Tuesday, 31 December 2013


There were lots of noisy waterfowl on the park pond on Tuesday 31st, maybe quacking with excitement as the new year approaches! It was another wet and dull day at the country park with a strong wind at times too.

Around 100 mallard were on the pond with many noisily displaying  to each other or chasing each other about. Some of the coots were also in a bossy mood getting into scraps with rivals. Other ducks minding their own business were 20 shoveler, 7 tufted duck, 20 teal and 10 gadwall.

A pair of stock doves, green woodpecker and goldcrest with the long-tailed tits were also seen in the area. Ten goldfinches were seen flying over the tree-tops near the car park.

There was a reasonable godwit roost in the fields at high tide with 500+ black-tailed godwits seen late morning along with 50 redshank, 3 dunlin and 5 snipe. The regular flock of 800+ wigeon were busy grazing in both fields, with 200 teal and 50 lapwing also present.

Helen Musset reported seeing the water rail at the back of the pond and also the rare sight at the park of a stoat, chasing after some moorhens at the pond on Monday 30th.

Martin Cock saw three green sandpipers on a pool in a field at Bocking Hall earlier on Tuesday 31st.

Sunday, 29 December 2013


The sporadic spells of sunshine recently have encouraged some birds to think ahead to spring, such as this singing corn bunting which posed perfectly on a bush alongside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall as I drove past on Boxing Day. It immediately sang its distinctive jangling song just a few metres from the car. Another 100 metres along the same road was another corn bunting on another bush.

Hopefully these corn buntings will still be here in the spring to breed in the adjacent fields. Numbers of corn buntings breeding on the Island have been gradually declining, as they have been elsewhere in the country, and only about seven pairs were located this spring.

There was plenty of sunshine throughout Sunday 29th providing good clear views of many waders on the Colne estuary such as this flock of dunlin feeding on the receding tide by East Mersea Point.

The main birds of note on Sunday were 5 Slavonian grebes seen offshore from the park looking slightly south-west. Little else on the water other than 5 great crested grebes and a common seal. Two marsh harriers were seen crossing the Colne during the morning.

Also by the Point was this oystercatcher waiting for a bit more mud to get exposed. Eight sanderling were noted here on Sunday while 30 were seen on the beach the day before. Two rock pipits were amongst the sea-blite bushes at the Point on Saturday too.

Birds in the area have been fairly consistent over the last fortnight with little change noted.
Of interest were 300 avocets and 7 red-breasted mergansers near Langenhoe Point on Saturday while 250 knot were on the mud near the Point.

There was the familiar sight of lots of wildfowl on the park's grazing fields over the weekend with at times up to 700+ brent geese, 1000+ wigeon, 300+ teal, 100+ lapwing and some very elusive nine snipe noted on Sunday. A small group of rooks have been feeding in the fields recently with sixty birds noted on Friday along with a few jackdaws too. Up to ten skylarks have been feeding in the fields and saltmarsh area.

The usual mix of ducks on the park pond have consisted roughly of 5 tufted duck, 25 shoveler, 12 gadwall and 60 mallard. A grey heron was by the pond on Saturday while up to five little egrets were around the saltmarsh. A sparrowhawk flew north from the park entrance on Saturday and a male kestrel flew over the fields on Sunday.

The crop of sloes on the blackthorn bushes have been slowly disappearing recently around the park as the flock of up to 25 blackbirds have been tucking into them. Four mistle thrushes were perched on a tree at the back of the fields on Saturday, while one was heard singing in Bromans Lane on Sunday morning.

Elsewhere Alan Reynolds saw a Mediterranean gull in the Seaview Avenue car park on Sunday.
David Jones reported seeing five woodcock fly away during the East Mersea pheasant shoot on Saturday, with four in the wood near North Farm and one other from Gyants marsh.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013


A very happy Christmas to the followers of Mersea Wildlife - I trust you had a great day.
I managed to fit in some birdwatching from the Firs Chase kitchen window in West Mersea while the turkey was cooking in the oven. The bird feeders had been topped up and there was soon plenty of action here to keep me distracted from the important job in hand!

Pictured above was one of the resident song thrushes which was feeding on the ground underneath the feeders. It should start singing soon within the next fortnight or so, ready for the new breeding season. They bred successfully here earlier this year in the spring, producing a couple of youngsters.

Always nice to see our regular friend the pied blackbird still visiting the garden, here he was as usual just outside the front door on the drive. Luckily he's a very wary bird and has his wits about him, what with the perils from local predators such as cats and sparrowhawks.

A pair of greenfinches dropped down to feed on the peanuts, as the female was doing here.
Also noted on the peanuts, fat-balls and sunflower seeds were blue tit, long-tailed tit and great tit.

Hopping around the branches and the feeders were a couple of robins, one photographed here through a dirty window. Also noted on the ground were dunnock, jay and collared dove.

The country park enjoyed some sunshine in the middle of Xmas day and these wigeon pictured above happily snoozed in the morning sun on the edge of the grazing fields. About 300 wigeon and 200 teal were noted with little egret and 6 greylag geese also in the fields.

At the park pond 5 tufted duck and 40 shoveler were present along with 12 gadwall and 50 mallard.

After the wet and windy weather of recent days, it was nice to see the sun breaking through the clouds early in the morning on Xmas Day, here across the mud at the country park.
Noted from the Point were 200 golden plover, goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, 2 great crested grebes and a rock pipit, while resting on the mud at Langenhoe Point were 300+ avocets.

On Tuesday 24th at the country park a marsh harrier flew over the Point, 100 bar-tailed godwits flew past to feed on the Mersea Flats, 100 brent geese fed on the nearby mud and a male goldeneye flew upriver.

There was the interesting flock of at least forty blackbirds and two song thrushes feeding alongside the hedge at the back of the park's grazing fields. Two water rails called from near the park pond

This satellite moth was attracted to the lit window at the country park on Tuesday shortly after nightfall. Other than a few winter moths still on the wing, this maybe the last moth of the year for the park.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013


 Water levels have risen sharply in the last couple of days especially as rain fell continuously through Monday night. One of the grazing fields at the park pictured above, appears to show most of it under water by Wednesday 18th. As always the greatest number of birds were on the fields during the high tide around the middle of the day.

Several groups of brent geese were flying onto the fields to feed such as this flock pictured above. By late morning around 500 brent had gathered in the field nearest the Golfhouse. Ten greylag geese were also in the fields.

At least 500 wigeon were strung out along the edge of the fields and also in the adjacent borrowdyke too. Some groups of wigeon headed away to rest on the far edge of the mudflats to rest.

Also in the fields was a ruff, 100+ redshank, 500+ black-tailed godwits and 300+ teal with a few dunlin, turnstone and lapwings too. On the nearby mudflats were 200 golden plover, 30 bar-tailed godwits flew past the Point, rock pipit at the Point and one great crested grebe in the Colne.

At the pond 85 mallard, 18 gadwall, 30 shoveler and five tufted ducks were noted. A sparrowhawk flew over fields to the north while a kestrel was hovering above the cliff in the morning.

A male pintail flew over the fields on Monday afternoon, at least eight snipe were noted while 30 sanderling were counted at the Point.

From West Mersea on Tuesday 17th, Martin Peers reported 2 great northern divers, 54 great crested grebes, 350 cormorants fishing, shag, 134 oystercatchers and 60 bar-tailed godwits.

Monday, 16 December 2013


Steve Grimwade kindly passed these photos to me after his very successful Swallow Birding boat trip into the Blackwater from West Mersea on Saturday 14th aboard Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat.
This female long-tailed duck was seen near Packing Shed Island off West Mersea.

Three great northern divers were seen in Salcott Channel, pictured above, with another two seen in Tollesbury Channel.

Great northern diver pictured above.

 This shag was seen on a buoy in Salcott Channel with a large ring on its leg. Steve is currently trying to discover where it was ringed - possibly the Isle of May on the east coast of Scotland.

Other birds seen during the four hour trip were 7 common scoter, smew, 17 red-breasted merganser, black-throated diver, 32 great crested grebes, 12 marsh harriers, 3 hen harriers, 2 common buzzards, peregrine and 30 bar-tailed godwits ( including one in summer plumage). By the Strood Channel was the yellow-legged gull and 12 ruff.

Sunday, 15 December 2013


There were a couple of bright and beaming sunrises on both Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th, seen from the park out to sea. There was a sunny start to both mornings although the cloud soon came in later on.

 Some of the wigeon have got quite used to people walking alongside the nearby seawall such as this drake on the borrowdyke that was happy to be snapped from quite close-by. At least 500 birds were in the fields with a large group on the nearby sea too.

Not as many little egrets around the park compared with a couple of months ago. This one was feeding in one of the pools in the grazing fields.

Sitting out the high tide was this flock of roosting black-tailed godwits with one or two lapwings as well. Also in the fields at high tide were 100 redshank, 5 snipe, 10 golden plover, 1 grey plover, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 10 turnstone, 10 dunlin, 20 curlew and 100 teal.

A male sparrowhawk flew across the field to the north on Sunday morning. Earlier in the day a female marsh harrier crossed low over the Point as it headed south to Colne Point.
On the park 25 goldfinches circled over the car park late afternoon and a goldcrest was with the roving tit flock.

At high tide 25 turnstones, one pictured above, were feeding on the beach at East Mersea Point on Sunday along with 8 sanderling. Two red-breasted mergansers flew back into the river.
A merlin was watched flying high and fast along the coast over Brightlingsea on Saturday morning.

Andy Field carried out the monthly harrier roost count from East Mersea on Sunday afternoon and counted over Langenhoe ranges, 4 hen harriers ( including two males), 20 marsh harriers and a peregrine. A green sandpiper was also heard.

Daryl Rhymes noted long-tailed duck, 4 great northern divers flying out of Salcott Channel and a marsh harrier on Sunday morning from West Mersea.
There were reports of the long-tailed duck being seen off West Mersea last week on the 12th and the 13th.

Martin Cock on Saturday from Maydays farm, saw the goosander in the Pyefleet again, common buzzard, four marsh harriers and a peregrine.

Saturday, 14 December 2013


The blackbirds at the country park have been making quick work this week of stripping the berries from the cotoneaster bushes in the car park. Up to twenty blackbirds have been foraging in one main flock in various corners of the park in recent days. At least one goldcrest is keeping company with a roving long-tailed tit flock. A couple of great tits were singing from bushes in the car park on a sunny Thursday morning.

The bushes had managed to keep their autumnal appearance of juicy berries and colourful leaf tints up to mid December. Most bushes and shrubs around the park have lost their berries although some sloes still exist as do lots of the rose-hips.

This is one of two red squirrel feeders that have been put up in the park, filled with a mix of monkey nuts, hazelnuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds. There haven't been any more sightings of red squirrels at the park since one was spotted scampering across a path about six weeks ago.

One or two frosty mornings during the week left a light covering of frost across the park, resulting in some eyecatching patterns.

A water rail was seen in the park fields on Wednesday feeding beside a ditch followed the next day by another water rail beside another hedgeline in the fields. The big wigeon flock of 800+ birds has been the main gathering on the fields over recent days, although they've been spending quite a bit of time on the sea too. The only brent geese in the area of the park has been the feeding group on the algae in front of the cliff in the early morning.

A very moody setting sun going down to the west of the park beach on Thursday 12th.
As the light faded, some very agitated oystercatchers called from the nearby mudflats as a peregrine passed close overhead. It was in hunting mode and singled out a dunlin with a number of fast stoops, forcing the little wader up into the air as it tried to out-manoeuvre the determined peregrine. The dunlin appeared to have some success in evading the mid-air talon snatch although both birds headed across the river and lost to view.
 This winter moth was resting on the window of the house at the park early evening on the 12th.

Monday, 9 December 2013


This confiding group of brent geese were feeding on the algae on the mud close to the car park at the West Mersea Hard on Monday 9th. The main flock of brent geese were feeding on the arable fields on the Peldon side of the Ray Channel. In the Strood Channel 26 little grebes were amongst the moorings but no sign of the great northern diver today.

A female marsh harrier was quartering the Strood fields while in the distance a male marsh harrier crossed the Strood causeway towards Ray Island. A female sparrowhawk flew low inside the scrubby bushes just along from the Dabchicks, sending 20 blackbirds and one fieldfare fleeing for their safety.

At the south-west end of the Strood seawall the pair of stonechats were seen again - first time for a fortnight. Also thirty linnets perched up on some wires and two reed buntings were along the dyke.

From Kingsland Road a black-necked grebe, Slavonian grebe and a great northern diver were seen in the morning. Martin Cock saw the female goosander in the Pyefleet Channel again on Monday morning.

Sunday, 8 December 2013


The fields inside the Strood seawall have been recovering from being inundated with seawater during the surge tide early on Friday morning. The picture above shows the wettest area on Saturday morning, 24 hours after the water came over the seawall. The high tide-line in the fields appeared to have been almost 200 metres in from the seawall in places.

The sluice under the seawall was in full spate as the flood-water rushed back out to sea. Most of the flood-water had dropped down to a normal level by Sunday morning.

Big heaps of debris of wood, litter, seaweed and saltmarsh plants lie along the seawall top indicating where the high tide reached. Along some sections the water has flowed down the inside of the seawall.

On Sunday a great northern diver was an unusual sight in the Strood Channel up from the Dabchicks Sailing Club. It drifted in with the morning tide and kept company with some of the 26 little grebes. A flight of 30 cormorants passed overhead back to Abberton from their fishing trip out to sea.There was no sign of the long-tailed duck that had been in this area for several days up to last weekend.
A common seal was amongst the moorings not far from the jetty at the Hard.

A ruff was taking advantage of the flooded field on Sunday along with 25 black-tailed godwits, 50 redshank, 20 dunlin, 5 curlew, 2 snipe, 5 little egrets, 2 mute swans, 50 black-headed gulls and a flock of 200 starlings.
There were more small birds in the area than usual, again feeding on the recently wet areas with 20 meadow pipits, 5 rock pipits, 20 skylarks, 10 pied wagtails and 10 reed buntings noted.

Along the Strood the main flocks were 1000 golden plover, 300 lapwing, 500+ mixed wigeon and teal with 20 knot of interest while 700 brent geese were on the Peldon fields. A marsh harrier flew over the Ray Saltings and over the Strood causeway on Sunday.
The previous morning a marsh harrier was quartering the waterlogged Strood fields and dropped inside one of the reedbeds in the dyke for ten minutes. It clattered out of the reeds with its big wing-beats as I walked along the seawall to where it was resting, providing a close-up view of a startled harrier.

Daryl Rhymes noted mainly from Kingsland Beach on Sunday morning black-throated diver, 2 great northern divers, long-tailed duck, Slavonian grebe, black-necked grebe, 25 great crested grebe and 3 red-breasted mergansers.

I didn't count how many earthworms were lying drowned/ poisoned in this puddle of seawater in Coast Road but all along the coastline were masses of dead worms that got flooded out by the surge tide.

Martin Cock reported seeing a muntjac deer near the West Mersea allotments earlier in the week.

Friday, 6 December 2013


Parts of Mersea Island suffered with flooding by the sea following the surge tide in the early hours of Friday 6th. The worst affected areas were some of the streets and houses along the edge of West Mersea, such as this view of Coast Road in front of the Yacht Club taken at 1.30am.

Parts of Coast Road were completely submerged and unwalkable and a pair of wellies were certainly handy.

The section of Coast Road beside the houseboats usually floods on the spring tides but this surge tide brought in so much debris and rubbish.

Several of the houses at the bottom of the Lane were flooded despite the use of sandbags by the doors. Many houses had lots of close escapes with the water stopping inches from entering their properties at the height of the tide just before 2am.

A fair number of folk, possibly a hundred, went to bed late during the night so they could watch the drama unfold. Many of these folk came back again 12 hours later to see it all happen during the daylight hours. Here a group exchanging tales on a flooded Coast Road at the bottom of Firs Chase.

Another part of West Mersea affected by the night's flooding was at Seaview Caravan site where water flooded in behind the beach huts.

Also at Seaview caravan site was this new lagoon on the tourers pitches next to the Two Tides clubhouse.

 Flooding on the Strood causeway during the surge tide meant the Island was seemingly impassable for nearly six hours - according to someone who waited in the car trying to get off the Island.
The country park at East Mersea remained unaffected by the surge tide and the seawall remained intact and the park cliff fared quite well too.

Don't know what all the birds thought of the very high tides over the last 12 hours. This grey plover was resting on the side of the Rewsalls seawall as the tide came in around noon on Friday. Also noted in the area were 20 sanderling, 36 curlew, 200 brent geese, common snipe, 2 linnets and a little egret. A common buzzard was perched in a Rewsalls hedge next to a game cover crop. There was also a common buzzard seen on wires near Manwood Grove in Shop Lane.

At West Mersea a Mediterranean gull was off Seaview Avenue along with 5 sanderling and 8 pied wagtails on the beach. The very high waters seemed to have driven many birds away from the area at the peak of the tides. Five red-breasted mergansers were the only birds of note in the Quarters. Fifty greenfinches, rock pipit and a little egret were near St Peters.

After a day of drama along the waterfront, there was the briefest glimpse of the setting sun at the end of the afternoon.

Thursday, 5 December 2013


The wind whipped up the sea during Thursday 5th although the park escaped any damage or flooding during the high tide early in the afternoon. It seemed like a normal high tide as seen in the photo above, although the worst part of the storm surge is expected to hit the Island later tonight when there will be flooding.

The high tide had brought many waders and wildfowl to roost in the park fields. High numbers of wigeon were on the fields with up to 1500 birds present along with 300 teal. The main wader flock was a mix of 300+ redshank and 500+ black-tailed godwits with 100 lapwing and 8 snipe noted.

There was mass panic over the fields when a peregrine made several sorties over the main area where the birds were gathered. Even from a distance the near vertical flights of the peregrine made it stand out from all the birds trying to flee away.

At the Point 8 sanderling and 30 bar-tailed godwits were noted just prior to high tide. Rock pipit, 2 reed buntings and 3 skylarks were also noted along the beach.

On Wednesday David Low found a jack snipe feeding on the fields - the first sighting this year here. Ten common snipe were also feeding around the main wet areas. Good numbers of wigeon again with 822 counted in one fields with 400+ in the other field. David had visited the park to count and check through the brent goose flock but sadly this day, the flock was elsewhere in East Mersea, other than about 20 brent here.

A ruff was seen on the Golfhouse saltings, a goldeneye flew upriver and a red-throated diver was seen offshore. There was a big flock of 2000+ dunlin, 500 knot and 700 golden plover on the mudflats beside the park as the tide went out. Two marsh harriers headed north over the Point.

The sun barely shone on Wednesday although it brightened up at the end of the afternoon resulting in a nice red sunset to the west, here from the park beach.

There was another colourful sunset on Monday 2nd seen here from the car park at the park. During the middle of the day high tide, 3 red-throated divers, 6 Slavonian grebes, 30 great crested grebes, 200+ shelduck and a big raft of 440 wigeon were seen on the sea from the park.

The following day Martin Cock and Andy Field counted 9 Slavonian grebes from Coopers Beach as well as seeing great northern diver and black-throated diver in Besom Creek and the long-tailed duck near the Dabchicks. There was a big flock of 2000 golden plover rose into the air over the Quarters.

This mottled umber with its dark bands caught the eye following the mothing through Sunday night, different markings than the ones caught a few nights earlier. This was one of four mottled umbers and a November sp noted on Monday morning.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


This confiding rock pipit was feeding at the East Mersea Point on Sunday 1st. It was only after I checked the photos afterwards that I realised the bird had a small metal ring on its leg. Sadly not close enough to read any detail. There are usually a couple of rock pipits spend the whole winter around the saltmarsh and beach near the Point.

Two snow buntings flew over the Point calling this morning, although they weren't watched to see if they came down. Yesterday there were six snow buntings on  Saturday seen feeding on the beach before they flew east across the river to Point Clear.

Offshore five Slavonian grebes were seen in a little feeding group as they drifted west in front of the park during the morning high tide. About ten great crested grebes seemed a small influx while a big gathering of 200 shelduck rested on the water just out of the Colne mouth with another 40 inside the river.
A marsh harrier made a slow crossing over the sea from Colne Point towards the Mersea Youth Camp direction.

Big numbers of wigeon were feeding in the park's grazing fields with 1000+ birds spread across large areas. In the afternoon something spooked the wigeon and hundreds flew off to rest on the sea well beyond the low-tide mudflats.
Other high tide flocks in the fields included 400 brent geese, 200 golden plover, 50 lapwing, 300 teal, 50 redshank, 8 snipe and 100 black-tailed godwits.

At the park pond 22 shoveler, 70 mallard, 8 gadwall and a tufted duck were present on the water. A water rail was seen scurrying nervously along the field edge as it hurried back to the reeds for dark. At least one other water rail squealed from the back of the pond, possibly duetting with a second bird.

A sparrowhawk flew inside the pond-copse at dusk sending 11 stock doves out the other side. In the morning a little owl was seen perched in a hedge to the north of the park, enjoying the winter sun. A goldcrest was in the car park bushes and a fieldfare was by the Golfhouse.

On Saturday Andy Field saw a black brant type in the fields amongst 1000 brent geese, while a peregrine flashed briefly over the fields and a marsh harrier flew over the fields in the morning.

At West Mersea the long-tailed duck was seen again near the Dabchicks sailing club on Sunday morning along with the sight at dawn of 300+ cormorants heading out to sea from Abberton reservoir.
On Saturday Andy saw 2 common scoter and a shag from St Peters at West Mersea.

Opportunities for moth-trapping have been getting scarce with the decreasing night-time temperatures and general lack of dry, calm and cloudy nights. However the trap was put out on the 27th on a still night and was rewarded with ten December moths, one pictured above. Not sure if I've had this many Decembers in one night before. Also four November sp moths too.
The trap was also switched on the following night on the 28th with 2 Decembers re-appearing.

Two mottled umbers, one pictured above,were found in the morning resting on the grass a few feet from the trap.

This yellow-line quaker was found in the trap in the morning.

Also making a late seasonal appearance was this faded red-green carpet, appearing over a month since the last sighting here.

David Morris reported seeing two muntjac deer cross Dawes Lane in the late evening on the 22nd November.