Wednesday, 26 November 2014

FOGGY FIELDS

After more rain fell during the night, Wednesday 26th was very damp and foggy. Staying dull all day, the visibility across the park's grazing fields was poor.
The viewing conditions may've been bad but the numbers of birds on the fields was certainly impressive especially during the early afternoon high tide period. The additional saturation has led to lots more surface water lying on the grass.

Amongst the waders and wildfowl were 700 brent geese, 40 greylag geese, 500 wigeon, 500 teal, 400 black-tailed godwits, 450 redshank, 50 lapwing, 100 dunlin, 30 turnstone and 100 golden plover. There was no sign of the pale-bellied brent goose seen the previous day. A male pintail flew across the grazing fields on Wednesday but headed back out to the Colne.

There were no views across the river from the Point although 2000 dunlin, 1000 golden plover, 100 knot, 15 sanderling and 20 bar-tailed godwit were close enough to see.

At the park pond at least one water rail overcame its shyness late in the afternoon to venture away from the reeds and forage on the nearby grass. The Cetti's warbler was calling late in the day from the back of the pond. Roosting in the trees were 8 little egrets with another 6 in the fields.

On Tuesday 25th a male goldeneye and a spotted redshank were seen along the Pyefleet at Maydays by Martin Cock.

Weather conditions on Monday 24th along the Pyefleet were perfect for viewing, especially after the prolonged rain on the previous day. Lots of blue sky and very little wind across the Maydays saltmarsh at high tide.

Birds seen along the Pyefleet included 3 red-breasted mergansers, 3 great crested grebes, 4 snipe flew off the saltmarsh, 12 little egrets, 50 shelduck and a common seal. A short-eared owl flew along the Langenhoe seawall towards Pewit Island, while up to 8 marsh harriers were also noted here. A common buzzard crossed over from Reeveshall towards Langenhoe and a sparrowhawk was seen high in the air over the Pyefleet.

On the Reeveshall / Maydays fields, a stonechat, 30 greylag geese, marsh harrier, 5 fieldfares, 5 redwings, 3 song thrushes, 10 yellowhammers, 10 reed buntings, 25 chaffinches and ten linnets.

The view from Maydays onto the mainland has been changing rapidly in the last month as work proceeds rapidly with the construction of a big solar farm on farmland at Langenhoe. The picture above shows a portaloo amongst a sea of PV panels.

By the West Mersea a black brant was reported in the Strood Channel near the Dabchicks on both  Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

WET STROOD CIRCUIT

After a dull start with some very light rain on Sunday 23rd, more persistent rain fell for the rest of the day. It was not the best sort of weather for using binoculars or cameras whilst on a long circuit walk around the fields by the Strood.
This little egret was watching the tide cover the mudflats along from the Dabchicks Sailing Club. Five other little egrets were seen alongside the Strood Channel.

The biggest gathering of birds was the brent geese flock which seemed to number 2500 birds feeding right at the back of the wheat fields, next to the edge of West Mersea. I had hoped there was a close view from the back of Whittaker Way, but the geese were just below the brow of the slope and so were out of sight from here.

On the muddy and waterlogged fields next to the Strood seawall, 200+ waders were arriving for the high tide. These included a mix of ringed plover, grey plover, golden plover, lapwing, turnstone, curlew, redshank, black-tailed godwit and dunlin.
Also feeding in the fields were 50 linnets, 30 skylarks, 2 rock pipits and 200 starlings, while a kingfisher was glimpsed through the rain as it sped low across the fields to a nearby pond.

A quick look at the Strood reservoirs produced a nice variety of waterbirds. A water rail which flew away from the path in front of me as I walked along, was the most interesting thing of note. Two great crested grebes, little grebe, 3 cormorants, grey heron and the call of a kingfisher were birds all here for the fish. Also 3 tufted ducks, 25 mallard as well as a few coots and moorhens were the other waterfowl seen.

This male kestrel perched high in a tree at the country park on Saturday 22nd.

Friday, 21 November 2014

GLIMPSES OF WHALES

Having managed to see some of the long-finned pilot whales way out at sea from the park on both Wednesday 19th and Thursday 20th, I tried from Coopers Beach during the morning high tide on Friday 21st but without any luck. The wind was fresher and the sea was a bit choppier which didn't help. Andy Field was also looking from the West Mersea beach scanning the mouth of the Blackwater. When we gathered that none of the pilot whales had been found by any of the local fishermen earlier on Friday morning, it sounded as if they've swam out to sea.

The pilot whales pod of up to 40 individuals have made the local and national media using some great photographs taken by Stacey Belbin. Emma Webb of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Unit has been coordinating the rescue and the safe return of the pod back to the sea.

A small pod of at least ten pilot whales was watched from the country park a good mile offshore towards the end of Thursday 20th. Once the sun disappeared behind the low clouds, the light quickly faded and I gave up and stopped whale watching just after 4pm.

The pilot whales seemed to be swimming casually about, at first heading east and then turning back west but not at any great speed. There was a fairly regular show of various dorsal fins, the occasional broader fins of the males often being seen. At that distance it was difficult to tell how many were in the pod.

Earlier in the day there was a report of a dead female pilot whale found washed up at Goldhangar, inside the Blackwater estuary. The pod of whales was also seen inside the Blackwater during the day and as they drifted back out in the middle of the day, Andy Field saw a handful of them swim past West Mersea heading east.

Early on Wednesday morning the pilot whales were just to the west of Colne Point and although there were distant views from the country park, birdwatchers on Colne Point got much better views. Probably about ten whales were present were visible from the country park, although in the morning gloom, the best way of working out where the whales were, was to find the three fishing boats who had cut their engines to get close views.
Martin Cock also managed to see the whales on Wednesday morning looking from Coopers Beach.

With all this gazing out to sea, a few interesting birds have been seen recently.
On Friday a guillemot casually swam close inshore past Coopers Beach heading east, while offshore five great crested grebes were seen. Over the nearby Rewsalls fields, a marsh harrier was watched, a stonechat by the sewage plant, a flock of 50 skylarks and 200 brent geese on the marshes.

Early on Thursday morning Steve Entwistle missed the whales but was rewarded with a flypast overhead of a great white egret heading west. Also a merlin over the fields, a grey wagtail nearby and a kingfisher along the dyke.

From the country park early on Wednesday morning a gannet was seen flying east towards Colne Point, five immature male eiders flew into the river Colne, a red-breasted merganser in flight, ten great crested grebes and a common seal. A Mediterranean gull was seen seen later in the morning.
Near the park pond a chiffchaff was heard calling.
At Coopers Beach a black redstart was found by Martin Cock on Wednesday morning by the clubhouse but not seen again, while at West Mersea a red-throated diver was seen by Adrian Kettle first thing.

The weather hasn't been too great for mothing recently with either rain, wind or cold clear skies to deal with.
However the trap operated on a partially cloudy Wednesday night with a few individuals by the next morning. This December moth is the first one of the winter and judging by its faded colours, it has been on the wing for at over a week already.
The only other moths were a November moth, two rusty-dot pearls and a diamond-backed moth.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

WHALES OFFSHORE


 There was a report of a pod of about 30 long-finned pilot whales seen in the Blackwater river at some point on Tuesday18th. Seen by some of the local fishermen, the whales apparently swam up-river getting almost to the St Lawrence Bay area. Members of the British Divers Marine Mammal Rescue Unit joined the marine unit of Essex Police and the Lifeboat to ensure the whales stayed afloat and returned to the sea.

This pod sounds like the same group of long-finned pilot whales that have just come up from Kent  as 22-25 were seen near the mouth of the Medway river in north Kent two days ago. Six days previously 23 long-finned pilot whales were seen in north Norfolk off Cley while 20 were seen off the Suffolk coast at Dunwich on the 20th October.

The picture above shows some of the 500 wigeon seen in the park's grazing fields on a sunny Monday 17th.

The tide was going out during Monday morning and 2000+ dunlin packed the mudflats off the park along with a good variety of waders such as 100 knot.

The golden plovers rested in one big flock of 2000+ birds beside the Point until something disturbed them and they took to the air, separating into two flocks which settled back down either side of the Point.

Other birds seen were 3 red-breasted mergansers flying out of the river, pair of stonechats along the seawall, two male yellowhammers on the beach were nice to see, two rock pipits at the Point and a common seal.

At the end of Monday the kingfisher announced its arrival at the pond with lots of whistling and splashing into the water. It seemed to be settling down to spend the night in one of the willow bushes at the back. Two little owls appeared just to the north of the park, duetting to each other and both seen in the same field of view from the hide. One landed on the tops of the hedge beside the pond at dusk. Thirty greenfinches flew round the park at dusk before dropping down to roost.

The water rail showed briefly along the edge of the pond and was heard calling from the reedmace. The Cetti's warbler also sang just before dark from the copse at the back. On the water 80 mallard, 10 gadwall and 24 shoveler were the main ducks on show. The chiffchaff called earlier in the day and 15 goldfinches fed in the alders.

Martin Cock reported seeing a pintail in flight and kingfisher near the Golfhouse in the morning. Gilbert Lee saw the barn owl on Monday late afternoon near Home Farm.

It stayed dull and gloomy for most of Tuesday 18th with rain at various times. The main excitement out of the gloom was seeing this female marsh harrier fly over the park's grazing fields a few times stirring up what seemed like 2000 wigeon and teal into the air. The harrier flew over the pond with this picture snapped as it flew away.

At the end of the day the kingfisher made another late appearance for the night, one of the two calling little owls was seen perched on a garden fence to the north of the park and a barn owl called in the dark as it flew over the car park. Like the previous day, the chiffchaff was heard calling in the morning near the pond.

Andy Field watched 22 marsh harriers flying into the Langenhoe roost late on Tuesday afternoon.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

PURPLE SAND AT POINT

A quick walk to East Mersea Point at the end of the afternoon on Wednesday 12th produced this purple sandpiper on the beach. The only picture I managed before the camera battery went flat was this slightly blurred image as the bird ran along the shoreline.

The bird was first noticed asleep on the beach close to a handful of turnstones and a four sanderling. The dark grey upperparts and the yellow legs and yellow base to the bill were instantly recognisable as a purple sandpiper. It seemed to spend quite a bit of time asleep on the beach, so maybe an exhausted bird just flown a long distance.

The last purple sandpiper record for the park was seven years previously almost to the day, when one turned up on 11th November 2007. They are very scarce on the Island and those that do turn up, never stay for longer than a day. This one at the Point flew off with the turnstones when a dog got too near. Andy Field dashed to the Point and took this picture above, the camera trying to compensate for the fading light with this pale image.

A brief look round the Point the next day at the end of Thursday for the purple sandpiper proved fruitless, although there were 8 turnstone and 12 sanderling, grey plover and an oystercatcher at high tide.

Other birds seen at the park on Thursday was a chiffchaff at the pond, 15 goldfinches in the alders, the Cetti's warbler singing nearby and two stonechats in the fields. Rough duck numbers have included 300+ wigeon, 300+ teal, 50 mallard, 26 shoveler and 12 gadwall.

On Wednesday 12th a barn owl was hunting over the long grass of the park just before night-fall. A chiffchaff was calling from bushes in the car park in the morning.
At the Point a marsh harrier flew up river to roost at the end of the day, a red-breasted merganser flew out of the river while earlier 500 golden plover were on the mudflats at low tide.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

SQUIRREL SURPRISE

Amazed to see this red squirrel posing on our cedar tree in our garden in Firs Chase on Sunday 9th. My wife Nolly and I were treated to a couple of minutes of squirrel show, with the morning sunshine highlighting the red coat. For once the camera was close at hand, these pictures taken through the window, and we were able to watch it without disturbing it from inside our house.

The red squirrel appeared to be nibbling at the bark of one of the limbs, pictured below, probably after some weeping resin. It then scrambled onto a nearby birch tree, leapt onto the roof of our neighbour's garage and then shot up a pine tree to the top.

I was fortunate in seeing this red squirrel fifteen minutes earlier in another neighbours garden whilst taking the dog on a quick walk down Firs Chase. It was perching motionless in a bare ash tree alongside the road. However I had made the mistake of leaving the house without the camera and thought I'd paid the price for not carrying it!
Two of the local Firs Chase residents had also appeared with their cameras but the squirrel had disappeared. What a surprise to discover it had moved a few gardens up the road - to our garden - providing my wife with her second garden sighting in a week!

Three red squirrels were released in West Mersea in the summer and a further four animals were released last Monday.

It was nice to see our old friend the pied blackbird back in our garden foraging amongst a honeysuckle bush for berries. The bird has spent the summer several gardens away from us, having bred successfully in our garden the previous year.
There was the interesting sighting in the garden on Friday of a late female blackcap also seen in this same honeysuckle bush.

A red admiral flew across the garden during the sunny morning on Sunday.

The sun set across the Strood Channel with lots of waders gathering as the tide receded late on Sunday.
A marsh harrier perched briefly on top of a tree on Ray Island before heading down channel towards the Old Hall Marshes roost. A second marsh harrier was also seen heading in the same direction.
At least ten little egrets were perching on the Ray Island trees as dusk approached.
Thirty skylarks flew around one of the Strood fields and a couple of rock pipits were on the saltmarsh.

There was a big brent goose flock of 1500+ birds that flew off the wheat fields very noisily late afternoon. Most of the geese dropped down into the Strood Channel although many also headed to the Ray Channel. After 20 - 30 minutes, the geese had flown over to feed on the wheat fields on the Peldon side.

Amongst the several hundred dark-bellied brent geese was the black brant that had been seen on Friday - pictured below.

Scanning the flock of 400 brent geese on Friday at the Strood, this black brant was picked out. The picture above shows the much blacker brant goose on the left with the very white collar, almost meeting on the hind-neck and certainly meeting under the chin too. Unfortunately the goose didn't pose side-on as the flock took to the air just after this picture was taken. The white flank patch had been seen a short while earlier.

The only wader flock of note on Friday was the 500+ golden plovers that were flying over the fields during the high tide.

This black-headed gull was standing firmly on this wooden post near the Dabchicks Sailing Club on a windy Friday.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

BLACK-TAILED TRIO

There were 300+ black-tailed godwits roosting in the park's grazing fields on a sunny and still morning on Thursday 6th. These three birds in synchronized flight showing the distinctive wing and tail patterns, were photographed by Alan Reynolds on one of his recent visits.
Other waders around the pools in the fields were 200 redshank, 30 lapwing and a single snipe.

Many of the wigeon are still developing their adult breeding plumage, this male pictured above has still got a bit to go. Around 200+ wigeon were on the fields and nearby dyke with other wildfowl being 300 teal and 200 brent geese. Ducks on the pond included 24 shoveler, 10 gadwall, 50 mallard and two tufted duck.

The swan family was enjoying the tranquil waters of the borrow-dyke in the morning.

Offshore a red-throated diver was feeding 150m from the park beach and a red-breasted merganser flying up-river past the Point was the first one of the winter seen here. At least 30 sanderling were feeding close in just before the high tide covered the last of the mud. The pair of stonechats was on the saltmarsh at the Point as were two rock pipits.

A sparrowhawk crossed over the river onto the Point and swooped down on some of the reed buntings and meadow pipits in the bushes. Later a male sparrowhawk flew past the pond towards the grazing fields.
The little owl sat up on the hedge beside the pond mid morning causing some anxiety amongst the small birds when it called loudly. It was still in the same group of bushes at dusk.

A female blackcap was a surprise to see when it perched up on the hedge near the little owl. The kingfisher was seen at dusk perching on a willow bush beside the pond. One redwing was seen at the pond as night-fell and there were also two seen in the car park earlier in the day. At least one of the Cetti's warblers, possibly two, sang beside the pond during Thursday and ten little egrets roosted here at high tide.


This magpie was one of several in the area near the hide at the park on Thursday. There have been at least a dozen magpies roosting in the trees by the pond on recent nights.

Two corn buntings were perched on wires by Chapmans Lane on Thursday 6th.

Martin Cock reported 100 fieldfares flying over his West Mersea house on a very wet Wednesday. About thirty fieldfares were also seen by the East Mersea Vineyard along with a little owl near here the previous day.

The barn owl was reported hunting over the park's long grass late on Tuesday afternoon - the first reported sighting for a few months here.

Andy Field and Martin Cock counted 19 marsh harriers going into the Langenhoe roost on Tuesday evening. Also seen was a sparrowhawk there, while a barn owl hunted the fields near the Oyster Fishery. A water rail called as did a spotted redshank but neither were seen. Five hundred brent geese and 500 dunlin were also noted.

At Maydays Farm the kingfisher, stonechat and a green sandpiper were seen by Martin on Tuesday.