Monday, 27 February 2017


The male kingfisher spent several minutes perched on this plastic culvert pipe in the dyke along the Strood seawall on Monday 27th, adding a splash of colour to a dull day. At one point it dived into the water and came back up with a little fish like a stickleback, giving it a couple of whacks on the pipe before swallowing it.

Bumped into Lee Evans, over from Bucks, on the seawall who was trying to track down the black brant. It was tracked down between the Dabchicks and the caravan site saltmarsh, feeding with 50 brent geese just before the high tide. The black brant pictured here on the left with the broad white neck collar.

Other birds noted during the seawall walk included 6 little egrets, common snipe, 10 reed buntings, 20 skylarks, rock pipit, while little along the Channel as the incoming tide had already forced most waders off.

Also on Monday a sparrowhawk flew over the Firs Chase garden and 500 starlings circled over the nearby gardens late afternoon.

This obliging dunlin was feeding close to the bottom of the Reeveshall seawall at high tide by itself on Sunday 26th.

The high tide covered a good part of the saltmarsh along the Pyefleet on the windy Sunday. On the opposite side by Peewit Island, masses of waders and wildfowl rose into the air probably due to a passing raptor. Catching the eye in flight were 50 pintail which circled round with some flying off but 28 dropped down onto the water by the island.

Also noted were 4 red breasted mergansers, 100+ shelduck, 300 brent geese, 4 marsh harriers and 2 common buzzards.
Andy Field watched two red squirrels at Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane early afternoon on Sunday.

Seven common scoter were seen flying out of the Colne on Sunday by Jonathan Norgate, while a peregrine was seen by Chapmans Lane by Steve Entwistle. At the Youth Camp 40 fieldfare and 30 redwing were found by Andy, while at West Mersea the black brant was still by Coast Road and two great northern divers offshore.

A walk along the footpath between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane on Saturday 25th produced two common buzzards, fleeting glimpse of a peregrine over the fields, marsh harrier and 500 brent geese on Reeveshall while 3 Mediterranean gulls were with some black-headed gulls following a tractor seed-drilling.

The red squirrel has been paying daily visits to the nut feeder in the Firs Chase garden over the last week. Today it first visited as day broke at 6.30am spending fifteen minutes at the feeder. It was then spotted again just after mid-day briefly on the roof of the house before heading to a cherry-plum tree to feed on the new buds and young blossom for a couple of minutes.

While the red squirrel was feeding at the feeder early on Wednesday 22nd, it was seen to suddenly freeze and stop munching. When I looked more closely from the house, a fox was seen ambling over to the bottom of the tree and the squirrel watched nervously as it passed beneath it.

The first toad of the "spring" was seen crawling over the driveway in the Firs Chase garden in the evening of Saturday 25th.

Saturday, 25 February 2017


Birds were keeping low to the ground during the strong winds at the country park on Thursday 23rd. A group of 25 shelduck gathered in the grazing fields in the afternoon as did 36 shoveler. Eleven black-tailed godwits were also noted in the pools in the fields.

Many of the thirty lapwings in the fields stood individually behind tussocks of rushes to shelter from the strong wind - as four are doing here. At the pond a little egret was tucked inside one of the bushes and nearby 17 magpies were perched in a hedge out of the wind. A fieldfare was seen at the start of the day in the car park.

A redwing and fieldfare were in the car park at start of Wednesday 22nd.
Five redwings were also seen in a tree in Firs Chase, West Mersea first thing on Wednesday and the common buzzard was in the field by Haycocks again.

Half a dozen teal were feeding on the saltmarsh beside the beach, this male seen from the nearby seawall on Tuesday 21st. Ten tufted duck were noted, half on the dyke and others on the pond. At the Point at least one stonechat was seen on the saltmarsh and 100 ringed plovers on the mud. A sparrowhawk flew over the fields towards the copse behind the pond.
The male house sparrow was heard chirping in the car park again.

At West Mersea two scaup were seen on the sea off the Esplanade on Tuesday by Andy Field.

The male kestrel was enjoying the morning sunshine on Friday 24th as it looked out from the back of the park pond. The female was seen briefly perched on the nearby oak tree. Also enjoying the sunshine by the pond was the Cetti's warbler which showed itself for the first time this year along the near edge, letting out a couple of loud bursts of song too. It's been silent for the last month or so.
The water rail was also very obliging as it walked about along the outer edge of the reeds.

In the grazing fields 400 golden plover were spread across one field feeding, also 30 black-tailed godwits, 100 curlew on the pools, as well as little egrets and the first sighting this spring of a pair of oystercatchers in the fields.

 It didn't take too long to locate this red squirrel near Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane on Friday morning, as the loud taps could be heard as it used a feeder. After a few more feeds it run up a nearby branch to survey the situation, before heading away through the trees.

Within a few minutes another red squirrel was located high in the pine trees feeding on a pine cone. It stayed in view for several minutes with the occasional discarded seed-wing fluttering down from the squirrel as it picked out each seed to eat.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017


The first adders seen at the country park this year was by Andrew Neal when he visited the park on Monday 20th. Here one of his photographs he took of a male adder.
Four adders were enjoying the warmth just after mid-day on Monday.

Someone else enjoying the warmth on Monday was this brown rat in a bush at the park, peering down at Andrew as he took this photo.

A pair of marsh harriers was watched for fifteen minutes by Andrew quartering the fields along the East Mersea road by the Bocking Hall / Weir Farm area.

A couple of videos taken of the marsh harriers and also the adders taken by Andrew can be seen here 


Tuesday, 21 February 2017


The short burst of warmer weather on Monday 20th brought the first adders out of hibernation at the country park. This one was one of four that were seen early afternoon while the sun was out. The main area at the park has been checked each day since mid month on the expectation that an adder would appear. This is the earliest date an adder has been seen at the park - and the first time four have emerged on the first day. The previous earliest date was ten years ago on February 21st.

The sunny weather in the middle of the day also saw the first butterfly of the year at the park with this red admiral basking near the car park on Monday.

The recently elusive water rail came out into the open and fed along the side of the reeds at the park pond on Monday, pictured here behind the moorhen.

A pair of blue tits have been checking out a potential nest-hole in a small rowan tree in the middle of the car park. Blue tits have nested inside the tree for the last two springs.
Thirty greenfinches gathered at the park late afternoon to roost.

Anne Cock took this photo of a siskin at their garden feeder in West Mersea on Sunday 19th. A rare bird visitor to the feeder.

Siskins have been thin on the ground on the Island this winter. None have been seen at the park since last November.

The common buzzard was in the field by Haycocks Stables again in the morning of Monday 20th.

The moth trap was dusted down for its first outing of the year, scraping away old withered leaves and emptying spiders from the trap to get it ready for use. During a slightly milder Sunday night than of late at the park, two macro moths and one micro were noted along with lots of ichneumon wasps. This March moth is a couple of weeks ahead of the main emergence of these common moths.

This moth has the apt name of the early moth, as it is one of the first ones to appear in the year.

Monday, 20 February 2017


A group of ten tufted duck have been at the park for the last month or so with this male above, one of four ducks seen along the dyke on Sunday 20th. Seven tufted ducks have been on the park pond for the last few weeks.

Having had a bathe and a splash in the dyke, the male tufted duck flapped its wings, showing the white wing-bar.

The thousand wigeon feeding in the park's fields were split up into several groups grazing different areas. Among the wetter areas about 300 teal were present along with 40 shoveler, while 90 curlew and 100 lapwing were present at high tide.

This curlew has been a regular in the field by the pond for the last month or so.
Also 8 wigeon grazing the grass in this small field. On Saturday a sparrowhawk flew past the pond and four little egrets perched in bushes over the water. A weasel ran across the car park on Saturday afternoon.
Two great spotted woodpeckers were together in the trees near the hide on Sunday, this male perching over one of the paths.
A pair of yellowhammers at the park on Sunday morning was a unusual sighting, while a male house sparrow was heard chirping near the car park for the second day and a fieldfare seen here too.

Three common scoter were seen flying out of the Colne on Saturday 18th by Steve Entwistle, also a stonechat on the saltmarsh near the Point.
Fourteen marsh harriers were seen gathered for the evening roost on Langenhoe by Andy Field who also saw a barn owl over fields near the Shop Lane seawall, 583 brent geese in the Pyefleet  and a chiffchaff calling near the lane. Two tawny owls were seen near the Oyster Fishery by Martin Cock on Friday.

The regular common buzzard was by the East Mersea road again near Haycocks Stables on Sunday 19th.
The first siskin of the winter was on the feeder in Martin Cock's West Mersea garden and a chiffchaff also made an appearance here on Sunday.

Saturday, 18 February 2017


The pair of stonechat was feeding on the saltmarsh near the East Mersea Point on Wednesday 15th. This male perched up alongside the creek near the seawall sluice.

Also from the Point were 200+ avocets, 2000+ dunlin while two marsh harriers flew up river at the end of the day.

The sunshine highlighted the colours on the male shovelers on the pools in the grazing fields on Wednesday morning - forty shovelers seen in the fields. Other birds present were 500 wigeon, 200 teal, and a snipe.
On the main park a fieldfare was in the car park, a mistle thrush was singing nearby and 12 meadow pipits also noted.

On Thursday 16th two fieldfares were in the car park in the morning while at the pond six little egrets roosted middle of the day.

A flock of 90 redshank roosted on the fields at high tide on Friday 17th.
At the park pond one little egret, 7 tufted duck, 6 gadwall, 4 little grebe, 7 wigeon and a curlew were seen from the hide. A fieldfare was in the car park.

At the Point 100 shelduck, 200 brent geese were feeding on the mud, while a reed bunting was singing and a rock pipit was noted over the saltmarsh. On the sea were 12 red-breasted mergansers late afternoon on Friday.

There was an unusual sight of the local pair of mute swans on top of the park seawall near the Point. After a quick look around, they ran down the side, flapping their wings and launching themselves into the air to fly off.

 The end of the winter has got several pairs of stock doves checking out nest sites near the pond. This stock dove is sitting inside the little owl box.

 Another stock dove has been peering inside a tawny owl box on an oak tree near the back of the pond.

Opposite the hide is the barn owl box which has been occupied by stock doves since last spring.
The pond-field area has become a favoured spot for stock doves and several have been heard singing and displaying to each other.
A common seal was in the Colne on Friday and this one above was seen close to the Point on Wednesday, one of two in the river.

Alan Reynolds saw six common scoter fly out of the river Colne on Tuesday 14th.

A common buzzard was seen in the field by Haycocks stables near West Mersea on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017


A covey of six red-legged partridge was watched from the car as they fed beside Bromans Lane, East Mersea on Monday 13th.
At the country park there were ten gadwall and eight tufted duck on the pond. A fieldfare was in the car park while a flock of 20 fieldfares was in the field opposite the village hall.

A bright but breezy walk along the Strood Channel seawall on Monday provided views of lots of waders and wildfowl such as this group of brent geese. Also seen in the channel as the tide came in were 200 teal, 100 wigeon, 80 shelduck, 400 dunlin, 20 black-tailed godwit, 10 bar-tailed godwit and 10 little grebes.

A common buzzard was seen by the Strood causeway being chased by crows, while standing beside one of the Strood field-ditches was a line of six little egrets and three grey herons all in a row facing west.

Small birds noted from the seawall were the pair of stonechats by the caravan site, 2 rock pipits, 30 linnets, 25+ reed buntings and 20 skylarks.

One of the handful of greenfinches that were feeding on the sunflower seeds in the Firs Chase garden.

Monday, 13 February 2017


The boat trip into the Blackwater from West Mersea on Sunday 12th by Swallow Birding proved another successful trip on the Sorcerer boat. Steve Grimwade kindly sent me a few images taken during the trip into the nearby creeks and along the Blackwater river as far as Osea Island.

This great northern diver above was one of six seen, also a recent dead one too, while 20 long-tailed ducks, 3 common scoter, 30 goldeneye, 50 red-breasted mergansers and 7 Slavonian grebes were also seen.

 The regular adult shag that has been present this winter, was seen in Salcott Channel.

Birds of prey seen were 3 peregrines - a female off Goldhanger and a male and female in Tollesbury Channel, also six marsh harriers seen.

One of the dark-bellied brent geese seen by the West Mersea Hard.

One of the three sanderling that have become a regular sight this winter at the Hard.
The other waders of note on the trip were 180 avocets in Tollesbury Channel.

During the Swallow Birding visit to East Mersea on Wednesday 8th, this tawny owl was seen perched in a tree.

Along Shop Lane on the 8th, the group struck gold when they spotted this red squirrel in a small woodland. Although tricky to see on occasions, they all managed to see it.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


An eyecatching near-albino pheasant was seen in Haycocks Lane on Saturday 11th - a very striking bird with its long tail. Something to brighten up the gloomy day. The pheasant walked down the lane before disappearing into the hedge.

This white colour phase of pheasant is not uncommon in some parts of the country with most having dark-eyes rather than pink of the true albinos. This one was presumably deliberately spared during the recent pheasant shooting season although its white plumage will make it more vulnerable to natural predators.

An hour was spent on the Maydays seawall on Saturday late morning when the tide was high, covering most of the saltmarsh. Three marsh harriers were seen quartering the marsh having hunted over neighbouring farmland. A common buzzard crossed over the Maydays fields and headed out across the saltmarsh too. A pair of kestrels were hunting over the Maydays fields.

A peregrine was in a determined hunting mood as it chased a curlew to within an inch of its life, the poor curlew calling loudly out as the peregrine chased it out onto the marshes. After some very fast flying and a few swerves, the curlew took evasive action, dropping quickly down as the peregrine continued on, heading rapidly back over the fields, having a quick tussle at a passing marsh harrier as it carried on.

Four little egrets were on the saltmarsh while a pair of red-breasted mergansers and a common seal were in the Pyefleet. Over the fields 25 linnets, 10 skylarks, 2 rock pipits, 25 fieldfares, 5 redwing, 7 corn buntings and 30+ chaffinch were all noted.

Beside West Mersea on Saturday afternoon Sean Nixon reported the black brant, 2 great northern divers, 5 great crested grebes, 20 sanderling and 6 Mediterranean gulls.

A group of grey plover gathered on the mud with a couple of dunlin and a redshank as the tide came in at the country park on Friday 10th. Also noted on the mud near the Point were 400 golden plover and 50 ringed plover.

In the grazing fields 500 wigeon, 200 teal 20 shoveler 15 curlew and 10 turnstone were present while on the pond on Friday were 8 tufted duck and two roosting little egrets in the trees.

A meadow pipit perched briefly on the clifftop fencing before flying off to join eight others over the grass on Friday.

A birdwatching visit to East Mersea on Wednesday 8th by Steve Grimwade and his Swallow Birding group had to brave the cold wind as they walked round the park and seawall. Of note were 2 Slavonian grebes, 11 red-breasted mergansers, 7 common scoter, peregrine, 5 marsh harrier, sparrowhawk, 350 avocet, 11 sanderling, rock pipit, stonechat and a total of 75 blackbirds. The group were pleased to see a red squirrel as they walked along Shop Lane.

On Wednesday 8th the black brant was reported by Mick Tracey off Kingsland road, also a great northern diver and a Mediterranean gull.
The previous day offshore from West Mersea two black-necked grebes were seen in the river by Martin Cock, also a record count of 770 cormorants flying north-west on Tuesday.

At East Mersea on a damp and dull Tuesday 7th three tufted duck and 2 gadwall were on the park pond while 500 wigeon, 100 teal, 20 shoveler, 12 curlew and a black-tailed godwit were on the fields. At the end of the day two marsh harriers flew over the Point heading north.

The regular red squirrel with the long ear tufts was back on the feeder in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday 11th. This one was nibbling a hazel nut it had taken from the feeder below.
The light dusting of snow by early morning on Saturday saw a pair of moorhens in the garden for the first ever time.