A dozen of us arrived almost simultaneously and were met by Dougal, the Park Ranger; he told us what he had seen recently and where we were most likely to find them (thank you to Joy for arranging this).
Cudmore Grove is situated on the southeast end of Mersea Island with the River Blackwater to the south, the Colne to the east and various channels to the north and west. Access to the island is by a causeway crossing the Strood channel. Extensive mudflats reach out in to the River Blackwater and it was on the cliffs overlooking these that we started our visit. Sadly the cliffs are eroding and parts are quite dangerous.
Due to a spring tide and the combination of a super moon, the water was particularly low and if there were waders present they were too far out to be seen with our binoculars, a disappointment to us all but had we had telescopes with us perhaps we would have seen more. A few birds sang in the bushes but they too were reluctant to show themselves. Some birds flew over that we thought at first could be Sand Martins (there were Sand Martin-type holes in the cliff face) but fortunately the birds obligingly flew close by and we could positively identify them as Swallows.
We walked east along the seawall with the sea on our right and from here were able to pick out the occasional wader here and there; overall the mudflats were a slight disappointment. To our left was parkland, which then gave way to an area with a dyke and beyond that rough pasture where cows grazed. We had a beautiful sighting of a female Tufted Duck watching over her lively brood of four chicks that dived frequently. A Coot swam with them seemingly wanting to belong to their family. On the bank a pair of Swans guarded their cygnets and whilst looking at them on the far bank a Water Vole (or Rat) ran along the water’s edge. Amongst the Bristly Ox-tongues we spotted several Clouded Yellow Butterflies – a first for many of us. There were a surprising variety of wildflowers, which attracted other feeding butterflies and insects.
By now the tide was rising rapidly and pushing the waders nearer to the shore. The Sanderlings, who often feed along the waves, were also pushed in and took to the air in large flocks, rapidly flying along the line of the dyke. More waders were identified as they came closer to the shore.
Walking over the parkland towards the hide and the lake we remarked on the quantity and varieties of berries. The hide gave us our treat of the day when a Kingfisher posed for us. He sat on the low branches facing us and displaying his brown chest. Then he turned with his head sideways and finally did a half circle and showed his brilliant, bright blue feathers. We watched for almost 30-minutes whilst it dived once, returned to the branch, and then flew off into the reeds, returning once more to a branch nearby for us to admire him again. Brightly coloured dragonflies, blue (as blue as the Kingfisher’s feathers), red and brown, danced across the water. After all this peace and tranquillity we then had the drama of a Common Buzzard being mobbed by Crows, which continued for some time.
After all this excitement we returned to our cars, ate a quick lunch and escaped the island before the rapidly rising tide covered the causeway and cut us off.
(Visit www.merseawildlife.blogspot.co.uk report for Thursday 14th August for pictures of the Kingfisher, the Tufted Ducks and two mentions of the Burnham U3A!!)
Birds Identified: Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Crow, Common Buzzard, Swallow, Cormorant, Herring & Black-headed Gulls, Ringed Plover, Sanderling, Avocet, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Black-tailed Godwit, Mute Swan, Egret, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck & Kingfisher (heard Blackbird, Robin & Wren).
Wild Flowers Identified: Bindweed, Red Sorrel, Bittersweet (Woody Nightshade), Everlasting Pea, Ragwort, Mallow, Dog Rose, Yarrow, Hedge Mustard, Bramble, Common Bird’s-Foot Trefoil, Bristly Ox-tongue, Fennel
Butterflies Identified: Clouded Yellow, Large White, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood & Red Admiral,
Other: Water Vole/rat, Oak Apple Galls. Berries: Hawthorn, Sea buckthorn, Rowan, Sloes & Blackberries. Fungi: A ‘past it’s sell-by date’ Boletus and a newly emerged Puffball
Member’s Activities: Jill & Phil have recently visited Deal walking part of the coastal path between Deal and Dover where the chalk cliffs were covered with wildflowers. They came across a carpet of wild orchids and a host of marbled-white butterflies feeding on the knapweed.