Monday, 29 October 2007


Sunshine returned on Monday 29th after the dull and showery yesterday. Best conditions were in the middle of the morning when the clouds cleared and before the breeze picked up. East Mersea Point was peaceful and calm. Amongst the autumnal colours on display near the beach is this wild Japanese rose-bush with its reddish-pink leaves. Having a bit of sunshine seems to make many of the autumn colours richer and brighter.

The recent high tides have left lots of water on the saltmarsh, which struggles to drain away like it used to because the beach erosion is blocking up the main creek. However the ducks don't mind these pools and a few wigeon, teal and mallard were all happily feeding here.

On the seawall 10 reed buntings were feeding with a few meadow pipits and three stonechats. In the sea-blite bushes at the Point was another small group of reed buntings. Overhead a yellowhammer decided to leave the Island, flying strongly across the river to Brightlingsea. Five skylarks and a rock pipit were also seen in the air near the Point. A flock of 20 goldfinches fed on the thistles in the grazing fields. A flock of 20 curlew gathered in the fields to roost during the high tide.

A family of mute swans swam serenely along the dyke surveying the scene. The three brownish youngsters showed off their flying skills as the family took to the air and headed away.

There was a fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher hurtling eastwards low along the dyke. By the time I reached the park pond another kingfisher appeared from the west, so I reckon these were two different birds. The one on the pond signalled its arrival with some loud whistling and there was a split second view of the dazzling turquoise colours on the back as it headed to a branch overhanging the water.

The incoming tide in the morning resulted in the usual wader fly-pasts as they changed feeding grounds. The regular mixture of at least a dozen different wader species around the Point, provided plenty to look at. The most noteworthy were two flocks of golden plover totalling about 1000 birds, all hunched up on the mud having their daytime snooze. There are often quite a few golden plover that feed on the park at night, so I guess these roosting flocks are catching up on sleep.

Twenty knot were quite close in while scattered as far as the eye could see were several hundred dunlin. Some of the ten avocets counted were resting in a small group, while other avocets fed nearby. Small numbers of both black-tailed and bar-tailed godwits were seen probing the mud with their long bills. Other waders seen were curlew, redshank, grey plover, lapwing, turnstone and oystercatcher. Also feeding on the mud were about 25 shelduck.

At the entrance to Brightlingsea Creek a red-throated diver was enjoying the still waters with some fishing. All round the mouth of the Colne were up to 400 brent geese, dotted along the edges of the shore. Up to 100 were grazing the saltmarsh near the Point, until something spooked them and they all flew off.

Back to the pond, 7 little egrets rested in the willows above the water and down below 20 shoveler, 6 gadwall, 12 teal and 10 mallard could be seen.

In the hedge near the pond a female sparrowhawk suddenly slipped into view without any commotion from the other birds. The sun shone into its bright yellow eyes as it stared intensely around looking for some small bird activity. After a few minutes it left the area and flew up high to the top of a poplar tree pursued by a crow.

Small numbers of siskins and redpolls passed over the park during the day with up to 10 of the former and 2 of the latter although Ian Black saw a handful late in the day by the car park.
There was the strange sound in late morning of the local tawny owl calling, followed ten minutes later by a nearby little owl.

There are still several common darter dragonflies to be seen around and 2 red admirals flew past the pond.

Saturday, 27 October 2007


After some recent chilly nights the moth trap was operated at the country park on Thursday 25th. A typically low autumnal catch resulted in twenty-six moths of only eight species. There were several of these feathered thorns, pictured above, with their rich brown colouring. The feather-shaped antennae that give the moth its name, can just be seen here on this male.

The other moths included several November / Pale November moths (identification too tricky to separate), mallow, green-brindled crescent and black rustic.

The suitably named streak moth displays its long white flashes on each wing. This moth was also seen at the park last autumn but its distribution generally in Essex appears to be scarce because of the thinly scattered distribution of broom, which is the food-plant of the caterpillars.

The overcast weather of the last few days have not been ideal insect conditions but the sun on Saturday 27th saw several common darters flying about.

Only one or two bits of bird interest for the last few days. A brambling flew west over Firs Chase calling just after dawn on Tuesday morning and later, five siskin flew east over the park.
In the grazing fields 250 brent geese were feeding, which is the first group to start using the fields this autumn. It is always a welcome sound hearing all the geese chattering excitedly and noisily to each other as they munch their way across the grass.

Martin Cock was on a stonechat count for the Island and with his two at Maydays and another two also at Rewsalls, this brings the tally in recent days to 14 for the Island which is the highest count there's ever been here.
There was also a grey wagtail at Rewsalls on Wednesday and one flew over the park on Friday heading west.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007


After the blue skies of recent days, it was back to the grey backdrop of an overcast day on Monday 22nd. A walk alongside the Strood Channel in the middle of the day provided views of plenty of mud with the tide well out. The picture above, looking over to the Ray Island, shows barely a trickle of water in the base of the channel, although there was a good variety of bird interest here.

Four greenshank were the most interesting with their whiter underparts making them easier to spot against the brown surroundings. Fifty dunlin, 50 redshank, curlews, grey plovers and black-tailed godwits were busy feeding, while 20 brent geese, 50 wigeon and 20 teal were the wildfowl clustered along the base of the channel. Four little egrets stalked the shallow waters here too.

Lots more waders could be seen on the main expanse of mud and this uninspiring view above, looking towards the Strood causeway, doesn't convey all the bird activity going on. The regular group of 500 golden plover stood hunched up in the distance with 70 lapwing nearby. I saw this large group of "goldies" on one occasion recently whilst driving along the causeway, trying to continue their snooze while the tide came in lapping round their feet. For the keen eyed drivers passing over the Strood, the yellow-legged gull continues to be seen near the road, often on its favourite lump of concrete.

Fifty knot plodding around the mud appears to be the beginnings of the wintering feeding flock here. In recent years they have become a familiar sight along the channel. As always the redshank were the most widespread here with at least 200 dotted around.

The recently sown arable fields sloping up to the houses, seemed to be popular with various groups of birds. The biggest flock being 2000 starlings feeding noisily and furiously together. Fifty lapwings, lots of wood pigeons, a few carrion crows were also joined by several small brown birds. These were too far off to be positively identified but some were skylarks but others could've been meadow pipits with maybe corn buntings also present. Twenty linnets sat up on nearby wires while close to the seawall, a rock pipit flew over calling.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


Sunday really was a day of sun from dawn till dusk. The photo above is just after sun-rise and provided a memorable start to a clear, wind-free and endless blue-sky day. The first part of the sun-rise was a spectacular bright red orb slowly climbing over the horizon. Sadly I wasn't in a position to reach for the camera at that stage.

The calm conditions stayed all day and made it easy to hear many of the birds all around as well as being able to scan the waters of the river Colne and out to sea for birds or seals. As the tide receded in the morning there were fine views of the hundreds of waders feeding close in to the shore.
Staring into the bright sunshine at times, the challenge of identifying many of the waders in silhouette comes down to scrutinising several features such as body shapes, size of bird, bill shape, leg length, feeding action and maybe their calls. Despite lots of scanning of mudflats and checking the various wader flocks, it was all pretty much routine species and of course, enjoyable to watch.

There was one large mixed group of about 500 waders near the Point that were having a snooze as if they had been up all night feeding. A mixture of dunlin, grey plover, knot, golden plover and redshank were enjoying the sunny start to the day.

In the river 16 great crested grebes could be seen scattered along some of its length but no sign of any seals despite the perfect conditions.

More red saltmarshes on view above, at the eastern end of the Island - adding some autumnal colours to the coastal scene. Four little egrets stood hunched up as they waited for the tide to drop, a couple of rock pipits flew around calling while a high flying grey wagtail crossed over the river as it headed west.

The kingfisher was spotted hiding in a blackthorn bush close to the water of the dyke near the Golfhouse. The tell-tale turquoise colour of its back reflected down onto the water. A second view of the kingfisher was seen flying low over the grazing fields but whether this was the same bird, I couldn't say. Ann Cock saw two kingfishers together near here four days ago.

Five stonechats at various locations along the seawall was a good count for this end of the Island and it turned out that Martin Cock saw five more birds at Reeveshall today too. Also from Reeveshall he saw a male merlin on Langenhoe and in the Pyefleet a red-breasted merganser.

In the grazing fields, 120 wigeon were busy feeding on the grass and nearby 12 goldfinches fed on the few remaining thistle seed-heads. The brent geese have not started to feed in the fields yet although there were probably 300 in the mouth of the estuary this morning.

Some trees at this time of year catch your eye and this silver birch in West Mersea certainly did when the sun shone through the leaves.

I've lost count how many times I've walked along the seawall near East Mersea Point but this year is the first time I have noticed the colourful fruit, pictured above, on this bush in the reeds by the dyke. It is a type of cherry plum bush and with very tasty "plums" and yet the fruit is much smaller and rounder than regular cherry plums. Most cherry plums fell off the trees about two months ago too. Also investigating the fruit was a very tame reed bunting and a wren.

Following a recent enquiry about oak apple galls, here is what one looks like at this time of the year. Lots of the oak trees in the country park have all sorts of growths caused by the many different types of gall wasps. The wasps aren't as fiercesome as they sound and are more like small ant-like insects. This old "apple" was green and spongy in late spring and would've provided a home for many gall-wasp grubs, that have since emerged as adults during the summer.

Earlier in the week on Thursday night I had to slow down whilst driving near the East Mersea shop while a brown hare hesitated about crossing the road.

Thursday, 18 October 2007


September 15th was decreed Environmental Blog Action Day - so here is an update a few days late from the little island off the Essex coast.

Chill in the air today, Thursday 18th but at least the sun shone all day. As the leaves drop off the trees, a lot of the seeds and berries become more noticeable such as these ripe whitebeam berries in the country park. I'm sure the blackbirds and starlings will have their eyes on them and it won't be long before the trees are stripped bare.

In recent days the jays have been busy flying around the park with great big acorns in their beaks. The acorns are buried in the ground as a food-store for later in the winter - assuming the jays can remember where the acorns are buried.

The blue skies above the park brought the skylarks to life and amongst the handful that were present, was one that rose into the air singing as if it was springtime again. A fieldfare was heard calling from the car park in the morning and there was also a lesser redpoll that flew over.

I noticed lots of birds rise into the air above the recently sown arable field near the car park. Thirty golden plover, 100 lapwings, lots of wood pigeons and 250 starlings which spiralled higher and higher into the air. After lots of scanning I picked out a high gliding sparrowhawk which was obviously the reason the birds took to the air.

On the park pond there was an influx of shoveler ducks with 24 seen which is a sizeable group for here. Twenty mallard were busy displaying noisily to each other at one end of the pond, while a dozen teal snoozed under willow bushes at the other end. The loud flight call of the kingfisher was heard but not seen and later in the day two little egrets dropped in to roost during the high tide.

Despite the sunshine no butterflies were noted, a few common darters and a migrant hawker were seen, while the local adders appear to have retreated for the winter already as none have been seen for three weeks or so.

Walked to the Point for the last hour of daylight and enjoyed the calm waters of the high tide. On the shingle one of the last plants still in flower at this time of year were several clumps of sea mayweed, pictured above. A plant that has a precarious life on the shingle beaches of the Essex coast where they have to adapt to the increasing coastal erosion taking place.

The only small bird noted was a rock pipit that flew into the air calling. However I was treated to a good view of a marsh harrier passing overhead. The anxious mobbing calls of a black-headed gull high above made me glance upwards to see the harrier gliding at least 200 feet overhead, as it headed back to the nearby Langenhoe Marsh for the night.
Three large dark silhouettes of grey herons passed slowly overhead as they crossed the Colne and continued high westwards over the Island.

The setting sun provided some memorable skies which changed colours gradually over the last half hour of light. The view above is looking back west from the Point, where the high tide was just starting to uncover some mud.

Ten species of wader could already be seen feeding on the narrow strip of newly uncovered mud. The fading light was making identification tricky but there was no shortage of the familiar and excited calls from the curlews, both godwits, oystercatcher, grey plover, lapwing, redshank, turnstone, dunlin and knot.

The pink clouds were reflected in the borrowdyke with one or two coots and little grebes sending ripples across the still water. Across the dyke were the regular group of fifty wigeon in the central ditch and a few mallard.

The tranquil scene of the park beach with the flat sea and the pinkish sky reflecting on the water. It had been an eyecatching sunset that was obviously repeated elsewhere in the country because I even heard presenters on the national radio talking about it when I got back into the house.

The last bird of note for the day in the park was a little owl in silhouette, that I saw land on my bungalow chimney for a couple of minutes. After its brief survey of the surroundings, it flew off calling.

I was passed this photo of this strange corpse found recently washed up on the beach here on Mersea. Found by Professor Jules Pretty on September 12th, this is Mersea's first record of mink. It is unlikely to be the last one recorded here as there have been one or two recent sightings of mink close to the Island. It will not be good news for our local wildlife especially the water voles, if mink take up residence here.

Other recent sightings include a wheatear and fieldfare at the Youth Camp on Monday and also the regular tawny owl was seen flying along Bromans Lane on Monday night.

Sunday, 14 October 2007


One of those foggy starts to the morning of Sunday 14th with a very heavy dew. It wasn't long before the sun was blazing down from a blue sky and with no wind, it ended up being a wonderful autumnal day.

The still conditions at East Mersea Point made it easy for this family of mute swans to paddle across the river Colne from Brightlingsea. It's not often you get to admire the flat surface of this part of the river and even the swans will have enjoyed seeing their own reflections.

A few small birds feeding at the Point included a wheatear, pair of stonechats, 12 meadow pipits and 5 skylarks. A group of 7 avocets flew close-by with their black and white wings flickering in the sunshine as they headed back up river.
On the nearby mud there were the usual large numbers of regular waders such as dunlin, ringed plover, grey plover, golden plover, redshank, curlew, both godwits and avocets. In amongst one group of 15 brent geese were two juveniles and elsewhere around the mouth of the Colne were another 200 brent geese.

The familiar sound of pebbles being knocked together alerted me to the regular pair of stonechats in the grazing fields who seemed to be calling anxiously over the arrival of a third stonechat onto their regular patch. This brought the tally of stonechats for this morning to five. The group of fifty wigeon were crammed into the central ditch with many involved in lots of displaying and calling to each other.

In the main park were two chiffchaffs, the last of the summer migrants still present here.

The heavy dew early in the morning coated all the spiders' webs and silk threads everywhere you looked. Webs that had remained well concealed in bushes or in the long grass suddenly became very visible and quite eyecatching this morning.

The dew-drops on these near invisible lines of silk have separated out into individual droplets of varying sizes.

Even the spiders were coated with dew-droplets such as this common garden spider, showing its distinctive white cross on its back Last month these large spiders and their webs seemed to be everywhere, especially amongst the long grass.

The clearer night sky on Saturday night meant there weren't as many moths in the trap on Sunday morning as the previous evening's haul. The most colourful one seen was this green-brindled crescent with its bright metallic green markings. It should be a regular visitor to the trap in small numbers during the rest of October. There was even the dark form of the moth seen on Friday night here, where the white cresent mark stood out clearly on the dark brown wings.

Other moths seen included black rustic, large wainscot, L-album wainscot, yellow-line quaker, dark chestnut, mallow, treble lines, brindled green and the red-green carpet.

Saturday, 13 October 2007


Saturday 13th began with a check of the moth traps. For once the Friday night-time weather appeared ideal for insect activity as the wind had dropped, no rain was forecast, there was no bright moon and it was cloudy. As a result 140 moths of about 30 species was a worthwhile return from the two traps operating at the park. One of the daintiest and attractive of the autumn moths is this red-green carpet pictured above with its combination of green and subtle red colours.

Other moths recorded were large wainscot, L-album wainscot, mallow, angle shades, barred sallow, satellite, black rustic, streak, green brindled crescent, yellow-line quaker, common marbled carpet, mottled umber, autumnal rustic and lunar underwing.
One of the moths with the richest brown markings is this dark chestnut, pictured below.

The mild night-time weather brought out all the crane-flies who swarmed into the trap, along with several fiercesome looking ichneumon flies and thousands of tiny flies that collected in heaps at the bottom of the traps.

Birdwise on the park, the first fieldfare of the autumn was heard "chacking" but not seen, while a group of 12 blackbirds and 2 song thrushes along one of the hedges were probably new immigrants. The male sparrowhawk was glimpsed flying through the trees and the local kestrel continued to hunt over the neighbouring "weed-field". A yellowhammer called as it flew over the park, whilst at the Point a wheatear was seen on the beach.

As there was a sunny end to the day the last hour of daylight was spent along the Pyefleet. The sun set low over the pool at Reeveshall where the only ducks on view were plastic decoys, put in place by a couple of wildfowlers who hid nearby for the real ducks to fly over.

The regular pair of stonechats perched up on the fence near the Shop Lane seawall. Martin Cock earlier in the afternoon had a pair of stonechats at the west side of Reeveshall and a third bird at Maydays farm. He also saw a merlin and was able to hear some bearded tits calling from Broad Fleet on Reeveshall in the still conditions.

The only other birds seen on Reeveshall were 150 lapwings and a handful of golden plover. No real waders or wildfowl of note along the Pyefleet other than the usual suspects. One marsh harrier flew over Langenhoe Point and once the sun had dropped down, 250 rooks and jackdaws headed off the Island north-eastwards to their roost near Alresford. A little owl called from somewhere to the west of Shop Lane.


You know it's autumn when the fungi start sticking their heads up. The recent rain brought one or two familiar toadstools up on Friday 12th at the park. The tallest one commonly seen each autumn here is this parasol, pictured above. It is a fine specimen standing nearly 30 cms tall and with a top almost the size of a dinner plate. Talking of dinner plates, this is one of the tastiest mushrooms around and this one was very lucky to have had a stay of execution and not end up being taken home for supper.

Another tasty mushroom is this shaggy ink cap which has just appeared overnight in the park. Again I resisted the temptation to pick it, especially as this was the only one around. Maybe I shall wait until I see a few more before collecting one for the pot.

The moth trap was put out late on Thursday night and the cool clear sky did not make for a productive night. However one of the interestingly named moths is this quite common satellite moth with the two tiny white specks looking like satellites to the large white dots.
There were only about 30 moths of 12 species found including barred sallow, L-album wainscot, mallow, black rustics and lunar underwings.

The clear night was the typical condition for noting the redwings arriving from Scandinavia and at least two were heard calling in the darkness as they flew over the park heading westwards.

It turned quite bright at times and several common darters, like this colourful male basking, could be seen around the park in various places. Other dragonflies seen include the larger southern hawker and the migrant hawker. The shelter provided by the cliff, allowed two large whites and a small white to flutter along the beach.

The tacking calls of a blackcap was heard from one bush and a chiffchaff calling out too, were the only late summer migrants noted around the park. At the park pond 7 shoveler were seen but no sign of the kingfisher today.

At dusk a little owl started calling from the nearby caravan site and was immediately answered by a second bird 400 metres north near Bromans Lane. The tawny owl also started off the evening with lots of vocal activity along Bromans Lane.

Ian Black saw a common buzzard flying westwards across the Strood earlier in the day

Wednesday, 10 October 2007


Autumnal feel to Wednesday 10th at the country park with leaves turning and lots of berries everywhere. On one section of slumped cliff behind the beach is a clump of sea buckthorn with one bush covered in orange berries. This clump of bushes seems to have flourished more since they slumped down two or three years ago. The berries are popular with the birds, so they might not last long.

The park pond was paid a visit by the kingfisher who announced his arrival with lots of loud whistling before perching in a sallow bush. The colourful reflection of the bird could be seen on the calm water below. After a few minutes of resting and preening, it disappeared into another nearby sallow bush and not seen again. On the pond were about 20 mallard, 10 teal and a couple of shoveler as well as the usual coots, moorhens and little grebes.

This was the first day of the autumn that the wigeon have been seen grazing on the park fields with 50 birds seen. The fields have become a popular grazing site for the wigeon with numbers increasing every winter. Numbers peaked earlier this year at 750 in February and along with the hundreds of brent geese, there wasn't much grass left for them to eat.

The brent geese are still out in the estuary at the moment feeding on the algae on the mudflats with 50 out from the park and another 100 beside Brightlingsea. One small group flew past with one or two young being seen, so that is a good indication that the brent were able to breed in Siberia this summer.

The pair of stonechats flew onto the bushes on the seawall and perched prominently on the top. As I walked along the path towards them, they flitted along the seawall changing perches with lots of wing-flicking and also loud chacking calls - just like someone knocking some stones together.

The dusk chorus came to life as daylight faded and the tawny owl called from Bromans Lane and the little owl from some trees just north of the park.


Plenty of rain dropped out of the sky during Tuesday 9th with nearly an inch (23cms) recorded here on Mersea. For this normally dry corner of Britain, this amounts to quite a soaking. As the last of the rain clouds headed off west late in the afternoon, a bright rainbow arched over the park with a faint outer rainbow visible too.

The main tit flock was seen in the car park early in the day with nearly 40 birds working their way through the bushes and trees. Long-tailed, great and blue tits were the main members with a few chaffinches and 2 goldcrest also joining in the big forage. Two song thrushes flew around fast and high, in a manner that suggested they were newly arrived migrants.

There was only a short period at the end of the day for a walk before it got too dark. There were some strange clouds reflected in the park borrow-dyke as darkness descended. It was nice and calm and the tide was well out with great clusters of waders lining the outer edge of the mudflats.

In the river there was a small group of six great crested grebes in the middle of the river Colne. It seemed as if no-one had walked the seawall in the afternoon as 20 wigeon had been able to feed undisturbed until I walked the path. The only small bird of note seen was the male stonechat was seen perched up on a bush near the seawall. Heading east over the park to nearby mudflats were 120 lapwings.

As the light faded the clear yelping calls of a little owl was heard just to the north of the park and then the Bromans Lane tawny owl joined in the dusk chorus. Judging by the calls this male bird appeared to head north-east away from the Bromans Lane towards the Ivy Lane area.

Monday, 8 October 2007


A walk onto the Strood seawall on Monday 8th produced a surprising variety of small bird activity for once. Finding flocks of small birds out on the fields is becoming scarcer these days and will become harder as winter sets in. The hawthorn bushes may have lots of juicy looking berries but most of the small birds are leaving them alone. The main activity seemed to be centred around the hedgeline alongside the unofficial path pictured below.

At least 50 corn buntings were flying around in small groups between the reedbed in the dyke, to nearby bush tops as well as flying onto the ground to feed. This reedbed area is where they have been roosting at night, so this group didn't appear to have flown very far in the six hours since dawn.

The other flock of birds to perch on the bushes here were 25 linnets, part of a group of 40 in the area. Small groups were breaking off from the main flock to feed on the tideline on the seawall where seeds may have been washed up.

A pair of stonechats perched prominently on tall plant stalks on the seawall before flying over to join the buntings on the bushes. Two reed buntings flew across the reedbed, flicking their tails nervously when they landed. Passing overhead was a rock pipit, calling several times as it flew.

A green woodpecker gave good views as it fed along the top of the seawall, presumably after ants on the ground. It kept having to flew a short distance ahead of me as I approached, each time showing off its yellow back whenever it opened its wings to fly. After hopping and flying lots of short distances along the path, it headed out across the mud and Strood Channel, heading over to the trees of Ray Island about a quarter of a mile away. It didn't take it long to cross over the channel with its big powerful wingbeats. No doubt it was going to check out the ants on the Ray.

Saying goodbye to one creature leaving Mersea but I was soon pleased to welcome a painted lady crossing onto Mersea from Ray Island in return. It fluttered low over a field and then rested on some bare earth. The only other butterflies seen on the walk were a red admiral and some small whites, also common darter and southern hawker dragonflies noted.

Some mud was becoming exposed along the Strood and one little egret was checking out the brushwood sea defences, hoping for some trapped fish-fry. Two brent geese were noted in the channel.

Of the waders a bar-tailed godwit and two knot seen near the Dabchicks Club, were the most noteworthy for the area.

A pear tree is growing in the reedbed with some branches already turning a deep red colour. The bush provides a good vantage point for many small birds to survey the surroundings.

One of the paths onto the seawall was buzzing with insects as they fed on the ivy flowers. Some clumps finished flowering over a month ago with others just reaching their peak at the moment. The cloudy skies meant no butterflies were on show but bumble bees, wasps, hoverflies, flies were swarming all over the flowers.

Towards the end of the walk the peace was shattered by a very low-flying army helicopter which passed overhead scattering bird flocks in its wake. In the distance near the Strood Hill about 500 wood pigeons settled back down onto the fields once the helicopter had gone.


Headed along the north side of the Island on Sunday 7th as far as the parish boundary between East Mersea and West Mersea. For most of the walk there was the colourful red saltmarsh to admire along the side of the seawall. The glasswort, also known locally as samphire, is creating carpets of red across many sections of the saltmarshes around the Island.

The tide was on its way out leaving more and more mud exposed. There was only a slight wind so viewing conditions were almost ideal but it needed lots of patience and scanning to find the birds of interest.

Along the seawall. 3 rock pipits flew past calling in the company of meadow pipits. The only birds on the Reeveshall pool were 6 little egrets, some of the 20 birds seen along the Pyefleet Channel.
The pair of stonechats were still present along the fenceline at the Shop Lane end and the same kestrel seen yesterday was still present. In fact the kestrels appear to be more obvious recently on both Mersea and Langenhoe, so they may have had success at breeding with 3 birds seen on both sides.
The most interesting birds were seen whilst scanning around fom the seawall near this spot pictured above, on the edge of Maydays and Reeveshall Marshes. First a green sandpiper flew out of the dyke, then the sharp whistle of a kingfisher was heard a few times but not seen and then a female bearded tit was seen in the reeds. This is the area where the bearded tits bred earlier in the summer and a male was seen by Martin Cock yesterday, so they are still hanging around this area.

The waders along the Pyefleet suddenly got interesting to look at, when up to a thousand of several species flashed passed. When I looked up the Channel to where they had been feeding, I could see a peregrine harassing some poor bird, dropping sharply down on it but without any luck in catching it.

Good numbers of grey plover and dunlin raced down channel with a few knot, ringed plover and redshank mixed in. Two greenshank were seen later and a flock of 200 lapwing were very noisy on Pewit Island. More groups of shelduck were being seen as numbers build back up for the winter. Near the fresh-water outflow at Brightlingsea there were about 150 brent geese to be seen.

On Langenhoe there were 3 marsh harriers, a nice flock of 150 goldfinches flying around, 2 snipe and 2 green sandpipers. In the Channel two great crested grebes could be heard calling to each other with their strange eery calls. A juvenile sandwich tern flew along the channel heading eastwards.

Sunday, 7 October 2007


Managed to squeeze in an hour's walk in the middle of Saturday 6th along the Pyefleet and as always it turned up one or two surprises to make the walk worthwhile. Near to this Reeveshall dyke pictured above, were a pair of stonechats using the fenceposts as look-outs for locating insects. A young kestrel was happy enough to stay in the area flying from bush-top to bush-top as it too liked to have a vantage point. A brightly marked male yellowhammer also found a bush near the dyke to perch on, before flying off.

For once the near side of the Pyefleet Channel was almost wader-less despite plenty of mud being exposed. The only waders of note were two greenshank on the far side. Lots of black-headed gulls were sitting around on the mud or flying up and down the Channel. My eye was drawn to one gull with pure white wings which turned out to be the scarce Mediterranean gull. This adult in its winter plumage flew around with the other gulls, occasionally swooping down to try and pluck something off the water.
A young common tern which also flew slowly along the Channel, may be the last one to be seen here this autumn as most of the others have already left for Africa.

As the summer migrants head off south, the winter migrants continue to arrive and a group of 12 brent geese flew towards Langenhoe Point. A rock pipit was also the first one seen along the Pyefleet this autumn, as it flew past calling.

The Reeveshall pool was deserted with only a little egret to be seen. Scanning the distant Langenhoe Marshes, there was the familiar sight of a marsh harrier flying slowly along. However a big raptor perched on a bush was closely scrutinised and when it took off, the pale underside to the wings revealed it to be a common buzzard - and quite a darkly marked bird. A kestrel was seen to repeatedly dive down on the buzzard to try and drive it away and even a magpie joined in the mobbing.
I later discovered that Martin Cock had seen this same buzzard a couple of hours earlier flying over Maydays onto Langenhoe where he saw the bird occasionally hovering in the air as it hunted for food.

A common seal briefly surfaced near Pewit Island before dropping back down and out of view.
The second hour's walk was the dusk patrol along the Strood seawall, checking out the various roosting habits. It is still pleasing to see the notable roost of at least 40 corn buntings dropping into the reedbed that is pictured above. Even with the light virtually gone, the birds could be heard trying to settle into the reeds, fluttering about and swopping locations, as they tried to feel secure for the night. The only pied wagtails noted, appeared to head over to a small pond at the back of the fields where they may have roosted in some reeds there.

Across the channel 8 little egrets perched up in a tall tree on Ray Island for the night. Along the Strood Channel winter wildfowl are becoming noticeable with two brent geese and 50 wigeon seen. The fading light made wader identification tricky but there were plenty of calls coming from them. Two greenshank were located in flight after they called out loud. The noisiest group were 600 golden plover on the far side, all whistling to each other as if they were itching to fly off.
As the darkness descended two pipistrelle bats were seen out hunting over the saltmarsh from the Dabchicks with one bat heading well out into the main channel amongst the boats.


Not much to report for Friday 5th although the sun did make one or two appearances including one of its familiar farewells pictured above, dropping low behind the Strood Channel.

A group of five siskins flew over Firs Chase and landed in the top of a cedar tree cheerily calling out to each other. These small greenish coloured finches soon took off showing their yellow wing bars but then settled back down on a neighbouring cedar.

A few years ago there was the nice surprise of some crossbills which landed in these trees, now these siskins were able to enjoy the good views from this lofty look-out. Most siskins at this time of year on Mersea are just passing over whereas ones seen in the winter usually stop off and visit bird feeders in the gardens.

Andy Field had a odd-looking freshly fledged turtle dove in his garden consorting with the collared doves. Turtle doves have been quite scarce on the Island this summer so it's likely that this bird is just passing through.

Thursday, 4 October 2007


The cool north-easterly winds of recent days gave way to warmth and clear blue skies on Thursday 4th. This branch of a white poplar tree shows the bright blue sky contrasting nicely with the silvery white undersides of the leaves. Many leaves on the trees are not only changing colour but many are already falling to the ground.

Also enjoying the afternoon sunshine from the tops of some trees was a "charm"of about 30 goldfinches, happily twittering to each other. A small flock of 10 chaffinches fed near the edge of the car park in the morning. The first redwing of the autumn here at the park passed over the car park in the morning followed by the first rock pipit of the season here. Five swallows flew rapidly across the park.

Three little egrets perched up in their usual vantage points in the willow tree beside the park pond. The regular teal, shoveler, gadwall and mallard were busy feeding or snoozing round the edge of the pond.
A red admiral fluttered very low across the water whilst in the trees nearby lots of migrant hawkers, southern hawkers and common darters were either sunning themselves or dashing after the flies.
The moth trap was checked earlier in the morning and about 50 moths of 11 species is probably an average catch for this tie of year. There seemed to be just as many moths resting up in the grass near the trap, rather than actually inside the trap. The most colourful is pictured above and is the barred sallow, a regular visitor to the trap over this next month.

The first feathered ranunculus of the autumn was noted, the first of several no doubt that will be seen over the next month or so. Familiar autumn moths in the trap and similiar to the catch on Sunday night.

The clear skies during the day provided a bright sunset to enjoy from the country park. As the light faded the calls of the local little owl and the local tawny owl in Bromans Lane could be heard in the park.

On Wednesday 3rd the kingfisher was seen flashing along the dyke heading back to the park. Bobbing on the high tide at the Point were six brent geese.

The most unusual bird of the autumn so far was a ring ouzel that turned up in the garden of Martin Cock and fed on the rowan berries.The bird kept returning to the garden with a couple of blackbirds during the morning but was not seen in the middle of the afternoon.
There seemed to have been quite an influx of thrushes from the continent in the morning as Martin saw about 30 blackbirds in the bushes along Shop Lane, also 2 redwings here. By the seawall the male bearded tit was seen and lots of swallows passing through.

Martin visited the East Mersea Youth Camp area and saw a turtle dove which is a late sighting and also the unusual sight of 4 green woodpeckers together.