Saturday, 31 December 2011


It stayed overcast for most of Saturday 31st on Mersea, the last day of the year. No new species were added today to the year's bird list for the Island. Martin Cock somehow managed to see the most species on the Island during 2011 with 161 species. I fell short of his tally (again!), by three species ending the year on 158 species, while Andy and Steve were a few species below this. In total around 173 species of bird were seen on or from the Island by local and visiting birdwatchers. Each year throws up some unexpected birds and 2011 was no exception with a good start to the year and an interesting late autumn too.
No doubt 2012 will have a few surprises waiting up it's sleeve!

Andy Field found the first Slavonian grebes of this winter offshore from the park with two distant birds on the sea. He also managed to locate the jack snipe still present in the middle of the pools in the grazing fields. The 24 snow buntings were also reported at the Point just after middday, although they'd soon disappeared back over the water. A common buzzard was seen soaring over one of the woods near Brightlingsea church in the afternoon.

In the Colne 10 red-breasted mergansers were noted and 5 marsh harriers were flying over the lagoon at Langenhoe Point. Martin Cock had earlier seen a common buzzard from Maydays Farm flying over Langenhoe marshes.

Birds around the country park today have been roughly the same variety of species and the same numbers as recent days.

Friday, 30 December 2011


Three common snipe were seen feeding in the field by the country park pond on Friday 30th. This bird got to within 15 metres of the hide and these photos were taken while the camera was pressed up to the binoculars - "digi-binned". Normally snipe can be hard to spot amongst the grass tussocks but this one was giving close views.

The snipe were probing the soil for worms and every so often they pulled one out of the ground. Snipe numbers have dropped around the pools in the main fields over the last fortnight from 90+ birds down to about 20 birds.

At the end of the afternoon, a fox trotted past the pond and the 3 snipe which had been well concealed in the grass, jumped out of the way. The fox carried onto the hedge at the back and tried to pounce on a water rail which just managed to escape by flying to the pond.

There was the usual mix of ducks with 5 tufted duck, 10 gadwall, 10 shoveler, 50+ mallard as well as the two pairs of wigeon that also jumped out of the way of the passing fox.

Teal have been noisy on the pools with 300+ birds resting and feeding. There were bigger gatherings on the fields of waders and wildfowl during the afternoon high tide roosts. At the pools over the last two days have been 200 black-tailed godwits, 50 redshank with 400 wigeon, 350 golden plover, 400 brent geese, 50 curlew and 130 lapwing. Also in the fields were 20 turnstone, single dunlin, grey heron and 10 stock doves.

On Thursday at dusk there was the unexpected fly past the pond of a glossy ibis, probably looking for somewhere to spend the night. The bird was heard calling as it approached the pond but veered away, showing it's distinctive silhouette of a black body with a long neck and downcurved bill. The bird flew off to the north-west disappearing in the direction of NorthFarm / Shop Lane. This bird might be one of the two glossy ibises seen futher up in the Colne a few days ago.

The other interesting sighting was a doe muntjac deer yesterday late in the afternoon near the pond. She walked slowly and nervously alongside the hedge at the back of the pools and then disappeared into the copse at the back of the pond. I think the last sighting on the park was over a year ago.

Along the park beach on Wednesday and Thursday were the 24 snow buntings still feeding along the strandline but occasionally flying onto the nearby fields to drink at one of the pools. They weren't seen on Friday but then there were more folk walking about.

Other sightings for Friday included two green woodpeckers flying away from the clifftop plantation, 5 sanderling, 200 knot, 200 avocet at the Point where 4 red-breasted mergansers and a marsh harrier were also seen over the river.

On Thursday a sparrowhawk flashed low past the pond scattering the snipe and moorhens and where 20 goldfinches had been seen earlier in the day. In the river a common seal was noted for the second day running.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Seasons Greetings to All.
Back to the country park on Tuesday 27th after a few days break with plenty of walking to try and burn off the festive excesses. The day was grey and mild with the visibility surprisingly good. It was one of those rare days when Kent could be seen thirty miles to the south across the Greater Thames estuary.

At the park pond pictured above, a female pochard was with 5 tufted duck while the other regular ducks included 12 shoveler, 8 gadwall and 70+ mallard. On the grass on the western side were two pairs of wigeon and a couple of snipe. The water rail squealed loudly at dusk from the reeds.

On the grazing fields, 400 teal, 300 wigeon, 100 black-tailed godwits and 20 snipe were some of the main flocks of note. Also present were several curlew, lapwings, golden plover and redshank with more birds arriving on to the fields to roost for the afternoon high tide. In the afternoon there was the great sight of 300 brent geese flying noisily over the car park having been scared off a nearby wheat field.

The 24 snow buntings were seen flying from the Point over the fields and dropping down to drink beside one of the pools in the morning. After five minutes they were seen flying back to feed on the beach at the Point where they blended in well with the shells and shingle.

Also noted from the Point were 100 golden plover, 500 dunlin, 100 avocets, four marsh harriers over Langenhoe and a common seal swimming into the river.

Thursday, 22 December 2011


One of the longest nights of the year on Wednesday 21st was a damp and mild one that saw the moth trap being put out at the country park. The conditions were as good as could be expected for the time of year. This December moth pictured above shows the very feathery big antennae of the male, used to track down the females. Four of these moths were in the trap which is a good tally for here.

At least five winter moths had made their way to the trap within the first hour of darkness although not many were still around by daybreak.

It was a good night for the chestnut moth with five in the trap in the morning. Many of them appeared dark brown with a sheen to the wings, looking like dark chestnut moths.

No sign of any snow buntings on this first beach at the park on a dull Wednesday 21st, however there were 26 snow buntings here on Tuesday. Also along the seawall on Tuesday were 2 chiffchaffs still spending an unusual amount of time recently low down by the saltmarsh or along the dyke. A sparrowhawk flashed low over the saltmarsh near the Point.

On Wednesday along the outer edge of the mud offshore from the park were 160 shelduck and 200 avocets. Flying high over the fields in the afternoon were 100 fieldfares heading west. The grazing fields were much wetter with recent rain although duck numbers were about 200 teal and 300 wigeon. Two foxes emerged from the hedge behind the pools at the end of the afternoon.

On the park pond a water rail was seen at dusk underneath the overhanging willows. Eight tufted ducks seemed to indicate some new arrivals while in the grass field nearby were 5 snipe.

Sunday, 18 December 2011


It was a very chilly Sunday 18th to be out looking at the geese at the country park. This pale bellied brent goose wandered into the middle of the frame of this picture, as it fed with 300 dark bellied brent. It had been seen first thing in the morning on the shore feeding on mudflat algae. In the afternoon the brent flock of 500 geese was feeding next to Ivy Farm with the pale-bellied present again along with the black brant too.

Earlier in the morning a group of 37 barnacle geese flew noisily from the west in front of the park shore and then turned into the Colne estuary. They were later found by Martin Cock at Maydays in the Pyefleet Channel, where 33 of them flew back east and back out of the Colne, leaving 4 barnacles to fly to the Strood channel. This is the second morning running that a group of barnacle geese have flown into the estuary, potentially being wild birds newly arrived.

Also in the Colne was the great northern diver opposite Rat Island, while 10+ pintail were in the Pyefleet and there were also 9 goldeneye at Maydays seen by Martin. Five marsh harriers were seen over Langenhoe and 150 avocets on the mud here were just one of many such groups dotted around the estuary.

On the first beach near the park 25 snow buntings were pesent for most of the day foraging for seeds amongst the grassy part well back from the tideline. At least one chiffchaff was seen by the seawall near the Golfhouse but there was a report of two also being seen in the afternoon at the west end of the park seawall.

In the afternoon a male marsh harrier crossed over the river from Colne Point and flew low over the grazing fields as it headed north. Nine red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river as the tide came in and a common seal was seen in the river. Fifteen sanderling fed on the mud close to the beach and there was the usual spectacle of 2000+ dunlin, knot and golden plover along with many other waders pushed in by the tide.

Saturday, 17 December 2011


A sunny but frosty start to Saturday 17th with much of the standing water in the park's fields iced over. The only birds amongst the frozen pools were 34 snipe with another 6 seen at the west end of the pond. By mid-morning 300 brent geese were feeding on the fields along with 300 wigeon. In the afternoon during the high tide, 200 teal, 100 golden plover, 100 lapwing, 25 black-tailed godwits, 10 turnstone and 10 redshank were seen along with 100 rooks and jackdaws.

On the beach 27 snow buntings were present in the afternoon but hadn't been seen in the morning, while at the Point there were 44 sanderling. The chiffchaff was seen again in the morning at the corner of the seawall, calling a couple of times. In the muddy bay 1000 dunlin, 50 knot, 10 bar-tailed godwits and 200 avocets gathered as the tide came in.

Nine barnacle geese flew upriver past the Point which is the first sighting on the Island this year. It's difficult to say if these geese were wild ones newly arrived although the local feral ones are normally seen with greylag geese, whereas these ones were with a few wigeon. Also in the river and the Pyefleet were 15 pintail, 8 goldeneye, 18 red-breasted mergansers 10 great crested grebes while 4 marsh harriers were flying over Langenhoe Point.

Two pairs of wigeon have started to graze the grass in the pond field with these two pictured above providing nice views from the hide. A female pochard flew off the pond in the morning. Other ducks noted were 4 tufted ducks, 34 shoveler, 10 gadwall and 70+ mallard.

Two foxes were seen at the back of the pond at the end of the afternoon with one fox flushing 6 snipe as it trotted across the field. The regular curlew flew off too and 22 moorhens ran for cover. A sparrowhawk flew into the top of a willow tree scattering lots of wood pigeons and stock doves getting ready for the evening roost. A water rail was glimpsed walking along the edge of the water under the overhanging willow branches of the copse.

Had a phonecall to say 2 Bewicks swans had been seen in the Mersea Quarters from Old Hall Marshes around the middle of the day.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


It was a bit of a surprise to find this brown long-eared bat lying dead in front of the door of the East Mersea church on Thursday 15th. The huge ears are quite a sight close-up and seem completely out of proportion to the rest of the body. This picture of the face was the most interesting angle to photograph the bat as part of the main body showed signs of an attack.

All bats should be tucked up by now for the winter hibernating in an old tree, a house or maybe even in an old church! I'm not aware of long-eared bats being recorded at the church here before although I think pipistrelles have often been noted. For a few summers a long-eared bat used to catch moths at night at the country park and then eat them inside the toilet block, leaving the moth wings lying on the floor. There were signs of possible long-eared bat presence this summer on only a handful of nights.

The big juicy fruits of the strawberry tree hang beside East Mersea's Church road, and seem particularly colourful this winter. Aware that the latin name Arbutus unedo refers to eating the fruit only once because of the taste, I was pleasantly surprised how fleshy and sweet it was. This tree here has been planted but the strawberry tree is a native tree in SW Ireland.

At the country park 27 snow buntings were back today on the chilly and windswept beach at the Point. They weren't seen yesterday although they had been reported on Tuesday. Not the same big flocks of waders or wildfowl on the fields in the last few days. Common snipe numbers have dropped to 25 with 3 also seen from the hide by the pond while 200+ teal and 300 wigeon were also seen.

Steve Grimwade and his Swallow Birding Group visited the park on Wednesday and noted a male peregrine and a male marsh harrier over the grazing fields where 250 teal were on the pools. Also seen was the wintering chiffchaff by the seawall and dyke, with 150 avocet, 15 sanderling, 2 rock pipits, 2 sparrowhawks and 2 great spotted woodpeckers also seen on the morning walk. There was also a big flock of 1000 golden plover which drifted high over the fields in spread-out flying formations.

On Tuesday a female marsh harrier flew west over the fields by the park battling into the strong headwind. The water rail showed again on the field edge of the pond and 3 snipe were nearby. In the grazing fields 700+ golden plover rested at high tide.

Glyn Evans kindly sent this photo of two sanderlings he saw at East Mersea Point on Monday 12th. He also managed to flush a short-eared owl from the Point which flew along the seawall where it flew up again a couple more times before flying inland near Shop Lane. Three green sandpipers were seen near Maydays Farm.

This photo was passed onto me by David Littlejohns of the sick fox that was seen at the park in late October. The fox was seen by a number of visitors to the park and seemed very unwell, allowing people to get quite close to it. It appears that the fox was suffering from an infestation of ticks which can be seen in the picture still attached behind the ear and above the eye. At the time I looked for this fox following the various reports but it had disappeared from view by the time I was free to check it out.
Currently there are at least two very healthy looking foxes often seen at the back of the pond.

Lastly, Brain Church sent me a video clip of the red-breasted goose at Old Hall Marshes, taken yesterday morning. This is the goose first found on the Island a month ago but which has taken up residence on Old Hall. I've asked Brian to send it back to its original finder when he's finished filming it!


Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Alan Reynolds eventually got onto Mersea Island after the very high tide had gone down from the Strood causeway last Friday 9th, and took all these photographs of waders on the shore by East Mersea Point. If you time the tide right just as it begins to uncover the mud, it's a great place to see good numbers of waders and a great variety close-in too. The picture above shows a grey plover in typical pose.

The mud near the Point is a good place to see bar-tailed godwits, such as these pictured above.

The oystercatchers pictured above, are one of the most recognisable of the waders being black and white, and are often the noisiest too.

Dunlin, pictured above, are the most numerous with up to 2000 sometimes gathering on the mud here in winter.

Three ringed plovers fly onto the mud with two dunlin in this photo above.

The turnstone, pictured above, feed along the beach in small flocks during the high tide flicking over the stones as they look for food.

Running alongside the turnstones on the beach at the Point are the ghostly white sanderling, photo above.

The rock pipit is a winter visitor to the Island feeding in saltmarshes or along beaches as in Alan's photo above.

Monday, 12 December 2011


It's been over a month since I last visited the Reeveshall seawall, so it was nice to have the winter sun shining on it during Monday 12th. Not much of a muddy margin around the pool pictured above with a little egret and a mute swan the only birds present here. In the nearby grass field near the Shop Lane seawall, the black brant goose was feeding amongst the 150 dark-bellied brent geese.

A casual scan along the rest of the Reeveshall seawall revealed an unexpected peregrine perched on a stile before it flew off over the Pyefleet. A sparrowhawk also flew over the Channel with a carrion crow mobbing it all the way across. Two marsh harriers and a kestrel were the only other birds of prey noted on Langenhoe.

The tide was coming in during the mid-morning so many of the waders were dotted along the water's edge quite close-in. Amongst the regular waders 20 bar-tailed godwits and 50 avocets were of interest. Amongst the wildfowl in the Pyefleet were 42 pintail which is a good count for the Pyefleet of these smart looking ducks. Three male goldeneye and 7 red-breasted mergansers were also of note in the channel.

A walk along the footpath from Shop Lane to Meeting lane provided views of a sparrowhawk, 5 redwing, green woodpecker and a great spotted woodpecker. There were about a dozen blackbirds, 2 song thrushes feeding on some blackthorn bushes still laden down with a huge crop of sloes, pictured below.

At the beginning of Monday a marsh harrier flew low over the fields opposite the East Mersea shop. In West Mersea in the afternoon a chiffchaff flitted and called above Firs Chase while 50 greenfinches gathering to roost, 8 goldfinch and two great spotted woodpeckers were also seen here

Sunday, 11 December 2011


The weekend was one of colourful contrast between the dull and grey Sunday 11th, as seen above during the morning walk alongside the Strood Channel, contrasting with the picture below taken the previous afternoon on the country park seawall.

Highlights of the Sunday Strood stroll were a lapland bunting circling high over the wheat field for about five minutes calling out its distinctive "ticky-ticky-tew" calls. Other than its call-notes, it looked like any dull small brown bird in flight. Twenty linnets, 2 rock pipits and 10 skylarks were also noted near the seawall.

The tide was slowly covering all of the mudflats with a nice variety of waders such as dunlin, grey plover, knot, redshank, black-tailed godwit and 400 golden plovers. A snipe flew away from the seawall while 3 little egrets waited by the dyke. At least fifty collared doves were seen in trees near the top of the caravan site.

In the afternoon 29 snow buntings were feeding on the beach at the East Mersea Point again, while 2 red-breasted mergansers were seen in the river. Lots of the regular waders were gathering on the mud with 50 sanderling being the nicest sight.

On the park pond the regular water rail and 2 snipe were still feeding in the field by the edge of the reeds up until dark while a sparrowhawk scattered lots of wood pigeons and 25 stock doves from the copse. In the fields 145 lapwing, 400 golden plover and 400 wigeon were the main flocks present.

It started frosty on Saturday 10th with some patches of water remaining frozen well into the afternoon. The still conditions and blue sky made for an enjoyable walk along the park seawall to the Point. The flock of 20 snow buntings had been seen by Barbara Laport early in the afternoon although they had gone by mid afternoon. An eider and 4 red-breasted mergansers, 4 great crested grebes were also reported in the river Colne.

Rather unusually a chiffchaff was foraging along the seaward side of the park's seawall, calling frequently as it flitted low along the ground. By coincidence a chiffchaff was also seen and heard close to the waterfront in West Mersea, in a garden next to the yacht club, earlier on the Saturday.

The flock of golden plovers really did look golden in the bright winter sunshine with 300 birds noted on Saturday in the fields, pictured above. Amongst the 300 brent geese feeding in the grazing fields was the black brant and also 300 wigeon nearby. Most of the teal had abandoned the frozen pools although 50 snipe were still to be seen.

Friday, 9 December 2011


Plenty of emergency vehicles were on hand again at the flooded Strood causeway onto the Island on Friday 9th. Warnings of a high surge tide hitting the East coast were obviously ignored by this white van-man who got his vehicle marooned halfway across by the tide. Three fire engines, 3 police vehicles and a paramedic car had made themselves available again and were seen in attendance during the high tide. The picture above shows 3 policemen specially kitted out to wade along the length of the flooded causeway, presumably checking that all cars could move when needed. The police 4x4 reversed back to the van and towed it to dry land so that the traffic could move freely once the tide receded. At least the lifeboat wasn't needed this time!

Whilst lying on my back on the side of the Strood seawall watching the drama unfold, a peregrine created a bit of chaos amongst the roosting waders behind me on the wheat field. Flying off in different directions were 100 dunlin, 20 grey plover, 30 lapwing, a few turnstone as well as 100 starlings and several skylarks. The peregrine hung in the air providing a nice view for a while before racing low down the Strood Channel towards the wader roosts at the west end of the Ray saltings.

The other highlight that made the walk worthwhile was seeing a kingfisher as it flew low along a ditch, by the seawall. The blue back was the only bit of colour glimpsed as it flew rapidly away where it appeared to perch in a bush at the end of the ditch. This area seems to be a favourite spot for the kingfisher this autumn with a recent sighting here a fortnight ago.

For almost an hour either side of the high tide, all the saltmarsh was covered by the sea. Various wader flocks were flying from one roost site to another as the water lapped around them. Three pintail were of interest amongst the numbers of teal and wigeon in the channel.

There seemed to be more skylarks around with 20 noted in the fields and another 20 or so flying west off the Island. Three rock pipits and 7 reed buntings were seen whilst walking along the seawall. In one of the other Strood fields 200 golden plover roosted with a few lapwing.

Coast Road was rather quiet during the high tide with the water preventing any traffic getting about. This picture in front of the West Mersea Yacht Club was taken about 30 minutes before the high tide and luckily most of the cars in the Hard car park escaped the worst of the tide. When the tide eventually receded the road was littered with lots of seaweed and other washed up bits of flotsam.

Thursday, 8 December 2011


It has been relatively quiet birdwise on the Island over the last few days. However Andy Field managed to find this jack snipe on the flooded corner of the grazing fields at the country park on Tuesday 6th. It can be tricky to find when there's at least 70 common snipe to look at too, around the same pools. When the sun shines, the golden stripes on the common snipe show up well and the birds are easy to spot amongst the old dock tussocks and the snoozing teal.

Andy also took this great photo of an obliging curlew that was feeding in the field just in front of the hide. This same curlew has been seen several times over the last week feeding in the field at the west end of the park pond. Two or three common snipe have also been feeding here at this western end of the pond.
On Thursday there was a big feeding flock of 80+ curlew in a wheat field at the west end of Bromans Lane in East Mersea.

It was a bright sunny winter's morning on the Tuesday although with a chill in the slight breeze. There was the usual selection of waders and wildfowl on the fields with 500 teal and 500 wigeon being the main flocks. Many of the wigeon have been grazing the edge of the fields alongside this borrow-dyke pictured above. They also spend time in the water here too.

On the park pond up to 80 ducks have been present with mallard, shoveler, gadwall and tufted duck being the regulars noted over recent days, although a grey heron standing on the edge was not a familiar visitor here. Thirty stock doves roosted in the pond copse on Wednesday night, as they have done on other recent nights.

Andy saw a male eider duck in the river Colne and also a common seal in the outer part of the estuary. On Wednesday at the Point a sparrowhawk flew off clutching a small bird, while on the beach 25 sanderlings scurried along the edge of the high tide. Three red-breasted mergansers were in the river Colne but no sign of any snow buntings since Sunday.

Monday, 5 December 2011


It was a cold but sunny start to Monday 5th with the tide just on its way out early in the morning. Hundreds of waders such as these dunlin were arriving on the mud near the Point to feed with over 1000 spread across the mudflats. Once on the mud, they were feeding frantically, scurrying around as the next bit of mud became uncovered by the outgoing tide.

The sunshine helped to highlight the waders dotted across the mud. In the picture above, although not solely identifiable from the photo, the smallest white dots at the bottom of the photo are dunlin, the small darker group in the middle of the mud are golden plover while the whiter dots in the water at the back are some avocets. Good views were also had from the Point of the other eleven regular wader species too.

There was no sign of any of the 31 snow buntings that had been feeding on the beach at the Point the day before.

The grazing fields provided the main bird interest at the park on Monday with 500+ wigeon, 500+ teal, 400 brent geese, 70+ common snipe and 300 golden plover being the main flocks. At the park pond the regular water rail was seen feeding on the edge of the field by the pond while a presumed second bird was seen swimming from one of the reedmace islands back to the pond-edge. A little egret stood on a clump of reedmace at the pond and 3 common snipe fed in the nearby grass field.

Other birds noted on Sunday as well as the snow buntings, were a great northern diver in the river Colne, 2 male goldeneye in the Pyefleet, 2 marsh harriers over Langenhoe Point, 9 red-breasted mergansers, 15 great crested grebes, 300 avocets in the river and a jack snipe and pale-bellied brent goose seen again in the grazing fields. Near the car park 18 goldfinches flew into bushes to roost for the night while 50 greenfinches gathered in hedges near the pond for the night.

As the night-time temperatures become incresingly colder, it has been harder selecting suitable evenings for moth-trapping. However the mothing season hasn't quite come to an end until the aptly named December moth is ticked off for the year! Three of these furry looking moths and two winter moths were in the trap over Saturday night into Sunday morning. This time last year the poor weather and cold temperatures meant there was no trapping done at the park, so we missed out on this moth.

It was a bit of a surprise to see this nicely marked herald moth inside the house resting on the sofa in the sitting room! Having tried to gently move the moth, it dropped onto the carpet where this picture was taken. (As the caterpillars feed only on willow and poplar leaves, I knew the carpet was safe!). It was gathered up and released outside where it will no doubt look for another building or somewhere sheltered to spend the winter.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


The sun eventually broke through the clouds on Saturday 3rd, providing us with a mainly sunny day. In the morning it was getting towards low tide so there was plenty of mud on show although most of the waders were far off into the distance.

The familiar walk around the East Mersea Point almost seemed worthless, until a flock of snow buntings were discovered feeding low down on the beach and well hidden amongst the shells. They were easier to count whilst spread out on the beach with the 30 birds being a good sized flock. The birds had disappeared by mid afternoon, presumably after the disturbance from dogs and walkers got too much.

Whilst walking along the seawall in the afternoon, the flocks of waders on the nearby mudflats suddenly took to the air. At first it seemed as if they were moving because of the incoming tide until I saw the unmistakeable outline and profile of a big peregrine falcon homing down onto the mud as if targetting a wader close-by.

In the bright sunshine the peregrine's markings showed up really clearly with it's fine barred underparts, bold black moustachial stripes on the face and the pale blue-grey back and wings. The bird hung in the air above the seawall and circled over the fields while a couple of thousand ducks, geese and waders flew around in mass panic. As flocks swirled round the peregrine appeared confused as to which bird would be easiest to chase. After a couple of minutes of circling, it flew north over the fields and headed to the back of the Island - "empty-taloned".

I made sure this falcon was a peregrine and not some other falcon especially as the "saker" falcon was seen again earlier in the day at Old Hall Marshes tussling with a much smaller peregrine.

Amongst the mass of birds on the fields, 94+ common snipe had been counted around the pools which is the highest count so far this winter. Numbers of teal seemed similar to yesterday when 630+ birds had been counted, along with 500 wigeon, 70 black-tailed godwits and 50 redshank.

On the park pond the water rail was seen twice during the day being chased back into the reeds by a moorhen. The water rail was also seen out on the nearby muddy track yesterday afternoon. Also nearby today was a common snipe and a curlew with 20 moorhens and 18 coot feeding in and near the pond. On the water were 5 tufted ducks along with a few shoveler, gadwall and mallard too. At dusk two foxes came out from the hedgerow to stare at the mass of ducks on the pools. Thirty stock doves gathered in the pond copse to roost and 70+ greenfinches were going to roost in nearby bushes.

In the river 8 red-beasted mergansers flew out of the river to feed as the tide came in. A common seal was seen again in the mouth of the estuary. The avocets were building up again, probably to the same record count for the area made yesterday when 400 birds gathered together as the tide covered the last of the mud near the Point. The big gathering of waders on the last bit of mud included 2000 dunlin, 100 knot, 100 golden plover and 100 grey plover along with many of the other regular waders.

The high spring tides of recent days has resulted in large chunks of the park's sandy cliff crumbling down into the sea. Some parts of the cliff are suffering badly from the coastal erosion and yet 30 metres further along the beach, the grass is still growing at the foot of the cliff. As I walked along the beach, I reminded myself that there appeared to be about 80 sand martin holes had been used this summer.

At the beginning of the day, 200 dark-bellied brent geese were feeding on the algae on the mudflats near the beach. Amongst the dark-bellied was the single pale-bellied brent goose. Later all the geese took off to feed in fields round the north side of the Island.

Thursday, 1 December 2011


The weeping willow tree at the park pond appeared more golden when the low winter sun shone onto it on Thursday 1st December. Most of the other willow bushes and trees around the pond have dropped most of their leaves.

The main ducks of interest on the pond have been 20 shoveler, 4 tufted duck, 10 gadwall and 50+ mallard. The water rail hasn't showed since the weekend although a couple of water rail squeals have been heard. Three snipe were feeding in the grass field next to the pond.

Big flocks of waders and wildfowl were seen in the grazing fields with a count of 600+ wigeon, along with 500+ teal, 300 brent geese including the pale-bellied brent, 300 golden plover, 97 greylag geese, 130 curlew, 50 black-tailed godwits and 70+ snipe. A new flock using the fields over the last few afternoons has been the gathering of 300 rooks and jackdaws, who have dropped in for a last feed before flying east to their evening roost at St Osyth Priory.

No sign of any snow buntings in the morning with 15 meadow pipits and two pied wagtails the only birds on the beach today. Yesterday 26 snow buntings were feeding on the first beach near the park, occasionally flying into the grazing fields. At one point a ringtail hen harrier glided along the beach forcing the buntings to flee.

From the Point today, a female marsh harrier flew up river to Langenhoe as did a second bird later in the day, while a male merlin flew determinedly across the river to Point Clear in the morning. Despite the very low tide, there was little in the river other than about 8 great crested grebes and a common seal. There was no sign of the male common scoter or the male eider that were seen yesterday.
There were lots of avocets around the mouth of the river on Wednesday morning with about 200 seen on the east side by Brightlingsea with a further 100 flying back upriver past the Point.

On Tuesday afternoon 13 snow buntings were feeding along the strandline on the first beach until late in the day. A male marsh harrier crossed over the rough sea and then flew low over the seawall, surprising the 400 golden plover and 200 wigeon from the fields. A sparrowhawk flew past the car park just before dusk.

Got news yesterday that the "Mersea" red-breasted goose was refound at Old Hall Marshes on Wednesday feeding with the brent geese. It hadn't been reported since the previous sighting there eight days earlier on the 15th.

Some bushes still have their berries on them such as this blackthorn bush with lots of sloes. However the starlings have been tucking into some of the sloes on the bushes around the park in recent days.

This insignificant little bug only about 10mm in length caught my eye as it rested on the white wall next to my back door. A closer look revealed it to be one of the wingless female moth species that appear in the winter. This is the scarce umber moth which despite the name is not that unusual. A male was trapped last week at the park ( photograph in earlier posting) only a few metres from where this female was found.

The female looks more like a small bug than a moth with this photo above showing the rudimentary "wings"sticking upright from the top of the body.

Shirley Field took these two photos last week of a very colourful male sparrowhawk perching conveniently on the bird feeder in their garden in High Street North in West Mersea.

I don't suppose it fancied any of the nuts and seeds put out for the birds!

Monday, 28 November 2011


Returned to walk the Strood seawall in the morning of Monday 28th mainly to look at the brent geese flock. Once the geese had flown out of the channel, it wasn't long before the black brant was found. Most of the time it was amongst the brent geese flock but the digiscoped photo above shows it nicely by itself. This North American / eastern Siberian race of brent goose has now been present here for two weeks. However there was no sign of the red-breasted goose here with no reports from anywhere on the Essex coast since last Tuesday at Old Hall RSPB. There was also no sign of the tundra bean goose which hasn't been seen for a few days either.

Around 400 dark-bellied brent geese were feeding in the field nearest the Strood Hill. I had hoped to have seen more groups of geese fly in to join the main feeding flock but other than a flock of 70 birds which headed into the Pyefleet, no other flocks were seen.

Feeding in the same field were 4 lapland buntings along with 20+ skylarks. Three laplands took off calling and flew away while a fourth bird was found feeding on the near edge of the field with some skylarks. It provided good views on the ground and would've been photographable with a better camera lens.

This pair of wigeon were part of 50 wigeon noted along with 150 teal resting at the bottom of the Strood channel during the low tide. Amongst the waders were one avocet, 50 knot, 400 dunlin, 70 grey plover, 4 bar-tailed godwit, 30 black-tailed godwits as well as some of the other regular waders.

One marsh harrier flying low along the Peldon seawall was the only bird of prey seen. Along the channel 14 little grebes were feeding and at least five little egrets were seen too.

Other small birds seen during the walk were 3 rock pipits, 5 meadow pipits, 5 reed buntings, 5 linnets and also a flock of 15 fieldfares flying west off the Island near the Dabchicks.

Martin Cock saw 26 snow buntings at the East Mersea Point this morning and 300 brent geese and 99 greylag geese in the nearby grazing fields.

The monthly wildfowl count was carried out on Mersea by Glyn Evans and his trusty team which turned up a pink-foot goose on Reeveshall along with black brant amongst 350 dark-bellied brent geese. Also seen along the back of the Island were ringtail hen harrier, common buzzard, merlin, 6 marsh harriers, 10 red-breasted mergansers, 4 goldeneye, 6 pintail and then finishing with the jack snipe and 500 teal at the country park.