Thursday, 15 December 2011


It was a bit of a surprise to find this brown long-eared bat lying dead in front of the door of the East Mersea church on Thursday 15th. The huge ears are quite a sight close-up and seem completely out of proportion to the rest of the body. This picture of the face was the most interesting angle to photograph the bat as part of the main body showed signs of an attack.

All bats should be tucked up by now for the winter hibernating in an old tree, a house or maybe even in an old church! I'm not aware of long-eared bats being recorded at the church here before although I think pipistrelles have often been noted. For a few summers a long-eared bat used to catch moths at night at the country park and then eat them inside the toilet block, leaving the moth wings lying on the floor. There were signs of possible long-eared bat presence this summer on only a handful of nights.

The big juicy fruits of the strawberry tree hang beside East Mersea's Church road, and seem particularly colourful this winter. Aware that the latin name Arbutus unedo refers to eating the fruit only once because of the taste, I was pleasantly surprised how fleshy and sweet it was. This tree here has been planted but the strawberry tree is a native tree in SW Ireland.

At the country park 27 snow buntings were back today on the chilly and windswept beach at the Point. They weren't seen yesterday although they had been reported on Tuesday. Not the same big flocks of waders or wildfowl on the fields in the last few days. Common snipe numbers have dropped to 25 with 3 also seen from the hide by the pond while 200+ teal and 300 wigeon were also seen.

Steve Grimwade and his Swallow Birding Group visited the park on Wednesday and noted a male peregrine and a male marsh harrier over the grazing fields where 250 teal were on the pools. Also seen was the wintering chiffchaff by the seawall and dyke, with 150 avocet, 15 sanderling, 2 rock pipits, 2 sparrowhawks and 2 great spotted woodpeckers also seen on the morning walk. There was also a big flock of 1000 golden plover which drifted high over the fields in spread-out flying formations.

On Tuesday a female marsh harrier flew west over the fields by the park battling into the strong headwind. The water rail showed again on the field edge of the pond and 3 snipe were nearby. In the grazing fields 700+ golden plover rested at high tide.

Glyn Evans kindly sent this photo of two sanderlings he saw at East Mersea Point on Monday 12th. He also managed to flush a short-eared owl from the Point which flew along the seawall where it flew up again a couple more times before flying inland near Shop Lane. Three green sandpipers were seen near Maydays Farm.

This photo was passed onto me by David Littlejohns of the sick fox that was seen at the park in late October. The fox was seen by a number of visitors to the park and seemed very unwell, allowing people to get quite close to it. It appears that the fox was suffering from an infestation of ticks which can be seen in the picture still attached behind the ear and above the eye. At the time I looked for this fox following the various reports but it had disappeared from view by the time I was free to check it out.
Currently there are at least two very healthy looking foxes often seen at the back of the pond.

Lastly, Brain Church sent me a video clip of the red-breasted goose at Old Hall Marshes, taken yesterday morning. This is the goose first found on the Island a month ago but which has taken up residence on Old Hall. I've asked Brian to send it back to its original finder when he's finished filming it!


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