Wednesday, 26 February 2014


 Replaced the old rotten kestrel nestbox at the back of the park's grazing fields with this smart new one on a sunny springlike Wednesday 26th with the help of Andy Field. This one has been covered in roofing felt to make it last longer. Obviously it is going to smell different, it will look clean inside and it might appear a bit too new.

However the great news already today was the male kestrel was seen hopping inside just before dusk, just to have brief peek before flying off. Hopefully he'll come back with his mate and use it for nesting.

The new box design was the same design as the previous one which ended up being used by the kestrels for the last five years. Last summer four chicks successfully fledged which was their best year. The old box had probably been up in the tree for about ten years in total.

 The kestrels have this great view from their box, looking over the flooded field and beyond over the seawall and out to sea. They have a bird's eye view of all the waders and wildfowl on these pools.

Seen in the fields on Wednesday were 400 brent geese, 500 wigeon, 200 teal, 100 black-tailed godwits, 25 shelduck, 5 snipe and 2 little egrets. Six stock doves were perched in the tree at the end of the afternoon.
In the Colne two pairs of red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river at the end of the day.
Phil Carter reported seeing a water rail at the back of the fields during the morning.

On Tuesday late in the afternoon a merlin flew over the fields, circled round a couple of times, scaring lots of waders and ducks and then it flew low along the back of the fields and perched up in the kestrel tree. No doubt the merlin was able to enjoy this view in the picture above.

As the ladder was going to be out in the fields, the opportunity was made to put up this little owl box. It's located on an alder tree along the hedgeline below the hide, visible from the hide but off to the left. While the box was being erected early in the afternoon, at least one little owl could be heard calling from a hedgeline two fields to the north.

On the nearby pond 16 tufted duck and at least one pochard were seen while the previous day the high number of 24 tufted ducks were joined by 3 pochard. Ten pied wagtails flew west over the pond at dusk on Tuesday heading to their roost.

Some of the goat willow trees near the pond were buzzing with the sound of honey bees and bumble bees around the flowering yellow catkins. The sun shone throughout most of Wednesday and two adders were seen at the country park.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


Another dry day with plenty of sunshine brought this adder out on Saturday 22nd for the second day running. Yesterday was the first sighting of the year at the country park, in the usual area close to the car park.

More surprising was seeing this juvenile adder out so early in the season, well before many others have appeared. This small youngster from last summer with its distinctive brown colouration, was only about 25cms (ten inches or so) long.

One snow bunting was at the Point in the morning although with so many visitors enjoying the beach later in the day, I doubt this bird would've stayed for very long.
In the nearby saltmarsh 2 reed buntings, rock pipit and a little egret were seen.

Amongst the wigeon, teal  and tufted duck along the borrowdyke was this pair of Canada geese - the first sighting this year at the park.
A water vole was seen swimming across the dyke and disappearing under a bramble bush.

Water levels are very gradually receding across the park's grazing fields although they're still well liked by 1000 black-tailed godwits, three above and also 500 wigeon, some pictured above too. Other birds seen in the fields prior to the main high tide roost were 500 brent geese, 300 teal, 10 snipe, 50 redshank, 30 shelduck and 50 dunlin.

On Friday 21st a male sparrowhawk flew along the back of the fields upsetting some of the waders and wildfowl. Three pochard were on the park pond.
Two corn buntings were perched up along the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall and Chapmans Lane.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


The first frog report of the spring was this one photographed by David Nicholls in his West Mersea garden on Saturday 15th. Mid to late February seems to be the usual time on Mersea to see frogs and toads heading for the ponds. None seen so far along Firs Chase.

David also found this very poorly badger on the Bonner's saltings near Ray Island on Saturday 15th. It was suffering from extreme hypothermia and was taken into care the by the North East Essex Badger Group. Not heard whether it survived.

Another sign of spring at the country park are the emerging pussy willow catkins bursting into flower. These ones enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies on Wednesday 19th.

A water rail came out from the hedge at the back of the grazing fields for several minutes on Wednesday morning, providing a rare view this winter. Waders were gathering on the pools to roost with 150 redshank, 100 turnstone, 50+ black-tailed godwits with others still arriving and 12 snipe were nice to see.

At the park pond two drake and a female pochard were seen along with 16 tufted duck and a pair of little grebe.A grey heron and two little egrets were also by the pond. In the distance a sparrowhawk glided to the north of the park while the female kestrel was perched on the tree behind the grazing fields.

At West Mersea a black-throated diver, Slavonian grebe and a Mediterranean gull were seen by Andy Field.

No pots of gold at the end of this rainbow over the country park on Tuesday 18th during a day of sunshine and showers.
Andy Field and Martin Cock reported a merlin and the pair of stonechats by the Strood seawall on Tuesday morning. Later a common buzzard was seen at Gyants Marsh but little else there.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014


Glyn Evans and Alec Selley carried out the monthly wetland bird survey along the north side of the Island on Monday 17th. Amongst the birds seen on the walk by Glyn was this little egret.

This pair of teal were seen on the country park's grazing fields.

Several hundred brent geese have been feeding around the eastern end of the Island, here on the saltmarsh at high tide.

A rock pipit posing on a fencepost on the saltmarsh.

The main highlight of the walk was provided by Martin Cock who saw a red-throated diver in the Colne and later saw three long-tailed ducks fly out of the river.

Monday, 17 February 2014


There were plenty of brent geese along the Strood Channel on Monday 17th but this black brant pictured above was a reward for looking at nearly all of the thousand birds that were dotted along the channel.

Alongside the dark-bellied brent, this black brant quickly stood out as being blacker and having the white flanks patch too. The bird was easy to watch as it bobbed about on the water just fifty metres offshore near the caravan site.
The bird also showed the typical whiter collar of black brants which in this picture above, is continuous around the front of the neck. On the back of the neck there was the thinnest of breaks in this white collar.

This curlew was feeding close into the shore as the tide came in, just along from the Dabchicks sailing club at West Mersea.
Also noted along the Strood was the wintering pair of stonechats seen beside the borrow-dyke, rock pipit, 4 skylarks, 2 reed buntings and a small flock of linnets and goldfinches near the caravan site.
A marsh harrier flew west over Ray Island while over Copt Hall and Feldy were 5000+ of lapwings and golden plovers again.

Seven corn buntings were perched on wires above a field by Chapmans Lane on Monday afternoon.

Andy Field was straining through the telescope on Sunday 16th to count the harriers going to roost on the Langenhoe ranges. By nightfall two male hen harriers and a ringtail provided the highlight appearing in the air together at about 5.30pm. The final tally of marsh harriers was 18 birds, which is slightly lower than recent winters here. Interestingly the Old Hall Marshes harrier count carried out at the same time reported one hen harrier and 22 marsh harriers.

Also towards the end of the afternoon a pair of barn owls were hunting the long grass fields near the Oyster Fishery, with one bird being seen over Shop Lane too. A barn owl was seen hunting the Langenhoe ranges. Just after nightfall a barn owl was also seen perched on a tree in Bromans Lane, possibly a different bird. A tawny owl called at dusk from the likely direction of Gyants Marsh.

Other birds of interest were 4 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet, 700+ brent geese feeding on Reeveshall, a distant peregrine on a post on the Geedons and 200+ avocets seen in flight.

Saturday, 15 February 2014


 A real stormy sea battered the Mersea coastline again around the middle of the day on Friday 14th. The footpath on the Rewsalls' seawall pictured above, has remained closed since last week because it has become unsafe. All the way along the seawall waves were continuously being thrown up into the air as they crashed onto the side of the wall.

Lots of mini-waterfalls of seawater were pouring down the inside of the wall and then flowing into the dyke. Staying well off the seawall, the short section I walked below and alongside the dyke was a wet experience as waves of spray kept flying up and over.

Along with the spray from the waves, there was the rain being blown in on the strong winds. The small beach by the Youth Camp has got a lot smaller this winter and the sea has scoured so much away that there's now a little four foot cliff along the beach.

Birds seen on the very wet Rewsalls marshes were 300 brent geese which were dividing their time between the nearby wheat field and the flooded grassland. Also 40 curlew, bar-tailed godwit, 5 redshank, 30 mallard and a reed bunting in the reeds.

This last week the wet grazing fields at the country park have continued to have good numbers of birds on them especially at high tide with the wigeon and black-tailed godwits. For the second time this week there was a big roost of 1000+ black-tailed godwits roosting here on Thursday 13th. Other waders here have been 50 turnstone, 50 curlew, 100 lapwing, 200 golden plover, 5 snipe, 300 dunlin and 200 redshank.
There was the unusual sight of a spotted redshank in the fields on Monday 10th, the first one seen here this winter.

At times there have been 1000+ wigeon on the grazing fields along with 400 teal, 25 shoveler, 10 gadwall, 25 shelduck during high tide and six greylag geese. The main brent geese flock have been feeding recently at nearby Ivy Farm. Up to 16 tufted duck have been noted either on the pond or on the dyke in recent days while the female pochard was present up until Tuesday 11th.

The barn owl provided great views on Wednesday late afternoon as it criss-crossed the park a few times as well as some neighbouring fields too. It was also seen on the previous afternoon as well.

In the Colne a red-throated diver was seen in the outer reaches on Wednesday 12th along with lots of black-headed gulls. Five great crested grebes were the only other birds seen in the river.

Recent sightings reported to me at the park were a harbour porpoise in the river from the Point on Saturday 8th and a kingfisher seen at the park pond on Monday 3rd.

At Weir Farm a common buzzard was perched on a tree on Monday 10th while Martin Cock braved the windy weather at Coopers Beach on Wednesday 12th to see a marsh harrier battling into the elements as it headed west across the sea to Bradwell. At West Mersea Martin saw a guillemot amongst the boats at the Hard on Tuesday 11th.

The muddy path along from the hide showed these signs of a muntjac deer walking along it recently. There have been no sightings of it in the park for a few months although there have been several occasions when their footprints have been noted.

Friday, 7 February 2014


More strong waves have been pounding the park's coastline over recent days. The picture above was at high tide on Wednesday afternoon. The picture below taken today Friday 7th shows the collapsed seawall on the same corner.

The sea ripped out the first blocks on New Years Day and strong tides have been loosening more ever since then. Around thirty big blocks have collapsed, the clay inside has been scoured away and part of the tarmac path on top has fallen down.
The Environment Agency have been down to look at it twice this week and don't have any plans to carry out repairs imminently.

The surf breaking onto the beach had covered the sand with masses of foam just like a blanket of snow.

Michael Thorley found this dead guillemot on the beach between Coopers Beach and Fen Farm on Tuesday 4th. Last wekend three guillemots were seen in the Blackwater during a birdwatching boat-trip.

On calmer waters inland, this male pochard was at the park pond along with two females on Wednesday 5th.

An influx of tufted ducks on Wednesday saw a record count of 24 birds on the park pond. Many of the males were swimming around trying to ward off rival males away from the females.

This curlew was enjoying the wet ground by the pond, probing the soil with its long curved bill.

The very wet grazing fields have a good number of ducks and waders on them with 1000 wigeon the main bird. Lots of black-tailed godwits, redshank, lapwings, teal and shoveler as well as some dunlin too. Four snipe dropped down on Friday and two little egrets and a grey heron were noted too.

At Bocking Hall along the East Mersea road a flock of 50 fieldfares were seen by Andy Field on Wednesday while the previous day a corn bunting was perched up on a bush.

This small tortoiseshell has been fluttering around the house for a few days and needed picking up off the carpet before it got stood on. It was released outside where it hopefully won't get blown about too much in the strong winds.

This red-green carpet moth was found resting on the inside of the bird hide at the park earlier this week.

Monday, 3 February 2014


The sun shone for the third day in a row on Monday 3rd with these snowdrops and winter aconites making the most of this mild winter weather at the East Mersea churchyard.

 There was a small patch of lesser celandines in flower beside the Rewsalls marshes at East Mersea - the first ones of the year I've seen. Many of the flowers looked rather bedraggled having taken a hammering from some of the heavy rains last week.

The Rewsalls marshes were very waterlogged which provided good dabbling conditions for 300 brent geese.

Also on the wet pastures during the high tide were 100 curlew, 10 redshank and a bar-tailed godwit.
Noted in the area were 200 wood pigeon, kestrel, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, 5 skylark, rock pipit, meadow pipit, 20 goldfinch and 5 reed bunting.

The mild winter has brought forward the spring emergence of elm flowers on these twigs that were noticed close to Coopers Beach.

Sunday, 2 February 2014


There was enough warmth around on Sunday 2nd for this rather tatty peacock butterfly to be seen fluttering around Maydays Farm. It settled on the ground and out of the breeze for a few minutes soaking up some of the sunshine onto the remnants of its worn wings.

Spotted this young common newt in a pheasant's drinking container at Maydays Farm. This youngster from last year seems to be early out from hibernation this year. When I stuck my finger into the water it wiggled its feet and moved away, so it was certainly awake and alert.

There was a strong breeze on the Maydays seawall but there was good visibility along the Pyefleet and over to Langenhoe.The main highlight was watching a ringtail hen harrier flying low over a fair distance of the Langenhoe ranges. Its flight was determined and straight as it headed east towards the Point. Also over the ranges were a common buzzard, 3 marsh harriers and a kestrel.

The incoming tide pushed big flocks of waders up the Pyefleet with main birds being dunlin, knot, grey plover and redshank. At the top end of the Pyefleet 3 pintail were amongst lots of wigeon and shelduck.
A common seal was also seen swimming up with the tide.

The big grazing fields on Reeveshall held a flock of 500 lapwing and 200 starlings at first, although they flew off when one of three marsh harriers seen over the area, passed by. Five little egrets were resting on the saltmarsh as high tide approached and a kestrel flew over the fields.
Most small birds were close to the farm buildings with 20 chaffinch and 20 collared doves while nearby 3 yellowhammer, 2 redwing, 2 reed buntings were also seen.

Martin Cock visited Maydays shortly after my visit and flushed a jack snipe a couple of times, first from the saltmarsh and then from inside the seawall. A red-breasted merganser was seen in the Pyefleet and a spotted redshank was heard calling.

At Cudmore Grove Andy Field saw two pintail on the flooded grazing fields along with big numbers of waders and wildfowl including 1000+ brent geese, 1000+ wigeon, 500+ teal, 200+ redshank, 300+ dunlin and 200 lapwing. Seen in the River was a red-throated diver, goldeneye and a few red-breasted mergansers.

A visit to a breezy Shop Lane seawall on Saturday mid-day time, proved rather quiet as it coincided with high tide. Two marsh harriers were flying over Langenhoe and 8 red-breasted mergansers were in the Pyefleet. On Reeveshall 1000 lapwing, 100 golden plover and 100 dunlin were feeding on one of the pastures.

A walk along the muddy Strood seawall on Friday 31st provided views of the familiar waders and wildfowl. Huge flocks of lapwing and golden plover were often in the sky usually over Feldy /  Copt Hall fields but also close to the Strood causeway. Rather surprisingly no raptors were seen during the ninety minute walk.

In behind the seawall 400 golden plover, 200 lapwing were briefly on a ploughed field, 3 mute swans,10 linnets were on wires, 2 reed buntings, 4 skylarks and a rock pipit were seen.