Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Sunshine for most of the day on Wednesday 30th saw this late peacock butterfly soak up some of the warmth on the side of an old pillbox at the country park. Also seen was a small tortoiseshell flying over the car park and also a common darter on the wing.

This cormorant had its wings stretched out whilst on the beach at the Point. Four sanderling were seen here and a short while later 25 were on the mud in front of the cliff.
Small birds at the Point included rock pipit, 8 reed buntings and 30 linnets.

The morning high tide saw a mixed flock of waders roosting on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse. In this picture above are grey plover, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit, knot and turnstone.

A handful of black-tailed godwits have been feeding in the small pond-field in front of the hide, making the most of the boggy ground. In the nearby main field 500 black-wits were roosting during high tide along with 300 redshank and 20 snipe.
The pale-bellied brent goose was back in the fields along with 500 dark-bellied brent. Ten little egrets roosted in the trees.

A chiffchaff called from trees near the pond, a female blackcap was feeding on berries in a hedge and five lesser redpolls landed in some alders by the pond to feed.

At the beginning of the day 400+ immigrant wood pigeons in several flocks were flying high westwards over the Island.

On Tuesday 29th a lone swallow flew around the park pond and fields at the end of the afternoon. A sparrowhawk passed low in front of the hide and perched in a nearby tree at dusk. Seventy mallard, six gadwall, three tufted duck and 15 shoveler were on the pond, while four redwing flew overhead.

Monday, 28 October 2013


 Walkers along the West Mersea beach in the morning of Monday 28th had to endure some painful sand-blasting, as seen in the picture above near St Peters. The St Jude's storm blew through Mersea during Sunday night and into Monday morning, bringing lots of rain and strong winds.

The strongest of the storm-force winds blew through around seven in the morning with one gust recorded at the Dabchicks SC of 70 mph. The wind blew this yacht off its stand alongside Coast Road. By mid-morning the strong winds and grey skies had moved on and replaced with blue skies and lighter winds.
There was no vehicular access to the Country Park in East Mersea because a large ash tree in Bromans Lane blew down across the road.

Bird-life seemed scarcer around the Mersea Quarters in the windy conditions. A few turnstone, curlew and oystercatchers noted along with 50 brent geese near Cobmarsh Island. A common seal stuck its head out of the water in Besom Creek.
A male blackcap and a goldcrest were noted in Firs Chase on Monday morning.

The mild autumn has confused this hawthorn bush at St Peters Meadow with sprays of white flowers sprouting amongst many of the red haws.

On the north side of the Island a hen harrier was reported over Langenhoe on Sunday 27th.

On Friday at the country park a water rail briefly showed along the water's edge at the back of the pond, a female pintail was of note amongst the many waders and wildfowl on the fields and a peregrine flashed low over all the birds in the morning.

A great northern diver was reported to have been taken into care at the beginning of last week - no more details available. Clive Pickering reported four terns, either common or Arctic, in the Mersea Quarters at the beginning of last week. Also a report that a pomarine skua was photographed amongst lots of gulls next to a fishing boat offshore from the Island on the 18th October.

Thursday, 24 October 2013


These three wigeon flew past the seawall near the East Mersea Point allowing Alan Reynolds to take this nice clear photograph of them during his visit to the area on Wednesday 23rd.

The park's grazing fields still have plenty of wigeon feeding on them with 700+ birds scattered across them as in the picture above. Also in the fields has been the big wader roost of 800+ black-tailed godwits, one bar-tailed godwit and 400+ redshank with 20+ snipe, 170 curlew and the ruff still present on Wednesday. Also 400 brent geese, 50 greylag geese and a pair of Canada geese.

A merlin flew so fast over the fields on Thursday evening that many of the other birds hardly noticed as it came in from the sea and raced north-westwards.
No sign of the snow bunting at the Point since Monday with a rock pipit the only small bird of interest noted here on Thursday afternoon.

Three redpolls flew over the park on the sunny morning of Thursday and 20 redwings were seen in trees near the car park, while a goldcrest was in trees on the cliff-top.

Two redstarts unexpectedly turned up briefly in a West Mersea garden in High Street North on Wednesday morning for a couple of hours first thing. An unusual location for one to turn up although one stopped off in a nearby garden in Whittaker Way a couple of years ago.

This painted lady was making the most of the late October sunshine as it basked on the beach in front of the cliff at the park on Thursday 24th. A red admiral, small white and peacock were also seen this day too.
Two common darters were still on the wing at the park.

A quick check of the tops of some low wooden posts revealed this common lizard soaking up the autumn sunshine on Thursday.

This rabbit looks like its holding its head in its paws.Quite a lot of rabbits are succumbing to myxomatosis at the park at the moment.
A weasel bounded across the car park and into the bushes on Tuesday.

Not many moths in the trap during a couple of mothing sessions this week with this large wainscot pictured above being something different from other recent sessions. The others noted have been large yellow underwing, November moth, barred sallow, green brindled crescent, red-green carpet, lunar underwing and grey shoulder knot.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013


Glyn Evans found this obliging common seal along the Pyefleet Channel posing for him as this photo was being taken on Monday 21st. A good selection of birds were seen by Glyn, his dad and Martin Elsey during their wetland bird survey, with some of his photos shown here.

A couple of dark-bellied brent geese in flight past the Island.

Part of the big flock of 280 avocets counted during the walk along the Pyefleet.

A single ruff was seen in the park's grazing fields along with a record count of 1200 black-tailed godwits during the high tide roost.

This juvenile grey heron has been a regular visitor to the park's grazing fields over the last month. It's also been seen recently stalking the pond in Bromans Lane as the traffic passes close-by.

The last of the wheatears are trickling through on their autumn passage with just two seen along the north side of the Island. A third bird was on the seawall near the Point at the end of the afternoon.
Other birds noted included common tern, short-eared owl, 13 Mediterranean gulls, 3 house martins and 3 swallows.

Monday, 21 October 2013


The wigeon were out in force today with 750 counted on the park's grazing fields on Monday 21st. This drake wigeon was one of a small group feeding on the saltmarsh beside the seawall at the end of the afternoon.

 Pleased to see the snow bunting still feeding along the beach at the Point at the end of the afternoon - present now for its fourth day. The bird stood still for a while five metres ahead allowing this picture to be taken.

Also seen near the Point were 10 pied wagtails, wheatear and 2 rock pipits while 9 red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river.

Glyn Evans counted a record 1100+ black-tailed godwits roosting on the pools in the fields on Monday. This picture is a small group, along with a drake shoveler, still in the fields late in the day. Also roosting were 400+ redshank along with 400 teal, 25 snipe, 50 lapwing, 300 brent geese and 44 little egrets. A male sparrowhawk flew along the edge of the fields a couple of times during the day. There was also a big foraging flock of about 2000 starlings in the fields.

In the park a ring ouzel was heard chacking loudly from the edge of the car park in the morning but its only view was a brief glimpse as it flew behind some bushes. A female merlin flashed over the car park mid morning. Also during the day were three siskins with 20 goldfinches flying over the pond, a redpoll flying west while 15 swallows and 3 house martins and a chiffchaff were noted.Up to 20 redwings were seen about the park during the day.

Glyn and his fellow WeBs counters walked the north side of the Island and flushed a short-eared owl from the Maydays seawall, probably a recent immigrant as it dropped back down again a short while later. Also a good count of 13 Mediterranean gulls in a field at Maydays. Two wheatears and a common tern were also noted.

This is the back of the very dark cloud that had just dropped its full payload of hail and torrential rain on me whilst at the Point. Accompanied with thunder and lightning, needless to say I got a tad soaked. At least the snow bunting was still on the beach and I saw it before I got drenched. In the afternoon Steve Entwistle saw a clouded yellow fly near the seawall at the Point.

On the pools in the field a green sandpiper flew round and dropped down amongst the many waders and wildfowl. Seven swallows were seen during the day.

Saturday, 19 October 2013


 Not the crispest of photos but this one shows the pale-bellied brent goose that was in the park's grazing fields on a wet Saturday 19th. At certain angles the whiter flanks helped this goose stand out amongst the other 300 dark-bellied brent geese.

Also in the fields were 80 greylag geese, pair of Canadas while there seemed to be a particularly large wader roost with 500+ redshank and 500 black-tailed godwits packed tightly together during the middle of the day. Good numbers of duck as well with 1000+ teal and 600+ wigeon along with 10 shoveler.
No sign today of the 3 pintail that included 2 drakes that were seen on the pools on Friday morning.

The old Maldon fishing smack Advent sailed into the Colne past the East Mersea Point where the snow bunting was present all day again. First seen late on Thursday, the snow bunting seemed quite happy feeding along the high strandline along the beach at the very eastern end. Rock pipit, pied wagtail, reed bunting and 5 linnets also present in the area.

Nine female common scoter flew upriver late afternoon while 6 female red-breasted mergansers flew out of the Colne. Waders of note included 20 avocet past the Point and 700 golden plover resting on the mud.

By the pond a Cetti's warbler sang several times from the thick hedge nearby but not providing any views. No doubt this bird will only stay a day or two before moving on, as previous Cetti's have done. Thirty redwing flew over the pond at dusk looking for a roost site for the night. On the pond gadwall numbers are picking up slowly with ten now present.

A short-eared owl was seen early in the morning flying to the north of the park being hotly pursued by various crows. The owl then perched in a tall white poplar for a minute or so before flying back out, circling high up and then heading north out of sight.

Ten swallows passed over the car park at the beginning of the day. No other late summer migrants noted during the day.

Michael Thorley reported on Friday seeing a brambling with chaffinches in his garden just west of Meeting Lane in East Mersea.

This little brown moth was fluttering along the clifftop at the park with the little white spots flickering in flight which is the main identification feature of the vapourer moth. It eventually settled amongst a broom bush where the picture was taken. Although it has visited the moth trap in the past and is probably quite a widespread species here, it is rarely noted at the moth trap.

A migrant hawker was still on the wing near the pond towards dusk on Saturday.
A red admiral was seen at the park on a dull Friday morning yesterday.

Thursday, 17 October 2013


This snow bunting was a pleasant and unexpected find on the beach at the East Mersea Point late on Thursday 17th. A flicker of white in the wings as it first flew along the beach was the first clue this was the first snow bunting of the winter here. It settled a little further along where this hurried picture was snapped, in between its short sprints across the shingle. These early visitors don't usually hang around for many days and are just moving through. The first flocks to stay awhile usually appear in early November onwards.

It was a still and sunny end to the day with a clear visibility across the calm waters. This picture above was the view across the park borrowdyke.
Lots of wildfowl in the fields with 1000+ wigeon, 500 teal, 100 brent geese, 114 greylag geese and a pair of Canada geese. On the park pond 70 mallard, 10 shoveler, 4 gadwall and 3 tufted duck were present at dusk.

On the mudflats 250 avocets were feeding along the edge of the river while 400 golden plover were resting in one area. One marsh harrier was seen flying up river to the Langenhoe roost.

Ten swallows flew over the car park late afternoon and there was the small thrush group feeding on the berries with redwing, mistle, song thrush and blackbird.

On Wednesday 16th a firecrest was located late morning in a holly bush in the car park calling initially before popping into view. It crossed the car park disappearing into the thick hedge behind the buildings and not looked for again.
Earlier in the morning 13 crossbills were seen flying above the trees on the clifftop calling out loudly, before they flew eastwards and not seen again.
During the day up to forty swallows along with three house martins had been seen feeding over and near the country park.

Martin Cock noted 40 fieldfares feeding in an arable field near Weir Farm in East Mersea earlier in the morning.

It's nice to see this sea spurge get a foothold on the beach at the Point as it's a newcomer to the area this summer. The plant used to have a restricted range on the mid Essex coast but in recent years has been spreading in good numbers along the Mersea beaches.

Numbers of moths have dropped off since the recent colder and unsettled weather has come in. Trapping over Tuesday and Wednesday nights produced only 13 species. The green-brindled crescent pictured above has been one of the regular visitors in small numbers over the last month or so. It has a variety of trees and bushes as foodplants including hawthorn and blackthorn.

The first grey shoulder knot of the autumn was found in the trap after Tuesday night's session. Although it's never a numerous moth, the earlier generation was recorded back in the spring.

The November moth sp. has been visiting the trap for a fortnight now in varying numbers. Their markings and flattened posture make them easy to overlook at times.
Other species noted included red-green carpet, common marbled carpet, snout, silver-Y, large yellow underwing, barred sallow, lunar underwing, beaded chestnut, red-line quaker and yellow-line quaker.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


This group of starlings were busy splashing about in a muddy puddle near Rewsalls farm on Tuesday 15th. They were part of a big gathering of about 2000 birds feeding in the nearby ploughed field, stripping berries from the hedges and perching on overhead wires.

Nearby Andy Field and Martin Cock were walking the Rewsalls marshes and heard a Cetti's warbler sing from one of the thick blackthorn ditchlines. Up to forty thrushes mainly blackbirds but also song thrush, mistle thrush and redwing were noted along one of the hedgelines. A little owl was seen in the grounds of the East Mersea church.
No sign of the ring ouzel seen the day before beside Coopers Beach.

At the country park during Tuesday, 40 swallows passed through along with a very pale leucistic-coloured house martin seen over the fields in the morning. Also a wheatear, red-breasted merganser, 3 chiffchaffs, 50 goldfinch, 15 linnet, rock pipit, 20 meadow pipits,20 redwing, 10 song thrush, sparrowhawk and marsh harrier.

On the pools and the pond 15 little egret, 300 redshank, 24 snipe, 40 greylag geese, 100 brent geese, 2 Canada geese, 15 shoveler, 2 tufted duck and 4 gadwall.

At West Mersea a lesser redpoll flew over the Queens Corner calling early on Tuesday morning.

Little Ben and I had an enjoyable walk around the Rewsalls marshes and Coopers Beach area on Monday 14th. A nice male ring ouzel was discovered near the entrance to the caravan site and was then seen flying across the football pitch a couple of times, calling as it flew. The full thrush set was collected during the walk with 4 mistle thrushes, one fieldfare, 40 redwing and several blackbirds and song thrushes seen. A brambling was heard amongst some chaffinches as was a yellowhammer near the church.

Two common buzzards flew over the fields as did a marsh harrier while a pair of kestrels were busy hunting over the various fields. A sparrowhawk had been seen earlier over the fields near Bocking Hall. Ten swallows were seen during the walk heading west.

There were plenty of waders out on the mudflats with ten sanderling catching the eye as did ten little egrets.

  This striking spindle bush with its bright red autumnal colours stood out along one of the Rewsall's hedgerows.

A late afternoon Strood-side walk on Monday was fairly quiet with 10 little egrets, 50 wigeon, 50 teal, 40 brent geese, 15 little grebes and 10 swallows of interest.
Brian Churches reported watching an Arctic skua from the Old Hall Point, as it flew past the West Mersea beach huts and headed west up Tollesbury Creek.

On Sunday 13th the two yellow-browed warblers were still at the country park for their second day although viewing conditions were terrible in the morning through the rain. One ring ouzel was also seen at the park.
Later that Sunday morning 200 redwings flew west over West Mersea.

Saturday, 12 October 2013


Big excitement for the Island's birdwatchers today when the first yellow-browed warbler for Mersea was found at the country park on Saturday 12th. Andy Field discovered it close to the car park at Cudmore Grove during the middle of the morning as it fed with a big mixed tit flock. The small size, paler underparts, the yellowy stripe above the eye and the two wing-bars helped distinguish this bird from its commoner cousin, the chiffchaff.
Dave Allen did well to take these two photos of the bird as it perched in a tall oak tree at the far end of the horseride path alongside the grazing meadow.

Although this bird has pale underparts, a second yellow-browed warbler was seen in the same small oak bush that was slightly duller underneath. The two birds were only seen together on the one occasion in the middle of the afternoon. Most of the sightings through the day seemed to be of the brighter bird and although they hardly called, the birds seemed to favour the same length of hedgerow.

Like all the members of the leaf warbler family, the yellow-browed warblers are always on the move amongst the foliage. Andy managed to snap this picture of the paler bird as it flitted through the leaves.

About ten birders arrived at the park during the day hoping to sneak a glimpse of this rare visitor from Siberia. Luckily the weather had stayed dry and calm during the day which helped provide ideal viewing conditions.

The yellow-browed warbler wasn't the only exciting autumn migrant brought in overnight. At least seven ring ouzels were seen in the middle of the afternoon, which may've been the same birds flying about the park earlier in the day - or maybe different birds. They were very wary and reluctant to give clear prolonged views. They were calling out loudly which helped to locate them as they hid in the trees, sometimes in the car park and also along the path from the hide. Some were seen flying to the nearby caravan site. It's nearly fifteen years since ring ouzels were last seen at the park.

The influx of ring ouzels from Scandinavia were part of the ongoing big thrush invasion. There were lots of different kinds of thrushes around the park and they were very obvious too. Fifty redwings, 20 song thrushes, 30 blackbirds and six fieldfares were dotted about the park. Also seen were a male blackcap, chiffchaff and 20 swallows.

Offshore an immature gannet landed for a few minutes on the outer part of the Colne, even attracting the attention of a passing marsh harrier which had just flown south-east over the park's grazing fields. A sub-adult little gull was seen resting on the sea as the tide came in late afternoon. Also a female red-breasted merganser and a great crested grebe and common seal offshore from the park.

A common buzzard flew over the park in the morning and another bird in the afternoon. A greenshank flew off the pools calling loudly, while 300+ redshank gathered for the roost, as did 30+ little egrets.

At West Mersea the redwings were also in evidence with 100 birds noted passing over and also feeding along hedges. A brambling was heard calling from a bush near the Firs Chase caravan site but not seen. A kingfisher was a surprise when it flashed up the footpath beside the caravan site in the morning. A tern flew amongst the boat moorings which may've been a common tern.

The passage of redwings was also noted on Friday too especially over West Mersea where 200 birds in a number of small flocks passed over Firs Chase in the afternoon up until dark.
A walk along the Strood seawall on Friday morning was quiet with 4 knot, 12 little grebes, rock pipit, 50 teal and 50 wigeon the main birds of note.

Thursday, 10 October 2013


Wave after wave of redwings were streaming over the country park during the morning of Thursday 10th. Over a thousand birds were watched passing fast and low in the strong northerly winds, making their way westwards towards West Mersea. Each wave consisted of about fifty birds, sometimes less, sometimes bigger groups and coming along at times every five or ten minutes. Most flocks appeared to be coming from the direction of Colne Point.

This was autumn migration in full swing and gathering from other local observers in north-east Essex this must have been part of a huge invasion on Thursday morning. Richard Allen at Wivenhoe counted over 800 in an hour early on Thursday, while Clive Atkins saw over 200 and Richard Jacobs saw 1400 pass over St Osyth while 1100 flew past Frinton.

The last time this type of redwing influx was witnessed here on the Island was about fifteen years ago when a similar number streamed over the Island in waves during that early October morning. This time it was probably nice and clear over Scandinavia when they departed on Wednesday night but then hit the windy and wet weather over the North Sea, forcing them lower down and more visible to us by morning. On Thursday morning flocks passing over the car park were often below the height of the tree-tops with one or two calling out to each other as they sped past.

There was hardly any other migration noted except for a couple of swallows in the morning but also three house martins that were suddenly attacked over the car park by a juvenile hobby. One of the house martins had to be particularly alert and agile as the hobby made an unsuccessful snatch at it.

The strong winds blew all day but during the late afternoon high tide three immature gannets flew towards the mouth of the river Colne, before turning round and heading back out to sea. Other than a few other big gulls out at sea, a common seal swimming close into the park cliff was of interest.

Not as many little egrets were roosting today in the windy trees by the park pond with only fifteen counted. On the water were 50 mallard and 10 shoveler and some teal. On the pools was the usual big gathering of waders and wildfowl with an impressive number of about 1500 birds rising into the air when a marsh harrier passed overhead. Main birds were teal, redshank, black-tailed godwit, snipe and wigeon. In the far field 500 wigeon and 100 brent geese were grazing, as were 20 greylag geese.

The beach in front of the park cliff was sheltered from the strong winds on Thursday morning and this small copper was able to enjoy nectaring on this sea may-weed flower. A small tortoiseshell was also seen resting along the cliff bottom while migrant hawker and common darter were also on the wing.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


Andy Field took these two photos of the spotted flycatcher that was seen at the country park on the 11th September.

This bird was one of four spotted flycatchers this autumn at the park. The only other autumn sighting elsewhere was at Coopers Beach.

David Nicholls passed these two photos he took on Sunday 6th of a barn owl on Ray Island late morning.

Always nice to watch a barn owl in the daytime - and even better if there's a camera handy to capture the moment!

There's been a nice run of sunny days recently providing clear views across the Colne estuary. There was a good variety of waders on the mud as the tide went out late on Tuesday 8th with a handful of knot amongst the 300 dunlin, 200 redshank, 50 black-tailed godwits, 50 ringed plover along with turnstones, grey plovers, curlews, oystercatchers and golden plovers.

A marsh harrier crossed over the park on Tuesday and two swallows were noted flying over the car park that day too. A kingfisher was seen at the Oyster Fishery in East Mersea by Martin Cock earlier that morning along with 3 chiffchaffs, blackcap and whitethroat.

Two blackcaps, chiffchaff and swallow were at the park on Monday 7th along with 10 meadow pipits, while greenshank called from the mudflats. A sandwich tern was seen off West Mersea on Monday by Martin.

A sandwich tern flew past the country park calling out loudly as it headed back into the Colne on a bright sunny Sunday morning. A distant common buzzard soared on the east side of the river while four marsh harriers circled high over Langenhoe Point. Also noted were a rock pipit, 63 little egrets roosting in the trees and the ruff was still on the pools along with 200 redshank, 15 snipe, 250 teal, 500 wigeon with 100 brent geese in the fields.

The wind had calmed down on Saturday morning after a very blustery Friday. There was a lot of small bird activity around the car park with 12 chiffchaffs, goldcrest, whitethroat and three blackcaps foraging with a big tit flock. Two yellowhammers and 6 mistle thushes and 10 blackbirds were seen by the park entrance. A ruff was on the grazing fields and a Mediterranean gull flew over in the morning.

The sunshine has kept a few butterflies on the wing with this comma photographed by Andy at the park on the 6th. One late flowering buddleia bush at the park on Tuesday  had two red admirals, two commas and a small white on it. On the sunny Tuesday a clouded yellow flew low across the car park at the park. Two clouded yellows were also seen on the Shop Lane seawall earlier in the day by Martin. A red admiral was seen flying fast westwards over the park on its autumn migration on Wednesday morning.

This green shield bug posed nicely for Andy in his West Mersea garden.

Other creatures seen recently included a common seal swimming past the park on Saturday morning and also a road-kill badger on the East Mersea road near Fen Farm.

There's the unusual autumnal sight of a hawthorn bush at the park currently producing blossom following the recent warm weather. The bush still has a good crop of berries from the spring flush of blossom.