Wednesday, 19 October 2011


This grey phalarope was obliging enough to hang around for several days at the country park waiting until I returned from my autumn travels. (Apologies for the lack of Island updates during the last 3 weeks!).
Andy Field found the phalarope on the pools in the grazing fields on Friday 14th and it was still present up to dusk today. Stuart Read took this photograph above of the bird yesterday. It was an easy bird to spot and not just because it was a whitish- grey colour but because it didn't stop spinning round and round like some mad swirling dervish!

Andy Cook also visited the park yesterday afternoon and took this photo above and the one below. The spinning round and round helped to bring water bugs up to the surface and the bird seemed to be constantly picking at the water's surface. Very occasionally the bird would swim a short distance and restart spinning again on a different bit of water. At one point yesterday all the birds on the pools including the phalarope took to the air briefly as a male sparrowhawk passed by. They all soon settled back down again.

This is the first grey phalarope on Mersea Island since one was seen at West Mersea on 28th November 1970 - 41 years ago. One or two normally stop off in Essex each autumn on their passage south from the Arctic breeding grounds to the seas off southern and western Africa where they spend the winter.
Andy's picture below shows the size comparison between the grey phalarope and a black-headed gull.

Two glossy ibises have also been seen by one or two lucky observers in recent days either on the park pond or on the pools in the fields. Stuart Read was fortunate to see the two birds yesterday lunchtime flying from the direction of the pond, passing over the pools and the phalarope, as they disappeared east towards the Colne, not to be refound.

On the 16th a glossy ibis was seen standing on a clump of reedmace at the pond. Martin Cock found two glossy ibises by some farm reservoirs at Maydays Farm also on the 12th and again on the 15th, maybe the same birds seen at the park or possibly a single bird and a pair flying about at different times.
The glossy ibis have been very mobile and proving hard to track down.

The pools in the grazing fields have been packed with waders and wildfowl with up to 1000 birds noted over the last couple of days. Around 300 wigeon, 350 teal, 100 brent geese, 65 redshank, 15 snipe, 25 black-tailed godwits, along with small numbers of mallard, shoveler, lapwing, 2 greylag geese with 120 curlew roosting nearby. Twenty-five stock doves gathered in the fields late afternoon before roosting in trees by the pond. Two female pintail noted on the pools on Wednesday morning were later seen flying around the area.
Stuart Read reported seeing a pale-bellied brent goose on the fields on Tuesday.

On the pond, 4 little egrets roosted at high tide yesterday where 80 mallard, 6 gadwall and 4 shoveler and one or two teal and wigeon too. The family of mute swans with two large cygnets trudged across the fields to the pond for a short while before heading back to the dyke.

The last of the summer migrants seen have included a swallow near the pond today as well as a blackcap and chiffchaff. Yesterday at the Point a wheatear and a common tern were seen from the Point at the end of the day. A marsh harrier was also seen here yesterday heading to the Langenhoe roost, while 4 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the Colne to feed.
Today 500 golden plover took off from the saltmarsh near the Point in a big flock, while 100 avocets fed along the water's edge. Also a rock pipit and 10 reed buntings were seen here and 50 linnets fed along the seawall. Overhead 2 siskins were heard calling in flight as they headed west.

Recent bird sightings on the Island by Andy Field have included 6 wheatears, 6 marsh harriers and a common buzzard from Reeveshall on the 13th. A Cetti's warbler singing near the entrance to Coopers Beach in some scrub on the 10th proved impossible to see, while two gannets were noted offshore from the park on the 8th. On the 7th a short-eared owl was seen on the beach by the Point before flying over to the seawall, no doubt a bird newly arrived for the winter. Also noted that day were 6 wheatears, 50 swallows, 2 house martins, 6 chiffchaffs and a blackcap. A juvenile hobby perched on a tree near the park entrance on the 5th and a wheatear also seen, while the day before 2 wheatear, 4 chiffchaff and 300 wigeon were noted.

Martin Cock's recent sightings have included a greenshank at Maydays both today and yesterday while on Monday a short-eared owl was seen on the mainland end of the Strood and 4 red-legged partridge near the East Mersea Glebe. During his 14 mile walk round the Island perimeter on the 16th, he saw the glossy ibis at the park pond, 2 wheatears, green sandpiper at Maydays, lesser whitethroat at the Oyster Fishery and Med gull at Rewsalls. As well as seeing the 2 glossy ibis at Maydays flushed by a marsh harrier on 15th a whimbrel was noted too. Thirty swallows were at the park on the 12th and 2 glossy ibis at Maydays, while one maybe two kingfishers were here on the 8th.

Ron Harvey enjoyed seeing a redstart in his West Mersea garden in Whittaker Way on the 13th, and there's a report of a ring ouzel being seen recently by James Conway in his West Mersea garden.

Four red admiral butterflies were seen at the park during Tuesday with common darter and migrant hawker noted too.

The moth trap was put out over Tuesday night but the very cold temperature resulted in only six moths by morning. Last year was very rewarding during the first half of October and these current cold clear night-time skies at the moment probably mean more low catches from now on as we head into winter. The large wainscot pictured above is a typical October moth, often noted on several nights.

The three green-brindled crescent moths, one pictured above, almost outnumbered the other moths in the trap. Another typical autumn moth with some specimens showing a nice irridescent green sheen on the wings.

The yellow-line quaker is a common autumn moth here although only the one in the trap this morning. The only other moth noted was a black rustic.

Just before the moth trap was set up on Tuesday night, I was able to stand only five metres away from two badgers foraging under a hedge not far from the park pond just as darkness fell.

Andy Field has been seeing the hummingbird hawkmoth regularly in his West Mersea garden on several days up until the 17th October.

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