Mersea Island provides a rich diversity of coastal species especially during the winter also during spring and autumn migration.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Northern Diver
Here are six main birding sites on the island worth visiting:-
A) CUDMORE GROVE COUNTRY PARK
This is the best base for visiting birdwatchers because of the large car park (fee payable), toilet facilities and seasonal cafe. Owned and managed by the Essex County Council (ECC), the 15 hectares of grassland used for informal recreation is a great place to see Skylark and Meadow Pipit. The park offers a good vantage point for waders on the Mersea flats at low tide, whilst high tide during the winter months can produce Slavonian and Great Crested Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, divers and the occasional seaduck.
Adjoining the park are 11 hectares of grazing fields also owned by the ECC and managed as a nature reserve primarily for the regular winter flock of Brent Geese. Positive water management of water levels have seen good numbers of waders and wildfowl using this area as a feeding and roosting site especially during winter, spring and autumn.
On the north side of the park there is a hide which overlooks a pond where the occasional Kingfisher and Water Rail occur plus a roost of Little Egret at dusk. Stock Dove and Kestrel nest nearby and Little Grebe, Mallard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck are all regular visitors.
B) MERSEA STONE
The saltmarsh and beach, both part of the Colne Estuary National Nature Reserve are good places to watch Sanderling, Knot, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank and Avocet at close range during the winter. The site is prone to public disturbance so early or late visits can be productive. The sandy beach was once a good place to watch Snow Bunting and Shorelark but sightings have been very sporadic during the past few years.
The Stone offers a good vantage point over the River Colne with species such as Red-breasted Merganser flying in and out of the Estuary. Stonechat, Reed Bunting and Rock Pipit frequent the sueda bushes and muddy areas during the winter.
C) REEVESHALL MARSH
Situated northwest of Cudmore Grove Country Park, this is a large area of grassland with borrowdykes and fleets. Winter is a great time to see raptors such as Peregrine Falcon, Merlin, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Barn Owl and the occasional Short-eared Owl.
In spring and autumn the fleet attracts waders such as Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Greenshank, Little Stint or Whimbrel. Whinchat and Northern Wheatear frequent the fence-posts during autumn passage.
D) LANGENHOE MARSH
Although situated north of Mersea Island, this private MOD site is another great place to see raptors during the winter months. Best viewed from the seawall on Mersea, Marsh Harriers and the occasional Hen Harrier quarter the reedbed at dusk. Osprey can be a regular visitor during August and September, often seen fishing in the Pyefleet Channel before roosting on posts out on the marsh.
E) WEST MERSEA HARD
A public carpark (fee payable) overlooks this area which is at its best during the winter months. Brent Geese feed close by and during the past few winters a Black Brant has been seen frequenting the area. Little Grebes can be numerous amongst the boats whilst Great Northern Diver and Shag are regularly seen. There are toilet facilities plus a cafe nearby which offers hot food and drink.
F) SEAVIEW AVENUE
Another site with a public carpark (fee payable) which again is at its best during the winter, especially at high tide. The area is best viewed from the coloured beach huts where panoramic views of the Blackwater Estuary are to be had. Slavonian and Great Crested Grebes, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers, Shag, Mediterranean Gull, Red-breasted Merganser, Cormorant and Sanderling are possible.
Cudmore Grove Country Park