Wednesday, 31 December 2014


The mute swan family had been forced off their frozen dyke at the park's grazing fields and were flying about East Mersea Point on Wednesday 31st.

The whole family of five swans have been present almost every day since the spring and the three grown up cygnets hadn't done much flying about until now.

The most eyecatching flight early on Wednesday morning were the big flocks of 300+ cormorants passing high over the fields to the east of East Mersea just before sunrise, as they headed from their Abberton reservoir roost out to the fishing grounds off Colne Point.

The brent geese were feeding along the park foreshore as the tide went out first thing in the morning with about 200 birds noted.

By East Mersea Point a flock of 400 golden plover roosted on the recently uncovered mud.

Amongst the many waders were several oystercatchers such as this one seen at the Point.

There was no sign today of the jack snipe, although it was seen yesterday for the second day running on the saltmarsh pool by the Golfhouse, however one common snipe was seen. A kingfisher provided a fleeting flash of blue as it sped across one of the pools.

The river Colne was flat calm although a bit of a mist remained in the distance upriver. Birds noted in the river included seven red-breasted mergansers and 25 great crested grebes, along with 3 marsh harriers over Langenhoe.

The female stonechat hasn't deserted the area following the recent spell of freezing temperatures. Today it was halfway along the main section of seawall, while yesterday it was further round near the Golfhouse.

Five fieldfares flew over the fields, 25 meadow pipits fed along with 3 rock pipits in the frosty field while 10 skylarks were feeding in the muddy Golfhouse paddock.
The pond was three-quarters frozen over with a big gathering of 160 mallard resting mainly on the ice and three snipe and a curlew feeding on nearby grass. Twenty magpies, six little egrets and twelve stock doves roosted in the trees while a sparrowhawk flew past at dusk.

A barn owl hunted over the field to the north of the park at the end of the afternoon and at least one little owl appeared at dusk by the pond, possibly two birds seen.

This distant image is one of the little owls perched in the hedge and enjoying the sun in the middle of Tuesday morning, below the hide near the park pond.
The Cetti's warbler sang a loud couple of bursts mid morning near the park entrance that could be heard from the far end of the car park.

The sun set behind the park's grazing fields on Tuesday 30th, after another frosty day. Many of the 500+ wigeon were resting on the sea, waiting for the grass on the fields to thaw out. Fifteen little egrets spent the night at the pond for a change.
A sparrowhawk flew low over the saltmarsh at the end of the afternoon.

At Maydays on Wednesday morning Martin Cock saw 3 common buzzards, 3 marsh harriers, green sandpiper and a peregrine.

Ken Hudgell had his visit to the park on Boxing Day rewarded by a view of a ringtail hen harrier appearing from the Brightlingsea direction, quartering the saltmarsh near the Golfhouse before it headed back across the river. This is the first hen harrier sighting this winter on the Island.

David Smith saw a ringed Mediterranean gull on the West Mersea beach again, on Monday 29th.

Monday, 29 December 2014


It was a frosty start to Monday 29th which froze over part of the park pond with a thin layer of ice. Many of the ducks seemed content to preen and have a snooze on the ice. Most ducks were the 110 mallard with 12 gadwall, a few shoveler and one little grebe.

A kingfisher late morning flashed across the pond without pausing, it appeared to come from the beach / car park direction, flash past the hide, over the pond and then over the grazing fields. Two little egrets arrived at dusk to roost for the night and the Cetti's warbler let out a burst of song as the light faded.

A little owl sunned itself early afternoon in the Leylandii hedge in the garden to the north of the hide. At dusk some of the small birds calling anxiously near the hide seemed to disturb another little owl out of the trees close-by.

Out of the chilly wind, there was a bit of warmth to be felt in the sunshine, although the water in the park's grazing fields stayed frozen all day. Birds noted here during the day were 300 brent geese, 500 wigeon and 100 golden plover. A small flock of 20 meadow pipits foraged in the grass and 3 common snipe were also seen.

A jack snipe was discovered by Andy Field on the saltmarsh pool near the Golfhouse, the first park record this year. It provided a brief view early afternoon before disappearing into the vegetation. It did appear later in the afternoon as it fed along the water's edge, bobbing up and down and providing a nice side on view briefly.

From the Point 4 red-breasted mergansers and 4 great crested grebes were seen in the river, while 1000 knot and 4 sanderling were of note on the mud. Four common buzzards soared in the warm mid-day air over Brightlingsea church while two marsh harriers flew up river at the end of the afternoon.
A barnacle goose flying west along the coastline with 3 greylag geese was seen from the park by Andy.

A barn owl was seen sitting on a roadside footpath post near Cosways by Andy mid afternoon and also two little owls at Bromans Farm late morning. Twenty fieldfares fed in a field near Bocking Hall.

Amongst the 270 dark-bellied brent geese feeding near Ivy Farm on Sunday 28th was this pale-bellied brent goose. Also 25 lapwings in the fields while nearby 10 skylarks and 24 moorhens fed in the muddy field by the Golfhouse.

Trying to stay warm and out of the cold was this pair of stock doves snuggled up at the nestbox near the park pond. This pair have been going in and out of the box for the last couple of months although no sign of nesting.

The Cetti's warbler from the park pond seemed to go on a bit of a walkabout early on Sunday morning when it was discovered in bushes by the overflow car park, well away from water and ditches. Normally a skulking bird, this one was calling repeatedly, flitting through the branches, loosely associating with one or two tits, and providing some nice close views.

Friday, 26 December 2014


Seasonal greetings to all the followers of Mersea Wildlife.
Joined the large crowd on the West Mersea beach as a spectator only - of course, to watch the annual Boxing Day dip in aid of the RNLI. Around 100 folk attempted to wash away their Xmas excesses by diving into the freezing cold sea, many of them dressed in fancy dress. I believe the two-man giraffe won the fancy dress competition!

Not much to observe bird wise in that St Peters area late morning with such a large crowd gathered and several boats zooming around the water. However usual waders noted as the tide came in were dunlin, redshank and oystercatcher, while a little egret was seen on the saltmarsh.

Ron Harvey reported seeing five stonechats from the Strood seawall recently.

 The temperature was near freezing first thing on Boxing Day resulting in a frost at the country park and a thin layer of ice on some of the pools in the fields.The dyke at the park remained unfrozen and the wigeon, mallard and swans enjoyed swimming about. A fox ran across the middle of the empty fields in the morning.

A fieldfare in the car park first thing was a rare sighting this winter here and this bird didn't stay around for long. A flock of 20 meadow pipits flew over the long grass of the park and at least ten skylarks had been feeding on the beach. Five snipe also flew off the saltmarsh near the Point.

In the Colne 7 red-breasted mergansers and two common seals were noted in the calm water. A marsh harrier flew down river mid morning towards Colne Point. A sparrowhawk flew into the pond copse at dusk.

Also on Boxing Day an Egyptian goose was found in the Pyefleet Channel at Maydays by Martin Cock, only the second record for Mersea. It's five years since the last sighting on the Island. A white-fronted goose was also seen feeding amongst a big flock of brent geese at Maydays.

On Xmas Day the wigeon enjoyed a quieter park in the morning with 200+ eating the grass inside the seawall where it's still long and lush. Around 700 wigeon were in the fields along with 200 black-tailed godwits and 100 lapwing.

The stonechat was still flitting along the side of the seawall in the morning and a reed bunting was seen at the Point. The Colne seemed quite quiet although 300 brent geese were gathered on the east side near Batemans Tower and also 70+ avocets in front of Brightlingsea.

The little owl was enjoying the morning sunshine sitting in a Leylandii hedge in a garden to the north of the park.
A barn owl flew across the East Mersea road just after dark near the Dog and Pheasant pub.

The park beach was deserted first thing on Xmas Day with the morning sun shining onto the park cliff, showing the pounding it has suffered by recent high tides. The sun shone all day.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Things seemed to liven up a bit by the country park pond at the end of the afternoon on Wednesday 24th.
The highlight was watching a barn owl hunting over the field on the north side of the park. A short while later it was seen perched on a tall footpath fingerpost-sign for several minutes just inside the park entrance. It spent a bit of time surveying the area and with the last car having driven out of the park at dusk, it had the place to itself.

The usual little owl appeared at dusk on the hedgerow beside the pond, joining in the owl chorus with its mate in a nearby garden. A sparrowhawk flew away from a bush in front of the hide clutching a small bird, maybe a dunnock, taking its prey into the copse behind the pond.

Four redwings seemed to have spent most of the day feeding on the field by the pond and five meadow pipits perched up nearby. On the pond a little egret roosted at high tide in the middle of the day while on the water a small mix of mallard, gadwall and shoveler were present.

Large numbers of waders and ducks were on the fields during the day with 1000+ wigeon and 1000+ golden plover, the two main flocks. Something spooked the birds mid morning and everything rose into the air including 400 black-tailed godwits, 300 teal and 100 redshank. A snipe flying over the fields has been a bit of a rare sight so far this winter.

The female stonechat was perched up along the seawall during the morning and a rock pipit was at the Point. Waders of interest seen on the mud were 100 knot, 4 sanderling and 70 ringed plover.

The pair of blackcaps were seen feeding on the bird table together in Adrian Amos's West Mersea garden on Wednesday 24th. A chiffchaff was seen in Cross Lane a few days ago by Martin Cock.

At Maydays farm on Monday 22nd, a pair of stonechats, a male goldeneye, 9 red-breasted mergansers, two buzzards, 20 corn buntings, 20 reed buntings and two water rails were noted by Martin Cock.

On Sunday 21st the Swallow Birding group on Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat trip into the Blackwater saw black brant, shag, eider, 4 common scoter, 4 velvet scoter, 70 goldeneye, 35 red-breasted mergansers, red-throated diver, 7 Slavonian grebes and peregrine.

David Smith reported seeing a ringed Mediterranean gull on the West Mersea beach on 25th November which he tracked down as being ringed in Poland in 2012. Also seen offshore by David was a velvet scoter and a guillemot.

Thursday, 18 December 2014


A mild overcast day with the breeze picking up throughout Thursday 18th, saw these three female tufted ducks drop onto the park pond, pictured here with a coot. They looked a bit nervous during their time on the pond in the morning. Other ducks on the pond included 50 mallard, 10 gadwall and 16 shoveler dropped in briefly. A grey heron stood on the clump of reedmace in one corner and a water rail called from another corner.

Behind the pond a jay managed to flush the little owl out of the hedge getting it to fly from the back of a bush and down into the middle of the hedge. A couple of song thrushes seemed a bit worried at first but the owl must've disappeared well out of view.
A male marsh harrier crossed over the fields near Bromans Farm heading north.

Andy Field reported a sizeable flock of 1200 wigeon feeding in the park's grazing fields and also the female stonechat along the seawall early in the afternoon.Around 20 chaffinches were feeding in the field near the Golfhouse.

Adrian Amos saw both the male as well as a female blackcap in his East Road garden in West Mersea during Thursday.

The moth trap hasn't been "moth-balled" for the winter season just yet! As overnight temperatures for Wednesday night were forecast to be a mild 10 degrees, it sounded like a good opportunity to set the trap up again at the park.
This December moth was the first moth to appear, dropping in about an hour after dark on Wednesday evening.

Five of these mottled umbers were sitting in the trap just after daybreak on Thursday, the first ones noted this season while the only other moth species in the trap was a winter moth.


The morning light on Wednesday 17th shone down onto the big expanse of mudflats off the country park, highlighting the maze of little channels and rills amongst the raised banks of soft mud. Thousands of waders of various kinds were spread across the mud feeding frantically as the tide receded.

One of the biggest wader flocks feeding on the mud was the very grey looking flock of a thousand knot, some pictured above. Numbers seem to have increased a lot just recently off the park, one of their favourite feeding grounds.
Flying over the mud on Wednesday morning were 500 golden plover.

Offshore from the park at the end of the afternoon 13 red-breasted mergansers, while the previous day 10 mergansers and a Slavonian grebe were seen.

The barn owl provided a great close up view as it hunted low over the long grass of the park, passing only 15 metres away from me at the end of Wednesday. A barn owl was also seen and heard calling at dusk the previous day as it flew across the nearby field to Bromans Farm.

The little owl was seen from the hide by the pond, as it sat on a garden fence just to the north of the park at dusk on Tuesday. The water rail called a few times from the pond but didn't show.

Up to 800 wigeon have been grazing the park fields in the last few days, occasionally fleeing away to the sanctuary of the open mudflats or nearby sea. Birds soon return to carry on grazing, while nearby 200+ teal and 20+ shoveler gather around the pools.

There's always a family of carrion crows perched up somewhere at the country park, watching over proceedings, this one near the pond.

On Monday 15th the Cetti's warbler from the park pond seemed to go on a very noisy tour of local hedgerows, foraging almost to the park entrance, repeatedly calling out anxiously as it flitted through the bushes. It provided some of my best ever views in the open and at one point got as close as just a couple of metres from me as it passed by.

The female stonechat was still along the seawall on Monday afternoon and a male sparrowhawk flew across a nearby field in the morning.

At least two pipistrelle bats were hunting over the park at dusk on Wednesday.

Sunday, 14 December 2014


After a chilly night, the sun rose up over the sea at about 8am on Sunday 14th with sunny periods for most of the day. The sun shone across the mudflats in front of the country park as the tide went out.

A handful of blackbirds were tucking into the cotoneaster berries on the tall bushes beside the park toilet building. These berries seem to be the last on offer around the park for the birds to eat, but they're not holding back now, gulping them down one by one.

Elsewhere around the park, two little owls were seen again by the park pond during Sunday. One bird perched in a Leylandii hedge in a garden to the north of the park, soaking up some sun's rays in the morning. At dusk the other little owl appeared from the hedge by the pond and perched up ready for the night-time activity.

A barn owl provided some nice views for the McDonoughs on Sunday afternoon in Shop Lane.

A brightly marked male sparrowhawk with a deep peach-coloured chest, flew low over the field to the north of the park on Sunday morning. In the grazing fields 200 brent geese were still feeding up till the end of the afternoon. Offshore 13 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the Colne to feed offshore just before the high tide.

There was a nice end to a sunny but chilly Saturday with the sun seen setting across the sea.
The picture below shows the sun dropping down behind the twin reactors of Bradwell's decommissioned nuclear power station.

The calm sea at high tide at the end of Saturday made it a bit easier seeing birds offshore with 3 Slavonian grebes, 26 red-breasted mergansers and 30 great crested grebes being most noteworthy.

The little owl showed again by the pond during the day both in the morning and at dusk on Saturday.

At West Mersea a male blackcap was seen by Adrian Amos in his East Road garden on both Saturday and Sunday. Along the Strood the black brant was seen on Saturday by Sean Nixon.

On Friday a flock of 20 redwings were in Bromans Lane, flying away from some of the hedgerow bushes.
In the park's grazing fields on Friday, Andy Field watched a water rail feed beside the central ditch, also 700 wigeon, 300 teal while on the mudflats 200 knot and 23 sanderling.

Friday, 12 December 2014


The female stonechat was very tame when I walked to the East Mersea Point on Wednesday 10th. It flew across and landed just a few metres in front of me, happily perching on various bush-tops whilst looking for food. Later in the day it was seen feeding along the seawall.

Scurrying along the tideline at the Point during the high tide were eighteen sanderling, some of them pictured above.
Along the edge of the mud on the outer part of the estuary 300 avocets were feeding during low tide and 500 golden plover rested nearby on the mud.

Up to 400 wigeon were feeding in the fields and at times some of them resting on the water in the dyke, as in this picture.
Also in the fields were 250 brent geese, 300 teal, 200 black-tailed godwits, 100 redshank and fifty lapwing.

In the morning a large female peregrine came over the river from the Colne Point direction, flew low over the fields upsetting many of the birds, before doing a full circuit of the fields, flushing everything off the pools. Watching the distant action unfold from the hide, the peregrine then flew even closer to the hide swooping  low over the pond that even the Cetti's warbler could be heard letting out an alarm call!

Many of the ducks on the pond had already been on high alert after a sparrowhawk passed overhead a short while earlier as it headed into the copse. Nearby the resident pair of kestrels were sitting on their usual oak tree in the morning.

Making the most of the sunshine on Wednesday morning was this fox, snoozing near the back of the park pond.A short distance away a water rail looked flustered and took to the air to fly the short distance back to the thick cover of the pond.

The afternoon seemed longer and brighter, finishing with a orangey sunset at the end of Wednesday. The kingfisher arrived back at the pond as the light faded and may've roosted in a nearby bush. The little owl was seen perched on the hedge at the back of the pond, while its partner called a bit further to the north.

On the pond 105 mallard, 14 gadwall, 18 shoveler and one little egret were noted. A pair of pintail were seen briefly on the pond in the morning by Martin Cock, who also noted a redwing at the Golfhouse.

Around the main part of the park up to 20 blackbirds have been feeding in three main flocks while at least two goldcrests were with the tit flocks.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014


Waders, wildfowl and a few other birds along the north side of the Island came under the monthly scrutiny by Glyn Evans and Andy Field on Monday 8th. This female kingfisher pictured above was one of two, possibly three birds, seen on the walk. One was seen at Maydays, another one near the Oyster Fishery, possibly the same bird that was photographed a short while later, near the seawall at the Point.

Two stonechats were seen, this one photographed by Glyn at the country park and an earlier one seen at Maydays farm. A small flock of linnets and a couple of yellowhammers were also seen in fields near here.

A common buzzard was mobbed by a crow over the Shop Lane wood and a goldeneye was seen in the Pyefleet.

A small group of 7 sanderling were feeding on the beach at the Point, these two above photographed by Glyn.

Two other sanderling pictures, these ones taken by Andy also at the Point.

At least one green sandpiper was noted along the Pyefleet, possibly a second bird seen near here too. A goldeneye was seen in the Pyefleet and four red-breasted mergansers seen too.

Keeping a sly watch on proceedings was this fox showing off his thick winter coat.

Other bird counts made on Monday at East Mersea were by Martin Peers who noted a male goldeneye, 2 red-breasted mergansers, 350 avocets, 400 grey plover, 750 lapwing and 2000 dunlin along the Pyefleet.
At the country park there were 410 brent geese, 470 wigeon, 118 teal, sparrowhawk, 2 sanderling, 268 black-tailed godwits, 8 redwings, as well as the already reported kingfisher and stonechat.

Brian Cooper on Monday noted along the Strood seawall a huge flock of 5000 golden plover and also two stonechats.

Monday, 8 December 2014


Four sanderling were feeding at high tide along the St Peters beach at West Mersea on Monday 8th. Despite the regular disturbance by dog-walkers, the birds seemed quite confiding and happy to keep switching sections of beach to forage along, sprinting away when the next hazard got too near. A similar size group of turnstones flew over to Cobmarsh away from the walkers.

Two little egrets squabbled over territory on the St Peters saltmarsh, chasing each other away from small pools and little creeks as the tide came in. Two rock pipits and a redshank were the only other birds noted here.

A great crested grebe was just offshore from the beach while on Cobmarsh 40 cormorants stood on one of the sand-spits until the tide pushed them off. Fifty oystercatchers were also resting here for the high tide.

Also seen from West Mersea on Monday by Martin Peers were a common scoter, two red-breasted mergansers, 130 cormorants, female merlin heading towards Old Hall and a high tide roost of 120 oystercatchers.

Across the Strood Channel over the weekend, three whooper swans were seen feeding in a field on Feldy marshes. First found by Andy Field on Saturday, they were very distant when watched from the Island. They were still there on Sunday. This is the first whooper swan record for the Island since 2002.

Sunday, 7 December 2014


Eight of us clambered aboard Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat on Sunday 7th for a four hour birdwatching trip up the Blackwater estuary and the nearby creeks of Salcott and Tollesbury. The wind was a bit fresh which whipped up the waves as we motored up river, heading round the back of Osea Island and as far as Northey Island until the water got too shallow.

There were good numbers of waders and wildfowl along the edge of the saltmarshes and water's edge with the high tide covering the mudflats. Sadly there were no speciality seaduck, divers or grebes to be found with the main highlights being a brief view for some of a few velvet scoter and also a female eider. At least 25 great crested grebes were seen in various locations during the trip.

Other ducks providing good views were 15+ goldeneye, 30+ red-breasted mergansers, 70+ pintail and a raft of 25+ gadwall in the estuary. Good numbers as expected of teal, wigeon and shelduck but very few flocks of brent geese.

A male peregrine provided a good view as it passed over the boat, heading towards the big plover flocks of Tollesbury and Old Hall. The biggest of the plover flocks appeared to be over the Strood Channel, just as we started with probably 4000 golden plover in the air at once.

The best views of wader flocks were in the Salcott and Tollesbury Creeks with  good numbers of avocet, bar-tailed godwits, knot and dunlin being the most interesting. At least three marsh harriers were seen on the trip, hunting low over the seawalls.

Feeding in the fish in the river were 50+ cormorants and also three common seals, one of which was leaping out of the water like a dolphin and seemingly trying to land atop a buoy in one of the creeks.

It was reported later in the day that 4 velvet scoter, 14 goldeneye, 22 red-breasted mergansers and 3 Slavonian grebes were seen by Daryl Rhymes from Goldhanger. We weren't so lucky in this area when we passed it.

The very confiding black brant, pictured above on the right, was feeding on algae just in front of the Coast Road car park at West Mersea. We watched it before we went on the boat trip and again when we returned to the car park four hours later, it was still in the same area.

It was interesting to see the old Radio Caroline boat the Ross Revenge moored inside the Blackwater, apparently it is due to start broadcasting again in the near future. Brings back a few memories of some great radio!

Saturday, 6 December 2014


This red-throated diver swam close inshore to the country park on Friday 5th. As soon as the camera got pointed towards it, it dived down and swam away. Also offshore were five great crested grebes but no sign of any mergansers.

There was the usual nice number of waders and wildfowl on the fields during the Friday high tide late in the morning. A marsh harrier crossed over the Colne and then passed low over the fields, scattering all the birds in their different flocks and off into all different directions. Many birds came back down a short while later such as these black-tailed godwits and some wigeon.

This mixed flock of redshank and black-tailed godwits were some of the 300 godwits and 200 redshank on the fields. Also present were 400 wigeon, 300 teal, 20 shoveler and 200 brent geese.

On the park pond the familiar ducks were 50 mallard, 10 gadwall and a few shoveler while the Cetti's warbler called briefly from the nearby copse.

Very few birds noted at the park in recent days because of the dull and damp weather.

Andy Field and Martin Cock reported seeing a green sandpiper and a stonechat at Maydays on Wednesday 3rd.
A marsh harrier was hunting the fields near Bocking Hall on Tuesday morning.