Saturday, 3 December 2011


The sun eventually broke through the clouds on Saturday 3rd, providing us with a mainly sunny day. In the morning it was getting towards low tide so there was plenty of mud on show although most of the waders were far off into the distance.

The familiar walk around the East Mersea Point almost seemed worthless, until a flock of snow buntings were discovered feeding low down on the beach and well hidden amongst the shells. They were easier to count whilst spread out on the beach with the 30 birds being a good sized flock. The birds had disappeared by mid afternoon, presumably after the disturbance from dogs and walkers got too much.

Whilst walking along the seawall in the afternoon, the flocks of waders on the nearby mudflats suddenly took to the air. At first it seemed as if they were moving because of the incoming tide until I saw the unmistakeable outline and profile of a big peregrine falcon homing down onto the mud as if targetting a wader close-by.

In the bright sunshine the peregrine's markings showed up really clearly with it's fine barred underparts, bold black moustachial stripes on the face and the pale blue-grey back and wings. The bird hung in the air above the seawall and circled over the fields while a couple of thousand ducks, geese and waders flew around in mass panic. As flocks swirled round the peregrine appeared confused as to which bird would be easiest to chase. After a couple of minutes of circling, it flew north over the fields and headed to the back of the Island - "empty-taloned".

I made sure this falcon was a peregrine and not some other falcon especially as the "saker" falcon was seen again earlier in the day at Old Hall Marshes tussling with a much smaller peregrine.

Amongst the mass of birds on the fields, 94+ common snipe had been counted around the pools which is the highest count so far this winter. Numbers of teal seemed similar to yesterday when 630+ birds had been counted, along with 500 wigeon, 70 black-tailed godwits and 50 redshank.

On the park pond the water rail was seen twice during the day being chased back into the reeds by a moorhen. The water rail was also seen out on the nearby muddy track yesterday afternoon. Also nearby today was a common snipe and a curlew with 20 moorhens and 18 coot feeding in and near the pond. On the water were 5 tufted ducks along with a few shoveler, gadwall and mallard too. At dusk two foxes came out from the hedgerow to stare at the mass of ducks on the pools. Thirty stock doves gathered in the pond copse to roost and 70+ greenfinches were going to roost in nearby bushes.

In the river 8 red-beasted mergansers flew out of the river to feed as the tide came in. A common seal was seen again in the mouth of the estuary. The avocets were building up again, probably to the same record count for the area made yesterday when 400 birds gathered together as the tide covered the last of the mud near the Point. The big gathering of waders on the last bit of mud included 2000 dunlin, 100 knot, 100 golden plover and 100 grey plover along with many of the other regular waders.

The high spring tides of recent days has resulted in large chunks of the park's sandy cliff crumbling down into the sea. Some parts of the cliff are suffering badly from the coastal erosion and yet 30 metres further along the beach, the grass is still growing at the foot of the cliff. As I walked along the beach, I reminded myself that there appeared to be about 80 sand martin holes had been used this summer.

At the beginning of the day, 200 dark-bellied brent geese were feeding on the algae on the mudflats near the beach. Amongst the dark-bellied was the single pale-bellied brent goose. Later all the geese took off to feed in fields round the north side of the Island.

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