Saturday, 18 December 2010


It was so cold on Saturday 18th that the waves lapping onto the beach by the country park were leaving behind ice. The high-tide line was covered with a mass of ice that looked just like snow. The morning stayed dry but with a very cold wind. Early in the afternoon the snow arrived and by the end of the day an inch of snow carpeted the park.

Offshore two velvet scoter were seen from the park bobbing up and down in the choppy sea, occasionally diving down, they were hard to keep a track of. After a while the birds took off, displaying their white wing-bars as confirmation of the scoter species. They flew fast and low further out to sea, heading towards Colne Point before turning back westwards towards the Dengie.

Joining Martin Cock, we braved the cold to walk to the Point. A female common scoter drifted out of the river with the tide. Probably the first time both scoter species have been seen from the park in the same day. Also seen in the river were 6 red-breasted mergansers and 4 great crested grebes.

Lots of waders were gathering on the mud by the Point ready to feed as soon as the tide started to recede. Ten sanderling fed close in on the beach, 10 bar-tailed godwits and 50 avocets joined the familiar flocks of dunlin, knot, grey plover and redshank along with a few of the other species too. A rock pipit called out from the edge of the saltmarsh.

Around the saltmarsh and edge of the river were groups of wigeon and teal. In the distance on Langenhoe, more ducks could be seen including a small group of 10 pintail, probably disturbed by one of the 4 marsh harriers flying around.

The park fields were frozen with 70 lapwing and 50 golden plover the main waders seen here. On the park pond one small corner remained unfrozen where 30 gadwall were feeding with mallard, a few teal and shoveler. One snipe fed on the grass by the pond beside some of the moorhens.

The bushes are quickly losing their berries during this cold weather although in some places a few can still be seen such as these sloes on a blackthorn bush at the park. Not many groups of birds around the park with 15 goldfinches in alders by the pond the biggest flock. A couple of song thrushes and a few blackbirds and chaffinches were also noted but not much else. A sparrowhawk was seen crossing the field on the west side of the park.

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