Monday, 14 November 2011


It was a bit of a surprise to find a red-breasted goose feeding with the brent geese in this winter wheat field by the Strood on Monday 14th. Despite the gloomy conditions the distinctive markings on the head and neck, along with the broad white stripe on the flank stood out, even at 250 metres away through binoculars. The red breast and cheek appeared quite dull in the poor light but had the full red face suggesting an adult bird.

Stopping to scan through the 500 dark-bellied brent geese, the red-breast was noticed very quickly, as it fed on the edge of the flock. Martin Cock managed to stop off while driving back on to the Island and saw the bird too. The geese continued to feed for the last hour of the afternoon before flying to roost into the nearby Strood Channel. Earlier in the afternoon the geese were feeding in the nearby rape field but got spooked off and landed in the channel before returning to this wheat field. Also noted was a black brant amongst the brent, which I'd first noticed here two days ago, with a much smaller white flank patch than the East Mersea bird.

The origins of this red-breasted goose would seem to suggest a wild bird rather than one of the two feral ones from nearby Abberton reservoir. It was too dark and far off to check for rings on the legs. Those two geese are usually seen together and normally with Canadas or greylag geese and they've never been seen at Mersea previously. The Strood channel and the adjacent fields is not an area frequented by any feral geese. At the east end of the Island, there have been five records of wild red-breasted geese at Cudmore Grove mixed in with the brent since the mid 1980's, although none in the last few years.

Globally the red-breasted goose is the most endangered goose in the world following a 50% decline in the population over the last ten years. They breed in the Siberian Arctic as the brent geese do, but winter mainly in Rumania and Bulgaria.

Close to the Strood on the fishing reservoirs were 35 mallard, 3 teal, little grebe, tufted duck, 10 coot and 10 moorhens.

Along the Channel, 3 marsh harriers flew north-east over the Strood causeway late in the afternoon, presumably heading to roost at Langenhoe. There was a feeding frenzy by 20 little egrets beside the brushwood polders as they jostled with each other to catch small fish as the tide receded. Three green sandpipers flew out of a ditch in the fields but no sign of any lapland buntings today.

At the country park yesterday the shorelark was only seen first thing in the morning at the Point but not after the beach got busy with walkers. The jack snipe, black brant and pale-bellied brent goose were still present on the grazing fields. In the car park two sparrowhawks circled ovehead while a chiffchaff called loudly from the clifftop trees.


Anonymous said...

Have just discovered ur blog and am very impressed with all the detail! Thanks for this... I will be a regular reader now and hope to visit mersea again soon.

Dougal Urquhart said...

It's a great place to watch wildlife at any time of the year. Dougal