Wednesday, 22 October 2014

THE EGRET HAD LANDED

The great white egret made a brief stopover along the north side of the Island on Wednesday 22nd. Having first been seen by Martin Cock as it landed from the east onto the Maydays saltmarsh mid afternoon, it was seen a short while later by Andy Field who managed to take this photo as it flew towards the Strood. The longer legs are obvious in the picture while the yellow bill can just about be made out. The bird made two or three short flights and then wasn't seen again.

I joined the search for the last hour of daylight from the Strood end of the Pyefleet Channel hoping to see it in the creek or in flight over the saltmarsh, but with no luck. There were plenty of little egrets with 16 seen in one group, some pictured above feeding in the creek as the tide receded.
However there was some consolation in me missing out on the great white egret........

Scanning the distant horizon over towards the Langenhoe ranges for anything flying, there was a large bird of prey hovering over the ranges with big pronounced wing-beats. Through the telescope the bird banked to the side and the white upper tail could be seen which suggested a rough-legged buzzard. The bird seemed to be spending a lot of time hovering, being mobbed by marsh harriers, it changed locations a few times and continued to hover. The pale underwing seemed reminiscent of a short-eared owl but with the distinct black carpal patches.

Martin and Andy who had only just got back to the warmth of their homes, came scurrying back out again before the light faded. After a while they managed to relocate the bird further to the east on the ranges still hovering.
A rough-legged buzzard was reported on the Langenhoe ranges just two days earlier on the Monday.

Other birds noted on this remotest corner of the Island were 5+ marsh harriers, sparrowhawk, kingfisher, greenshank, rock pipit and a stonechat. Andy found a ring ouzel along one of the hedges near the seawall north of Bower Hall and also a wheatear.

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Very pleased to find this brown hare on the park's grazing fields on Monday 20th, and it even stopped very briefly for this picture to be snapped before it ran off. The grass in the field was being topped with a mower and this hare was hoping to lie low without being noticed. Unfortunately he couldn't stay hidden and made his escape. I didn't realise there were any hares in these fields at all, none have ever been seen here before. This is the first sighting.

The hare ran off to the uncut long grass, although it soon had to break cover again as the tractor got nearer and on the third occasion it ran off completely, not to be seen again no doubt.

The cows haven't been able to keep on top of all the grass growth in the fields, so this tractor and mower spent most of Monday cutting everything down, especially the thistles. The shorter grass will be more attractive for the brent geese, the wigeon as well as many of the waders too.
Other wildlife seen from the tractor were a common shrew scuttling away in the grass and also ten skylarks.

Ratty the regular water vole was in his/her usual ditch near the start of the seawall walk on Wednesday 22nd.
He seemed quite content munching into some reed stalks.

A red squirrel was seen at the country park on Tuesday morning by a couple of regular dog-walkers who got a good view of it on a path between the car park and the hide. They said it looked well fed! I quickly rushed over to the spot but there was no further sign of it. This is only the second red squirrel sighting at the park, the last one being a year ago.

A weasel was seen near the Point by Andy Field on Monday afternoon.

The golden plovers haven't wasted any time in resting on the newly mown grazing field with about 200 birds here on Wednesday, this picture taken by Andy Field. A group of 20 turnstones was also in the field with the plovers.

There is still a large flock of 900+ black-tailed godwits roosting at the pools in one of the grazing fields, this godwit photo taken by Andy. Also 50+ redshank roosting with the godwits.

There are still plenty of teal although most well hidden in the rushes and docks but probably 500+ at times. The wigeon weren't as evident today although on Tuesday afternoon 800 birds were counted.

A stonechat was on a bush near the start of the seawall on Wednesday and a wheatear was on the seawall path, also 20 meadow pipits. On Monday a pair of stonechats was seen beside the seawall in the morning and later in the fields.
The Cetti's warbler was still singing behind the park pond, now into its third week here.

Overhead a big passage of wood pigeons was noted with about 400+ birds passing west on Wednesday morning. Also 3 swallows were seen flying west over the park.

A ring ouzel was found beside the park pond on Monday afternoon by Martin Cock. It was seen on the ground to start with and then flew to the west a short while and into the hedge and not seen again. There seemed an influx of various thrushes on that afternoon with 20 blackbirds and 10 song thrushes being seen just inside the park.

The sun came out at times on Wednesday and so did one or two butterflies with a small copper, large white and 2 red admirals being seen at the park. Also several common darters and a migrant hawker.
A clouded yellow was seen near the park pond on Monday by Andy and one was also seen on the Seaview Avenue beach at West Mersea on Monday by Steve Entwistle, also 2 red admirals in his West Mersea garden.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

HERONS JOIN EGRETS

Up to three grey herons have been roosting by the park pond most high tides, whenever there's a big, little egret roost there. Andy Field photographed this bird on the weeping willow over the pond.

The little egrets seemed dispersed around the park in the morning of 19th October, such as this one checking a saltmarsh pool by the seawall. Around ten little egrets were on the saltmarsh by the Point at high tide and another ten by the pond.

Lots of various waders were roosting on the saltmarsh pools by the Golfhouse with at least 500 black-tailed godwits forming the biggest flock, some pictured above. Another 500 were roosting noisily on the park fields with 110 curlew also roosting here.
Also at the Point on Sunday were 70 linnets, one wheatear, six sanderling and 400 golden plover, as well as a common seal in the river.

Also noted were two goldcrest and chiffchaff with the mixed tit flock and 12 swallows passing westwards.

At the end of Sunday 19th I joined Andy Field on the seawall near Shop Lane to watch the harriers going to roost. Staying till it was dark at 6.30pm, we'd counted 17 marsh harriers going to roost on the Langenhoe Point. A similar count was being done at the same time, just to the west of West Mersea on the Old Hall Marshes RSPB reserve where 23 marsh harriers went to roost. No hen harriers were seen at either site.

Also along the Pyefleet was a peregrine trying to flush a redshank out of the water, a common tern heading out of the channel and a continuous flow of 70+ pied wagtails passing overhead on their way to a roost somewhere to the west.

On Saturday morning a short-eared owl flew over the Point heading north-west in the Pyefleet direction, putting up all the waders roosting on the saltmarsh. I received a text message from Chris Balchin at Colne Point late morning to alert me to a rough-legged buzzard he'd just seen heading across the river towards the country park. Sadly despite quickly scanning the skies, it wasn't located.

There had been a report of a rough-legged buzzard being seen by a birdwatcher a couple of days earlier along the Pyefleet on Thursday, which he'd seen flying with a couple of common buzzards.

Andy enjoyed a good view of an osprey circle over the park on Thursday afternoon before it drifted east to Brightlingsea. There was a report it was still in the estuary on Saturday in the Alresford Creek / Thorrington area.

There was bright rainbow over the park late on Saturday afternoon, following a quick downpour.
Birds seen at the park included a kingfisher flying over the pools to the pond, a stonechat in the fields and the Cetti's warbler still singing behind the pond.

A group of a dozen blackbirds and a handful of song thrushes were seen by the park entrance as were five redwings briefly and ten swallows.

 Thirty redwings flew along Bromans Lane early on Thursday 16th while later Andy saw the stonechat in the fields and 200 ringed plover on the mud.

A stoat made a fleeting appearance at the park on Saturday afternoon, bounding towards me for a few metres then standing upright to sniff the air and then dashing back to the undergrowth.


Moth traps were put out on a very mild Saturday evening at both the country park and also in the garden at Firs Chase in West Mersea. One of the first moths to arrive mid evening in Firs Chase was this pretty moth with the grand name Merveille du Jour.
Although a widespread moth it's only been seen once before on the Island about four years ago at the park. It's flight season being late in the year, it makes a nice addition to any trapping as the main season draws to a close. It's interesting finding it in the town when its more of woodland and scrub moth where the foodplant is oak.

The Firs Chase trap did very well in pulling in the migrant moths, much better than the East Mersea trap. Two of these dainty Olive-tree pearls came to the light around midnight.
Whilst working late on the computer I could see the moths fluttering around the lamp in the back garden and I quickly recognised the white translucent wings of this micro-moth. I grabbed a pot and dashed outside to catch it before it disappeared.

The night ended with quite a bit of rain which completely soaked the white sheet on the ground. A hurried check of the trap whilst getting wet, revealed this tiny little female Gem, another migrant moth.

Other migrants in the trap were this dark sword-grass, silver Y, white-point along with the immigrant micros 3 rusty dot pearls and a diamond-backed moth. There was even a red admiral in the trap, maybe trying to shelter from the rain.

Also seen were red-green carpet, pine carpet, green brindled crescent, Blairs shoulder knot, large wainscot, lesser yellow underwing, red-line quaker, brick and dark chestnut.

There were a few more moths in the trap at the park, although only two migrant moths, a Gem and a rusty-dot pearl. This streak was the only interesting moth out of the 48 macro moths noted. It hasn't been seen for a couple of years, so it was nice to record it again.

Different moths at the park were November sp, yellow-line quaker, feathered thorn, barred sallow, black rustic, deep-brown rustic and mallow.

Adrian Amos reported a good count of ten red admirals in his East Road garden in West Mersea on Friday 17th.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

OUZEL WATCH

Excitement at East Mersea early on Tuesday 14th when six ring ouzels were found beside the country park. This well-marked male photographed by Andy Field as it sat on a distant hedge, still showed the big white chest band and a very white wing-panel. The other ring ouzels were female / immature types and all very wary.

The first sign of a ring ouzel at the park was hearing the loud chacking call of a bird in the car park first thing on Tuesday morning. Summoning Andy and Martin Cock pictured above along with Wilma, the bird and a handful of others were found in this hedgerow just to the north of the park entrance. Some of the ouzels seemed quite settled but at other times they flew round flying high and fast.

This is the second autumn in a row that a group of ring ouzels have stopped off at the park and the views this time were much better. Hearing reports from elsewhere on the Essex coast, it appeared that lots of ring ouzels had made land-fall such as at the Naze, Frinton, Colne Point, St Oysth and also at Wivenhoe.

Also arriving across the North Sea this morning at the park were the first redwings with 20 noted, as well as 25 blackbirds and 5 song thrushes. By late morning most of these thrushes and the ring ouzels had moved on. A brambling called in flight in the morning and another bird in the afternoon, and 25 swallows passed over the park too.

An early bird over the car park on Tuesday was a merlin going against the flow of the thrushes, this one hurtled its way east towards the grazing fields.

There was little new influx of thrushes on Wednesday morning although two small flocks of five redwings in each, flew from trees. Two song thrushes were seen near the park pond where the Cetti's warbler was also singing loudly and showed for Tim Mendham. At least twenty swallows passed over the park during the day.

A female marsh harrier emerged out of the early morning fog scattering all the teal and wigeon on the pools in the fields, before it dropped down for a few minutes. The wildfowl soon settled back down when the harrier flew off. In the afternoon a sparrowhawk caused some chaos when it flew amongst the waders and wildfowl.

The kingfisher flew from the pond where it had been as noisy as usual in the afternoon, flying low over the pools towards the seawall. Andy saw at least two wheatears at the Point today, possibly another two birds also present. On the nearby mudflats 700 golden plover were resting late morning.
The previous day Andy counted 1500 black-tailed godwits in the grazing fields and 23 knot on the nearby mud.

The little egret roost behind the park pond was counted at 75 birds on Tuesday with about fifty of them pictured above. The Cetti's warbler was still singing by the park pond but not on show.

Martin Cock saw a stonechat and a Mediterranean gull at Coopers Beach on Tuesday morning.


Several common darters are still to be seen at the country park, basking on any piece of wood they can find, such as this male pictured above on a picnic table in the car park.

A small copper was seen again near the car park in the early afternoon of Tuesday when the sun came out and a  couple of red admirals were seen too. A clouded yellow was photographed near the Point by a visitor in the afternoon. A clouded yellow was also seen by Andy Field along the seawall on Wednesday.

An adder was basking in the usual spot near the car park on Tuesday early afternoon. Martin Cock also reported seeing an adder on the seawall at Maydays on Sunday.

A muntjac deer was seen twice on Wednesday near Manwood Grove, near the East Mersea pub, once in the field early morning and then again just after dark crossing the East Mersea road seen in the headlights.
The water vole was showing itself in the ditch near the park's seawall on Wednesday.

The moth trap went out on a seemingly dry Tuesday night, collecting thirty moths by the next morning.There were three of this micro-moth pictured above, the rusty dot pearl, which were of interest as these are usually regarded as migrants mainly coming in during the autumn period. The tiny diamond-back moth was also noted.


The resident feathered thorn is a regular visitor to the trap in October. One or two of them are happy to settle in the grass beside the trap and then spend the whole of the next day motionless.

This dark chestnut usually turns up in small numbers in the autumn.

A handful of November sps. moths were in the trap although this individual was resting on the side of the nearby wall of the house.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

WAYLAID WHEATEAR

This confiding wheatear stayed at East Mersea Point for four days, posing for this photo by Andy Field on Saturday 11th.

It seemed to enjoy its temporary home on the Essex coast, checking out this old wartime pillbox for a bit of shelter.

This wheatear picture above of mine, was taken in the fading light at the end of Saturday. The bird had a short stump of a tail and looked a bit strange when seen in flight.
There was no sign of this bird on Sunday although a different wheatear with a full-length tail had turned up instead.

A female stonechat was seen in the grazing fields and the Point on Saturday while on Sunday a male stonechat was in the fields.

A dozen meadow pipits, one pictured above, were feeding along the beach and in the nearby fields on Saturday. A rock pipit was also feeding on the saltmarsh by the Point on Saturday and Sunday. Thirty linnets and 4 reed buntings were also feeding near the Point.

A flock of seventy house martins and a handful of swallows were feeding up over the fields and seawall on Saturday morning. A similar sized flock was also seen later at West Mersea by Martin Cock, which could've been the same birds. Three swallows passed over the park later on Saturday afternoon heading west.

The black-tailed godwit roost in the park's grazing fields on Saturday was estimated to number 1400 birds, along with 200 redshank and a greenshank at the roost too. Rough wildfowl numbers included 300 teal, 300 wigeon and 100 greylag geese. Greenshank was also heard calling over the park on Sunday.

The Cetti's warbler was singing on both weekend days by the pond and managed to show itself on Sunday. The little egret roost numbered forty birds on the Saturday with a similar number on Sunday too.
Three blackcaps were in bushes by the pond while 4 goldcrests and a couple of chiffchaffs were with the tit flocks around the park. A dozen continental blackbirds were in bushes by the park entrance on Saturday morning. A male yellowhammer perched briefly on a bush at the park.

A common buzzard was seen twice during Saturday with one bird being noisily joined by a grey heron and it was difficult to say whether they were enjoying each other's company. The local crows liked neither.
A sparrowhawk flew low over the mud near the Point as it headed east across the Colne. The pair of kestrels were perched in their oak tree at the back of the fields on Saturday.

On the mud 15 knot and 600 golden plover were of note amongst lots of waders on Saturday evening while 200 avocets flew back upriver past the Point on Sunday morning. Twenty-five snipe were flushed from the saltmarsh lagoons near the Point on Sunday morning. The kingfisher was seen along the dyke on Saturday by Andy Field and was also seen flying near the Golfhouse dyke on Sunday morning.

An osprey was reported on Saturday in the Colne estuary on the Geedon Marsh by a birdwatching group on a barge trip. The bird was still present in the area the next day and was seen by Martin Cock viewing from the Maydays seawall early afternoon. There was no further sign of it from East Mersea later in the afternoon.

Martin also reported a merlin, a pair of stonechats, green sandpiper and greenshank at Maydays on Sunday, while Steve Entwistle watched a kingfisher perch on a pontoon in the Pyefleet and a common buzzard by Bocking Hall on Sunday.

Two eider were seen briefly offshore from West Mersea by Martin on Sunday morning before they were disturbed by a boat, also three common terns here.


Only three butterflies were seen flying at the country park during the middle part of Sunday, including this small copper. It was found basking on some bare ground whilst looking to see if any adders were still out - none were. Two red admirals were the other butterflies seen on Sunday, as well as common darter and migrant hawker.

A common seal was seen in the river Colne on Sunday morning and a muntjac deer was seen behind the park pond by Andy on Saturday.

The moth trap was put back out at the country park on a cool Saturday night, after a break of a few nights while the moon was at its brightest. A small catch of 18 moths was not unexpected due to the cool and clear night sky.
This common green-brindled crescent pictured above showing its green sheen, was one of a couple found in the trap by daybreak on Sunday morning.

The large wainscot is a regular to the trap each autumn at the park. It's preferred habitat is close to watercourses where the caterpillar's foodplant is the common reed.

Other moths noted included red-green carpet, mallow, large yellow underwing, feathered ranunculus, beaded chestnut, lunar underwing, sallow, barred sallow and one of the November moth species.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

GLOBE-TROTTING GODWITS

High spring tides over the last few days have brought large numbers of black-tailed godwits to roost in the country park fields. Most of the birds pack into the pools where 1400 birds were estimated by Andy Field on Saturday 11th. A few redshank were also roosting here as was a greenshank on a couple of occasions.

Andy managed to find about ten black-tailed godwits on Thursday 9th that had been colour ringed such as this one pictured above. Thanks to some speedy replies from Dr Jenny Gill and Peter Potts the next day, we've discovered what kind of journeys some of these birds have undertaken since they were ringed.

The black-tailed godwit pictured above has the combination GR-OW and was first ringed in the Wash on Sept 2002. It has since been seen on thirty occasions ranging from W. France, NW. France, the nearby Blackwater estuary, Holland and now East Mersea. The bird has made annual visits to these coastal sites as well as flying back to Iceland to breed each spring.

This well observed globetrotter godwit is GW-GX pictured above, seen in the fields also on Thursday 9th. Ringed as an adult in SW Iceland in April 2002, this bird has been seen 29 times. Observations have been in Iceland ( west, east and south-west) several times, various corners of the adjacent Colne estuary several times and also near Shannon in Ireland.

Another very well observed black-tailed godwit was ringed as a chick and been seen 76 times particularly on the north Kent marshes most winters. It has been seen back in NW Iceland several times, NW France several times, W France, south Essex, Aberdeen and now East Mersea.

The first big godwit roost on the fields took place on Wednesday 8th ahead of one of the very high spring tides but also following a morning of heavy rain which would've softened up the ground for them to feed. Two big flocks gathered with this group on the grass of about 1000 birds while another 800 were gathered in the nearby flooded corner of the field.
Bar-tailed godwits feeding on the nearby mudflats don't roost in these fields although one was found in amongst the black-tails with this group pictured above.

Friday, 10 October 2014

AUTUMN DOWNPOURS

The driest September on record now seems a distant memory following some torrential downpours recently.
The car park at Cudmore Grove pictured above, was not surprisingly, very empty during a very wet Wednesday 8th.

 The one bit of wildlife interest seen from this office window was the sight of a brown rat scuttling over the car park several times to grab some fallen sweet chestnuts and then running back to cover carrying each one in its mouth.

It stayed dry and sunny for most of Thursday but it was much windier, which whipped the very high tide onto the beach and against the country park cliff. The Environment Agency have only just got round to repairing the two collapses in the seawall from last winter and so far the repair works seem to have held.

This wheatear has stayed put on the beach at East Mersea Point during the wet and windy weather of the last three days. First seen on Wednesday evening it was still present on Friday morning.
In the Colne a common tern was flying about and a house martin looked like it wanted to cross the river to Point Clear.

A rock pipit called as it flew along the beach and 30 linnets were also seen feeding around the saltmarsh at the Point. Brent geese numbers in the mouth of the Colne are still about 200 although dispersed in several smaller groups. One group of fifty brent near Ivy Dock were seen late morning and the first group of four were seen feeding in one of the park's grazing field. 

There was the interesting sight amongst the 1500 starlings feeding around the seawall/ beach/ fields area of a very pale leucistic starling showing a sandy body but with cream-white wings. Certainly easy to pick out when flying in the flock.


The early afternoon high tides in the last few days have brought big numbers of birds onto the park's grazing fields with this picture showing some of the 1000 black-tailed godwits. There was a big gathering on Wednesday afternoon after the mornings downpour had softened up the fields with nearly 2000 godwits roosting.

Also in the fields were 500+ teal, 500+ wigeon, 130 curlew, 90 greylags, 200 redshank and 50 lapwing. One bar-tailed godwit was amongst the black-tails as were a few dunlin on Wednesday. A greenshank was seen flying off the fields when the birds were disturbed.

Little egrets have had to hold on tight to the branches during the windy periods when they roosted at high tide. At least seventy birds were seen on Friday with half at the pond and the other half standing in the nearby pools in the grazing field. Three grey herons also joined the roost on Thursday.

The three swan cygnets appear close to fledging and making their first flight, probably being egged on by their parents who seem to be flying about a lot recently. They have done well to get to this stage after the loss of their other three siblings early on. The right hand bird in the photo is the cygnet with the white plumage of an adult.

After a couple of days of silence in the windy weather, the loud song of the Cetti's warbler was heard again from the hedge behind the park pond on Friday morning. It has now been present for its eleventh day and maybe its companion is still around too.

On the pond 24 shoveler, 6 gadwall, 50+ mallard and a tufted duck but no sign of the female pintail that flew over the pools and the pond on Wednesday 8th.

A marsh harrier flew over the car park on Wednesday and at the end of the day there has been at least one flying up river to the Langenhoe roost over the last three evenings. A sparrowhawk flew over the car park on Wednesday while the two kestrels have been seen by their oak tree recently.
A little owl called at dusk from an oak tree just inside the park and was seen flying out much to the surprise of a wood pigeon also in the tree.

Two swallows flew west over the park on Thursday, two goldcrests were with the tit flock and 30 greenfinches gathered to roost each evening at the park.

Martin Cock watched a little gull fly east past Coopers Beach towards the mouth of the river Colne on a windy Wednesday afternoon.

There was the eyecatching sight in the sunshine of a clouded yellow butterfly fly across the car park just after midday on Friday 10th. Also in the sun this day were a couple of red admirals and a common lizard.

There was a report a red squirrel being found dead this week, in a garden situated near the end of the East Mersea road.
A muntjac deer was seen at dusk in the grass field behind the park pond on Wednesday evening.