Friday, 20 October 2017

A Tour of Mersea Island

6th October 2017

A lovely sunny day so time for a leisurely stroll around the birding hotspots of Mersea Island. It was predicted to be an exceptionally high today, so arrived at The Strood with plenty of time to spare before the island became cut off for a couple of hours. First stop was Cudmore Grove and a wander down the path to the hide. Nothing exceptional there in terms of species, but there were already 65 Little Egrets in the roost with still two hours to high tide.

On the beach all the mud was already covered and not a wader in sight, not even an Oystercatcher. Along the high-tide wrack a lone female Stonechat was flitting around, but due to the direction of the wind was always facing away.

On Brightlingsea Reach the 70 foot Essex smack Pioneer was moored. Pioneer was built in 1864 and after a lifetime of dredging oysters in the North Sea fell into disrepair until it was restored in 1998.

On the salt-marsh pools the Brent Geese and Wigeon were making the most of the high tide, which was producing a lot of floating seed. The waders were also gathering in good numbers and were settling in for a good few hours sleep over the high tide. The most numerous species was Grey Plover, but also good numbers of Redshank and a few Dunlin and Turnstone.


This is a spectacle that I have witnessed several times before, but today there was a twist. Because of the exceptionally high tide the water kept on rising and gradually flooded the whole roost area, causing all the waders to initially move postion before eventually flying off to seek some even higher ground. How amazing is that?

Now on to West Mersea. Here the ide was still well up the beach and a handful of Black-headed Gulls were gathered along the tide-line. However, a quick scan with the bins revealed that one of the gulls was in fact a rather stunning adult Mediterranean Gull which, unlike some meds, was particularly confiding until it was flushed by a dog, thereby allowing a few flight shots.

But the star of the show today was Sammy the Seal which was on patrol at the jetty stealing bait from the army of crabbers there.

Luckily the crabbers take this in good part and at the end of the day feed him all their leftover bait. A welcome example of Man and wildlife living together.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Wilson's Phalarope, Long-billed Dowitcher and Black-necked Grebe at Oare Marshes

5th October 2017

News came through that the long-staying Red-necked Phalarope had now been replaced by a Wilson's Phalarope, so time for another visit to the amazing Oare Marshes. The phalarope and the even longer-staying Long-billed Dowitcher had been showing well next to the road but as we got out of the car a couple of Peregrines swooped low over the flood and scattered everything in all directions. So therefore time for a cup of tea and wait for the dust to settle.

Passerines were represented by a small flock of rather flighty Linnets which seemed intent on feeding low in the grass out of sight, but this female Reed Bunting and male Stonechat were a little more amenable.

The joy of Oare Marshes is that that there is always a great supporting cast when you are waiting for that rarity to show. Whether it be a Lapwing trying its best to balance, Dunlin flying about or the huge confiding Black-tailed Godwits, there is also lots to keep you occupied.

Golden Plover numbers are building up nicely and birds were flying in continually as high tide approached, and there are always a few Ruff around to provide variety.

The large flock of Avocets tend to keep to the back of the flood but are clearly visible when they get spooked and fly around in a tight flock against a dark blue sky, but a handful of individuals feed in the shallows close to the road.

The first of today's targets to appear was the Long-billed Dowitcher. I always thought that these were fairly large birds, but it is not until you get them close to a Black-tailed Godwit that you realise just how small they are.

It was then the turn of the Wilson's Phalarope to fly into the pool nearest the road and be on show for a couple of hours, although sometimes being a little too far away and sometimes so close it disappeared behind the reeds. However, over a period of time it was possible to get some reasonable shots, especially when the sun came out.

But the star of the show today was undoubtedly the Black-necked Grebe. The bird had been reported showing well close to the near bank of Oare Creek but as we approached a boat was leaving the creek and had pushed the bird to the far bank. We explored the creek towards Oare just to test the two bird theory to no avail, but when we returned to the sluice the grebe was now mid-stream and swimming purposefully towards our bank. Amazingly, it came within 10 yards but was quite difficult to photograph as it was swimming very fast underwater along the bank and quite hard to keep up with. How good is that?

Well, another fantastic day at the amazing Oare Marshes which never disappoints and I look forward to another visit during the winter months.