Friday, 29 January 2016


The first toads are already out and about, first seen by my wife Nolly - which means the toads must think the "winter" is over! Eight toads were counted on the folly footpath between Firs Chase and The Lane in West Mersea in the evening of Friday 29th.

The toads were trying to home in on the pond located in a nearby garden - a regular breeding site for them.

This is by far the earliest sighting of the year for these toads - they've never been seen in January before heading to this pond. Previously the earliest I've seen them was on the 10th February 2011, which itself was about ten days earlier than usual here.

Having just got into the house from photographing the toads, Nolly then tells me our dog Ben had located a hedgehog in our back garden! After a bit of searching it was relocated under an old wooden crate. After a minute or so, it retreated back under cover and was then left in peace.
Other than seeing a hedgehog dropping in our garden last summer, this hedgehog is the first one seen here for about ten years.

Seeing the toads and the hedgehog on the same mild but blowy evening, makes it feel like spring's arrived!

A windy walk along the Strood seawall on Friday morning provided views of the male stonechat, 2 green sandpipers, rock pipit, 8 reed buntings and a marsh harrier east of the Strood road.

For once the kingfisher at the park pond perched on the near side closest to the hide on Thursday 28th. The orange bill shows up well here indicating this is a female kingfisher, rather than the black bill of a male.

A siskin was seen feeding in the alders with some goldfinches near the park pond on Thursday by Andy Field.

The little owl was seen near the Youth Camp entrance on Wednesday 27th by Martin Cock. The black brant was reported by George Brown near the West Mersea Hard on Wednesday.
At Chapmans Lane 50 fieldfares were in one of the fields on Tuesday 26th.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


There was good variety of birds seen along the north side of the Island on a sunny Monday 25th by Glyn Evans and Andy Field during their monthly wildfowl count. All photos by Glyn.
Eleven little egrets, one pictured above, were seen along the north side from the Strood to the country park.

A male common scoter tucked into the back of Peewit Island in the Pyefleet was the most unexpected bird. A rare visitor to the Pyefleet in the best of years and this one maybe the first scoter beside the Island this winter.

 One of 700 brent geese noted during the walk.

 Dark-bellied brent goose seen in flight.

 The main wigeon flock is on the fields of the country park, 515 birds were counted.

 A pair of wigeon seen in flight.

 Almost 350 teal were noted, again most of the birds seen on the country park fields.

 A male reed bunting in its winter markings with faded black head.

 Five corn buntings were seen to the east of the Strood. 

 Skylarks are singing in the sky when the sun shines.

Other birds of note along the walk were hen harrier, 2 short-eared owls, 4 marsh harriers, 2 common buzzards, green sandpiper, one red breasted merganser and 10 lesser redpolls.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


It was a sunny start to Monday 25th with the sun seen rising over the mudflats in front of the country park.
As it began to get light, two big flights of 250 cormorants flew over West Mersea heading out to sea for the day's fishing.

From the East Mersea Point on Monday this group of 500+ golden plover roosted on the mud, as did another similar sized flock on the south side of the Point. Also roosting were 100 avocets, 200 knot and 300+ dunlin.

In the river 9 red-breasted mergansers and five great crested grebes were noted along with a common seal.

In the field to the west side of the country park 1000 brent geese including the pale-bellied brent, were being repeatedly scared off the wheat crop. Also here 110 curlew, 2 red-legged partridge in one field and 6 others to the north while two brown hares crouched low most of the day.
At the end of the day a pipistrelle bat flew through the park entrance hawking back and forwards as it made its way to the car park.

Along the north side of the Island Glyn Evans and Andy Field noted common scoter behind Pewit Island, hen harrier and 2 common buzzards over Maydays / Reeveshall, short-eared owl on Langenhoehall, five marsh harriers, while 7 lesser redpolls were east of the Strood.

Seen during the birdwatching boat trip on Sunday morning in the Blackwater estuary closest to West Mersea was the male eider, yellow-legged gull on Packing Shed Island, red-throated diver near Cobmarsh and in total four great northern divers, as reported by Andy Field.

Offshore on Saturday 23rd from the park were 6 Slavonian grebes and 320 great crested grebes while in the Colne were four red-breasted mergansers and a common seal.
At the Point was a rock pipit, 2 linnets and 500 knot were on the mud.

On the grazing fields 1000 wigeon, 300 golden plover and 200 black-tailed godwits, while four tufted ducks and ten gadwall were some of the ducks on the park pond.

From Coopers Beach at least four of the Slavonian grebes were seen offshore and a stonechat inside the seawall, by Steve Entwistle on Saturday morning. The eider was seen from the Esplanade as was the great northern diver on Saturday.

Roosting on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse were several hundred waders comprising knot, grey plover and dunlin.

The pair of kestrels have been seen at some point each day on their nesting tree, here the male pictured at the top, at the back of the park's grazing fields.
The sparrowhawk has been seen on a couple of occasions near the pond.

The camera strained to snap this red squirrel in the half darkness just as the day was breaking at 7.20am on Monday 25th in the Firs Chase garden. It was unexpectedly disturbed from the nut feeder, when I went outside to check the nut level in the box. The squirrel scampered up the tree and disappeared along one of the branches. Judging by the falling nut levels, one of the red squirrels has been a regular visitor here in recent days.

Friday, 22 January 2016


A male eider was watched offshore from the West Mersea Esplanade on Tuesday 19th by Martin Cock and Andy Field. It was also seen again on Thursday by Moira Jackson. Eider have become quite scarce in recent winters so it was nice this one especially this smart adult male.

Also offshore was the great northern diver seen on Tuesday and by Moira on Thursday who also reported five sanderling and a Mediterranean gull. Four red-breasted mergansers from the Hard on Tuesday.

The calm sea first thing on Tuesday morning from the country park helped provide a count of four Slavonian grebes and a large count of 430 great crested grebes offshore. Three Slavonians were seen again the next day by Andy.

From the Maydays seawall on Tuesday two short-eared owls on Langenhoehall, four marsh harriers on Langenhoe ranges, merlin, pair of stonechat, goldeneye and 1000 brent geese were all reported by Andy and Martin.

One of the short-eared owls on Langenhoehall was seen by Moira, as was a kingfisher by the Strood. 

Three days of frosty weather saw over half of the park pond freeze over. Here some of the 70 mallard are standing on the ice during Tuesday afternoon. Four tufted duck were amongst some of the other ducks here making use of the unfrozen section.

A common snipe fed in the grass by the pond and a water rail was seen near the pond on Wednesday by Andy.

Gadwall numbers have doubled at the pond during this cold snap with 25 being counted on Thursday 21st. Ten of the gadwall were unusually for here grazing the field in front of the hide, a pair pictured above.
Also on Thursday a sparrowhawk perched up in a tree over the pond, a grey heron noted, two green woodpeckers and at least 25 magpies gathered to roost.

The barn owl has been out hunting over the park and nearby fields most recent afternoons just before dark. On a couple of dusks, it has flown close to the hide including passing right over the top from behind. On Friday at dusk the barn owl caught a vole and ate it whilst perched on a post and rail to the north of the park. It was also seen over the park a couple of times last weekend by Neil Mortimer.

On Wednesday 20th a sparrowhawk flew alongside the car park at the park, also now 8 red-legged partridges in the Bromans Lane field.

Waders were gathering at the East Mersea Point on Friday 22nd as the tide came in. The main birds pictured above were 250 knot and 200 dunlin along with a few shelduck.
Along the beach were 20 sanderling on Friday while in the river a red-breasted merganser flew out and a common seal was noted. A rock pipit was seen feeding in saltings near the seawall.
Twenty-five blackbirds, 2 song thrushes, 2 goldcrests and 10 goldfinches fed in the car park on Friday.

On Thursday 21st on the mudflats off the park, 500 knot and 100 avocets were feeding while on the grazing fields 1000+ wigeon were seen.

A grainy picture of a fox taken as it started to get dark at the park pond on Friday late afternoon.

The sun setting over a calm Blackwater, as seen from the Esplanade on Tuesday 19th.

Monday, 18 January 2016


The colourful male stonechat showed well again along the Strood seawall on Monday 18th.

The stonechat has covered the full length of the seawall at times since it arrived a couple of months ago to spend the winter here. It seems to have got used to people walking past it when it's been feeding on the side of the seawall.

Not many other small birds noted on a chilly but bright morning, ones or twos of reed bunting, linnet, meadow pipit and skylark.

This little egret seemed less wary than expected and appeared a bit poorly beside the seawall. It could fly a short distance but some of its feathers were muddy, which is unusual to see. Half a dozen other little egrets were seen in the fields beside ditches.

One of the regular green sandpipers flew out of a ditch and 500 wood pigeons were tucking into the rape crop.

Usual selection of waders and duck along the Channel with the tide at its lowest. The big brent flock was on the Peldon fields.

A big gathering of 40 blackbirds were feeding on the windfall apples at the Nothe, near the Firs Chase caravan site, as were 3 fieldfares.

Sunday, 17 January 2016


Pleased to see this shag close-by swimming along Besom Creek next to St Peters at West Mersea on Sunday 17th. The crest on the head shows well in the picture. Shame the sun was directly behind the shag, as it only shows up in silhouette.

The typical dive of the shag shown here as it leaps clear of the water to help it dive under. The cormorant doesn't come out of the water as much.
There appears to be a ring on the leg of this bird which is maybe the same shag seen here in the last couple of winters that was ringed on the Isle of May, on the east coast of Scotland.

Offshore from Kingsland Road on Sunday afternoon was the great northern diver, also seen the day before from the Esplanade by Ken Hudgell. Also 40 great crested grebes offshore.

The last hour of Sunday was spent helping Andy Field count harriers at the Langenhoe roost from the Shop Lane seawall. Our patience was rewarded when a ringtail hen harrier appeared for five minutes before dropping down for the night. Eight marsh harriers were also watched around the Langenhoe Point reedbed. A peregrine was on the Geedons and three barn owls were noted while a common buzzard was mobbed by crows by the conifer wood.

Also noted were 70+ avocets, 10+ bar-tailed godwits, 1000+ brent geese on Reeveshall, a rock pipit and a calling grey partridge as it got dark.

On the walk to the seawall, I stopped to admire a red squirrel emerge just a few metres to me from the nearby hedge, it then scampered up and overhead to the conifers in Fishponds Wood.

Earlier on Sunday Martin Cock reported seeing a short-eared owl, four marsh harriers and the pair of stonechats during his walk along the Reeveshall and Maydays seawall.

A frosty start to Saturday 16th was warmed up slightly during the day with plenty of sunshine. There was good visibility to be had during a walk along the Maydays seawall around the middle of the day.

Of note was a ringtail hen harrier and barn owl on Langenhoe, short-eared owl on Langenhoehall marsh, while four marsh harriers, four common buzzards, sparrowhawk and kestrel were also logged in the general area.

Along the Pyefleet 13 red-breasted mergansers, 100+ avocets, 200+ knot and 100+ oystercatchers were of note.

Birds of note inside the Maydays seawall on Sunday was a pair of the stonechats, kingfisher, 100+ linnets. A little owl was being mobbed in some bushes by 10 yellowhammers, 15 chaffinches and a few reed buntings. Forty fieldfares and 8 redwings were also seen in and around many of the bushes.

In the Weir Farm and Rewsalls area on Saturday 50 fieldfares, 500 golden plover, 300 lapwing and Mediterranean gull were seen feeding in the fields.

A chilly wind blew across a sunny Strood channel on Friday 15th.
The kingfisher was seen a couple of times in its usual section of borrowdyke, two green sandpipers along ditches, the male stonechat on the seawall and rock pipit on the saltmarsh. Three fieldfares were flying near the caravan site.

In the Strood channel 200 teal, 50 knot while 1000+ brent geese on the Peldon fields were of note. Three red-breasted mergansers were seen from the Hard.

Whilst being shown inside the Mersea Barrow on Saturday this long-eared bat was found tucked into a wee cranny. Pat Kirby from Mersea Museum said she hadn't seen any bats in here before.

Saturday, 16 January 2016


Enlarged picture of a distant kingfisher taken at the back of the country park pond on Wednesday 13th. The bird flew into the bushes overhanging the water, it changed perches a couple of times and then was lost to view. A fleeting appearance for less than a minute.

Seven little egrets perched in the bushes for the high tide roost on Wednesday, five tufted ducks noted too.
In the alders near the pond about eight siskins were feeding on the cones, the first flock here for a couple of weeks.

The resident female kestrel was seen on Wednesday, pictured here from the hide as it perched high on a tree to the east.
The next day it was holding on tight to a branch on its nesting tree during the very strong wind on Thursday afternoon.

At the end of the Thursday afternoon the Cetti's warbler sang very late as the light faded, while 20 magpies were seen gathering in the nearby copse beside the pond.
At dusk on Wednesday afternoon a sparrowhawk flew low and fast into the copse.

On Tuesday a female marsh harrier flew slowly along the park's borrowdyke which got the waders and wildfowl on the nearby fields very anxious and flighty.

At the Strood the Sandwich tern was seen again by Martin Cock at high tide on Wednesday 13th.

Just east of the Strood along the Pyefleet, a merlin was seen sitting on a post and rail on the saltmarsh for the second day running by Andy Field, also nearby a short-eared owl and 3 green sandpipers.

Monday, 11 January 2016


Plenty of waders to be seen from the East Mersea Point during this mid-winter period such as this grey plover pictured beside some turnstones. At least 80 turnstones were feeding along the beach at high tide. The most numerous wader on the mud just before the high tide were 1500+ dunlin along with many of the other familiar waders here.

Ten sanderling one pictured above, were with the turnstones just before the high tide at the Point.

In the river on Sunday a female red-breasted merganser, 40+ shelduck, just two great crested grebes and two common seals. In the skies over Langenhoe Point a distant peregrine spent a couple of minutes in hot pursuit of a bird which kept managing to escape the stoops and lunges as they both flew east over the river.

A kingfisher perched in one of its regular bushes at the end of the Golfhouse dyke on Sunday morning, while in the nearby flooded horse paddock were several wigeon, teal, black-tailed godwits and a couple of redshank.

Wildfowl and waders such as these black-tailed godwits were on high alert during Sunday as a young male peregrine paid the area a visit, scattering all the birds as it made a few unsuccessful passes over the fields.
Two Canada geese were new visitors to the fields this year on Sunday morning although keeping separate from the greylags and brent geese.

A knot was a rare visitor to the fields for the high tide roost on Sunday, pictured here at the back of the wader group in the centre. A couple of dunlin either side of the knot with four black-tailed godwits standing together. Another big flock of 500+ black-tailed godwits were feeding or roosting in the fields on both Sunday and the day before.

Two goldcrests were feeding in bushes by the car park on Sunday morning while on Saturday a siskin flew away from the pond calling as it headed north. Six tufted ducks on the pond on Saturday.

Elsewhere on the Island over the weekend, Steve Entwistle reported at Maydays on Sunday 10th a ringtail hen harrier and 3 short-eared owls were seen over Langenhoehall and also a peregrine, 50+ fieldfares and 5 redwing over Maydays. Also seen on Maydays by Martin Cock on Sunday were two stonechats and a good perched view of a barn owl with a vole in its beak.

The common buzzard was perched over the East Mersea road by Weir Farm at daybreak on Saturday.

From West Mersea a male goldeneye was seen from the Esplanade on Saturday by Steve while near the Dabchicks the black brant was seen by Richard Allen.

Two brown hares were laying low in the wheat field by Bromans Lane on Monday 11th.
Whilst stopping to take this photo, a woodcock clattered unexpectedly out of the nearby ditch and flew rapidly away down Bromans Lane.

A barn owl was glimpsed in the car headlights flying away from the car park in the early Monday evening. Earlier at dusk a sparrowhawk flashed over the park entrance.

On Monday morning a chiffchaff was heard only calling but not seen near horse paddocks north of the park by Martin.

Friday, 8 January 2016


Amongst the several hundred wigeon on the park's grazing fields on Friday 8th, was this drake wigeon showing a green band down the side and back of the head, shown here on the left. All the other drake wigeons have a uniform chestnut head with the yellow forehead as seen on the right-hand birds. This left hand bird shows a green head-band typical of an American wigeon, although the rest of the face and body is typical Eurasian. Maybe this is a hybrid, or just an aberrant Eurasian.

The most unexpected bird seen at the park was a fly-past of a first winter glaucous gull seen at the East Mersea Point at 10.15am. Even as the bird appeared beside the Point flying from the east, the pale-cream unmarked primaries stood out before the binoculars were raised and little alarm bells started ringing! The big immature gull with its powerful wing-beats flew west along the edge of the high tide for a minute or so before turning back south-east out over the river. It was watched flying to Point Clear where it followed the beach south to Sandy Point and then lost to view.

Unbeknown to me, the glaucous gull was also being watched 300m away by Jonathan Greenwood and his wife from the nearby seawall. Jon's very apt description of a "biscuit-coloured" large gull suited the bird and he'd also identified it as a glaucous gull, as opposed to the smaller Iceland gull.

Early afternoon a report came through that a first winter glaucous gull was also seen from St Osyth by Richard Jacobs, so no doubt the same bird. There were also three reports earlier this week of an immature glaucous gull seen along the Suffolk coast, so possibly this Colne bird is the same wandering individual.

Glaucous gulls used to be seen regularly from Mersea during the 1980's and into the early 90's when there were sixteen sightings in a ten year period including a bird that summered in the Colne.

Another unusual gull to be noted on the Mersea beach in recent days was this poorly little gull which was picked up off the West Mersea beach by David Morris on Wednesday 6th. There have been some good numbers of little gulls passing along the East Anglian coast over the last fortnight or so, although none have got so close to Mersea as this individual pictured.

Other birds seen at the park was a young pale male peregrine carrying out several sweeps of the fields as the waders and wildfowl roosted and fed. After disturbing this flock of black-tailed godwits pictured, the peregrine headed north over the fields and houses.

A female pintail was also spotted dabbling along one of the little creeks in the field, but wasn't seen again after the peregrine had scattered everything.
At the Point 10 sanderling flew onto the beach at high tide.

To the west of the park 7 red-legged partridge were feeding in the field beside Bromans Lane in the morning.

On Wednesday along the Strood seawall, Andy Field noted two green sandpipers, kingfisher and 20 snipe.
At Maydays on Tuesday 5th six redwing were with 200 fieldfares, also peregrine, a goosander in the Pyefleet and three short-eared owls on Langenhoehall were seen by Martin Cock and Andrew Tilsley.

From West Mersea on Monday 4th three red-throated divers and four Mediterranean gulls were seen by Steve Grimwade.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016


It was nice to see the colourful male stonechat still along the Strood seawall on a sunny Monday 4th. It was very confiding at times and perching beside the seawall path.

The stonechat was last seen here almost six weeks ago and despite looking out for it several times, it has kept out of sight.
Also feeding along the seawall were 20 corn buntings and a couple of reed buntings.

There seemed a lot more birds in the Strood fields following more rain over the weekend. Five hundred golden plover and 300+ lapwing were noted as were two green sandpipers, common snipe and a small flock of 20 dunlin. Also seen were a grey heron, 4 little egrets, 40+ pied wagtails, 25+ meadow pipits and a rock pipit.

A thousand brent geese were feeding on a wheat field on the Peldon side, pictured here in the distance rising in the air, with Little Wigborough church near Copt Hall in the background.
Further along the seawall big flocks of 3000+ golden plover and 2000+ lapwing were rising in the air over the Feldy marshes.

Of interest along the Strood Channel were a red-breasted merganser, 20+ little grebes, 50+ knot, 100+ wigeon and 100 teal.

The black brant was seen on Monday morning by Andy Field at the back of the Mersea Quarters from the Hard.

No sign of the black brant at the Hard on Tuesday 5th morning but there was a peregrine flying over Feldy putting several thousand plovers into the sky. The peregrine then headed to Old Hall where it mobbed a marsh harrier.

Another blooming early bush is this cherry plum / blackthorn by the Nothe along from the Dabchicks. A cherry plum bush in our Firs Chase garden is also sprouting a few flowers - two months early.

On Monday afternoon 50 fieldfares were in a hedge near the Dog and Pheasant pub at East Mersea while near Bromans Lane one red-legged partridge and three mistle thrush were seen.