Friday, 31 January 2014


More rain in recent days brought more waders and wildfowl onto the park's grazing fields, especially for the high tide roosts. The fields are providing perfect feeding conditions for many birds with the saturated ground.
The biggest flocks were noted on Thursday 30th with eleven species of wildfowl on the fields and pond, along with nine species of wader. It was an impressive sight.

Birds of note were a group of 13 pintail that circled over the fields a couple of times before flying over the Colne and also at least two knot feeding on the pasture. Rough numbers of birds included 1000+ wigeon, 1000+ black-tailed godwit, 500+ teal, 500+ dunlin, 200+ redshank, 150+ lapwing, 150+ turnstone, 50+ curlew, 25+ shoveler and ten greylag geese. Two snipe were seen hiding amongst some rushes.

Also on the fields were 10 skylark, 10 pied wagtail, 15 meadow pipit, 200 starlings and 3 little egrets. On the nearby saltmarsh a rock pipit was seen while a sparrowhawk was perched in the hedge overlooking the mass of birds on the fields.

In the car park on Thursday a goldcrest was noted, a song thrush was singing near the overflow car park while a mistle thrush was singing loudly at daybreak from Bromans Lane.

On Wednesday 29th a marsh harrier flew over the fields and a second bird passed over Ivy Farm nearby.

The female pochard has been at the park pond for over a week now, here photographed by Andy Field on Monday 27th.

This snow bunting, pictured above and below, was found by Andy at the Point on Monday - presumably one of the two that had been seen five days earlier.

A sparrowhawk flew low past the pond on Monday morning and a kestrel was noted too.

This sparrowhawk was checking out the various bird feeders and was photographed by David Nicholls at his West Mersea garden on Sunday 26th. Also of interest there was a blackcap on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 26 January 2014


 Conditions on the country park continue to get wetter and better for ducks following more recent rainfall on Sunday 26th. Here the first pochard of the winter has been at the park pond for its third day. The female was enjoying standing on the tuft of reeds to do a spot of preening, while a female gadwall and female tufted duck swam nearby.

Numbers of tufted duck have also increased in the last few days with 17 birds now present while 20 gadwall here is also a slight increase too. A number of mallard, shoveler and teal were also present with many hiding amongst the reeds round the edge. A female sparrowhawk crossed low over the pond-field on Saturday morning, alarming some of the local small birds. A redwing flew over the car park calling and two song thrushes have been in full song at times recently.

In the grazing fields 150 golden plover and 10 greylag geese were amongst the many of the regular wigeon, teal and lapwing.

Close to the shore in the morning as the tide began to turn, 30 sanderling and 20 bar-tailed godwit were seen.

Viewing conditions got a bit gloomy in the morning of Saturday 25th although it did brighten up in the afternoon. The very wet grazing fields had a mix of 1000 wigeon, 320 teal, 20 shoveler, 250 dunlin, 100 redshank, 150 lapwing, 50 curlew and 100 black-tailed godwits. Three snipe made a reappearance after an absence of about 10 days. Also here were 20 meadow pipits, 10 pied wagtails, 300 starlings, 4 skylarks while at the end of the day 30 greenfinches gathered to roost.
The male sparrowhawk was seen hunting low amongst the bushes in the car park in the morning and nearby two goldcrests were feeding with a mixed tit flock.

On Friday offshore from the park 5 Slavonian grebes, 180 great crested grebes and a common scoter were seen. In the late afternoon the barn owl made another appearance, crossing from the long grass field to the west of the park, and then hunting over the main park as the last of the visitors were heading home. The barn owl had also provided a good display over the last hour of daylight of Thursday, quartering the park back and forwards a few times.

On Thursday 23rd a marsh harrier was seen passing over the Point late in the day followed by a peregrine which in turn was followed by another marsh harrier- all heading back to Langenhoe Point. Two red-throated divers were just offshore and twelve red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river at dusk.

Four woodcock were flushed on Saturday from copses during the East Mersea pheasant shoot with two near North Farm, one at Gyants Marsh and a fourth from Maydays farm. A yellowhammer flew over the East Mersea shop early in the morning.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


 There was the nice surprise of these two snow buntings feeding on the beach at the East Mersea Point mid afternoon on Wednesday 22nd. The one seen here three days earlier was the first one noted here since the start of December.

Very little else of note from the Point although two sanderling were seen on the beach. The river was very quiet, 24 shelduck were on the water.

This golden plover was at the Point on its own, not normally a place to see them during high tide.

On the grazing fields lots of waders and wildfowl were spread out across the pastures either feeding or roosting. Noted here were 800 wigeon, 50 brent geese, 200 teal, 200 redshank, 100 lapwing, 100 turnstone, 150 dunlin, 50 curlew, 25 black-tailed godwits and 100 starlings.

The barn owl provided a nice fly past late afternoon as it headed over the overflow car park field and over the main field where it quartered the long grass a few times before heading north. The owl was also seen yesterday by Martin Cock over the field to the north of the park.

Four lesser redpolls flew over the car park this morning heading west, the first redpolls noted here for a couple of months at least.

Andy Field did the harrier count from the Shop Lane seawall on Wednesday afternoon and counted 22 marsh harriers and at least two hen harriers going into the Langenhoe Point roost. Ten red-breasted mergansers were seen in the Pyefleet, while off West Mersea a Slavonian grebe was seen in flight.

On Tuesday 21st Martin Cock and Andy watched one tawny owl fly out of the Manwood Grove in Shop Lane at dusk with a second bird calling from there too.
Earlier on Tuesday Martin had seen 10 corn buntings and a green sandpiper at Rewsalls

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


This nice group of red-breasted mergansers were seen by Glyn Evans during his Webs count along the north side of the Island on Monday 20th. These birds may've been some of the ten birds seen at the entrance to the Pyefleet Channel by Simon Cox also on Monday. Simon also noted a kingfisher crossing from East Mersea to Langenhoe and a peregrine on Langenhoe.

Some of the brent geese pictured above, seen during Glyn's walk, where the only other main species of note were two spotted redshanks on Pewit Island in the Pyefleet.

Offshore from West Mersea on Monday 20th were a common scoter, 2 red-breasted mergansers, 2 black-throated divers, great northern diver, shag and a guillemot, seen by Stewart Bellfield.

There was a good variety of birds in the Blackwater estuary over the weekend, some seen by boat and some visible from the shore.
Daryl Rhymes noted from West Mersea on Sunday morning 2 common scoter, 80 red-throated divers, 2 black-throated divers, great northern diver, 60 great crested grebes, 4 Slavonian grebes and a guillemot. Viv Connett reported a similar variety of birds as well as a shag too.

Andy Field and Martin Cock organised a boat trip with Ray Hempstead on his Sorcerer boat from West Mersea with six others during the middle part of Sunday 19th. Travelling up the Blackwater as far as Osea Island as well as visiting Salcott and Tollesbury Channels, birds noted during the four hours included 3 great northern divers, 2 black-throated divers, long-tailed duck, 2 smew, 3 eider, 2 Slavonian grebes, 8 common scoter, 40 red-breasted mergansers, the summer plumaged bar-tailed godwit and a Bradwell peregrine. Huge flocks of plovers were noted in the air with 5000+ golden plover and 3000+ lapwing.

At East Mersea Paul Jeffries saw a snow bunting on the beach at the Point on Sunday.

Graham Ekins noted from West Mersea on Saturday 18th four common scoter, 15 red-throated divers, black-throated diver, great northern diver, 125 great crested grebes, 5 Slavonian grebe and a guillemot.

Steve Grimwade passed this picture of a kittiwake seen during his recent Swallow Birding boat trip into the Blackwater. Sightings of kittiwakes have become much scarcer from West Mersea in recent years.

Steve also reported that the colour-ringed shag seen recently in West Mersea was ringed as a chick on the Isle of May in July 2012 and was also seen at Hunstanton on Norfolk in November 2012.
A colour-ringed herring gull seen by Steve recently at West Mersea was ringed as a chick at Havergate Island in Suffolk in July 2008. It has since been seen half a dozen times since 2008 covering several sites in the Thames, Essex and back on the Suffolk coast.

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Another mixed weather day on Thursday 16th with mainly sunshine but also one or two showers. Seemed to be a lot of rain fell through Wednesday night into Thursday morning. There was the familiar mix of waterfowl on the park pond at the end of the day.

Ten tufted duck, 80 mallard, 15 shoveler and 6 gadwall were seen on the pond. One of the pairs of mallard was seen mating on the water, the second time this week that this has occurred. Maybe they sense spring is just round the corner!
Also in the area were the 20 moorhens and 10 coots, mainly feeding on the nearby grass. Recent evening roosts have seen a dozen magpies flying into the copse to roost while on Wednesday 30 stock doves were also gathering for the night.

Earlier in the day a sparrowhawk flew along the back of the pond and one was also seen over the mudflats buzzing some of the waders, before it picked up height and drifted across to Colne Point. A marsh harrier also headed over to Colne Point, passing over the East Mersea Point for its day's hunting. Three marsh harriers were seen late on Tuesday afternoon making the return journey back to the Langenhoe Point roost.

A barn owl was a nice surprise on Tuesday late afternoon flying around the grass field to the north of the park pond. As it crossed the field, it suddenly dropped down into the grass, staring anxiously around for a short while. After a minute or so on the ground, it flew off with what looked like a vole in its talons and headed towards Bromans Farm. Just after dark the next day on Wednesday, a barn owl was also seen briefly in the car headlights flying over the field alongside Bromans Lane.

Birds on the grazing fields on Wednesday in the middle of the day high tide roost, included 100 redshank, 30 black-tailed godwit, 25 turnstone, 200 teal, 400 wigeon, 20 curlew and a little egret.

In West Mersea David Nicholls reported seeing a chiffchaff in his garden on Thursday while the previous day Andy Field was pleased to see his first ever garden sighting of a blackcap. Both birds will be here for the winter period.

Two Bewick swans were seen heading towards East Mersea on Wednesday morning by Chris Balchin who was at Colne Point, unfortunately they weren't located anywhere on the Island after they crossed the river.

Off West Mersea on Wednesday Martin Cock and Andy saw a black-throated diver and a red-throated diver on the sea. together. A total of eight red-throated divers were seen flying past the mouth of the Blackwater.

This very hairy caterpillar of the cream-spot tiger moth was seen shuffling across the floor of the workshop building at the country park on Wednesday. The adult moth is usually on the wing during May and June and we hope the spring weather will be much better for them this year than it was last year. The caterpillars feed on a variety of herbaceous plants.

Sunday, 12 January 2014


Not sure what the old shepherd's warning was for on Sunday 12th, as the sky lit up red early in the morning, looking from the park towards the two wind-farms beyond Colne Point. The day stayed sunny but there was a very chilly wind that blew - perhaps I was being warned about the chill factor.

Members of the Colchester Natural History Society wrapped up warm for their visit to the park on Sunday.
The highlight was a water rail seen from this vantage point where the bird was seen nervously crossing the corner of the grazing field from the ditch to the pond. It was a typically fleeting view but its indecision kept it in the open for a few more seconds.

Other birds seen at the pond were tufted ducks, shoveler, gadwall, and mallard, while 6 stock doves perched in a nearby tree.

On the fields 400 wigeon, 200 brent geese, 100 teal,100 lapwing and 50 golden plover were the main flocks while other birds present in smaller numbers included curlew, redshank, black-tailed godwit, dunlin and turnstone.
Little egret and rock pipit were on the saltmarsh near the Point while the main waders gathering on the mud to feed were 1000 dunlin, 20 ringed plover, 25 sanderling, 50 knot, 50 grey plover as well as small numbers of the other regulars too.

In the river 5+ red-breasted mergansers, goldeneye, 2 great crested grebes were seen and at least two marsh harriers were flying over Langenhoe Point. A group of 200+ gulls took a keen interest in the river near the East Mersea Point where a small shoal of fish may've been the attraction.

The first moth noted at the park this year was this aptly named Early moth, which spent the whole of Sunday resting on an inside wall in the park's toilet building.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


 The weather calmed down for Saturday 10th with clear blue sky for most of the day. The visibility was so clear in the morning, the North Downs in Kent some thirty miles to the south could just be made out in the far distance through binoculars. There was quite a contrast in temperatures during the day with warm still conditions at noon but six hours later ice had to be scraped off the car windscreen at the park!

Most of the wildfowl at the park were on or near the borrowdyke such as this male tufted duck. The tufted ducks regularly commute between the dyke and the pond with up to ten birds being seen recently. The 400 wigeon and 100 teal were busy feeding in the fields most of the day. During the morning high tide 70 black-tailed godwits, 100 redshank and 10 dunlin were roosting in the fields. Three snipe were also noted back on the pools.

Along the foreshore 40 sanderling fed along the water's edge, 2 rock pipits with a great crested grebe and a red-breasted merganser being the only birds of note in the river. The main flock of brent geese were feeding near the Oyster Fishery with about 700+ birds seen.

At the park pond a male sparrowhawk flew low over the water to the copse behind and amongst the ducks 26 shoveler were noted with mallard, gadwall and tufted ducks. At least two water rails continue to call from the back of the pond and nearby ditch but remain hidden.

On Wednesday 30 red-breasted mergansers and a goldeneye were seen in the Colne by Andy Field. A common buzzard was at Bocking Hall in the morning. Twenty stock doves were by the pond copse late afternoon and a tawny owl could be heard calling in the distance at dusk at Manwood Grove area.

A day of sunshine and showers on Monday 6th for the walk along the Strood seawall. This ploughed field held a nice roost of plovers with 500 lapwing and 100 golden plover. The whole flock soon dispersed rapidly when a peregrine appeared and singled out a golden plover for the chase. The pursuit lasted several minutes and covered huge distances criss-crossing high over the fields and the Strood Channel. The birds flew further and further away and the outcome wasn't witnessed.

Later on the walk huge flocks of plovers rose up over the fields of Copt Hall and Feldy with 5000+ lapwing and 3000+ golden plover. On the wheat field at Peldon could be seen 500+ brent geese. The tide was coming back up the channel but wader numbers seemed lower than usual. Fifteen little grebe were seen amongst the moorings.

It was nice to see the pair of stonechats still frequenting the patch of rough ground beside the pond at the back of the Strood fields. The orange chest showed up well when the male bird perched on a bramble bush and the female appeared in view too after a few minutes. This pair has been seen several times over the last couple of months. Two rock pipits and a reed bunting were the only other small birds of note.

Sunday, 5 January 2014


There was a welcome respite in the weather on Sunday 5th when the sun shone over Mersea Island. This was ideal weather for the visit by a dozen members of the Colchester RSPB local members group to the country park.

Considering the recent rains and strong winds, the calm and sunny conditions today were ideal. The incoming tide also helped to push some of the waders close in during the morning walk. At East Mersea Point a couple of common seals were seen including one close-in that was keenly watching a fishing boat haul its net in nearby.

A distant great northern diver seen up-river was the main highlight of the walk. The river was surprisingly quiet although six red-breasted mergansers flew out of the estuary. Peering towards Langenhoe Point at least two marsh harriers were seen as were 10 bar-tailed godwits while 500+ avocets were further up-river.

Amongst the usual waders was a flock of 200+ golden plover and at least 100+ knot seen too. On the grazing fields 800 brent geese flew off noisily just after mid-day, while 1000+ wigeon and 200 teal were feeding on the very wet pastures. Surprisingly no snipe were found although small flocks of curlew, lapwing and black-tailed godwits were present as usual. On the beach 2 rock pipits were feeding with 3 meadow pipits and a couple of little egrets were seen on the saltmarsh.

On the park pond four tufted duck, 3 gadwall, 20+ shoveler and 25 mallard were noted although other ducks remained hidden in the reeds. Other birds noted near the pond included 3 stock doves, great spotted woodpecker and a flock of long-tailed tits.

Steve Entwistle noted a common buzzard, spotted redshank, green sandpiper, 15 grey partridges, a few fieldfares, redwing along with yellowhammers and corn buntings at Maydays Farm, with a great northern diver seen off Kingsland Avenue on Sunday morning. Andy Field watched a Mediterranean gull near the West Mersea Esplanade in the morning.

There was another exceptionally high tide during the middle of a very windy Saturday 4th with this view of the sea covering the whole expanse of the saltmarsh by Maydays farm along the Pyefleet Channel. Although there was no opportunity for watching waders on the mud, there was plenty of aerial activity as masses of waders flew up and down the Channel trying to find somewhere dry to roost.

The main wader flocks of note included 3000+ golden plover seen in the distance to the west over Feldy, 300+ avocets by Reeveshall and 1000 lapwing by Maydays. Other wader flocks seen flying back and forwards were knot, bar-tailed godwits, redshank, grey plover and lots of dunlin.

Stirring up the birds were a few birds of prey with a peregrine frightening off the waders off Maydays before it sat in a ploughed field for half and hour. A merlin spooked a starling flock into the air over Reeveshall and then managed to reach up and snatch one of the birds and later a male sparrowhawk flew to the back of Reeveshall. Three marsh harriers were seen over Reeveshall and Maydays with another four birds on Langenhoe. A common buzzard was managing to stay perched on posts on the Ranges despite the strong wind.

Along the Pyefleet 18 red-breasted mergansers were the main ducks of note along with lots of wigeon, teal and a few shelduck, while on the Langenhoe farm fields were 20 greylag geese. The high tide forced 5 rock pipits, 4 skylarks and 20 linnets into the air at one point.

By the Maydays farm 4 yellowhammers, reed bunting, 20 chaffinches, 4 fieldfares, redwing were seen with 10 mistle thrushes seen on wires by Haycocks Farm.

This herring gull was one of several gulls feeding by the West Mersea Hard.

Thursday, 2 January 2014


A Happy New Year to everyone.
It would be nice to think the new year will bring lots of blue skies and less of the rain clouds!
There was some brief respite from recent wet and windy weather on Thursday 2nd, when the sun shone all day. It made a change being able to enjoy the walk along the park seawall without being blown off it, or getting drenched in rain.

New Year's Day at the country park was windy all day with rain arriving for the afternoon. The picture above shows the rough sea in the middle of the day thumping against the park cliff.

The park seawall path was not a place to walk along if you wanted to stay dry, as waves crashed against the side.

The brent geese were feeding along the edge of the saltmarsh at high tide on Wednesday with 200 birds noted here. Earlier 400 brent had flown off the wheat field at North Farm. Roosting on one of the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse was a small flock of grey plover, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit and turnstone. Thirty sanderling were with 25 turnstones on the beach at the Point.

A kingfisher perched on various posts near the Oyster Fishery before flying back towards Ivy Dock. In the Colne four red-breasted mergansers were the only birds noted in the river. A marsh harrier was flying around Langenhoe and 100 avocets crossed the Pyefleet to roost.

On the grazing fields waders were gathering for high tide with 2 bar-tailed godwits of note amongst the 400 black-tailed godwits. Also 100 redshank, 200 dunlin, grey plover, 5 snipe, 100 teal and 700 wigeon.
At the park pond a sparrowhawk flew low in front of the hide and perched in a nearby tree. On the water 9 tufted duck were present along with the usual mallard, shoveler and gadwall.

The strong wind on New Years Day kept many small birds hidden although rock pipit, 4 meadow pipits, pair of pied wagtails, 5 goldfinches and a goldcrest with the long-tailed tit flock being the main ones of interest.

There was a welcome improvement in the weather on Thursday 2nd although there was little change in the birds around the park. There was the impressive collection of waders and wildfowl on the fields again for the high tide. Something spooked the birds and the sky was soon filled with flocks of wigeon circling around, godwits flying back and forwards, teal heading this way, plovers going another way while the brent geese provided the noisy soundtrack!

The pair of mute swans returned, 400 starlings fed with the wigeon, 3 skylarks, great spotted woodpecker by the pond were a few of the birds that hadn't been seen the previous day.

Alan Reynolds sent me these photos he took of a Mediterranean gull seen on 29th December at the Seaview Avenue car park.

Alan's pictures shows a bird in its third winter plumage, apparently a stage often skipped by Mediterranean gulls on their way to adulthood.