Tuesday, 1 January 2008


It was a dull, misty and at times, a drizzly start to 2008 here on Mersea Island. Conditions never brightened up during the day and it was quite difficult seeing anything through the murk. During two walks around the country park at East Mersea, most of the birdlife was noted by the calls. Bird activity seemed very subdued and little was observed flying about.

The picture above shows some of the brent geese who were feeding on the algae on the mud close to the beach first thing in the morning. Along the park beach and to the nearby caravan site beach, several hundred brent took the opportunity to feed before the dog-walkers arrived. Very few waders were noted on the mud other than one or two oystercatchers, redshank and turnstones, as the tide was well out. The bright white figure of a little egret on the mud was one of the few birds to stand out through the murk.

On the park pond the swans seemed to shine through the dull conditions, whilst the 10 male shovelers were also easy to make out. There was the usual collection of wildfowl here with gadwall, mallard, tufted duck, teal, coot, moorhen and little grebe.

The only birds of note on the actual park were two fieldfares feeding with some blackbirds whilst a jay in the car park was trying to sing, like a robin with a very strange warbling call.

Several other birdwatchers perservered during the day, tracking down one or two species to start the New Year bird list. Andy Field bravely found 62 species on Mersea including the twite flock and the great northern diver. Others noted peregrine, 4 shags, red-throated diver and 7 red-breasted mergansers off West Mersea.

This strange looking "log-sculpture" is one of the wildlife features at the park, where these logs are being allowed to rot down and decay. This newly installed beetle-pyramid will hopefully provide a home for all sorts of creepy-crawlies. Setting the ends of the logs into the ground hopefully mimics an old tree stump, one of the typical breeding sites for the scarce stag beetle.

This spectacular beetle, the largest in Britain, still maintains a slender foothold on Mersea with the last authenticated record being one found dead in the Co-op car park in the middle of West Mersea in June 2006. More recent reports suggest individuals being present in a garden in Firs Road. Tracking down the exact location of Mersea's stag beetles could be one of my things-to-do for 2008.

As if to prove the value of deadwood, these fresh jelly-ear fungi were found growing on an old elder branch. Suitably named for the soft jelly-like texture, they grow with a strange similarity to human ears.

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