Thursday, 16 September 2010


Some big clouds over the river Colne didn't interfere with an evening walk to the East Mersea Point in search of a lapland bunting. One had flown over the park calling loudly in the morning and then a short while later either it, or another bird, flew off the beach by the Point, again calling loudly as it headed to the grazing fields and dropped down out of view. The call is very distinctive with a rattle-type ticky-ticky-ticky- tew.

The bunting was successfully relocated back on the beach in the early evening amongst the clumps of marram grass near the old pill-box. The poor photo above is a record shot of the bird with its head down as it was feeding. The chestnut panel on the wings can just be seen in the picture - one of the features of lapland bunting. The markings and typical bunting-type plumage suggested the bird was a juvenile.

Lapland buntings have been very rare winter visitors to Mersea and most previous views have usually been of individuals in flight. There was an exceptional influx in early 1991 when 60 were seen in a Reeveshall field. This autumn there have been several birds reported from various sites around East Anglia. Andy Field and Steve Entwistle managed to see this bird briefly on the beach in the last of the daylight, before it flew to the nearby grazing fields presumably to roost for the night.

Whilst admiring the clouds as they got darker over Brightlingsea with the sun still shining on the park, this rainbow got brighter and then doubled up. However a few spits of unexpected rain soon turned into a downpour followed by a brief heavy shower of hail.

Before the visibility got bad, 3 immature gannets were seen in the outer part of the estuary along with about 40 common terns that appeared to be heading west. Earlier in the day 3 gannets were also noted with two brown birds flying along the edge of the outgoing tide. A great crested grebe was also seen in the river.

The main sight in the morning was the big migration of meadow pipits with a continuous flow of birds crossing the estuary from Colne Point and passing across the mudflats beyond the park towards West Mersea. Fifty birds could be counted at any one scan during the morning and in the short spell of watching, there were probably 300 birds seen.

One of the garden escapes that has flourished on the beach at the Point for several years, is this yellow-flowered clematis. It seems to be able to tolerate being sand-blasted and having lots of salt in the air.

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