Friday, 31 December 2010
The fog of the previous few days cleared away enough on Friday 31st, so that some of the birds such as this woodcock pictured above, could be seen at the country park. This very obliging woodcock was feeding along the edge of the pond, providing good views from the hide. The striking feature of this bird was the light colouring, much paler than the typical dark brown plumage. For comparison a second woodcock was seen further along from the pond feeding beside a hedge and there was also a snipe in the grass by the pond too.
Most of the park pond remained frozen with 35 gadwall the main ducks, also 3 tufted duck seen, a water rail called and a fieldfare perched up nearby. A goldcrest and a yellowhammer were noted during the morning in the park.
Offshore a female long-tailed duck was feeding with 4 common scoter, while 2 Slavonian grebes were seen with 10 great crested grebes. Also seen were 10 red breasted mergansers, goldeneye, 3 pintail along with hundreds of wigeon and teal waiting to fly onto the grazing fields.
At the Point a snow bunting circled round several times before landing briefly on the beach nearby. At the same time 25 white-fronted geese flew high and south out of the river Colne, disappearing in the direction of the Thames. Nineteen greylag geese were also noted on the grazing fields.
At West Mersea a great northern diver, Slavonian grebe, 11 eider, 8 common scoter and 5 red breasted mergansers were seen offshore. Martin Cock saw a brambling at Maydays Farm in with lots of chaffinches.
The slightly milder temperature of 5 degrees in the early evening brought out a good number of 20 winter moths to the lighted windows of the house in the park.
The fog has been thick on the previous couple of days as seen in this view of the park pond on Thursday. The only birds that were noted were ones heard calling especially the wigeon on the grazing fields. A water rail was heard calling on Thursday and 10 redwings flew over, while a sparrowhawk flew past the pond on Wednesday. A woodcock flew over the car park on Tuesday in the middle of the day.
Monday, 27 December 2010
There was an impressive flock of 100+ skylarks feeding in the field, flying around every so often and then disappearing amongst the plants. Also present were 70 linnets 3 reed buntings and 6 stock doves feeding in the field, while on the saltmarsh a rock pipit was seen.
Lots of the usual waders and wildfowl along the Strood Channel during low tide. Several hundred wigeon and teal gathered on the mud as well as 70+ shelduck. The main brent flock appeared to be feeding on fields alongside the Ray Channel. Amongst the lots of waders noted, small numbers of both black-tailed and bar-tailed godwits were seen, 100 knot, one snipe and a single avocet.
The closest bird of prey seen was a marsh harrier hunting over the saltmarsh and seawall on the Feldy side of the Ray Channel.
In the West Mersea grassland of Feldy View, two lapwings, green woodpecker 2 reed buntings and 2 stock doves nearby were noted and two grey herons flew over the fields towards the Strood Channel.
Driving off the Island in the early afternoon, there was a nice view of lots of waxwings perched on roadside telegraph wires about 200m north of the Peldon Rose pub. Unfortunately the birds were feeding in roadside bushes beside a busy section of this Colchester road and so views were hurried. Steve Entwistle and Andy Field braved the busy traffic later and counted 36 birds present here.
Steve and Andy also confirmed that 6 swans seen on Langenhoe fields initially by Martin Cock whilst he was at Maydays farm, were 6 Bewick swans. The swans appeared to be a family group comprising two adults and 4 youngsters. Also seen at Maydays was a black brant with 500+ brent geese and a common buzzard noted too.
Sunday, 26 December 2010
Burnt off a few calories on Boxing Day with a good long walk along some of the East Mersea footpaths. It was a brighter day today but still chilly with some of the ground still frozen, as in this field at Rewsalls Farm.
A peregrine flew over the fields here disturbing some of the golden plovers, lapwings and wood pigeons feeding in the fields. On the frozen Rewsalls marshes, 40 curlew and golden plover were roosting during the high tide along with a few lapwing. Three corn buntings perched on a dead tree and a reed bunting was also noted near here too.
The tide was just starting to turn early in the afternoon and along the beach by Coopers Beach, were 50 turnstone, 15 sanderling as well as a few redshank, oystercatcher and grey plovers. There was nothing of interest at sea other than a number of gulls, one great crested grebe and 4 mallard.
There was a very impressive flock of 200+ skylarks flying about the rape field to the east of Coopers Beach. Helping to scatter these larks was a sparrowhawk, hunting slowly around the field, hoping to surprise a small bird out of the crop. Two hundred brent geese were also feeding in the rape field, occasionally flying out to land on the nearby sea if they got disturbed.
There was no sign of the waxwings near the East Mersea pub today, although 25 waxwings were seen feeding on the bushes by the road near the Peldon Rose pub, just off the Island, in the afternoon.
One coal tit was visiting the feeder by the Shop Lane conifer wood in the afternoon. Two swans flew over Shop Lane in the late afternoon and could've been Bewicks, heading to Reeveshall. Earlier in the day Martin Dence reported seeing a barn owl hunting again at Bromans Lane in the morning and also the kingfisher was seen at their farm pond again.
Saturday, 25 December 2010
A pleasant surprise on Xmas day morning was finding a small flock of waxwings as I drove along the East Mersea road. Fourteen birds perched up in some of the bushes opposite the Dog and Pheasant pub.
The waxwings were feeding mainly on some hawthorn berries in one of the gardens but if you were in the pub pictured above, you could've had a nice warm view of them in the bushes on the opposite side of the road. The flock that was seen three weeks ago was very near to this spot and comprised about the same number of birds, so this could be the same flock come back again. Needless to say, some of the local birdwatchers this morning managed to escape from their kitchens ahead of Xmas lunch to come and view the waxwings.
Most of the country park was obscured by freezing fog early in the morning and visibility was poor - and it was very cold. The only birds seen on the frozen fields were 30 lapwing. At the park pond 100+ wildfowl were still occupying the little bit of exposed water with gadwall, mallard, teal and shoveler the main ducks present. A female sparrowhawk flashed along the hedgeline and perched on a post briefly. One fox was hunting over the park in mid morning and another one was curled up sleeping on the frozen ground near the pond.
Not much could be seen at a very foggy Point although the large outline of a female marsh harrier was seen flying low over the saltmarsh before crossing the river.
Both Helen Mussett and Martin Dence saw the barn owl hunting near Bromans Lane at different times during the morning and also a kingfisher was also seen at Bromans Farm. Martin Cock saw a spotted redshank at Maydays Farm feeding beside one of the outflows in Maydays creeks.
Yesterday Andy Field noted from Reeveshall 2 hen harriers and at least 22 marsh harriers going into the Langenhoe roost. Also noted in the area were 1000 brent geese, 16 goldeneye, 6 red-breasted mergansers and 100+ avocets.
Thursday, 23 December 2010
The lack of visitors to the park in the last few days has allowed up to 50 golden plover and a few lapwings the rare opportunity to fed undisturbed on the main field.
The park pond and surrounding area seemed to have the greatest variety of birds to look at. Most of the pond is still frozen with 100+ wildfowl gathered round the open water section. Forty gadwall were the most interesting ducks busy in the water. Close to the pond a redshank dropped down onto a part of the field to feed near a snipe and some moorhens. A well-marked male sparrowhawk with a bright peach-coloured chest, perched on a hedge by the pond for a few minutes.
The nearby grazing fields still looked frozen although a scattering of waders were present such as black-tailed godwits, curlews, lapwings, golden plover, grey plover and redshank too.
On Wednesday a woodcock flew over the park, heading towards the field behind the pond. As it flew over a hedge, lots of the tits could be heard calling anxiously as if concerned they'd seen this as some sort of owl passing by. A female sparrowhawk was busy hunting all over the park and surrounding fields, panicking all the birds in its flight-path. Meanwhile a female marsh harrier was slowly checking the saltmarsh near the Point, scattering wigeon, teal and lots of waders as it flew slowly along.
The park was still covered in plenty of snow on Monday 20th and the appearance of the sun was a welcome sight. Not many cars have ventured into the car park, pictured above. Four fieldfares flew over the car park on Tuesday and later, 2 redwing were seen too.
The pond never froze completely over with the area close to the willow trees staying ice-free helped by all the ducks swimming around. Fifty gadwall on Tuesday was the highest count for the pond and outnumbering all the other ducks present.
The sea from the park on Monday morning was calm which made a change. There was a notable passage of 100+ red-throated divers well offshore, seen flying east towards Colne Point from the direction of the Dengie. The birds presumably making their way north up the Essex coast, taking in a circuit round the outer reaches of the Blackwater and Colne estuaries. Two big flocks of the divers were seen flying, with one 35 birds and another 45 birds.
Very little else has been seen in the estuary during the week other than 15 great crested grebes, 10 red-breasted mergansers and a skein of 28 greylag geese, which I tried to make into white-fronted geese.
Martin Cock had the unusual sight of 2 taiga bean geese flying over Maydays on Tuesday, circling over some fields with brent geese before flying off west. There was a good view of a male hen harrier hunting there and also lots of small birds seen including 100 corn buntings. A barn owl was reported hunting over fields near the Strood Hill on Thursday morning.
Maybe the last moth sighting of the year - four winter moths resting on the lit window at the park on Tuesday evening, even with the temperature only one or two degrees above freezing!
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.
Saturday, 18 December 2010
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.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
There were quite a few waders and wildfowl on the wet grazing fields, pictured above, although not as many birds as before the cold snap began. Around 400 wigeon were back on the fields as were some of the 100 teal. However there was still a group of 100 teal resting on the outer edge of the nearby mudflats. Also present were 20 shoveler, 25 mallard, 8 gadwall, 50 black-tailed godwit and 4 greylag geese.
At the half- frozen pond, 14 gadwall and 20 mallard were noted along with some coots while 20 moorhens nibbled the grass on the nearby field. In the park one of the regular goldcrests was seen near the car park, while 14 long-tailed tits worked their way along the cliff-top trees. Ian Black saw a woodcock fly out from the trees on the clifftop in the afternoon, for the second day running.
In the estuary 8 red-breasted mergansers and 6 great crested grebes were the only birds noted in the river. There was an unusually high number of shelduck feeding along the outer edge of the Mersea mudflats with at least 270 birds seen.
Martin Cock walked the Strood seawall on Tuesday 14th and saw 2 or 3 lapland buntings as they flew around the fields before landing in the arable field. Still present in the area were 40 linnets and 40 skylarks mainly in the weedy field. A ringtail hen harrier was also seen in the area as were a couple of marsh harriers too. From the Esplanade a Mediterranean gull was seen, the first for a while in the area.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
It was a bright sunny winter's day on Thursday 9th although there was still lots of ice around such as at the park pond pictured above. Here a small mix of coots, gadwall, mallard, shoveler, little grebe and moorhen were making the most of the only bit of unfrozen water. Three green woodpeckers were seen around the field just to the north of the pond.
To the west side of the pond a fox was curled up beside a hedge enjoying the winter sun, while on the east side of the pond 3 more foxes were also lying against the hedge within 50 metres of each other. A sparrowhawk flew past the pond in the late afternoon upsetting the 30 greenfinches that were gathering to roost. In recent days it has been nice seeing a group of 30 golden plover feeding on the main field of the park, taking advantage of the lack of dog-walkers to the park.
Earlier in the afternoon a flock( or herd?) of 12 swans was seen flying high over the car park, heading north-east. The flock were flying in a long line and were probably Bewicks swans. By the time the birds were noticed they had passed overhead although no calling was heard but they appeared to have shorter necks than mute swans. The only mute swans normally seen flying about are small family groups, so this flock of 12 is an unusual sight.
The old stepping stone path near the Point in the picture above, is not snow but a thin cover of ice left behind by the high tide during the night. At the Point there was an unusually good view of a female long-tailed duck which flew from the opposite side of the river and then landed only 30 metres from the Point. The bird was spending a lot of time diving underwater spending more time below than on the surface. After a few minutes the bird disappeared and presumably flew back upriver.
Also in the river were 5 red-breasted mergansers with two males going through their very eye-catching display in front of the 3 females. At Langenhoe Point the bright white flock of 250 avocets were gathered.
The ice was thick along the borrowdyke and will take a while to thaw through. Twenty skylarks, 4 reed buntings and a rock pipit have been seen in recent days in the adjacent fields and around the seawall.
The sun finished shining for the day with a colourful sunset enjoyed along the frontage of the country park beach, pictured above.
Martin Cock had a good view on Thursday morning of two Bewicks swans flying north-west over Reeveshall and Maydays as if heading towards Abberton Reservoir. He also watched a velvet scoter feeding in the Colne with a couple of herring gulls for company. The scoter flew out of the river and past East Mersea Point when a boat approached it.
Hugh Owen reported seeing the distinctive profile of a spoonbill in flight near the Strood causeway on Tuesday.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
The waxwings were viewed for only about 15 - 20 minutes during which time they flew around a couple of times before returning back to the same hedgeline. They also called out loudly with their distinctive trilling sound. Along the same hedgeline were some fieldares and blackbirds feeding in the field and along a track. Something spooked all the birds and as birds dived for cover, the waxwings took off, circled round a few times but disappeared westwards and not relocated.
It has been well documented over the last month that there has been a huge influx of waxwings into the UK this winter. Up until recently Essex seemed to be missing out on the big flocks but small numbers have been turning up within the last week and this Mersea flock was probably just passing through.
It stayed dull and cold all day on Sunday at the country park with a lot of the watercourses still frozen. A peregrine was seen briefly flying away from the grazing fields carrying a bird it had caught. A few waders were in the fields during the high tide including black-tailed godwit, curlew, snipe, lapwing, golden plover, turnstone, redshank, ringed plover and even a single knot. There have been much fewer wildfowl during this frozen snap with most wigeon, brent geese and teal feeding on the saltings. Two green woodpeckers were foraging far and wide in the cold, feeding on the seawall and together in the far corner of the grazing fields, nearest the Point.
Andy Field reported that a boat trip on Sunday morning around the Mersea Quarters and into Salcott Creek and Tollesbury Creek provided views of great northern diver, male smew, 3 eider, 40 goldeneye, 30 red-breasted mergansers, peregrine 3 marsh harriers and a shag. The two coal tits were seen in the Shop Lane wood on Saturday by Andy and then by Adrian Kettle on Sunday.
This aptly named winter moth was resting on a lit window at the park on a cold early evening when the temperature had already dropped to half a degree above freezing. Another winter moth fluttered in the car headlights near the park entrance.
There was still lots of snow at the start of Saturday but a lot melted away during the day. The pools in the grazing fields remained frozen and the only birds seen were a few moorhens and a couple of snipe.
Three foxes were out on the prowl near the pond or at the back of the fields. One ventured onto the ice and crossed the pond as it tried to flush some moorhens from the reeds. A water rail emerged into view under the willows as a fox walked round the back of the pond, a second bird called from a nearby ditch. Twelve gadwall, 3 shoveler, a few mallard, little grebe joined the coots in the small unfrozen pool. At dusk 100 greenfinches gathered again in the bushes by the pond for their roost.
Six pintail flew over the park, two fieldfares were in the car park with blackbirds and a song thrush as was a sparrowhawk first thing in the morning. Another sparrowhawk crossed over the Colne to the park from Point Clear and from the Point 5 red-breasted mergansers and 150 shelduck were noted.
Martin Cock watched a red kite flying south-west over fields near Coopers Beach as it headed towards Bradwell on Saturday. There was also a big flock of 250 skylarks feeding in a snow covered field near here.
Friday, 3 December 2010
There was a good variety of waders and wildfowl at the Point eager to see the tide uncover some mud, so they could start feeding. There was the usual mix of 15 species of wader gathered in the area and nearby saltings, with hundreds more birds arriving as more mud became uncovered.
Waders seen were curlew, oystercatcher, avocet, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, redshank, lapwing, grey plover, golden plover, ringed plover, dunlin, knot, sanderling, turnstone and snipe. Ducks and geese were gathering here too with wigeon, teal, shelduck, mallard and brent geese. Two pintail flew over the fields and landed on an unfrozen section of the dyke, along with some wigeon and teal.
The snow lay thick on the shrubby sea-blite bushes at the Point where a dunnock, 3 reed buntings and a meadow pipit were noted. There was a slow trickle of skylarks noted crossing the river Colne as they followed the coast south-westwards.
In the river 4 red-breasted mergansers flew up the Colne and 5 great crested grebes were seen offshore, but not much else.
Other waders of interest were 2 coloured-ringed knot amongst a group of 500 birds feeding close to the beach. A roost in the snow-covered grazing fields of 400 golden plover and small numbers of snipe flying around. A woodcock was spotted probing amongst the snow in a ditch at the park, before it scuttled off to hide. Another woodcock had been seen first thing in the morning feeding alongside Bromans Lane.
Any bush that still has some fruit on it has been popular with the birds with 2 fieldfare, 3 song thrushes, 20 blackbirds seen about the park. One tiny goldcrest was so tame as it flitted around a low bush I could've reached out to touch it, as it fed at one point only a metre away from me. By mid afternoon 100 greenfinches were gathering to roost in some thick bushes near the pond, while 50 stock doves joined the nearby wood pigeon roost.
More of the park pond was frozen than yesterday with one small spot under the willow bushes crammed full with 40 moorhens, 10 coots and a little grebe towards dusk. The most interesting sight was a very anxious water rail perched up a tree calling nervously while it watched a fox on the ice below it. The water rail dropped down into some reeds but had to fly back up 3 metres high to the top of a bush as the fox went on the prowl again. A second water rail was also seen scuttling around underneath the willow bush as the fox approached. Later the fox sat on the ice just a few metres from the nervous-looking group of moorhens and coots, working out how it could catch its supper.
Thursday, 2 December 2010
Most numerous of the ducks were 100 teal, paddling about in the unfrozen sections, along with 50 mallard, 12 gadwall, 10 wigeon, little grebe and a few coots. A fox was out foraging near the pond in mid-morning and lunged at some birds along the edge of the reeds. It managed to flush out a group of snipe and moorhens who escaped at the last second. A short while later 12 snipe were seen feeding in the snow at one side of the pond, while at the east side a couple of snipe fed amongst 24 moorhens.
Flying over the pond were 100 skylarks, on their way to find easier feeding further west. A couple of goldcrests were seen picking over the twigs and branches of bushes and trees. In a deserted car park a green woodpecker probed amongst the snow, while in nearby rowan trees a song thrush, two fieldfares and blackbirds fed on some old berries.
A woodcock flew away from under some bushes in one corner of the park, before it landed back down again further along the path. It was then seen to fly off again with a clatter of wings through the trees and then dropped down in its original spot.
Ian Black had a good view of a jack snipe crouching in the snow in the middle of Bromans Lane, as he drove to the country park.
In Firs Chase in West Mersea earlier in the morning, 3 redwing, fieldfare and a snipe were seen.
The scene along the park seawall was very wintry and bleak. The fields were deserted although one greylag goose was grazing alone in the snow. A few wigeon appeared to be gathered at the far end of the borrowdyke, where there was probably an unfrozen section. It seemed too far for me to trudge into the fine falling snow.
Half the beach was covered in snow, leaving the lower half snow-free where the high tide had reached up to. A bar-tailed godwit, redshank, turnstone and lapwing were noted flying past.
There was a bit of snow in the car park on Tuesday morning, although not as much on the park as fell in other parts of Essex. The thin layer of snow on the grazing fields didn't deter the flock of wigeon from feeding, with around 800 birds noted. A marsh harrier was seen flying low over the fields upsetting all the wigeon as it passed by. A woodcock was seen briefly flying across a field to the north of the park. A group of 20 red-breasted mergansers flew south over the bus-turning circle presumably on their way out of the Colne.