Friday, 30 November 2007


The weather may have been dull along the Pyefleet Channel on Friday 30th but the variety of birds seen, certainly made the visit worthwhile. Only 200m section of seawall was walked but the Pyefleet didn't disappoint with plenty of bird activity in all directions.

A check of the tide-times suggested that the early afternoon visit would see the incoming tide, bringing waders closer to the shore. The incoming tide also brought one or two interesting birds swimming into the Pyefleet. The least expected was a red-throated diver which after one or two dives, flew further into the Channel. There was the added bonus of being able to see a marsh harrier in the background over Langenhoe, in the same field of view.

There was lots of marsh harrier activity with five birds seen mainly over Langenhoe, including one nicely marked male which at one point crossed high over the river Colne, sending flocks of waders beneath it into panic. I watched one female harrier fly low over the saltmarsh towards me before suddenly banking sharply away when she probably decided she had flown too close to me on top of the seawall.

Most of the dozen red-breasted mergansers seen, drifted in with the tide and one group of males were seen displaying very energetically to each other whilst bemused females looked on. A dark brown diving duck seen in the distance, was probably a female common scoter - one had been seen here yesterday.
Lots of the usual wildfowl seen included 200 wigeon, 100 teal and about 50 shelduck. For once brent geese were conspicuous by their absence with only two seen briefly in flight.

The timing for wader watching was perfect with thinly scattered groups across the mud, coming together into large concentrated flocks on the nearside of the Channel. Black-tailed godwits, pictured above, caught the eye with at least 100 feeding close in. Closer inspection revealed at least three paler-looking bar-tailed godwits alongside and a couple of avocets too.

The biggest concentrations were 500 knot and 1500 dunlin that congregated on the mud to have one last feed as the tide swept in beside them. Other waders gathered here were 70 grey plover, 100 redshank and a small group of turnstone. On Langenhoe Point there was a sizeable group of about 500 lapwing, which were forced onto the nearby saltings when the tide came in.
A green sandpiper was heard calling from the Reeveshall pool direction.

Small birds of note included a grey wagtail that crossed the Pyefleet, passing overhead as it flew westwards, a pair of stonechats and a yellowhammer. A flock of 12 finches flying along the saltmarsh were probably linnets but I did wonder if I heard one call like a twite. In a nearby hedgerow there were 10 fieldfares perched high on some bushes.

Beside the Shop Lane wood four siskin flew overhead calling and following some poorly imitated calling back to them, I was treated to close views when they landed in a tree above my head. At least three goldcrests were also heard calling from the wood and a green woodpecker was seen too. A couple of fields away a duet from two little owls yelping to each other, sparked a third bird to answer back from nearby hedgerows.

Richard Allen visited this section of the Pyefleet yesterday and noted 4 marsh harriers, peregrine, common scoter, 12 pintail and a green sandpiper. Later from the West Mersea Hard, 3 shags, red-throated diver, 20 great crested grebes and two merlins were seen by him too.

Monday, 26 November 2007


One of the regular sights around Mersea these days is the little egret and on Sunday 25th, this one seemed more obliging than most while it was stalking a saltmarsh pool near East Mersea Point. A short while later two others flew past me calling out to each other as if they were clearing their throats!

The kingfisher was seen flying fast and low along the dyke beside the grazing fields. I tracked it down ten minutes later to its favourite perch in a bush over the water near the Golfhouse. Even perched 70m or so away, the bright blue-back was unmistakable.

The tide appeared to be getting higher at a quicker rate than usual and it would appear the Island was probably cut off for probably two and a half hours. The waders in the Colne were already having to switch roost sites well before the actual peak of the high tide. Small groups of black-tailed godwits, redshank, grey plover and dunlin were gathered on the saltmarsh next to the Point.

The incoming tide brought a snoozing female common scoter close to the park shore. It then raised its pale brown face to look around and then took off, heading rapidly into the Colne.

Twenty restless fieldfares flew around various tree tops near Bromans Lane calling loudly. A group of ten blackbirds continued to feed along one of the thick hedgerows. In the grazing fields there were the usual 30 goldfinches flying around as well as a stonechat and two rock pipits near the seawall.

Good selection of divers, sea-ducks and grebes were seen again off West Mersea. Graham Ekins noted great northern diver, 4 common scoter, 3 red throated diver, shag, 14 red-breasted mergansers, 2 Slavonian grebes, 300 golden plover, 50 knot, as well as a hen harrier flying near the Strood. Andy Field managed to see the 2 long-tailed ducks flying from near Cobmarsh Island up to the Dabchicks area. He also reported that 2 little auks were seen by the Hard on Friday 23rd.

Howard Vaughan dragged himself away from the south of Essex on Monday 26th and reported that his trip onto Mersea was worthwhile. He missed the long-tailed ducks although they had been seen up until mid-day by others but did see a Slavonian grebe by the Hard. From the Esplanade there was the great northern diver, 2 red throated divers, 3 Slavonian grebes, 13 common scoters, 18 great crested grebes and an adult Mediterranean gull.
At Cudmore Grove he saw a little auk flying rapidly towards the river Colne and 2 Slavonian grebes and a red-breasted merganser.

I was treated to a wonderful duet from two rival male tawny owls in the Cudmore Grove car park on Monday evening. Having just emerged from the house at about 8pm, I stopped to listen to a close owl calling loudly. Unusually for the park a second male answered and I quickly noticed it had landed on a nearby telegraph post by my back garden, calling out loudly to the other male - probably perched 30 metres away.

The bright moonlight meant I could see the outline of the nearest owl, perching only 20 metres away from me! The two owls were answering each other's calls loud and fast for about five minutes and seemed to build up to a sort of crescendo. However once the calls became combined, they soon stopped and one male backed off to Bromans Lane.
I felt that I should've been able to tell who had been the best hooter!

Saturday, 24 November 2007


A BBC's Timewatch crew visited the country park's grazing fields on a bitterly cold Saturday 24th to look for evidence of the tidal wave that followed the well documented Colchester earthquake of 1884. Professor Simon Haslett is being asked by TV and radio presenter Vanessa Collingridge if the layer of sand and shingle discovered nearly a metre under the fields, could've been deposited there by the tsunami. Confirmation should come later after the soil samples have been analysed in the lab with the results shown on the television programme, sometime next spring.

Whilst I hovered around in the background in the fields, one or two birds of interest were noted during the morning period, despite the Arctic wind. First to show was a pair of stonechats calling anxiously on the seawall as we walked past. Several small flocks of brent geese were seen flying around the coast looking for the main flock of geese. The regular group of 100 wigeon were gathered both in the fields and in the dyke.
Three flying cygnets distracted the film-crew as they swooped low over our heads before settling on to the nearby dyke. Several little egrets flapped by as they moved off the mudflats for the high tide.

The anxious calls of some carrion crows alerted me to a male sparrowhawk flying over the fields. It disturbed 40 curlew from one field along with wood pigeons and some starlings. A short while later some curlew and ten black-tailed godwits took to the air and circled around the fields. One of the regular kestrels was hovering in the cold wind above the fields, hoping to catch a snack.

The regular group of about thirty goldfinches flew around the fields as they checked out the thistles. Three skylarks and one or two meadow pipits were also noted during the morning. The strangely unseasonal sound of a great spotted woodpecker drumming was heard and then later, two green woodpeckers were seen flying onto a tree alongside the fields.

Several thrushes made their presence noted today. Early in the morning a song thrush was again in song along Bromans Lane which appears to have inspired the mistle thrush to start singing today too. Amongst a group of about ten blackbirds were five redwing that soon flew away and one noisy fieldfare that perched up high calling.

On the park pond the first water rail of the winter here was heard calling from the reedmace but was too shy to show. Usual variety of ducks on the pond with up to fifty noted of mallard, wigeon, teal, gadwall and shoveler

Graham Ekins had a very productive visit to West Mersea with views of a short-eared owl hunting saltmarsh to the near the Strood Channel, male hen harrier also along here, two marsh harriers over Old Hall Marshes, female long-tailed duck different from the two birds seen last week and 2 snow buntings seen opposite the Victory pub. He also saw offshore 3 common scoter, eider, guillemot, 14 red-breasted mergansers, 23 great crested grebes, 2 slavonian grebes, 2 shags and a great northern diver. An excellent variety of birds for West Mersea.

Thursday, 22 November 2007


Walked to East Mersea Point with Nick Green on Thursday 22nd. The timing was perfect for enjoying the spectacle of flocks of waders arriving onto the newly uncovered mud. It made the walk worthwhile seeing this good variety of waders on display and all quite close to the beach to admire.

A group of 150 knot caught the eye whilst both bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits probed the mud side by side. The usual grey plover, redshank, oystercatcher, dunlin, curlew, ringed plover and turnstone were all in evidence in varying numbers. Passing continuously overhead were many flocks of golden plover probably totalling about 500 birds, heading up into the estuary from their high tide roost at Colne Point.

A group of 50 shelduck were seen on the water close inshore while wigeon and brent geese were also present around the coast in small numbers. Flying rapidly out of the river were three red-breasted mergansers with a further two seen still inside the Colne.

There was no sign of any snow buntings along the beach and the only small birds seen along here were three skylarks. One flock of about 25 goldfinches flew around the grazing fields, dropping down to feed on the thistles and a similar number were also seen flying west over the park.

A brief stop by the park pond revealed a nice variety of at least 50 ducks including wigeon, teal, mallard, shoveler, gadwall and 3 tufted ducks. In recent days a pair of mute swans have taken up residence back on the pond after an absence of about four months, since the parents deserted the area with their young cygnets in search of more food.

As there was no wind or rain, the moth trap was put out at the park and the grand total of seven moths were recorded with 4 feathered thorns and 3 December moths.

Just north of the Island Hugh Owen had some more good counts of the short-eared owls on the Langenhoehall Marshes. On Tuesday 20th there were 5 seen in mid-afternoon while the following afternoon he was able to enjoy the sight of 7 owls in the air together with an eighth bird sitting on a post.

There must be plenty of voles in these old grazing marshes as a barn owl, two marsh harriers and two kestrels were also seen in the area.

Monday, 19 November 2007


Walked along the highly praised "Nolly's Folly" across West Mersea's St Peters Meadow on Monday 19th. Instead of squelching through saltmarsh puddles and getting boot-loads of mud, a raised recycled plastic board-walk now ensures walkers can enjoy their visit to the area more. This essential walk-way should help to restore the saltmarsh (Site of Special Scientific Interest) which has been badly eroded in recent years by many pairs of feet.

The rock pipits seemed to appreciate it, as at least four were seen perching on it before dropping onto the nearby marsh to feed. The now familiar sight here of a little egret was seen stalking the little creeks and pools, as was a curlew.

However the rapid and fast flight of a female pheasant heading from the marsh to a neighbouring garden was an unusual sight. There was also a female stonechat perching on the sea-blite bushes, which was a bonus too, as they rarely get to this corner of the Island.

The tide was well out and all sorts of waders, gulls and brent geese could be seen along the mud of the Mersea Quarters. There wasn't much bird activity amongst the boat moorings except for a cormorant and dabchick, although at the entrance to one of the creeks, three common scoters dived for food as did a pair of great crested grebes.

There was the usual selection of waders using the mud between the Hard and St Peters with redshank, curlew, oystercatcher, grey plover, ringed plover, dunlin and turnstone all widespread and easy to see.

Around 200 brent geese were seen in several groups on the mud or in the water with one large flock of a hundred, gathered beside the freshwater stream near St Peters. This is always a popular spot for them where they can have a drink and a bathe.

Saturday, 17 November 2007


There were good numbers of waders and wildfowl seen along the Strood Channel on Saturday 19th. The brent geese numbers have been building up and there are now 500 feeding on the winter wheat fields, in the back ground of the photo above. Other than a short flight into another wheat field, the geese stayed a long way off as they grazed the far side of the fields.

Scattered along the length of the mud in the Channel were lots of resting wildfowl with up to 500 wigeon and teal and 120 shelduck. It seems like there may have been a recent influx of shelduck since my last visit a fortnight ago, maybe as more birds return from the moulting grounds off the German coast.

Two goldeneye ducks seen amongst the boat moorings were the first for the winter here while the dabchick count of 24 is a good number.

There was the usual good variety of waders to admire with 13 species logged along the Channel. The ones to catch the eye were one greenshank, five bar-tailed godwits, only five black-tailed godwits but a group of about fifty knot.

It seemed surprising to see some frost still on the ground by late morning even under the grey skies. The area of bushes along from the Dabchicks was the only place where any groups of small birds were seen. Amongst the 20 blackbirds feeding around the old apple trees were a couple of song thrushes and one fieldfare that perched on top of the bushes making its loud "chacking" calls.

Twenty linnets, ten goldfinches, ten greenfinches were also noted in the area as was a reed bunting, while along the seawall three rock pipits were noted. Martin Cock noted 3 stonechats during his walk along the seawall as well as a spotted redshank.

Graham Ekins saw 2 long-tailed ducks, 4 common scoter, great northern diver, 2 slavonian grebes and 37 great crested grebes on his visit to the Esplanade and Hard areas. Andy Field was able to add 2 velvet scoter flying into the Blackwater and also 8 red-breasted mergansers to the day's list.

On Friday Hugh Owen saw three possibly four, short-eared owls in the Langenhoehall Marshes, just north of Mersea Island.

Friday, 16 November 2007


The first frosts of the autumn were encountered yesterday morning and today - Friday 16th. The clear skies during the night continued through the day with a bright sun to take the chill off the air. At the park pond at Cudmore Grove, a group of 7 little egrets were easy to spot as they perched up in the willow tree waiting for the tide to turn.

On the pond some of the 25 mallard and 25 teal seemed very anxious about something near the edge. A closer scan revealed a fox curled up basking in the mid-day sun, very close to the water's edge. Also on the pond were several gadwall, shoveler and a couple of tufted ducks.

Beside the car park a mixed flock of tits worked their way through the bushes and trees. Amongst the long-tailed tits, great and blue tits were a couple of goldcrests calling out to each other with their high pitched calls.

Many trees have already dropped their leaves although some like the oak trees still have many leaves showing the full range of autumnal colours. Lots of yellows, browns, greens and many colour shades in between, can often be seen just in a single leaf, as above.

Rowan berries can still be seen on some of the trees round the park which seems unusual for mid- November considering how tasty the berries are for the birds. They have stripped most other rowan trees but this small tree has so far escaped the attentions of the local mistle thrushes, chaffinches, blackbirds and starlings.

Along the East Mersea road, the male sparrowhawk perched high in a poplar tree as I passed beneath it. In the large winter wheat fields, lots of lapwings and golden plovers were seen in small flocks with the main group of 700 birds feeding beside Chapmans Lane.

The main birds of note seen in recent days has been 2 long-tailed ducks first seen by Martin Cock at West Mersea Hard on Tuesday along with 15 red-breasted mergansers and 20 great crested grebes. Martin noted the long-tailed ducks again on Thursday and also three common scoters in the Hard. Bruce Brown also saw the long-tails near the Dabchicks on Wednesday along with an eider, while at the Esplanade there was a Mediterranean gull. Michael Thorley saw the first great northern diver for the winter off the Esplanade on Wednesday as well as a red-throated diver.

Richard Brown saw a water rail and a jack snipe in a pool beside the Coopers Beach caravan park on Wednesday.
Hugh Owen was able to watch six short-eared owls flying over the old coastal grazing marshes of Langenhoehall, to the north-east of the Pyefleet Channel. The owls appeared to be flying about in three pairs in different parts of the marshes.

Monday, 12 November 2007


First frost of the winter here at the start of Monday 12th. Feel of winter in the air with a light breeze blowing from the north. Perfect light conditions during the day with plenty of blue sky.
The tide on its way out in the early afternoon provided excellent views of all sorts of waders on the mud.

Along the top of the wooden posts sat 50 turnstones waiting patiently for the mud. Despite close scrutiny of these birds, no purple sandpiper was found today. One rock pipit calling loudly also perched briefly on one of these posts close to the beach.
Ten silvery-looking sanderling flashed past, eager to get to the first uncovered mud. Redshanks started to arrive in small numbers too as did the dunlin.

The biggest and noisiest flock to fly-past was a group of 300 brent geese that had been disturbed off a neighbouring farmer's field. Some geese dropped down onto the water calling loudly to each other while most followed the shoreline eastwards, to find the other main feeding flock of geese.

Further out to sea the only birds on show were several gulls. A very distant small dark bird flying fast and low looked as if it may have been a little auk but it was too far away to be sure.
Two great crested grebes displayed to each other as the light faded and the sun set.

The water in the dyke was very calm except for the activities of 10 little grebes diving and also a small group of wigeon swimming about. In the nearby field a further 100 wigeon could be seen grazing.

At the Point there were fine views of large flocks of waders heading up-river to their feeding grounds. The combined sound of their rapid wing-beats sounded as if gusts of wind were blowing past. Amongst the many dunlin and grey plover were 300 knot and 30 bar-tailed godwits.
Several small groups of shelduck totalling about 40 birds, headed back into the river and it is possible these were new arrivals from the continent.

The usual ten or so species of wader on show were quite close in to begin with. Both species of godwits feeding together made a good comparison, while 50 ringed plovers gathered on one area of the mud. Five more sanderling called out as they flew away and lots of oystercatchers, curlews and redshanks were soon onto the mud. At least five little egrets were seen having one last feed before having to head off to roost for the night.

The most eyecatching flock of waders was a dense group of about 1000 knot that appeared on the scene like a cloud of smoke, twisting and turning as they decided where to land. On the mud their dumpy grey bodies soon blended in well with the colour of their surroundings.

Where the high tide had just recently covered all this mud, there was now frantic activity from a few thousand waders, eager to feast on a chilly but calm late afternoon.

Glyn Evans had a very rewarding walk along the north side of the Island as he did the monthly wildfowl count. Ideal conditions for birds of prey were reflected by views of 5 marsh harriers, 5 kestrels, common buzzard, peregrine and a merlin. Also seen were red-throated diver, 3 common scoters, kingfisher, 6 stonechat, 2 corn buntings and grey partridge calling.

His father Pete saw 2 female / immature velvet scoters off the Esplanade at West Mersea and there were two probable little auks seen too.

Michael Thorley saw 2 little stints, green sandpiper, 5 red-breasted mergansers and 500 brent geese along the Pyefleet Channel

Sunday, 11 November 2007


It's not often you see poppies still in flower in November but this was one small clump seen in a strip of set-aside near the Firs Chase caravan site a few days ago. Today being November 11th the poppy has become synonymous with this date and it seems very apt to admire it today.

Sunday 11th provided one or two memorable birds at Cudmore Grove, on a day with a chilly northerly wind. Just starting a walk along the park beach in the morning, I scanned the sea for possible divers or grebes. Amazingly a chubby little dark bird with a rapid wing-beat flew into my field of view, which I was able to quickly identify as a little auk.
This small starling-sized seabird with black upper-body and wings with white underparts, flew rapidly westwards along the Mersea shore. It probably came out of the Colne and I followed it as it headed towards West Mersea.

The little auk is a scarce winter visitor from the Arctic and with recent northerly winds, it's not surprising to see one here. There have been several recent reports from other coastal sites in Essex including a couple seen inland at Abberton reservoir.
Little auks are probably seen from Mersea every other winter and one poor bird last winter was unfortunately gobbled up by a great black-backed gull at the Hard at West Mersea!

The immature male snow bunting was still feeding on the same short section of seawall for its fifth day, except now it had been joined by an immature female bird. Andy Field came to admire the birds and with the use of his telescope, we managed to photograph (otherwise known as digiscope) the male bird.

Both birds were very tame and allowed walkers to get quite close before flying around for a few moments, then dropping back down again. They appeared to find lots to eat, presumably seeds washed up by recent waves or blown by the wind, onto the rough tarmac surface.

The real reason why I had joined Andy on the seawall was because he had phoned me to say he had just located a purple sandpiper next to the snow buntings. He was lucky enough to pick the bird out as it flew over the sea towards him, although it was only when it landed right in front of him, was he able to confirm that it was a purple sandpiper.
We watched this dumpy, sooty-coloured wader feed along the beach with about 20 turnstones, pecking amongst the seaweed on the strandline. It flew off east with the turnstones but then continued over to Brightlingsea by itself, having only been on Mersea for about 30 minutes.

Purple sandpipers are rare winter visitors to Mersea probably because they prefer rocky coastlines more. The last one that I saw on the Island was over fifteen years ago although there have been one or two individuals seen by others since.

The male stonechat perched up on bushes near the seawall, occasionally flying up into the air to catch passing insects. A rock pipit was noted along the seawall with some meadow pipits while in the grazing fields, a group of 12 noisy Canada geese were watched taking off.
Andy saw four redwings fly across the grazing fields to land in an oak tree.

The fresh northerly wind brought some short squalls with it and during the day there were several rainbows to admire. This picture taken beside the park pond shows another imminent shower cloud to the north of East Mersea.

Plenty of duck activity on the pond with up to 50 teal, 12 gadwall, 10 shoveler, 30 mallard and three newly arrived tufted ducks. In the willow trees above were two little egrets roosting during the high tide.

Martin Cock saw two common scoters in the Pyefleet Channel today, while one was also by the Hard at West Mersea yesterday along with one shag.


This was the day of the high tide Friday 9th - a surge tide to potentially rival the devastating one of 1953. Looking at the picture above of the park beach at high tide, it all seems very benign and harmless. The calm conditions of the sea provided by this cliff from the strong northerly winds, also made the area surprisingly warm. Up to 20 turnstones clambered over the fallen heaps of sand and gravel at the bottom of the cliff.

The high tide luckily wasn't as severe as predicted but the force of the northerly wind during the early morning, had the effect of keeping the tide high. There was little mud uncovered during the early hours of the day and I noticed along Coast Road in West Mersea that even four hours before the mid-day high tide, the tide was still well in. This would've confused all the waders who were expecting plenty of mudflats on show. Brent geese and little egrets fed close to the water's edge.

The saltmarsh alongside the seawall is under the water and as soon as the first shingle became exposed, several sanderling, turnstone, grey plover, redshank and dunlin quickly arrived to feed. The regular pair of stonechats were perching on bushes whose bases were flooded and the birds may've been hoping to feed on insects escaping the water.

There was definitely no access from the seawall to the Point pictured above, as the path would've been under 2 -3 feet of water. Up to 50 wigeon, 25 teal, 50 brent geese, 20 mallard were enjoying swimming over the flooded saltmarsh, feeding on floating seeds and plants stirred up by the tide.
Most of the Point was under water although there was a mixed wader roost of 100 birds, mainly dunlin, although knot, redshank, turnstone and oystercatcher waited for the tide to fall.

The only gatherings of waders on nearby fields were 100 curlew, 300 golden plover with 50 turnstone on a winter wheat field, while 100 brent geese grazed a grass field.

Always nice to see in the winter is the snow bunting and this one below, was first seen by Ian Black three days earlier feeding very obligingly on the seawall. When it flew a short distance, the prominent white in the wings, was very striking. It paused long enough for this fuzzy photo to be taken with the digital compact.

Snow buntings are sometimes seen in small flocks in the winter feeding on the beach here at the park. This one probably felt quite at home in the strong cold northerly wind, where it is more used to the snowy mountain-tops.

At the park pond 5 little egrets sheltered low down from the wind, 6 gadwall, 30 teal, 10 shoveler and 20 mallard were seen while the blue blurr of a kingfisher was seen flying rapidly away.

There were a few corners of the park that were quite warm out of the wind and this very tatty red admiral butterfly was doing a bit of sunbathing - not that it had much of its wings to warm up! It's a wonder it could stay airborne with chunks of the wings missing.
Several common darters also enjoyed the shelter behind some bushes.

The moth trap was operated at the park during Wednesday night with another typically low autumnal catch. Of the 20 moths of 5 species noted, this scarce umber was one that caught the eye. It is reasonably frequent in the county although it was not seen at this trap here last autumn.

This December moth was another omission from last year's observations, due to the unsuitable weather for trapping. This moth despite its name has turned up a few weeks early and joined some of the November moths in the trap.
Other moths seen were green brindled crescent and a dozen feathered thorns.

There have been some wonderful autumn colours recently around the place and this hornbeam bush was still trying to cling onto its yellow leaves despite the strong wind.

A few birds of note were seen on Tuesday 6th with Martin Cock at Maydays seeing a merlin trying to catch a skylark, 3 to 4 marsh harriers, 3 stonechat, 120 wigeon, 12 little egrets, green sandpiper and a late house martin.

Also on Tuesday Richard Brown near Coopers Beach noted 500 golden plover, 9 little egrets and only 3 stonechats.
Hugh Owen saw two short-eared owls just north of the Pyefleet Channel on Langenhoehall Marsh on Sunday 4th.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


One of the well-known local birdwatchers in very unseasonal plumage - Martin Cock in his shorts in November! Looks like the very warm autumn weather has delayed Martin's moult from summer clothing to the more usual winter clothing of thick coats and woolly hat.

Met up with Richard Brown on Sunday 4th, also out birdwatching on his local "patch" between the Youth Camp and the Coopers Beach caravan park. All of us were interested to see if the short-eared owl was still around hunting the Rewsalls fields near the seawall. Richard last saw the bird on Friday but sadly it didn't show today.

We did enjoy seeing six stonechats perching up on fence-posts with some nicely marked males showing off their orange chests in the bright sunshine. Also in and around the fields were several skylarks, meadow pipits and one reed bunting, while a flock of 15 linnets fed along the seawall.
A lesser redpoll flew west near the caravan park and Martin saw a corn bunting north of the Rewsalls marshes.
There seemed to be a good scattering of pied wagtails seen along the walk with up to 20 birds noted in a variety of locations such as the beach, near caravans, buildings and alongside water.

In the dyke were 7 teal, two little grebes, 15 mallard while a little egret flew around and landed in the fields for a rest.

The walk was started whilst still high tide although it was soon receding. Out on the sea were the distant silhouettes of at least 36 great crested grebes and one red-breasted merganser. Three bar-tailed godwits flew past on their way to newly uncovered mud.

Mud was quickly uncovered by the tide in front of Coopers Beach and thousands of waders could be seen arriving from different directions. Looking into the sunshine made identifying the distant waders more of a challenge and especially if they remained still against a dark background.

The biggest groups were the golden plover totalling 1500 birds while the most numerous were 2000+ dunlin. Several bar-tailed godwits were seen on the outer edge of the mud, otherwise lots of the regular Mersea waders. Closer in to the beach were 50 sanderling scurrying around small mudflat pools with some dunlin.

Two waders I wasn't expecting to see were a green sandpiper and a snipe, accidentally flushed from a brackish pool alongside the caravan park.

A couple of plants on the beach to catch the eye was this sea holly, pictured above, still displaying the spiky blue flowers into November.
Below is the increasing common plant on the Mersea beaches, the sea spurge, also in flower found just east of the Coopers caravan park.

Sunday, 4 November 2007


Another sunny start to Saturday 3rd and a worthwhile walk alongside the Strood Channel. Perfect conditions for enjoying the walk with the tide starting to recede and the sunshine highlighting all the little waders on the mud.
The regular wintering flock of dabchicks / little grebes in the Channel has increased since my last visit here, now up to 16 birds.

Plenty of wader action to watch from the vantage point of the Strood seawall with good numbers of lots of the regular species all along the Channel. The most numerous were the 800 or so dunlin and the regular flock of 700 golden plover, whilst the most widespread were the 300 redshank.
Amongst the usual oystercatchers, curlews, grey plover, lapwing were one or two ringed plover and turnstone. The only godwits to be found were two black-tailed and a bar-tailed godwit near the Dabchicks. The most notable waders were 4 noisy greenshank and 70 knot amongst the smaller dunlin.

Also in the channel were lots of wildfowl with 200 wigeon, 50 teal, 25 shelduck and 100 brent geese who were certainly calling out the most during the walk. Two grey herons flew onto the mud and up to 10 little egrets were seen, with most feeding on the Ray saltings.

Waders and wildfowl were seen fleeing from one area of the channel and a female marsh harrier was soon found to be the reason for the panic. The harrier seemed to be in real determined hunting mood as it flew fast and low over the Ray saltings as if trying to pounce on an unsuspecting bird or animal. Once it had reached the Strood causeway, it turned round and began to fly back over some more saltmarsh, sending more birds into the air.
A second marsh harrier was seen quartering the fields on the mainland near the Feldy marshes.

The calm conditions meant that what little birds there were around, could be heard as they flew about calling. Six siskin flew west from the Island while along the seawall were at least 15 linnets. Several meadow pipits as usual but only the one rock pipit was seen. I was rewarded for walking the full length of the wall by finding a pair of stonechats perched on bushes almost near the bottom of the Strood hill.

Other notable comings and goings from the Island were several high-flying flocks of wood pigeons totalling about 200 birds flying west.These would be continental birds newly arrived over the North Sea during the previous night and heading westwards for the winter.

Also heading west from West Mersea was a kestrel which crossed amongst the moored boats to spend some time hunting for food, hovering above the grassy seawall on Feldy Marshes.
Coming back to the Island from Ray Island was a green woodpecker, quickly crossing the channel with its powerful undulating flight.

Friday, 2 November 2007


Another still and sunny morning on Tuesday 30th highlighted here at the park pond with the blue sky reflected off the water. A good mixture of ducks have gathered in recent days on the pond with up to 24 shoveler being as high a count for here. The gadwall numbers will increase as winter progresses from the current six whilst mallard and teal come and go in varying numbers each day. At least 25 mallard were present this morning with a similar number of teal hiding close to the edge.

The little egret high tide roost in a willow tree at the pond reached a new local high here of 12 birds. Seeing the tree decorated with these bright white shapes, reminded me that Xmas is just round the corner!
The brent geese numbers are continuing to slowly build up in the grazing fields with 200 seen feeding on the grass.
This eye-catching giant toadstool beside the pond looks like someone's football lying on the grass. As there was quite a good showing of them last year in this general area, I collected one for my supper - several suppers to be precise. Although it's very edible, it's texture was rather spongy like marshmallow when cooked and made for a strange addition to my pasta sauce!

The moth trap was operated on both Wednesday and Thursday nights at the park with low numbers recorded. Although there has been no wind, the skies have been clear and the temperature has dropped sharply during the night producing quite a dew. One of the regular moths seen over the last month has been this common mallow, pictured above.

This was one of ten species noted with feathered thorn, green brindled crescent, feathered ranunculus, large yellow underwing, flounced chestnut, yellow-line quaker, November sps, setaceous hebrew character also seen, as was this large wainscot pictured below.

Local birdwatchers have been busy walking various corners of the Island in recent days.
Richard Brown saw a short-eared owl, 4 stonechat and a kingfisher between the Youth Camp and Coopers Beach on Monday.

Also on Monday Andy Field saw a red-throated diver off the Esplanade, whilst along Reeveshall, there were 3 stonechat, green sandpiper, marsh harrier seen. On Pewit Island in the Pyefleet 400 dunlin, 300 black-tailed godwits, 30 knot, 30 golden plover and 30 grey plovers roosted for the high tide. A scan through 76 brent geese revealed 24 youngsters.

At Maydays Farm, Martin Cock saw a further 4 stonechat, short-eared owl, 4 marsh harriers and 50 skylarks.
On Tuesday Andy was at Reeveshall again, where there were 4 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet, 2 stonechats, grey wagtail near the pool, 4 to 5 marsh harriers and a merlin chasing some finches on Langenhoe Marshes.