Saturday, 28 November 2015


It was a chilly but sunny start to Saturday 28th with the sun rising here over the horizon just before 8am, looking south-east from the country park. Cloud soon came in during the morning and by mid afternoon it had become very dull and breezy.

A female marsh harrier crossed the river Colne near Batemans Tower and headed to Langenhoe Point. Two great crested grebes were the only birds seen in the river although 150 avocets flew close-by as they headed back up-river.

On the grazing fields the big flock of greylag geese were busy feeding, 110 greylags were counted yesterday and a similar number appeared to be present again this morning. Only about 500 wigeon on the fields first thing although other wigeon were still arriving to feed. There were 1000+ wigeon in the fields on Friday.

The most interesting duck seen yesterday by the fields were two male pintail looking very out of place beside some wigeon and anxious with it, on the main borrowdyke.

A small flock of black-tailed godwits have been feeding in the last couple of days in the small grass field in front of the hide. Eighteen birds dropped in to feed yesterday with a similar amount today, as was the regular curlew.

At the end of Saturday afternoon there was a large gathering of shoveler on the park pond with at least 48 birds counted in the fading light. This is one of the highest ever counts for the park - the shoveler numbers have been building up quickly this week.

A handful of little egrets were feeding around the park, such as this one on the saltmarsh near the Point.

A pair of wigeon seen in the fields on Saturday by Andy Field, part of a flock of 800 seen in the fields along with 800 brent geese and 150 golden plover.

This colour-ringed lapwing was photographed in the fields by Andy, seemingly part of an RSPB research project.
Roosting on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse were 1000 dunlin, 100 knot, 100 grey plover, while on the beach were 7 sanderling.
Four siskin were in the alders by the pond.

On Friday 27th there was an impressive flock of 2000 knot flying about together over the mud by the park, one of the biggest knot flocks seen here. Also the usual flock of 1000 golden plovers also on the mud.

A guillemot was seen in the river from the Point on Wednesday 25th by Andy Field. This may've been the one seen up river by Rat Island on Monday by Darrell Stile.

Sightings from elsewhere on the Island include the unusually late sight of a tern fishing alongside the Strood causeway at high tide on Saturday 28th. The tern appeared to be a  Sandwich tern. It's probably been about six weeks since any terns were seen over local waters, as they've all gone south for the winter.

Common buzzards have shown well alongside the East Mersea road recently with one by Weir Farm today, seen by Andy, one yesterday on a pole by Bocking Hall and a pair flying over the road at Meeting Lane at dusk on Wednesday.

From Maydays seawall 3 short-eared owls on Langenhoehall and 8 red-breasted mergansers in the Pyefleet were noted by Martin Cock on Thursday. On Monday 23rd the 3 short-eared owls again, and an impressive showing of five barn owls, also 4 marsh harriers were seen by Martin and Andrew Tilsley.

Monday, 23 November 2015


 The cold blast of Arctic air over the weekend brought a few little auks down the North Sea. The nearest that one got to Mersea was this one pictured by Ray Hempstead on Sunday morning whilst he was on a fishing trip, when he saw it swim towards his boat in the very outer reaches of the Colne estuary. It would've been too far out to sea to have been visible from the Island. It's been a few years since little auks have been seen from Mersea.

After a frosty start to Monday the rest of the morning was bright and sunny with a light wind. Along the Strood Channel the tide was on its way out and lots of birds were arriving to feed. Among the moorings was a good count of 32 little grebes. From the Peldon side of the Ray were 1000 brent geese flying off the fields there.

A male and a female marsh harrier flew over the Ray saltings flushing other birds away as they passed. A fieldfare was seen landing on a tree on Ray Island.

Fifty curlew were noted along the mud of the channel and also on the saltmarshes.

Scattered along the mud were at least 200 redshank, many of them feeding along the receding tideline.
The most numerous waders were 500+ dunlin with 50 knot among them.

The colourful male stonechat was feeding on the side of the seawall, later it was at the back of the fields. This bird is probably the same one that was first seen last month here.

Other small birds included a big flock of 150 linnets in a weedy / stubble field corner, also here 25 skylark, two yellowhammer, 25 meadow pipits, 10 reed buntings while 2 rock pipits on the saltmarsh.

In bushes by the caravan site a male blackcap with 25 house sparrows was a surprise, also a fieldfare with 20 blackbirds.

Five siskins flew west along Kingsland beach mid-morning on Monday.

A cold breeze blew across the Maydays saltmarsh on Sunday 22nd but it stayed dry and bright.
Two short-eared owls were hunting over the Langenhoehall marshes to the north-west as did a couple of  marsh harriers. A couple of marsh harriers were also flying over the army ranges of Langenhoe marshes.

Along the Pyefleet were 11 red-breasted mergansers, 170 shelduck, 70 avocet and 500+ knot while a common seal rested on the saltmarsh.

Also noted were 40 linnets, 2 yellowhammers, 2 rock pipits, 5 fieldfares, 2 redwing and on Reeveshall 12 mute swans.

Sunday, 22 November 2015


It was a bit blowy on Saturday 21st and this Mediterranean gull was keeping a low profile whilst facing into the wind as it stood on the mudflats opposite Cross Lane, West Mersea. This Med gull was one of two seen in the area during the middle of the day.

Also of interest on the mud were at least five sanderling and a large group of 80+ cormorants on one of the offshore shingle bars. A couple of hundred cormorants were also seen heading into the estuary by Andy Field.

In Cross Lane itself a dozen goldfinches, a chiffchaff and a goldcrest were also noted.

A few small birds were noted on Friday 20th during a walk along the Strood seawall including this meadow pipit pictured above feeding on the side of the seawall. Around ten meadow pipits were seen in the field.

A flock of 100 linnets were nice to see as they flew around the weedy corner of one of the fields. Some of the linnets flew over the channel to Ray Island. Five reed buntings were along one of the nearby dykes while a male stonechat was by the pond at the back of the fields.

Two green sandpipers were flying along the recently cleared out ditches and dykes, dropping down to feed.
A fieldfare was in the bushes by the caravan site with a few blackbirds.

There was a big flock of 2000 golden plovers roosting on the mud in the Strood Channel. Closer to the road were 100+ lapwing, while 50 knot were also of interest on the mud.
Amongst the boat moorings were 20 little grebes but little else in the water.

Earlier on Friday a water rail was seen at the country park pond swimming between reedy islands, reported by Andy.

Friday, 20 November 2015


The pale-bellied brent goose was still with the main brent goose flock in the country park grazing fields. Pictured here in the centre foreground, present on both Tuesday 17th and Wednesday 18th. There have been up to 700 dark-bellied brent geese at times in the fields in recent days.

Also in the fields were 500+ golden plover and 700 wigeon on Wednesday along with several turnstone and a few grey plover during the afternoon high tide. Ninety greylag geese were feeding in the fields on Tuesday.

On Wednesday 18th a kingfisher and tufted duck were noted on the park pond, the kingfisher was also seen on Monday 16th. Twenty-eight little egrets roosted in the trees on Monday.

A lapland bunting flew south over the beach calling several times as it headed out over the mudflats on Monday morning. A siskin, fieldfare and a sparrowhawk were also noted at the park that day. A red admiral flew across the park stopping momentarily to check out the blue colour of the tractor in Monday's sunshine.

Eight siskins and a sparrowhawk were also noted at the park on Tuesday along with a rock pipit and 700 golden plover near the Point.

A little owl trying to hide in the cotoneaster bush near the park toilets on Wednesday attracted the noisy attention of lots of other birds. The little owl eventually flew over to trees in the middle of the car park where it then got dive-bombed by a jay which forced it to then flee towards the park entrance.
Possibly the same little owl flew into the car park just as darkness descended late on Thursday 19th.

A brambling was seen with chaffinches by the Golfhouse on Monday 16th by Andrew Tilsley and Martin Cock, the same bird was first seen a week ago in the same horse paddock.

A common buzzard was perched on one of its regular telegraph poles by the East Mersea road near Weir Farm on Thursday 19th.

The pied blackbird was seen again in Firs Chase on both Wednesday and Thursday mornings.

There's been a lot of coming and going with the mute swans at the park and it's a bit confusing trying to work out which pair belongs where. Pictured above is one of the adults chasing off what looks like a young adult.

Sunday, 15 November 2015


Very pleased to finally catch up with a red squirrel at the country park around mid-day on Sunday 15th. Other people have reported half a dozen sightings at the park over the last couple of years but for me the squirrels have been elusive here - until today!

The squirrel had been scampering through the trees just behind the buildings in the car park for a couple of minutes and as I followed it, the squirrel paused to stare down at me for a few seconds, before darting away.

The red squirrel certainly shows a dark red coat in this picture but in the top picture it shows more of a greyish coat.
It was a job trying to keep the camera pointing at the squirrel as it ran along the branches from tree to tree.

Now that a lot of leaves have fallen of the trees, the squirrel was easy to follow through the branches. One of the trees it seemed interested in was the hornbeam tree with the seeds still attached on the outer branches. At one point it stopped to feed on a couple of seeds before dashing off through the trees along the side of the main car park heading towards the park entrance.

Also lucky enough to have seen a red squirrel yesterday in West Mersea near our Firs Chase garden, on Saturday 14th. The squirrel was seen just after 7am, scampering through a neighbour's birch tree heading away from us suggesting it had just been through our garden.
 The last time one was seen in the garden was this same period last year, on the 9th November 2014.

The usual variety of waders and wildfowl were on the park's grazing fields on a windy Sunday 15th. Pictured above are some of the 500 wigeon that were present in the morning along with 400 brent geese, 100 black-tailed godwits and with 500 golden plover flying over.

Among the black-tailed godwits was this one with coloured rings, with the particular colour combination unique to this individual. It has been with us since the summer following its journey from its Icelandic breeding grounds and was first photographed in these fields on the 10th August.

At the park pond the kingfisher made another late appearance at dusk to roost while also noted were 2 green woodpeckers, 65 mallard and 6 gadwall.

There was a low count of just seven marsh harriers seen by Andy Field going into the Langenhoe harrier evening roost on Sunday. No hen harriers were noted.

On Saturday 14th there were 600 brent geese on the fields along with 1000 wigeon and 18 shoveler on the pond. The kingfisher was seen flying along the saltmarsh from the old fort, while ten skylarks flew around the fields.

A covey of eight red-legged partridge were seen in a field near Manwood Grove by the East Mersea pub, by Helen Mussett.

Saturday, 14 November 2015


Black-tailed godwits have been feeding in various parts of the grazing fields at the country park in recent days. As the fields get wetter through the autumn, there are more opportunities for the godwits to probe for worms in the soil. Up to fifty black-tailed godwits have been feeding recently in the field beside the borrowdyke. On Wednesday 11th there were 420 counted in the fields, most of them roosting on the pools.

The brent geese have been spending a lot of time grazing the fields recently with around 600 seen on Friday 13th and 800 geese the day before. The geese are pictured above crowding into a small pool for a drink of freshwater. The pale-bellied brent goose was present in the field on both Wednesday and Thursday.

During his walk around the country park on Wednesday 11th, Andy Field noted 450 brent geese, 120 redshank, 24 curlew, 300+ wigeon, kingfisher, common scoter offshore, chiffchaff and four goldcrests.

A glance at the fields later in the afternoon revealed about 600 brent geese and 1000 wigeon.
Earlier on Wednesday 30 siskins were flying around the alders by the pond in the company of 20 goldfinches.

On Thursday 12th the water rail nervously peered out of the reedmace onto the field by the hide before it scuttled back into the cover. A dozen siskin were by the alders and the kingfisher appeared as usual at dusk. A sparrowhawk was seen in the afternoon by the pond by Ian Black. A fieldfare was perched in a tree by the park entrance at the start of the day.

A brambling was found by Andy feeding by the garden bird-feeder inside the entrance to Coopers Beach.
The black brant was seen on several days during the week by Neil Mortimer in the Mersea Quarters.
There was a report of a stonechat near Coopers Beach on Thursday.

 This moth trap operated over Tuesday and Wednesday nights as it stayed reasonably mild. This little female Gem moth pictured above was found after Tuesday night's session and was the most interesting being an immigrant from the continent. It's only the third record for the park.
Other moths included feathered thorn, silver-Y, large wainscot, yellow-line quaker and mottled umber.

A red admiral butterfly was seen at the Point by Martin Cock on Wednesday while one was seen the next day by Adrian Amos in his West Mersea garden.


 On Sunday 8th Andrew Neal found this Snow Bunting beside the Strood. It was resting on a groyne by the seawall on the last section of the marsh along The Strood Channel. It didn't seem bothered by Andrew's presence one bit and posed nicely for him to take this picture.

This is a different bird to the one that was seen on the south side of the Island two weeks earlier.

After watching a marsh harrier earlier on Sunday from the Maydays seawall flying over the Langenhoe marshes, Andrew described - "I had an extremely up close and personal encounter on the south side of the Island. I was crossing the field along the footpath that runs parallel with Rewsalls Farm when a male Marsh Harrier soared directly over my head and lingered around the outskirts of the field long enough for me to fish the camera out of my bag and quickly take a few pictures. I briefly saw a third harrier and I believe fourth, when I completed my loop of the Island going back along The Strood. A great result".

This marsh harrier that Andrew saw is flying low over one of the game cover crops near Rewsalls Farm.

Monday, 9 November 2015


The wind picked up during Monday 9th making it a breezy walk along the Strood seawall but at least the sun came out late in the afternoon.
The kingfisher was seen again flying low over the field near the dyke. A green sandpiper dropped into the recently cleaned out length of dyke. At least thirty linnets were flying around near the caravan site, otherwise very few small birds noted.

Five hundred golden plover roosted in several flocks along the mud in the Strood Channel, this group on the far side of the channel. Something spooked lots of birds close to the Strood causeway and amongst them were four greenshank which flew down channel calling loudly as they went.
Thirty knot were also noted along with the usual other waders.

Just up-channel from the Dabchicks Sailing Club were 22 dabchicks among the boat moorings, also two in the borrowdyke.

Earlier on Monday the black brant was seen feeding on Cobmarsh Island along with about fifty dark-bellied brent geese. The brant had been seen the day before by Neil Mortimer near the houseboats.
A fieldfare and 20 siskins were seen in Firs Chase during Monday.

Walking the north side of the Island on Monday was Andy Field who saw a male hen harrier flying over Maydays and then onto Langenhoe. A large flock of 400 avocets was seen in the Pyefleet and 700 brent geese on Reeveshall. The pale-bellied brent goose was at the country park with 244 dark bellied brent as were 65 greylag geese.
A kingfisher was seen on the Maydays seawall sluice and another bird was also seen at the park pond by Martin Cock in the morning too. Eighteen sanderling were on the park beach.

The Maydays seawall was visited by Martin, Steve and myself at slightly different timings on Sunday 8th. The male hen harrier was the most notable sighting, providing a couple of flight views over Reeveshall, being mobbed by two kestrels, it then flew onto Langenhoe. Three hours later it then passed close-by to Martin over Maydays fields.

Three short-eared owls were seen flying over Langenhoehall marshes in the middle of the day by Steve.
Two marsh harriers flew over Reeveshall and then later a male marsh harrier flew over Maydays towards the Strood.

On Reeveshall 500 brent geese were feeding on one of the grass fields.

Near the Maydays buildings 50 collared doves were in one field and at least 5 yellowhammers were seen along hedges.

There was just one brief glimpse of a common seal in the Pyefleet, this one seen near the entrance to the Maydays creek.

At the country park on Saturday 7th 100 black-tailed godwits roosted on the fields in the drizzle. Seven Canada geese were grazing with 50+ greylag geese in the fields.
At the park pond 2 tufted duck, 10 shoveler and 4 gadwall were present along with teal and mallard.

The water rail showed well on Sunday afternoon at the pond for Steve as did a Cetti's warbler.

Looked through 1000 starlings feeding in the field near Weir Farm on Saturday but no sign of the rose-coloured starling since last Monday 2nd. Also in the field were 25 skylarks and 50 curlew.

Friday, 6 November 2015


A wet and dull walk along the Strood seawall on Friday 6th was brightened up by the sight of a kingfisher which had just caught a little tiddler of a fish. The kingfisher whacked the fish on the reedmace head several times before swallowing it. It then flew off along the dyke where a few minutes later, it was seen again flying with a second kingfisher, one chasing the other accompanied with lots of loud whistling.

The tide was going out with lots of waders and small groups of brent geese feeding along the Strood Channel. At least 300 brent geese were seen along with 50+ wigeon and 12+ little grebes.

The biggest flock of birds was by the Strood causeway where 2000 golden plover were standing on the mud. A couple of times the flock rose into the air before landing back down again, a passing sparrowhawk being one of the reasons. Fifty knot seen was the only other wader of note along the channel.
A common buzzard was seen flying low over the fields on Feldy.

Small birds seen included rock pipit, 4 corn buntings, 25 linnets, 2 reed buntings, 15 meadow pipits, 5 skylarks and ten goldfinches. A flock of 100 linnets were on the Ray Island saltmarsh.

Two great spotted woodpeckers flew together over some gardens near Firs Chase.

Thursday, 5 November 2015


It has been generally dull and at times wet over the last few days at the country park. Numbers of birds on the park's grazing fields haven't been varying much from day to day. At least 700 wigeon were on the much wetter fields on Thursday, some pictured above in the dyke. Several hundred brent geese have been grazing but no sign of the black brant since last Friday.

A little owl perched in an elm tree alongside the car park caused much consternation among many small birds in the morning of Thursday 5th. As well as several tits and finches, 20 blackbirds, five song thrushes and two reed buntings were all voicing their anxiety at the owl which then flew along the field edge. In the nearby field 7 red-legged partridge fed while a sparrowhawk flew west overhead.

On the mud near the Point 1000 golden plover were seen roosting on both Wednesday and Tuesday while 90 avocets were noted feeding across the mud between the Point and Ivy Dock.

The kingfisher made a late appearance at the park pond on Wednesday just before dusk, where it roosted for the night in the usual willow bush at the back. Four siskins were in the alders, the tufted duck was on the pond, the Cetti's warbler sang loudly nearby, while 24 little egrets and a grey heron roosted in the trees.

Four redpolls flew over the car park calling on Tuesday while a fieldfare perched in a tree chacking out loudly in the fog on Monday morning. Two snipe flew over the pond calling through the fog.

It was difficult seeing much on Sunday 31st and Monday 1st with fog smothering all of the park for most of those days. Despite the fog over the park pond, 8 siskin flew out of alders and a female tufted duck was on the water on Sunday.

On Saturday 30th a marsh harrier flew over the Point, 50 linnets flew around the fields and saltmarsh, 600 brent geese were on the fields, four siskin flew out of the alders and a sparrowhawk flew low along the hedge by the pond.

Elsewhere on the Island the rose-coloured starling was relocated after almost a week's absence in East Mersea by Liz Huxley on Monday 2nd in the afternoon. It was found feeding on the sloes near the water tower opposite East Mersea church.
A late chiffchaff was seen in the church trees by Martin Cock on Tuesday but no sign of the starling. A .common buzzard was by Weir farm first thing on Tuesday

A goosander was seen in the Pyefleet on Thursday 5th by Martin.

Twenty conservation students from Writtle college helped plant 600 hogs fennel plugs at the country park  on Tuesday 3rd under the guidance of Dr Zoe Ringwood. Once these plants get as established as the existing 400 plants already on site, then there are plans to introduce the nationally rare Fishers Estuarine moth to the site, probably in spring 2017.

Tucked into the corner of the saltmarsh by the park seawall is this very colourful glasswort clump with vivid scarlet stalks.

Opportunities for moth trapping are dwindling as the weather becomes less favourable. The trap at the park was a bit wet by morning on Thursday 5th after some rain. Fourteen moths of six species were noted including this well marked mottled umber, the first one of the autumn.

This silver-Y pictured above is a late date for this migrant moth although the season has been extended with the mild autumn weather. Also noted were green-brindled crescent, dark chestnut, feathered thorn and November sp.