Tuesday, 31 January 2017


Several interesting birds in nearby creeks and fleets were seen and photographed by Graham Ekins during a boat trip from West Mersea on the Lady Grace on Saturday 28th. Graham kindly passed these photos onto me to share.
This winter plumaged guillemot was seen off Thorn Fleet.

There was also a guillemot seen in the Colne two days earlier.

 A close-up view of a shag showing its green eye.

The sub-adult shag was perched on one of its regular buoys in the Mersea Fleet.

 Good views of a juvenile great northern diver in Mersea Fleet.

Great northern diver seen here with a hermit crab in its bill.

As well as this great northern diver, other birds of note were 35 red-breasted mergansers, Slavonian grebe and a pale-bellied brent goose with 15 dark-bellied brent geese by the Dabchicks.

The following day on Sunday 29th, Swallow Birding had a very successful boat trip from West Mersea into the local creeks and up the Blackwater to Osea Island. Of note were 5 great northern divers, red-necked grebe, black-necked grebe, 4 Slavonian grebe, 21 scaup, 16 long-tailed ducks, 60 red-breasted mergansers, 10 common scoter, 20 goldeneye, guillemot, pale-bellied brent goose and a peregrine.

Monday, 30 January 2017


A black brant was feeding with 400 dark-bellied brent geese on a small grass field next to Waldegraves Holiday park on Saturday 28th. The white flash on the flanks and the blacker back and wings made the bird stand out, pictured here in the centre of both pictures.

This black brant had a very broad white collar under its chin.
Also seen in the Waldegraves area were 3 Mediterranean gulls and five fieldfares.

Feeding on some spilt grain in Haycocks Lane on Saturday 28th were 30+ yellowhammers.

The yellowhammers perched up in nearby bushes for some time before joining the chaffinches, collared doves, lots of robins and blackbirds in the wheat feast.
The East Mersea pheasant shoot reported flushing at least six woodcock on Saturday morning from the wood near the north end of Shop Lane.

A common buzzard perched beside the East Mersea roadside at Weir Farm on Friday 27th. This bird headed off to Bocking Hall farm while a second bird flew south over the nearby fields.

There have been good numbers of golden plovers and lapwings feeding in the fields near Bocking Hall during these recent frosty mornings. This lapwing was feeding on the grass verge alongside Chapmans Lane. Twenty fieldfares have been feeding in the area too.

A visit to the seawall near Shop Lane provided views of a black brant feeding with 300 dark-bellied brent geese. As with the Waldegraves brant, this one's white flanks help it stand out in the centre of the picture above.

It was high tide during the hour and a half spent on the seawall with all the mud in the Pyefleet covered. A group of six barnacle geese flying out of the Pyefleet from Reeveshall was of interest as none were seen on the Island last year. An hour later the barnacles made a return flight into the Pyefleet before heading back to Brightlingsea.

Also in the Pyefleet were 35 pintail behind Peewit Island and ten red-breasted mergansers, while ten common scoter flew down the Colne. Four marsh harriers were noted on Langenhoe and 30 linnets fed on the Reeveshall saltmarsh and a Mediterranean gull on Reeveshall.

Three red squirrels were seen on the edge of Fishponds Wood late Friday morning, this one sat in a bush beside the path staring at me.

Another of the red squirrels was seen scuttling over a garden shed.
There was also a red squirrel at the start of Friday at the garden feeder in Firs Chase.

Saturday, 28 January 2017


There were freezing temperatures during the last week at the country park with some stretches of water covered with ice. Wildfowl such as wigeon and shoveler gathered in this unfrozen section of the dyke, as did a few mallard, the swans, little grebe and some coots.

Most of the park pond has been frozen over too although 16 gadwall, 50 mallard, 3 tufted duck, 30+ teal, 10 coot, 2 little grebes have kept one area free of ice. Fifty wigeon have been grazing the nearby small field while a couple of snipe have been seen here too. A water rail was inside the ditch under the alders, two great spotted woodpeckers flew over the car park on Monday 23rd and 30 greenfinches were seen on Tuesday.
A marsh harrier was seen by Andy Field looming out of the fog by the pond on Wednesday 25th while on Sunday 22nd two buzzards flew along the back of the grazing fields.

The main birds on the frosty grazing fields at the park have been 1500 wigeon and 500 teal seen on Tuesday 24th, also 4 snipe noted too.

Offshore from the park on Tuesday a Slavonian grebe and 130 shelduck with 200 avocets along the edge of the river and a common seal in the Colne. On Sunday 22nd the guillemot, red-breasted merganser and 4 goldeneye were in the river.
A weasel was seen in the car park on Wednesday and Thursday.

Andrew Neal enjoyed a visit to East Mersea on Sunday 22nd and sent me these next four photos including this pair of carrion crows feeding on a bird carcass in the frozen grazing fields. Also lots of wigeon, 3 shoveler and a common snipe.

A flock of goldfinches was singing in the bushes near the hide at the park on Sunday.

A single greenfinch was in a bush near the hide, also a stock dove seen nearby.

A pair of common buzzards were photographed by Andrew in a tree at Manwood Grove in Shop Lane. Also noted along the Lane were a kestrel, goldfinches a great spotted woodpecker and some long-tailed tits.

Up to thirty fieldfares have spent the last few days feeding in the fields by Bocking Hall while two fieldfares were seen in West Mersea by Adrian Amos in his neighbours East Road garden. A buzzard was by Weir farm on Monday 23rd and a marsh harrier crossed over the Strood that day.

Red squirrels noted over the last week have included one at the Firs Chase feeder as dawn broke on both Wednesday and Thursday mornings, one seen by Andy Field in Fishponds Wood on Wednesday and one reported by the old East Mersea PYO field on Sunday22nd.

Saturday, 21 January 2017


A common snipe fed along the edge of the park's borrowdyke on a frosty Friday 20th - forced into the open by the cold weather.

The sun helped thaw out this sloping edge of the field allowing the snipe to probe for worms in the softer soil. A second snipe was seen flying over the fields.

The main part of the park's grazing fields was frosted over on Friday morning with a big flock of 1000 wigeon the only birds present.

Several shoveler were still able to feed on the unfrozen sections of the park dyke, this pair spinning round as they fed. A rock pipit was seen walking along the ice at the edge of the dyke.

The pond was two thirds frozen on Saturday 21st, with this group of mainly mallard resting on the ice. A marsh harrier flew high over the grazing fields in the afternoon, spooking the 1500 wigeon and 500 teal as it headed out across the Colne.

On Friday 20th on the part-frozen pond, 5 little egrets roosted at high tide, 80 mallard, 12 gadwall, 70 teal, 10 coot and 2 tufted ducks were present while a little owl soaked up the morning sun in a garden to the north of the park.  Twelve goldfinches were in the alders and ten stock doves were seen too.

A big flock of 700 brent geese were seen flying noisily over the park on Friday.

Earlier in the week on Wednesday 18th this guillemot was photographed by Andy Field in the river Colne. Also 4 common scoter and two common seals were also in the Colne.
Ten red-breasted mergansers were offshore from the park on Tuesday 17th.

This grey heron was seen by Andy in the park's grazing fields close to the dyke on Wednesday.

A house sparrow chirping in the car park on Wednesday and Thursday has become a rare sound at the park in recent years.

The East Mersea tawny owl was having a snooze in the morning sun of Wednesday, photographed by Andy.

Offshore from West Mersea on Wednesday morning, 4 great northern divers, red-throated diver, 31 red-breasted mergansers were seen by Andy.

The glossy ibis showed well for David Nicholls by the Strood as he walked across the Ray Saltings on Wednesday 18th.
At least ten fieldfares were feeding in the fields by Bocking Hall for several days between Tuesday and Friday.

On a calm Monday 16th from the Esplanade, 4 great northern divers, 3 scaup, common scoter,10 pintail, 450+ great crested grebes and 20 red-breasted mergansers were seen.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


On Monday 16th this common buzzard was seen in Haycocks Lane dropping down onto the ground after something.

The dark silhouette of the common buzzard after it returned to a telegraph post beside the Lane, sadly against the light. Couldn't quite make out if it had a small mammal in its talons along with some grass stalks.

A walk along the Maydays seawall on Monday morning provided views of a few birds of prey including a pair of kestrels with this female perching up after a noisy encounter with a male kestrel.
Two sparrowhawks were seen over Maydays and a third bird on Langenhoe, while a common buzzard was seen over the fields and two on Langenhoe. At least four marsh harriers were seen hunting over the Maydays and Reeveshall fields with a couple of others on Langenhoe too.
No sign of short-eared owls on Langenhoehall though.

Of note along the Pyefleet channel were 1000+ knot, 500 teal, 80 avocet and 100 black-tailed godwits. A kingfisher flew off the Maydays seawall sluice and a rock pipit called nearby.
Grazing the Reeveshall fields were 700+ brent geese, also 1000 starlings in the area and at least 2 Mediterranean gulls with a group of gulls beside some sheep.

Small birds at Maydays included 5 yellowhammer, 50 linnet, 25 chaffinch and 10 reed bunting while 4 fieldfares were also noted.

The tawny owl was peering out of its cavity in the tree near Shop Lane mid morning on Monday 16th.

A Lapland bunting was seen along the Strood on Sunday 15th by Daryl Rhymes.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


Despite the rain through most of Sunday 15th, there were still smiles on the faces of this group of mainly local birdwatchers having just spent four hours on Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat in the Blackwater and nearby creeks. The waters were flat calm but the lack of wind couldn't clear the low mist which hung low over the Blackwater on our journey from West Mersea to Osea Island near Maldon.

Graham Ekins has kindly shared these following photos which he took during the boat-trip. At the start of the trip we joked at the light-weight umbrella he pulled out of his bag. However it turned out it wasn't for him but to keep his big camera and lens dry when not in use, so that it was ready to be swung into action at a moment's notice. Despite the rain and very dull conditions Graham managed admirably to take these pictures.

Before climbing aboard the boat this black brant pictured above was seen on the mud at the Hard, as was a pale-bellied brent goose.

Three sanderling were feeding by the Hard, a few seem to have started feeding in this area which they've not usually done before.

One of the many ever-present turnstone also seen feeding by the Hard.

As we motored just past Packing Shed Island a shag was seen, the only one seen on the trip.

Five great northern divers were the only divers we saw - surprisingly no red-throated divers.

Two of the great northern divers came together and stayed above water for some good views through the murk and drizzle.

A male long-tailed duck was seen in Salcott Channel and then again in Tollesbury Fleet.

The long-tailed duck dropped down to feed with a group of little grebes in Tollesbury Fleet.

There was no sign in the mist of the 16 long-tailed ducks seen recently near Osea Island.

A flock of 16 scaup in the Blackwater near Goldhanger was of note, as flocks have become much scarcer off the Essex coast in recent winters.

At least 60 common scoter were seen during the trip, this flock taking off from the water. One group of common scoter was seen in the water with the scaup flock.

Other birds of interest seen from the boat were 50+ red-breasted mergansers, 100 goldeneye, 4 gadwall, marsh harrier, 30 avocets, 100+ bar-tailed godwits, 150+ cormorants and five common seals.

Sunday, 15 January 2017


The Island was on high alert on Friday 13th for a tidal surge which thankfully wasn't as high as predicted. There was quite a group of folk went down to the waterfront in the middle of the night to see what the high tide was like. Pictured at the bottom of the Lane in West Mersea at 1am Saturday, the tide seemed like one of the familiar very high spring tides. This one seemed about a foot lower than the surge tide in 2013.

The sun shone onto the beach at the country park early on Saturday morning, where the recent high tides seemed to have spared the cliff at this eastern end, although some small slumps at the west end.

The Coopers Beach seawall had taken another pounding from the sea during Friday night's tide with several sections very vulnerable to collapsing completely and the sea ready to flow in behind.

Birds seen in the Coopers  and Rewsalls area on Saturday morning included a common buzzard, stonechat, 2 little egret, 80 curlew, 200 brent geese, redshank, 3 teal, little grebe, 4 sanderling, 20 turnstone, 3 fieldfare, 60 linnets, 10 reed bunting, 30 chaffinch, 6 stock dove, 9 skylark and 12 meadow pipit.

A sparrowhawk and 80 skylarks were seen near Bromans Lane.

The water rail and Slavonian grebe were seen at the country park by Steve Entwistle on Saturday, also 1000 golden plover at Chapmans Lane and a tawny owl at the end of the day near Manwood Grove.