Thursday, 28 February 2013


The sun made a brief appearance over the country park during Thursday 28th in the afternoon but generally it was still cloudy with a cold northerly wind. The fresh wind over the last week or so has dried out the ground a bit and the water levels in the park's grazing fields have dropped.

A sign that winter is drawing to a close and spring is round the corner was seeing some lapwings displaying to each other in the fields. The distinctive "pee-wit" calls and the tumbling flights of at least two birds is a real sign of spring. A handful of pairs have bred here in previous years and whether these actual birds will stay or not is difficult to tell. The other 100 lapwing in the fields were resting up.

There haven't been as many waders using the fields over the last week with the water levels dropping. Still lots of wigeon with 500+ and 300 teal feeding or resting up along with 20 snipe, 100 golden plover, 25 redshank, little egret and 30 curlew. Fifteen tufted duck were noted in a variety of water-courses.

The marsh harriers were the main highlight of the day with one male seen flying low over the saltmarsh near the Point in the morning. A second harrier was watched mid morning making the slow crossing from Colne Point, spiralling high above the mudflats by the park and then heading north over the park pond. At the end of the day a male marsh harrier crossed north over the grazing fields.

In the outer part of the river Colne 7 common scoter were busy feeding as were 15 red-breasted mergansers and 6 great crested grebes. Lining the edge of the mudflats in a number of places were 700 brent geese.

In the pond-field a water rail showed for the second time this week walking about the grass five metres away from the hedgeline, which seemed quite bold for a normally shy bird. The rail had also been seen here on Tuesday. Feeding on the ground under some alders were some finches with 10 chaffinches, 6 goldfinches and a brightly marked male siskin. On closer scrutiny four other siskins were feeding in the alders just above the finch flock.

At the end of the day a kestrel hovered high over the car park and a sparrowhawk flew over the pond into the copse, scattering 100 wood pigeons and 30 stock doves out the other side. A water rail fed in the field along the edge of the reeds by the pond and a snipe and curlew were also nearby too. Two green woodpeckers flew over the pond and the roost of ten magpies were also noted. Earlier in the day a pochard was seen on the pond, while to the north a flock of 20 fieldfares were seen with 150 starlings. A water vole swam between clumps of reeds at the pond.

A barn owl was glimpsed in the middle of the afternoon perched on a post amongst some long grass at the East Mersea Pick Your Own field. At the beginning of the day a corn bunting was singing on its regular bush near Bocking Hall farm.

At West Mersea Peter Triston noted 3 great northern divers, 2 Slavonian grebes, 4 common scoters and a shag on Wednesday.

Tucked up in a corner near the ceiling in the park's toilet buildings was this colourful herald moth. This one has probably been here all winter and not been noticed until this week. Whenever the spring arrives and the nights get a bit warmer, then this herald should be back on the wing again.
A dotted border was seen fluttering at a lighted window at the park early on Thursday evening.

Sunday, 24 February 2013


The cold wind continued to blow across the park on Sunday 24th and the grey sky made for a very dull end to the day. The only place to shelter from the cold for the last part of the day was in the hide overlooking the pond.

A peregrine glided swiftly high over the pond, passing so quickly that none of the other birds bothered to flee. Earlier a female marsh harrier flapped slowly over the pond north, scattering many of the wildfowl off the pond. At the same time over the grazing fields, a male marsh harrier also headed north, causing a bit of panic amongst the wigeon many fleeing out to sea. Earlier in the day a marsh harrier flew south over the Point towards Colne Point for a day's hunting there.

Lots of pigeons were gathering in the trees behind the pond at dusk with 150 wood pigeons and 50 stock doves nearly settled in, until something spooked them, the sort of response to a sparrowhawk flying into the copse.

On and around the pond were 2 pochard, 2 tufted duck, 15 shoveler, one snipe and a curlew along with a few mallard, wigeon and teal. Usual numbers of duck on the fields with 300 teal and 500+ wigeon with 9 tufted duck noted earlier.

Alan Reynolds noted a Slavonian grebe, spotted redshank, 3 rock pipts and 10 great crested grebes from the park during their visit on Sunday.

Off West Mersea on Sunday 2 shags, 3 Slavonian grebes, 2 Mediterranean gulls,  3 great northern divers, 3 common scoter were noted by Andy Field and Steve Entwistle. Andy also managed to see a jack snipe being flushed a couple of times by a dog at St Peters saltmarsh. One of the shags was also seen off the jetty by the Hard. Adrian Amos reported the sight of a wintering chiffchaff in his East Road garden in West Mersea on Sunday morning.

On Saturday 23rd the shag was seen off the jetty at the Hard by Steve in the morning while Martin Peers noted offshore from West Mersea 6 common scoter, 2 red-breasted merganser, great northern diver, 2 Mediterranean gulls and 12 bar-tailed godwits.

Friday, 22 February 2013


Another cold day on Friday 22nd at the park with occasional flurries of small snow flakes blowing throughout the day. Nothing settled but many of the shallow watercourses had a thin layer of ice all day long.

The wigeon didn't seem to mind with many of them enjoying grazing the inside of the seawall undisturbed by the lack of walkers. This flock of 300+ took off as I walked along late afternoon. Not much else on the fields with 30 lapwing, 5 snipe and 4 tufted duck in the dyke. One male marsh harrier crossed high over the fields on its way to the Langenhoe roost as did a female flying upriver a short while earlier.

On the park pond 36 gadwall, 8 shoveler and 2 tufted duck were present along with a few mallard, wigeon, teal and little grebes. In the trees behind the pond 20 stock doves were waiting to go to roost. On the grass beside the pond a curlew and a snipe were feeding along with lots of moorhens. Two great spotted woodpeckers flew over the car park in the morning, otherwise the park was quiet today.

At the end of Thursday 21st a water rail flew across Bromans Lane as Ian Black was driving towards the park. A pair of kestrels were noted flying round one of the barns at Bromans Farm in the morning.

On Wednesday Andy Field saw one pochard remaining from a group of nine noted earlier in the day at the park pond while also seeing 5 waxwings still by the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane. At West Mersea a harbour porpoise popped into view while Andy was watching a Slavonian grebe offshore, where there was also a great northern diver seen too.

On Tuesday 19th a ruff was on the fields and two pochard were on the park pond with a siskin seen near the park entrance.

Monday, 18 February 2013


Joined Andy Field and Martin Cock on the Shop Lane seawall for the late afternoon count of harriers going into the Langenhoe roost on Monday 18th. The viewing conditions were good although the temperature quickly dropped as daylight faded.

The final tally of marsh harriers was an impressive 26 birds while the four hen harriers that showed left it till very late and almost dark before making an appearance. Around eleven marsh harriers were noted by about 4.30pm with many resting on top of the seawalls around Langenhoe Point. Other birds slowly appeared from many other directions and although the influx was slow, the final tally was the highest so far this winter.

The first hen harrier seen was a ringtail at about 5.20pm, watched for only five minutes before dropping into the usual spot in the Langenhoe reedbed. Five minutes later a male was glimpsed briefly before it too dropped down , followed by two other males in quick succession, all dropping into the same area.

Also noted was a short-eared owl and a barn owl hunting over the Langenhoe marsh while a second barn owl flew past us heading off the Island towards Langenhoe for the night.

The hen harriers kept us out till well past sunset time, although it ended up being quite a colourful sunset looking westwards across the Reeveshall fields in the picture above.

The tide was coming in and there were good numbers of waders and wildfowl along the Pyefleet Channel with 700 brent geese the noisiest as they flew off a nearby wheat field to land in the water. Around 300 wigeon were along the channel while flocks of waders kept being disturbed by the returning marsh harriers. The flock of 2000 waders mainly of dunlin also had bar-tailed godwit, redshank, grey plover and curlew in it.

The most unexpected sight of the afternoon for Andy and myself as we drove along the East Mersea road was stumbling across 20 waxwings perched on the roadside wires near the top of Meeting Lane. Of course the garden they turned up at was the Thorleys - again! After three birds stopped off at this same garden for a couple of days before Xmas, now another twenty birds stop off two months later!

A mid morning walk along the Strood seawall on Monday saw a marsh harrier quartering the fields and dyke and the near adult Mediterranean gull over the fields at the back again. In the weedy field 50 linnets flew around as did a handful of skylarks and a few reed buntings while a rock pipit was also noted. Along the channel 200 wigeon, 200 teal, 50 knot and 2 bar-tailed godwits were noted amongst the other regular birds.

A shag was spotted by Martin Cock perched on one of the outermost buoys in the Mersea Quarters behind Cobmarsh Island. Amongst the moorings near the Strood Channel were 24 little grebes.

Sunday, 17 February 2013


Plenty of sunshine in the morning of Sunday 17th and conditions were looking good for finding some birds at Maydays farm on the north side of the Island - until........

.....a thick bank of sea fog quickly rolled in from the south-east, enveloping everything in about ten minutes, as in the two pictures above of Maydays creek.

Visibility had been really good to start with clear views across Reeveshall and onto Langenhoe too. The temperature quickly dropped and birds soon became scarce and not much to see along the Maydays dyke, before and after pictures here.

The big finch flock was still present in the set-aside corner with 200 linnets and 100 chaffinches flying about. No sign of the bramblings although they could've still been around, but just didn't perch up in a bush for a view. Ten yellowhammers were also seen by the farm track to the farm.

The only bird of prey seen before the fog descended was one marsh harrier over Reeveshall. Not much else on the fields except for one Canada goose and a couple of singing skylarks.

In the Pyefleet there was plenty of mud with the tide out. A good scattering of the usual waders such as redshank and dunlin and wildfowl too, mainly wigeon, teal and shelduck.

Along the East Mersea road a corn bunting was singing from a tree-top by Bocking Hall in the morning, while in West Mersea a flock of 50 greenfinches circled over Firs Chase at the end of the day, preparing to roost.

A walk along the beside the Strood Channel, pictured above, on Saturday 16th provided views of a Mediterranean gull flying over the back fields on the slope, along with several black-headed gulls. Two grey herons flew off the back of the weedy field. Here there were also 25 linnets, 10 reed buntings and 10 skylarks - some of them briefly in song too. A sparrowhawk flew across the fields heading off the Island.

High over the channel hundreds of plovers rose into the air and the distinctive profile of a peregrine was seen amongst the many birds. A quick scan of the many birds unexpectedly revealed a ruff in the air which then flew low along the mud as if to land but then decided otherwise and flew away.

Saturday, 16 February 2013


This female chaffinch is a regular visitor to the bird hide at the park, on the scrounge for crumbs on the floor from people's snacks. It's also learned that sometimes one or two seeds get left on the ledge specially for it. If you sit still, the bird hops around inside the hide sometimes for a couple of minutes at a time.

There was the nice sight on Friday 15th of a barn owl hunting over the grass field next to Bromans Farm in late morning. Ian Black had also seen this bird hunting over the same field towards the end of Thursday afternoon, a water rail near the park entrance and a common buzzard near Weir Farm whilst driving along the East Mersea road.

Also on Thursday afternoon three red-legged partridge were seen feeding in a winter wheat field close to the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall. Both species of partridge have become hard to find in recent years on the Island.

Andrew Thompson saw a red-throated diver off the park as well as six common scoter in flight in the outer Colne on Thursday. Fifteen snipe were in the grazing fields and eight tufted duck were still present on the park pond.

Martin Cock and Mick Brewer spent some time on a very cold Wednesday 13th seeing a good selection of coastal birds such as the 4 scaup at Maydays and five species of raptor - marsh harrier, hen harrier, common buzzard, peregrine and a kestrel.
Andy Field braved the cold on Wednesday afternoon to see 18 marsh harriers and 4 hen harriers heading into the Langenhoe roost.

 Enjoyed the spring-like morning on Friday 15th with an hour's walk along the Reeveshall seawall, to check out the pool pictured above. There was plenty of water in it and despite the low tide in the Pyefleet, surprisingly the spotted redshank still present - presumably the same bird seen four days earlier. Also seen were a pair of Canada geese, 70 wigeon, pair of shelduck and a little egret.

On the nearby Reeveshall fields were 500 lapwing and 500 starlings feeding in the pasture while a marsh harrier flew over the reedbed. Along the Pyefleet 14 red-breasted mergansers and 3 male goldeneye were in the water while 3 marsh harriers flew over the Langenhoe Point.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013


Very surprised to find this black-necked grebe close into the beach near the East Mersea Point on Tuesday 12th. It was so close you could make out the red eye and the distinctive steep forehead, as it bobbed along just twenty metres offshore. It was doing a lot of preening and made me wonder if it was oiled in some way but the bird appeared clean enough.

The grebe swam parallel to the beach towards a bit of stony mudflat becoming uncovered by the ebbing tide, when this digi-binned picture above was taken. Unfortunately a dog came bounding along the beach and the grebe swam back into the water.

As far as I can remember this is the first record of black-necked grebe for the country park in at least thirty years. The last East Mersea record was in the Pyefleet over twenty years ago back in 1991. This current winter, one has been frequenting the channels near Old Hall occasionally venturing into the Mersea Quarters and one was also seen from West Mersea in early 2011.

The only other grebes offshore today were ten great crested grebes, along with one red-throated diver and ten red-breasted mergansers.

Back in the main car park a flock of up to 25 blackbirds have been feeding together for the last few days being joined today by five song thrushes, mistle thrush while two great spotted woodpeckers flew overhead.  Ian Black saw a barn owl flying beside Bromans Lane late on Tuesday afternoon.

The borrowdyke inside the park seawall has continued to fill up with so much run-off from the fields, that the water is now flowing back onto the fields, as in the picture above. This has provided excellent feeding conditions for waders and wildfowl, although more birds were present yesterday Monday.

Yesterday 2 ruff were feeding close to the Golfhouse during the day with one bird being seen in the very muddy horse paddock by the Golfhouse in the afternoon along with several redshank and lapwing. In the main fields Dave Allen counted 650 dunlin in the fields along with 1900 wigeon. Also present were 300 black-tailed godwits, several turnstone and the unusual sight of a knot feeding with the dunlin in the field.

Howard Vaughan and his birdwatching group from Rainham were lucky to see 35 snow buntings flying round the Point in mid afternoon, before the flock flew back to Colne Point. Also seen was a merlin over the fields and 19 marsh harriers over Langenhoe and 1000 brent geese near the mouth of the Pyefleet.

  At the park pond a brightly marked male sparrowhawk perched on a fencepost and a water rail was seen here too.

Andy Field along with fellow WeBS counters Glyn and Martin walked the north side of the Island on Monday and noted 2 brambling at Maydays amongst the finches, a spotted redshank on Reeveshall pool with a few thousand waders feeding on a wet Reeveshall pasture.

On Sunday the water rail showed well by the pond near dusk, a female pochard was with 11 tufted duck and a female pintail flew over. At least ten stock doves gathered in trees and a sparrowhawk flew high over the park at dusk.

Saturday, 9 February 2013


The grazing fields were holding good numbers of waders and wildfowl towards the period of high tide late morning on Saturday 9th. This black-tailed godwit was one of about 400 birds that were dropping onto the fields. Many of them roosted together in one of the fields, while other godwits carried on feeding which this one pictured above had been doing.
Also in the fields were 60+ common snipe, 300+ golden plover, 500+ dunlin, 100+ redshank as well as lapwing, curlew and a few turnstone.

Several hundred teal were present in the fields, some busy feeding next to the 500+ wigeon and some teal were busy snoozing along the flooded borrow-dyke, as these three above were. Other wildfowl were 20 shoveler, 400 brent geese, as well as mallard, tufted duck and gadwall mainly on the pond. At least two water rails were calling but no appearances, unlike last night at dusk when one walked along the edge of the reeds in the field.

Offshore today from the park looking south-west, the group of Slavonian grebes were present for the second day although 17 seen today compared with 19 birds seen yesterday. Around the time of high tide the grebes were probably at their closest, although still best seen with the help of a telescope. At one point the grebes got together in a close group of 14 birds - a rare sight to see! The previous highest count of Slavonians from the Island was in the same location, last year on 26th January when 19 birds were seen with 18 still present the following day.

Not much else on the water other than a few great crested grebes, a handful of mergansers and a common seal in the river. On Friday a red-throated diver was seen offshore from the park and at the end of the day 36 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river to feed and display.

Next to the park pond 20 siskins were feeding in the alders along with one lesser redpoll and 5 goldfinches. This is the second day running that some siskins have been in these alders with 45+ birds performing nicely yesterday afternoon. A sparrowhawk was reported today from the park in the morning, while late afternoon a marsh harrier flew past the point towards Langenhoe. A mistle thrush was singing to the north of the park and 5 fieldfares perched in a tree in the same area. At dusk 100 rooks passed over the pond on their way to the St Osyth roost.

Martin Cock along with some friends watched the barn owl in the middle of the day hunting over a grass field next to Bromans Farm, along from the park entrance. A short while later whilst walking a path near the Fen Farm, there was a red flash of one of the recently introduced red squirrels crossing the path, dashing across so quickly that only one person managed to see it!

At West Mersea Saturday morning, Andy Field saw 2 shags, a great northern diver and 6 common scoter, while Martin Peers saw 3 red-throated divers, 2 Mediterranean gulls, 40 great crested grebes, a sanderling and a siskin.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


A cold start to Thursday 7th but at least the sun was shining. Water levels have risen recently in the borrow-dyke at the park with water covering the path inside the seawall. There was a similar flooding a year ago following lots of rain.

The wigeon and teal are taking advantage of the high water levels with over 200 ducks grazing the grass along the path, rather than their usual grass on the fields. Also with them were several black-tailed godwits and redshank probing the wet soil along the waterlogged grass path inside the seawall. Four hundred golden plover and forty snipe were seen in the fields along with the usual hundreds of teal and wigeon.

All the waders and wildfowl rose into the air, presumably in response to a bird of prey passing over like a peregrine. Surprisingly there was a more muted response to a marsh harrier that crossed low over the middle of the fields with only minimal evasion by wildfowl under its immediate flightpath as it headed past the Golfhouse

This little Ratty water vole posed briefly on the opposite side of the flooded dyke, long enough for a rare digi-binned picture. What was more memorable was seeing a kingfisher fly along the saltmarsh and then cross the seawall to perch in a bramble bush beside the water. The light was perfect to highlight the bright colours and also see the orange lower bill indicating a female kingfisher.

The kingfisher began to peer down at the water underneath it and I could see this water vole swimming a half a metre below the bird. The water vole then disappeared underneath the bush for a minute or so, before swimming back under the kingfisher, which stared back down again as the vole passed by.

After another minute the kingfisher flew off across the grazing fields towards the dyke near the Golfhouse, with the sun shining along the bird's brilliant turquoise-coloured back.

Three wigeon including this male, were grazing the grass beside the park pond along with a few moorhens and with a curlew present too. Amongst the familiar ducks on the pond were 12 tufted ducks but no sign of the female pintail that had been present two days earlier.

Flying over the car park during the morning were at least three great spotted woodpeckers while four mistle thrushes and a fieldfare were also noted.

Offshore a red-throated diver and a common seal were in the mouth of the estuary and 25+ red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river at the end of the day and ten avocets were on the mud.

At dusk on Wednesday 6th a buck muntjac deer slowly walked along the back of the grazing fields - the first sighting of one here for a couple of months.

Near Weir Farm a common buzzard flew close to the East Mersea road as it headed low over one of the fields. Also near here were 30 fieldfares perched in a bush beside some rape fields where 1000+ wood pigeons have recently stripped the crop bare in places.

Earlier on Thursday at West Mersea Richard Allen reported from St Peters beach seeing a velvet scoter, 3 great northern divers, 2 shags, one Slavonian grebe, 2 sparrowhawks and a kingfisher.

On Tuesday 5th, Andy Field saw 3 great northern divers, 2 red-throated divers, 4 common scoter, 5 red-breasted mergansers, one Mediterranean gull and 50 great crested grebes offshore from Kingsland Beach.

 A brief visit to the reservoirs beside the Strood, pictured above, late on Monday 4th provided an unexpected view of a ringtail hen harrier passing close-by as it headed rapidly eastwards over the East Mersea junction on the Strood. Two marsh harriers were also seen near here as they slowly drifted eastwards to Langenhoe too.

On the water 8 tufted ducks and 25 mallard were the only ducks present along with a few coots and moorhens. At the bottom of the East Mersea road 200 fieldfares were feeding in a field, before being interrupted by the hen harrier.

On Sunday 3rd Daryl Rhymes and Tony Wells from Kingsland Beach saw the 3 great northern divers, 12 common scoter, 5 Slavonian grebes, one black-necked grebe, 2 Mediterranean gull and 12 red-breasted mergansers.
At East Mersea Steve Entwistle saw a tawny owl in Shop Lane at dusk while a second bird called nearby. A little owl was seen in Bromans Lane at dusk too, while earlier in the day Alan Reynolds saw 3 Slavonian grebes from Coopers Beach.

Sunday, 3 February 2013


Another day to be wrapped up for a seawall walk, this time along the Strood seawall on Sunday  3rd. The weedy field pictured above, provided some interest for a few flocks of small birds. The biggest flock in this field involved 100+ linnets rising up every so often from the ground, circling round before dropping back down. Also 30 fieldfare, 50 skylark, 20 reed bunting were in the middle of the field, while a few song thrushes and blackbirds were near bushes on the edge. Three rock pipits and 20 goldfinches were noted along the seawall.

In the other fields, 300 golden plover and 100 lapwing were feeding, while another muddy field had a few more waders in small numbers on it such as dunlin, redshank, ringed plover, grey plover and turnstone.

It was low tide along the Strood Channel and many of the regular waders were spread along it. The only wader of note was the small flock of fifty knot, while one black-tailed godwit and three bar-tailed godwits were outnumbered by lots of redshank, grey plover, dunlin, ringed plover and curlew.

Fifty shelduck were roosting in one close group on the mud and a similar number of wigeon were along the bottom of the channel. Small flocks of brent geese were noted but no big gatherings seen. Fifteen little grebes were around the boat moorings.

Flying around the Firs Chase gardens in West Mersea mid afternoon was a big finch flock perching on tree-tops, of 50 greenfinches, 10 goldfinches and 20 chaffinches. A sparrowhawk and 20 fieldfares flew over Firs Chase earlier and the resident pied blackbird- nicknamed "Harley" ( because of it's harlequin black and white markings).

Saturday, 2 February 2013


A strong wind blew across the Maydays seawall during the walk along there on Saturday 2nd. The grey skies threatened but it stayed dry. There were still lots of finches feeding around the weedy set-aside field next to the seawall.

Amongst the 100 chaffinches were three brambling with one of the birds looking like the bright male that was seen in Michael Thorley's garden a week earlier. The bramblings were seen as they perched inside a thorn bush along with lots of the chaffinches. Two hundred linnets were also flying around, sometimes dropping into the field and other times perching up on bush-tops.

The only raptors noted in this area were two kestrels hanging in the wind over the Maydays farm. A green sandpiper was seen feeding in a muddy corner of a field not far from the farm, along with a fieldfare.

The seawall was very exposed beside the Pyefleet but the four scaup were still present sleeping on the choppy water. No mud was exposed and the only birds in the Channel were 3 red-breasted mergansers, 100 shelduck, some wigeon and teal as well as a common seal resting on the saltings. A little egret and a grey heron were also noted.

There was a big gathering of plovers on one of the Reeveshall pastures with 3000 golden plover, 1000 lapwing and 1000 dunlin, enjoying the wet ground, as were 1000 starling too. Three marsh harriers were seen quartering Reeveshall and to the east, 1000 brent geese rose into the air.
A barn owl was seen hunting over the rough ground near the west end of the Langenhoe ranges.

The highlight of an hour's walk along the Coopers Beach seawall on Friday 1st was watching a barn owl hunting over this rough grassland at noon. The bird was busy flying back and forwards over the grass, dropping down for a few minutes at a time. A male kestrel was also seen briefly hovering over the field too.

Offshore 3 Slavonian grebes drifted close in with the tide but little else to see other than 34 mallard and a couple of shoveler. To the west of the Youth Camp 100 brent geese were sitting on the sea.

At the country park on Thursday 31st, 3 lesser redpolls were feeding with 20 goldfinches in the alders near the park pond.

On Wednesday 30th a barn owl was seen at first light still hunting over a grass field by Bromans Farm near the country park. On the park's grazing fields 10 common snipe, 400 brent geese, 700 wigeon, 500 teal, 200 black-tailed godwits and 100 redshank were present during the early afternoon high tide roost.