Sunday, 30 October 2016

My First Visit of the Winter to Mersea Island

17th October 2016

So the holidaymakers have gone, the kids are back at school, so time for my first visit of the winter to Mersea Island. The first port of call was Cudmore Grove where I walked down the track past the hide and came across the ever-expanding Little Egret roost. The roost is now in excess of 90 birds, although here were only 20 or so birds present when I was there, with the inevitable jockeying for the best positions.

A number of birds were also flying around the lake giving some opportunities for some action shots.

But the best shots were when they settled with a few autumn berries in the background.

Rather surprisingly the floods on the grazing meadows were mainly dry with just a few puddles after last nights rain. No birds there then, so off to the sea wall to see what was on offer there. The borrow-dyke held a few returning Wigeon, although most were still in eclipse plumage. But the most unexpected find here was a Meadow Pipit, which was illuminated quite nicely in the morning sun.

On the shore were a number of returning Brent Geese, although the light was a bit in from the side so not ideal. However, there are always the flight shots.

Now on to The Point and the tide was gradually covering all the mud creating some movement among the ducks, geese and waders. This Brent Goose was coming in to land.

Also on The Point were a couple of Pied Wagtails.

At that point a magnificent schooner, the Trinovante, came chugging into the River Colne. This schooner was built just up river at Wivenhoe and was launched in 1994.

In the bay on the ever-decreasing mud were a number of waders including a handful of Grey Plovers. This particular individual stayed fairly close and positively shone and spangled in the sunshine.

Also, because of the rising tide, there were a number of opportunities for some flight shots, both singly and in flocks. I suspect that East Mersea is the flight shot capital of Essex.

And they eventually all settled down in their salt-marsh high tide roosts, that is until the Peregrine Falcon flew over and put the whole lot up.

Now on to West Mersea and, because of the particularly high tide, I drew a blank on Med Gulls at both ends of The Esplanade. However, at the jetty the Black-headed Gulls were a little more cooperative as they hovered around the crabbers in the hope of a bit of discarded bait. Even the Herring Gulls joined in.

But the star of the show today was Sammy, the Common Seal that always appears around the jetty at high tide when the crabbers are present. He is an expert at encouraging the crabbers to part with their bait, and will even take bacon from their fingers in a very gentle fashion so there is no chance of getting your fingers nipped.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

An Impromptu Visit to Lemsford Springs

16th October 2016

I actually set off for Tewinbury Farm as during my last visit conditions were perfect with about 85% mud in front of the hide which was attracting 4 Common Snipe and a Water Rail. However the recent rains had raised the water levels by a few inches and only about 5% mud remained so there were no birds and to make things worse the shadows were getting long, so time to move on to Lemsford Springs.

The beauty of Lemsford is that, apart from being a superbly managed attractive habitat, the afternoon light is always from the best direction with no trees to cast shadows, and to finish things off the sun came out. There were two Grey Herons present, with this young bird walking around in the cress bed looking for Sticklebacks.

Little Egrets were also well represented with five birds being present and two of them had been caught and fitted with colour rings, HA and HC. So look out for them on your travels and send in any sightings to Barry Trevis, the Warden.

Green Sandpipers also continue to be colour ringed and this colour ringing programme is now the longest running in Europe. It has also been taken to a new level now with some of the birds being GPS-tagged and tracked by satellite, so that we now even know which tree they bred in in Norway. How good is that?

But the star of the show today was this female Kingfisher which dropped in very briefly and perched on a branch right in front of the hide.

Despite was Barry says, I still have to be convinced that Water Rails exist at Lemsford!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

In Search of Migrants at Landguard Point

12th October 2016

After two days of easterlies and Yellow-broweds everywhere it seemed a good idea to try Landguard Point for some migrants. On our arrival the wind was nowhere near as strong as expected, although this did have the advantage of allowing birds to sit up and be seen rather than cowering in the depths of vegetation. The first bird to oblige was this rather confiding Dunnock.

Linnets are usually all over the place at Landguard, but not always easy to get close to. On the other hand this Kestrel was quite used to people and just sat there as I got closer.

Wheatears are also quite common here at this time of year, but always being out in the open are quite difficult to get close to. Luckily, Meadow Pipits which are also birds of open areas, are far more approachable.

A close look at the brambles soon revealed a young Blackcap that was intent on feeding on the many blackberries. Luckily this bird was quite happy to ignore you provided you just stood still and waited with no sudden movements.

But the star of the show today was this male Goldcrest that suddenly poked its head out of another bramble bush. This bird was even more confiding than the Blackcap and at times I was having difficulty in getting it all in the frame and keeping it outside the minimum focusing range. What a great way to end the day!!!