Monday, 29 November 2010


The Island woke up on Monday 29th to the first fall of snow, although as this picture of City Road shows it was just a thin coating of snow. With the sun shining and a light wind, it wasn't too cold for a brief walk near the Dabchicks Sailing Club in the morning.

Around the boat moorings opposite the Dabchicks was a scattering of 20+ dabchicks and probably if I'd looked harder, I might have had a similar count of the 30 birds that were present yesterday. The only other birds in the Mersea Quarters were a few cormorants and some brent geese. Typical waders noted on the mud were black-tailed godwits, bar-tailed godwits, curlew, redshank, oystercatcher, grey plover, lapwing, turnstone and dunlin.

Amongst the bushes near the caravan site were 25+ blackbirds, single redwing, also a few chaffinches, goldfinches, greenfinches, green woodpecker, reed buntings and a great spotted woodpecker.

Although there was no snow on the previous day, Sunday 28th, it was still very chilly and it appeared that it had been cold enough in the early hours of Sunday morning, to freeze some of the water at high tide. Along the side of the seawall there was a thin layer of ice where some parts of the high tide had frozen, as pictured above.

Returned again to the weedy field by the Strood to see what else could be seen here. The main highlight was watching an adult peregrine stooping and divebombing a ringtail hen harrier as it flew low over the fields. As both birds parted I couldn't decide which bird to continue watching but choose the peregrine as it headed towards me as I stood on the seawall. It provided a nice fly-past as it flew towards the Mersea Quarters. The hen harrier was lost to view in the general area of Strood Hill. A cursory glance beyond the Strood causeway on the mainland side, revealed 3 marsh harriers flying over the rough waste field.

The lapland buntings were still feeding in the fields with several sightings of birds as they flew around calling. At least three birds at various times were noted with one bird rising up and calling very loudly close-by. Whilst walking away from the field along the seawall, four more laplands flew towards the field from the direction of Copt Hall / Old Hall, meaning that there were at least seven birds seen. Sometimes the buntings mixed with the other flocks, where 100+ linnets, 50 skylarks and 10 reed buntings were feeding.

The squealing sound of a water rail was heard from the ditch beside the weedy field, whilst overhead one or two snipe were seen flying about. There were still small flocks of golden plover and lapwing in the nearby fields, and little egret and grey heron were also seen.

A spotted redshank flew high along the channel calling loudly as it headed south-west. The only other waders of interest in the channel were 200 knot near the Strood causeway. More teal were present with 300+ birds seen, along with lots of wigeon too. Nearly 1000 brent were seen flying off Peldon farmland into the Ray Channel.

Also on Sunday, at East Mersea two velvet scoter in the river seen from the Point was a rare sighting for here, presumably the same two birds seen further up the Colne the day before. At the country park a male hen harrier was seen by Steve Hunting flying over the fields and across the river to Brightlingsea. He also noted a water rail by the pond, 2 rock pipits on the saltmarsh, an eider, common scoter and 8 great crested grebes offshore. A Slavonian grebe was seen by Frank Keen offshore from the park.

Martin Cock found a small flock of 6 - 8 bearded tits again in the borrowdyke at Maydays Farm on Sunday, whilst Steve Entwistle saw the two coal tits at the north end of Shop Lane and also a woodcock here too.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


There was a good selection of waders and wildfowl along the Pyefleet section of Reeveshall at East Mersea on Saturday 27th. This group of waders in the picture above were snapped by "digi-binning" - pointing the camera through the binoculars. Most of the waders in this picture are the small dunlin with a few grey plovers too. The waders were gathering as the tide came in with 200 redshank and 150 avocets forming the main big flocks. The usual other waders curlew, bar-tailed godwit, black-tailed godwit, knot, oystercatcher and turnstone were noted too.

In the Pyefleet 14 red-breasted mergansers, 5 great crested grebes and 2 little grebes were seen along with a few hundred wigeon and teal dotted along the saltmarshes. Consorting with the Eurasian teal was the drake Australian chestnut teal, first seen at the country park in September. This chestnut teal is much more colourful than the previous sighting now that it has finished moulting, with its dark chestnut body and dark green head.

The pool at Reeveshall pool was frozen over and the only birds seen here were one grey heron flying away and a pair of mute swans feeding on grain put out by the farmer. Two marsh harriers were seen flying from Reeveshall to Langenhoe, where there were already a couple of harriers waiting for the late afternoon roost. A male sparrowhawk flew low along the seawall looking for small birds although the only ones seen were 5 linnet, 10 skylark and 5 meadow pipits.

On the Reeveshall fields 300 brent geese were feeding in one field and 50 greylag geese fed in another grass field.

Alongside the conifer wood at the north end of Shop Lane, lots of small birds have been feeding in one of the nearby gardens. Amongst the blue and great tits were two coal tits that were very obliging as they picked up seeds and then perched up in a bush to eat them. Coal tits are only scarce winter visitors to the Island with one or two previous sightings at feeders in West Mersea as well as one or two sightings here at this Shop Lane conifer wood.

Martin Cock has seen these two coal tits earlier in the morning as well as a woodcock flying over the wood. Richard Brown reported seeing one too during the East Mersea pheasant shoot.

The weedy field still with lots of black mustard flowers by the Strood was visited earlier on Saturday where I wanted to check the status of the buntings and finch flocks. I didn't have to wait long before the sound of a lapland bunting was heard as it passed over calling. Two other laplands were also present and all three birds dropped down amongst the weeds. The birds were later heard several times as they flew around, although one bird was later seen flying away from the Island towards Copt Hall.
Still present in the fields were 150 linnet, 50 skylark, 10 reed buntings and 2 rock pipits.

A female peregrine flew over the fields scattering all the birds including the 100 lapwing and 300 golden plover in the nearby fields. A short while later 2 marsh harriers were also seen around the Strood channel with one bird quartering the weedy field.

More snipe were noted flying around the fields with about 10 birds seen during the walk, while 10 little egrets and a grey heron were also seen. There was the usual variety of waders and ducks along the Strood channel although the 500 brent geese were in the Ray channel.

Friday, 26 November 2010


It certainly felt like the wind was coming straight from the Arctic as it blew across the country park on Friday 26th, prviding the first taste of winter. However if you could find a sheltered spot out of the northerly wind, there was still a bit of warmth in the sunshine. Most of the pools in the fields had a thin layer of ice over them so there weren't many ducks to be seen.

The numbers of snipe were still catching the eye with 50+ around the pools including a group of 10 birds by the pond. The golden stripes along their bodies showed up well in the sunshine. A flock of 100 wigeon grazed one corner of the fields with a few brent and black-tailed godwits feeding alongside. Numbers of golden plover built up gradually in the fields as the tide came in with about 400 birds present by the middle of the day. Flocks of curlew and lapwing circled round a few times from nearby fields as if a raptor was flying past.

At the Point a red-throated diver was a surprise sight, drifting only about 20 metres from the beach. A few great-crested grebes and a common seal were the only other things of interest in the river. The two main wader flocks to catch the eye on the mudflats were 70+ avocets and 500+ knot.

Other birds noted around the park included several siskin near the pond, some mixed in with some goldfinches, a fieldfare near the fields while near the seawall were rock pipit and 2 reed buntings. Two foxes were enjoying the sunshine, curled up beside the hedgerows at the back of the fields.

Birds noted during the week have included 30 sanderling near the beach, 4 redpolls past the pond and 60 snipe around the pools on Thursday 25th. On Monday 22nd a merlin scattered all the waders at the Point including the little stint, as it flew west across the river. In the fields a pale-bellied brent goose was seen with 400 dark-bellied brent geese. A female pintail was seen flying over the fields while by the river Colne, 10 red-breasted mergansers flew up-river.

The alders by the park pond have had a small flock of siskins and goldfinches feeding on the cones, although often hard to spot. A male sparrowhawk was seen perching in one of these trees as all the small birds dived for cover. Two redwings were seen flying away from the bushes by the pond on Thursday. On the pond 12 gadwall and 3 tufted duck were seen on several days with some shoveler and mallard.

David Nicholls has seen at least two blackcaps in his West Mersea garden in the last few days.

Sunday, 21 November 2010


A hundred brent geese were feeding on the green algae on the mudflats just off from the country park, early on Sunday 21st. First thing in the morning the beach is usually deserted with nobody around, so the geese feel safe to come close to shore. As the tide came in 14 sanderling were seen along with a few turnstones, redshanks, grey plover and dunlin.

Further along the beach at the East Mersea Point, the incoming tide was just about to cover the last part of the mud where some fifty waders were still feeding. A casual scan of the dunlin and grey plover revealed an unexpected little stint picking its way over the mud. This would've been a more usual sight in late summer or early autumn when these stints stop off on their way south to Africa. Even in the autumn months they're not easy to find out on the huge expanse of mudflats around Mersea. A greenshank flying over the park was also of interest as most of these birds are already wintering in Africa.

Other birds noted from the Point included a marsh harrier flying high upriver, 5 red-breasted mergansers, 10 great crested grebes, 10 skylarks, 2 rock pipits and a sparrowhawk that scattered all the birds off the mud when it landed on the nearby saltmarsh.

Birds in the grazing fields were similar to previous days with 300 brent geese, 350 wigeon, 250 teal, 40 shoveler, 45 snipe, 50 redshank, 50 black-tailed godwit with one or two dunlin and grey plover also present during high tide, as were 2 greylag geese. At the park pond, 12 gadwall and 4 tufted ducks were noted with mallard and some of the shoveler. Six siskin were seen flying east across the park in the morning.

At the end of the day after the last car had left the car park at dusk, a sparrowhawk was seen clutching a squawking blackbird on the ground, whilst nearby other blackbirds were very agitated because a little owl was perched up on the bungalow roof.

Andy Field had earlier seen 5 Slavonian grebes offshore from the East Mersea Youth Camp and also 6 siskins in alder trees there too. Another Slavonian was seen from Coast Road in West Mersea. Martin Cock had enjoyed views from the Maydays seawall of a nice male hen harrier flying over the Langenhoe ranges. Also 11 red-breasted mergansers and 4 goldeneye seen in the Pyefleet.
On Saturday Andy had seen 4 common scoter, red-throated diver, eider and 2 goldeneye off West Mersea.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


There was a very vocal tit flock moving through the trees at the park on Saturday 20th. There seemed to be about 20 long-tailed tits foraging through with lots of blue and great tits. A couple of tiny goldcrests were very obliging and came down low to give close views as they picked over some shrivelled oak leaves. A fieldfare was also noted along this path as were a few of the regular chaffinches, goldfinches and greenfinches.

The main ducks on the pond were 80 mallard, 12 gadwall, 20 shoveler and 5 tufted ducks. The water rail was heard calling briefly from the back of the pond and the fox was curled up resting a couple of feet off the ground on a willow tree.

On the grazing fields 45 snipe were dotted across the pools along with the 50 black-tailed godwits and 50 redshank that had gathered here at high tide. There were the usual big flocks of several hundred wigeon and teal around the pools while a group of 400 brent geese fed in the other field. The river Colne was surprisingly quiet although 10 great crested grebes were on the sea from the park.

At West Mersea Andy Field noted a red-throated diver, 4 common scoter and a goldeneye on Saturday. Later alongside the Strood, there was no sign of the lapland buntings although 50+ linnets and lots of skylarks, corn buntings and pipits were seen as were 250 knot, greenshank and 300 brent geese.

Earlier in the week a marsh harrier was seen flying past the East Mersea Point late on Tuesday afternoon and there was a common seal in the river. Sixteen red-breasted mergansers flew past the Point so close that it was the sound of them flying that made me look up at them, as they headed out of the river to feed.

In the grazing fields on Thursday a sparrowhawk flew along the central ditch and perched on a fence post to survey the birdlife. There were about 600 brent geese still feeding in the field towards dusk and 50 snipe was the best count so far this autumn. On the park pond 40 shoveler were seen and a little egret thought about roosting in a tree over the pond.

Monday, 15 November 2010


It was low tide in the Strood channel during the mid-morning walk along the seawall on Monday 15th. The early morning fog had lifted and the rest of the morning was still, providing clear views of waders and wildfowl such as this family of brent geese pictured above. This group was some of the 100 brent seen resting on the water. A few had been feeding briefly on the winter wheat. A greenshank and a snipe were the waders of note along with a good selection of all the regular wader species. A total of sixteen species of waders had been noted along the channel over the previous 3 days, which seemed a reasonable tally for here.

Despite lots of small birds flying around the fields, there was no sign of the lapland buntings to begin with. After almost half and hour watching and listening to the various finches, larks, pipits and buntings as they flew about, two laplands were seen circling a couple of times over the fields, calling out their distinctive calls. They dropped down into the weedy field and out of sight.

Even when a sparrowhawk had earlier flown low across the fields, the laplands had remained silent and still, although 100 linnets, 50 skylarks, 12 corn buntings, 3 reed buntings and a few meadow pipits and a rock pipit were all seen.

The previous morning one lapland was seen flying over the fields calling and there were lots of small birds got into the air when a marsh harrier crossed the field. A greenshank was noted in the Strood flying about noisily.

As I passed this entrance to the Firs Chase caravan site on Monday morning, I noticed several birds in the tall alder tree behind this house in the picture. Having seen a small flock of goldfinches feeding on the alder cones, a much smaller and more active bird caught the eye as it flitted through the tree. Lifting the binoculars up, it was a very colourful firecrest - a very pleasant surprise.

Whilst watching the bird for several minutes I was surprised how easily I was able to locate the bird in both the alder tree and also a nearby holly tree stuffed with bright red berries. I soon realised there were two firecrests and it was a colourful sight to see them both feeding together amongst the berries.

A firecrest had been seen a fortnight ago feeding with a big tit flock in Firs Chase, only a quarter mile away so one of these birds may've been seen earlier. We shall have to see if they stay for the winter.

Other birds noted around the caravan site included 30 blackbirds, 5 song thrushes, 2 redwings and fieldfare - signs of a recent thrush influx.

Martin Cock noted 2 lapland buntings by the seawall at Maydays farm also on Monday. There were also 5 marsh harriers, short-eared owl and a common buzzard seen over the Langenhoe ranges from Maydays. Liz Huxley saw a red-throated diver from the West Mersea Hard in the morning.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


Walked along the Strood seawall on Saturday 13th and was rewarded with views of 3 lapland buntings which was nice. There were still a gathering of various small birds in one corner of the weedy field since I was last here two weeks ago. The distinctive "tew" call of the lapland bunting rang out across the field as it circled around a few times before landing back again.

Amongst the 100 linnets, 30 skylarks, 12 corn buntings were two other lapland buntings that were seen on the ground a few times. The two laplands were feeding with some of the linnets sometimes on the near edge of the winter wheat field and also feeding on top of the seawall path. They were easier to pick out in flight amongst the linnets as they were always calling. Also seen in the area were rock pipit, reed buntings and a few meadow pipits.

Along the Strood Channel the tide was out and there were plenty of waders on show with 14 species noted. Three spotted redshanks standing together along the central channel was an interesting sight for early winter. Other waders noted were a green sandpiper, 100 knot, 500 golden plover, 200 lapwing, 30 black-tailed godwit and a bar-tailed godwit along with many of the othe regular waders.

More shelduck were present since the last visit with 60 birds and also 200 wigeon roosting on the mud. Twenty little grebes were in the shallow waters and there were 5 little egrets seen too

Scattering all the waders along the channel was a peregrine chasing briefly after a wood pigeon. The peregrine soon gave up and headed over to Ray Island where a kestrel briefly flew with it, showing the difference in size. The peregrine continued over to the Ray Channel where it stooped unsuccessfully down on another bird.

Martin Cock watched a short-eared owl flying over Langenhoe, during his visit to Maydays Farm.

Friday, 12 November 2010


Visited the Rewsalls marshes on the south side of the Island on Friday 12th for a change as I'd not looked at the area for couple of months. Recent rains have transformed two grass fields into mud-baths, as the picture above shows. My visit coincided with the high tide which meant that lots of waders were gathered on the muddy fields for roosting and feeding. This was an unexpected bonus seeing 1000+ birds in the area with waders, brent geese and gulls to be seen.

Of the eight species of wader, most were plovers with 400 golden plover, 25 ringed plover, 50 lapwing and 10 grey plover, along with 250 dunlin, 20 turnstone, 50 curlew and 10 redshank. The dunlin were scuttling about as if they were out feeding on the tidal mudflats. Every so often all the birds rose into the air and circled round a few times beore settling back down. In the nearby wheat field 300 brent geese were happily chomping their way across the young crop.

Other birds noted included 23 mallard, 2 teal, 4 meadow pipits, great spotted woodpecker and a kestrel.
Along the East Mersea road there were hundreds of gulls, rooks, jackdaws, crows, starlings, pigeons feeding in the fields near Bocking Hall. At least fifty skylarks were also seen flying around these fields too.

The country park has been getting its fair share of autumnal weather over the last few days with heavy rain and strong winds although Wednesday brought a brief respite with lots of sunshine. There were also some high tides to contend with last weekend and into the start of this week and the beach and park cliff have taken more pounding from the sea.

In the park's grazing fields on Wednesday the first big flock of brent geese were feeding for the first time here this autumn. Around 600 geese were enjoying the autumnal flush of grass growth on a sunny afternoon, as was a group of 200 wigeon. Also in the same field was a flock of 400 golden plover feeding while the tide covered the nearby mudflats.

Around the muddy pools 30 black-tailed godwits, 50 curlew and 10 snipe were amongst small numbers of teal and wigeon. On the park pond 6 gadwall, 25 shoveler, 3 tufted ducks and 30 mallard were the main ducks present, while a fox snoozed in a nearby corner. In the nearby hedge 4 redwings fed on some rowan berries and 5 siskins flew off some alder trees. Still foraging along the hedgerows in the park are at least 4 goldcrests, often with the main mixed tit flock.

Martin Cock reported 4 bearded tits along the Maydays borrowdyke on Wednesday, the second sighting for this area in the last fortnight. Amongst the small bird flocks were 200 greenfinches, 50 linnet, 4 yellowhammers and several corn buntings too. In the Pyefleet there were 4 red-breasted mergansers and a goldeneye as well as a greenshank. From the West Mersea Esplanade the great northern diver was still present along with a common scoter and an eider.

David Nichols was lucky seeing a coal tit on his feeder in his garden in Queen Ann Drive at the beginning of the week. This species isn't resident on the Island although there have been one or two winter records at various feeders over the years.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


There was a sunny and still start to Saturday 6th with clear views across the park's grazing fields. The flooded western end of the fields continue to hold the main concentration of waders and wildfowl. This in turn attracted a peregrine to the area which caused chaos on the pools beneath it as it passed overhead. The birds weren't allowed to settle for a minute as they then had to wait for a sparrowhawk to glide over the pools too, as it seemed to follow the same route as the peregrine.

Numbers of waders and wildfowl peaked over the weekend during the spring high-tides around the middle of the day. There were about 300 wigeon, 300 teal, 100+ curlew, 140 redshank, 50 black-tailed godwits, 25 lapwing and 30 snipe. Along with a few shoveler, mallard, moorhens there were also 2 little egrets and 2 grey plover by the pools.

Several finches, buntings and small birds were feeding alongside this path near the East Mersea Golfhouse. At least fifteen species were noted together in this small area which seemed an interesting gathering. Birds of note included a siskin on top of a bush calling, brambling heard briefly, yellowhammer and 2 reed buntings in the bushes with a small flock of greenfinches, chaffinches and 15+ goldfinches.

On the nearby seawall 140 avocets were on the mud and a red-breasted merganser was in the river Colne near Langenhoe Pt. There was the fine sight of 800 golden plover flying high over the park in a huge flock and at least 50 knot flew onto the mudflats.

Twenty chaffinches were seen near this path by the park pond on Saturday morning, while earlier a brambling was seen flying west over the car park and also 4 redpolls and 6 siskins passed over the park too. A yellowhammer stopped off at the car park briefly on Friday morning.

The sunny weather brought out one last common darter and a red admiral to enjoy the warmth around the middle of the day on Saturday.

The following day there was a cold winter's feel to the weather on Sunday 7th with a few showers in the afternoon. The fresh easterly wind brought in a late swallow across the park and also lots of flocks of starlings totalling about 500 birds coming in off the sea and heading west. Five redpolls flew west but 6 siskins were seen flying east over the car park.

As the tide was coming in 13 sanderling were feeding close to the park beach with a few dunlin, turnstone and redshank. On the park pond there were 28 shoveler and 3 tufted ducks, 4 gadwall, 25 mallard while a water rail called from the back. In the early evening a badger was seen in the car headlights crossing the road near the park entrance.

At West Mersea there was a great northern diver, red-throated diver, common scoter and eider seen from the Esplanade on Sunday and a kingfisher was seen by the East Mersea Oyster Fishery.

On Saturday Martin Cock saw two bearded tits at Maydays and there was a greenshank and 5 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet. Later in the afternoon at Reeveshall, 10 marsh harriers and a merlin were seen over the Langenhoe marsh coming into roost for the night. At least 200 brent geese and a few greylag geese were seen feeding on the Reeveshall fields up until dusk.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


Quick walk around the East Mersea Point on Wednesday 3rd, provided an unexpected view of a shorelark on the beach. The bird was feeding right at the eastern tip on the top of the shingle, calling every so often when it looked up. The colourful yellow and black markings on the face stood out in the morning sunshine. The bird was watched for a few minutes and while I distracted myself by making a couple of phonecalls, the birds disappeared and wasn't found again.
I believe there has been only one other shorelark in Essex so far this winter and that was almost a month ago at Walton on the Naze. The last shorelark here at the Point was seen for just one day last December.

A female stonechat was doing lots of flycatching off the tops of the bushes at the Point. A rock pipit was seen flying over the saltmarsh calling as it went. A late swallow passed over the grazing fields, as one did the previous day too.

There was much panic amongst the waders and wildfowl on the fields which was caused by a hunting peregrine. The bird was seen to stoop several times until a second peregrine appeared on the scene and started to harass it. The two birds tussled as the smaller male repeatedly tried to mob the bigger female accompanied by loud calls. Both birds passed overhead as they headed east over the Colne and when they reached the other side, the mobbing started again as they flew into Brightlingsea Creek.

Martin Cock saw the lapland bunting again at Maydays Farm on Tuesday, while Adrian Amos enjoyed a brambling at his feeder in his West Mersea garden along East Road on Wednesday.

This distinctive cloven-hoof footprint of a muntjac deer was discovered on the beach near the Point. The trail of prints seemed to follow some of the paths amongst the saltmarsh bushes which is an odd location for a deer. Two muntjac were seen last week near the park pond, so not that far away from this location of footprints.

Not only are many leaves turning to a nice mix of autumnal colours but many have already fallen to the ground, such as this path at the park, carpeted in yellow maple leaves.

In the trees around the park there are still several goldcrests feeding with the tits. Two siskin and a couple of redpolls flew over the park calling during the morning. A redwing was also heard near the pond.

This feathered thorn moth was one of three in the trap on Thursday morning after a breezy night for moth activity. The moth is a widespread moth although not as many this autumn in the traps as this time last year.

This dark chestnut is the first record for the year and usually is noted a couple of times in the late autumn here at the park.

The commonest moth at the moment is the aptly named November moth with five individuals being noted. Other moths seen were a large wainscot and a setaceous hebrew character.

Monday, 1 November 2010


The lapland bunting was still present in the fields by the Strood on a sunny Monday 1st. It flew around the weedy field a couple of times calling as it passed overhead but no views of it on the ground. Martin Cock also saw a lapland bunting on his morning walk at Maydays Farm, where the bird was heard calling and then watched landing on the saltmarsh.

Here in the Strood fields, there was a good number of 70+ mix of skylarks, corn buntings, meadow pipits, linnets with a few goldfinches and reed buntings. Some birds were feeding in a young winter wheat crop and some feeding in the weedy field.

A peregrine stirred up all the waders and wildfowl along the Channel as it flew along. The most impressive flock were 1000 golden plover that rose into the air from the mud by the Strood causeway.

Half an hour later whilst looking at the flock of little grebes in the channel, they all suddenly ducked under in a splash. Swooping low over their heads was the peregrine again, homing in on a redshank on the nearby bank. The redshank leapt out of the way and the big female peregrine climbed back up and circled over the channel giving good views from the seawall.

A male pintail on the water with some of the shelduck and brent, was the only bird different from Sunday morning.

In the afternoon there was a great view of a firecrest in Firs Chase, West Mersea feeding with a big tit flock of 50+ birds. This little gem flitted through the same holly bush where a firecrest had been seen a couple of years ago. Among the great tits, blue tits and long-tailed tits were at least 4 goldcrests too. Twenty redwings flew over to the west as dusk approached, on their way to roost.

The sunny weather led to 3 red admirals fluttering together over Firs Chase in the afternoon.