Monday, 5 December 2016

SINGING IN THE SUNSHINE

A starling was happily singing from a tree over the weekend at West Mersea, the bright sheen almost sparkling in the sunshine on its spotty chest. A flock of 1000 starlings are still feeding in the fields near Chapmans Lane.

The horse paddock by the Golfhouse was being grazed by 100 wigeon on Monday 5th, while a further 1500 wigeon were in the park's grazing fields.
From the nearby seawall by the Golfhouse a long-tailed duck was seen in the river Colne, although it flew further into the distance near Rat Island. Four common scoter, ten great crested grebes and a common seal were also in the river while earlier 3 velvet scoter and a goldeneye were seen by Martin Cock. On the mud near Ivy Dock were 200 avocets.

A walk along the Maydays seawall was in near perfect conditions with no wind and some nice sunshine too. Just a bit of a distant haze to deal with.

The marsh harriers seemed to be making the most of the good weather with two on Reeveshall and another over the Maydays saltings while another two were on Langenhoe. A common buzzard was by a young plantation at Maydays farm. Along the Pyefleet were 50 avocet, 100 wigeon, 12 great crested grebes, a colour-ringed bar-tailed godwit and a common seal. On Reeveshall 200 brent geese were feeding on one of the fields.

A flock of 70+ corn buntings by the bushes near the seawall, was the biggest gathering of the winter so far. Also in area were 50 linnets, 10 reed buntings, 2 yellowhammers, 5 fieldfares, stonechat and a rock pipit.

A covey of 8 grey partridge was in the field by Chapmans Lane close to Blue Row first thing on a frosty Monday morning.
A whooper swan was on the sea offshore from the Esplanade on Monday morning, seen by Martin Cock.

There was a chill in the breeze on a sunny morning on Sunday 4th during a walk along the Strood seawall. The tide was well out and this group of brent geese were by the sluice outflow, part of 200 brent along the channel.

A Lapland bunting flew around calling over the weedy middle field before dropping down and not being seen again. Also here were 3 corn buntings, 30 linnets, 30 reed buntings while a green sandpiper and a common snipe flew out of the ditches. A marsh harrier quartered the fields and a sparrowhawk was seen flying over Ray Island.

A peregrine swooped low after some of the lapwings and golden plover on the Chapmans Lane field on Sunday 4th.
A great northern diver was seen offshore from the Esplanade on Sunday by Martin.

Up to 500 brent geese have been feeding over the last week in the field by Bromans Lane in East Mersea.

A dull morning walk along the Pyefleet seawall between Shop Lane and the Oyster Fishery on Friday 2nd was brightened up by a nice selection of birds in the hour long walk.

Three velvet scoters and three common scoters could be seen feeding in the middle of the Colne opposite Langenhoe Point. Two red-breasted mergansers, common scoter, 100 avocets and 50 bar-tailed godwit were along the Pyefleet Channel. A kingfisher perched briefly on a tall post in the channel before flying over the seawall. A water rail called from the nearby dyke.

There was the nice sight of a red squirrel scampering back up into the trees on the north-east corner of Fishponds Wood, as I walked back to the wood.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

TOUCH OF FROST

Another frosty but calm day on Thursday 1st December saw the early morning misty-fog clear to leave a sunny day.
Several turnstones and a few sanderling were feeding along a deserted beach during the afternoon high tide.

A sparrowhawk flew across the car park in the afternoon and was seen again by the park pond where 50 shoveler were the main ducks here. A male house sparrow chirped from a hedge to the west of the car park. Feeding in the Bromans lane field on Thursday were 500 brent geese.

At the Strood the glossy ibis was seen flying over the road in the afternoon by Andy Field, the second afternoon running it has passed over the road to feed on the Ray saltings just after high tide.
A Lapland bunting was seen flying over the middle field along the Strood seawall on Thursday by Martin Cock, also green sandpiper here while 6 fieldfare and 6 redwing by the reservoirs. Later in the afternoon two velvet scoters were seen in the Colne, a chiffchaff by the Golfhouse, pair of stonechats Ivy Farm and a report of two kingfishers by the Oyster Fshery.

The flock of 1500 wigeon were grazing the frosty grazing fields early on Wednesday 30th. Five snipe flew off the main pool in the morning and three stonechats were along the seawall while a rock pipit walked over the frozen dyke.

A sub-adult little gull was seen feeding close into the Point before flying up-river. A peregrine knocked a dunlin out of the air which landed in the water below, seemingly dying instantly. The peregrine made several fly-pasts trying to snatch the bird from the water but eventually was beaten to it by a marauding great-black-backed gull.

Eight red-legged partridge were in the field by Bromans Lane on Wednesday as were 400 brent geese.
Two velvet scoter and a few common scoter were seen in the Colne in the middle of Thursday by Andy.

The sun shone brightly from dawn to dusk throughout Tuesday 29th, seen here from the park rising over the horizon near Colne Point. In the still early morning air, the chattering sound of a distant flock of 500 knot could be heard as they swirled back and forwards over the far edge of the mudflats. Two siskin flew east along the park cliff at dawn.

Numbers of shoveler continue to gather at the park pond with a record count on Tuesday of 61 by Mark Nowers. A snipe and four little egrets were also at the pond. A flock of 25 pintail flying south over the park was an unusual sight.

The last of the sun continued to shine brightly as it slipped down out of view to the south-west from the park on Tuesday afternoon.
Late afternoon from the park, five Slavonian grebes, 12 common scoter, 25 great crested grebes and seven red-breasted mergansers were seen on the calm sea. Forty greenfinch flew around the cliff-top trees at dusk. Four hundred brent geese fed in the Bromans Lane field. Two stonechat were by the beach at Cosways.

An immature Iceland gull was seen in the middle of the river Blackwater by Martin Cock on Tuesday morning, passing his boat whilst fishing a couple of times. Later in the day three velvet scoters were seen in the Colne from Ivy Farm by Martin, also a water rail heard calling from a nearby dyke.

At the park on Monday 28th a peregrine flew over the park, seemingly driving a turnstone to seek cover inside a hedge!

On Sunday 27th forty greenfinch, 20 goldfinch, 200 teal, 30 shoveler, 2 tufted duck, common scoter were seen while Cetti's warbler, water rail and a common buzzard were only heard.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

TEAL INFLUX

Teal numbers have risen at the country park in recent days following the rain a week ago. The pools in the grazing fields have filled up with more water, providing more feeding opportunities for various wildfowl and waders. This colourful male teal above, was quite obliging as it swam along the park dyke.
On Saturday 26th around 100 teal were on the fields while 200 were present on Wednesday 23rd.

A common buzzard perched on a willow tree at the back of the fields on Saturday morning, two snipe were at the pools, 30+ shoveler were on the park pond. Towards the end of the afternoon two noisy kingfishers were heard calling at the park pond by Ian Black.

At the Point a sparrowhawk appeared to catch a dunnock from the bushes and while flying away with it, was forced to drop its prey by the mobbing crows. The pair of stonechats was still at the Point, then later seen along the clifftop. A rock pipit and 10 linnets were also at the Point.

In the river Colne 3 velvet scoter, 4 common scoter and a scaup were seen by Steve Entwistle on Saturday afternoon. The three velvet scoters were first seen in the Colne on Wednesday 23rd by Andy Field from the seawall near the Golfhouse. Also in the river that day were 8 common scoter and 4 red-breasted mergansers.

 Numbers of wigeon have remained roughly 1500 birds in the grazing fields, also the four white-fronted geese have been present all week, as have 50 greylags and up to 400 brent geese at times too.

An early morning call on Friday 25th from Chris Balchin at Colne Point, alerted me to five common cranes heading towards East Mersea. A dash to the clifftop proved rewarding as the cranes were quickly picked up in flight over the sea as they flew lazily westwards towards Bradwell.

At the park pond on Friday a female pintail emerged from underneath the weeping willow and then flew off with all the other ducks on the pond after being spooked. Also present were 2 tufted duck, 4 gadwall, 25 shoveler, 20 mallard and 50 teal. Two redwings were by the pond on Thursday 24th.
Eight siskins were with 15 goldfinches in the alders by the park pond on Wednesday 23rd and 30 linnets in the fields.

A barn owl was reported by the East Mersea road near Fen Farm late on Friday afternoon.

As dawn broke on Wednesday at West Mersea, 1500+ starlings were seen flying leaving their night roost along the Avenues, heading to feed in the fields by Bocking Hall. Also 200 cormorants passed over West Mersea at dawn as they headed out to sea.

At least two foxes were on the prowl at the back of the fields on the sunny Saturday, making the grazing wigeon very nervous. A third fox was also trying to sleep at the back of the park pond.
By mid-morning one of these foxes was seen trotting round the side of the pond passing in front of the hide, where it was snapped above. Moorhens, wood pigeons and rabbits all dived for cover as the fox came trotting past.

The moth trap was put out at the park overnight on Tuesday 22nd resulting in four December moths, one pictured above, four feathered thorns, a large yellow underwing as well as a rusty dot pearl.

Monday, 21 November 2016

SQUIRREL IN THE DRIZZLE

The red squirrel was back at the feeder in the Firs Chase garden around mid-day on a drizzly Monday 21st. It spent about ten minutes feeding on the peanuts and monkey nuts in the feeder before heading back up the cedar tree and crossing high over Firs Chase. This individual seemed to keep its bushy tail pressed snugly over its back to keep the rain off its body!

The squirrel feeder had another visitor at it when this female great spotted woodpecker was seen hacking at the front trying to access the nuts inside. This is the first bit of damage done to the feeder by the woodpecker and I guess it won't be the last either!
Just this weekend some of the other birds have also been helping themselves to the nuts with a jay and great tit seen sticking their heads inside, while a robin peered through the Perspex at the nuts. Hopefully it has been the squirrel that has taken a cup's worth of nuts from the feeder over the last three days.

Other birds noted in and around the garden on Monday afternoon were a sparrowhawk circling overhead, two goldcrests with the long tailed tits, along with one or two greenfinches, chaffinches and a goldfinch. The resident song thrush was heard singing last Friday for the first time this winter while the pied blackbird has been tucking into the holly berries.

During a very wet walk along the Strood seawall on Monday morning, a bearded tit was heard "pinging" a couple of times from the reedbed, a kingfisher flew along the dyke, a pair of stonechats was close to the caravan site, 50 linnets, two rock pipits and 3 corn buntings were noted. Four snipe were seen at various points along the dyke, while 50 mallard and grey heron were by the pond.

Along the channel 100 brent geese, 200 wigeon, 100 shelduck and 100 teal were present and the usual mix of waders with 50 knot, 10 black-tailed godwits and 2 bar-tailed godwits of interest, while 500 golden plover were on the fields up by the houses.

On Sunday 20th a bearded tit and kingfisher were seen along the Strood seawall by Daryl Rhymes who also saw a goosander, great northern diver and 7 eider off West Mersea.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

STROOD GLOSSY IBIS

The four Eurasian white-fronted geese were still in the grazing fields at Cudmore Grove on Friday 18th. These geese photos were taken by Andy Field during his visit to the park.

The two white-fronted geese youngsters are still behaving as siblings, despite one arriving several days before the other with its parents.

The white-fronted geese continue to feed alongside the greylag geese - of which 94 birds of the latter were present on Friday.
Two common scoter were seen in the river Colne by Andy who also saw a merlin crossing the river and a distant peregrine on its regular Geedons perch.

Also seen at the park on Friday three common buzzards flew over the fields on the northern side from Ivy Farm heading west, one buzzard perching in a tree by the pond. On the park pond were 17 shoveler, 15 siskins were in the alders, while a stonechat and two rock pipits were at the Point and 400 brent geese grazed near Ivy Farm.

Along the Strood on Saturday 19th, a flock of 500 golden plover enjoyed the sun whilst roosting on the mud. Nearby fifty knot were feeding on the mud, while a greenshank fed along the channel bottom.

A cursory scan of the Ray Island saltings produced the unexpected sight of a glossy ibis late Saturday morning. The bird was first seen in flight as it was dropping back down to feed on the saltmarsh. After a few minutes it took off and flew leisurely away, circling a couple of times showing off its distinctive profile and the sun highlighting the green sheen on the wings. It soon dropped down out of view near the Ray Channel. Later on the bird was seen again by Martin Cock mid afternoon, when it provided good views from the Strood seawall as it fed on the Ray saltings.

A small flock of brent geese fed by the sluice outflow on the Strood channel. A marsh harrier was seen over the Strood causeway while later in the afternoon, a peregrine was noted by Martin.

Inside the Strood seawall there was no sign of any Lapland buntings in the morning although other small birds included 100 linnets, 25 reed buntings, 30 skylarks, a singing corn bunting and a pair of stonechats. A kingfisher was seen along the dyke, green sandpiper flew out of the ditches, two kestrels hunted over the fields and two rock pipits were on the saltmarsh. 

In East Mersea a common buzzard flew over the road heading towards Fen Farm early on Saturday morning.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

WARY WATER RAIL

The water rail emerged from the thick cover of the reedmace at the side of the park pond, on Wednesday 16th. It walked along the recently cut marshy edge in the nice sunshine, although typically very wary and nervous. It wasn't long before it soon scuttled back into cover.

A flock of six siskins were flying around the alders by the park pond on Wednesday as was a flock of 40+ goldfinches. Forty little egrets gathered to roost while 2 tufted ducks and 4 gadwall were present.

The waxwings at the country park have been very elusive, showing only briefly over the last few days in the car park. They were first seen on Sunday afternoon, then again on Monday morning a couple of times up until 10.30am.
On Tuesday two waxwings were heard calling and seen perched on a bush beside the car park for a couple of minutes at about mid-day. They flew off north but half an hour later they were seen flying back over the car park and landed briefly in a tree in the south-west corner of the park. The two birds then flew west towards the caravan site and weren't seen again.

There was a report that five waxwings were seen on Wednesday afternoon at the park at 2.30pm, although there hadn't been any sign of them in the morning or at the end of the afternoon.

The greylags were enjoying a good splash around in the main pool in the grazing fields on Wednesday, now that it is filling up with water. Also in the fields were 1000 wigeon and 300+ brent geese feeding.

On the mudflats from the park a big flock of 1000 knot circled round a couple of times before landing to feed.

Very surprised to see this freshly marked painted lady in mid November by the park beach on Wednesday morning. The area by the concrete ramp down onto the beach was just sheltered enough from the wind, that the butterfly could enjoy some nectaring on some golden samphire flowers.

A few moths were noted after the mild night on Tuesday with this sprawler found resting on the leaves outside the trap the next morning. The only other record for sprawler at the park was seven years ago. Other moths noted were large yellow underwing, feathered thorn, November sp and red-green carpet.

A red squirrel was seen crossing the East Mersea road into the old PYO field carrying a nut, early on Monday morning as I was driving along. A red squirrel was also reported being seen near gardens on the East Mersea road near the Oyster Fishery lane. A red squirrel was also seen by my wife Nolly feeding at our nut feeder in Firs Chase on Thursday afternoon.

Monday, 14 November 2016

WAXWINGS REAPPEAR

The small flock of seven waxwings were still at the country park on Monday 14th, showing on and off for the first half of the morning in the drizzle. This bird was perched just a few feet above my portacabin office in the car park and sat patiently while I took this photo in the dull light. Even in the dull conditions the crest gives the bird a very distinctive silhouette.

Andy Field managed to drag himself off his sick-bed so that he could take these three photos of the waxwings, whilst sitting in his car.

The waxwings were first noticed back in the car park about 8.30am when about five birds stayed for an hour or so feeding on some of the rowan and hawthorn berries near the buildings. Some of the birds were doing some fly-catching from the tops of the trees. The birds then flew north-west towards Bromans Lane. After about forty minutes the waxwings were back in the car park again.

Whilst standing in the middle of the overflow car park, I was able to enjoy the sight and sound of the waxwings perched up on three different sides of the car park, providing a surround-sound of trilling notes!
By 10.30 the birds had vanished despite being seemingly quite settled. Several other birdwatchers came late morning up until mid-afternoon but despite looking, there was no further sign of the waxwings.