Monday, 31 January 2011


There have been signs recently that the worst of the winter might be behind us, especially with the last day of January being still and sunny. This clump of flowering snowdrops situated in a ditch along Bromans Lane, has been catching the eyes of some of the folk driving into the country park.

Sallow bushes near the pond have been bursting their buds over the last fortnight, revealing the silvery-white young growth of the pussy willow catkins. They still have a way to go before they have the first bees of the spring buzzing around their fully developed yellow catkins.

This small hawthorn bush near the car park is resilient enough to keep its green leaves throughout the winter, despite the snow last month. Every winter it looks the same and it's often the first hawthorn at the park to produce the first new leaves of the spring too.

The calm conditions today provided a flat sea with clear visibility to the horizon. Martin Cock had alerted me that he could see 250 great crested grebes and 8 Slavonian grebes on the sea opposite the Youth Camp area. This group and lots more could be seen from the country park with an estimate of 300 great-crested grebes and another 4 Slavonian grebes being seen as were 3 common scoter.

There were hundreds of gulls in the distance especially concentrated around a large feeding flock of 200 cormorants on the horizon, probably about 3 miles offshore. Some of these cormorants may've been some of the 100 birds that passed low over West Mersea just after daybreak, as they made their way from their Abberton reservoir roost.

Also seen were some big groups of red-throated divers flying towards Colne Point as if from the direction of the mouth of the Blackwater. There was one flock of 45 red-throats counted and with several other flocks seen including a few individuals on the water, around 70 birds had been noted.

Late in the afternoon with the tide at its lowest, a long-tailed duck was unexpectedly seen flying out of the Colne with 4 red-breasted mergansers. A total of 36 red-breasted mergansers flew past the Point as they headed out to feed in the outer reaches of the estuary. Drifting out of the Colne were 14 eider who stopped to feed in the middle of the river, opposite Brightlingsea. Thousands of gulls, mainly black-headed, streamed out of the Colne to roost for the night on the mud at Sandy Point.

On the grazing fields a merlin flashed across towards the seawall, creating panic amongst some of the 1000 waders and wildfowl in the fields. A female sparrowhawk was less obvious and perched briefly on a tree at the back of the fields. A grey heron in the fields at the end of the afternoon might be the first heron to visit the park this year.

In the park there were still 70+ finches around the various bushes and trees near the pond with chaffinches, greenfinches and goldfinches present Six siskin perched up on some tall poplar trees with the sweet twittering song of three males making them sound very happy and relaxed with themselves. Two great spotted woodpeckers were also seen together here.

Just after daybreak a barn owl was seen perched on a fencepost near Bromans Lane, surveying the strip of long grass beside it. At the end of the day there was the usual little owl duet heard, except this time it came from Cosways Caravan site and not the more usual Bromans Farm.

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