Friday, 8 January 2010


After more recent falls of snow, everywhere on the Island was carpeted with at least 4 ins (10cms) of snow on Friday 8th. The snow also settled onto the trees and branches such as in this photo of the country park entrance at East Mersea.

I don't think I can remember ever seeing so much snow coating every twig and branch on all the bushes and trees here at the park before. This little group of trees situated next to the buildings in the car park, caught the eye for the amount of snow on them.

The country park has not surprisingly, been very quiet in recent days with few visitors making the effort to drive through the snow to get to the park. If anyone did make the effort, the place was a real winter wasteland, wall-to-wall white everywhere and the joy of the place to yourself!

The bird-hide overlooking the park pond provides some shelter from the snow and cold breeze. The water closest to the bushes had managed to stay free of ice and lots of waterfowl were gathered in or next to the water. Most of the pond was not only frozen but carpeted with at least an inch of snow.

Around 200 ducks were present mainly mallard along with several teal, shoveler, wigeon, gadwall and tufted ducks. The mute swan family, coots, moorhens and little grebes were also seen. Two snipe took the unusual opportunity to rest on the ice beside the ducks, while in the snow at either side of the pond were another 4 birds. A few snipe were also heard calling as they flew over the park. Ten stock doves were seen around the trees by the pond. A water rail was seen scuttling away from the pond into the nearby ditch on Wednesday and a sparrowhawk was noted too here.

Over the last few days at least one fox has been out in the snow beside the pond, often lying down to have a snooze even with snow falling! One day two were resting together in the sunshine, while on Tuesday at dusk, one of the foxes emerged and sat in the middle of the pond on the ice for several minutes surveying the wintry scene, before moving on and ignoring the main group of ducks.

The bushes along the cliff-top were laden with snow as in the picture above. Very little snow melted off the trees during the day despite the sun shining.

For the second day running the secretive woodcock has been seen on a couple of occasions each day, which has been good to see. There was the rare sight yesterday of a woodcock actually watched through binoculars as it stood warily on the snow under the trees beside the cliff-top. Most views are only brief flight views as a bird takes off suddenly, as it zig-zags through the trees away from you. On this occasion the bird was seen landing and amongst the snow, the dark brown outline made it easy to spot. It scuttled away through the trees and short while later it stopped, allowing a good view of its strange staring eye and the long bill.

Today's views were a couple of flight views as it took to the air only a few metres from me. Whenever the woodcock took to the air one or two of the blackbirds and tits called anxiously as if they'd seen an owl fly past!

One or two fieldfares have been seen in the bushes aroud the park feeding on the berries and in some places they might find cotoneaster berries as in the picture above. In West Mersea there have been several fieldfares and redwings flying around the gardens.

This is a poor photo of a snipe taken from through the window of the car as I drove out of the park, as it fed in a ditch in Bromans Lane. It soon took off and flew low back along the Lane. Also seen from the car feeding in snow covered fields near Bocking Hall beside the East Mersea road, was an unusually big flock of about 100 skylarks.

The sunrise on Tuesday morning was briefly colourful before the clouds thickened up.
Two eider were seen in the river Colne and a few great crested grebes. There was no further sign of the harbour porpoise that was helped back into the water on Sunday evening.

Martin Cock walked the Maydays seawall and saw a barn owl hunting in broad daylight, little owl and also a couple of common buzzards perched on the nearby Langenhoe ranges.


Phil said...

Cracking photos as usual Dougal. Are you still using your trusty Sony?

Philip Smith

Dougal Urquhart said...

Yes Phil, still using the wee, trusty Sony which means it fits snugly into my pocket and comes out on every walk with me! Hope you're enduring the snow OK. - Dougal.