Friday, 31 October 2008


No time for horse-play when the call arrived from Bromans Farm on Friday 31st. A male black redstart had been spotted by Martin Dence around the farm buildings and in this horse paddock. The bird was actively fly-catching from the top of the wooden fence, making sallies up into the air, as well as dropping down into the grass to pick up an insect.

It was a bit of a surprise to see such a colourful and well marked male at this time of year. The bright orange tail really caught the eye as it fanned it out whilst catching insects. The main body was a dark grey colour with a black face, white under the belly and a couple of clear white patches on each wing.

Over the years, black redstarts have turned up at Bromans Farm more than any other site on the Island with nearly five sightings here. Strangely Martin phoned me the previous day to say there was a female black redstart at the farm. Sadly I couldn't make it but it soon disappeared during the day. Still no sign of the female today but in its place, a nicely marked male instead! One of the previous sightings here was in 1991 on 30th October, so a near identical time of year.

Other birds seen around the farm included one of the regular little owls perched in a hedge, attracting several anxious meadow pipits and chaffinches. A kestrel flew over the farmyard and Martin had said the barn owl was in one of the barns. A mistle thrush stayed close to a hawthorn bush covered in bright red berries. Fifty lapwings kept being disturbed off a recently cultivated field along with starlings, rooks, crows, wood pigeons and one or two curlews, whilst 7 stock doves flew overhead.

Earlier on Friday morning, had a very pleasant walk along the Strood seawall in the bright sunshine. Another very blue day with the water in the creeks, the water in the Channel and the shiny mudflats all reflecting the bright blue colour from the sky. There were plenty of waders and wildfowl dotted along the edge of the water and the mudflats as the tide crept slowly in.

The main sound along the Channel were the familiar calls coming from the 300 brent geese. There has been a noticeable increase in the wigeon and teal numbers too with about 200 of each seen. The incoming tide pushed the waders onto the last areas of mud with 100 knot noted amongst lots of busy dunlin. The other group of waders to catch the eye was a large flock of about 700 golden plover roosting close to the Strood causeway. A sparrowhawk flew off the Island, sending many of the waders into the air as it passed overhead.

A female marsh harrier flying over the Feldy marshes to the west, sent up lots of lapwing and golden plover. A couple of little egrets were seen whilst in the Channel 15 little grebes were counted.

Small birds noted along the seawall included two stonechats, five corn buntings, six reed buntings, 10 greenfinches as well as a few meadow pipits and skylarks. Two fieldfares briefly fed in a field before heading off west off the Island, a third bird was also seen earlier in some bushes.

Ann Cock had good views on Thursday of the kingfisher along the dyke by the Golfhouse in East Mersea. In the country park a fieldfare drank from a puddle in the car park.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008


The cold northerly breeze of the last few days has made it feel like winter has arrived. The clear skies at night have been near freezing with this frosty scene pictured above, just inside the country park on Tuesday 29th. Despite the chill in the air, there have been some big blue skies. There was a hint of a wintry shower mixed in with the rain on Tuesday afternoon, with a hint of hail briefly.

In some shaded corners of the park, the frost was slow to clear with some of the plants and grasses thickly covered in tiny, spiky ice crystals, as in the picture below.

Unlike many other parts of central and southern England, Mersea didn't have any snow on the Wednesday morning, nor a frost like the previous morning.

Just inside the park entrance on the Wednesday morning was a chiffchaff, calling out occasionally as it fed in a hawthorn bush. This is a late straggler of a migrant and there won't be many other chiffchaff sightings to come this autumn. Along one of the paths a group of small blackbirds flew ahead with at least one redwing heard calling. The group of about ten birds seemed very flighty and had probably arrived from Scandinavia during the night.

On the park pond a female pintail has been present for at least three days since it was first seen flying over the grazing fields on Monday. Despite there being lots of other ducks on the pond, this pintail never seemed totally relaxed.
There has been a good number of ducks and variety of species too with at least 8 species seen in the last few days. Many of the ducks stay hidden amongst the reeds but there could've been up to 150 birds at times. Mostly mallard and teal with 15 shoveler, 6 gadwall, 4 tufted duck, one pochard as well as one or two wigeon from the main group by the nearby grazing fields.

One lone swallow hawked back and forwards along the cliff-top on this sunny Tuesday morning, making the most of the calm conditions for a spot of insect catching. A group of 15 meadow pipits fed in the grassland areas, and at the Point a rock pipit was seen. Eight lesser redpolls passed over the park in two groups, calling as they went. There were also several flocks of about 300 wood pigeons flying high over the Island as they continued their westwards journey from the continent. Later in the morning a couple of red admirals and a common darter were seen on the wing.

On the last corner of mud to get covered in front of the cliff, there was the nice sight of 6 sanderlings feeding with about 50 turnstones.
Further along the beach near the Point, the regular male stonechat was perched on a bush close to the strandline. There were definitely more brent geese around the mouth of the Colne on Tuesday about 300 birds, presumably encouraged westwards from the continent by the chilly nights and the easterly winds. Eighty avocets were seen feeding on their usual section of mud near Ivy Dock, just north of the Point. A sparrowhawk was seen flying into the park on Wednesday afternoon, upsetting a few of the small local birds as it arrived.

Saturday, 25 October 2008


The start of Saturday 27th was the best part of the day with this bright sunrise across the sea from the country park pictured above, just before 8am. However the sunshine and calm conditions only lasted for the first hour, as it soon clouded over and the breeze picked up too.

There were no waders around this section of park beach pictured above, as the tide was coming in and most of the mudflats were already covered. A flock of 400 golden plover headed inland from the Point, as the high tide approached. Four red-breasted mergansers flew up river - the first group in the Colne so far I believe this winter. Five avocets flew past the Point and the last group of waders on the mud were a mixed bunch of 200 birds mainly grey plover and dunlin. Along the beach 35 turnstones fed along the water's edge.

At the park pond 15 shoveler, 4 tufted ducks, 4 gadwall were amongst the regular teal and mallard. Thirty wigeon were to be seen along the dyke but none feeding in the fields.

Near the car park 4 song thrushes were feeding on the rowan berries along with about 10 blackbirds. Five siskin flew over the park calling as they headed east. One red admiral was seen on the flowering ivy clump.

On Friday another Cetti's warbler was discovered on the Island, this time in the bushes by St Peter's by West Mersea, found by Richard Hull. This is now the fourth individual this autumn on the Island, with the other three at the country park, Maydays Farm and alongside the Strood. The bird at the park was heard briefly a fortnight ago and may still be around but there has been no sign of the others. However the site at St Peters looks ideal with sallow, thorn and bramble bushes alongside the reedbed there.

On Thursday night a barn owl was seen perched in a small tree beside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


It was a frosty start in certain parts of the park on the morning of Wednesday 22nd. This clump of nettles pictured above, covered in some chilly hoar, soon thawed out once the sun got onto them.

Two different groups of red admirals were admired during the day - the residents and the migrants. This clump of late flowering ivy in the car park had a group of 4 local red admirals feeding on it and enjoying the morning sunshine at the same time.

As the morning progressed, the passage of red admirals flying west along the beach and seawall was very noticeable. Whilst showing a group of Writtle College students around the park, we were regularly interrupting ourselves to admire another admiral flying past. The ones that we noticed close-by probably totalled about 20 individuals in the space of a couple of hours. They flew determinedly over the mudflats, low along the beach or adjacent fields without pausing. They'll continue to follow the coastline down to the continent where they will probably spend the winter in Spain or southern France.

Also seen flying around the park were 2 large whites and a couple of small coppers as well as one or two common darters and a southern hawker dragonfly.

The tide was on its way out during the morning and so there was a good selection of a waders to admire early on. Amongst the redshank, oystercatchers and black-tailed godwits were 25 knot. Overhead there was a typical large winter flock of 1000 golden plover high up, with their white underwings flickering against the bright blue sky as they flew west. Later on there was a group of about 200 of these "goldies" which roosted on the mudflats.

Also later in the morning on the mudflats were 100 brent geese feeding on the algae. There has been a noticeable increase in geese numbers in the last few days with a further 100 birds seen in the Colne over by Brightlingsea and Langenhoe.

Many of the waders on the mud by the Point were distant, although a group of about 70 avocet were easy to spot in the bright sunshine. A nice male pintail flew over the Point, which was rather unexpected, while in the bushes 5 reed buntings perched up and two rock pipits were also noted.

The regular stonechat was seen on its favourite bramble bush by the grazing fields. During the morning 5 late swallows passed over the park but in the nice weather, they stayed around, hawking around the trees and fields, one pair perching up on some wires. Siskin and redpoll were also noted flying west over the park.

At the park pond shoveler numbers got boosted when a group of ten joined the five already present. A male pochard was a new arrival too which added to the five other species of duck- gadwall, wigeon, teal and mallard. A little egret stood on some reedmace by the margin. In bushes near the pond a chiffchaff and blackcap were heard calling.

There are several clumps of these sea rocket plants with their delicate lilac coloured flowers, growing just above the strandline on the beach at the Point. Most other plants have finished flowering but this one still provides a bit of colour into the autumn. It's quite common wherever there are suitable sandy and shingle beaches.

A weasel was seen scampering along the path on the top of the seawall, no doubt eager to catch a few of the brown rats that live in the seawall.


Made the most of a fine end to Tuesday 21st, by spending the last hour alongside the Pyefleet Channel. This might be the last opportunity for several months to enjoy an after-work stroll before the clocks are brought forward this coming weekend.

It was one of those memorable visits, taking in about a mile of the Pyefleet, as the sun set below a clear sky. For once there was little wind, the water was calm, no-one else around as far as the eye could see other than the sheep, cows, of course the birds and at least one brown hare. The high tide meant there were no wader activity on the mudflats, so the whole area was unusually quiet and peaceful. It was so still the sound of a squealing and calling water rail could be heard being uttered from across the water on the mainland at Langenhoe.

Despite the water being flat and calm along the Pyefleet, the only birds noted were 3 great crestede grebes. At various points along the saltmarsh were small groups of birds, ten brent geese with 50 oystercatchers at Langenhoe Pt while curlew, redshank, grey plover, lapwing and 50 shelduck gathered on Pewit Island. A greenshank flew up the channel calling loudly and there was also a fly past by a mixed wader flock of dunlin, grey plover and 25 knot.

The Reeveshall pool had 200 teal on it along with a few wigeon, 5 black-tailed godwits, heron, mute swan family and little grebe. The peace of the area disappeared when several groups of noisy greylag geese totalling 150 birds, arrived for their night-time graze amongst the sheep. Overhead small numbers of little egrets headed east along the Channel to their roost.

One barn owl was out hunting along the fields and ditches, while a male and later a female marsh harrier flew over Reeveshall on their way to the Langenhoe roost. Two other marsh harriers were already flying around the reedbed on the Langenhoe Point.

The moth trap was put out on Tuesday night because it wasn't raining and it wasn't windy. However the clear sky dropped the temperature, so the moth haul was low. This mallow pictured above has been noted on a few occasions in the last fortnight and is quite a common moth. Only ten moths of 6 species noted including green-brindled crescent, red-green carpet, yellow-line quaker, barred sallow and November sps.

Monday, 20 October 2008


Found this dead mute swan on the ground under some overhead power lines, at the back of the fields along the Strood, on a windy Monday 20th. The swan had been dead for some time and it is possible it could have flown into the wires and sadly died. There is a pond nearby and there were quite a few white feathers scattered about but it would seem unlikely that an adult swan would get caught and killed by a predator such as a fox.

Despite the strong wind which muffled many sounds, there were several small birds flying around and feeding in the mixture of set-aside corners, newly spouting sugar beet and newly cultivated arable fields. Fifty linnets obligingly flew around and perched up the overhead wires, 20 skylarks also called as they got up out of one of the fields. A stonechat and 3 reed buntings were noted along one of the ditches.
The path beside the Firs Chase caravan site provided a bit of shelter from the wind and amongst a foraging tit flock were a couple of goldcrests. There was a small group of blackbirds feeding in an overgrown corner too.

Despite the very low tide and plenty of mud on show along the Strood, there wasn't really anything of note. One brent goose, 7 little grebes, 4 little egrets, small group of wigeon and teal were the main highlights other than the usual spread of redshank, curlew and grey plover. The main wader flock was a roost of 400 golden plover.

A nicely patterned male marsh harrier was seen battling into the wind over the Feldy fields on the mainland.


Sunny weather continued into Saturday 18th, providing nice conditions for a walk along Coast Road in West Mersea. This is the view looking back into the Mersea Quarters from St Peters with the tide coming in.

It was good to see more dark-bellied brent geese gathered along the edge of Cobmarsh Island, since I last looked a fortnight ago when only a dozen were seen. Now there were at least 100 birds back from their breeding grounds in Siberia, ready for the winter here around Mersea. It was great to hear again the familiar calls of the geese - a real winter sound of the Essex coast.

Also on Cobmarsh was a group of 10 little egrets gathered together for a high tide roost. Also seen were the usual oystercatchers, cormorants and various big gulls - herrings and great black-backs.
A common tern flew past some boat moorings, so not all of these have gone yet to Africa and there was a great crested grebe seen too.
In the distance to the west, a couple of marsh harriers could be seen flying over Old Hall Marshes.

The various plants and grasses have been recently mown on the grassy slope of St Peters, helping to preserve the meadow appearance with a variety of plants, whilst preventing the scrub from taking over.

Not many small birds were noted around the bushes or reedbed area during the late morning walk although 4 redpolls flew high overhead calling as they headed off the Island. A rock pipit was the only other bird of note, heard near the houseboats.

The big ivy bushes were still proving popular with various insects including four red admiral butterflies enjoying the sunshine.

Friday, 17 October 2008


It was nice and clear on Friday 17th during the walk along the Strood seawall. The tide was on its way in and most of the mud was already covered by the time I started the walk.

As always something of interest to see with the main highlight being the peregrine - in fact two peregrines out for a late morning's hunting. The first bird circled around the southern end of Ray Island and the Feldy Marshes area, gaining height all the time. It then flew rapidly over the fields, creating some chaos below and stooped rapidly after a wood pigeon, which managed to evade being targeted. The peregrine rose up again and stooped down for another failed attempt. After climbing into the air again a second peregrine joined it and they both circled round a few times, eyeing up potential targets. It's not often you get to enjoy the sight of two peregrines flying together around Mersea.

One of the other bird of prey highlights that you never tire of, is a close view of a marsh harrier. One female was hunting along the reedbed in the dyke by the seawall, before crossing the Strood Channel towards the Ray. Later on, a second marsh harrier was seen over Feldy as was a distant sparrowhawk. A couple of kestrels hunted along the Feldy seawall despite the mobbing of some carrion crows and there was also one perched on a telegraph post near the caravan site.
Later in the day the long-staying osprey was reported as being seen in Salcott Channel.

Before I had a chance to see what birds were resting on the saltmarsh, an army helicopter flew fast and low along Salcott Channel and then headed along the Strood Channel. Along the full length of its coastal journey there were big bird flocks scattering in all different directions. Lots of the waders were just settling down to the high tide roost when they were forced to seek refuge elsewhere. It was a day of chaos along the channel for the many birds, with peregrines and army helicopters to watch out for!

The last patch of mud to get covered by the high tide was near the Strood causeway, where there was a good sized flock of about 1500 golden plover standing. Eventually the birds headed off to nearby fields in several smaller flocks. A few black-tailed godwits were also seen flying away while 25 knot were seen resting on the side of the saltmarsh.

In the channel a common tern was noteworthy for still being around, while 10 little grebes and a great crested grebe were seen in the water. Three brent geese flew up the channel and there were lots of small groups of wigeon and teal around.

Not as many small birds around the fields as a fortnight earlier although 4 redpolls, 8 linnets, rock pipit, 10 skylarks and 5 corn buntings were seen. No doubt many more staying low on the ground in the middle of the big fields.

Interestingly over the period of the walk at least four red admirals were seen at intervals individually, flying westwards along the seawall and over the Channel on their southwards migration. However on a late flowering buddliea bush near Firs Chase, 5 red admirals were still busy feeding up along with a comma.

Thursday, 16 October 2008


Another sunny autumnal morning on Friday 16th, provided some ideal conditions for a walk to East Mersea Point. The tide was on its way back in during the morning, so lots of waders got closer to look at whilst others flew overhead back into the Colne.

Only 22 brent geese could be found with most of them over by Brightlingsea. The usual selection of waders on the mud by the Point although the two main gatherings were 500 golden plover and 70 avocets.

In some of the bushes by the Point were 3 reed buntings, stonechat and also a flock of 20 linnets which flew up to join 20 redpolls on their westward passage over the Island. Along with a few other redpolls that were noted, were a handful of siskins and the distinctive call of a brambling passing overhead was more unusual because the bird was heading eastwards over the Colne. A wheatear was seen on the beach, a second male stonechat by the fields and a rock pipit flying over. It was also nice to see two swallows flying over the fields a few times, as they passed over the park.

At the park pond the six species of regular ducks included 4 tufted ducks, pair of gadwall, shoveler, mallard, teal and wigeon. Five little egrets swooped over the pond but decided to roost elsewhere, although a sixth egret did stay.

The leaves are falling off many of the trees around the park, covering the ground in various autumnal colours. The jays are still busy picking up nuts such as sweet chestnuts and flying off to bury them, so that they have a secret larder to raid in the winter time. One or two goldcrests are foraging with the mixed tit flock around the park.
Despite the sun only the one red admiral seen and a couple of common darters noted. No sign of the adders in their usual place so maybe they've gone in for the winter.

The moth trap was left to run overnight twice during the week, in the process notching up the fiftieth night of moth-trapping at the park this year. This is on course to match last year's final tally of just over 60 sessions, assuming the weather stays reasonable. I haven't got round to adding up the number of species, or the total number of moths caught. That's something to do on a dull winter's evening late in the year.

The streak moth pictured above is suitably named, displaying the white streak mark on each wing. It is locally distributed in the county, presumably because the caterpillar's foodpant is broom, which is similarly locally found in Essex.

Both moth trapping sessions recorded 13 species, with each night noting only about 25 individuals. Other moths found included L-album wainscot, yellow-line quaker, silver-Y, November sp, green-brindled crescent, brindled green, autumnal rustic, feathered ranunculus, white-point, lunar underwing and barred sallow.

One of several autumnal-looking moths around at the moment is this dark chestnut, showing how the colour of its wings matches the same colour tint of a fallen leaf.

Not much news to report for earlier in the week, although on Tuesday a grey wagtail flew over the park and then at dusk a little owl was seen flying across the car park.

Steve Entwistle saw two short-eared owls over Maydays Farm on Sunday evening.

Saturday, 11 October 2008


Another clear blue sky on Saturday 11th and this eyecatching rowan tree in the country park is showing off its bright red autumnal colours. The bright red berries on several of the rowan trees are slowly being taken by the mistle thrushes and other birds. Up until a couple of years ago, all the local mistle thrush families totalling up to 30 birds, would home in on the trees and strip the berries within a fortnight or so. A handful of them a few days ago, is about the largest group around at the moment.

On the park pond the usual mix of ducks included about 50 mallard, 25 teal, 2 tufted duck, 5 shoveler, gadwall and 4 wigeon. The regular coots, moorhens, mute swan pair and little grebes were present too.

On the grazing fields, the wigeon numbers are quickly building up as they arrive for the winter here with 55 noted. No sign of the more familiar brent geese yet and the only ones seen were a pair out on the mudflats at low tide. Also in the fields were 80 curlew roosting during the high tide.
Along the edge of the outer reaches of the river Colne were two feeding flocks of 70 avocets and a few distant groups of black-tailed godwits too.

The still conditions reflect the blue sky onto the short section of dyke near the Golfhouse at East Mersea. A water vole decided to break cover when it swam from the right-hand side to the left side, disturbing the still water and breaking up all the reflections. A tufted duck also created lots of splashes when it took off and a little grebe's movements were easily traced by the patterns of ripples.

Along the side of the other dykes nearby, a stonechat perched up and 3 reed buntings were seen in the reeds. A rock pipit flew over the saltmarsh calling.

The sunshine brought a few butterflies out with small copper, large white, red admiral and speckled wood all noted, along with several southern hawkers and common darter dragonflies.

During the day a couple of common lizards were seen in their usual grassy spot, while at dusk at least four pipistrelle bats were seen hunting around the car park.

This L-album wainscot moth above, was one of several moths found in the trap on Saturday morning. Around half a dozen of them have been recorded on recent nights, as in previous autumns suggesting that there may be a local population. The country park provides ideal habitat for them as they like coastal grasslands. The moth has been listed as scarce for Essex but I believe it has been more widely recorded in recent years.

The moth catch was low due to the clear sky with a bright moon along with a heavy overnight dew. The streak moth was the most interesting one noted also the mallow, barred sallow, feathered ranunculus, lunar underwings, setaceous hebrew character, large yellow underwing and black rustic.


Enjoyed the last hour of daylight on Friday 10th, overlooking this pool, pictured above, along the Reeveshall seawall. The sun shone throughout the day and with a gentle breeze blowing, it was another peaceful and picturesque end to the day.

On the pool were 180 teal resting along the edges but after they flew off, the only other birds here were 2 black-tailed godwits. There was a nice sight of three marsh harriers flying over the nearby fields as they headed back to the evening roost on Langenhoe. Three marsh harriers were already flying around Langenhoe and later on in the evening, six harriers sat along the top of the seawall in different spots. At least one other marsh harrier was seen over Reeveshall but the count of at least 7 birds in total seen, is probably an underestimate.

One barn owl hunted over a well grazed sheep field with its white wings appearing translucent as they flickered in flight against the setting sun. Later on it joined up with a second barn owl beside a tree plantation. A kestrel hunting over the fields was the only other bird of prey seen.

The peace was shattered when several flocks of geese arrived to graze the grass with 100 greylags the noisiest. Three Canada geese and a barnacle goose were also mixed in with the greylags, as they settled down to feed in the fading light.

Other birds noted were a stonechat, 14 meadow pipits, snipe, 3 avocets and also lots of grey plovers on the nearest mud in the Pyefleet. There was the usual steady evening flow of little egrets heading eastwards to their St Osyth roost with at least 30 seen.

As the light faded nine brown hares could be seen feeding in various parts of the field, having spent the day crouching low to the ground to stay hidden.

Earlier in the day a kingfisher flashed past the park pond as it headed westwards while four swallows and a siskin flew over the park.

Other birds seen around Mersea in the last few days include more osprey sightings to the north and the west of the Island. The Salcott Channel osprey was seen fishing along the length of the channel on Thursday while on Friday one was seen over the river Colne from Fingringhoe. Hugh Owen reported seeing a short-eared owl and peregrine from the Langenhoehall marshes in the north-west corner of the Pyefleet on Wednesday. Martin Cock had a peregrine tussling with two marsh harriers over Maydays Farm on Friday.

This pine carpet above is probably of little excitement outside of Essex as it appears to be common in many parts of the country where there are pinewoods. However having checked the Essex records it appears that this moth is a rare visitor to the county with only two records since 1990 with the last one recorded six years ago at St Osyth. This latest moth above was found resting on the outside of the trap at the country park early on Thursday morning and was bundled into a small pot because it looked "slightly different". Having had a busy day, the first opportunity to examine the moth wasn't until about 11 o'clock in the evening, so it was lucky I hadn't dismissed it earlier in the day.

The moth trap was run on Wednesday night and despite the clear sky and cool conditions, about 70 moths of 15 species were noted. Pictured above is this strikingly marked green-brindled crescent with its bright green sheen, one of the more colourful ones found. Other moths found, included several L-album wainscots, November moth, black rustic, brindled green, silver Y, barred sallow, frosted orange, feathered ranunculus, autumnal rustic and angle shades.

This young adder was found under one of the tin sheets with an adult, while a second adult was found nearby basking in the sun. The adders will be around for another two weeks before heading into hibernation. A couple of common lizards were seen basking on some long grass tussocks.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008


This is now the view from the hide onto the pond at the country park as seen on Tuesday 7th. No need to open the flaps to look out, just peer through the small holes that have been getting bigger over the last fortnight. I finally caught the culprit in the act of hammering into the hide - a female green woodpecker! It sounded like someone was hitting the side of the hide with hammer the noise was so loud. I was able to creep into the hide and watch the destruction in action close-up. Now I now what it must feel like for a brood of tits in a nestbox when a woodpecker decides it is time for lunch!

Later in the day once the woodchips had settled, 2 little egrets were seen roosting and amongst the teal and mallard were two shoveler. In bushes nearby in the tit flock were 3 chiffchaffs and a blackcap, while passing over the car park in the morning were 3 lesser redpolls and swallow.
Along the seawall a male stonechat perched up, while nearby a rock pipit flew around the saltmarsh calling.

Whilst working on the computer in my house in the park at dusk, I heard the sound of a little owl very close. I quietly opened the back door and slowly peered up to my roof where the bird was seen nervously standing next to the chimney pot! Despite my efforts not to be noticed, it soon saw me and flew away.

The weather was better than forecasted, staying dry for most of the day. This red admiral was resting on a branch during a dull spell. The underwing is normally very dark brown but with the camera flash, all the intricate markings show up nicely in the bright light. Two other red admirals and a speckled wood were also noted.

Martin Cock heard the Cetti's warbler again in the ditch at Maydays farm along with a stonechat and a rock pipit. Unusually he watched 2 grey wagtails land briefly on the roof of his house in West Mersea, before they continued their passage over the Island.

Monday, 6 October 2008


After the 24 mms of rain that fell on Mersea throughout yesterday, it was a relief to get out for a dry walk along the Strood seawall on Monday 6th. I had stopped at this point in the photo above to listen to the rare sound of a Cetti's warbler singing as it foraged through the reeds in the dyke. At that moment Martin Cock phoned me to say he had heard a Cetti's warbler as well, earlier in the morning in the reed-filled dyke at Maydays Farm. Like waiting for a bus, none for a few years and now three in the space of a week!

It will be interesting to see if either of these two birds stays around, as the one last week at the country park appears to have moved on. It was last seen on the Monday, having stayed for only two days.

The lack of wind seemed to inspire all the small birds into activity, which was in sharp contrast to the last walk along here on the windy Friday. The best sight and sound was a sky-full of 80+ skylarks that rose off the fields in two flocks, all calling as they circled overhead. A short while later 50 corn buntings flew around calling too as they moved between ditch, hedge, fields and reedbed. A small group of 20 house sparrows were also seen along one of the field hedges.

A pair of stonechats were still present as were 8 linnets on the seawall side. A rock pipit flew along calling and about 12 meadow pipits passed over too. A mixed group of ten house martins and swallows crossed onto the Island from Ray Island. Near the caravan site 3 chiffchaffs and a blackcap were feeding with a tit flock.

The most interesting wader was seen circling over the fields, a ruff - the first on the Island for a couple of months. Feeding for a short while on the fields were 25 lapwing and 50 golden plover. They later moved onto the mudflats to join groups totalling 150 lapwing and 200 golden plover.
Also of note along the channel were ten little grebes, 2 greenshank and one avocet.

The day brightened up early in the afternoon with the sun shining and a light breeze, making it a pleasant visit to the beach at St Peters. Just offshore from here on Cobmarsh Island were 12 brent geese and a couple of common terns. A wheatear flew from the St Peters onto Cobmarsh.

The wonderful red colour of the glasswort (locally called samphire), adds some colour to the saltmarsh on the edge of West Mersea. Many new plants appear to have colonised the bare mud alongside the boardwalk, now that walkers are keeping off the mud.
A rock pipit flew over calling but there was no sign of a recently reported lame little egret.

This big colourful hornet with the reddy-brown and yellow markings, was resting on the ground beside some thick ivy bushes in flower alongside St Peters meadow. Hornets seem to be scarce on the Island and not often seen.

The ivy bushes around this bench were alive with insect activity - bees, wasps, hoverflies, flies and a few others. Not many butterflies except for one resting comma, although nearby two large whites and a red admiral flew past.

Saturday, 4 October 2008


The saltmarsh around the Island has turned an autumnal red of the glasswort in many places such as this scene pictured above, along the Pyefleet on Saturday 4th. I was glad I walked along the exposed Reeveshall seawall in late morning as the wind got much stronger in the afternoon.

Within half an hour I located the large and distinctive outline of a distant osprey flying about a kilometre away, above the Geedon Creek, just to the north of the Langenhoe Marshes. The bird flew back and forwards along a short section of the channel for about ten minutes and performed a couple of stoops down to the water. Both times it reappeared into view without anything in its talons. For the duration of its flying around, hovering and stooping, a couple of carrion crows repeatedly mobbed the bird.

Whilst following the bird through the telescope, there appeared to be continual pandemonium in the background of the field of view. Flocks of waders and wildfowl scattered in different directions as the osprey passed overhead. The bird then crossed south over the Langenhoe Marshes and proceeded to scatter all the waders and wildfowl in the Pyefleet Channel. It circled a few times and then drifted off west, where it was watched disappearing into the distance. The last glimpse of the bird was low down to a seawall just to the north of the Strood causeway.

This osprey may be the bird that has stayed around the Salcott Channel area for the last three weeks. It was probably the same bird that was seen only two days ago by Hugh Owen perched in a tree near the Langenhoehall marshes - nearly where the bird was last seen today.

For the duration of the walk there were several marsh harriers flying about with 4 birds on Langenhoe and 3 seen over Reeveshall.

Although there was plenty of mud on show along the Pyefleet and lots of waders, the wind buffeting the telescope didn't make for easy viewing of the smaller waders on the far side of the channel. Waders of note included 30 knot, 200 black-tailed godwits, one avocet while 2 snipe flew overhead.

There was no sign over the Reeveshall / Maydays fields of any of the 3 short-eared owls seen last weekend. However there was a great view of a peregrine which glided low over the sheep field and landed on a large clod of earth. It gazed around for a few minutes and then flew a short way to spend several more minutes on a fence-post. I didn't see it when it finally decided to take off.

Three kestrels were out hunting above the various fields in the area and also seen were 2 stonechats, 10 stock doves, 10 goldfinches, wheatear and about 25 meadow pipits. Flying out of Broad Fleet when a marsh harrier passed nearby were at least 100 teal.

Martin and Ann Cock arrived on the seawall after all the excitement had finished. However we did see the first red-breasted merganser of the winter, a female consorting with a group of 6 great crested grebes in the Pyefleet. Martin also saw 3 stonechats, 2 wheatears and 2 common seals from the Maydays Farm end of the seawall.

Later in the afternoon he reported seeing a peregrine and a Mediterranean gull, whilst at the Waldegraves golf driving range!

Andy Field had some excitement of his own at the country park in the afternoon, when he watched 2 juvenile gannets land on the water of the outer Colne. They then took off and headed up river where I believe one was seen from the Fingringhoe Nature Reserve. The last gannet to get close to the Island, sadly was a poorly one in the spring that ended up being carried away in a cardboard box from the beach.

Friday, 3 October 2008


It was a cold morning walk along the Strood seawall on Friday 3rd. Not many small birds to see over the fields in the strong wind although pair of stonechats along the edge of the dyke were a sign of autumn. A grey heron stood in the middle of one of the big fields and was strangely joined by a kestrel, who stood nearby for company for several minutes. Four kestrels were seen hovering and hunting over various fields to the east of the Strood Hill area.
A few meadow pipits flew past and 10 linnets also headed off the Island.

In the borrow-dyke a pair of mute swans were present as were a couple of the resident little grebes.

It was a bit windy to scan all the waders along the Channel thoroughly but in the brief search, only the usual selection of species were noted. Several hundred redshank were scattered along the length and were the most numerous. Grey plover numbers seemed higher than recent visits with over a hundred present. Small numbers of the other regulars were noted too such as black-tailed godwits, golden plover, lapwing, ringed plover, curlew, oystercatcher, dunlin and turnstone.

There was the familiar winter scene of wildfowl resting along the bottom of the Channel with at least 30 wigeon and 50 teal counted, along with a few shelduck. Three little egrets were noted as were 2 common terns flying past. Five little grebes were seen amongst the boat moorings just up-channel from the Dabchicks.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


This young adder was found curled up and enjoying the warmth under a sheet of tin at the country park on Thursday 2nd. Although it was sunny enough to bask out in the open, this small adder I suppose, had some added protection with the sheet of tin over it - until I came along and peeked underneath.

This adder was only about 8 inches(20cms) long and was nearly able to hide itself under a single bramble leaf when I first lifted the tin. However it soon slid away and disappeared into the long grass. There was no sign of the three adults found huddled together under the tin a few days ago.

Whilst checking out the little reedy pool where the Cetti's warbler had been a few days previously, I was amazed to see a water rail feeding out in the open. It provided some of the best views for many years here at the park with the bird being reasonably confiding, out in the sunshine and being in view for about ten minutes.

For a bird that is notorious for skulking amongst the reeds and rushes around water, this one had me pointing my small camera at it from just over 5 metres away. The bird was being obliging enough, that one of the regular dog-walkers to the park was able to see what a water rail looked like. There was also the sight of a brown rat also skulking amongst the reeds

Hugh Owen and Philip Smith were enjoying the birds on the pond from the hide and at one point we got closer views of a passing siskin as it circled above us after some poor siskin call-note imitations lured it over. Also at the pond were the usual selection of wildfowl of mallard, teal, wigeon and at least one shoveler. Two great spotted woodpeckers flew over the pond.
Earlier in the day a small bird flashing low across the car park in the direction of the pond, may have been the kingfisher.

At least 30 meadow pipits were passing westwards over the park in small groups, as they followed the coastline. Three blackcaps were seen in the bushes and foraging with the tits were five goldcrests. A sparrowhawk flew into the park scattering a small group of goldfinches as it came and then later in the day, a fine view of another one flying along the East Mersea road, alongside the car.

The end of the summer has meant the end of one of the areas of long grass on the park. The area used to be managed as a hay crop but demand for hay locally has disappeared, so for the last five years, it has received an annual mow in late summer instead. Most of the insects should've finished using the long grass, flowers will have set seed and skylarks have finished nesting.

Out in the sunshine were small copper, 6 red admirals, 2 speckled wood butterflies and also southern hawkers and common darter dragonflies.

Two little owls called out to each other in a little duet from Bromans Lane during the morning.
The previous evening just after nightfall, the resident tawny owl was seen perched in a dead bush as I drove past.

Hugh Owen reported seeing an osprey perched in a tree near the north-west corner of the Pyefleet Channel, by the Langenhoehall marshes earlier this Thursday morning. It was being mobbed by one or two carrion crows.