Tuesday, 27 October 2009


A still morning on Tuesday 27th at the country park with many of the trees such as these small-leaved lime trees pictured above, displaying the yellow / brown leaves, providing a real autumnal feel to the place. Only a few tree species around the park such as rowan, hawthorn and wild cherry are showing any bright red colours.

The birds passing over the park in the morning were typical of the autumn with one group of 30 redwings flying rapidly west. A small flock of 10 siskins also flew over the car park while a similar flock size of lesser redpolls unusually dropped down onto a tree for a few minutes before continuing on their passage. Other finches noted around the car park were several chaffinches and goldfinches too.

At the pond a water rail called from under the sallow bushes but stayed out of sight. Amongst the wildfowl here were the tufted duck, 60 mallard, 10 gadwall and 4 shoveler but no sign of the pochard seen the day before. On the grazing field pools 150 teal and 100 wigeon and a black-tailed godwit and a snipe were seen. The pair of stonechats were perched up on a bush along the central ditch in the fields.

There was a reasonable catch of moths in the trap at the park on Tuesday morning after a still and cloudy night. Sixty moths of 12 species was a better than average catch for late October. Pictured above is the colourful red-green carpet, the first one of the autumn here of this regular species.

The satellite is only the second one of the year, after the first one showed up in late February. This one pictured above shows the brown spots on each wing each with a faint white "satellite" dot alongside. The individual caught earlier in the year was a brightly marked individual with a clear white spot on each wing as opposed to the brown spots here.

Other moths recorded were streak, yellow-line quaker, large wainscot, green-brindled crescent, mallow, feathered thorn, November sps, barred sallow, large yellow underwing and dusky-lemon sallow.

Sunday, 25 October 2009


There were good numbers of teal on the pools in the park grazing fields again on Saturday 24th with 150 birds present. Most of them like this male pictured above, seem to spend most of the time snoozing. The black-tailed godwit and a couple of snipe were also noted feeding here too, along with a large group of 30 moorhens. A female marsh harrier flew slowly along the back of the grazing fields as it headed north-west over the neighbouring fields.

Sixteen redwings flew west over the park briefly stopping off on trees in the car park. Three yellowhammers were also stopped off by the seawall as they too headed west, and a rock pipit was noted too.

On the mud by Ivy Dock along from East Mersea Point 35 avocets were seen on the mud, along with 400 dunlin and 30 knot. In the river Colne the sight of two female red-breasted mergansers was the first sighting this winter for the Island. Also in the river were a few cormorants and great crested grebes. The grey seal first seen a few days earlier, was still present in the river off the Point. Two stonechats perched on the fence by the Golfhouse seawall.

The moth trap was put out at the park on Friday evening on a cloudy night but had to be retrieved at 2am early on Saturday morning when it started to drizzle. By that time 40 moths of 9 species were noted including this aptly named streak moth with its thin white flashes on each wing, pictured above.

The dark chestnut moth above, has been a typical autumn moth in the trap here with one or two individuals seen here in previous years. Half the catch consisted of November moths while other ones noted were green-brindled cresent, feathered thorn, mallow, large wainscot, dusky-lemon sallow and large yellow underwing.

Friday, 23 October 2009


More sunshine at the start of Friday 23rd made it a another pleasant day at the park. The rowan trees in the car park, one pictured above, still have a few berries on them and is where some of the 20 chaffinches are normally to be found feeding.

Two firecrests were still present in the clifftop trees for the third day but were still a challenge to find if they didn't call. Views in the late afternoon were rewarding as one was close enough inside a bush that binoculars weren't needed to see the striking head pattern. A little later it climbed high up a pine tree with the afternoon sunshine helping to provide fine views of its bright markings.

A lesser redpoll flew over calling and landed briefly in the car park and a few reed buntings were also seen flying over the park in the morning. The long-tailed tits, blue and great tits were still roaming around the bushes in the park but there was no sign of the goldcrest or chiffchaff of yesterday.

On the pools in the grazing fields 200 teal were gathered along with a couple of snipe and a black-tailed godwit. Not so many ducks on the pond although mallard, shoveler and gadwall were all noted. On the mudflats 400 golden plover were roosting in one main flock in their usual place. At the Point 2 corn buntings landed briefly amongst the sea-blite bushes for a few minutes, before continuing on their way over the river Colne. A stonechat was also seen in the bushes with a handful of reed buntings.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


After all the rain of yesterday, Thursday 22nd began with a glorious sunny morning without the wind. The most eyecatching colours of the autumn at the country park are on the saltmarsh near the Point, pictured both above and below. This is the colourful carpet of glasswort, also known locally as samphire. The vivid red colour of these plants here seems a lot more striking than last year, especially on this bright sunny morning.

Three firecrests were still in the clifftop trees on the country park, although they were still a challenge to locate if they weren't calling. It was a lot more enjoyable to watch them today in the dry after the continuous rain yesterday. To confuse the issue a goldcrest was also with them and a chiffchaff, so anything flitting around in the trees had to be carefully checked. The tiny birds were covering an area along the clifftop of about 100 metres and eventually rewarded a few visiting birders with some good views of their striking head patterns.

Elsewhere on the park a water rail called from the pond and on the grazing field pools there was a good count of 220 teal with a snipe and black-tailed godwit also present. A huge swarm of about 5000 starlings passed over in the afternoon, the biggest flock for a few years here. A marsh harrier flew high north-west over the fields having crossed the river Colne. At the Point a snow bunting was heard calling as it flew along the beach. Ten reed buntings, female stonechat and 12 linnets were seen amongst the shrubby sea-blite bushes. Two rock pipits were seen along the beach and 10 skylarks were noted around the park too

The most interesting sight was a close view of a grey seal in the river Colne only 15 metres from the beach, feeding on a flatfish which it crunched loudly into with its teeth. Over the next ten minutes it was watched catching several other fish and even at fifty metres distance, it could still be heard crunching into the bones, chucking away the head of the fish back into the water.

A red admiral was seen sunning itself and several common darters were seen during the day too.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


It poured with rain for the whole of Wednesday 21st but the discovery of four firecrests in bushes on the park clifftop brightened up the day. One of the firecrests was seen in the morning amongst a flock of tits passing through my back garden next to the car park. An opportunity in the middle of the afternoon to locate the bird proved successful with the firecrest being found still with some of the tits.

Despite the rain Martin Cock arrived to have a look too and we soon realised that we were watching 3 firecrests flitting around inside the bushes. One glimpse provided a great view of the bright fiery-orange stripe over the head. Although there were long-tailed tits, blue and great tits in the area, the 3 firecrests were mainly keeping to themselves and only calling quietly to each other. The constant raindrops bouncing off leaves made it tricky trying to locate the birds movement but they were watched for at least half an hour. Martin wandered back along the path and found a fourth and more vocal firecrest feeding by itself about fifty metres away.

These firecrests were feeding close to the same bushes where Martin found a firecrest just under two weeks ago here at the park. This group of four birds is the most we've had in one day here on the Island. Just to see one of these smart little gems in a year is always nice but to find four really brightens up any dull day and eases the pain of getting soaked to the skin!

A quick walk around the park produced 2 rock pipits, 4 sanderling, bar-tailed godwit by the beach while on the increasing pools in the fields were 2 gadwall, 30 teal, 5 redshank, 30 curlew and 25 moorhens. On the pond 25 wigeon were the main ducks while 2 redwing were heard calling and 2 song thrushes flew off. In the wheat field next to the park there were a few golden plover, lapwing, one black-tailed godwit, some curlew and lots of starlings.

Yesterday a stonechat was seen near the Golfhouse and a peacock butterfly was resting on a track and 20 meadow pipits were seen to the north of the park.

Monday, 19 October 2009


Joined Martin Cock by the Esplanade at West Mersea on Monday 19th to watch the arctic tern which he had found again for the second day. This juvenile bird displaying the distinctive white trailing edge to its wings, was flying around just offshore as the tide was just receding. The previous day it had been seen resting on a buoy about a 100 metres from the beach. Earlier today there had been a common tern resting on the same orange buoy just to add a bit of confusion.

The first great northern diver of the winter was also seen offshore and a summer plumaged red-throated diver was seen drifting past late morning. A dozen great crested grebes were noted offshore and a couple of common scoter were seen flying earlier in the day.

As the tide receded various waders and wildfowl were arriving with 50 brent geese the most noticeable along with numbers of curlew, oystercatcher and turnstones. A couple of little egrets flew along the beach.

A brief visit to the seawall by Coopers Beach at East Mersea provided views of one or two things although the tide was in. A pair of stonechat, wheatear, 3 meadow pipits were noted and 6 skylarks were seen flying south out to sea. A kestrel perched up on a hedgeline while a marsh harrier drifted west along the seawall. A goldcrest was heard near the church and a yellowhammer flew overhead.

There was little wind the day before on Sunday 18th for an enjoyable walk along the Strood seawall, pictured above, in the morning as the tide came in. There was a late autumn feel to the day with a chill in the air but the Channel full of various waders and wildfowl.

The most unusual sight was an immature gannet flying north-east up the Channel from the direction of the Hard towards the Pyefleet. The sight of a large bird flapping along the Strood Channel, certainly surprised all the other birds as they were sent scattering ahead as it passed. It crossed over the causeway and one or two cars, as it continued on its presumed circuit of the Island. I just happened to be on the phone to Andy Field at the time, who was standing with telescope at East Mersea Point but the bird was not seen completing its lap of Mersea.

Numbers of brent geese were arriving with about 150 birds present but only 2 young seen in a brief scan. About 300 wigeon and 80 shelduck were seen along with a number of teal. Three greenshank, 100 knot, 20 ringed plover and 10 black-tailed godwits were some of the 12 species of wader noted along with a snipe flying over.

Other birds noted included a marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, stonechat, 3 corn bunting, 15 skylark, 2 lesser redpoll flying over and 5 rock pipits along the bottom of the seawall.

On Saturday 17th by Firs Chase 16 fieldfare flew over calling, a sparrowhawk was seen and a goldcrest and chiffchaff were also noted.

Friday, 16 October 2009


A quick walk along part of the seawall beside the Pyefleet Channel on Friday 16th should've been quite warm in the sunshine but there was a chill in the northerly breeze. Not much bird life to watch in the Channel because of the high tide.

Five little egrets and a grey heron were dotted along the edge of the saltmarshes. Fifty brent geese were feeding amongst the saltmarsh as it flooded during the high tide. The only birds seen in the water of the Channel were 5 cormorants, although a few more were perched on a wreck on Pewit Island.

A rock pipit flew over the seawall and a reed bunting called near the Oyster Fishery building.

These woolly friends were enjoying the autumn sunshine in the field by the seawall. By the Shop Lane wood a handful of common darters were hunting around an ivy clump in the sunshine.

Along the East Mersea road 150 linnets perched up on some overhead wires by the Bocking Hall farm.

Thursday, 15 October 2009


A dark and moody start to Thursday 15th with this shot of the sun just breaking through the clouds, from the park early in the morning. The day ended up being quite sunny and warm despite the hint of a northerly breeze.

A glance out over the mudflats at the end of the day produced distant views of a flock of 80 black-tailed godwits and also 50 avocets feeding along the outer edge of the mud. A couple of little egrets headed east off the mud to the evening roost.

There was a good sized group of wigeon on the park pond with 60 birds there late afternoon, along with 50 mallard, 4 shoveler, 6 gadwall and a tufted duck. On the grazing field pool a black-tailed godwit fed amongst the 20 moorhens while 4 snipe flew onto the grass field beyond. A rock pipit flew along the seawall calling.

In the bushes by the pond a blackcap was noted while a lesser whitethroat seen is a very late record for here. Several chaffinches around the car park area with 20+ birds checked out as they perched up on bushes. Martin Cock reported a sparrowhawk hunting along the lesser whitethroat hedge and he also saw 3 stonechats at the Point.

A male brambling was watched feeding on rowan berries on a tree in my back garden in the park on Wednesday morning. It provided great views for a few minutes showing off its orange chest, in the company of the twenty chaffinches. One or two bramblings fly over the park each autumn but very few come down to the park to refuel. There seemed a noticeable increase in blackbird activity with about 20 birds in the car park area, while 6 redwings flying off strongly from one clump of bushes were the first of the autumn here. Two lesser redpolls flew east over the car park calling during the morning.

In the grass field just on the north side of the park a swarm of 1000 starlings were continually on the move as they searched for food on the ground. Every so often the flock would stop chattering, rise into the air with an audible whoosh, as when a kestrel passed by, before settling down to continue feeding and the noisy chattering.

The recently sown wheat fields beside Bromans Lane to the west of the park, are attracting lots of birds such as the big starling flock as well as rooks, jackdaws, carrion crows, various gulls, wood pigeons, 400 golden plover, 50 curlew and 100 lapwings, as well as a few skylarks and meadow pipits.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Having been away from the Island for the last two weeks, it is noticeable that virtually all the summer migrants have now gone from the park. In their place along the Colne estuary are several hundred brent geese newly arrived for the winter here from Siberia. The typical winter sound around the coast of the brent calling, can be heard again after a break of six months.

It was a sunny and relatively still day on Tuesday 13th with the tide calm both on the morning high tide as pictured through the Cudmore Grove above, and also on the early evening one too.
As the tide came in at the end of the day, 15 little egrets headed off to St Osyth to roost, while offshore a Mediterranean gull was seen with lots of other gulls feeding. A bull grey seal was seen tussling with a large fish before it managed to swallow it as some gulls circled above it. Not much on the sea other than 6 great crested grebes and a few cormorants.

At the Point a common tern was the only summer visitor seen during the day, while 2 stonechats, 3 reed buntings, 15 linnets and the first rock pipit of the winter was seen. On the mud were 50 avocets along with a good variety of other waders including 26 sanderling and 300 golden plover.

On the grazing fields 150 teal were gathered on the pool along with a snipe. Sixty curlew were also present with a few lapwing while sparrowhawk, kestrel, little egret and a pair of stock doves were noted here.

At the park pond 50 mallard, 6 gadwall and a pair of shoveler were present while nearby 3 green woodpeckers were noted while 2 siskin were seen flying overhead, calling as they passed north-east.

Over the last week birds of note seen around the Island included a firecrest seen at the park by Martin Cock on the 10th and an immature gannet on the 11th flying out of the river Colne by Andy Field. An immature bird has been seen a couple of times several days earlier up the river Colne at Wivenhoe and at Fingringhoe and maybe the same bird hanging around. A wheatear was seen at the Point on the 11th.

From the Esplanade at West Mersea on the 6th Martin noted 2 great skuas, gannet, common scoter and a red-throated diver. The yellow-legged gull was seen by the Strood earlier in the week. A little stint was seen in the Pyefleet while 4 pintail were present on the park pond.

The grass around the park is turning green again after the very dry August while many of the bushes around the park are doing the opposite by turning brown. Only the one butterfly seen, the red admiral, although lots of common darter dragonflies and a single southern hawker too.

The moth trap was put out over Monday night on a still and mainly cloudy evening. The 60 moths of eighteen species caught is about the same tally as mid October last year.

This pretty flounced chestnut has not been seen at the park before. The various shades of brown and chestnut markings on it, make it quite a colourful moth on closer inspection.

The green-brindled crescent pictured above is a regular autumn visitor to the trap and displays a green sheen on part of its wings.

The very plain looking large wainscot is another regular visitor to the traps in the autumn although usually only in ones or twos.
Other moths noted included red-green carpet, beaded chestnut, barred sallow, dusky lemon sallow, mallow, black rustic, yellow-line quaker, November moth, large yellow underwing, shuttle-shaped dart, lunar underwing and autumnal rustic.