Friday, 29 January 2010
At daybreak there was a very musical start to the day at the park with the sound of the 20+ goldfinches rousing from their roost in some car park bushes. After feeding on alders near the pond, the birds gathered back again at the end of the day, singing noisily from some other car park bushes. Also in the afternoon 8 redwings and 10 blackbirds fed on the grass in the car park.
A woodcock was reported flying south over the car park at dusk earlier in the week.
A very obliging water rail was watched feeding in the grass field near the pond, although the amount of times it cocked its tail, it was obviously very nervous about being out in the open. A fox snoozed late in the day by the pond, while in the trees by the water 30 stock doves gathered for the night. On the pond there was the usual mix of ducks with mallard, gadwall, teal, wigeon, tufted duck and shoveler.
The flooded field held an impressive number of waders and wildfowl again with 800+ wigeon, 200 teal, 80 shoveler, 220 black-tailed godwits, 50 redshank, 50 lapwing, 30 curlew along with gadwall, mallard and a few golden plover, turnstone and 5 snipe.
At the Point there were 90 shelduck, 4 red-breasted mergansers while 4 avocets were seen flying past. A common seal that was about 40 metres away, kept a close eye on me from the safety of the river.
Also seen on Friday was a mixed flock of 100 fieldfare and redwings in fields near Chapmans Lane, West Mersea. Hugh Owen saw the male hen harrier just north of the Island on Langenhoehall marshes.
On Wednesday morning the barn owl provided close views from the car as it hunted alongside Bromans Lane just before 8am, while a fox trotted along the nearby road and a marsh harrier flew passed the East Mersea pub early in the morning.
Andy Field noted offshore from West Mersea, 3 great northern divers, 12 red-breasted mergansers, pair of goldeneye and also 3 Slavonian grebes (one less than the day before).
Despite the freezing temperature at the park early on Friday evening under the bright full moon, this early moth pictured above, was resting on the outside of the information room at the park along with a couple of winter moths.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Taking readily to all this water were the hundreds of wigeon feeding in every corner of the main flooded field. A quick count using my bare chilly fingers to help me keep tally, revealed nearly 900 wigeon scattered across the field - a record count for the site. When a sparrowhawk passed overhead, there was an impressive and deafening sound of whooshing wings and loud whistling from the mass of ducks in the air.
Also in the waterlogged fields were 200 teal, 100 lapwing, 100 black-tailed godwits with smaller numbers of mallard, shoveler and gadwall.
At the Point there was the surprise appearance of 16 snow buntings flying along the beach. They haven't been seen here since early December, although a group have been reported from the east side of the estuary. A common seal was seen close into the Point.
In the grass fields to the north of the park 150 fieldfares and 50 redwing were seen in the midde of the day and at least 2 song thrushes were in the park.
The colourful end to the day was being described on national radio as the sun set across the country. From Mersea the sky turned a deep pink in colour, which lasted about ten minutes.
The last few things of note late in the afternoon were 400 brent geese flying noisily to roost from the grazing fields, 40 shoveler and 6 tufted duck on the park pond, while nearby a water rail appeared nearby to feed before a fox ran past it.
Monday, 25 January 2010
Martin Cock called me on Monday morning to say he was watching the spoonbill on the saltmarsh by Maydays Farm. Having the day off work, the call was perfect timing and I headed down to the area on a bit of a dull and chilly day.
The spoonbill was soon located feeding in one of the saltmarsh pools, in the distance of the picture above, along with a little egret. Both birds appeared to be finding plenty of food here, at the rear of the big expanse of saltmarsh. The spoonbill repeatedly lifted its long spoon-shaped beak into the air, as it gulped down another bit of food, which may've been little shrimps stranded in a pool.
After a few minutes the spoonbill flew away showing blackish tips to the wings but when it got close to a little egret in flight, the spoonbill's wings looked dirty white in comparison to the egret's snowy-white plumage. The spoonbill dropped down out of view into another part of the saltmarsh.
A kingfisher flashed close-by and landed on a bush by a ditch where it was near enough that the red bill was seen, indicating that this was a female bird. After pausing for only a minute, it flew off fast and low over the saltmarsh. Other birds on the saltmarsh included 18 skylarks and a flock of 20 finches that were presumably linnets.
One marsh harrier flew over Maydays and another three were seen on the Langenhoe ranges. In the Pyefleet 100 wigeon rested on the mud at low tide, while 300 knot and a couple of avocets were noted nearby. A noisy flock of 50 greylag geese flew off Reeveshall with a barnacle and Canada goose being seen with them.
Near the Maydays Farm 50 corn buntings was a nice sight mixed in with other finches and buntings, including 3 yellowhammers 2 reed buntings and 25 chaffinches.
Beside Bromans Lane in East Mersea a flock of about 300 fieldfares fed in one of the wheat fields.
On Sunday the spoonbill was watched on the Maydays saltings, while offshore from the Esplanade were reported 2 great northern divers and a Mediterranean gull.
Sunday, 24 January 2010
A pair of mute swans were the only birds seen on a pond at the back of the Strood fields. In bushes nearby 3 corn buntings perched up and a reed bunting was also seen. Twenty goldfinches perched in a tree while handful of fieldfares were feeding on an apple tree along from the Dabchicks sailing club and a green woodpecker was heard calling out loudly nearby. Two goldcrests were seen in a fir tree in Firs Chase, which are the first ones I've seen on the Island for several weeks.
Friday, 22 January 2010
The main ducks were the 500 wigeon, 300 teal, lots of mallard, with small numbers of gadwall and shoveler too. There were about 250 black-tailed godwits, 50 lapwing, 50 redshank with smaller numbers of golden plover, curlew and turnstones. Also flying off the fields were wood pigeons, starlings and a finch flock that were probably 50 goldfinches.
The main duck of note at the pond were 32 gadwall, which seemed a reasonable count for this small pond. In the trees behind at least 25 stock doves were gathering late in the afternoon ready for the evening roost.
There wasn't much in the river Colne with a couple of distant eider seen and a great crested grebe, the only things seen in the murky conditions. In the small bay beside the Point a small group of waders included knot, grey plover, redshank, curlew and turnstone were seen along with several shelduck.
In recent days a flock of 50 fieldfares have been seen in fields near Bromans Lane, although today about 2oo were in a field next to the East Mersea pub. Ian Black reported seeing a woodcock fly out of the cliff-top plantation at the park on Thursday afternoon. Early on Tuesday morning a barn owl was sitting on a fence near Bromans Farm, peering at the long grass beneath it.
Glyn Evans saw a spoonbill on the north side of the Island on Monday between the Strood and Maydays.
Sunday, 17 January 2010
The sun shone from dawn, pictured above rising over Colne Point, through the day till dusk. Although all the snow has gone, there is still some ice on the main stretches of water such as the pond and dyke. The nice weather brought lots of visitors out to the park for the busiest day of the winter so far.
Saturday, 16 January 2010
On this dull day it wasn't till the very end of Saturday that the most interesting bird of the day at the park showed up, when a kingfisher appeared at the pond and quickly flew into the bush as the light faded fast. It dipped into the water for its early night-time bathe although it was only watched for a further five minutes before it got too dark to see.
Nearby a water rail called at dusk from a frozen margin to the pond. Andy Field had a good view of the water rail yesterday on the grass on the nearer side of the pond. Less ducks on the pond today with most of the others dispersed onto the thawing fields. The swan family, 16 coots, several gadwall, little grebe and a couple of tufted duck were also noted but no sign of yesterday's male pochard.The resident dog fox walked in front of the hide at dusk scattering moorhens as it crossed the field.
There were still several fieldfares around the park with about 20 birds seen, especially a few in the car park with blackbirds. Three redwings were also in bushes near the pond. The biggest fieldfare flock of the winter at the park were seen yesterday when 100 birds were counted feeding briefly on the main part of the park when no dog walkers were present. There were a few more finches along the hedges near the pond yesterday with 20 goldfinches, 15 chaffinches and 10 greenfinches noted but much fewer today.
At dusk on Friday a woodcock flew over the car park, presumably on its way to feed for the night to the north of the park. Andy had seen the barn owl late in the afternoon near Bromans Farm and then later at least one little owl was heard calling at dusk.
Many of the watercourses around the park such as this borrow-dyke, have remained frozen solid. Some of the shallow waters on the field have thawed out a bit and there were more waders and wildfowl seen in these last couple of days.
Many of the wigeon still appear to be on the nearby mudflats with 200 seen but small groups were flying on the fields to feed along with the teal, mallard, gadwall and shoveler. Waders were also seen around the high tide time with black-tailed godwits, redshank, dunlin, lapwing and a few snipe.
On Frday at the Point a peregrine glided slowly overhead as it headed along the beach and across the river to Colne Point. Waders scattered off the mudflats as did some of the wigeon, while all the birds in the grazing fields also took to the air. Later a sparrowhawk flashed low over the saltmarsh at the Point. Ten skylarks, 5 reed buntings and rock pipit were some of the small birds noted near the Point.
Also from here were 6 goldeneye, 10 red-breasted mergansers and a few great crested grebes as well as a common seal. On the mud 100 avocets were the main waders of interest and a little egret was also seen.
The last few nights there have been one or two winter moths glimpsed in the car headlights in the car park, even with the temperatures in the early evening down to just 2 or 3 degrees C. However this one pictured above was found in the warmth of my house first thing this morning.
Monday, 11 January 2010
There are still lots of fieldfares and redwings around West Mersea with one flock of about 70 birds tucking into the apples on a small tree along from the Dabchicks. When a sparrowhawk glided nearby, the fieldfares and lots of blackbirds all flew off and landed on nearby bushes. A dozen redwings fed on cotoneaster berries in Firs Chase where there was also a very brazen fox trotting up the street at 1pm.
Ten snipe were in various ditches by the Strood fields and other than 2 reed buntings and a meadow pipit, no other small birds around the snow covered fields.
At least 3 marsh harriers were flying around the Ray Island saltmarsh, which seemed to have less snow on it and a small flock of skylarks were noted over here.
In the Channel good numbers of wildfowl were noted with 400 teal, 300 wigeon, 100 shelduck and the main brent goose flock on the Peldon side of 700 birds. Not as many waders as usual with one avocet seen along with small numbers of knot and black-tailed godwits the other birds of interest.
Around the boat moorings near the Hard, there was red-breasted merganser, goldeneye, 12 little grebes and a lone coot too!
A brief afternoon walk around the country park yesterday on Sunday, was accompanied with a few more flurries of light snow. A woodcock was seen briefly flying over the car park heading to the clifftop trees. Andy Field had earlier seen two woodcock at either end of the cliff-top tree plantations.
What was unexpected was the sight of two water rails 20 metres apart, scuttling along a frozen ditchline,while I walked along the nearby path just a few metres above them.
At the near-frozen park pond there was still the large gathering of 150+ ducks around the unfrozen section with 30 gadwall being of interest. A couple of snipe were seen in the snow nearby and the resident fox made its regular appearance.
A flock of 25 fieldfares and a dozen blackbirds fed in a fruit tree to the north of the park, while nearby 2 green woodpeckers were seen on a snowy field.
In the field by East Mersea road, there were still 100 skylarks feeding on the rape crop covered with the snow.
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Wrapped up in several layers, except for Monty who despite being a "long-legged" Jack Russell, still found the thick snow hard work, we battled our way around the park.
It was another "woodcock-day" with five sightings of three different birds around the park. You're lucky if you get to see one woodcock in a day but to see three here at the park was unique.
One bird in a sheltered wet ditch in Bromans Lane near the park entrance, stood still as we stopped the car to admire it, on the way into the park and on our drive out an hour and a half later. A woodcock was reported from this part of the Lane a month ago, so is likely the same bird. This was also the same spot where the snipe was seen yesterday.
The second woodcock was still in the same area as before, under the trees on the cliff-top walking across the snow like a wary partridge, watching us with head up. As we walked along the path it scuttled along close to the cliff-edge, stopping occasionally with its long bill held out, before rising sharply into the air with its broad brown wings.
The third woodcock was in the opposite corner of the park, suddenly flying out of another sheltered ditch and disappearing quickly from view. This bird has been seen in this ditch-line on a couple of previous occasions in the last six weeks or so.
Not many other birds seen through the snow, although lots of blackbirds, robins and dunnocks had been busy trying to flick the snow away from the leaves under the trees. A reed bunting was seen disappearing inside a small hole in a snow covered sea-blite bush on the saltmarsh. A rock pipit and a couple of skylarks were noted beside the seawall.
The park pond in the picture above, still had an unfrozen section where 150 ducks gathered, some standing still for so long they were getting covered in snow. The usual mix of mallard, teal, gadwall, wigeon, shoveler but no tufted ducks. Six snipe were seen feeding in the snow near the pond. In the alder trees nearby 25 goldfinches briefly flew out of the trees before returning.
Along the East Mersea road with the snow beginning to drift, 150 skylarks were poking around in the snow covered fields, pecking at leaves of the sugar beet crop. A sparrowhawk headed back towards the gardens of West Mersea where several fieldfare and redwing flocks were noted during the day. A great spotted woodpecker was heard drumming on a tree by Firs Chase and then prospecting an old nest-hole. Seemed a bit early to think about breeding while it snowed.
The foxes have become less wary in recent days as the snow blankets the ground. They've often been seen during the day both at the park and crossing streets in West Mersea, as they check out all the gardens for food-scraps.
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.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
A rare visitor to East Mersea Point on Sunday 3rd was this female harbour porpoise, (pictured above on a little airbed), having been stranded on the saltmarsh on the afternoon high-tide.
She had first been spotted at about 10.30am by members of the Colchester RSPB members group, close to the shore in shallow water although it didn't look very active.
As she'd remained in the same small area of the river for the next two hours, a decision was made to try and help the porpoise and a call was made to the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Unit who have a local response team. When they arrived in mid afternoon the porpoise had already been washed ashore on a very high tide onto the back of the saltmarsh
The team checked the harbour porpoise thoroughly for any possible signs of poor health but none were found. It seemed healthly enough and was placed on an inflatable bed to prevent damage to internal organs. The female was measured at 1.3 metres in length so virtually a fully grown adult.
Emma Webb of the Marine Life Rescue Unit, reassures the porpoise covered in a sheet that was kept constantly wet to prevent dehydration. It was carried down to the water's edge close to the deeper water at the Point. The bed was then placed on a small inflatable raft to help float the porpoise out into the open water. At first it didn't seem interested in swimming away and concerns were raised how weak and unusually quiet it was, so contact was made with a vet just in case the porpoise was about to die.
The light faded fast and it wasn't till 2 hours after dark that the harbour porpoise finally found the energy to swim off into the river Colne. During the 3 long cold hours that the porpoise was being cared for, about 15 folk ranging from the Marine rescue unit, locals and the Coastguard Team, all looked on with curiosity or helped out with the rescue by torchlight.
This was one of the first glimpses of the porpoise in the morning I had with the RSPB Group, in this digiscoped picture above, only about 50 metres from the Point. Some of the time it hardly seemed to move at all, while at other times it would swim about, turn round or raise it's tail out of the shallow water.
In recent years there have been one or two harbour porpoise records nearly every year from East Mersea. Some of these have been live ones normally seen swimming in or out of the river Colne. There have also been several dead ones washed up with 2 records for the park beach in the last 6 years and one near Coopers Beach about four years ago.
Although the sun was shining in the middle of the morning, it was still very cold and these two groups of birdwatchers were wrapped up warm as they 'scoped the porpoise just out of shot to the right. Offshore red-throated diver, 2 eider, 8 goldeneye, 20+ red-breasted mergansers, 2 pintail and a few great crested grebes were seen while on the mud 400 knot, 320 avocets, 500 golden plover formed some of the main wader flocks. Also seen in the river was at least one common seal.
Walking along the seawall to Ivy Dock we saw a ringtail hen harrier hunting on the Langenhoe ranges, while good views were had of 2 female marsh harriers flying past towards Colne Point.
On the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse one member had good views of 2 jack snipe while the rest of us had to be content with a dozen common snipe. Also seen here as the tide came in were knot, redshank, grey plover, dunlin as well as wigeon, teal and reed bunting. Other waders seen on the walk included curlew, ringed plover, oystercatcher, black-tailed godwit and turnstone,
A light dusting of snow early in the morning coated the ice everywhere in white such as the dyke and the frozen fields of the park. A female stonechat, 2 rock pipits, meadow pipits were seen during the walk as were fieldfare, great spotted woodpecker, kestrel and a few skylarks.
At the near-frozen pond there were 160 ducks, mostly mallard with 20+ gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, teal and 8 tufted ducks noted along with little grebes, mute swans, coots and moorhens. A male marsh harrier flew close by the pond early in the day as it passed eastwards. A fox was curled up on the grass near the pond in the weak morning sunshine.
At West Mersea a spotted redshank and greenshank were reported at the Strood.
Friday, 1 January 2010
The new year kicked off with a real wintry feel to it, a thin coating of snow, ice on many surfaces and a chilly northerly breeze. At least the sun shone for the whole day and to make the most of it, my wife Nolly and I, walked 15 kms around the north side of the Island from the country park to West Mersea.
The park pond pictured above remained ice-free although there was plenty of ice on the adjacent flooded field. The small selection of wildfowl on the pond included mallard, gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck, teal, wigeon, mute swan, little grebe, coot and moorhen. There was no sign of the male pintail that Andy Field had seen here earlier in the day or the woodcock that had got briefly tangled up in some fence-wire at the park. A fox was curled up on the grass near the pond enjoying the winter sunshine.
On the grazing fields there was a small flock of 200 golden plover and 50 black-tailed godwits, along with a few lapwing. On the nearby saltings there were lots of waders roosting during the high tide with redshank, dunlin, knot, grey plover and black-tailed godwit the main ones. Several wigeon, teal and brent geese were also feeding on the saltings below the Golfhouse.
In the Colne, one eider was seen although 3 had been present earlier, while 15 red-breasted mergansers were also noted. It seemed many of these mergansers flew into the Pyefleet to join some of the others there so at least 20 birds seen in total. Also in the Pyefleet were 3 male goldeneye as well as lots of wigeon and teal.
The long section of the Reeveshall and Maydays seawall was virtually deserted with other walkers but the bright conditions provided ideal viewing. Big bird flocks were seen on Reeveshall with 400 brent geese, 150 black-tailed godwits, 2500 golden plover, 200 lapwing, 1000 starlings and 300 rooks/jackdaws. Also seen were sparrowhawk, little egret, 20 skylarks on the saltmarsh, 3 rock pipits and a green sandpiper, while on Langenhoe there were 3 marsh harriers seen flying about.
As the tide dropped lots of waders arrived along the Pyefleet Channel and into the side-creeks like this one at Maydays where a few redshank, curlew as well as 2 little egrets. Three marsh harriers were seen flying over the fields of Reeveshall and Maydays while a little later west, four more flew over the saltmarsh near the Strood.
Several flocks of fieldfares were noted with about 50 in bushes near Maydays farm, then another 100 with at least one redwing in hedges just east of the Strood, followed by another 100 roosting in bushes near the Dabchicks by West Mersea.
The sun was just setting as we walked along the home straight by the Strood Channel to West Mersea. Lots of the familiar waders and ducks were along the mud with the main ones being dunlin, knot, redshank, curlew and lots of wigeon and teal.
Other than 500 brent geese feeding in the field near Strood Hill, the only other birds on the landward side of the wall of note were 18 corn buntings perched on wires near a small pond.
Steve Entwistle saw 3 Slavonian grebes, shag, Mediterranean gull and an eider offshore from West Mersea. A great spotted woodpecker was drumming on a tree in Firs Chase in the morning.