Sunday, 7 December 2008


The clear overnight sky provided a memorable sunrise over the sea to the south-east of the country park at about 8am on Sunday 7th. For a short spell in the middle of winter, depending on cloud cover, the sun can be admired rising above the sea, even more so if it coincides with a high tide. At other times of the year, it's not so impressive when it rises over the land. The lack of wind meant the sea was flat and calm but it was also very chilly. The tide was just starting to uncover the mud and many waders and brent geese were busy feeding close-in.

Five hundred brent geese were taking the opportunity of the lack of humans walking along the beach, to tuck into the mass of algae on the mudflats close-in. Amongst the usual waders arriving in their droves were 20 sanderling feeding with some dunlin.

Out on the sea from the park were higher numbers of grebes than of late with at least 100 great crested grebes counted as far as the eye could see. No doubt more would've been seen further to the west. Scanning the sea revealed 4 slighter smaller, Slavonian grebes feeding closer-in than the other grebes. Normally only one or two Slavonians are seen from the park, on one or two days during the winter, so this is quite a good count for the park.

The hard frost could be seen all round the park, covering all sorts of surfaces and many puddles stayed frozen for most of the morning. Some parts of the park that remained in the shade all day, stayed frosty.

Before I had reached the Point, I could see a big flock of snow buntings flying away from the beach, having been disturbed by a yacht mooring close to the beach. The flock flew across the river Colne to Point Clear. After a while, the flock was located using the telescope as it fed on the Point Clear beach - in the clear conditions a distance of half a mile (3/4 km).

The 28 birds then took off and came back to East Mersea Point, circling round 2 or 3 times before settling down to feed amongst the strandline seaweed. Members of the Essex Wildlife Trust group from Havering in south Essex were rewarded with great views of a flock of 36 snow buntings here at the Point on Saturday - the largest count so far this winter here.

Before the peace was disturbed by a water skier, 4 eider were seen feeding up-river and also 10 red-breasted mergansers and about 10 more great crested grebes. On the nearby mudflats 95 avocets were roosting opposite Ivy Dock, while a big flock of 700+ knot were feeding south-west of the Point. The usual good variety of waders seen with 15 species noted during the early morning walk to the Point. A common seal was seen in the outer part of the river.

Three foxes were seen snoozing in the morning sunshine, sheltering beside some bushes near the park pond, seemed an uncommon sight. Two foxes were snuggled up together in the long grass and had been seen doing some mutual preening, while the third fox was only 5 metres away.

In bushes around the pond, were small numbers of greenfinches, blackbirds, 5 jays, great spotted woodpecker and 12 goldfinches feeding in some alder trees. A snipe was seen on a boggy section of the field. The previous day there was a very colourful male sparrowhawk which perched briefly on a fencepost near the pond. Also on Saturday, 3 tufted duck, grey heron, 8 gadwall, little grebe, mallard, teal present as well as a weasel in front of the hide.

The frost on the grazing fields thawed out during the morning, although these mute swans pictured above had to admire their reflection through a layer of ice. In the fields 300 brent geese and 200 wigeon could be seen grazing but not many waders other than a few lapwing and curlew. The regular pair of stonechats were still along the seawall but the sight of 13 long-tailed tits passing low along the wall seemed adventurous for them, although 2 goldcrests turned back. Twenty meadow pipits and pied wagtail pair were seen in the fields.

Martin Cock saw our familiar friend of recent winters, a single bar-tailed godwit in full summer ginger plumage amongst 40 other bar-tails in normal pale plumage, opposite the Youth Camp. Also a rock pipit noted along too on his Sunday walk here.

The last wildlife of the day were 4 winter moths fluttering in the car headlights, just outside the park along Bromans Lane, shortly after dark with the temperature already down to just 2 degrees above zero.

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