Friday, 25 November 2011


The high tide just before mid-day on Friday 25th turned out to be higher than predicted and came up sooner too. This warning sign in front of the Firs Chase caravan site's wooden jetty sums up the scene.

Several sections of West Mersea's Coast Road were flooded for about an hour leaving lots of seaweed and other debris on the road. The picture above shows the area beside the Dabchicks sailing club under water.

The real drama unfolded on the Strood causeway where the road as usual got covered by the tide. The picture above shows the tide just covering the saltmarsh at the Strood, while the photo below shows the same view 20 minutes later. The birdwatching along the Strood seawall had been uneventful and rather quiet and I soon met up with Roy Bloomfield. Many cars waited at either end for the water to recede - except for one grey Astra van. We began to watch this stranded Astra in the distance and saw the man climbing out of his car window and standing on the roof of his car as the tide continued to rise up the side of the car.

The appearance of a helicopter that circled over the stranded car and the flooded causeway was not from one of the emergency services but from BBC News with a camera mounted on the front! A short while later the local Mersea lifeboat sped up the Channel to the rescue where the car driver was brought back to West Mersea apparently suffering from the cold. I also heard later that there was a lengthy queue of traffic waiting to get onto the Island of almost a couple of miles stretching back from the Strood to the Langenhoe Lion.

Other than Astra-Man incident, the other interesting spectacle was watching a presumed escape Harris hawk fly slowly along the length of the Strood Channel scattering all the other birds as it passed by. Fortunately I noticed this big bird of prey at the far end of the channel and was able to follow it as it came closer without being sure what kind of raptor it was. It was only as it was close-by that I could see the characteristic white rump and undertail, general dark appearance but with chestnut on part of the underwings and part of the upperwings too. The bird flapped and glided high above the queued traffic on the causeway and then drifted east round the back of the Island.

Harris hawks are native to the Americas breeding in the north but wintering in the south and are popular in this country with falconers. This bird is most likely an escape and is probably the same bird that has been reported recently from nearby Old Hall Marshes.

There were a few thousand waders and wildfowl in the channel whose numbers were only appreciated when the hawk, the helicopter and then the lifeboat appeared in or over the area. About 400 brent geese were noted but no red-breasted goose, also 300+ wigeon with teal and shelduck while wader flocks were mainly dunlin, redshank, black-tailed godwits, grey plover and a few curlew. The most impressive sight was the huge flock of about 4000+ golden plovers flying around with lots of lapwing over the Feldy seawall.

Not many other birds noted except for about 15 skylarks in the fields, 5 meadow pipits, 3 rock pipits and a couple of reed buntings along the seawall.

At Firs Chase the pied blackbird was seen again in the garden before flying across the road It's a very striking partial albino male with a white head and neck and rump on a black body and wings. It was first seen about a month ago in the same area. Near The Lane a red admiral was tussling and spiralling around with what appeared to be a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

At East Mersea Point 31 snow buntings were seen by Andy Field on Thursday 24th and the previous day he was lucky to see a kingfisher by the Strood seawall as well as the bean goose and the black brant.

Despite some disappointing moth trapping nights recently, this rare red-headed chestnut moth came to the trap during Wednesday night at the country park. One of the distinguishing features of this moth are the two tiny black dots inside the pale kidney-shaped mark on each wing. This is the first record for the park and only the fourth ever record for Essex. It's not a resident moth but breeds on the near continent with several individuals having crossed over to southern UK in recent weeks. The only other East Anglian records this autumn have been two at Landguard and one at Dunwich, both in Suffolk.

The only other moth found in the trap on Thursday morning was this scarce umber which is actually quite a common moth usually found near wooded areas as the larvae feed on a variety of deciduous trees.


Tommy in Dubai said...

I should count myself lucky then!!

Hope the chap rescued by the boat was OK.

Dougal Urquhart said...

I'm sure you're enjoying warmer weather where you are at the moment. I'd heard someone had "popped-over" from Dubai for the goose. You chose the day the goose decided to visit the nearby Old Hall RSPB reserve!

The rescued chap I presume was OK - but as for his abandoned astra van....?
Regards Dougal