Tuesday, 21 February 2012
After a sunny morning on Tuesday 21st, it then turned cloudy for the afternoon and a walk round the park at the end of the day produced one or two things of note. After scanning the edge of the pond trying to locate a water rail, a brief squealing duet was heard between two birds that indicated where they were hiding. One bird was seen swimming through the reeds at the back of the pond looking rather concerned followed closely by a second bird. It was only when I looked closer, that the rails were watching a dog fox walking very close-by. The fox soon wandered off and left the rails to carry on skulking in the reeds.
On the water 14 tufted ducks and a female pochard were present along with 20 gadwall and a few mallard. Two snipe were feeding in the grass and a curlew was also watched in front of the hide.
In the distance a marsh harrier was seen flying up river to the Langenhoe roost.
In the morning the fields had a nice variety of waders and wildfowl on them with 500 brent geese and 400 wigeon the main flocks. Also seen were 18 snipe, 50 lapwing, 100 golden plover, 20 shoveler, 100 teal, 25 curlew, 20 dunlin and 10 turnstone.
However all the birds in the fields soon scattered in different directions when a peregrine glided along the seawall and headed past the Point and then out over the river Colne. Also at the Point was a displaying ringed plover and a singing reed bunting - both birds feeling the spring is round the corner. Ten bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point and 50 avocets were seen feeding on the far edge of the mud.
A red admiral flew across the car park during the sunny morning - the first butterfly of the park this year.
Heard that Richard Hull and Richard Brown visited Langenhoe late last Friday and watched 30 marsh harriers heading into the evening roost. Seven twite were also seen which was a very noteworthy sighting but their biggest surprise was seeing the colour-ringed spoonbill in the car-headlights as they were leaving!
Monday, 20 February 2012
Spent a chilly hour in the middle of the day on the seawall near Shop Lane on Monday 20th. There was still a thin layer of ice on the nearby ditches from the overnight freeze. The falling tide was just starting to uncover the mud along the Pyefleet Channel with lots of waders arriving to feed.
The marsh harriers were very much in evidence as usual both on Langenhoe with five seen there and on the nearby Reeveshall where 3 females and a male were seen. One or two of the females seemed to be showing an interest in the reed-filled fleet at Reeveshall.
On the Reeveshall pool 25 wigeon, 10 teal, 4 mallard and a redshank were noted here while 16 stock doves and 200+ rooks and jackdaws were feeding in the fields.
Along the Pyefleet next to Pewit Island a brown shelduck with a blackish head looking like an Australian shelduck, was roosting with 150 common shelducks. It was a bit distant to see the exact details and to eliminate a hybrid exotic shelduck but this seems to be the same bird reported here about 3 months ago. Also noted were 12 pintail, 4 red-breasted mergansers, 4 great crested grebes with scattered groups of wigeon and teal.
On a sunny Sunday 19th, there was a chill to the north-westerly breeze that swept across the Maydays area of the Island, pictured above. I timed my visit so that the tide was starting to drop, so that there would be some waders to look at.
There were certainly lots of flying flocks of waders heading up-channel to the newly exposed mud. The main waders were dunlin, redshank, grey plover, curlew, black-tailed godwit and bar-tailed godwits too. In the channel were 2 red-breasted mergansers, 2 great crested grebes and a goldeneye while a common seal basked on the edge of the saltmarsh further up-channel.
The small reservoirs at the back of Maydays held 4 pochard, 30 teal, 20 mallard and 2 snipe.
Some of the set-aside fields and game cover crops were host to lots of small birds with a brief view of a male brambling the most interesting amongst 100 chaffinches. This strip alongside Haycocks Lane also supported 50 linnets and at least 3 yellowhammers while Steve Entwistle later saw a ringtail hen harrier fly over this field. On the other area by the seawall 50 corn buntings, 30 skylarks and 150 linnets showed the real benefit of some stubble and set-aside.
On the nearby Reeveshall a peregrine hurtled across the fields flushing out one of the two marsh harriers. Also disturbed were 2000 starlings, 150 lapwings and 300 golden plovers.
At the end of the day a woodcock was seen landing at the back of the park's flooded grazing field, pictured above. After sitting motionless beside the hedge for a few minutes, it disappeared but soon came back out to feed. Despite all the woodcock sightings during the snow, none were actually seen feeding, like this one probing its bill into the grass. Steve Entwistle was lucky enough to see this bird and also a second woodcock flying near Bromans Lane as he left the park at dusk.
On the pond 14 tufted duck and 4 pochard were of interest amongst the small mix of gadwall and mallard. At least one water rail called from the back of the pond and a little owl called to the north.
At West Mersea a red-throated diver, Mediterranean gull, 4 red-breasted mergansers and 3 Slavonian grebes were seen offshore while 37 sanderling were seen on the beach. The previous day on Saturday, Steve Grimwade enjoyed a productive birdwatching boat trip with his group on Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer going into the river Blackwater. Of interest closer to West Mersea were a shag, 6 snow buntings on Cobmarsh Island and a yellow-legged gull on the beach.
Monday, 13 February 2012
Although the snow and ice have only just melted, it was still a bit of a surprise to see this peacock butterfly in the Firs Chase garden in West Mersea this morning on Friday 17th. It's a bit tatty but at least it's survived the winter. A Mediterranean gull flew over Firs Chase calling early in the morning and the regular pied blackbird was seen too. A weasel was seen rummaging through the log pile here the previous day.
Alongside the Strood were 700 brent geese feeding in the field, continuing to strip the field bare of a sort of rape crop. The outgoing tide meant there was lots of mud in the Strood Channel with 2 pairs of pintail noted amongst the 100 teal, 70 wigeon and 140 shelduck.
There was the usual mix of waders although no knot or golden pover were seen while both species of godwit were present in small numbers and also 500 dunlin was a good number here. Not many small birds seen with 10 reed buntings and 15 skylarks seen with one or two singing. Amongst the moorings were 16 little grebes but little else in the channels and by the Hard.
At the park pond on Friday afternoon several moorhens as usual were feeding in the field with this one moorhen noted in front of the hide. The last few days have seen up to 25 moorhens feeding near the pond. On the water 16 tufted ducks and a pochard with 28 gadwall the main wildfowl here.
At dusk on Thursday afternoon, the calls of 4 little owls could be heard coming from several different hedges to the west and north of the park. It was reassuring to hear a male tawny owl calling from the Manwood Grove wood in Shop Lane too.
There was still ice covering half of the park pond on Tuesday afternoon. Monty the grumpy terrier took a dislike to a fox that had wandered up too close to the hide and after barking loudly at it, the fox quickly sprinted away and dashed across the ice on the pond to the far side. There were still about 50 gadwall on the pond and 5 tufted duck present here.
Offshore from the park 10 red-breasted mergansers and 10 great crested grebes were seen.
Earlier on Tuesday 1o fieldfares, 5 song thrushes and a mistle thrush fed in a horse paddock to the north of the park. Four kestrels perched up at various points alongside the East Mersea road.
Howard Vaughan visited Mersea with his group of birdwatchers on Monday 13th and saw 2 red-throated divers, 8 Slavonian grebes, 30 great crested grebes and 26 red-breasted mergansers from the Esplanade. Later at Cudmore Grove a peregrine and 115 avocets were the main sightings of note here.
A woodcock flew from the copse by the pond and a redwing was seen perched up in a tree by the park pond on Monday at dusk. Steve Entwistle saw the spoonbill by the St Peters marsh in West Mersea early on Monday morning along with a little egret there too.
Sunday, 12 February 2012
The foxes have been spending more time recently out and about during the daytime, such as this one seen in front of the hide at the park on Sunday 12th.
The fox stopped and pounced down into the snow but didn't seem to catch anything. A couple of minutes earlier it had run onto the ice after it had seen some movement in the reeds by a great tit which quickly flew away to safety.
In the ice-free section of the pond a grey heron watched all the duck activity with still 80 gadwall, 70 mallard and 4 tufted ducks being the main wildfowl. A marsh harrier flew over the pond in the morning, glancing down at all the bird activity as it passed slowly westwards.
Sheltering from the cold northerly breeze below the park cliff was a woodcock which flew away from the scrub when I peered over the edge.
At the end of the afternoon I joined Andy Field on the Pyefleet seawall near Shop Lane, some of the view to Reeveshall in photo above, to watch the harriers going into the Langenhoe roost. It got very chilly but it was worth staying until darkness fell at 5.40pm as the hen harriers waited late before arriving on the scene. In the fading light 4 ringtail hen harriers and one male were each seen flying directly to their regular spot and then dropping straight down into the reeds. Earlier the marsh harriers had gathered on bush-tops and along the adjacent seawall with a single count of 23 birds being made during one single scan, with a further 3 birds having dropped earlier into the reedbed. A kestrel was the only other raptor seen here.
Along the Pyefleet the tide was on its way out with 14 red-breasted mergansers and 9 goldeneye slowly drifting down channel. Waders were gathering in big numbers with 100+ bar-tailed godwits of note including a ginger summer-plumaged bird.
Andy had earlier seen in the afternoon the immature colour-ringed spoonbill at the St Peters marsh at West Mersea. It perched in the same bush with a little egret as it did last Tuesday. Tim Clark had seen the spoonbill a short while earlier in the afternoon flying low west past the beach huts at the bottom of Seaview Avenue.
Daryl Rhymes saw 8 Slavonian grebes offshore from the bottom of Kingsland Avenue while Colin Mackenzie-Grieve saw the 6 snow buntings fly from Old Hall Point towards Cobmarsh Island.
The recent freezing conditions produced some odd icicles pictured above, that had grown almost horizontally off the roof of the information room at the country park.
Saturday, 11 February 2012
It's rare to find a woodcock pose out in the sunshine, like this one did in Bromans Lane next to the country park on Saturday 11th. I spotted this bird in the ditch as I drove along the Lane but had to go back to the park to fetch my camera and binoculars. The bird was very obliging as I held the camera up to the binoculars and clicked several pictures without it flying away.
This was the bird as it was first seen, with it's long bill tucked in behind it's wings. In previous cold winters I've seen woodcock in this ditch before as I've driven along but none have been as obliging as this one.
A zoomed-in image of the wonderful brown markings and the amazing variety of shades of brown that help to keep the bird well camouflaged on the woodland floor. Once all this snow melts I doubt I'll see any more woodcock until the next wintry spell, next winter-time.
In the meantime, three other woodcock were seen in flight at the end of the day from the hide. One flew past some trees near the hide where the gathering greenfinch roost of 80 birds flew off, presumably because they feared the woodcock looked like an owl in flight. A short while later two more woodcocks flew away from the copse at the back of the pond to begin the evening's feed.
Two woodcock were also seen towards darkness flying near the pond on Friday late afternoon, while at the end of Thursday one woodcock dropped down into a ditch along from the pond and a second bird flew over to a nearby backgarden. Martin Dence also saw a woodcock at his Bromans Farm on Friday. All these woodcock sightings each evening suggest there's at least three birds at the park at the moment. A little owl made a very late appearance beside the park pond on Friday when it sat up on a big bush as night fell.
The park pond froze up a bit more after temperatures dropped down to at least -8 degrees during Friday night. There was still the big gadwall melee of 80 birds feeding in tight bunches. Five tufted duck, 50 mallard, 18 coot, pair of mute swans, 3 little grebes and some teal and moorhens were noted here. A few snipe were seen dropping down to feed in ditches and even inside the copse behind the pond. A water rail was only heard today but yesterday was seen inside one of the ditches along from the hide.
The muntjac deer made another brief appearance at its usual spot beside the copse by the pond on Saturday morning. At the end of the day the foxes seemed to be everywhere you looked with 3 by the pond and one in the middle of each of the grazing fields.
The snow has been very slow to clear from the park and has been lying for a week now. Wrapped up warm it was great to be outside in the bright winter's sun and a nice lack of wind too.
At the end of the afternoon the chorus of the charm of 50+ goldfinches from the trees in the car park added some natural music to the scene. Offshore 50 great crested grebes and 9 red-breasted mergansers were noted and possibly a distant raft of 10 sleeping Slavonian grebes.
Earlier in the morning a striking male pintail flew over the fields and saltmarsh near the Point. The river Colne seemed very quiet for birds with only a couple of great crested grebes seen and also a common seal.
In Bromans Lane 40+ blackirds have been tucking into some ripe red fruit on some Malus trees in two gardens. Two kestrels perched up side by side in the morning's cold in a tree beside the East Mersea road near the pub.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
There was still plenty of snow covering the country park on Tuesday 7th making the place look a real winter wasteland. The car park pictured above, was empty for long periods during the day despite plenty of sunshine.
The blanket of snow everywhere usually provides opportunities for seeing woodcock as the weather forces them out in the open during the daytime. There were woodcock sightings from 3 different corners of the park during the day including the rare sighting of one bird on the ground.
The first woodcock was accidently flushed from a gorse bush near the car park, from where it flew over to the clifftop and dropped down amongst the small trees. It was seen again near the path another three times with one of the lucky views of it as it stood on the cliff-edge looking nervously at me as I passed by. After a few seconds it flew off and headed further along the cliff-top.
Later in the afternoon another woodcock was seen flying aross the pond passing close to the hide. The last sighting of the day was the classic winter woodcock in flight image with the distinctive silhouette against a fading sky, passing over the snow covered field as it headed towards Bromans Lane.
Across a snow covered park, a sparrowhawk flew from the clifftop carrying its small prey in the afternoon. A marsh harrier flew up the river Colne towards the Langenhoe evening roost, while a bossy kestrel chased off a grey heron that tried to settle in its oak tree at dusk. Earlier in the day a peregrine scattered the plover roost off the fields when it suddenly arrived and then stood amongst the snow. After briefly surveying the deserted fields, it headed menacingly over to the saltings near the Point creating more havoc amongst the roosting waders.
The park pond wasn't completely frozen although there was a big gathering of wildfowl in and around the open water. There's been an influx of gadwall in recent days to the pond with 65 being a record count here. Two water rails were seen foraging underneath the willow bushes where a snipe was also seen. A handful of snipe were also feeding in the boggy ground to the east of the pond. In the car park 60 goldfinches gathered late in the afternoon to roost in the bushes.
The foxes were out in force during the day with four dotted along the back of the fields curled up in the morning sunshine. In late afternoon a fox was discovered tucking into a suet-ball put out earlier in the day at the bird-feeding station along from the hide. There was also the sight of another fox sitting on the ice on the pond looking longingly at all the ducks in the nearby water. It soon gave up staring and slunk away.
Andy Field dragged himself away from household chores and was rewarded with finding this very obliging juvenile spoonbill at the St Peters marsh in West Mersea on Tuesday 7th. Having met someone on the beach who'd said that he'd seen a spoonbill a short while earlier, Andy found the bird still feeding in the small freshwater ditch near the St Peters well.
I had got the call at lunchtime and dashed down to join Andy as we got excellent views of the bird especially once it landed on this bush at the back of the marsh. These first 2 photos above were taken by Andy, with the following shots below my attempt at hand-held digiscoping.
This spoonbill has been doing the circuit of north Essex since last autumn as the big colour rings on the legs have enabled it to be tracked by birdwatchers. It was born in Germany last summer and was ringed there in July, after which it was seen in Suffolk in September followed by Holland Haven Country Park in Essex in October. This juvenile bird has been seen in a number of locations in recent weeks such as Old Hall marshes, Colne Point and also a brief stopover at East Mersea.
After seeing the bird partially obscured whilst it fed inside the reed-lined ditch, it was next watched flying overhead providing brilliant-white views of the wings with the black tips. It was a memorable fly-past with the snow reflecting brightly up against the white body and set against a clear blue sky backdrop. The bird landed on this big bramble bush where it struggled to balance itself. A couple of metres beneath the spoonbill was a little egret also perched on the bush.
Not wanting to be upstaged by the exotic interloper, this kingfisher zipped back and forwards along the short section of ditch. It was spoilt for choice for willow bushes to perch in whilst looking down at the water. For once my camera just happened to be pointing in the direction of the bushes and the kingfisher obliged by posing in the sunshine.
The view of the bush with the spoonbill and little egret appearing as tiny white specks. This is the seemingly distant view without a zoomed-in image although the spoonbill shots above were digiscoped from exactly the same spot.
Also noted here were a couple of snipe dropping down onto the marsh, while 3 lapwing and 4 golden plover made the most of the snow-free meadow to feed. A water rail called from under the spoonbill bush and a mallard also dropped into the ditch, while a rock pipit was also noted.
Andy's visit to the area started well when he found 6 snow buntings feeding on the beach at the Point. They flew over the channel to Cobmarsh Island. Earlier in the morning there was the unsual sight of a snipe feeding in his back-garden in High Street North.
Monday, 6 February 2012
Wrapped up warm and enjoyed a walk along the Strood seawall for the last hour of daylight on Monday 6th. Even without the help of any binoculars there was plenty of activity to see and hear along the Strood Channel. As the sun dropped down, the fog seemed to be slowly creeping back over the snowy fields by the Strood.
As the sun was disappearing a steady procession of six marsh harriers headed east high along the Channel on their way to the evening roost at Langenhoe. There were several long flights of 300+ cormorants heading back from the sea towards their Abberton reservoir roost. One big flight of over 100 birds passed close overhead with just the sound of their wingbeats being heard. A little egret headed off as it got dark towards Ray Island while a grey heron dropped down into the Channel.
The noisiest birds were the brent geese with over 2000 birds rising as one big mass into the air, each bird joining in the chorus as they flew of the fields to roost along the channels. Waders were busy feeding on the mud with lots of little dunlin, the lanky silhouettes of black-tailed godwits in their groups while redshank, lapwing, grey plover and curlews were present too.
A single avocet fed along the water in the channel while the only snipe seen was flushed off the side of the seawall. Up to fifty teal were sifting through the mud close to the seawall, which is something they don't often do so close during the milder weather. Ten meadow pipits were the only small birds noted feeding along the side of the seawall.
The reservoirs at the bottom of the Strood Hill weren't completely frozen with 100 wigeon, 20 mallard, 6 tufted duck and 20 coot all congregating around one area free of ice.
Driving onto the Island in the afternoon, a woodcock was glimpsed feeding in a snow-covered front garden between Bonners Barn and the Peldon Rose road junction.
Sunday, 5 February 2012
The Island woke up on Sunday 5th to 15 cms of snow laying everywhere. The normally busy Coast Road in West Mersea pictured above, was virtually deserted during the morning with lots of families out instead with their sledges.
Despite the noise from the children sledging down the slope on St Peters Meadow, a kingfisher was glimpsed twice in the area within an hour. The first glimpse was as it flashed low over the saltmarsh near the boardwalk, while the second view was closer as it flew away from this ditch pictured above, along from St Peters well. Also in the ditch were a snipe, little egret and a mallard while rock pipit and reed bunting were feeding on the saltmarsh.
I didn't check the beach at the Point near here for snow buntings as there were lots of walkers around, however up to 12 were seen by Mark Dixon on Thursday. There was even a report of a black redstart here on Thursday.
As the tide started to recede various waders were eager to feed with sanderling and bar-tailed godwit noted amongst the commoner waders close to the beach A Mediterranean gull flew along the shore while a sparrowhawk appeared over the nearby gardens. Thirty skylarks flew west past the church heading off the Island.
Amongst the boat moorings were at least 30 little grebes scattered along in various groups. Five red-breasted mergansers were in the Quarters with another five seen flying about. On the Feldy marshes three marsh harriers were flying around low with one of the regular birds perching atop a tall post.
On one of the snow-covered wheat fields near Peldon in the distance, could be seen a big feeding flock of 3000 brent geese.
The path down past the Firs Chase caravan site was covered in snow but at least it wasn't muddy like it has been recently. An apple tree along from the Dabchicks had 30 blackbirds, 5 fieldfares and a few starlings feeding on the apples. A snipe flew over the caravan site while a few skylarks and meadow pipits fed on the saltings.
On the snow covered rape field near Whittaker Way there was a big flock of 200+ skylarks feeding on the rape plants. There were also 20 meadow pipits nearby while by the Strood Hill 100 fieldfares were seen again and 3 redwings had been seen earlier in the morning. The calls from a chiffchaff were heard from a wooded garden in Firs Chase.
Saturday, 4 February 2012
On my way to visit Maydays farm on Saturday 4th, a woodcock flew out of the ditch in Haycocks Lane as I drove past. This is the second bird I've seen on the Island in the space of 3 days.
Really pleased to see a big finch flock feeding around this game cover crop beside Haycocks Lane. Around 200 linnets and 100 chaffinches spent most of the time perched up in trees overlooking the crop. Every so often they would fly around and then disappear into the crop. Despite lots of scanning there were no other types of finch mixed in with this lot. Also beside the field were 2 kestrels and five fieldfares.
Beside some of the other game cover crops more song thrushes were noted with about 15 birds flying out of one field. Also here were 15+ reed buntings while a marsh harrier was seen perched on a bush nearby. Two yellowhammers and 5 other fieldfares and 20 blackbirds were also seen.
At least two other marsh harriers were seen flying over the Reeveshall fields.
It was still chilly walking along the Maydays seawall and this creek still had ice alongside it. In the Pyefleet channel the tide was out with 50 avocet, a group of 100 oystercatchers and 70 black-tailed godwits being some of the waders noted. Lots of dunlin were feeding much higher up the mudflats than they normally do. Three marsh harriers were seen over on Langenhoe but little else.
Yesterday's dusting of snow has disappeared from most of the fields but some snow was still lying on the ice covering this dyke by the Strood seawall on Saturday morning. No birds noted on the fields although 6 reed buntings fed along the tideline, 2 marsh harriers flew over the Ray saltings while 16 dabchicks were amongst the moorings opposite the Dabchicks sailing club. Both black-tailed godwits and bar-tailed godwits fed along with various other waders on the mud by the Dabchicks. Five fieldfares fed nearby on a tree still laden with apples.
Friday, 3 February 2012
It may've been warm enough inside the Firs Chase house to rouse this small tortoiseshell butterfly from it's winter slumber but it would've got a shock once it fluttered free in the cold outside on Friday 3rd. I don't know where it appeared from but it must've sneaked into the house last autumn. Let's hope the brave butterfly found somewhere nice and sheltered from the freezing cold outside the house.
For a change, walked the footpath near Meeting Lane in East Mersea on a sunny but chilly Friday afternoon. A marsh harrier gave a close view as it flew over some of the fields. The most interesting sight were at least a dozen song thrushes flying around, perching up on the nearby bushes. Several of them were feeding in an area of long grass, flying out of it as I walked by. Unusually they outnumbered any other thrushes in the area with only a handul of blackbirds seen and a fieldfare too.
This little neatly woven grass nest was easy to spot amongst the dead grass. Positioned about a foot off the ground this looks like a harvest mouse's nest, which is an interesting find. The mice aren't often seen but the distinctive nests show up in the winter once the long grass dies back. Harvest mice nests were last seen at the country park about 3 years ago.
Also noticed along one of the main footpaths here were several cloven foot-prints of muntjac deer, dotted in the mud.
The search for the little owl at the Youth Camp was successful earlier in the afternoon. The owl was eventually spotted flying away from the log pile in this picture, located at the bottom of the East Mersea vineyard field.
Other birds seen in the area were 5 song thrushes, green woodpecker, little egret, kestrel, 300 brent geese feeding near Waldegraves while 2 stock doves and 30 linnets were seen near Rewsalls farm.
A stop on the beach at Seaview Avenue at the end of the afternoon, provided views of Mediterranean gull, 200 cormorants in mid-river, 100+ great crested grebes, 10 red-breasted mergansers and 5 sanderling.
Thursday, 2 February 2012
It was cold enough last night for the sea at Cudmore Grove to leave piles of ice along the beach this morning on Thursday 2nd. It stayed very cold all day with the strong easterly wind keeping the temperatures very low and feeling very raw.
It seemed rather unsual to see this part of the beach with so much ice when no other edges of the estuary had any ice at all. Most of the park pond and the long length of borrowdyke remained ice free, but this section of the sea beside the cliff froze. Some of this piled up sea-ice was over 30cms in depth and most of it stayed frozen all day. It could be that this ice is where freshwater seeping out of the bottom of the cliff has come into contact with the high tide during the night and ended up frozen.
The best place to watch any wildlife at the park today was out of the cold wind in the comfort of the hide by the pond. The regular curlew was walking around and feeding quite near to the hide, as this digi-binned picture shows. Also feeding in the grass were 2 snipe, the six wigeon, coots and moorhens and the fox was snoozing in the morning sunshine beside the hedge.
On the pond a grey heron and little egret stood close together, while amongst the many ducks were 20 shoveler and 26 gadwall. The nearby pools in the fields stayed frozen with 5 snipe, 100 lapwing while a few meadow pipits, pied wagtails and 25 linnets were noted. Amongst a group of 70 dark-bellied brent geese that fed briefly in the fields was the pale-bellied brent goose.
There were two interesting sightings during the afternoon with firstly a woodcock seen unexpectedly flying low across the car park as it headed towards the clifftop. Woodcock have been scarce on the Island this winter with this bird being the first one I've seen this winter.
A late afternoon march to the Point was rewarded with views of a ringtail hen harrier as it flew low over the river from Colne Point, then crossing low over the saltmarsh on its way to the evening roost on Langenhoe where 3 marsh harriers could be seen in the distance.
The lack of people walking the seawall may've been the reasons why an avocet was feeding in one of the nearby pools, a song thrush was on the beach and a snipe was flushed off the side of the seawall. Also making the most of the deserted park were the 200+ wigeon grazing the inside of the seawall. Crossing eastwards over the river late in the day were 500+ wood pigeons that appeared to be heading to roost in a woodland below Brightlingsea church.
Just before dusk on Wednesday evening, the buck muntjac deer made another brief appearance at its usual spot behind the park pond. The sparrowhawk also made its usual late visit to the pond and surrounding hedgerows and at one point seemed to have a lunge at one of the snipe at the pond.
At the end of Tuesday the sparrowhawk flashed low over the pond sending the wood pigeons fleeing out of the copse. The water rail came out into the open where it was seen pulling a worm out of the ground just like a blackbird would do. The rail was glimpsed on a couple of other occasions as it flew between reed clumps on the pond. In the nearby trees at least 12 stock doves were perched up. A marsh harrier was seen in the distance heading over the Point towards the Langenhoe roost.
Martin Cock enjoyed a close view of a female merlin perched on a post at Maydays farm on Monday where he also saw the spotted redshank again. On Sunday he reported seeing 30 common scoter off West Mersea and Steve Entwistle saw a little owl by the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane as it got dark.
The only splash of any colour at the park during this mid-winter period has been the yellow of the flowers of gorse. A few gorse bushes are dotted about the park in various places.
This hawthorn bush has already got some new leaves breaking out of their buds near the car park at the park. It doesn't seem to know what winter means and it has often been seen in past producing leaves in mid-winter well before other hawthorn bushes.