Monday, 1 September 2014

BASKING IN THE MUD

 There were four common seals loafing on the mud in the Pyefleet Channel, three of them pictured above, seen from the Maydays seawall on Monday 1st. The red- coloured seals showed signs of iron oxidation on the fur.

The tide was out during the late morning walk with a good variety of waders along the mudflats. Highlights were 3 curlew sandpipers, 3 greenshank, 2 common sandpipers, 10 bar-tailed godwits, 150 dunlin, 100 grey plover, 70 ringed plover and one knot. Also 8 shelducklings and five common terns were seen.

Two common buzzards were over Langenhoehall marshes and 3 marsh harriers were seen over the Langenhoe ranges.

The long grass on the side of the Maydays seawall was being cut down during my visit.

A whinchat and wheatear were perched together on one of the Reeveshall fences while 20 stock doves fed in one of the Maydays fields. A common buzzard and marsh harrier were also seen on the Mersea side.

Beside a nearby farm reservoir 4 ruff, 5 green sandpiper, common sandpiper, 3 snipe and 2 teal were seen.

Around the Maydays farm buildings some of the 20 house martins seen in the area were still nesting under the eaves of the house. A swift passed overhead just after mid-day. In nearby bushes 2 yellowhammers, 10 linnets, 20 greenfinches, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and a chiffchaff were watched.

Yesterday a swift passed over Martin Cock's West Mersea house along with a steady passage of swallows through the day.

Discovered this pretty little pest in our Firs Chase garden over the weekend - the rosemary beetle. Three of these small beetles were on the main stalks of a big rosemary bush. At first glance the 8mm sized beetles appear dark green but close-up they show the red stripes.

The rosemary beetle is originally from the Mediterranean and was first found in the UK only 20 years ago. It has since spread across most of England, Wales and into Scotland, where the adults and larvae feed on rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme. It's the first time I've seen it here on the Island.

This Old Lady moth was the biggest moth in the trap in Firs Chase during Sunday night. The big dark band across the wings has faded on this individual but it supposedly resembles the dark shawl worn by "old ladies".

Amongst the fifty other moths in the trap were light emerald, willow beauty, large yellow underwing, copper underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and shuttle-shaped dart.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

FLYCATCHERS STILL FLYCATCHING

Some of the cows in the country park's grazing fields were enjoying having a long cool drink of water while about a dozen little egrets looked on from the background on Thursday 28th. Twenty yellow wagtails were feeding around the feet of the cattle. The high tide roost at these pools included 100 redshank, 15 black-tailed godwit, 10 lapwing, snipe and also 30 teal.

A kingfisher visited the park pond briefly on Thursday afternoon, whistling loudly when it arrived and then again when it left a few minutes later, flying low past the cows as it sped back to the dyke. On the park pond the first wigeon of the autumn was seen and also a gadwall amongst the forty or so mallard.

Four spotted flycatchers were still busy feeding from bushes by the park pond, providing good views from the hide. After all the busy feeding-up yesterday evening, the birds haven't migrated after all. In the car park the female common redstart was seen again near the buildings, four days after first being seen in this area. The bird was calling loudly from bushes by the toilets, feeding on the ground nearby. A short while later it was seen in my back garden close to my back door, before being chased off by the local robin.It's still unclear whether there have been two redstarts at the park this week, or just one mobile one frequenting two favoured locations about 200m apart.

An adder was basking in one of the usual spots at the park on Thursday morning.

Jo and Libby Watkins picked up a sick and injured barn owl from a field near Bocking Hall farm on Thursday and took it to the local vet. The owl had an infected wound to its body, close to its left wing and this no doubt weakened the bird as sadly it didn't survive into the evening.

Steve Entwistle saw two swifts near the Golfhouse on Thursday evening while on Friday morning he saw two greenshank by the Strood at West Mersea.

At least one of the spotted flycatchers was still present in the small field by the park entrance on Friday 29th.

Found this brown argus butterfly keeping low out of the breeze along a grassy path close to the Coopers Beach caravan site on Friday 29th.This is the first time brown argus has been found in this middle part of the Island, as far as I know. Now the fourth location this summer where it's been seen, two for East and two for West Mersea.

On a short walk around some of the Rewsalls fields on Friday morning a whinchat perched on some big round bales beside a game cover crop. Also a sparrowhawk flew over the fields, 200+ swallows trickled west, 5 golden plover and 15 black-tailed godwits dropped down briefly on the old marshes.

On Saturday 30th 3 swifts flew west over the West Mersea Hard in the afternoon during the local Regatta's  watersports session. Five swifts were also seen over Firs Chase the next day on Sunday 31st in the company of 20 swallows.

Flying over the car park at the country park on Sunday morning were 300+ golden plover. Martin Cock saw a peregrine and 2 greenshank at Maydays farm on Sunday.

The large thorn moth, pictured above, was one of the more interesting moths in the trap at the country park after Wednesday night's session. It used to be a scarce moth but in recent years seems to be turning up here at least once each autumn. A canary-shouldered thorn was also noted after Wednesday night's session.

The first frosted orange of the autumn was noted, pictured above. The moth colours match those of some of the fallen leaves.

Another moth to match leaves on the ground is the widespread angle shades moth, several have been noted in the last fortnight or so both in West and East Mersea.

Despite a mouse getting access into the Skinner moth-trap during the night and tucking into some of the moths, other moths noted were maidens blush, small white wave, maple prominent, swallow prominent, willow beauty, light emerald, brimstone, copper underwing, straw underwing, snout, spectacle, common wainscot, white-point, uncertain, Chinese character, setaceous hebrew character, square spot rustic, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, large yellow underwing and common rustic.

A red underwing was found resting on the side of the Park's Information room on Thursday morning.

Andy Field reported a hummingbird hawkmoth in his High Street North garden at the beginning of the week. Two hummingbird hawkmoths were also reported by Helen Mussett in her Garden Farm garden about a fortnight ago.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

FLYCATCHER FEEDING FRENZY

A group of six spotted flycatchers put on a lively show beside the park pond throughout Wednesday 27th. The single individual which had been present for the last few days was joined by several more stopping off here on their migration south.
The birds were more dispersed during the morning show and seemed to be in each corner of bushes near the park pond. However in the early evening they found some shelter from the breeze beside the tall hedge to the right of the hide.

The birds were involved in a real feeding frenzy of catching flies in the air then returning back to perch in the bushes. It was non-stop action and spotted flycatchers seemed to be darting out from all sections of the tall hedgerow. At times the birds perched in an elder bush right beside the hide where these two pictures above and below were taken. The amount of flies eaten would suggest the birds are feeding up ready for the next leg of their long journey south to Africa.
 
Alongside the flycatchers during the day were 4 blackcaps, 5 common whitethroats, 3 lesser whitethroats, 3 willow warblers and 3 chiffchaffs. There was the rare sight of a turtle dove early evening which flew in from the Bromans Lane direction, landed on a tall dead willow then dropped down close to the water's edge for a drink. This is only the second turtle dove sighting of the year at the park.

Also noted in the pond area were 52 little egrets roosting at high tide, 80+ mallard, pair of yellow wagtails with the cows, reed warbler, 15 greenfinch, 6 goldfinch and song thrush.

On the grazing fields a common sandpiper was present late afternoon on the pools and two greenshank joined in the redshank roost at high tide. The male kestrel was back on its tree and earlier in the day a sparrowhawk flew over the fields.

Not much variety of butterflies at the park during the day despite the amount of sunshine. However it was satisfying to stumble across the first brown argus of the year for the park, amongst the long grass on the clifftop.
Other butterflies seen were 20+ small white, red admiral, speckled wood and 3 small heaths.

A water vole swam across the park borrowdyke, then scuttled along the water's edge into cover, in the morning.
At the end of the day a muntjac deer was seen beside the East Mersea road as night fell near Weir Farm.

At least two adders have been seen in recent weeks in their usual haunt near the car park - but very very shy.
This shot of the tan-coloured female was as good as I could get before it quickly slid away into cover.

This adder was tucked into some loose grass at the base of a hedgeline, very well camouflaged.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

DANCING STOAT

Whilst sheltering in the park hide from the drizzle on Tuesday 26th, this stoat came bounding into close view. Andy Field had his camera handy to snap these two shots as it surveyed the area alongside the pond.

The stoat then performed the so-called dance as it frolicked in the air, twisting and leaping about as if possessed! Even a couple of magpies came over to investigate the goings-on which only seemed to excite the stoat more as it then tried to leap almost a metre in the air several times trying to catch the magpie in the air! The dance continued for several minutes along a narrow cow-trodden path in the field.

The stoat dance is well known and is supposed to confuse and mesmerize any watching rabbits, so that it can then pounce on them.
This is the first stoat I've seen on the Island for almost 20 years although other folk have seen them since, they are still very scarce here. Weasels are much commoner and more often seen here but are smaller and lack the black tip to the tail.



The spotted flycatcher was still in the area by the pond on Tuesday and Martin Cock also reported seeing the female redstart again on the central track.

A small group of six gadwall were new arrivals on the pond on Tuesday morning while the little egret roost count reached 42 birds. Two swifts flew over the grazing fields several times at the end of the afternoon. Two whimbrel and a greenshank were heard calling in flight as they flew off the mudflats.

This sulphur polypore growing on an old rotten fallen tree brightened up a dark ditch at the park with its bright orange colouring. The different layers of brackets made it a real eyecatching arrangement.

Also called chicken of the woods as the flesh tastes like chicken when cooked.

Monday, 25 August 2014

WATERBIRDS GET WET

The little egret numbers have been increasing gradually in recent days for the high tide roost at the country park, with this group of nine birds seen on a wet Monday 24th. Being water birds, the egrets probably didn't mind the continuous rain falling all day.

Also in these pools in the fields were 200 redshank, 10 black-tailed godwits, 20 teal and 3 shoveler. A greenshank flew over the fields calling as it headed north towards the Colne.

Late Monday afternoon a female sparrowhawk flew into the trees by the park pond and sat on this branch pictured above, for about half an hour. The group of six little egrets perched a few metres beneath it looking very uneasy and kept staring up at the sparrowhawk.

In the drizzle the spotted flycatcher was showing well from the hide by the pond, although a couple of times it had to dive for cover when this sparrowhawk flew into the hedge beside it. The flycatcher was present for its second day having been first found 200m further along the same hedgerow. On Monday it seemed to be keeping company with a mixed warbler and tit flock of 30+ birds. Two willow warblers were among a few chiffchaffs, blackcaps and whitethroats.

Also seen from the hide Monday afternoon was a swift, possibly one that joined a group of five birds hanging in the wind above the clifftop. A tatty female marsh harrier flew west over the grazing fields. On the water a tufted duck and gadwall were seen amongst the 30+ mallard.

The water vole was showing well in the small ditch near the west end of the park seawall on Sunday morning. Presumably one of the same voles that was photographed a week ago in this same spot. This one was nibbling at some reed stalks.

A few minutes earlier the same water vole had been perched on a bit of plastic surveying the scene, before swimming over to the small clump of mud to feed.

Whilst watching the water vole, the spotted flycatcher described earlier, was first seen hawking flies over this vole ditch on Sunday morning. A sedge warbler and reed warbler were seen in bushes by this ditch.
In the section of dyke nearby 15+ small red-eyed damselflies were resting on the floating vegetation.

Three common buzzards appeared above the park cliff seemingly heading west, although two birds turned north and slowly circled over the grazing fields, taking a few minutes to gain height. Another common buzzard was seen a short while later heading west over the fields too.

A hobby was seen beside the pond catching and eating dragonflies in flight. It headed north over the fields, probably the same bird seen the day before in the same area also catching dragonflies.

Butterflies seen at the park included small heath, small white, red admiral, speckled wood and large white, while an adder was enjoying the sunshine in its usual spot.

Steve Entwistle saw two curlew sandpipers in the Pyefleet at Maydays Farm on Sunday afternoon.

The moth traps were operating during Saturday night at both the country park and the Firs Chase garden on a partially cloudy night. The combined tally for both traps was 24 species of macro moth with 75 individuals in West and 130 in East at the park.
This orange sallow pictured above, is a regular visitor to the trap each autumn, this is the first of the sallow family to appear this season.

A dozen light emeralds were in the park trap, the peak of this second generation at the moment.
Moths of interest at Firs Chase were silver-Y, copper underwing, lime-speck pug and angle shades while at the park, orange swift, Chinese character, white-point, common carpet, common wainscot were noted.

Regular moths to the traps at the moment include square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, flounced rustic, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, straw underwing, large yellow underwing, uncertain, common rustic, willow beauty and snout. A couple of the tiny diamond-backed moths were also seen in both traps.

Helen Mussett reported seeing two hummingbird hawkmoths in her garden at Garden Farm in the last week. She also reported watching six badgers recently near the park pond.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

YELLOW WAG

Amongst the sea-blite bushes at East Mersea Point on Saturday 23rd was this female yellow wagtail which perched up briefly before flying off. Also seen at the Point were 10 linnets and 4 reed buntings.

One hobby was hawking after dragonflies over the fields behind the park's grazing fields but was briefly joined by a second hobby that quickly swooped down on it to briefly mob it. They soon went their separate ways with nearby flocks of 100 swallows and 100 starlings keeping a watchful eye on the falcons.

Along the dyke were two sedge warblers and  two reed warblers with a pair of little grebes still feeding young and the swans still with three cygnets.

On the grazing fields 100 redshank were gathering for high tide with 10 black-tailed godwits with 3 shoveler and 20 teal also present.

A kingfisher flew across the pond in the afternoon, calling out as it headed across the fields. Eighty mallard, two gadwall were present too. In the trees above the pond were 40 little egrets roosting, the largest number so far this summer.

Around the park 2 willow warblers were calling, a sparrowhawk flew across the park and ten chaffinches fed near the entrance.

The sunshine on Saturday morning was ideal for butterflies and this painted lady was keeping low to the ground near the seawall.

On several occasions the painted lady landed amongst wet grass and appeared to be washing its face and legs with its long black tongue (proboscis), shown in the picture above.
Other butterflies on the wing were red admiral, speckled wood, small heath, small white, large white and common blue. One adder was seen basking in its usual place near the car park.

The moth trap running in the Firs Chase garden on Thursday night saw 40 moths in it by midnight including this copper underwing. Still good numbers of lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and also square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, snout, straw underwing, white-point, willow beauty and brimstone.

Pleased to see this fresh dropping of a hedgehog in our Firs Chase garden, the first sign of a hedgehog for over ten years. They used to be seen regularly in the garden but have become much scarcer generally on the Island. Perhaps it has come to pay the garden a visit in case a few moths are resting on the ground!

Saw these strange looking birds from the park flying in formation above Clacton on Friday afternoon. Can't find them  illustrated in any of my bird guides!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

SPOT FLY

 Always nice to see at least one spotted flycatcher at the country park each year and this one was found on Thursday morning beside the aptly named "spotted flycatcher gate". This corner of field near the park entrance has become the best place to find spotted flycatchers on the Island in recent years.

This bird pictured above amongst the leaves of a cherry tree, was first seen in a dead tree right beside the five bar wooden gate, having just caught a big juicy fly.

One adder was seen in the morning at the park.

An evening walk along the seawall near Shop Lane was in breezy and dull conditions. In the Colne a feeding frenzy of 60+ common terns gathered near Langenhoe Point. Along the Pyefleet 100 avocets, 50 black-tailed godwits, 4 bar-tailed godwits, 5 grey plover, one knot, 100 dunlin, 40 ringed plover and three golden plover were of interest.

Three marsh harriers flew over Langenhoe Point and a common seal swam up-channel as the tide came in.
The Reeveshall pool has dried up a bit since my last visit here and this evening a pair of swans, 3 black-tailed godwit, lapwing and 3 mallard were the only birds present while 12 yellow wagtails were with the cows.
A pair of little grebes were on the dyke by the Oyster Fishery while one little grebe youngster was calling from the nearby pond presumably part of another family.

As moth numbers dwindle as summer fades, it's still nice to find two big poplar hawkmoths in the moth trap at the park on Thursday morning. The last couple of nights there's been a chill in the northerly breeze resulting in less moth activity.

The rosy rustic colouration matches the colour of fallen leaves where it can spend the day hiding away. It's a common moth with several individuals being noted already over the last two or three weeks.

Looking like a bird dropping is the Chinese character moth, another widespread moth. This individual is part of the second generation this year, the first one appeared back in the spring.