Tuesday, 29 January 2013


David Nicholls was surprised to find a flock of 26 waxwings feeding in his neighbour's garden in Queen Anne Road in West Mersea, early afternoon on Tuesday 29th.

The birds were feeding low down on some cotoneaster berries and were watched for about twenty minutes, where he was able to take one of these two photos, before they flew off and disappeared. David wasn't sure how long the birds had been present before he discovered them.

David managed to take this picture of at least twenty of the waxwings perched in a tree in Queen Anne Road.
Great birds to see and enjoy from your garden, even if they were feeding in the neighbour's garden!

There was no news yesterday on the two other waxwings seen in Firs Road although they were seen first thing on Monday morning by Adrian Kettle.

Michael Thorley took these two photos of a very bright winter plumaged male brambling seen on Saturday 26th coming to bird-food in his East Mersea garden, close to the top of Meeting Lane.

The brambling was only seen on the one day - a nice colourful addition to the garden list following the three waxwings that were seen here last month.

A single fieldfare recently visited Michael's garden for three days, his picture showing snow on the branches.
Michael reported a big flock of fieldfares feeding in a field behind his house on Tuesday with 400 birds feeding alongside 300 starlings.

He also snapped this greenfinch with an odd crossed-bill feeding in his garden, which he thought was a bill deformity, as opposed to a picture of the bills naturally crossing over whilst chewing the seeds.

At the country park on Tuesday there was the nice sight of at least 30 snow buntings flying around the beach at the East Mersea Point at 3pm. Some of this flock must be the same birds that dropped in briefly a fortnight ago, although there have been no reports of their whereabouts in the intervening period.

An army Chinook helicopter flew low over the park on Tuesday afternoon, flushing big flocks of duck into the air from the flooded grazing fields. Over 1000 wigeon and 700 teal circled around providing a better idea of how many birds were present.

A woodcock flew off the ground behind the hide, zig-zagging away towards the car park where it appeared to come down but wasn't re-found. Eight tufted ducks was an increase of late and the female pintail appeared to be roosting under a willow bush at the pond.

The day before on Monday a water rail scuttled along the ditch by the park entrance, the male and female kestrels were sitting by their tree nestbox and one female pintail was at the pond. At the end of the day a ringtail hen harrier passed over the saltmarsh at the Point as it headed to the Langenhoe roost.

Martin Dence saw the barn owl fly out of his barn at Bromans Farm near the country park on Tuesday morning. The first sighting he's had here for several months.

Martin Cock reported that during his visit to Maydays Farm on Saturday 26th, the rough set-aside corner is still attracting the birds with one brambling amongst lots of chaffinches and linnets. Also three common buzzards by the set-aside along with a ringtail hen harrier, while in the Pyefleet the four scaup were still present.

Sunday, 27 January 2013


It was nice to see these two female pintail on the park pond during the morning of Sunday 27th. One of the birds was still present at the end of the day, snoozing on a clump of reedmace. Despite hundreds of other ducks like wigeon and teal using the pond or nearby flooded grazing fields during the winter months, pintail are scarcely seen. One of these two females might be the same bird that was seen resting on the ice here on Friday.

The snow and ice had thawed from the fields and there were good numbers of waders and wildfowl back. Around a thousand wigeon were catching up with lost grazing time while 700+ teal were spread out across the saturated fields. Several gadwall, shoveler and mallard were also in the fields. Waders were dropping in as high tide approached with 200 black-tailed godwits, 300 dunlin, 50 redshank, 10 snipe and 10 turnstone noted.

Steve Entwistle did well to find a woodcock, as it took off from under trees beside the path near the hide. A redwing and goldcrest were also seen at the park while a water rail was seen yesterday in the ditch near the park entrance.

Its always nice to stumble across a snow bunting at the Point as happened with this bird on Sunday. It was scuttling along the beach, feeding on seeds amongst the tide-line with a few turnstones for company. As the weather improved during the morning, so the numbers of walkers to the Point increased so this snow bunting probably didn't hang around for much longer.

Also at the Point 50 bar-tailed godwits and 25 avocets were of note amongst the many other waders. In the Colne one red-breasted merganser and a pair of goldeneye were seen, while a male marsh harrier flew upriver at the end of the day.

A fox startled many waders and brent geese off the mudflats when it appeared along the edge of the saltmarsh. The day before a weasel was watched carrying a dead mouse off the beach and up onto the top of the seawall, where it ran back and forwards a few times wondering where to put it down.

There have been several reports over the last week or so, of one or two fieldfares being seen in gardens in West Mersea, such as this one photographed by Shirley Field in her garden.

The star birds to visit a West Mersea garden this Sunday were two waxwings that were seen feeding on rose-hips in a front garden in Firs Road. It was reported that these birds had been around here for several days. They may even have been the ones involved in a report by Mr Huntley of three waxwings seen perched on a birch tree and then dropping down to drink from a roadside puddle beside the Fire Station in Barfield Road on Friday 18th.

Andy Field reported that the four scaup were still in the Pyefleet Channel near Maydays during Sunday morning and were also noted here the day before by Martin Cock.
On Saturday Andy saw two kingfishers along the freshwater ditch at St Peters marsh by Coast Road and also the great northern diver behind Cobmarsh Island and a Mediterranean gull off the Espanade.

Michael Thorley saw a brambling visit their East Mersea garden near the top of Meeting Lane on Saturday 26th.

Friday, 25 January 2013


A very cold wind was blowing on Friday 25th and this digi-binned picture shows a group of gadwall and mallard resting on the ice on the park pond. The ice had begun to thaw during the previous couple of days but reformed again last night. Also noted here was a female pintail, two tufted ducks and 34 gadwall as well as teal and mallard.
On the frozen grazing fields, 8 common snipe, 10 lapwing and 3 redshank were the only birds present other than 25+ moorhens.

Towards the end of the day there was a fleeting glimpse of a woodcock flying fast over the flooded corner of the grazing fields as it headed north. The speed of its flight suggested it hadn't just got up from a nearby ditch, or was going to land anytime soon. What was a more pleasing sight was watching a second woodcock ten minutes later feeding alongside a hedge near the park entrance.

The light was fading fast but the dark brown bulky outline of the woodcock could be seen probing the soil as it shuffled along feeding. At one point it stood upright to keep an eye on a fox that was walking along the inside of the nearby hedge. Whilst watching this a little owl flew in front of me and landed in a small dead tree, perching only 7 metres away for two or three minutes. It hadn't noticed in the poor light how close I was to it.

Earlier in the day a female common scoter was seen diving offshore from the park, close to a raft of 30 wigeon, two great crested grebes and a common seal.

The park was quiet enough during the day for 25 golden plovers to feed on the main field whilst a couple of lapwings feeding in the car park, as did a tiny goldcrest in the car park bushes.

The day before on Thursday 24th, the owls were the highlight again. Having just watched a little owl fly out of a pine tree on the edge of the overflow car park late in the afternoon, a short-eared owl made an unexpected appearance from the west over the main car park. It flew over the main field with deep and deliberate wing-beats, doing a short loop above the long grass in one corner and then headed north away from the park.

At the end of Thursday a water rail was seen flying back to the park pond and then scuttling into the reeds. A fieldfare, 3 song thrushes and a kestrel were noted in the park during the day.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013


This little owl was perched on one of its' regular trees near the entrance to the East Mersea Youth Camp, both images taken by Andy Field on Tuesday 22nd. This site has been the most consistently used one on the Island for over 20 years. They can be hard to spot sometimes as their markings match the colour of the tree trunk if they're perched next to it.

A couple of little owls were also seen near the park on Tuesday too with one seen late afternoon perched in a pine tree over the cliff-top path - its presence betrayed by anxious calling chaffinches. As night fell another little owl was seen in the car headlights on the tarmac in Bromans Lane.
The little owl was also seen in the park on Wednesday morning perched on a different pine tree in the south-west corner, quickly flying away after it had been spotted.

Continuing the owl theme, there was the nice ghostly-white sight of  a barn owl flying over the car park in the middle of Tuesday afternoon. As the bird flew over, the wings and body appeared brilliant white with the snow reflecting the brightness upwards. The owl carried on hunting over the rough grass field to the west side of the car park.
It was interesting to hear that Andy Field and Martin Cock had also seen a barn owl in mid afternoon, flying out of a barn in Shop Lane. Did this bird continue hunting over to the country park, or was it a different bird forced by the snow to hunt during the day?

Also noted at the park were two sparrrowhawks and a kestrel on Tuesday, with two sparrowhawk sightings also on Wednesday. At dusk on both afternoons, a sparrowhawk has headed over to the copse behind the pond, sending out lots of wood pigeons including 25 stock doves.

Close to the pond 10 snipe were feeding in the snow on Tuesday often close to lots of moorhens, which themselves totalled 61 birds in two groups either side of the pond. The ice was still covering a large part of the pond with 25 gadwall, 4 shoveler and a tufted duck noted amongst the many mallard.

The lack of visitors to the park has allowed at least one lapwing to feed in the car park while up to 20 golden plover have been feeding on the main field - free of walkers and their dogs.

There was still a thick cover of snow across the park's grazing fields at the start of Tuesday, but the thaw soon began when the sun shone mid-morning. A small flock of 150 golden plover huddled down amongst the snow to roost and a small flock of 30 dunlin landed in the snow along with one knot. Two snipe and a curlew were the only other birds noted here.

Andy and Martin did well to locate a woodcock as it flew out of a wooded ditch to the west of Shop Lane on Tuesday. The only woodcock reported so far this cold snap. Two great spotted woodpeckers together were also noted by them during their walk and two were also seen together at the park on the same day.

David Nicholls continues to see the badgers even in the snow, coming to his West Mersea garden to feed on his peanuts, which he says is costing him a small fortune, but worth it for the entertainment they provide! On the 13th January he counted four badgers in his garden, although usually its just one or two, occasionally three badgers.

Adrian Amos reported seeing a blackcap and a redwing in his East Rd garden in West Mersea on Tuesday.

Monday, 21 January 2013


There weren't many visitors to the park on Monday 21st with so much snow having fallen the day before. The park was still covered with at least three and a half inches of snow and there was still a chilly breeze blowing.

The shrubby sea-blite bushes at the Point were covered in the snow and the east facing side of the red sign indicated which way the snow had been blowing. On the nearby mudflats 100 wigeon were resting, while 40 avocets were also roosting. Not much in the river other than 4 great crested grebes and a red-breasted merganser flying past. In the saltmarsh 12 skylarks were foraging amongst the snow, while a little egret flew overhead.

Tried looking for woodcock but without any luck. During periods of snow last winter, up to three woodcock were seen on several occasions, being forced into the open to feed during daylight hours. A dozen lapwings and a few golden plovers were seen in the grazing fields.

The park pond was two thirds frozen with gadwall, mallard, teal, shoveler, coots, mute swans, little grebes being joined by a couple of tufted duck and 20 wigeon. The big surprise was seeing a fox sitting down on the ice in the middle of the pond with lots of ducks just out of reach but close-by. In the nearby field a dozen snipe were probing amongst the snow along with 20+ moorhens.

Under the trees a redwing was feeding in the leaf litter along with 20 blackbirds, while a goldcrest was seen foraging through the branches.

Sunday, 20 January 2013


Nearly four inches of snow covered the Island on Sunday 20th as seen in this part of Coast Road in West Mersea. Lots of the local children were enjoying a bit of sledging on the grassy slope of St Peters.

Most of the snow fell during low tide so most of the mudflats were all white as well as these old oyster pits in front of the old sailing barge Dawn.

In the Mersea Quarters 12 little grebes were amongst the moorings while the usual waders such as dunlin, redshank, curlew, oystercatcher, ringed plover, turnstone were seen as well as one sanderling and 20 bar-tailed godwits. Small groups of brent geese were noted, a kestrel flew along Coast Road and 25+ cormorants flew over the Quarters.

Met up with Andy Field on the Strood seawall mid afternoon on Saturday 19th on another cold day. In the weedy field 150+ linnets flew around, as did 20+ skylarks, 12+ reed buntings along with a few meadow pipits too. Five song thrushes and a couple of fieldfares were seen while a flushed snipe landed back down near the dyke but couldn't be relocated.

The tide was pushing up the Strood Channel with the familiar waders moving back up towards the Strood causeway. At least two marsh harriers were seen flying along the Peldon seawall. Later a ringtail hen harrier was seen flying purposefully past Ray Island as it headed towards the Langenhoe evening roost, as did another couple of marsh harriers too. Flying off the Peldon fields for the night were 800+ brent geese.

Friday, 18 January 2013


Had a very bracing walk along the seawall at Maydays farm on the north side of the Island on a very cold and windy Friday 18th. It was one of those sessions where the eyes stream in the cold wind, the telescope on the tripod blows over in the wind, fingers quickly go numb when gloves come off whilst focusing the telescope, and then the warm breath steams up the optics! At least the snow never arrived as predicted during the day on the Island.

Despite all the hardships, it was a memorable hour and a half with all the action revolving around a small field corner of set-aside, pictured above and below. The area was packed with finches but the raptors stole the show with six species seen, five of these close to this field. Bird of prey days on Mersea don't get any better when six species get logged in one session.

In the one field of view of the binoculars, a male hen harrier, female marsh harrier and a male kestrel were all briefly in the air together. The striking male hen harrier had just been watched a short while earlier quartering another strip of set-aside, on its way to check the corner with all the other bird action. After it passed on by, the marsh harrier was also joined by a second marsh harrier and they too flew over the rough weedy corner.

Whilst sitting down on the seawall a male sparrowhawk was going along a hedgerow perching up in a couple of trees to check out the action. A short while later the large outline of a common buzzard was seen hovering over a ditch further along from the seawall, before it sat on top of a bush. The sixth raptor noted was earlier on the walk, a merlin seen in hot pursuit of a small wader low over the Reeveshall pastures.

What many of the raptors were interested in was the amazing concentration of finches in this small field corner. At least 300 linnets and 100 chaffinches were continually rising up and dropping back down into the crop of weeds. There was so much activity at times and birds were going back and forwards between the nearby rape field and sitting in nearby bushes.

Careful scanning of the chaffinches when they perched in the bushes revealed at least two bramblings, one a winter male and the other a female. Also noted in the area was reed bunting, greenfinch, goldfinch and meadow pipit too. Feeding in the rape field were at least a  dozen fieldfares, some coming over from Langenhoe. The only yellowhammers seen was a nice group of ten birds feeding on spilt grain in Haycocks Lane.

Also seen on the walk was a spotted redshank by the Maydays sluice outflow, 1500 brent geese, 60 greylag geese, 500 golden plover and 300 lapwing on Reeveshall. Along the Pyefleet at low tide were many flocks of wigeon and teal sitting out the freezing conditions. No sign of any scaup, goldeneye or red-breasted mergansers.

At the top of Haycocks Lane near Blue Row, a common snipe flew over and 25 house sparrows were seen, while 10 fieldfares were seen near Bocking Hall.

On Thursday 17th the female stonechat was found feeding on the beach below the cliff of the country park, enjoying some of the early morning sunshine. At the end of the day 32 red-breasted mergansers were seen offshore from the park at high tide along with big rafts of wigeon and teal.

In West Mersea Adrian Amos reported an unusually large influx of 18 blackbirds into his East Road garden. The recent cold snap has seen a similiar sized flock feeding together under the trees in the country park.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013


Another cold day on Wednesday 16th with a sharp overnight frost freezing the light dusting of snow on the country park. The sun soon came up thawing out most corners of the park but it stayed very cold.

Two barn owls were seen at first light hunting over fields beside the East Mersea road. One near the pub and the second bird 400m to the east of the first bird over a rough grass strip near Cosways caravan site. One of the barn owls was seen in the same field near the pub mid-afternoon still hunting over the grass field.

At the park in the afternoon there was the unusual sight of 14 wigeon grazing the main field of the park along with a few wood pigeons and lapwings. Hundreds of wigeon and teal were having to sit the frozen spell away from the fields out at sea. Six red-breasted mergansers were also noted flying out of the river.

The park pond was two-thirds frozen with 130 mallard, 30 gadwall the main ducks here and a pair of swans too, the first ones here for a few weeks. A water rail called from the ditch and one snipe was feeding in the grass.

At West Mersea Steve Entwistle saw 2 kingfishers and a great northern diver from the Hard, while 2 Slavonian grebes and a Mediterranean gull were off the Esplanade. Martin Cock managed to find a few redwings and fieldfares in a garden just up from the Strood beside the East Mersea road, while Andy Field tracked down a dozen fieldfares further along the same road but closer to East Mersea.
On Wednesday afternoon just off the Island to the west of the Peldon Rose pub, a peregrine chased a lapwing over the road, failing to catch it.

The cold and bright conditions before a snow shower arrived on Tuesday 15th helped provide views of a number of interesting birds on the north side of the Island for Martin, Andy and Steve. There was a big flock of finches feeding on a corner of set-aside at Maydays Farm where 3 bramblings, 200+ linnets and 100+ chaffinches were seen along with a handful of yellowhammers nearby too.
Seen in the area and over Langenhoe were a ringtail hen harrier, merlin, peregrine and 5+ marsh harriers. In the Pyefleet were 2 scaup, 5 goldeneye, 3 red-breasted mergansers and 50 avocets while on Reeveshall were 2000 golden plover, 1000 lapwing and 1200 brent geese.

From Coast Road in West Mersea a great northern diver, male hen harrier over Old Hall, 8 pintail and 12 sanderling were noted by Andy.

At the country park on Tuesday the stonechat was still present and two marsh harriers were seen crossing west over the mudflats taking a line from Colne Point towards West Mersea. A short-eared owl was also reported by Emma Webb crossing the Colne from Brightlingsea towards East Mersea Point, after hunting the Brightlingsea marshes.

On Monday Glyn Evans and his fellow counters walked the north side of the Island and noted a brambling at Maydays, scaup in the Pyefleet and a peregrine on the grazing fields at the park. After the peregrine had departed, 550 teal and 19 snipe were the few birds on the fields. Earlier in the day a marsh harrier was seen as day broke flying past the East Mersea church.

Monday, 14 January 2013


Steve Grimwade kindly sent me these cracking photos taken whilst leading his Swallow Birding group on the boat trip into the Blackwater from West Mersea on Sunday 13th. Ray Hempstead had a busy weekend taking two different groups out on his Sorcerer boat.
This great northern diver pictured above was one of four seen, two of which have been regularly seen recently close to Cobmarsh Island.

The black-necked grebe pictured above, has been frequenting the waters off the eastern end of Old Hall Point for several weeks now. This bird may be the same bird first seen off West Mersea by Martin Cock on the 21st November.

One of the smartest of ducks wintering offshore around Mersea is the male red-breasted merganser. The sleek and streamlined head and body allows it to fly fast and arrow-like - so a good photo considering how fast they speed past. Fifty red-breasted mergansers were seen during the trip.
Other species noted were listed on the previous day's posting.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


There were some wintry skies to the east of Mersea Island during the morning of Sunday 13th and apart from a couple of tiny spots of "snow", the day stayed dry but cold. The north-east wind kept the temperatures down all day making for a bracing walk across the Park.

 At the East Mersea Point 300 brent geese were grazing the algae on the mudflats at the beginning of the day before taking to the air and heading round to Reeveshall to feed in the fields there. In the river 24 red-breasted mergansers were seen with most close to Sandy Point, along from Point Clear. As well as 6 great crested grebes there was a common seal in the river too.

In the grazing fields 500 wigeon and 300 teal were the most obvious birds here during the morning. On the mudflats 100 knot were of note amongst the usual dunlin, grey plover, redshank and oystercatchers.

In the afternoon Steve Entwistle saw at least 3 scaup in the Pyefleet near Pewit Island as well as peregrine and a barn owl on Langenhoe. Andy Field joined him later to see 3 hen harriers including two males dropping into the Langenhoe roost along with 18+ marsh harriers.

In the Mersea Quarters, Steve had seen two great northern divers behind Packing Shed Island earlier in the day. Ray Hempstead had a successful trip from West Mersea into the Blackwater on his Sorcerer boat with a group from Swallow Birding. They noted 4 great northern divers, 12 red-throated divers, 5 velvet scoters, 40 common scoter, 11 Slavonian grebes, black-necked grebe, eider, 40 goldeneye, 50 red-breasted mergansers and 3 Bewick swans. The birding boat trip the day before had also been equally successful seeing a similiar variety of species despite the very bracing wind.

On Saturday 12th a peregrine was in determined pursuit mode when it bombed over the grazing fields, scattering all the waders and wildfowl. It flew over the Point and quickly tucked its wings into its body and dropped like a stone onto an unsuspecting group of 20 turnstone and 3 sanderling. The waders fleed and despite a second follow-up stoop, the waders escaped and the peregrine got distracted having to fend off a mobbing greater black-backed gull.

Also seen at the Point were 25 bar-tailed godwits amongst lots of dunlin as the tide came in. The river seemed quiet for ducks with little noted other than a flypast of one merganser. On the saltmarsh 2 rock pipits flew over calling.

The female stonechat was seen at the west end of the seawall beside the main part of the park. In the alders behind the pond 8 lesser redpolls were feeding with a few goldfinches. A sparrowhawk was seen flying low over the park in the morning.

On Friday 11th two sparrowhawks were seen crossing west over the Colne fifteen minutes apart, the second bird being harrassed all the way across by a very determined carrion crow. Thirty linnets were feeding amongst the saltmarsh near the Point.
There was a report of two common buzzards over the East Mersea road near Weir Farm in the morning.

Two winter moths resting on a lit window at the park early on Friday evening were the first moths noted for this year.

Thursday, 10 January 2013


There was a definite drop in the temperature in the morning of Thursday 10th and the little bit of brightness at dawn soon disappeared under the cold fog. The watercourses hadn't frozen in the park's grazing fields, despite the very cold night.

The waders and wildfowl in the fields were much more wary in the morning gloom. Some of the 300+ teal were swimming about noisily displaying while 100+ wigeon paddled about in the water before flying off to graze. Up to 100 black-tailed godwits and 50 redshank had gathered for the high tide. On the park a sparrowhawk flashed low over the grass near the cliff-top. Two common seals were seen in the Colne, one swimming close to the beach only 20 metres away during the high tide.

The weather the day before on Wednesday 9th was a complete contrast with little wind and lots of blue sky. The calm morning conditions out to sea allowed distant views of a total of 30+ red-throated divers as they passed from Colne Point to the Blackwater. About ten of the birds were seen in the water while in the background a steady flow of other red-throats flew low over the water westwards. Also noted were 4 Slavonian grebes, 120 great crested grebes and a goldeneye.

A little owl provided a nice view in a tree overhead, its location near the overflow car park given away by anxious tits and blackbirds. The stonechat was beside the seawall while the pale-bellied brent stood out nearby without needing binoculars amongst 700 dark-bellied brent. Six little egrets flew off the mudflats and over the park at dusk on their way to roost.

The highlight on Tuesday 8th was the appearance of 40 snow buntings at the Point - the biggest flock here for several years. Martin Cock nearly gave the Point a miss during his morning walk around the seawall but saw from a distance a flock of small birds flying around which looked like snow buntings. His suspicions were confirmed when he went to investigate and he quickly relayed the news. The buntings were feeding along the lower beach, scurrying up to the tide-line, one or two brightly marked males present.

Andy Field arrived within twenty minutes but the snow buntings had just flown off, however another visit here an hour later and the birds were back again for him to get a more accurate count. The flock flew around a few times dropping down on the beach but soon returned back to the beach at Point Clear.

Also seen at the park were a nice flock of 10 lesser redpolls with 20 goldfinches on the alders near the pond. A striking male pintail was a surprise sight in the morning although it sadly didn't hang around too long on the pond. Along the seawall the female stonechat was seen perched both by the path and on bramble bushes. The pale-bellied brent was with 500 dark-bellied brent in the morning. All the hundreds of waders and wildfowl had their feeding and roosting interrupted when a marsh harrier casually flew over the fields and pond.

In the Pyefleet Andy Field saw one of the scaup still present near Pewit Island.

At dusk on Tuesday, the pipistrelle bat was seen flying into the park at 4.45pm, the second time in a week this bat has been seen near the entrance. A little owl was seen at dusk on top of a telegraph post in the car park.

Monday, 7 January 2013


A flock of brent geese had swopped feeding grounds from the mud of the Strood Channel for the mud in a nearby field on Monday 7th. Amongst the 300 dark-bellied brent was a single pale-bellied brent goose and feeding close-by were ten turnstone enjoying the mud too.

Reward for scanning all the 200+ redshank along the mud of the Strood Channel was finding a wintering spotted redshank close to their favoured spot, next to the sluice outfall half-way along the seawall. No sooner had it been seen, it then took off conveniently revealing the different wing pattern to common redshank. The bird dropped back onto the mud fifty metres further down channel where it seemed to stay for at least half an hour..

Other waders seen along the channel were 200 dunlin, 50 grey plover, 50 curlew, 10 bar-tailed godwit while near the Strood causeway were 500 lapwing. Overhead there seemed to be a regular flocks each of 50-100 golden plover passing down-channel. Rising in the air a short while later over Feldy Marshes was a big flock of 2000 golden plover. Four little egrets, grey heron, 50 wigeon, 50 teal and 24 little grebes were also seen.

Over the fields were 20 goldfinches, 6 pied wagtails, 5 skylark, 2 reed bunting, 2 linnet and also 2 rock pipits beside the shoreline.

Sunday, 6 January 2013


There had been high hopes that the fog over Mersea Island would clear during Sunday 6th so that members of the Colchester RSPB Group could enjoy their annual visit to the country park. Sadly the fog never lifted and the visibility only improved slightly for about an hour early in the afternoon. Just over a dozen members fully kitted out and wrapped up warm headed out onto the foggy seawall round to the Oyster Fishery and then back again.

 At the park pond 3 tufted ducks were amongst the mallard and gadwall while a goldcrest and some long-tailed tits were watched along the path beside the grazing fields. Several hundred wigeon and teal could just be made out through the fog in the fields although only one common snipe was seen but few other waders in the fields in the morning.

The female stonechat perched briefly on the side of the seawall before flying across the dyke and hiding behind its usual bramble bush. It was relocated a few hours later back on the seawall before it again flew back to the safety of another bramble bush. A water rail was seen along the edge of the central ditch, feeding in the field, it soon disappeared when a crow landed nearby.

There was little chance of seeing anything in the river Colne when we got to the Point because of the fog. After we'd moved on, we got a call from Dave Barnard and his wife to say that they'd seen six snow buntings flying around and landing on the beach. Needless to say when we revisited the Point a couple of hours later, the buntings had vanished. Near the Point rock pipit, skylark and reed bunting were some of the very few small birds noted on the walk.

When the fog did lift slightly, we could see 3 marsh harriers on Langenhoe, 7 red-breasted mergansers, little egret, little grebe and 15 avocets as well as a common seal in the channel. The usual selection of waders were seen such as dunlin, ringed plover, turnstone, redshank, grey plover, lapwing, curlew, oystercatcher and also 40 knot, 20 bar-tailed godwits and 300 golden plover.

 Steve Entwistle saw two hen harriers heading into the Langenhoe roost on Saturday 5th and a Slavonian grebe was in the Pyefleet. Martin Cock saw the three scaup earlier in the day in the Pyefleet opposite Pewit Island.

Offshore from West Mersea Martin had seen 2 great northern divers were seen near Cobmarsh Island, with common scoter and 2 red-throated divers, 6 red-breasted mergansers and 40 great crested grebes off the Esplanade. There were the usual big plover flocks around the Mersea Quarters with 1000 lapwing and 2000 golden plover often rising into the air on Saturday.

The tide was very low during a walk along the Strood seawall in mid-morning on Friday 4th. The main highlight was a merlin flying rapidly over the fields from the Dabchicks end heading towards the Strood road. A short while earlier a male marsh harrier quartered the weedy field along the Strood before crossing over the Channel to Ray Island. Meanwhile a sparrowhawk was seen making the reverse journey from the Ray, crossing high over the weedy field back towards West Mersea.

The only small birds noted were three corn buntings perched on some wires, 20 linnets and 5 reed buntings along a hedge with rock pipit over the saltings.

Along the Channel were 200 wigeon and 100 teal that were seemingly being deliberately flushed by a greater black-backed gull looking for a snack. Main wader on the mud were redshank although 5 bar-tailed godwits were noted, while in the water were 24 little grebes amongst the boats.

Thursday, 3 January 2013


It stayed dry during Thursday 3rd with the sun briefly showing itself early in the afternoon. The most unexpected wildlife sighting that maybe reflects the recent mild spell was a pipistrelle bat hawking back and forwards along the track just inside the park's entrance gates. Just as darkness was descending the bat was watched for about five minutes. Most sensible bats would be tucked away in some building or old tree spending the winter months hibernating.

Just before dusk the water rail at the park pond, pictured above, showed itself in its usual spot again, out from the reeds feeding on the grass for about five minutes. A sparrowhawk glided low over the pond as it headed into the trees at the back for the evening roost. On the water 3 tufted ducks were amongst 100 other ducks mainly mallard and gadwall.

On the grazing fields the female stonechat was perched on the bramble bush at the dyke end of the central ditch. Two meadow pipits were feeding with a rock pipit and pied wagtail near the pools. Up to 300 teal were around the pools with many of the males displaying noisily to each other on the water. Four hundred brent geese were in the fields and although the pale bellied wasn't seen, it had been present the day before and was probably still around.

At the Point a sparrowhawk flew low along the saltmarsh, two linnets flew over, two red-breasted mergansers, 2 great crested grebes and a common seal were in the Colne river. In the afternoon several hundred wigeon were offshore on the water.

Along one of the muddy paths in the park, the footprints of a muntjac deer were noticed as being recently left.

As dawn broke at the beginning of the day two large flights of cormorants totalling 150 birds flew south-east over West Mersea from their Abberton roost out to the offshore feeding grounds off Colne Point. Also at daybreak a marsh harrier flew past the East Mersea church.

On Wednesday Andy Field walked the Reeveshall seawall and noted a female merlin and common buzzard both perched on Reeveshall while a peregrine was perched as usual on the Geedons. In the Pyefleet 3 scaup were still present near Pewit Island, while in the Colne 4 common scoter and 20 red-breasted mergansers were seen.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


Happy New Year Greetings to everyone.

A new year and a renewed motivation to get out and about to see what was around the country park. By mid-day on a wonderfully sunny morning, 70 bird species had been noted, which seemed quite a respectable tally for four hours on one site.

The grazing fields as usual held the most interest with a good variety of waders and wildfowl such as these brent geese pictured above - some of the 500 birds present.
Birds of note on the fields included the female stonechat still near the seawall and a ruff seen flying over but was later seen back on the fields. There was a report of a jack snipe seen, presumably in the same area as 15 common snipe were hiding.

This pair of red-breasted mergansers were swimming and feeding close to the Point. Fifteen birds were seen in the estuary in the morning. Also in the estuary of note were a couple of male goldeneyes and two male pintail amongst lots of wigeon on the mudflats beside Rat Island. At the end of the day 3 marsh harriers flew up river to the Langenhoe roost.
Steve Entwistle saw a red-throated diver fly up river in the morning.

The glorious bank holiday weather brought the crowds out to the park with masses of families and their many dogs all striding out along the beach and seawall. There was less beach to walk along early afternoon with the high tide, as here at the Point above. As the crowds thinned at the end of the day, ten sanderling were feeding with turnstones on the beach at the Point.

Also seen at the park were a song thrush and mistle thrush close to the car park, goldcrest with long tailed tits and one siskin over the car park, although a small flock were reported in alders near the pond. Five tufted ducks were on the pond during the day amongst a good number of wigeon, teal, shoveler, gadwall and mallard.
Steve Entwistle saw two water rails towards dusk by the pond, earlier in the day he'd seen sparrowhawk fly past.

Crossing the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane as dawn broke was the dark silhouette of a marsh harrier heading towards the Rewsalls marshes.

The brent geese came under close scrutiny of David Low on Sunday who counted 919 dark-bellied including 38 youngsters and also two pale-bellied brent and 63 greylag geese noted too. A peregrine, red-throated diver 5 eider and 12 red-breasted mergansers were also seen while the stonechat was still by the seawall.
The water rail was seen by the park pond at dusk on Sunday.

Sadly the waxwings weren't seen after Saturday and no reports yet of any elsewhere on the Island.