Friday, 21 April 2017

Red Squirrels on Mersea Island

2nd April 2017

Off to Mersea Island again, but this time to try and see the Red Squirrels that are doing so well there, but first the customary, almost compulsory, stop at Abberton for breakfast. A Little Egret was loafing on a nearby dead tree. Amazing to think that about 25 years ago I got up at 4.00am to travel all the way to Rutland to one of these MEGAs!! By the weir a pair of Great Crested Grebes were building a nest, so will no doubt attract a fair amount of attention over the coming months.

On the banks of the causeway a small flock of Linnets were busy searching for seeds including this rather smart cock bird.

But the stars today were the returning Yellow Wagtails which looked superb in the morning sun and performed well.

Now on to the beach at East Mersea where there were still a few Brent Geese lingering on before their journey north. Also a few Dunlin and Ringed Plover although numbers were now noticeably lower.

But back to our mission today, the Red Squirrels. Mersea Island would be a true island if it wasn't connected to the mainland by a 250 yard-long causeway, The Strood, which is open most of the time and only covered about 1 week in four during high tide. Unusually it has no grey Squirrels and is therefore an ideal place to re-introduce Red Squirrels.

Since August 2012, 20 squirrels have been introduced and are now breeding freely and increasing in numbers, helped along by many many people feeding them in their gardens. There are two main colonies. In West Mersea most of the squirrels are seen in private gardens which obviously makes access difficult. However, on East Mersea where there are far fewer houses and more natural woodland habitat, it is possible to not only see but also photograph these fabulous mammals.

I selected one particuler wood and waited, listening for sound of life. Eventually I could hear rustling ndon the grouf and spotted a squirrel searching for food amongst the leaf litter. It grabbed a pine cone and scuttled up the nearest tree to eat its prize in peace. This gave me a chance of a photo despite the poor light and intervening branches.

But how good is that? My first ever sighting of a Red Squirrel in the wild in the UK...........AND IN ESSEX!!!!!!! Congratulations to all those involved in this most successful re-intoducion programme.

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