30th September 2014
Having left the Ruff behind at Abberton we headed across The Strood to Mersea and started at the jetty at the western end of West Mersea. The tide was out but on the turn so there was a rather large expanse of mud on either side of the jetty. As we went down on to the jetty over the water we came face to face with a rather unexpected visitor - a Common Seal. He seemed to be very much at home and dozed off at one point. Apparently he is no newcomer to the area, and often visits when there is any crabbing activity. There wasn't any today so it disappeared almost immediately.
There was also a good selection of gulls present, with all obviously used to people and were happy to walk within five yards. Here, in order of appearance are Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls have yellow legs but this near adult still retains its sub-adult pink legs.
No foreshore on Mersea is complete without an army of busy Turnstones, all scurrying round flipping over stones and sifting through seaweed. For some reason these waders are unnaturally tame and will come within just a couple of yards, far too close for my lens. A little more sombre at this time of year compared to their flamboyant summer plumage, but still attractive nevertheless.
Next stop was the beach at Seaview caravan park at the eastern end of West Mersea. The main reason for stopping off here was to see if we could find any Mediterranean Gulls in amongst the flocks of Black-headed Gulls. There was a flock of some 20 gulls by the water's edge but difficult to see what they were as we were looking into the sun, so we moved round to get the sun behind us. It wasn't looking too promising as a scan through the bins showed Black-headed after Black-headed and in accordance with the law according to Sod, the last gull in the pack was a Mediterranean. Having said that it was fairly obliging and stood there quite motionless as I edged closer and closer. This was a full adult in winter plumage hence the lack of its jet-black head. but still sporting that amazing red bill.
Now on to Cudmore Grove Country Park in East Mersea and a gentle wander down the path to the sea wall. Rather surprisingly the grazing meadows were already flooded even this early in the winter and there was a significant gathering of Black-tailed Godwits amongst the Little Egrets.
Further down by the sea wall a pair of Little Grebes were fishing on the borrowdyke amongst the loose flock of Wigeon which were having a drink and a break from grazing. In previous years I had always assumed that ducks entering eclipse plumage were well synchronised across all species, but this is clearly not the case. Mallard enter eclipse plumage much earlier than most species, even when they are still breeding. As a result they have all finished and the males are now back in their immaculate breeding plumage. At the other end of the spectrum, this male Wigeon still has a long way to go to attain his breeding plumage.
At that point a bird that was skimming along low over the borrowdyke caught my eye. As luck would have it, it landed on top of a bramble bush on the other side of the dyke, a lovely Stonechat. What a cracking way to end another fantastic day on Mersea.