Sunday, 28 February 2016


I thought I was alone on the north side of the Island along the Pyefleet Channel on Sunday 28th - until this grey seal stuck its head up to look at me with a side-ways glance. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was a grey seal and not one of the common seals that are usually seen here.

It stared at me as I sat on the seawall corner beside the Maydays creek, only about 25 metres away from it.

The grey seal swam into the creek as the tide was coming in and seemed to be waiting for me to disappear before it hauled itself onto the nearby saltmarsh to rest, so I soon left it alone.

The two white-fronted geese, pictured at the front, were feeding at the back of Reeveshall, still present here over the last fortnight. They had been feeding with about fifty greylag geese and four Canada geese. Then the big flock of 3000 brent geese decided to join them in the same field, including the pale leucistic brent and a pale-bellied brent goose too.

Also seen on Reeveshall were two marsh harriers, 40 coot while 4 red-breasted mergansers were in the Pyefleet. On Maydays 100 linnet, 25 chaffinch, yellowhammer, 2 little egret and a common buzzard.

On the north side of the Pyefleet Channel on Sunday morning, Andy Field and Richard Hull were checking the Langenhoe marshes and noted 4 marsh harriers, stonechat and a kingfisher with a short-eared owl seen on Langenhoehall marshes.

Offshore from West Mersea three great northern divers, guillemot flying past and a couple of Slavonian grebes were seen by Steve Entwistle.

Amongst the big flock of brent geese feeding on Reeveshall on Saturday 27th was this very pale brent goose, a leucistic colour phase. It was very easy to pick out among all the black and grey coloured geese. The pale-bellied brent goose was also present too.

The flock of 3000 brent geese got very worried when a blue balloon, on the right of this picture, blew across the field. At the back of Reeveshall the two white-fronted geese were with 20 greylags and 4 Canada geese. Also 100 golden plover, 2 marsh harriers, 3 common buzzards, sparrowhawk and two little egrets seen over and around Reeveshall.

On the saltmarsh 200 redshank were feeding, with 1000 dunlin on the mud, while on the Pyefleet were four red-breasted mergansers and a great crested grebe.
At least a couple of siskins could be heard calling from Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane.

At the Youth Camp on Saturday, a little owl, 10+ lesser redpolls, 25+ siskins were seen by Steve along with a few redwings and fieldfares while a male pochard was seen at the country park pond and 4 red-legged partridge by Bromans Lane later in the day.

The common buzzard was seen near Bocking Hall by Steve on Saturday and also a kingfisher by the Strood.
Three corn buntings perched on wires by Chapmans Lane in the morning.

Friday, 26 February 2016


There was plenty of bird activity in trees by the East Mersea Vineyard on Friday 26th. Pictured above was one of 25 siskins that were feeding in the alder trees as were about ten lesser redpolls and 25 goldfinches.
Also perched up several of the trees in the area were about 300 fieldfares and at least 25+ redwings - probably more. Adding to the flocks of birds were 200+ starlings.

This small group of lesser redpolls was first seen on Wednesday 24th by Andy Field who managed to take a couple of photos of some of the six birds in the alders.

As well as these redpolls, also seen on Wednesday by Andy around the Vineyard / Rewsalls area were 20+ siskins, 3 Mediterranean gulls, 12 redwings and 50+ fieldfares.
The elusive resident little owl was seen by the Youth Camp entrance by Martin Cock on Wednesday.

A record shot of the barn owl hunting the Rewsall marshes just after mid-day on Friday. It seemed very happy flying back and forwards over a couple of the long grass fields next to the Coopers Beach caravan park.

A stonechat was also noted in the field while a kingfisher was seen perched on a railing beside the dyke at the caravan park end. Also seen were little egret, 2 common snipe, 3 teal, 8 mallard and 3 reed buntings.

Flying over some of the Rewsalls fields were 200 brent geese, 50 curlew, 500 golden plover and 100 lapwing, while a red-legged partridge was seen near the East Mersea church.
A yellowhammer flew over calling and 3 linnets were seen by a game cover crop and a goldcrest in a hedgerow.

Perched on a telegraph post beside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall was this common buzzard on Friday. It soon flew off just after I stopped the car to take this picture.

On Thursday 25th a very vocal water rail was seen briefly at the back of the pond before scuttling back into the reeds. A female marsh harrier flew slowly along the central ditch in the park's grazing fields late afternoon.

Offshore from the park on Wednesday 24th was a great northern diver, 2 red-throated diver and 9 Slavonian grebes seen by Andy. Over 600 great crested grebes were also estimated by Martin.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016


The first adder of the spring was spotted at the country park on Tuesday 23rd. It seemed very wary and was quick to slip back into the cover of the bramble bushes. Other than some March appearances in the last couple of years, this last week of February has been the usual time for the first adder to be seen. The earliest date was on the 21st Feb in 2007. A colleague in south Essex at the Hadleigh Country Park told me he'd seen his first adder there two weeks ago - the earliest ever date there.

The brown hare has continued to frequent the same part of the nearby wheat field near the country park.

A new visitor this year to the park on Monday 22nd was this female pochard seen in the dyke with ten tufted duck. Maybe with spring round the corner, this pochard is checking out potential breeding sites, such as this dyke where they've nested before. There was no sign of the bird the following day.

Other birds seen at the park on Tuesday included a merlin flashing fast across the park cliff and then out over the mudflats where it sent flocks of waders scattering. Two red-breasted mergansers were seen late afternoon offshore while a male pintail dropped onto the saltmarsh near the Golfhouse. A common buzzard was soaring high over Brightlingsea mid afternoon.

Three siskins were feeding in some alders by the path and also a goldcrest seen near the hide in the morning, while later in the day a Cetti's warbler was calling repeatedly from the edge of the pond but without showing. A little egret and grey heron were resting at the pond during the high tide.

A barn owl provided good views of hunting over the park and nearby fields in the last hour of daylight on Tuesday. The previous afternoon a kestrel stole a recently caught vole from the barn owl and then carried it away to eat it on its tree.

On Monday 22nd there were 580 great crested grebes counted offshore from the park along with a red-throated diver and seven Slavonian grebes.

By the park pond on Sunday 21st was a very musical flock of 16 siskins singing in the trees before feeding in the alders, as were ten goldfinches.
On the grazing fields were 1000 golden plover feeding in the morning as were 500 wigeon.

Noted at the park on Saturday 20th were a common buzzard flying over the houses to the north of the park, a red-breasted merganser in the river, 20 meadow pipits feeding in the grazing fields as were 100 black-tailed godwits and 100 redshank during high tide. The big flock of 1000 golden plover was feeding in the fields again with at least three birds already sporting their black breeding underparts.

A common buzzard was in a field by the East Mersea road near Weir Farm early on Sunday morning.

Andrew Neal sent me these two great photos of the barn owl hunting the Rewsalls marshes on Monday afternoon at 4pm.

This is the same bird that was also photographed by Andy Field a few days earlier.

Whilst Andy Field and Glyn Evans were walking the north side of the Island on Monday 22nd, this male stonechat posed nicely for Glyn at Maydays farm.

The male stonechat has spent the winter close to the seawall here usually with a female for company too.

Also noted on the walk were two white-fronted geese still on Reeveshall, a kingfisher by the Oyster Fishery and a merlin over the park's grazing fields.

This corn bunting perched up near the seawall between the Strood and Maydays, allowing Glyn to photograph it.

Another corn bunting has started to perch on wires by Chapmans Lane, taking up its territory for the forthcoming breeding season. One seen on Saturday 20th and then again here on Tuesday 23rd.

Two red squirrels and a common buzzard were reported being seen in Fishponds Wood on Tuesday 23rd.

Saturday, 20 February 2016


This barn owl was seen hunting out in the open, over the Rewsalls marshes in the morning of Wednesday 17th, providing good views for Andy Field who took this picture. 
Some nice footage of the owl seen here -;

Michael Thorley had also enjoyed seeing this barn owl hunting over these same fields a few days earlier on Thursday 11th.

Later on Wednesday morning this spotted redshank was unexpectedly seen by Andy on the pool near the Reeveshall seawall. It made a brief appearance for 15 minutes before flying back up the Colne.

Still present on Reeveshall were the two white-fronted geese feeding with the small group of greylag geese. Around a thousand brent geese were also feeding in the fields for a short while.

There was a nice surprise for Andy walking past the Fishponds wood in Shop Lane of a brief appearance by a red squirrel in the trees nearby. Also a few siskins heard calling from the pine trees.

A big flock of 700+ brent geese was feeding in the grass field near Ivy Farm on a sunny Tuesday 16th. A little later amongst some of these dark-bellied brent feeding in one of the park's grazing fields was a pale-bellied brent goose.

A female marsh harrier flew purposefully eastwards across the grazing fields and continued across the Colne over to Brightlingsea - possibly a spring passage bird following the coast.

Also seen from the seawall in the area were 3 reed buntings, 2 little egrets, 9 skylarks and a rock pipit.

Offshore from the park first thing in the morning were 480+ great crested grebes and 5 Slavonian grebes. Among many waders arriving onto the mud as the tide began to recede were 700+ knot.

At the end of the day the barn owl was hunting fields to the north side of the park.
Four brown hares had been seen earlier in the day near Bromans Lane.

Five tufted duck were having a snooze in the park's dyke on Tuesday 16th. Another six tufted ducks were also on the park pond along with 15 gadwall.

On the park fields on Thursday 18th, 1500 wigeon and a 1000 golden plover were the main birds of interest here.
A sparrowhawk flashed through the trees by the park entrance at dusk on Thursday.

A quick glance to sea first thing on Friday 19th provided distant views of 300+ great crested grebes and one Slavonian grebe.

Monday, 15 February 2016


The resident male stonechat along the Strood was keeping out of the cold northerly wind by feeding on the inside of the seawall on Monday 15th. As it has often done this winter, it liked perching on the dead stalks of the old Alexanders plants. It chose a good year to spend the winter here, as this is the first winter the seawall vegetation hasn't been cut down.

Also close to the seawall was the regular female kingfisher seen perched on the usual small trees over the dyke. It was at this southern end when I first passed by during mid morning and when I returned to this same area an hour later, it was already back in one of the trees again.
The kingfisher was also seen here a couple of times as well as along one of the central field ditches on Friday 12th.

Enjoying a bit of winter sunshine on the mud was this curlew, keeping out of the cold wind behind these sea-weed-covered posts.

It was low tide during the mid morning walk with just a thin scattering of waders along the mudflats. The main wader of interest was the two resident green sandpipers along the ditches in the fields.
Among the ducks along the channel were 200+ teal, 100 wigeon and 60 shelduck, while 1000 brent geese rose noisily into the air on the Peldon side.

Other small birds noted on Monday included 10 skylarks, 50+ linnets in a couple of flocks, 5 reed buntings and a rock pipit.

Birds noted on Friday 12th included a wintering chiffchaff calling several times as it moved along the bushes in the dyke back to the caravan site. Also noted were the two green sandpipers and ten snipe in some of the waterlogged fields.

There was a cold northerly wind also blowing over Reeveshall on the north side of the Island on Sunday 14th. Two white-fronted geese feeding with 25 greylag geese in one of the big grass fields was an unexpected find. White-fronted geese never stay long on the Island and none were seen last year.
Also with the geese were 3 Canada geese, while 400+ brent geese were feeding in another corner of the field. A female marsh harrier was hunting over the nearby reed-filled ditches.

In the Pyefleet Channel 2 male goldeneye was a nice sight, also a female red-breasted merganser and what looked like a common seal pup briefly hauled itself onto the mud before it jumped back into the water when a great black-backed gull flew over it.

Two marsh harriers and a common buzzard were seen flying over Langenhoe marshes.

On Maydays the male stonechat was close to the seawall, while 100 linnets fed in the set-aside corner.

Offshore from the Esplanade at West Mersea on Sunday were two great northern divers seen by Andy Field. In trees near the Youth Camp two siskin and 20 goldfinches were seen by Steve Entwistle who also noted a redwing with some fieldfares by Rewsalls Lane.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Amongst the large flock of 3000+ dark-bellied brent geese feeding on Reeveshall, was this very pale coffee-coloured brent goose photographed by David Low during his visit on Friday 5th. This pale or leucistic coloured bird has not been seen here before and certainly stands out, as in the picture above. Also seen were three pale-bellied brent geese.
Before a marsh harrier flushed off the flock, David managed to count 34 juveniles among 2646 brent with more geese arriving to peak at 3114 birds.

After recent days of wind, cloud and rain, it made a change to have some blue skies and calm winds. The very high tide on Wednesday 10th, flooded the top of the beach on the East Mersea Point, even getting inside the pillbox there. It's not often there's a large pool of water left lying on the beach, as above.

As the tide went out in the afternoon, 70+ bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point, 8 red-breasted mergansers were by Langenhoe Point and a rock pipit was on the beach. A sparrowhawk flew low over the Point and crossed the river.

Offshore on Thursday 11th the calm sea from the park late in the afternoon saw 690+ great crested grebes, 10 Slavonian grebes, great northern diver, 7 red-breasted mergansers and a common seal.
The day before 3 Slavonian grebes were seen with 200+ great crested grebes. offshore from the park.

On Wednesday from the Esplanade, Andy Field noted great northern diver, red-throated diver, 2 Slavonian grebe, guillemot, 8 red-breasted merganser and a Mediterranean gull.

Numbers of birds on the park's grazing fields has been fairly constant over recent days. Up to 500 black-tailed godwits have been present for high tide, some pictured above. Also 1000+ wigeon and 200+ teal on fields too.

On the pond 10 tufted duck and 12 gadwall have been of note here, while 20 goldfinches have been seen at the park in recent days.

The sea was whipped up by strong winds on Monday 8th, luckily most of the waves weren't quite reaching the bottom of the cliff at this eastern end.

At West Mersea an Arctic skua was seen chasing gulls near the entrance to the river Blackwater on Sunday 7th by Andy. A great northern diver was also seen in the river.

Friday, 5 February 2016


This red squirrel posed nicely for Andy Field alongside the Fishponds wood in Shop Lane on Wednesday 3rd. It paused long enough for Andy to get his camera out of the bag and take several shots.

The red squirrel was seemingly commuting between the conifer wood and a nearby garden where there's a feeder.

The two brown hares were snuggled up close to each other in a field near Bromans Lane on Friday 5th. Despite the loud bangs from the bird scarer in the middle of the field, the hares stayed motionless during the day.
Still present in the field were the eight red-legged partridges.

Elsewhere on Friday, Andy Field had five goldcrests in the Shop Lane wood, 2500 brent geese feeding on Reeveshall, while at the Youth Camp, 19 corn buntings were seen.

On Thursday the barn owl put on a nice display of daytime hunting towards the end of the afternoon at the country park. It did a lot of quartering of the areas of long grass, when allowed to by the mobbing magpies. The barn owl was also out hunting fields to the north of the park on Tuesday.

At the park pond the Cetti's warbler and the water rail were both heard calling but not seen on Thursday.

From the Esplanade on Wednesday at least one red-throated diver was seen offshore by Andy, while the day before 200+ great crested grebes were seen.

During a walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 1st a ringtail hen harrier was seen high over the Geedons, a pair of marsh harriers over Reeveshall, 2000 brent geese also here, 8 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet and 20 linnets on the saltmarsh.
There was no sign of the common scoter which was seen on Sunday in the Pyefleet.