Saturday, 31 January 2015


Something spooked a big flock of brent geese to take to the air by the Strood during a heavy snow shower during the afternoon of Saturday 31st.

A big flock of at least 1500 brent geese flew overhead right into the direction of the north-west wind with the big snow flakes driving into their faces. It was a great winter spectacle with all the geese calling loudly to each other, the whole sky of white was filled with the black shapes of geese. Their passage overhead took longer than usual in the driving snow shower. Most of the geese dropped down noisily into the Strood Channel.

A spotted redshank was wading in the deep water of the Strood channel, the first sighting of the winter here. The only other birds noted during the low tide walk were 50 knot and 150 teal.

Around the flooded fields a pair of stonechat was by the dyke while other small birds seen were 2 corn buntings that flew off a bush towards the bottom of Strood Hill, 4 reed buntings, rock pipit, 4 meadow pipits and also 10 goldfinches by the caravan site. A group of six little egrets were stalking the ditches.

In Firs Chase on Saturday morning a male blackcap was feeding on some honeysuckle berries right beside my back door. First ever winter sighting of a blackcap in the garden.

The day before brent geese were also the most obvious birds on the Strood fields during a visit there on Friday morning.
Around 1000 geese were feeding in the very muddy fields beside the seawall.

The flock had been spooked off the back wheat fields higher up the slope, before landing closer to the seawall. All the brent geese appeared to be the dark-bellied race with no black brants or pale-bellied being found.

This small group of brent geese were feeding right in front of the Dabchicks Sailing club on Friday morning.

The main highlight during the walk on Friday was watching a peregrine in full hunting mode, trying to chase down a poor redshank, which eventually managed to escape by flying as high into the sky as it could. It climbed so high it soon became just a tiny speck through the binoculars and with the peregrine in hot pursuit, however the hunter surprisingly gave up the chase high over the Strood Channel. It turned its attention elsewhere and swooped back down onto the fields before landing on a tussock in the muddy field.

A common buzzard flew low past the peregrine on the field, heading up the slope where it perched in a tree. The buzzard must have flown onto the Island from the Feldy / Peldon direction, an unusual direction for this new arrival. A female marsh harrier was seen hunting over the Feldy seawall a short while earlier.

Two stonechats were seen, one close to the dyke and another working its way along to a back ditch. Other small birds were 2 rock pipits, 3 reed buntings, 5 meadow pipits and 5 skylarks.

Lots of waders were feeding in the muddy fields during the high tide with 100 golden plover, 50 lapwing, 50 ringed plover, 50 dunlin, 10 grey plover, 10 turnstone and 20 redshank. Along the Strood 50 knot was the only wader flock of note.

A male pintail flew along the Strood channel towards the Hard late on Friday morning. In the Quarters six red-breasted mergansers and 10 little grebes were seen.

Thursday, 29 January 2015


This curlew obligingly passed over the camera of Alan Reynolds, allowing this flight view at the country park on Friday 23rd.
Curlew often pass overhead as they fly over the seawall, commuting between the fields and the mudflats

One of the 2000+ dunlin also photographed by Alan on the mudflats beside the park.

A day of contrasting weather during Thursday 29th, here this pair of oystercatchers enjoying the morning sunshine beside the Point. It clouded over in the afternoon, eventually turning very dark when a snow shower passed over at the end of the day.

The tide was just starting to ebb and the usual mix of waders gathered along the water's edge such as dunlin, knot, grey plover, redshank, turnstone, ringed plover and also 20 sanderling in front of the cliff.

Nothing noted on a choppy and cold river Colne, while a rock pipit and reed bunting were seen at the Point.

A sparrowhawk flew low inland over the fields from the direction of the Point, not quite heading towards another sparrowhawk perched in a tree near the park pond. A little egret also perched up in the sunshine during the early morning high tide.

In the fields 200 golden plover, 500 wigeon, 150 teal and 50 lapwing were the main flocks at high tide. The female stonechat perched on the back of the truck beside the seawall.

Ten tufted ducks were on the park pond with another four along the dyke. This male seemed to be doing a spot of quacking. Ten gadwall were also present along with a few mallard and shoveler.

Two female teal were feeding in the grass field in front of the hide on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday 28th a Slavonian grebe and common scoter were seen offshore by Andy Field.

There was the very rare Island sighting of two bullfinches along hedgerows in East Mersea between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane, seen by Martin Cock. The birds did not hang around long and weren't seen again after this initial sighting. This is the first bullfinch Martin has seen on the Island for almost 15 years.
Also noted here was a wintering chiffchaff, the second one seen in consecutive days after another earlier one was seen in Cross Lane the day before.
Amongst the brent geese flock feeding next to Cross Lane was a brent with a white neck and white in the wings, reported by Martin and sounding like a partial albino.

A barn owl put on a nice hunting display across the whole park in the last hour of Tuesday 27th, dropping down into the long grass on several occasions but without catching any prey. At one point I lost it to view and walked over to the patch of long grass to look for it, whereupon it suddenly took flight just in front of me, continuing on its way.

Also that afternoon the little owl was heard calling from the north side of the park while in the early evening the rare sound of a tawny owl called loud and clear several times from a tree in West Mersea between The Lane and Firs Chase.

Other birds noted at the park have been 20 blackbirds and 3 song thrushes feeding together in the car park, 2 goldcrests feeding with the tit flock and two great spotted woodpeckers have often been flying across the park together.

A weasel scampered across the car park on a hunting trip on Wednesday 28th. There was a belated report that Emily Mussett was lucky to see a red squirrel on the ground under the trees behind the bird hide about a month ago. The squirrel quickly disappeared and wasn't seen again.

Sunday, 25 January 2015


There was a flock of about 500 brent geese in the park's grazing fields on a chilly morning on Sunday 25th. In amongst the dark-bellied brent, was the regular pale-bellied brent goose.

The jack snipe was seen again in flight over the saltmarsh pools near the Point. It dropped back down in its usual spot on the right hand pool, left hand corner. Fifteen common snipe were also hiding in the saltmarsh too.

Also at the Point were 6 reed buntings, 5 skylarks and a rock pipit with at least one stonechat on the seawall but possibly a second bird further along. Maybe the regular bird flew along the seawall very quickly!

Offshore 6 red-breasted mergansers and a great crested grebe in the river and a common seal.

In horse paddocks to the north of the park 7 fieldfares, 6 mistle thrushes and 2 song thrushes were seen, with a male sparrowhawk seen along one of the paths.

On the pond 16 gadwall were the main duck of note, the swan family of four still present while at the end of the day the little owl sat up on the hedgerow for Andy and Steve to see. Three goldcrests were feeding in the park in the morning near the pond and a mistle thrush sang from a tall tree.

At West Mersea Andy Field saw common scoter, 2 pintail and 2 shags in the river and Cobmarsh area earlier on Sunday.

The wigeon enjoyed grazing the fields on a sunny Saturday 24th with about 400 birds seen. Nearly 2000 birds were seen in the fields by Andy on the following day.
Several wader species roosted on the fields on the high tide on Saturday with 200 dunlin running around, also a few black-tailed godwits, curlew, redshank, grey plover, turnstone, lapwing and one snipe.

In the park 3 redwing, 5 song thrushes, 10 chaffinches and 20 blackbirds were seen in the car park area on Saturday morning.

This grey heron is often feeding in the pond alongside Bromans Lane near the park entrance as the traffic passes close-by. The wary bird soon took off when the car stopped beside it.

First thing on Saturday morning a large flock of a thousand wood pigeons circled above rape fields near Weir Farm in East Mersea.

Andy Field walked the Reeveshall seawall towards Maydays on Friday 23rd and noted common buzzard, displaying sparrowhawks, stonechat, 15 corn buntings, 4 marsh harriers on Langenhoe, barn owl on Langehoehall and goldcrest in Shop Lane. Common buzzard also noted at Weir Farm.
The most unusual sighting was of a skylark which dropped down to hide under his legs whilst on the Maydays saltmarsh, as if the bird was escaping from a pursuing merlin, although no raptor was seen.

On Tuesday 20th two Slavonian grebes were seen off the country park at high tide while at Coopers Beach three were seen along with 250 great crested grebes by Martin Cock. Also little owl at the Youth Camp.

The first moth to be logged at the country park this year was this winter moth, which spent all of Sunday resting on the outside white wall of the Information room.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015


Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Pyefleet from the Strood to the country park on Monday 19th, taking this selection of photos along the way.
These pictures of the colourful male wigeon were taken on the park's grazing fields.

The lapwing or green plover, sporting its crest on the head.

A young brent goose showing the faint neck collar and the lines of white edging on the folded wings.

The flock of brent geese ready to fly with their heads up.

Five fledged mute swan cynets out for a swim in the river. Not a local Mersea family.

An obliging female stonechat perched on a post.

A corn bunting trying to hide in this bare bush.

This common seal swimming up the Pyefleet, may be the one pictured in the previous posting, after it clambered onto the saltmarsh at Maydays.


"Look into my eyes!"

This common seal was resting on the saltmarsh at Maydays farm on a sunny morning on Monday 19th. It was enjoying a spot of winter basking, lifting its head up to watch me as I walked along the nearby seawall, on the opposite side of a creek.

Five common buzzards were seen during the two hour walk with this one pictured above, the nearest, although digiscoped in the 400m distance away on the mainland with the new solar-farm panels in the background. Another common buzzard was just along the same hedge, with a further two seen high in the air on the eastern end of Langenhoe Point and also a fifth buzzard perched on Reeveshall.

Five marsh harriers were flying about Langenhoe Point with some of them going through the early season motions of displaying to each other. Another couple of marsh harriers were also seen on Reeveshall while earlier a sparrowhawk flew from the Maydays dyke across to Langenhoe.

The late morning high tide meant there was no mud on show along the Pyefleet. A small flock of roosting redshank, dunlin and grey plover were the only waders noted. Amongst the small numbers of duck were two pairs of pintail further up channel but no sign of any red-breasted mergansers or goldeneye.
A kingfisher flew along the bottom of the seawall heading towards the Maydays saltings where it was seen again a short while later.

Small birds noted included rock pipit, 20 reed buntings, 12 linnets, yellowhammer and a corn bunting.

Along Chapmans Lane were a dozen corn buntings perched on wires above one of the fields on Monday morning. The black brant was seen at the West Mersea Hard also on Monday morning.

On the East Mersea saltmarsh near the Golfhouse a spotted redshank was found roosting at high tide with other waders by Glyn Evans on Monday.

Offshore from West Mersea on Sunday 18th, a great northern diver, common scoter, red-breasted merganser, 15 great crested grebes and a Mediterranean gull were seen by Daryl Rhymes.

A ringtail hen harrier was watched by Andy Field late on Sunday afternoon from the Shop Lane seawall at the harrier roost on Langenhoe Point for the first time this winter, along with 12 marsh harriers. Also a big flock of 4 - 5000 brent geese flew east along the Pyefleet at dusk.
Steve Entwistle reported a stonechat on the Strood seawall and also nearby a kingfisher and five tufted ducks on the farm reservoirs.
The water rail was seen from the hide by Martin Cock as it fed alongside the edge of the reeds of the park pond on Sunday.

On Friday 16th this black brant was back again feeding on the mud at the West Mersea Hard, just twenty metres from the car park. Further along the Strood seawall 500 brent geese were feeding in the nearby wheat fields.

A pair of stonechats was seen at the back of one of the fields while two corn buntings were seen alongside the seawall. Feeding in one of the muddy fields were 20 pied wagtails, 15 meadow pipits and 20 linnets.
In Firs Chase the regular pied blackbird was seen again feeding on holly berries above the road.

 Matt Larkin took this video-grab of a lapwing and a snipe in the park's grazing fields on Saturday 17th.

There was a good gathering of 15 blackbirds and 25 chaffinches feeding in the garden of Adrian Amos in West Mersea on Saturday.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015


A couple of little egrets were feeding in the park's grazing fields on a bright but chilly Wednesday 14th. This one was stalking one of the corners of the main pool.

There has been a nice number of waders and wildfowl over the last few days on the fields, especially during the high tide period. Today the main flocks before the high tide peak were 1000+ wigeon, 200 teal, 300 golden plover, 50 black-tailed godwits, 40 curlew and 50 redshank. Three common snipe were feeding amongst the rushes on the main pool.

At the park pond, two tufted duck and 10 gadwall were the main ducks of interest during Wednesday.

Big numbers of dunlin gathered on the mud behind the East Mersea Point as the tide came in, with up to 2000 present, some pictured above. Also forced closer to the shore in front of the park by the incoming tide were 500 knot. Two red-breasted mergansers flying out of the river were the birds of note seen from the Point.

The jack snipe was seen on the saltmarsh near the Point on Monday 12th by Martin Cock along with 25 common snipe too.
On Sunday 1000 golden plover were seen in the fields while at the end of the afternoon 30 stock doves  and five redwing gathered to roost in the copse by the pond.

Donna Moncur reported seeing a nice variety of wildlife on Wednesday afternoon near the East Mersea village shop. A red squirrel ran through the gardens of houses opposite the old shop. A barn owl flew over the fields and a muntjac also showed in one of the fields.

At Maydays a wintering spotted redshank was seen by Martin on Wednesday. The day before there were four corn buntings perched on wires by Chapmans Lane.

Up to two shags have been seen in the Mersea Quarters in the last few days with two seen near Packing Shed on Monday 12th by Andy Field. A single shag and a goldeneye were seen by Martin at the weekend.
The first great northern diver of the winter was seen in the middle of the mouth of the Blackwater on Friday 9th by Andy.

A peregrine, two pintail, two stonechats and a green sandpiper were noted at Maydays on Tuesday 6th by Martin.

Thursday, 8 January 2015


This common seal was coming up for several breathers in the river Colne beside the East Mersea Point on Thursday 8th. At one point it swam to within a few metres of the beach as if to come out of the water, but then had a sudden change of mind, probably because I was watching it too closely.

 It swam out to a safer distance, still glancing back to see what I was up to.
There have been a couple of common seals in the river in the last couple of weeks.

A dozen turnstones were feeding along the edge of the water during the afternoon high tide.

This turnstone had a bit of an itch it was trying to scratch with its toes.

Twenty sanderling were also feeding along the beach at the Point with the turnstones.
Five red-breasted mergansers flew past the Point heading back up-river while five great crested grebes were also seen in the river.

There had been continuous rain during Thursday morning which left lots more surface water on the park's grazing fields. The afternoon high tide provided the ideal conditions for many waders to feed and roost in the waterlogged fields.

The regular flock of 1000 golden plover, pictured above, rested on the fields, until something spooked them up into the air. Prior to the disturbance, waders noted included 200 black-tailed godwits, 100 redshank, 500 dunlin, 150 lapwing, 100 curlew, 20 grey plover, 20 turnstone and 2 common snipe.

At the park pond there were 3 tufted ducks amongst the gadwall and mallard. At the end of the afternoon a male sparrowhawk, flew across the grazing fields and then low around the pond before perching up to show off its dark orange chest.
The little owl could just be seen inside the usual hedge near the park pond towards dusk and then a short while later as darkness descended, the white apparition of the barn owl was seen perched on a signpost in the car park.

Three stonechats were seen along the Strood seawall by Andy Field on Tuesday 6th, one photographed here. Also 4 tufted ducks seen on the Strood reservoirs.

It was great to hear that the red kite that was seen flying over the Strood on Monday morning was also seen by Brian Churches fifteen minutes later as it passed over Old Hall Marshes continuing rather sedately on its westward way.

Chris Burr found a barn owl with a broken wing at the beginning of the week in Shop Lane and took the bird into care, where sadly it couldn't be saved.
The Richardson family found a sick kestrel in their garden in the middle of West Mersea and took that into care where it appeared to be in need of some food.

Monday, 5 January 2015


Brent geese were flying onto the muddy wheat field alongside the Strood during the morning on Monday 5th.
Despite the bird-scarer gas guns blasting off regularly from the edge of the field, the geese barely flinched and carried on feeding. At least 300 geese were on the fields with more flocks arriving with the onset of high tide.

The unexpected highlight of the morning walk was watching a red kite fly slowly and leisurely across the Strood fields towards me. It then passed over towards Ray Island, continuing westwards and into the distance over Copt Hall. Fortunately the kite was picked up in flight early on as it disturbed flocks of birds at the bottom of the Strood Hill.
It appeared the bird had flown along the Pyefleet and was on a course straight towards me. At first glance the bird didn't seem right for the usual marsh harriers with its big wing-beats and a glide lacking the V profile, it wasn't long before I glimpsed its forked tail, that identified this as a typical red kite.

Like most of the other red kites that have been seen over Mersea Island, they just pass over without any hesitation, continuing in a straightish line and most of them always passing westwards. One or two red kites are seen each year with the last one being three months ago.

Two marsh harriers were seen flying north-east over Ray Island and then high over the traffic on the Strood causeway towards Langenhoe.

Recent rains adding to the wet winter have flooded sections of the Strood fields. This seems ideal for some of the waders who can continue feeding on this mud when the high tide covers the nearby Strood mudflats. Fifty ringed plover and fifty dunlin were soon being joined by a few curlew and redshank, as well as a little egret in the ditch.

Small birds noted included 3 stonechats, 24 linnets, 20 pied wagtails, 10 meadow pipits, 2 rock pipits, 2 reed buntings, while 9 corn buntings passed overhead towards Copt Hall.

There was the usual selection of waders along the Strood as the tide crept back up channel. Of interest were 7 avocet, 20 knot, 300 golden plover and 1000+ dunlin.

A much bigger flock of golden plover were seen later on Packing Shed and Cobmarsh with 2000+ birds rising into the air. Amongst the moorings were 6 red-breasted mergansers, 10 little grebes and a kingfisher in flight near Packing Shed Island.

A barn owl was seen late on Sunday night at the bottom of Strood Hill by Martin Cock.

Sunday, 4 January 2015


Members of the Colchester RSPB Members Group visited Cudmore Grove Country Park on Sunday 4th for their annual birdwatching walk. Sadly the park was shrouded in fog all morning with a visibility that was barely 50 metres most of the time. We peered through the fog to see dark shapes and silhouettes of birds and we could identify some birds by the call but not see them in the gloom. The overnight frost was slow to clear and some of the pools and splashes of water on the fields stayed frozen through the morning.

Luckily it was high tide which meant some waders were roosting close by on the saltmarsh as well as feeding on the grazing fields. On the fields 1000 golden plover, 300 dunlin, 400 teal were the main flocks along with a few black-tailed godwits and two snipe flew over. Offshore 200+ wigeon could just be seen through the fog as well as 20+ shelduck.

A variety of waders were roosting on the saltmarsh pools below the Golfhouse including 25 bar-tailed godwits, also black-tailed godwits, dunlin, grey plover, golden plover, knot and redshank. Around ten sanderling were seen feeding along the beach, while amongst forty brent geese feeding along the edge of the saltmarsh was a pale-bellied brent goose. Two little egrets fed on the saltmarsh and the female stonechat was flitting along the side of the seawall.

There was much more sunshine on Friday 2nd over the Golfhouse pools and much better conditions for viewing than Sunday. Can you spot the distant jack snipe in this photo taken by Andy Field? The bird is just right of centre in this photo along the edge of the very back of the pool. The top picture shows the birdwatching group on the seawall scanning this same pool in the vain hope of seeing this jack snipe but without success.

Andy also saw 1000 golden plovers in the fields as well as a couple of red-breasted mergansers offshore. At West Mersea a Mediterranean gull was the only bird of note at the Kingsland Beach.

This curlew pictured by Andy from the hide, has been feeding in the small field by the pond for the last few days here.

Thursday, 1 January 2015


Wishing everyone a prosperous New Year.
Sadly the well observed and popular mute swan family at the park ended their year on a sad note when one of the cygnets yesterday broke a wing flying into some overhead telegraph wires. Libby and Jo Watkins were walking the path a couple of fields to the north of the park when they heard a thud and noticed a swan had fallen onto the ground. They took the injured cygnet to the local vet, who sadly had to amputate the broken wing. The cygnet was then taken to Sue Morgan of the local Swan Rescue in nearby Salcott, where it will recuperate and then get used to being looked after indefinitely in captivity.

The previous blog posting here yesterday showed the whole swan family of five in flight earlier in the morning, flying around because their usual feeding ground on the dyke was frozen over. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen the whole family out in the river Colne, and a short while later they went for a fly around East Mersea....
The picture above shows the family on the park pond on New Years Day with the two remaining cygnets on either side of the parents.

New Years Day was overcast, grey and with the wind increasing through the day. Some of the watercourses still had a covering of ice on them. Sharp contrast to the sunshine of yesterday. A walk around the park during the morning up until noon, produced sightings of 68 species, two less than a couple of years ago.

Highlights were a peregrine giving prolonged views over Langenhoe Point, tussling with the marsh harriers and seemingly knocking an avocet into the Colne which the big gulls then fought over. The kingfisher was seen twice near the seawall, the second view perching up by Ivy Dock to see it as a female. A male goldeneye was the most notable bird in the river Colne. The female stonechat was still feeding along the seawall.

The big flock of 1000 golden plovers provided a nice spectacle when they took to the air during the morning. Other flocks on the fields were 500 wigeon, 100 lapwing along with 20 meadow pipits and 10 pied wagtails.
Two common snipe showed briefly as they fed amongst the rushes in the fields. There was no sign of the jack snipe on the saltmarsh.

Amongst many waders feeding on the mud as the tide went out were ten sanderling, 50 bar-tailed godwits and 100 avocets on Langenhoe Point. Five marsh harriers were flying around Langenhoe, and a kestrel was seen near Ivy Farm.

Other birds of interest included two goldcrests, mistle thrush, 5 goldfinches, 10 skylarks and a rock pipit.