Saturday, 29 December 2012


Andy Field didn't have to leave the car park at Cudmore Grove to take these waxwing snaps on Saturday 29th. The group of seven birds were still present for their third day but amazingly were joined in late morning by another 23 birds, which suddenly appeared in the car park. Some of the birds dropped down to drink at puddles in the car park, while the others trilled away in the trees above. After about five minutes, most of the flock flew west leaving nine birds at the park for the rest of the day.

The waxwings were very obliging, allowing many passers-by to get close views. On several occasions birds had to dodge passing cars in the car park whilst drinking from the puddles and it was great hearing the trilling sound throughout the morning from different corners of the car park. Rose-hips were still providing the birds with food on the bushes along the central track in the park.

The waxwings posed nicely in the car park and seemed oblivious to the passers-by.
The flock pictured below were snapped when they perched above my back garden beside the car park for a couple of minutes.

The cold wind picked up during the day and the remaining group of waxwings were seen mid afternoon perched sheltering from the wind on some trees over the grazing fields. Below them was another rose bush where they plucked off some of the hips.

Feeding in the alders by the park pond were about eight redpolls that were closely scrutinised for mealy redpolls. One or two males had colourful pinky flushes on their chests but didn't appear lighter or any bigger than the usual lesser redpolls. The flock were feeding with up to 20 goldfinches at times and flying short distances as they switched alder clumps.

A distant peregrine was seen first thing over the grazing fields which may've explained lower numbers of birds seen here later. Birds were slowly returning to the fields throughout the morning and 1200 dark-bellied brent were counted along with two pale-bellied brent geese. Thirty snipe could be seen clustered round some rush tussucks, while 100 redshank and 250+ black-tailed godwits dropped in for the high tide roost.

The female stonechat was still present along the seawall, feeding on the tarmac path top as well as onto the adjacent grazing field. The bird had been seen in the same area the previous day too.

The previous day on Friday 28th, the 7 waxwings were the main highlight again while at dusk three water rails were seen along the edge of the reeds by the pond. A fourth water rail was heard calling from inside the nearby ditch. Twenty stock doves flew into the pond copse for the evening roost.

In the grazing fields 520 black-tailed godwits were click-counted as they roosted in one big flock -confirmation of recent flock estimates. The flooded pasture held the usual number of waders including 300 dunlin as well as 30+ turnstone. Over 1000 brent geese were feeding in the fields up until dusk, a bigger flock than usual recently here, and also 50+ greylag geese present.

Michael Thorley reported seeing a barn owl earlier in the week fly over the East Mersea road at night to the east of Weir Farm.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


Two days after Xmas and seven waxwings turn up at the country park - the first birds this winter here. More rain fell during the morning of Thursday 27th and this small group of waxwings weren't discovered till early afternoon, once some of the rain had subsided.

The birds spent most of the time perched on bush and tree tops between the car park and the hide, where there is a small thicket of wild rose bushes still with a few rose-hips present. The waxwings dropped down to pluck these hips from the bushes and swallowed them whole. The flock was very confiding and at one point flew to the tree above my head, allowing close views.

The waxwing flock flew around several times as they switched tree-tops and were also seen dropping down to the ground to drink from puddles on the central track and also the puddles on the saturated pond-field. They were last seen from the hide at the end of the afternoon, flying over the field to the north of the park, presumably to roost for the night.

It was going to be only a matter of time before some waxwings visited the park this winter, following the mass influx into the country a couple of months ago. There have been lots more sightings in north Essex in the last fortnight and this group at the park is the fourth sighting on the Island in the last fortnight. Over the years waxwings have been quite scarce at the country park with only half a dozen previous records and most just fleeting visitors.

Steve Entwistle managed to get to the park to enjoy the waxwings and afterwards watched a small group of five redpolls feeding in the alder trees near the pond. A couple of the birds were males with one in particular showing an extensive bright pink chest and very white underparts, suggesting a possible mealy redpoll rather than the more familiar lesser redpoll. The views were quite distant and partly obscured at times amongst the tangle of branches. The bird didn't appear to have a frosted appearance or the larger size of mealy when compared alongside the other brownish redpolls and nearby goldfinches. More views needed of these birds.

A water rail performed again for about twenty minutes towards dusk, scuttling along the grass on the edge of the reedmace by the pond. At least one other water rail was heard calling from the pond. The main ducks on the pond were the 25 gadwall and 70 mallard while the local dusky-coloured fox sprinted along the bottom of the field scattering lots of the moorhens.

Twenty stock doves flew into the copse at the back of the pond to roost and there was a mistle thrush singing from wires near houses to the north of the park.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012


Happy Christmas to all the followers of Mersea Wildlife.
A double rainbow appeared briefly over the park's grazing fields in the morning of Xmas Day. This first part of the morning was the best and driest part of the day, as torrential downpours soon followed. Managed to walk to the Point and back without getting soaked.

The female stonechat was seen again beside the seawall and borrowdyke. Andrew Thompson had last seen the bird along the central ditch in the fields on Friday 21st. At the Point a snow bunting was seen and appeared to fly off the beach with some of the turnstones and it climbed high into the air, gaining height before crossing eastwards over the Colne to Point Clear. A rock pipit and 5 sanderling were also seen at the Point.

There was the regular high tide roost of 400+ black-tailed godwits in the park fields, pictured above. Standing to one side was a ruff as were 50 redshank, 4 knot and even a bar-tailed godwit.

Steve Entwistle saw at least one waxwing still in the gardens beside the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane. There were five other birds seen here briefly which may've been waxwings too, or maybe something else.
Two corn buntings were on the wires by Bocking Hall, one of which was singing its jangly song for Xmas.

After such a wet Xmas, it was great to see the sun shining on Boxing Day morning. On the park's grazing fields the pale-bellied brent goose was with 500 brent geese and 40 greylag geese. The roost of 400 black-tailed godwits were in the fields well before high tide but no sign of the ruff. The female stonechat was still present crossing the borrowdyke to sit on a bramble bush on the field edge.

At the Point 4 red-breasted mergansers flew up river and five sanderling were feeding with 25 turnstone along the water's edge.

At the end of the afternoon Steve enjoyed very good views from the hide of two water rails chasing each other along the reed-edge onto the pond-field. Also here were 30 gadwall and two tufted duck amongst the mallard.

No sign of the waxwings by the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane today, although there was a report of 15 waxwings flying west over Coast Road in West Mersea early afternoon. Twenty fieldfares were seen by Bocking Hall and later by the Dog and Pheasant pub. Steve saw a merlin fly low over Chapmans Lane in the afternoon.

At West Mersea the great northern diver was located by Andy Field from St Peters beach as it fed along the channel on the far side of Cobmarsh Island. Big numbers of plovers were rising regularly into the air over Cobmarsh and Packing Shed with 3000 golden plover and 1000 lapwings being spooked either by raptors or by boats passing too near.

Monday, 24 December 2012


Christmas came a day early to East Mersea when three waxwings were spotted on some roadside wires beside the Thorleys garden along from Meeting Lane. The large waxwing invasion that hit northern UK earlier in the winter, reached West Mersea a fortnight ago and finally East Mersea has now joined in the excitement as well.

Having just spent an uneventful hour walking the Rewsalls seawall, I drove towards West Mersea and spotted three birds with crests sitting on some roadside telegraph wires beside the Thorleys garden. I had to continue driving for quarter of a mile so that I could turn the car round to come back and confirm the possible ID of these being waxwings.

It was nice to be able to knock on Michael and Sarah Thorley's door and tell them they had some waxwings in their front garden. Amazingly the same garden also had a small flock of waxwings for a few days two years ago. Maybe some of these birds remembered their last visit here. These birds were very obliging as they occasionally dropped down to feed on some rose-hips as seen in the digi-binned image above.

There weren't many birds to be seen on the Rewsalls marshes, but there was the amazing sight of two huge lagoons covering the grass fields following lots of recent rain. I'm not sure if this has happened before but I've never seen this sight here before. The picture above shows lots of big round hay bales half-submerged in the water.

Not surprisingly 40 mallard were enjoying the flooded scene with one or two ducks enjoying the view from the tops of some of the bales. A couple of brent geese dropped in but the main flock of 200 birds were feeding on the Youth Camp field beside the huts, along with 25 curlew.

The tide was receding by early afternoon and amongst the regular waders were 50 bar-tailed godwits with one in full ginger summer plumage. A colourful bird that has often been noted here in recent winters. Fifty turnstone were feeding close to the seawall as the tide turned.

Other birds noted were a male kestrel, green woodpecker, reed bunting and 3 greenfinches.

The previous day on Sunday morning along the beach at West Mersea a peregrine flew over the church scattering all the pigeons as it headed over St Peters Marsh. It continued flying westwards and thirty seconds later, 3000 golden plover and 500 lapwing rose up in several flocks above Cobmarsh and Packing Shed Islands. A marsh harrier was seen flying over Old Hall Marshes.

Offshore an immature eider was seen feeding along with a herring gull for company. Not much else on the water except for 3 great crested grebes and small flocks of wigeon and brent geese flying past. Lots of oystercatchers were flying past and turnstone, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit and sanderling were also noted.

Andy Field and Steve Entwistle counted 21 marsh harriers and two hen harriers including one ringtail, as they came into the Sunday night evening roost on Langenhoe Point. Andy also managed to find a ruff on the flooded fields at Cudmore Grove on Saturday.

Friday, 21 December 2012


Everywhere is saturated even more now following more rain. Continual rain on Thursday 20th has filled many ditches and watercourses with some overflowing onto the fields. This expanse of water at Reeveshall pictured above on Friday, had spilled over from a narrow ditch flooding the inside of the seawall.

Despite the very wet fields, there were no waders or ducks taking advantage of the conditions. The high water level on the Reeveshall pool only appealed to a pair of mute swans and a little egret. Lots of brent geese were waiting in the nearby Pyefleet Channel to return to graze one of the Reeveshall pastures, with 700+ seen. Eight red-breasted mergansers were also seen in the Channel.

Also along the Pyefleet was a big flock of 2000+ roosting golden plover on the mud of Pewit Island. The whole flock rose up into the air when a marsh harrier passed overhead, as did several hundred lapwings. Six marsh harriers were seen on Langenhoe Point, most sitting on tops of bushes. At least one marsh harrier was hunting over Reeveshall and Maydays.

Small birds noted along the seawall were 10 goldfinches, 12 skylarks, 2 rock pipits and a linnet.

Around three-quarters of an inch of rain fell during Thursday 19th and not many visitors braved the conditions to visit the car park of the country park. There were probably more blackbirds seen during the day than dog-walkers with ten seen here and another ten seen near the park pond. A little egret flew past the car park in the afternoon, spoilt for choice for wetlands.

Newest arrival at the park was a female stonechat feeding alongside the seawall in the pouring rain. The bird flitted along the path perching on the top of dead plant stalks, dropping down every so often to feed. This is only the second sighting of stonechat at the park this year and unexpected to see one now after the recent cold snap.

The grazing fields on Thursday were looking very wet and littered with masses of splashes of water. No brent geese but big numbers of wigeon, teal and black-tailed godwits spread mainly across the field nearest the Golfhouse. There appeared to be 1000 wigeon and 1000 teal in the fields with 500 black-tailed godwits with smaller numbers of redshank, lapwing, golden plover, dunlin, snipe turnstone, curlew, mallard and shoveler.

Not as many duck on the park pond as in recent days with 20 gadwall the main duck along with mallard. The water rail squealed from inside the ditch at the bottom of the field.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012


There was the rare sight this winter of the sun setting behind the Bradwell nuclear power station opposite Mersea Island on Monday 17th. This view looking west from the country park, shows the sunset at its furthest south in the winter sky.

This digi-binned picture shows the sun setting at about 3.45pm. The power station has been shut down and is currently being decomissioned. Most folk on the Island are pleased to see the sun setting on these ugly nuclear reactors that have dominated the landscape for decades.

The sunshine from Sunday continued for a second day into Monday with only a slight breeze during the day.
The park's grazing fields held the main bird interest again with 400 brent geese including the pale-bellied brent goose and 52 greylag geese too. Lots of wigeon and teal were spread across the fields with almost 1500 ducks present.
The black-tailed godwits, redshank and snipe were very much in evidence along with 30+ dunlin, 10 turnstone and a grey plover making the most of the wet conditions.

On the park pond a water rail called from the back, while 100 mallard and 20 gadwall and 2 tufted ducks were noted here.

Glyn Evans and his trusty fellow wetland bird counters, walked the north side of the Island on Monday and noted a common buzzard on Maydays, a spotted redshank on Reeveshall and a total of 10 rock pipits during the walk.

On Tuesday 18th a female pintail was seen on the pond amongst the mallard and gadwall and a water rail called from the nearby ditch. More blackbirds were out feeding in two main groups than is normal with 10 in the pond field and 15 near the car park, along with a couple of song thrushes. No doubt more blackbirds were in other corners of the park.

At the beginning of the day the silhouette of a woodcock was briefly glimpsed as it rose sharply from a ditch in Bromans Lane and flying over to the park entrance where it wasn't seen again. I've only heard of one other woodcock on the Island this winter, that was over a month ago in a field near Brierley Hall, West Mersea, seen by John Knight.

Martin Cock had a rewarding look offshore to the waters at the entrance to the Mersea Quarters on Tuesday seeing two great northern divers, one possible black-necked grebe, two red-throated divers, two eider and two common scoter.

There was also the interesting report of three quite confiding waxwings being seen feeding on berries in a hedge on the Glebe field extension on Monday. However there was no sign of them here on Tuesday.

Sunday, 16 December 2012


Waders and wildfowl were back in force on the park's wet grazing fields over the weekend, following the period of frost and ice that seemed to last for almost a fortnight. This group of wigeon pictured above on Sunday 16th, were some of the 700+ wigeon grazing the fields in the morning.

A good idea of how many birds were present was provided when a female marsh harrier crossed over the fields, sending everything into the air as they made their escape.

Like the wigeon, the teal have come back in their hundreds to the pools and flashes of water in the fields. The picture above shows some of 700+ teal, as well as a few redshank, many of them spending the time roosting.
There was no sign on Sunday of the nice male pintail that was with the teal briefly on Saturday. It had appeared very wary and anxious and was only noted because it had it's head up which showed off the long white neck.

Amongst the waders noted were 50+ common snipe, although no sign of any jack snipe. Up to 400 black-tailed godwits were seen with most spending their time feeding and making the most of the saturated ground.
Nearer the high tide around a hundred redshank, 30+ dunlin, 20 turnstone, 100 lapwing and 100 golden plover were also in the fields.

The geese have also returned to the fields with 50 greylags back after their fortnight's absence. Numbers of brent geese fluctuated as groups came and went with about 500 noted at one point. The pale-bellied brent was also seen on Sunday and the Saturday too.

At the park pond at the end of Sunday afternoon, a water rail emerged from the reeds to feed on the grass for the second dusk running, At least one other water rail squealed from a different part of the pond which prompted a squealing reply from the first rail. Earlier in the day a water rail was seen in the ditch at the bottom of the field. The day before a water rail was also seen as it walked nervously out on the grass along the bottom edge of the field.

Good numbers of duck on the pond over the weekend, now that it has completely thawed out. Over a hundred mallard were the most obvious and the most noisy. Also 30 gadwall, 2 tufted duck were joined by one or two teal and shoveler. On Saturday 2 snipe and an oystercatcher were feeding in the pond field.
Feeding under the alders in the pond field on Saturday were 5 lesser redpolls with two pinky looking males, along with 10 chaffinches.

Mid Sunday morning a lapland bunting flew along the seawall calling out loud and clear as it continued west along the clifftop. Along the beach and saltmarsh were 2 rock pipits, meadow pipit and 6 skylarks with one song thrush on the seawall. Four fieldfare were near the Golfhouse and another 11 were flying over Ivy Farm.

In the Colne 6 male goldeneye, 12 red-breasted mergansers and 10 great crested grebes were seen in the river. A female marsh harrier flew upriver to Langenhoe Point in the morning to join at least five other birds present there.

Offshore from the park 4 Slavonian grebes were seen just after the high tide on Sunday, 15 sanderling flew along the beach and a close common seal swam over the park polders in front of the cliff during the high tide.

Martin Cock saw a male hen harrier and 4 scaup in the Pyefleet from Maydays on Sunday while Hugh Owen reported a male hen harrier and common buzzard over Langehoehall marshes the day before.
Two red-throated divers were seen off West Mersea on Wednesday 12th by Martin, while Ian Black was intrigued to see a male reed bunting at his bird feeder in his Mersea Avenue garden recently.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


Alan Reynolds took these two great close-up photographs of sanderling on the Cudmore Grove foreshore recently.

Sanderling can sometimes be quite confiding and the East Mersea Point is a good place to see them during the winter.

There are often two or three little egrets that feed in the saltmarsh pools near the Point, this photo of one egret also by Alan.

It has stayed cold and frozen over recent days with a particularly sharp frost everywhere at dawn on Wednesday 12th.

All the plants and trees across the park had a good coat of rime frost, as this prickly gorse bush shows. There was no wind today and the moning sunshine soon thawed out much of the frost.

The sea off the the park was flat calm during the noon high tide. Six Slavonian grebes were enjoying feeding offshore slightly south-west off the park, along with sixty great crested grebes. Also seen were 3 red-breasted mergansers, male pintail as well as a few teal and wigeon displaced off the frozen fields.

Some blackbird alarm calls from one of the small tree plantations near the car park in the middle of the day drew attention to a little owl perched low down, trying to mind its own business. Towards the end of the afternoon a flock of 40+ greenfinches sat up in a tree in the car park along with one or two goldfinches, ready for the evening roost. 

David Smith reported seeing 35 barnacle geese, peregrine, sparrowhawk 20 snipe and 5 sanderling during a visit to the park on Monday 17th.

Martin Cock saw the 7 scaup in the Pyefleet again on Monday and had also seen two common buzzards over Maydays over the weekend.

Thursday, 6 December 2012


It was a bit of surprise to see such big snow flakes falling as it was getting light on Wednesday 5th. After about an hours worth of snow, it soon stopped and once the snow clouds had moved south, blue skies appeared briefly later in the morning. The park beach in the picture above shows it covered with snow.

Not as many visitors to the country park during the morning so the car park stayed quiet. Most of the snow had all thawed by the end of the afternoon.

Birds noted around the park on Wednesday were 20+ blackbirds under the trees, 10 long-tailed tits, a lesser redpoll flying from some alders, 20 goldfinches over the car park and a kestrel hovering over the long grass. Most of the park pond was frozen although 40+ ducks here included wigeon, shoveler, gadwall and mallard.

The grazing fields were frozen and buried under a carpet of snow with only 30 lapwing and 20 golden plover of any note here. Several hundred wigeon and teal were out on the edge of the mudflats. Three hundred brent geese flew from the Pyefleet towards the mouth of the Colne.

From the Point 250 avocets were seen on the mud as was a feeding flock of 200 knot. In the river a red breasted merganser was close in with a group of wigeon and a common seal was noted too. A dozen skylarks, 5 reed buntings and a rock pipit were the main small birds near the Point.

It was still cold on Thursday 6th with another sharp overnight frost and the various watercourses staying frozen over. The park pond was still two-thirds frozen with lots of ducks standing on the ice, as in the photo above.

Gathered at the pond were 100 mallard, 6 gadwall, 5 shoveler with one or two teal and wigeon. A brightly marked male sparrowhawk with a bright orange chest, was surveying the pond from a fencepost. It then came and sat in a bush about 20 metres from the hide, providing a nice close view. A water rail squealed from the back of the pond.

Roosting in the copse behind the pond were 5 little egrets and 30 stock doves while circling over a nearby hedge were 25 greenfinches. Two snipe flew down onto the frozen pools and a few curlew, lapwing and golden plover were the only other birds in the fields. As the tide came in over the mud, 15 sanderling were seen close to the beach.

On Tuesday 4th Martin Cock and Steve Entwistle saw three Slavonian grebes off Coopers Beach and a little later watched from Shop Lane 3 male hen harriers, 12+ marsh harriers and a peregrine at the Langenhoe raptor roost. Michael Thorley reported a male blackcap in his East Mersea garden.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


A sharp frost had formed by dawn on Sunday 2nd but the sun shone all day which made it worth getting out and about for a walk. This common snipe was one of a couple feeding near the park pond on grass that the morning sun had already thawed out. In the grazing fields, 20 snipe were probing the grasslands away from the frozen pools.

The big flocks of wigeon and teal were absent from the fields, preferring to sit out in the estuary during the day. In the fields however were still 500 brent geese present for a while in the morning and 300 black-tailed godwits fed during the high tide. A few lapwing, curlew and golden plover were also in the fields in the afternoon.

The overnight high tide had left behind a frozen layer of ice along the saltmarsh creek beside the "stepping-stone" path near the Point. Despite the suitable conditions, no snow buntings reported, although 5 sanderling were on the beach here.
Graham Taylor reported seeing a spoonbill on the saltmarsh pool near the Point early in the afternoon, although it flew off towards Colne Point. This is probably the same bird that was reported a short while earlier seen flying from Tollesbury towards West Mersea.

In the Colne a female common scoter, 5 goldeneye, 6 red-breasted mergansers, 12 great crested grebes while 4 scaup were in the Pyefleet. Two marsh harriers flew over the Point in the afternoon while a sparrowhawk surprised some of the 50 greenfinches feeding along the dyke near Ivy Farm. A yellowhammer and a fieldfare were also seen near here.

Amongst the 100 or so birds on the half-frozen park pond were 8 gadwall, one of the males pictured above. Also seen were 60 mallard, 5 shoveler, 2 little grebes, 10 coots and five teal.

Two groups of moorhens were feeding beside the park pond, each group of about 20 each fed out on the grass on opposite sides of the pond. At dusk the 40 moorhens headed back to the safety of the pond and fluttered up to perch in the overhanging willows. Watching the moorhens gathering nearby was a fox standing up on a raised base of a willow tree. A water rail called from one of the nearby ditches - none have shown here so far this winter.

The bird highlight of Saturday 1st from the Island was a small flock of 6 waxwings seen perched up in Martin Cocks West Mersea garden. They were seen flying off and despite searching local streets and berry laden gardens, were not relocated. This is the first report of waxwings this winter on the Island, although not too unexpected considering the number of other sightings in north Essex within the last week.

At the country park on Saturday two different sparrowhawks were seen during the day with one female in the morning by the pond and a male along the back of the grazing fields in the afternoon. At the Point 3 common seals were in the Colne as was a goldeneye and 4 red-breasted mergansers.
A muntjac deer was seen crossing Bromans Lane first thing on Saturday morning by one of the regular visitors to the park.

Alan Reynolds photographed this female common scoter in the Colne on Friday and also reported seeing a male too.Two female common scoters have been present in the Colne for over a fortnight now.

Towards the end of Friday afternoon a kingfisher was first seen flying away from the pond and over the pools, where it was later seen flying along the beach near the Point. A male marsh harrier flew back from Colne Point, flushing the 500 brent geese off the fields as it headed back to Langenhoe. The pale-bellied brent goose was seen earlier with the geese in the fields. A sparrowhawk flew high over the fields as it headed west past the car park. There was a small increase in blackbirds around the park with about 20 noted in a number of locations.