Sunday, 28 February 2010


More rain fell on the park on Sunday 28th with this area pictured above, showing the ground completely saturated. The park normally copes with lots of rain well because the soil is sand and gravel but this winter the rain just keeps falling!

A walk around the park in the middle of the day was done in the rain with a cold biting northerly wind buffeting you on top of the seawall. The strong wind combined with the spring high tide, covering all of the saltmarsh, although luckily the waves weren't bashing against the park cliff with any force.

Birds of note on the very flooded grazing fields included a record count of 155 shelduck as well as 11 greylag geese, 200 black-tailed godwits, 700 wigeon and a variety of other waders and wildfowl. The strong wind and rain meant it was difficult to stand still on the seawall and see many of the birds. However some of the other birds seen were teal, shoveler, gadwall, mallard, curlew, lapwing, redshank, dunlin and turnstone.

Two rock pipits were seen on the beach, 15 bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point, 9 tufted duck were on the pond, while in the field next to the park 18 fieldfares and 9 skylarks were noted.

Martin Dence witnessed a muntjac deer munching the flowers in his Bromans Farm garden at dawn this morning - the first sighting on the farm.

This picture of a waxwing was taken by Andy Field as it fed on the rosehips in the British Legion car park in West Mersea in the last few days. The two birds were first seen on Wednesday morning and were present on Thursday, Friday and first thing on Saturday for about an hour. They provided many local people and visiting birdwatchers with some great views. It was quite easy to drive into the small car park and enjoy watching them without getting out of the car.

The birds may still be in West Mersea feeding on berries or hips in someone's garden. Ian Black reported seeing one of the waxwings fly over his house in Mersea Avenue on Friday morning. There was also a report of a possible waxwing seen in a garden along the East Road the week before.

Andy Field took this picture of this female kestrel on a bush near the pond at the country park yesterday. He also saw 3 lesser redpolls feeding with some goldfinches in alders near the pond. At the Point 4 sanderling were noted on the beach at high tide.

Two little owls were seen alongside the East Mersea road by Fen Farm just after dark on Friday evening, one swooping alongside the car while the other sat nearby on top of a telegraph post.
In West Mersea a few more common toads were making their way along Firs Chase in the drizzle on Thursday evening for the second night in a row.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Big excitement early on the morning of Wednesday 24th, when these two waxwings were found in the middle of West Mersea. This picture above was taken by Richard Brown who kindly passed it onto me for this blog. Richard's dad Geoff, discovered the two birds close to the school crossing patrol where he helps escort the children across the road. He was able to keep a distant eye on the birds as they perched up in the trees close to the school gardens in Barfield Road. Richard lives just a stone throw from where the birds were but unfortunately his work took him off the Island. However glad to see he got back in time to get a great photo of the birds.

I got the phonecall shortly after the birds were found and was able to get along to watch the birds. I joined Shirley Field who had already got one or two photos of the birds perched in the trees. After a few minutes of craning our necks up to watch the birds high in the trees, they dropped down onto a tall bush to feed on some rosehips along the edge of the British Legion car park.

They were very obliging, ignoring all the mums and dads arriving in the car park to take their children to the school. After a few minutes the birds returned back to the tree-tops. Even 15 minutes later the birds could still be seen from the car as you drove slowly along Barfield Road. The birds were still reported as being present in the middle of the day and they probably stayed for the rest of the day too.

Waxwings are always such pretty birds to look at with their pink-grey plumage, pinky tuft on the head and the little red waxy tipped feathers on the wings. They didn't call while I was there but they have a distinctive trilling sound like the ringing tone of the old trim-phones. It's been surprising that so few waxwings have been seen this winter in Essex, compared with the thousands of fieldfares and redwings that came over from Scandinavia.

Every 4 or 5 years, small groups of waxwings are found in West Mersea, usually feeding on various berries on trees and bushes they can find in gardens. The flocks don't stay around for more than a few days, so it will be interesting to see if these two stay around.

Another notable wildlife occurence was the sight of a few common toads, newly out of hibernation, making their way down Firs Chase on a drizzly late evening. A few had already succumbed to passing traffic but hopefully more toads will emerge in the next few days and successfully make their way to the local pond.

Elsewhere 50 fieldfares were in the Cudmore Grove car park this morning, 3 red-legged partridge were in the field near the East Mersea pub and a badger was found dead by the road near Fen Farm on Tuesday morning.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Made a quick visit to Reeveshall and its pool in East Mersea, pictured above, in between some heavy showers on Sunday 21st. A combination of already saturated fields and the afternoon high tide, meant there were thousands of birds feeding on the Reeveshall and Maydays fields.

At least 1000 brent geese grazed in two flocks before they were spooked and disappeared with lots of noise. The first grass field also held an unusually large number of waders with 300 black-tailed godwits, 300 lapwing and 100 golden plover. Joining them were 200 dunlin, 100 redshank a number of curlew and 1000 starlings. In the second grass field 70 stock doves, 200 wigeon were seen with more lapwings and curlews. Large wader flocks were seen on the distant Maydays fields with 2000 golden plover recognised when they rose into the air. There appeared to be another 2000 waders which may've been dunlin or even more golden plovers.

The whole mass of waders and wildfowl rose into the air, separating into different flocks that circled round several times before settling back down again. The disturbance was probably due to a peregrine by the chaos that followed, although the only birds of prey seen were a couple of female marsh harriers. A male marsh harrier was seen later over the Reeveshall reedbed. Another spell of chaos in one field a little while later was probably due to a male sparrowhawk that was seen perching on a nearby fencepost.

On the Reeveshall pool a pair of pintail, little egret, 20 redshank and 20 black-tailed godwits were noted. In the nearby muddy bay in the Pyefleet, 1000 dunlin gathered as the tide came in along with 30 avocets, and lots of redshank, grey plover and black-tailed godwits.

On Langenhoe a barn owl was seen hunting the marshes but only a couple of marsh harriers flying about.

The end of the afternoon stayed dry leaving more water on the park grazing fields pictured above. The large flock of 1000 wigeon flew noisily off the fields with most heading out to sea to sit on the water. Also seen on the fields were 44 shoveler, 100 teal, 3 snipe, 10 turnstone, 30 redshank and a few black-tailed godwits, lapwing and golden plovers. There were 5 tufted ducks on the dyke and 30 gadwall seen on the park pond.

Next to the car park 70 fieldfares, 2 mistle thrushes and a redwing were seen up until dusk.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


Conditions along the Strood Channel pictured above, on Saturday 20th were sunny and calm. There was still a hint of a chill in the air and the water in the borrowdykes stayed frozen all day. A walk along the seawall in the afternoon provided good viewing conditions but unfortunately the high tide meant there weren't many birds to look at along the Channel.

The brent geese were scattered around the Ray Island saltings in various small flocks totalling about 500 birds. Occasionally wildfowl and waders would rise up from the saltings providing glimpses of small flocks of wigeon, teal, curlew and redshank as well as a few shelduck. Dotted around the edge of the various saltmarshes were small roosting wader flocks of redshank, dunlin and grey plover.

Two small flocks of mute swans were seen in the distance with 18 feeding on a wheat field on the Peldon side while 12 grazed a field on Langenhoe farm. In the distance over Old Hall marshes a marsh harrier was seen gliding along the seawall. The only birds seen on the flat calm Strood Channel were 10 little grebes.

In the Strood fields 100 lapwing fed in a grass field with a curlew, snipe and 30 starlings. By the caravan site 2 green woodpeckers called to each other, 4 reed buntings were noted and also 10 fieldfares.

Friday, 19 February 2010


The wet grazing fields at the park are still proving popular with the waders and wildfowl and there was plenty to admire during the high tide on Friday 19th. Around a 1000 wigeon were the main ducks on the fields along with lots of teal, mallard and also some shoveler and gadwall.

Lots of the ducks suddenly took to the air especially from the back of the fields. In amongst the chaos of 1000+ wildfowl scattering in different directions, the large profile of one bird appeared to be heading in the opposite direction from everything else. This was a peregrine, which by the large size, appeared to be female. It flew from the back of the fields into the middle passing over the central ditch, before it turned back and landed on a tree. It was able to watch all the ducks settle back onto the fields as it perched on its high vantage point. After ten minutes it had disappeared and the ducks were still happily grazing on the fields.

Amongst the waders seen were 150 black-tailed godwits, 80 redshank and 30 curlew, although quite a few of these dispersed after the peregrine passed overhead.

Earlier in the week on Wednesday a pale-bellied brent goose was seen dropping into the fields to feed with 500 dark-bellied brent. At the park pond a male pochard was seen along with 10 tufted ducks on Wednesday. The foxes by the pond have been enjoying the sunny weather with 2 seen on Wednesday and then 3 snoozing in the sun on Friday. Also 50 fieldfares were seen near the park while 50 redwings were noted near the Golfhouse.

At the East Mersea Point pictured above on Friday, a male marsh harrier flew south out of the river towards Colne Point where it could be seen disturbing a flock of several hundred brent geese. Two great crested grebes fed close into the Point at high tide, while further upriver 6 red-breasted mergansers were seen. Four sanderling arrived on the beach but otherwise few other waders noted.

The barn owl was seen just after nightfall twice during the week in Bromans Lane, with a bird hunting near Bromans Farm on Tuesday night and then a second sighting on Thursday night with one seen perched alongside the Lane.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Having returned from a fortnight of foreign sunshine, it was a bit of a frosty reception here, having to scrape ice off the car windscreen early on Monday 15th. All the watercourses around the park were covered in ice, although the pond pictured above, was not completely frozen.

The park pond had the main concentration of bird-activity with over 320 ducks gathered around the open area of water. Roughly 130 teal and 100 mallard were the main species with 36 gadwall, 20 shoveler, 20 wigeon, tufted duck, coots, moorhens, little grebes and a pair of mute swans were also noted. Snipe were seen on the west and the east side of the pond on the marshy edges of the fields. A water rail called from the back of the pond and nearby two foxes were snoozing in the sunshine.

Offshore the sea was calm during the morning and lots of wigeon drifted closer to the shore with the incoming high tide. It seemed as if 1000 wigeon were sitting on the water, forced to spend time at sea while the waterlogged fields remain frozen. At various times large flocks of wigeon took off from the water to check the fields out but soon returned back to sea.
The only birds in the fields were 98 curlew, 2 black-tailed godwit, one redshank and 20 lapwing.

At the Point 3 goldeneye flew into the river while 4 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the estuary. A couple of great crested grebes were the only other birds in the river, other than 70 shelduck.

The large brent goose flock settled down onto the wheat field next to the park's car park to feed in the afternoon. As the light faded at dusk, what seemed like 1000 geese took to the air in a very noisy departure low over the park to their night-roost in the Colne.

Earlier in the day two mixed flocks of fieldfares and redwings were seen feeding in fields near the East Mersea road with 200 near Bocking Hall and about 100 near Fen Farm.

On Saturday 13th Andy Field noted off West Mersea great northern diver along with a few goldeneyes and mergansers. On Reeveshall 15 marsh harriers were seen going into the Langenhoe roost, while ringtail hen harrier, peregrine and the spoonbill were also seen. A few days earlier Martin Cock saw a black-necked grebe off West Mersea.

Martin Peers on Monday 8th saw 4 great northern divers, Slavonian grebe and 8 red-breasted mergansers from West Mersea. On Reeveshall there were 1100 brent geese, 3 marsh harriers, 500 golden plover, 725 lapwing, 75 black-tailed godwit, green sandpiper, 70 stock doves, 1400 starling and 8 yellowhammers.

On the 29th January Tim Mendham counted 4 great northern divers, 2 red-throated divers, 4 Slavonian grebes and a shag off West Mersea.