the Rewsalls Marshes in East Mersea. Sadly no owls appeared in the last hour up until the sun set. Needless to say after the visiting birders had decided to head home, a barn owl appeared over one of the fields to the west. I walked along the seawall and was rewarded with some close views of the owl flying low over the grass field. Also of interest a short-eared owl was glimpsed briefly on about four occasions including one binocular view with both owls seen in close proximity at the same time. Also seen was a female sparrowhawk hunting late in the day along the back of the fields.
Offshore the outgoing tide allowed lots more views of waders on the mud with 10 sanderling seen close in while to the east, at least 1000 golden plover were noted on the mud. Feeding on one of the pastures were 150 brent geese.
Andy Field visited Reeveshall and noted 10 corn buntings by the pool, also one or two pintail seen in the Pyefleet. From West Mersea at the entrance to the Mersea Quarters, 4 eider and a shag were noted.
Nick Reynolds reported having a very good view of a woodcock that he saw from his house on Saturday in Meeting Lane, East Mersea. Woodcock are rarely seen on the ground but he was able to see it resting and moving about in his copse by the house.
The walk alongside the Strood seawall during late morning on Saturday 10th coincided with high tide. This group of brent geese pictured above, were feeding amongst the saltmarsh close to the path. No mud was on show although some waders continued to feed in the saltings like the redshank, curlew and grey plover. A few of the other waders like ringed plover, black-tailed godwit, turnstone, oystercatcher and dunlin were seen in small numbers.
The Strood Channel was rather devoid of birds with only a dozen little grebes seen in the open water. A mixture of wildfowl and waders were gathered on Ray Island during the high tide with the numbers only obvious when a marsh harrier passed overhead , scattering all the birds.
The most notable wader seen on the walk was a woodcock flushed from a ditch beside a field adjacent to the seawall. This thick-set and rich-brown coloured bird rose rapidly from the ditch and flew quickly away for about 300 metres before dropping down beside the only tree for some distance around.
It was still very cold and frozen in many places so not many other birds seen. Three meadow pipits, 3 reed buntings kestrel and a stonechat were present along the hedgerows, while 4 golden plover dropped onto one of the grass fields.
The combination of fog and freezing temperatures had left many bushes and plants coated with thick frost such as this frozen reed-head. Likewise the old seed-head of the Alexanders plant pictured below was similiarly coated with hoar frost.
Andy Field visited the Strood fields in the afternoon but saw no woodcock although a snipe flew from the same ditch instead. Three corn buntings were also noted in the area while along the channel there were quite a few knot.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
The regular barn owl was seen hunting fields around the Bromans Lane area at dawn and a little owl swooped and perched up alongside the lane.
There was a small group of 10 blackbirds, feeding under the oak trees on the clifftop along with a redwing and a song thrush. There was no sign of any woodcock amongst the leaf litter though. A small flock of long-tailed tits foraged through the trees as did a single goldcrest.
The only section of the dyke not frozen was this small pool where wigeon gathered for a drink and a bathe, while 4 little grebes squeezed into the congested space too.
From the nearby Point there was no sign of any snow buntings on the Monday although 3 snow buntings were present on the west end of the beach nearer the park on Tuesday and Wednesday. On the mudflats north towards Ivy Dock 130 shelduck were seen but few other waders at the low tide. In the river 10 red-breasted mergansers were seen on the Monday.
The grazing fields have stayed frozen for the three days but the 300 wigeon have grazed the eastern end of the fields with 25 goldfinches close-by. Three snipe were seen in one of the fields amongst the tussocks of grass.
The park pond hasn't frozen completely over and various ducks mainly mallard have stood around on the ice beside the pool of open water. A few birds were noted on Tuesday in this area while doing some work close-by, including a brief view of a water rail along the back ditch, snipe flying over and a fieldfare calling overhead.
The waterfowl got very agitated in the middle of the afternoon when a fox appeared and started strolling across the ice. The fox did the same thing on Wednesday at dusk, taking a short cut around the inner edge of the pond and marking his territory at intervals along the frozen stands of reedmace.
Also at dusk there was the distinctive dark silhouette of a woodcock flying away from the park entrance as I walked over to close the gates. The bird appeared to drop down in the nearby grass field by the pond, but it was too dark to try and relocate it. The familiar outline of a little owl perched on a telegraph post alongside the car park, staring down at me as I walked past it.
Saturday, 3 January 2009
Along the tree plantation along the cliff-top, there was the nice unexpected sight of a woodcock flying away from the tree cover, just as I walked along the nearby path. The bird may've been feeding in the unfrozen leaf litter under the trees and once it took off, it headed round to the south-east corner of the park. Then just before dusk, the woodcock was seen again coming back into the park, presumably for another night's feeding.
The 27 snow buntings were seen at various times throughout the day in their favoured site of recent days, on the beach by the west end of the seawall and sometimes on the nearby grazing fields.
A quick scan of the high tide as the light faded revealed a big increase in red-breasted mergansers offshore with 50 being counted - the biggest count here for a number of winters. Many birds appeared to have just flown out of the river Colne and were sleeping offshore from the park.
There was the nice sight of a pair of stonechats in the rough weedy field just to the west of the park. During the day there were 3 sparrowhawk sightings, including two of birds heading to the clifftop trees late in the day.
Martin Cock saw the short-eared owl flying over the Rewsalls marshes during the day as well as a snipe that took off from nearby and then made a short flight into the field without calling - behaviour recalling a jack snipe.
Thursday, 1 January 2009
Met up with Andy Field at the crack of dawn on New Years Day at the country park, with the intention of seeing as many different species of birds as possible on the Island in one day. Various sites were visited during the day including Reeveshall pictured above and although the weather stayed cold and cloudy, the lack of wind was a bonus.
A tally was kept during the day of when and where the various species were seen -
07.45 - East Mersea road near pub - barn owl, blackbird;
08.00 - Country park - wren, robin, redwing, jay and goldcrest (heard only);
08.15 - Country park - stock dove, wood pigeon, carrion crow, blue tit, great tit, magpie, chaffinch, goldfinch, pheasant, moorhen;
08.30 - Park pond - mute swan, wigeon, teal, mallard, shoveler, tufted duck, coot, black-headed gull, lapwing, dunnock, song thrush, sparrowhawk,water rail (heard only), with mistle thrush and jackdaw seen to the north;
09.15 - Seawall corner vantage point - great crested grebe, little egret, brent goose, shelduck, eider, oystercatcher, golden plover, grey plover, knot, dunlin, black-tailed godwit, curlew, redshank, common gull, herring gull, great black-backed gull, snow bunting;
09.45 - Park fields and dyke - snipe, reed bunting, stonechat, little grebe, skylark;
10.00 - East Mersea Point - avocet, bar-tailed godwit, ringed plover, red-breasted merganser; (A second eider, an adult male seen in Colne also 2 common seals).
10.45 - Golfhouse and Ivy Farm - collared dove, lesser black-backed gull, meadow pipit, rock pipit, starling, great spotted woodpecker;
11.00 - Oyster Fishery - cormorant, grey heron, kestrel, marsh harrier, green woodpecker, long-tailed tit;
11.15 - Pyefleet - goldeneye, turnstone;
11.30 - Reeveshall - fieldfare;
13.00 - East Mersea rd near North Farm - greenfinch;
13.15 - Park pond - gadwall;
14.00 - Rewsalls marshes - short-eared owl; (Two owls seen briefly together )
Mid afternoon visit to Maydays farm with kind permission of David Sunnocks provided views of a number of small buntings and finches. A second barn owl, marsh harrier and a common seal were also noted in the limited time here.
14.30 - Haycocks Lane and Maydays farm- house sparrow, pied wagtail, linnet, yellowhammer, corn bunting;
15.00 - Dawes Lane - Rook;
The last site visited was the West Mersea beach, here at Kingsland Road pictured above, as the light started to fade. Unfortunately we missed adding 4 Slavonian grebes and a Mediterranean gull that had been seen earlier in the day by Martin Cock and Steve Entwistle.
15.30 - Offshore - great northern diver and on Cobmarsh Island, sanderling noted.
16.45 - Country park at dusk - tawny owl heard calling briefly near Bromans Lane.
The final tally for the day was a very respectable 82 species seen with a further 3 heard only. The target suggested at the beginning of the day was 80 so it was very satisfying to have passed this. This is the first time a New Year's Day bird-race has taken place, so there is now a target for someone else to beat next year.
First moths noted in this new year were 7 winter moths in the country park in the early evening.