Saturday, 28 February 2015


The weather has warmed up enough this week for the first adder to emerge from hibernation at the country park on Friday 27th. It was basking in the sunshine in one of the regular haunts near the car park late morning and appeared to be a female, supposedly the males usually emerge first. Despite checking this area a couple of days earlier when the sun was shining, there was no sign of any adders.

The first adder last spring was seen six days earlier, so they're a bit later this year. A quick check with a colleague at another good Essex site for adders at Hadleigh Country Park, revealed their first one was also found on this same Friday 27th at noon.

At the end of Friday at West Mersea, 180+ great crested grebes, ten red-breasted mergansers and two Mediterranean gulls were seen off Kingsland Road on a very calm sea as the sunset.

A marsh harrier flew along the coastline at the park on Thursday morning and a two pochard were seen on the park pond by Martin Cock on Monday 23rd.

This grey seal was an unexpected sight on the saltmarsh at Maydays farm late on Wednesday 25th, as this is the haunt of common seals. This is the first time I've seen a grey seal here and I've not heard of any other sightings here either. Its head shape is less rounded, a higher "Roman-nose" snout and two separate nostril slits which don't meet, are the distinguishing features.

I joined Andy Field along the Maydays seawall for the last hour of daylight to check the harrier activity on Langenhoe on Wednesday late afternoon. There was no sign of any hen harriers which is what we had hoped for, while the marsh harriers seemed to head eastwards at dusk to roost in their usual spot at the Langenhoe Point. At least eight marsh harriers were seen including two on Reeveshall and also four barn owls and a common buzzard hunting over the ranges.

Other birds of note were a Cetti's warbler heard singing loudly from across the Pyefleet channel on Langenhoe, also a dozen fieldfares on bushes there and a male pintail in the channel. The distinctive call of a grey partridge was heard from the Maydays fields but the light was too poor to see it. By Broad Fleet 25 coot were feeding on the grass.

This oystercatcher was on the mud near the East Mersea Point on Wednesday 25th at low tide. Also noted from here were 10 red-breasted mergansers in the river, 50+ avocets in the Colne and a reed bunting singing from the bushes at the Point.

In the grazing fields 1000 wigeon were feeding and 600 golden plover also roosted in the fields. The female stonechat was by the seawall, 10 tufted ducks were on the dyke and a sparrowhawk flew past the pond.

The moth trap was dusted down, old leaves plucked out of it and spiders cob-webs brushed off, ready for the milder night on Wednesday with a temperature of about 7 degrees. A double digit count by Thursday morning of eleven individuals of four macro species made it worthwhile.
This one pictured above is the fairly common pale-brindled beauty, one of four that were seen at the trap.

The satellite moth is a regular moth in the early spring as well as in the autumn too. This individual has the large orange dot on each wing with a tiny satellite spot next to it.
Also recorded were three dotted borders and three March moths.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Thirty sanderling were on the beach at the Point at high tide, this one scurrying along the foaming edge of the waves late on Monday 23rd.

Many of the sanderling were quite confiding, allowing close views as they searched the tideline for food.

In the Colne ten red-breasted mergansers and a couple of great crested grebes were the only birds noted in the river.
The high level of water in the dyke has brought some waders like this redshank to feed on the inside of the seawall. Along with one or two lapwing and black-tailed godwits, there have been 100+ wigeon too.

Eleven tufted ducks were seen on the dyke in two groups.

A sparrowhawk flew over the saltmarsh near the Point and then over the fields sending all the roosting birds away in different directions. Birds flying about were 400 brent geese, 500 wigeon, 800 golden plover and 100 lapwing. Also here were 30 black-tailed godwits, 100 dunlin and three snipe were hiding beside some tussocks of rushes.

Late in the afternoon a female marsh harrier flew low over the field, upsetting more of the wigeon and 150 teal on the pools.
The female stonechat was seen by the beach on Monday and Tuesday.

Recent weather has been a mixture of showers and sunny spells, with this black shower cloud passing to the south of the Island on Monday afternoon.

The song thrushes have been singing and showing well at the park over the last month, with this one sitting on a bush in the car park on Tuesday morning. At least two others have been seen in the car park along with a dozen blackbirds. A rarer bird for the park seen in the same bush was a chirping male house sparrow on Tuesday morning.

A little owl sat in the usual Leylandii hedge to the north of the park during the day, keeping out of the chilly wind. At the end of Tuesday the barn owl was seen a couple of times hunting over the park, its last sighting was near the park entrance when it perched on the field side of the Bromans Lane hedge.

Found this pair of dotted border moths mating on the outside of the park's Information room late on Saturday 21st.

Only the dotted border male has wings and can fly, with the female looking like a little black bug without any wings. Here locked abdomen to abdomen.

The first butterfly of the year at the park was a red admiral that flew across the car park on Tuesday 24th.

Friday, 20 February 2015


The song thrushes are in full song around the Island at the moment. This one was singing in my Firs Chase garden just after daybreak earlier this week, with the first rays of sun glinting in his eye.

At the park during the morning on Friday 20th 200 knot and 500 golden plover formed the main wader flocks on the mud as the tide came in. Offshore 6 red-breasted mergansers, 5 great crested grebes and a common seal were in the outer part of the Colne.

The park's grazing fields looked much wetter after a good night's rain. Waders and wildfowl were arriving with the incoming tide although 400 wigeon, 200 teal were the main birds along with 50 lapwing and a smaller number of black-tailed godwits, curlew and redshank. Other ducks noted were 10 shoveler and 12 tufted duck. A Mediterranean gull was standing with a small group of black-headed gulls beside a pool in the fields.

On Tuesday 17th the little owl was seen flying from one hedge to another to the north of the park pond in the morning, while at the end of the day the barn owl was seen hunting over the park.
A group of 13 fieldfares flew west past the park on Wednesday afternoon. Later in the morning 4 Slavonian grebes were seen from the park on a very sunny day.

Thirty fieldfares, 20 linnets and 100 starlings were feeding as a big flock in the fields by Bocking Hall on Thursday 19th. On Wednesday a hen harrier was seen flying over the Langenhoe ranges by Martin Cock from Maydays farm.

The female stonechat is still being very confiding beside the seawall, seen Friday and Thursday mornings. For a change this time she obligingly perched facing me allowing this picture to be snapped.

Marion Potifar was surprised to see a little egret walking over her garden at the north end of Shop Lane on 10th February. An unusual bird for the garden list, although it had been seeing flying over a month earlier.

Monday, 16 February 2015


Our old friend the perma-tanned bar-tailed godwit was on show again on the edge of the saltings near the Dabchicks Sailing Club at West Mersea on Monday 16th. Here the bar-tailed godwit on the right, is standing next to a black-tailed godwit.

There has been a summer-plumaged bar-tailed godwit wintering around the Island for several years now, presumably the same individual with a body clock that's set on permanent summer-time plumage. It stands out very easily amongst all the other waders which are generally grey - brown at this time of year.

This is what a bar-tailed godwit should look like in the winter - very much paler and not a hint of red on the feathers. Another one of the godwits feeding along the side of the Strood Channel near the Dabchicks.

Around thirty bar-tailed godwits were feeding close in, some of them wading in the shallow water as the tide receded.

This black-tailed godwit was feeding with the bar-tailed but some of the 80+ birds were in their own single-species groups.

Some dark-bellied brent geese were gathered along the edge of the channel waiting for the tide to uncover the algae on the mud.

At least 1500 brent geese were feeding on one of the fields beside the Strood Channel with more groups arriving during the late morning period. The black brant was found feeding in the middle of the main flock, its bright white flank contrasting well with the black belly and black wings. Presumably this is the brant that has usually been feeding in front of the Hard car park.
Three hundred golden plover, 30 ringed plover and 25 dunlin were feeding in the fields at high tide.

Two peregrines were seen during the walk, the first one watched flying north over the Feldy fields on the mainland scattering the wood pigeons as it headed towards Copt Hall Grove. The second bird was causing some mayhem at the entrance to Salcott creek, scattering all the birds but more so because a male marsh harrier was trying to disrupt the hunting swoops of the peregrine. After several failed swoops, the peregrine went and landed on a metal pole on the saltmarsh. Some of the 3000 golden plover and 1000 lapwing could then relax.

Along the Strood channel 3 pintail was unusual, an avocet was the only wader of interest other than 500 knot. A male stonechat, 10 linnets, rock pipit, 5 skylarks, 2 meadow pipits and 3 reed buntings were the only small birds of interest.

Sunday, 15 February 2015


It had been quite mild during Sunday 15th when the sun was out. However towards the end of the afternoon it turned cold again when the murk descended, which made for a chilly harrier-watch on the Shop Lane seawall. Here Andy Field and Matt Larkin were scanning the distant Langenhoe Point for marsh harriers, watching them as they came into roost.

At least thirteen marsh harriers were counted, possibly one or two more but sadly no sign of any hen harriers. There was a female merlin however which sat on a bush for a few minutes, before flying rapidly off.
(The harrier roost count carried out at the same time opposite West Mersea on the Old Hall Marshes revealed 32 marsh harriers but no hen harriers).

Other birds noted were a male goldeneye, 8 red-breasted mergansers, 20 avocets, one common snipe, and ten linnets.
Matt reported seeing a muntjac deer in a pig paddock in Shop Lane mid afternoon.

Two common buzzards were seen whilst walking the Maydays seawall on Saturday 14th, one bird circling overhead, pictured above, while the second bird perched on a bush on Langenhoehall Marsh. The marsh harriers were showing well with a couple of males displaying over the back of the Island and at least five other birds seen on Langenhoe ranges.

In the Pyefleet a pair of red-breasted mergansers and a great crested grebe were the only birds of note along with lots of wigeon, teal and shelduck.

A pair of grey partridge were unexpectedly seen in one of the Maydays fields, the male bird calling out loudly. The male stonechat was still present while other small birds on the farm included 10 reed buntings, 15 yellowhammers and 15 corn buntings.

A walk along the Strood seawall on Friday 13th produced good views of a kingfisher along the dyke, on one occasion diving down and catching a small tiddler. Also a common buzzard mobbed off the Island by a pair of carrion crows. After the buzzard had crossed the channel and then Ray Island, another crow mobbed it when it reached the Peldon side. A marsh harrier flew along the Peldon seawall.

A stonechat, ten linnets, rock pipit and five skylarks were the main small birds noted.

Amongst the boat moorings from the Hard were seen two shags perched on buoys in the far channel next to the Sorcerer boat.

In Firs Chase, West Mersea, the pied blackbird was seen in a neighbours garden, a robin was building a nest in a ivy covered tree and a tawny owl called at night.

On Thursday 12th Steve Entwistle saw two Slavonian grebes and 12 red-breasted mergansers off West Mersea.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015


There was no wind during Tuesday 10th, so the big wind-turbines seemingly towering over the entrance to the river Blackwater, were idle for the day. The sea was like a mill-pond especially in the morning.

A quick glance out south-westwards from the park early afternoon just ahead of the high tide, revealed lots of grebes offshore. Aided by a little click-counter in my hand, at least 450 great crested grebes were counted with possibly more further into the distance appearing as tiny specks at the mouth of the Blackwater. Also 8 Slavonian grebes a little bit closer, offshore from Coopers Beach. One common seal swimming about too.

On Sunday 8th there were 11 Slavonian grebes, 300+ great crested grebes and 22 red-breasted mergansers seen offshore from the park at the end of the day.

Other birds noted at the park on Tuesday 10th included a peregrine flying over the car park in the morning, the male house sparrow chirping away for the third day in the car park, Cetti's warbler and water rail both calling from the park pond and 2000 golden plover circling over the grazing fields late afternoon.

Nine redwing perched in a tall tree in the car park on Monday 9th while ten song thrushes were feeding in the nearby field. The previous evening these song thrushes had been seen heading to roost in the copse by the pond.

On the pond the family of four swans, pair of little grebes, 8 tufted ducks and 12 gadwall were the main birds here.

On Monday 9th Andy Field walked the north side of the Island and noted a pair of stonechats, peregrine, 2000 golden plover and 2000+ brent geese on Reeveshall.

A badger trotted along the road just inside the park entrance an hour after dark on Monday night, while the next day one of the red squirrels was seen from Shop Lane by Martin Cock.( I gather the Mersea red squirrels featured on Radio 4 early this morning!).

This female kingfisher perched up on a bush in the morning sunshine on Sunday 8th near Ivy Farm. Although a bit distant for the small camera, the colours of the bird really stood out in the bright light, especially the very orange bill. The bird flew along the dyke towards the Oyster Fishery.

On the dyke by the Golfhouse was this male gadwall, not usually a section of water where gadwalls are seen.

Three marsh harriers were flying around Langenhoe Point, 20 red-breasted mergansers were in the Colne and a pair of Canada geese flew across the river in the morning, as did a mistle thrush from Ivy Farm.
The stonechat was photographed by the park seawall on Sunday by Matt Larkin.

At Maydays on Sunday a ringtail hen harrier flew over the fields, and  a peregrine, pair of common buzzards, pair of stonechat and a green sandpiper were all seen by Martin Cock.

At times there have been big flocks of wigeon in the park's grazing fields, although some head out to rest on the sea. This pair were photographed by Alan Reynolds on the frozen dyke on 23rd January.

Thursday, 5 February 2015


The red squirrel introduction programme got a little bit of publicity on Thursday 5th, when the regional BBC visited East Mersea. This individual pictured above was a bit nervous in the pen in Shop Lane, having spent the last week here after being brought from Pensthorpe in Norfolk.

The local BBC reporter Felicity Simper came along to find out how the red squirrel project was going, meeting up with the project leader Richard Taylor, pictured above in the centre, beside the release pen. A piece was recorded for BBC Essex radio which got broadcast early Thursday evening , while the story is also due to feature on the regional TV news on Friday early evening.

 When the cameraman first walked over to the release pen, one of the original wild squirrels scampered off the top of the pen and climbed up a nearby tree before disappearing into its small drey up high.

The sparrowhawks were showing in the area with one bird flashing through the little woodland, and then a male bird put on a display flight above the nearby Shop Lane wood.

The cold temperatures remained throughout Thursday with a cold north-east wind blowing all day along with light flurries of snow in the afternoon. The park pond pictured above was still partly frozen, with this group of mallard standing on the ice. Twenty gadwall, a few shoveler, mallard, little grebe, mute swans and a tufted duck were seen in the morning.

The previous day the Cetti's warbler was heard calling by the pond for the first time for about five weeks. One little owl was glimpsed in the distance on a hedge at the end of the afternoon, calling out to at least one other little owl nearby.

The park's grazing fields were largely empty of birds on Wednesday morning, partly due to the frozen surface but also due to a peregrine that swooped low over the fields scattering all the waders and wildfowl away. The peregrine smacked into a wood pigeon with such force that a puff of white feathers came out of the poor pigeon. The peregrine brought the bird down to the back of this field whereupon it then spent several minutes feeding on it.

A short while later a marsh harrier passed over the fields, also spooking the many birds off the saltmarsh and the fields too. Around 500 brent geese, 25 lapwing, 30 curlew and 20 black-tailed godwits were some of the birds on the fields. Some of the 200 wigeon dropped into the dyke where 6 tufted duck were present.

Nine red-breasted mergansers flew up river past the Point in the morning and at least one common seal was in the river. In the distance two marsh harriers were seen flying around over Langenhoe.

The kingfisher has been seen over the last three days over the saltmarsh near the Point at the corner of the seawall. On Wednesday it flashed along the dyke by the Golfhouse and perched in the full sunshine on one of the bushes over the water. The little egret was also seen feeding in this area too.

The female stonechat has been very confiding along the seawall, perching quite close to anyone walking alongside and nine skylarks flew around the saltmarsh near the Point. A fieldfare was by the park entrance first thing on Wednesday.

At the end of Tuesday a barn owl flew across the car park carrying a vole, and appeared to be heading towards Bromans Farm. There was also the surprising sight of a pipistrelle bat flying around the park entrance just as darkness descended on Tuesday.

At West Mersea a kingfisher was seen by the Strood seawall on Wednesday morning by Andy Field. Offshore from Seaview was a Slavonian grebe along with about 300 great crested grebes and Mediterranean gull with ten sanderling noted on the beach.

Monday, 2 February 2015


The sun was shining but the northerly wind still had an icy touch to it, as it blew across the Pyefleet Channel at Maydays onto Andy Field and myself on Monday 2nd. Overnight temperatures had dropped to freezing overnight leaving patches of ice on the Maydays saltmarsh where the high tide had been late last night.

There wasn't too much to see along the Pyefleet as the tide was up. Six red-breasted mergansers and a great crested grebe were noted along with small numbers of teal, wigeon and shelduck along the water's edge.

The main group of waders was a mixed flock on a Maydays field with 400 golden plover, 70+ lapwing, 400+ dunlin with a few grey plover too. Another mixed plover flock was on Reeveshall with about 500 birds seen in the air at one point.

At least three marsh harriers were seen over Langenhoe, another over Reeveshall and a fifth bird further up channel towards the Strood. A kestrel was seen hovering by Maydays farm.

Smaller birds noted included a stonechat by the dyke, 5 yellowhammers, 10 reed buntings, 10 chaffinch, 20 meadow pipits, 1 rock pipit, 5 house sparrows and 10 skylarks.

On the west side of West Mersea a corn bunting was perched up on wires alongside Chapmans Lane on Monday morning. Looking offshore from Kingsland Road a great northern diver was near the Nass beacon while 2 red-breasted mergansers flew up river.

This thick hedge provided some shelter from the strong wind that blew during Sunday 1st, on the walk between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane in East Mersea. Despite the shelter many small birds kept a low profile.

Three main flocks were noted though. A thousand wood pigeons flew over Meeting Lane as if they'd been disturbed from a nearby rape field. At the back of Reeveshall a flock of about 700 golden plover were feeding in a field with some lapwing. Closer to the Reeveshall seawall were 700+ brent geese feeding on one of the pastures.

Offshore from West Mersea 3 red-throated divers and 2 Slavonian grebes were seen by Daryl Rhymes on Sunday, while a shag was seen amongst the moorings from the Hard by Andy Field.