Sunday, 17 October 2010


Martin Cock had come prepared on Sunday 17th for our trip out to sea holding a net of old fish-heads that we hoped would lure some sea-birds to our boat. Eight of us jumped aboard Ray Hempstead's charter boat, the Sorcerer, and we spent several hours out at sea scanning the horizon for signs of birdlife. Luckily the sea conditions were fairly reasonable with just a light northerly wind as we motored to an area beyond the Gunfeet Sands windfarm about 8 miles offshore.

There weren't as many birds seen as we expected and even the lowering of the fish-heads over the side, only pulled in about 15 gulls mainly greater black-backed and herring gulls. The only auks seen were six guillemots as they whizzed past. The most noteworthy sighting was of 3 velvet scoter flying towards the Blackwater before turning north and then east, and then probably back out to sea. There were lots more common scoters with up to 50 birds seen, including a close view of a group of 4 females on the water. Small numbers of brent, wigeon and teal were also watched while 2 red-breasted mergansers flew into the Blackwater, as did 3 eider.

It was interesting watching the a number of flocks of land-birds flying westerly over the sea, having just made the crossing from the continent. Several starling flocks totalling at least 700 birds flew low over the water towards the Essex coast as did a few skylarks, siskins, goldfinches, meadow pipits and single chaffinch and blackbird.

Returning closer to shore, we had a close look at the baffle wall pictured above, in front of the Bradwell power station, where a shag was seen resting. A grey wagtail flew north east from Bradwell towards West Mersea.

Before we moored up at the West Mersea jetty, we had a look along Salcott Channel as far as we could get until we reached shallow water. A common tern flying amongst the boat moorings seemed to be a late date for this summer migrant. The usual waders seen included dunlin, turnstone, redshank, ringed plover, grey plover, lapwing, golden plover, curlew, bar-tailed godwit and knot. The wildfowl noted included small flocks of brent geese, wigeon, teal and a few shelduck, while mute swan and little egret were also seen.

The afternoon was spent walking the Strood seawall where the low tide meant plenty of waders and wildfowl such as these brent geese were seen. This brent group in the photo above, shows two youngsters, one on the left and the other on the right of the group, showing the white edging to the wing feathers. Reports from elsewhere suggest the geese have had a successful breeding season in Siberia.

There were good numbers of redshank, dunlin and grey plover and small numbers of the other regular waders with greenshank the only other wader of interest. Ten little egrets, small numbers of wigeon and teal were seen, while 8 little grebes were swimming in the channel.

A nicely patterned male marsh harrier crossed over from Ray Island and hunted low over the Strood fields and a kestrel and two grey herons were also seen here too.

There were still lots of small birds feeding in the big weedy field with 70 linnets, 20 corn buntings, 50 skylarks, 20 meadow pipits being the main flocks seen.

Despite the cool northerly breeze, this common lizard found a sunny spot out of the wind where it basked alongside a hedgerow. It won't be long before the lizards disappear to hibernate for the winter.

This was the only dragonfly noted on the walk, a migrant hawker resting on a bush soaking up the afternoon warmth from the sun. A red admiral and a peacock were the only butterflies seen.

Martin Cock noted a common scoter and 2 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet at Maydays on Sunday afternoon. Hugh Owen saw 2 short-eared owls on the nearby Langenhoehall Marshes on Sunday, while the day before he saw a ring ouzel.

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