Saturday, 19 December 2009


These two images of the shorelark were taken by Sean Nixon, who was lucky enough to visit East Mersea and kindly passed these photos to me to display. He told me that he had to lie down on the snow to get these photos and at one point the bird came too close to photograph!

There was still plenty of snow lying around on Sunday 19th and with sub-zero temperatures overnight, there was plenty of ice that stayed around for most of the day. The search for some snow buntings on the beach at the Point proved fruitless. However the reward for slogging across the park and along the snowy seawall was stumbling into a shorelark on the beach, in the area pictured above.

Having glanced at a couple of skylarks feeding along the strandline where the previous high tide touched the snow, I noticed another small lark-like bird drop down onto the beach about 30m away, that looked like a shorelark. Although it spent most of the time facing away and into the chilly easterly breeze, occasionally it would turn round to show the distinctive black markings on the yellow face. There weren't any of the classic black horns on display on its head but it was still a well-marked bird.

The bird worked its way slowly along the tideline, picking at any seeds it could find. At one point it flew close-by and dropped down only about 15m from me, providing good views as it continued to feed on the beach. At times a couple of skylarks, appearing a bit dumpier, joined the shorelark to feed. Martin Cock managed to dash up to the Point to see the bird while Ruth Dence also enjoyed seeing the bird and then Sean Nixon arrived on the scene not knowing it had just been found but armed with his camera and long lens he managed to take a good photo which he posted on the birding website's photo gallery (scroll down to find shorelark photo) at -;

This shorelark may be the bird reported from the nearby Colne Point about 3 weeks ago. It is the first shorelark on the Island for several years with the last one at the Point staying for about a month between early December 2002 and early January 2003.

Other birds seen at the Point included 12 skylarks with another 9 heading south off the Island, also 3 rock pipits and 8 reed buntings. Offshore there were 3 female eiders in the river, 8 red-breasted mergansers and a common seal.

As the tide came in, half of the 1000 golden plovers that were gathered on the mud, flew to roost on the snowy grazing fields pictured above. As with the previous day 200 wigeon, 30 black-tailed godwits and a dozen snipe were seen feeding. The male stonechat was seen alongside the borrowdyke.

Despite the picturesque scene in the pictures above and below, there were few visitors to the park during the day. In the snow there were all sorts of footprints to follow especially lots of rabbit tracks. A fox was seen walking along a ditchline by the pond in mid morning, as one or two birds called anxiously above it.

Martin Cock saw 3 jack snipe beside the East Mersea road as he drove to the park around mid-day. Two of them landed in a roadside ditch near Bocking Hall farm and the third bird with its distinctive short bill, dropped into the ditch between the shop and the pub.

The sun set at 15.45 leaving behind this warm peachy glow to the sky and on the mudflats below. As the tide was heading out, there were masses of different kinds of waders arriving to feed as the light faded. However the peace for them was shattered when a female merlin went racing across the mud sending the big flocks of knot and golden plover in different directions. The merlin had its sights set on a turnstone which managed to escape the high speed chase and the stoops from above. The merlin gave up and raced over the seawall and headed low inland over the grazing fields.

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