Friday, 18 January 2013


Had a very bracing walk along the seawall at Maydays farm on the north side of the Island on a very cold and windy Friday 18th. It was one of those sessions where the eyes stream in the cold wind, the telescope on the tripod blows over in the wind, fingers quickly go numb when gloves come off whilst focusing the telescope, and then the warm breath steams up the optics! At least the snow never arrived as predicted during the day on the Island.

Despite all the hardships, it was a memorable hour and a half with all the action revolving around a small field corner of set-aside, pictured above and below. The area was packed with finches but the raptors stole the show with six species seen, five of these close to this field. Bird of prey days on Mersea don't get any better when six species get logged in one session.

In the one field of view of the binoculars, a male hen harrier, female marsh harrier and a male kestrel were all briefly in the air together. The striking male hen harrier had just been watched a short while earlier quartering another strip of set-aside, on its way to check the corner with all the other bird action. After it passed on by, the marsh harrier was also joined by a second marsh harrier and they too flew over the rough weedy corner.

Whilst sitting down on the seawall a male sparrowhawk was going along a hedgerow perching up in a couple of trees to check out the action. A short while later the large outline of a common buzzard was seen hovering over a ditch further along from the seawall, before it sat on top of a bush. The sixth raptor noted was earlier on the walk, a merlin seen in hot pursuit of a small wader low over the Reeveshall pastures.

What many of the raptors were interested in was the amazing concentration of finches in this small field corner. At least 300 linnets and 100 chaffinches were continually rising up and dropping back down into the crop of weeds. There was so much activity at times and birds were going back and forwards between the nearby rape field and sitting in nearby bushes.

Careful scanning of the chaffinches when they perched in the bushes revealed at least two bramblings, one a winter male and the other a female. Also noted in the area was reed bunting, greenfinch, goldfinch and meadow pipit too. Feeding in the rape field were at least a  dozen fieldfares, some coming over from Langenhoe. The only yellowhammers seen was a nice group of ten birds feeding on spilt grain in Haycocks Lane.

Also seen on the walk was a spotted redshank by the Maydays sluice outflow, 1500 brent geese, 60 greylag geese, 500 golden plover and 300 lapwing on Reeveshall. Along the Pyefleet at low tide were many flocks of wigeon and teal sitting out the freezing conditions. No sign of any scaup, goldeneye or red-breasted mergansers.

At the top of Haycocks Lane near Blue Row, a common snipe flew over and 25 house sparrows were seen, while 10 fieldfares were seen near Bocking Hall.

On Thursday 17th the female stonechat was found feeding on the beach below the cliff of the country park, enjoying some of the early morning sunshine. At the end of the day 32 red-breasted mergansers were seen offshore from the park at high tide along with big rafts of wigeon and teal.

In West Mersea Adrian Amos reported an unusually large influx of 18 blackbirds into his East Road garden. The recent cold snap has seen a similiar sized flock feeding together under the trees in the country park.

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