Tuesday, 20 January 2015

PYEFLEET WALK

Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Pyefleet from the Strood to the country park on Monday 19th, taking this selection of photos along the way.
These pictures of the colourful male wigeon were taken on the park's grazing fields.



The lapwing or green plover, sporting its crest on the head.

A young brent goose showing the faint neck collar and the lines of white edging on the folded wings.

The flock of brent geese ready to fly with their heads up.

Five fledged mute swan cynets out for a swim in the river. Not a local Mersea family.

An obliging female stonechat perched on a post.

A corn bunting trying to hide in this bare bush.

This common seal swimming up the Pyefleet, may be the one pictured in the previous posting, after it clambered onto the saltmarsh at Maydays.

STARING SEAL

"Look into my eyes!"

This common seal was resting on the saltmarsh at Maydays farm on a sunny morning on Monday 19th. It was enjoying a spot of winter basking, lifting its head up to watch me as I walked along the nearby seawall, on the opposite side of a creek.

Five common buzzards were seen during the two hour walk with this one pictured above, the nearest, although digiscoped in the 400m distance away on the mainland with the new solar-farm panels in the background. Another common buzzard was just along the same hedge, with a further two seen high in the air on the eastern end of Langenhoe Point and also a fifth buzzard perched on Reeveshall.

Five marsh harriers were flying about Langenhoe Point with some of them going through the early season motions of displaying to each other. Another couple of marsh harriers were also seen on Reeveshall while earlier a sparrowhawk flew from the Maydays dyke across to Langenhoe.

The late morning high tide meant there was no mud on show along the Pyefleet. A small flock of roosting redshank, dunlin and grey plover were the only waders noted. Amongst the small numbers of duck were two pairs of pintail further up channel but no sign of any red-breasted mergansers or goldeneye.
A kingfisher flew along the bottom of the seawall heading towards the Maydays saltings where it was seen again a short while later.

Small birds noted included rock pipit, 20 reed buntings, 12 linnets, yellowhammer and a corn bunting.

Along Chapmans Lane were a dozen corn buntings perched on wires above one of the fields on Monday morning. The black brant was seen at the West Mersea Hard also on Monday morning.

On the East Mersea saltmarsh near the Golfhouse a spotted redshank was found roosting at high tide with other waders by Glyn Evans on Monday.

Offshore from West Mersea on Sunday 18th, a great northern diver, common scoter, red-breasted merganser, 15 great crested grebes and a Mediterranean gull were seen by Daryl Rhymes.

A ringtail hen harrier was watched by Andy Field late on Sunday afternoon from the Shop Lane seawall at the harrier roost on Langenhoe Point for the first time this winter, along with 12 marsh harriers. Also a big flock of 4 - 5000 brent geese flew east along the Pyefleet at dusk.
Steve Entwistle reported a stonechat on the Strood seawall and also nearby a kingfisher and five tufted ducks on the farm reservoirs.
The water rail was seen from the hide by Martin Cock as it fed alongside the edge of the reeds of the park pond on Sunday.


On Friday 16th this black brant was back again feeding on the mud at the West Mersea Hard, just twenty metres from the car park. Further along the Strood seawall 500 brent geese were feeding in the nearby wheat fields.

A pair of stonechats was seen at the back of one of the fields while two corn buntings were seen alongside the seawall. Feeding in one of the muddy fields were 20 pied wagtails, 15 meadow pipits and 20 linnets.
In Firs Chase the regular pied blackbird was seen again feeding on holly berries above the road.

 Matt Larkin took this video-grab of a lapwing and a snipe in the park's grazing fields on Saturday 17th.

There was a good gathering of 15 blackbirds and 25 chaffinches feeding in the garden of Adrian Amos in West Mersea on Saturday.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

STALKING THE SHALLOWS

A couple of little egrets were feeding in the park's grazing fields on a bright but chilly Wednesday 14th. This one was stalking one of the corners of the main pool.

There has been a nice number of waders and wildfowl over the last few days on the fields, especially during the high tide period. Today the main flocks before the high tide peak were 1000+ wigeon, 200 teal, 300 golden plover, 50 black-tailed godwits, 40 curlew and 50 redshank. Three common snipe were feeding amongst the rushes on the main pool.

At the park pond, two tufted duck and 10 gadwall were the main ducks of interest during Wednesday.

Big numbers of dunlin gathered on the mud behind the East Mersea Point as the tide came in, with up to 2000 present, some pictured above. Also forced closer to the shore in front of the park by the incoming tide were 500 knot. Two red-breasted mergansers flying out of the river were the birds of note seen from the Point.

The jack snipe was seen on the saltmarsh near the Point on Monday 12th by Martin Cock along with 25 common snipe too.
On Sunday 1000 golden plover were seen in the fields while at the end of the afternoon 30 stock doves  and five redwing gathered to roost in the copse by the pond.

Donna Moncur reported seeing a nice variety of wildlife on Wednesday afternoon near the East Mersea village shop. A red squirrel ran through the gardens of houses opposite the old shop. A barn owl flew over the fields and a muntjac also showed in one of the fields.

At Maydays a wintering spotted redshank was seen by Martin on Wednesday. The day before there were four corn buntings perched on wires by Chapmans Lane.

Up to two shags have been seen in the Mersea Quarters in the last few days with two seen near Packing Shed on Monday 12th by Andy Field. A single shag and a goldeneye were seen by Martin at the weekend.
The first great northern diver of the winter was seen in the middle of the mouth of the Blackwater on Friday 9th by Andy.

A peregrine, two pintail, two stonechats and a green sandpiper were noted at Maydays on Tuesday 6th by Martin.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

HEADS-UP

This common seal was coming up for several breathers in the river Colne beside the East Mersea Point on Thursday 8th. At one point it swam to within a few metres of the beach as if to come out of the water, but then had a sudden change of mind, probably because I was watching it too closely.

 It swam out to a safer distance, still glancing back to see what I was up to.
There have been a couple of common seals in the river in the last couple of weeks.

A dozen turnstones were feeding along the edge of the water during the afternoon high tide.

This turnstone had a bit of an itch it was trying to scratch with its toes.

Twenty sanderling were also feeding along the beach at the Point with the turnstones.
Five red-breasted mergansers flew past the Point heading back up-river while five great crested grebes were also seen in the river.


There had been continuous rain during Thursday morning which left lots more surface water on the park's grazing fields. The afternoon high tide provided the ideal conditions for many waders to feed and roost in the waterlogged fields.

The regular flock of 1000 golden plover, pictured above, rested on the fields, until something spooked them up into the air. Prior to the disturbance, waders noted included 200 black-tailed godwits, 100 redshank, 500 dunlin, 150 lapwing, 100 curlew, 20 grey plover, 20 turnstone and 2 common snipe.

At the park pond there were 3 tufted ducks amongst the gadwall and mallard. At the end of the afternoon a male sparrowhawk, flew across the grazing fields and then low around the pond before perching up to show off its dark orange chest.
The little owl could just be seen inside the usual hedge near the park pond towards dusk and then a short while later as darkness descended, the white apparition of the barn owl was seen perched on a signpost in the car park.

Three stonechats were seen along the Strood seawall by Andy Field on Tuesday 6th, one photographed here. Also 4 tufted ducks seen on the Strood reservoirs.

It was great to hear that the red kite that was seen flying over the Strood on Monday morning was also seen by Brian Churches fifteen minutes later as it passed over Old Hall Marshes continuing rather sedately on its westward way.

Chris Burr found a barn owl with a broken wing at the beginning of the week in Shop Lane and took the bird into care, where sadly it couldn't be saved.
The Richardson family found a sick kestrel in their garden in the middle of West Mersea and took that into care where it appeared to be in need of some food.

Monday, 5 January 2015

HIGH AS A KITE

Brent geese were flying onto the muddy wheat field alongside the Strood during the morning on Monday 5th.
Despite the bird-scarer gas guns blasting off regularly from the edge of the field, the geese barely flinched and carried on feeding. At least 300 geese were on the fields with more flocks arriving with the onset of high tide.

The unexpected highlight of the morning walk was watching a red kite fly slowly and leisurely across the Strood fields towards me. It then passed over towards Ray Island, continuing westwards and into the distance over Copt Hall. Fortunately the kite was picked up in flight early on as it disturbed flocks of birds at the bottom of the Strood Hill.
It appeared the bird had flown along the Pyefleet and was on a course straight towards me. At first glance the bird didn't seem right for the usual marsh harriers with its big wing-beats and a glide lacking the V profile, it wasn't long before I glimpsed its forked tail, that identified this as a typical red kite.

Like most of the other red kites that have been seen over Mersea Island, they just pass over without any hesitation, continuing in a straightish line and most of them always passing westwards. One or two red kites are seen each year with the last one being three months ago.

Two marsh harriers were seen flying north-east over Ray Island and then high over the traffic on the Strood causeway towards Langenhoe.

Recent rains adding to the wet winter have flooded sections of the Strood fields. This seems ideal for some of the waders who can continue feeding on this mud when the high tide covers the nearby Strood mudflats. Fifty ringed plover and fifty dunlin were soon being joined by a few curlew and redshank, as well as a little egret in the ditch.

Small birds noted included 3 stonechats, 24 linnets, 20 pied wagtails, 10 meadow pipits, 2 rock pipits, 2 reed buntings, while 9 corn buntings passed overhead towards Copt Hall.

There was the usual selection of waders along the Strood as the tide crept back up channel. Of interest were 7 avocet, 20 knot, 300 golden plover and 1000+ dunlin.

A much bigger flock of golden plover were seen later on Packing Shed and Cobmarsh with 2000+ birds rising into the air. Amongst the moorings were 6 red-breasted mergansers, 10 little grebes and a kingfisher in flight near Packing Shed Island.

A barn owl was seen late on Sunday night at the bottom of Strood Hill by Martin Cock.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

FOGGY AND FROSTY

Members of the Colchester RSPB Members Group visited Cudmore Grove Country Park on Sunday 4th for their annual birdwatching walk. Sadly the park was shrouded in fog all morning with a visibility that was barely 50 metres most of the time. We peered through the fog to see dark shapes and silhouettes of birds and we could identify some birds by the call but not see them in the gloom. The overnight frost was slow to clear and some of the pools and splashes of water on the fields stayed frozen through the morning.

Luckily it was high tide which meant some waders were roosting close by on the saltmarsh as well as feeding on the grazing fields. On the fields 1000 golden plover, 300 dunlin, 400 teal were the main flocks along with a few black-tailed godwits and two snipe flew over. Offshore 200+ wigeon could just be seen through the fog as well as 20+ shelduck.

A variety of waders were roosting on the saltmarsh pools below the Golfhouse including 25 bar-tailed godwits, also black-tailed godwits, dunlin, grey plover, golden plover, knot and redshank. Around ten sanderling were seen feeding along the beach, while amongst forty brent geese feeding along the edge of the saltmarsh was a pale-bellied brent goose. Two little egrets fed on the saltmarsh and the female stonechat was flitting along the side of the seawall.

There was much more sunshine on Friday 2nd over the Golfhouse pools and much better conditions for viewing than Sunday. Can you spot the distant jack snipe in this photo taken by Andy Field? The bird is just right of centre in this photo along the edge of the very back of the pool. The top picture shows the birdwatching group on the seawall scanning this same pool in the vain hope of seeing this jack snipe but without success.

Andy also saw 1000 golden plovers in the fields as well as a couple of red-breasted mergansers offshore. At West Mersea a Mediterranean gull was the only bird of note at the Kingsland Beach.

This curlew pictured by Andy from the hide, has been feeding in the small field by the pond for the last few days here.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

THEN THERE WERE FOUR

Wishing everyone a prosperous New Year.
Sadly the well observed and popular mute swan family at the park ended their year on a sad note when one of the cygnets yesterday broke a wing flying into some overhead telegraph wires. Libby and Jo Watkins were walking the path a couple of fields to the north of the park when they heard a thud and noticed a swan had fallen onto the ground. They took the injured cygnet to the local vet, who sadly had to amputate the broken wing. The cygnet was then taken to Sue Morgan of the local Swan Rescue in nearby Salcott, where it will recuperate and then get used to being looked after indefinitely in captivity.

The previous blog posting here yesterday showed the whole swan family of five in flight earlier in the morning, flying around because their usual feeding ground on the dyke was frozen over. Yesterday was the first time I'd seen the whole family out in the river Colne, and a short while later they went for a fly around East Mersea....
The picture above shows the family on the park pond on New Years Day with the two remaining cygnets on either side of the parents.

New Years Day was overcast, grey and with the wind increasing through the day. Some of the watercourses still had a covering of ice on them. Sharp contrast to the sunshine of yesterday. A walk around the park during the morning up until noon, produced sightings of 68 species, two less than a couple of years ago.

Highlights were a peregrine giving prolonged views over Langenhoe Point, tussling with the marsh harriers and seemingly knocking an avocet into the Colne which the big gulls then fought over. The kingfisher was seen twice near the seawall, the second view perching up by Ivy Dock to see it as a female. A male goldeneye was the most notable bird in the river Colne. The female stonechat was still feeding along the seawall.

The big flock of 1000 golden plovers provided a nice spectacle when they took to the air during the morning. Other flocks on the fields were 500 wigeon, 100 lapwing along with 20 meadow pipits and 10 pied wagtails.
Two common snipe showed briefly as they fed amongst the rushes in the fields. There was no sign of the jack snipe on the saltmarsh.

Amongst many waders feeding on the mud as the tide went out were ten sanderling, 50 bar-tailed godwits and 100 avocets on Langenhoe Point. Five marsh harriers were flying around Langenhoe, and a kestrel was seen near Ivy Farm.

Other birds of interest included two goldcrests, mistle thrush, 5 goldfinches, 10 skylarks and a rock pipit.