Saturday, 9 May 2009


One of the wood sandpipers disappeared during Thursday night leaving this bird pictured above feeding on the muddy pools in one of the grazing fields at the country park on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th. It has seemed happy enough feeding most of the time, wading across the muddy sections and through the shallow pools. It called briefly at one point "chip-ip-ip" as it flew across a pool.

Having lost his companion on Friday, the wood sandpiper was joined by a common sandpiper on Saturday, a slightly dumpier looking wader with a shorter neck. In typical common sandpiper behaviour, it was often seen bobbing the back end of the body up and down several times as it slowly worked its way round the edges of the pools.

The rare sight on these fields of a pair of avocets was a nice sight on Friday evening, and it was even more interesting when the birds proceeded to mate. The picture above shows the male on top of the female after the very drawn out courtship display, where the female stoops down waiting, while the male waded back and forwards, preening his feathers and trying to look his smartest for mating. Soon after they finished, they flew off and will probably try to nest on the nearby saltmarsh pools., where birds have nested before.

The pools have continued to attract a good variety of birds with 5 redshank, greenshank, 8 lapwings including the 8 chicks still, 2 pairs gadwall, 4 shoveler, 30 mallard including 3 ducklings, 12 shelduck, 8 greylag geese, pair of Canada geese, coots, moorhens, black-headed gulls, 3 yellow wagtails and 4 pied wagtails.

A cuckoo flew over the pools on Friday and was chased away by a pied wagtail to the trees near the pond where it started to call - the first cuckoo calls here this year. The male kestrel was seen perched in the tree where the nestbox is located and hopefully the female is sitting inside it. Also in the tree were a pair of stock doves, while a little egret flew past on Saturday evening.

In the park, singing willow warbler and reed warbler were new arrivals on Saturday morning. Martin Cock also reported a newly arrived willow warbler in his West Mersea garden.Two whimbrel flew north-east high over the park calling, while a pair of common terns were much lower when they passed over the middle of the park. On Friday 5 swifts came in off the sea and headed rapidly west across the park. As in recent days several tufted duck and a female pochard were on the park pond

This strikingly marked species of froghopper is often seen around the park in the spring. Its red and black markings make it easy to spot as it sits amongst the plants and bushes low down.

Butterflies seen around the park in the last couple of days have been holly blue, peacock, small white, orange-tip and speckled woods. Some of the dainty looking damselflies have been out for several days and appear to be blue-tailed damselfly and azure damselfly so far.

Received sightings of two adders today, one by the top of the seawall and one presumed youngster from last year, seen in the park.

Andy Field and I walked to the East Mersea Point on Saturday evening, enjoying the still conditions. Both wood and common sandpipers were still on the fields, although the calls of a wood sandpiper were also heard coming from the mudflats by the Point. The greenshank was missing from the fields in the evening and a fox watched over the pools from a nearby hedgeline. Other waders at the Point were 24 dunlin, 20 ringed plover, 5 turnstone and 4 whimbrel flying up river.

Along the river Colne 5 little terns and 6 common terns were busy flying up and down and a common seal was seen in the mouth of the estuary.

Other recent reports include two wheatears seen on Thursday by Coopers Beach by Michael Thorley who also reported the kestrel has laid eggs in the East Mersea church tower. Steve Entwistle saw the tawny owl in Shop Lane on Thursday at dusk


Greenfingers said...

We get that little black and red froghopper up here in the north east - I think it's called Cercopis vulnerata and has nymphs that feed on roots underground, unlike the typical 'cuckoo spit' froghoppers. Great picture of the wood sandpiper.

Dougal Urquhart said...

Thanks for this. It's a striking little beast and seems strange that it's not got a vernacular name for me to use in this generally Latin-free blog!
The wood sands were a real treat.