Sunday, 19 December 2010


There was at least two inches of snow covering the country park on Sunday 19th. It stayed grey and overcast all day with a very cold breeze that meant you didn't want to stand around outside too long.

High tide in the morning, and these three redshank were ready in place for the sea to uncover the mud underneath them. Facing into the cold easterly breeze, they had their eyes tight shut as they perched on the posts next to the country park beach.

The most unexpected sighting for this time of the year was an immature gannet seen flying fast and straight towards the mouth of the river Colne, before turning round and heading back out to Colne Point. As it flew back out, the two velvet scoters appeared in the same field of view as they bobbed on the surface of the choppy sea. Occasional glimpses of the white on the folded wing were seen but both birds remained as distant black ducks. Also seen were 2 goldeneye, red-breasted mergansers as well as small flocks of wigeon and brent flying well offshore.

The grazing fields were a bleak winter wasteland covered in ice and snow. A roost of 200 golden plovers and 25 lapwing waited in the fields. It looked very chilly and exposed for them as they stood snoozing in the snow.

Thirty skylarks were seen flying over the park, as they headed for easier feeding elsewhere. In a field by the East Mersea pub another 100 skylarks were seen. More eyecatching was a barn owl out hunting in mid afternoon the rape field opposite the pub. The whiter-than-white underparts of the owl reflected the brightness of the white snow on the ground as it flew low across the field. It looked like more like a very white seagull rather than an owl, especially flying around in broad daylight. Finding food must be very hard, especially with frozen, snow-covered ground.

As usual the foxes were out on the prowl around the park pond as dusk approached and this one was snuffling after something in the snow A second fox ventured confidently out onto the ice towards the 100+ wildfowl gathered around some open water. The ducks quickly dropped into the water as the fox approached and the fox then sat down on the ice beside the wildfowl. It eventually saw this fox pictured above, over near the hide and quickly chased it away.

In the water-hole were 40 gadwall, 30 mallard, 12 coot, 25 moorhen, little grebe, 5 shoveler and 10 teal. Scuttling across the ice under the willow bushes were 3 water rails. In bushes nearby, 40 greenfinches waited to drop down to roost for the night.

A woodcock flew away quickly from under some trees near a path close to the hide. As the park gates were being closed at nightfall, a second woodcock swooped overhead, nearly dropping down close-by to find somewhere to feed. Also making an appearance was a little owl that sat on a tree on the edge of the car park, staring at me for a minute or so, before flying to the far side of the car park.


helen said...

Beautiful pictures and great stories - thanks for shairing!

laurence.d said...

Great picture of the redshanks.


Dougal Urquhart said...

Thanks for the comments, it was a pity the sun wasn't shining to brighten up the images.