Monday, 26 March 2018


A sign of spring in the Firs Chase garden on a sunny Monday 26th was this colourful peacock butterfly fluttering around the flowering cherry plum tree.

Whilst watching the male blackcap feeding on the fat balls in the garden, a chiffchaff was also seen feeding nearby in the cherry plum blossom. The male blackcap is most likely the wintering bird still with a taste for the fat, while the chiffchaff is probably a newly arrived migrant.

The confiding robin was looking closely at the compost pile in the corner of the Firs Chase garden.

Another sign of spring during the walk onto the Strood seawall was the sight of two small tortoiseshells, this one on flowering rosemary in Feldy View.

The first singing chiffchaff was from a bird in a tree by the Strood borrowdyke on a sunny Monday morning. Another chiffchaff was also seen a short while earlier by the Firs Chase caravan site.

A black brant was resting on the Strood Channel on Monday, here on the left of two dark-bellied brent geese. Also along the channel at low tide were 200 dark-bellied brent geese, 30 teal and 50 wigeon while a pair of pintail flew south out of the Ray Channel.
A sparrowhawk circled high over the fields, a green woodpecker crossed over the channel to land in the trees on Ray Island, 50 golden plover were in the ploughed field and 4 black-tailed godwits on the mud.
A distant male marsh harrier could be seen from the Hard, high over Old Hall Marshes doing its roller-coaster display flight.

On Sunday 25th during a visit to Maydays Farm, highlights were displaying marsh harrier over Langenhoe and Reeveshall, four birds seen in total, 3 common buzzards on the Mersea side, 2 little egrets, 4 red-breasted mergansers, 5 great crested grebes, 30 greylag geese, 4 Canada geese with four black-tailed godwits on the Pyefleet mud.
On the game-cover crop were 40 linnets, 30 chaffinches, 4 yellowhammers while ten redwing were near Haycocks Lane. Two muntjac deer were seen running over the Maydays fields by Martin Cock.

A walk along the Strood seawall on Saturday 24th provided views of two black brants with 1000 dark-bellied brent geese - one of the brants seen front right in the picture.

Both black brants were picked out among the large flock of brent geese as they fed on the wheat field on Strood Hill - before the flock flew off to sit in the Strood channel.
Also noted on the walk was one avocet, 5 black-tailed godwits, 50 teal, 50 wigeon, 30 linnets, 2 reed buntings while from the Hard were two more avocets and a red-breasted merganser.

On Friday 23rd one black brant was with the 600 brent geese by the Strood, also 5 common buzzards, kestrel, 100 knot, 5 black-tailed godwit, grey heron and a great crested grebe.
In the Firs Chase garden a female blackcap, goldcrest and a sparrowhawk were seen on Friday.

At the country park on Wednesday 21st a chiffchaff was heard calling near the pond. A buzzard circled over the fields near the East Mersea church while earlier in the day a marsh harrier flew over fields towards Rewsalls. A Cetti's warbler was heard singing near the Oyster Fishery by Martin.

The male black redstart was still at Coopers Beach on Tuesday 20th, here photographed by Martin Cock who also saw the immature male bird here too. Over West Mersea a red kite was seen by Martin, flying north-west over Yorick Road on Tuesday.

At the country park the barn owl was hunting late afternoon on Tuesday, a snipe was by the pond and two small 'crests' were busy feeding in bushes at the back of the pond.

The red squirrel made another visit to the nut feeder in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday 24th in the morning. This male has been making brief visits to the feeder most days over the last fortnight. It has also been seen recently in the neighbouring garden of the Marshalls.
A red squirrel has also been seen recently in the Entwistles garden in Empress Drive on 22nd and 23rd March.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


A smart adult male black redstart was found at Coopers Beach caravan park on Saturday 17th by Michael Thorley who took these two photos of it. This is a different bird to the one seen in recent weeks which was an immature male

As well as the general dark grey appearance, this male bird black redstart showed white panels on the wings. On Monday 19th while watching the adult male black redstart a second adult male and the immature male all appeared together at the east end of Coopers, feeding on the beach - as did a female stonechat.
A black redstart was also seen at West Mersea by David Allen near the beachhuts by Seaview Avenue.

A near adult Mediterranean gull with its black-head, which had been flying over the beach at Coopers, landed on the football pitch with some black-headed gulls.

At the country park the barn owl was seen hunting over the fields during the last hour of daylight on Monday. The lack of visitors onto the main part of the park resulted in 5 lapwings and 7 golden plover feeding undisturbed.

At the start of Monday a male blackcap was seen feeding on the fat-balls in the Firs Chase garden - presumably the same wintering bird that has been visiting the garden for the last couple of months. A brambling was also seen feeding under the feeders.

The frozen park fields looked very wintry on Sunday 18th with birds gathered in one or two corners where there was less snow. Still some 300 wigeon, 15 shoveler and five black-tailed godwits were in the fields, with two female pochard on the dyke. A redwing was with blackbirds near the car park.

A sparrowhawk flew over the park pond early on Sunday morning and a second bird was seen later disturbing the hundreds of waders and wildfowl roosting on the saltmarsh near the Point. In the river at the Point were two red-breasted mergansers, 4 great crested grebes, while a rock pipit and kestrel were also noted at the Point.

Saturday, 17 March 2018


The park's grazing fields have become much wetter recently, providing more marshy conditions for more birds such as this grey heron seen stalking round the pools on Friday 16th.

Up to 20 shoveler have been feeding on the main pool in the fields now that it has filled with water. Also 10 gadwall, 150 teal and 500+ wigeon in the fields on Thursday.

Seven pochard were on the park pond on Thursday afternoon along with ten tufted ducks.
A snipe was feeding by the marshy edge to the pond on Wednesday 14th and Friday 16th. A common buzzard flew west over the grazing fields and the pond on Wednesday.

Forty redshank roosted in the fields at high tide on Wednesday, also 5 black-tailed godwits seen on Wednesday and Friday. Two snipe were also feeding among the pools on Friday.
The pair of kestrels were seen noisily mating on their tree at the back of the fields on Friday. A sparrowhawk flew over the car park earlier in the morning.
A common buzzard was seen perched by the water's edge near the Strood causeway on Friday morning.

A barn owl hunted over the park in late afternoon on Thursday 15th, providing good views to some dog-walkers.
A fieldfare was by the car park on Wednesday while on Tuesday the calls of little owl and red-legged partridge were heard to the north of the park.

At West Mersea a sparrowhawk, goldcrest and 500 starlings gathering to roost were seen from the Firs Chase garden on Monday 12th.

 A grey partridge paid a visit to Michael Thorley's garden in East Mersea, near Meeting Lane.

 Michael was practicing camera techniques on a rabbit at the bottom of his garden when the image in his viewfinder changed as this grey partridge appeared into shot.

It's the first time Michael's seen grey partridge here in his garden.

Sunday, 11 March 2018


There were masses of dark-bellied brent geese all along the Strood Channel on Sunday 11th. At least 3000 birds were noted, most in the channel but another big flock rising up from the Peldon side and dropping down into the Ray Channel. Some of the geese have also been feeding in the arable field beside Strood Hill and then flying back onto the channel.

When the geese were all scattered along the channel, it was a good opportunity to scan the geese. It wasn't long before a black brant was found, this one pictured above, much blacker with a bigger white neck collar and whiter flank.

A little further along the channel a second black brant was located on the opposite side, the bird pictured facing left in the centre. The blacker back and lower neck again stood out from the other geese. This brant has less of a white flank than the other brant.
Both these same black brant individuals were also seen along the Strood on Friday 9th.
A pale-bellied brent goose was present on Friday, Saturday and Sunday along the Strood channel in the company of the dark-bellied brent.

It has been a long time since I've seen so many brent geese in the area of Strood Channel and the Ray Channel. Some of the flock feeding on the Mersea side, while others feeding on the Peldon side. On a very dull Sunday walk, the sound of all the calling geese brought some life to the area.
Something spooked all the birds off the Peldon fields and flying away from here to Old Hall were 50 greylag geese and 20 Canada geese.

Small numbers of pintail have been an unusual sight along the Strood channel and also in the air over Ray Channel. Eight birds were noted on Friday, then five in the Strood on Saturday - three of them pictured here sleeping, and then fifteen seen on Sunday.

Also on Sunday 11th along the Strood were marsh harrier, common buzzard, 300 knot, 20 black-tailed godwit, 5 bar-tailed godwit, 300 golden plover and red-breasted merganser.
Similar birds noted on Saturday 10th with common buzzard, sparrowhawk, marsh harrier, 150 shelduck and 400 knot
Birds seen during the Strood walk on Friday 9th were 2 common buzzard, 2 kestrel, 10 black-tailed godwits, 300 knot and 300 golden plover.

Little egrets have seemingly made themselves scarce since the snow. Most of them appear to have left the area when the snow began covering the ground and the watercourses froze. This little egret was feeding along the Strood borrowdyke on Sunday 11th.

The only small birds noted were  2 singing reed buntings, rock pipit, 4 linnets and 5 skylarks.

A common snipe was photographed by Stephen Marshall feeding in his Firs Chase garden during the spell of snow last week. Probably the same bird seen in our nearby garden about the same time by my wife Nolly.

A red squirrel was seen in Stephen's Firs Chase garden on Sunday 11th and a male red squirrel was seen at our feeder in Firs Chase on Friday 9th.

Friday, 9 March 2018


 As the big thaw continues, a mixed flock of knot, dunlin and grey plover were packed together for the high tide roost on the saltmarsh lagoon near the East Mersea Point on Monday 5th. In total at least 1000 waders were roosting in the two lagoons, other species seen were redshank, bar-tailed godwit and one avocet. A rock pipit flew over the saltmarsh calling.

The wet horse paddock by the Golfhouse had 100 wigeon, 30 redshank and 2 black-tailed godwit feeding in it. In the park's grazing fields were 150 teal, 100 wigeon, 100 lapwing, 10 golden plover, 5 redshank and a sparrowhawk that flew over unsettling some of the birds.

The previous day on Sunday 4th a siskin was feeding with 12 goldfinches in the alders near the park pond.
A barn owl was seen flying over the fields near Shop Lane by Chris Burr, the first sighting for a while here.

Teal numbers have increased in recent days at the country park as the grazing fields become wetter with 100 being noted on Tuesday 6th.

Birds seen around the pools in the grazing fields on Tuesday 6th included 10 shoveler, 6 gadwall, 100 wigeon, 10 lapwing and 5 redshank. A snipe was feeding by the park pond, 6 tufted duck were on the pond and the water rail was seen by the pond by Kay Paul.
In the Colne on Tuesday were 6 red-breasted mergansers and 10 great crested grebes.

A torrential downpour over the country park in the afternoon on Wednesday 7th was followed by a double rainbow over the car park. A siskin flew over the car park calling.

Offshore late afternoon were 8 Slavonian grebes and 25 great crested grebes on the sea from the park. The water rail was seen at the park pond by Andy Field on Wednesday and earlier at West Mersea 4 maybe 5 great northern divers, 3 common scoters and 12 red-breasted mergansers were also noted by Andy.

On Thursday 8th a barn owl was hunting over the fields at the back of the park's grazing fields as well the area near the Golfhouse late in the day. Three pochard were on the dyke while a male was seen on the pond, where the snipe was also seen again. Four tufted ducks were also on the pond, 40 linnets were in the fields late afternoon and a fieldfare was seen in the car park earlier in the day.

This colourful common sunstar starfish was found washed up on the park beach by one of the visitors to the park. It's one of the very few creatures washed up here by the rough seas during the recent cold snap. It's the first time a sunstar has been found on the park beach that I'm aware of.

Sunday, 4 March 2018


A colourful male brambling was spotted and photographed by my wife Nolly, as it joined other finches feeding in our Firs Chase snow-covered garden on Friday 2nd.

The little feeding station in the front garden was being well used when the snow was on the ground, here a song thrush joining the brambling in looking for seed scraps falling from the feeders.

The male brambling with its bright orange shoulders and streaked nape stood out from the chaffinches. The last brambling at the garden feeders was three months ago in early December.

Fieldfares have been forced from the fields into gardens and this one was photographed through his lounge window by Andy Field on Thursday 1st. Four other fieldfares arrived in his garden the next day but didn't stay. A blackcap was an unexpected visitor to his High Street North garden on Thursday.
Four fieldfares were also reported by Adrian Amos in his East Road garden on Wednesday 28th along with four Mediterranean gulls with lots of other gulls and a song thrush.

This is another fieldfare photographed by Andy Field during his walk to the Strood seawall on Tuesday 27th. A merlin was later seen sitting on a post on Ray Island.

The snow had everywhere covered on Tuesday 27th with this curlew trying to find food near the park pond with its long curved bill.

The bottom of the pond field is wetter and softer so more chance of the curlew finding a worm with its bill. Nearby also on Tuesday a water rail was seen in the ditch, a fieldfare in the car park, Cetti's warbler near the park entrance, 300 knot on the mud, 2 red-breasted mergansers offshore and 12 greylag geese flying over.

There were several sightings of woodcock at the park while the snow was on the ground, the first sighting was one flying over the car park on Wednesday 28th. This picture is the best of a dull shot of one watched feeding near the park pond on Thursday 1st. This bird was seen twice earlier on a walk round the park under the cliff-top trees. There were also three sightings on Friday 2nd, possibly two birds involved, one seen feeding behind the park pond. One was also seen that day in the ditch by the park entrance by Martin Cock. A woodcock was seen being flushed from a ditch by a fox near the park pond on Saturday 3rd.

A silent snipe came out of the ditch by the park gates and dropped quickly back down further along. When it took off again and landed further along the same ditch, the bird was just a common snipe, although still more confiding than usual.

The green woodpecker was having a difficult time flicking away the snow from the car park trying to expose some grass to probe for food.
A redwing, fieldfare and two song thrushes were noted on Wednesday 28th at the park, a Cetti's warbler feeding among the reedmace stems at the pond, meadow pipit on the pond ice, two little egrets roosting on the bushes and a Mediterranean gull offshore.

The beach and the nearby cliff were some of the least snow covered areas of the park. This golden plover was walking along the water's edge on a very cold and windy Thursday 1st.
Four hundred knot, four black-tailed godwits were noted on mud later in the day and a great northern diver flew into the Colne.

At the partially frozen park pond on Thursday, 2 little egrets, 50 teal, 4 shoveler, 21 gadwall, 3 tufted duck, 25 mallard, pair of swans and 3 little grebes were noted along with a muntjac deer under the trees at the back.

The cold snap has seen the unusual sight of a small flock of pintail at the park three days running. Four pintail were just offshore on Thursday 1st, then nine flew over the park and the beach on Friday 2nd, followed the next day by six of the birds resting on the ice at the park pond on Saturday. Later these six pintail were feeding offshore in the shallow water as the tide came in. One of the males had a ochreous orange stain to his white belly.
Four pintail were also seen by Martin Cock on Saturday 3rd near Ray Island.

At the pond on Friday were 50 teal, 16 gadwall, water rail, a black-tailed godwit and redshank roosting on the ice. Ten bar-tailed godwits were on the mudflats and a rock pipit seen by the cliff while a water rail and a teal were by the park entrance at dusk.

Thirty bar-tailed godwits and 300 knot were on the park mudflats on Saturday 3rd. Back in the car park the pair of house sparrows chirped as the snow started to thaw.

Friday, 2 March 2018


The beast from the east deposited a blanket of snow over the country park on Tuesday 27th.

Not many visitors to the park during the snowy snap.

Strong winds blew the fine snow under all the trees.

The park pond partially froze over with some snow lying on top of the ice.

The park's grazing fields were a winter wasteland.

A snow shower blew quickly over the park on Wednesday 28th.

Huge frozen deposits of snow and ice covered the beach between the park and Cosways on Wednesday morning.

Huge ice drifts piled up by the sea lay along the beach in front of Cosways caravan park.

The sea seemed to have bulldozed sea-ice along with pack-snow into one long drift standing at least four feet high in places. A strange sight indeed!
Higher tides the next day eroded much of the ice drifts away.