Saturday, 18 May 2019

GARDEN WILDLIFE

There's been an interesting variety of wildlife in the Firs Chase garden over the last week.
This goldfinch dropped onto the lawn to feed on some of the dandelion seed-heads, having to stand on the stalks to reach the seeds.

The soft cooing of the stock dove over recent weeks is a new sound for the garden here. The doves are probably nesting in one of the red squirrel boxes high up in the tree. One of the birds was seen for the first time feeding on the ground beside the bird feeders.

A large red damselfly was flying about the back garden on Wednesday 14th, always nice to see here.

Also on the same day the first azure damselfly of the season was also seen in the garden.

At least four holly blues have been fluttering around the bushes, especially the holly bush in flower, where this one was seen resting. Other butterflies have been small whites, large white, orange-tips and a peacock.

A slow-worm was resting in the compost pile on one of the recent sunny days.

The young red squirrels are still visiting the garden feeder several times a day and still getting through a cupful of nuts each day. Not seen any adults recently, unless they've been visiting very early morning.

A mother and young muntjac deer were seen beside the Firs Chase garden late on Thursday 16th. Two young fox cubs were in the driveway late on Friday 17th, while a badger was seen recently in the neighbouring garden of the Daniels.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

BASKING BLUE BUTTERFLY

The first common blue butterfly was watched basking in the sunshine along the grassy slope of St Peters meadow at West Mersea on Tuesday 14th. Also a couple of small whites, orange tip and a peacock were noted too.

An oystercatcher perched on one of the houseboats beside St Peters on Tuesday.
Also noted near here were a little tern, pair of common terns, pair of shelduck, 5 brent geese, 4 linnets, little egret, whitethroat and a reed warbler.

A common buzzard flew west over Firs Chase on Tuesday morning with a second one heading west in the afternoon being mobbed by a crow. Two swifts flew over the Firs Chase garden.

Along a sunny Strood channel on Monday 13th a peregrine flew over to Ray Island before continuing back to the Strood causeway, two buzzards were also noted. A pair of little terns rested on the mud, 3 little egrets, whimbrel, while a cuckoo was calling near the caravan site, and ten swifts over the houses.

A male gadwall was again in the dyke by the Strood, a pochard flew down channel, corn bunting singing as were 4 reed warblers and 3 yellow wagtails noted.

A common sandpiper was seen in Maydays Creek on Monday 13th by Martin Cock, earlier a Cetti's warbler was heard singing by Martin at Gyants Marsh near Meeting Lane.

A male yellow wagtail was singing from the wires along the path west of East Mersea church, one other yellow wagtail also here too on Saturday 11th. A male marsh harrier hunted over the fields near the church.
On the Rewsalls marshes ten mallard, pair of shelduck and two meadow pipits were seen while on the mudflats were 14 little egrets. Six whitethroats, 2 lesser whitethroats, 5 swallows and a reed warbler were also recorded during the walk.

A small heath was fluttering low over the Rewsalls marshes on Saturday. A brimstone flew over one of the fields near Rewsalls farm. Also noted in the area were small white, green-veined white, peacock, holly blue and orange-tip butterflies.

Saturday, 11 May 2019

SWALLOWS, SWIFTS & SEDGES

The regular male swallow was singing from the wires next to the Dabchicks sailing club in West Mersea on Friday 10th. Half a dozen other swallows were seen along the Strood seawall.

At least twelve swifts were flying over the houses on Friday, although the previous day 20 swifts were seen in the skies. The first swifts were also noticed over Queen Anne Road on Thursday by David Nicholls with five being seen there.

Along the Strood seawall on Friday 10th, the sedge warbler was seen singing by Andy Field who managed to take these three photos of it perched in a bush.

A closer look by Andy at one of his photos of the sedge warbler revealed that a second sedge warbler had hopped into view.

The sedge warbler wasn't heard singing for very long on Friday late morning. The other sedge warbler heard recently in the rape crop was not singing on Friday. Four reed warblers were heard singing from the reeds.

A wheatear perched on some sea-beet on the Strood seawall and photographed by Andy on Friday. Six yellow wagtails were noted along the seawall, a singing corn bunting, 2 whimbrel, 2 common terns, with a greenshank also being seen by Andy.
Also noted was a male marsh harrier and a common buzzard over the Strood fields with another buzzard near Bower Hall.

A green hairstreak seen on the Strood seawall on Thursday 8th was a new location for this pretty butterfly. It spent time nectaring on the hoary cress flowers well away from any bushes.

A grey heron perched on the Wellhouse sluice outfall halfway along the Strood seawall on Thursday.
A little grebe was trilling from the dyke, a male pochard was on the pond at the back of the fields and a greylag goose was seen flying past. A common buzzard circled over the fields.

A green woodpecker was feeding on top of the Strood seawall and nearby a great spotted woodpecker was also feeding in trees by the dyke. A corn bunting, sedge warbler, 4 reed warblers were heard singing.

A whimbrel walked over the Strood carrying a crab it had just caught, two other whimbrel were noted. A single redshank was noted along the channel.

In the Mersea Quarters a little tern was seen flying amongst the boats near Packing Shed Island on Thursday, also 8 common terns seen too.

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

CUCKOO CALLING

A confiding cuckoo flew onto a fence-line near Ivy Farm on Tuesday 7th and gave close views as it fed on caterpillars. The cuckoo had earlier been calling from treetops between the Oyster fishery and Ivy Farm in East Mersea.

After perching for a minute on the fence post, the cuckoo then moved along the fence and started feeding on the webs of brown-tail moth caterpillars.

After a couple of minutes of feeding, the cuckoo flew off to trees near the bus turning circle, calling again. 

A close look at the caterpillar web showed at least one brown-tail moth caterpillar still inside. The cuckoo is probably the only bird that can digest these toxic-haired caterpillars.

Seven avocets were on the saltmarsh near the Golfhouse on Tuesday, some of them prospecting on the little island. Also present were seven greylag geese, 18 dunlin and two redshank. Offshore were 8 common terns flying into the Colne. Two lapwings were on the park's grazing fields, two reed buntings, 3 reed warblers and the Cetti's warbler were heard singing.
At the park pond 3 little egrets, 6+ pochard and 3 tufted duck were noted.
Two house martins and 4 swallows were flying over the fields near the Dormie houses.

The sunny weather brought a few butterflies out with three speckled wood seen along one of the park paths. Two green hairstreaks were spiralling round each other beside a path near the bird-hide. Three orange tips and two small whites were also seen.

Several salsify plants were in flower along the seawall near Ivy Farm on Tuesday.

Two hobbies were seen earlier on Tuesday morning near the Oyster Fishery by Martin Cock.
Two swifts were circling high over the Upland Road area of West Mersea mid Tuesday morning.

At Maydays farm on Monday 6th, 2 yellow wagtails, 10 house martins, 4 swallows, 4 reed warblers, singing corn bunting and yellowhammer, also 2 whitethroats and 2 lesser whitethroats. A marsh harrier was hunting Reeveshall and another one on Langenhoe, also three common buzzards and a kestrel seen. Six lapwing were seen in a stubble field while a pair of red-legged partridge and one grey partridge were near Maydays farm.
In the Pyefleet 4 whimbrel, 4 curlew, 6 great crested grebes and a pair of common terns were present.

A sparrowhawk was being mobbed by a yellow wagtail over Cross Lane on Sunday 5th, also goldcrest heard singing, pair of Mediterranean gulls, 3 whitethroats, 3 lesser whitethroats, 2 blackcaps and a heron noted in the area.

A few squalls passed over the Strood seawall on Saturday 4th. A hobby provided a nice fly-past as it flew effortlessly into the strong wind on its way over to Ray Island. Four common terns, four little egrets, grey heron, 20 stock doves were seen during the seawall walk.

At St Peter's beach on Friday 3rd sixteen brent geese, pair of greylag geese, 4 tufted ducks, 7 great crested grebes, 4 common terns and a whimbrel were seen along with a pair of reed buntings and two whitethroats near the marsh.
At East Mersea on Friday 3rd a sand martin was seen by Martin Cock near the Golfhouse seawall - the first sighting on the Island this spring.

Butterflies enjoying the sunny weather in the Firs Chase garden on Friday were a brimstone, comma, small white, orange-tip, holly blue and peacock.

Sunday, 5 May 2019

REWSALLS MARSHES

A pair of shelduck was in the dyke near Rewsalls marshes on a sunny Thursday 2nd. On the nearby marshes were 3 whimbrel, 12 mallard, wheatear, 3 singing reed warblers, 2 singing reed buntings and 3 meadow pipits. Also in the area were kestrel, sparrowhawk, 8 swallows, 8 linnets, 5 yellow wagtails, 18 whitethroats and 3 lesser whitethroats.

Four little egrets were seen on the Rewsalls marshes on Thursday, 3 of them feeding together along the dyke. Offshore a pair of common terns flew close-by.

Several butterflies were enjoying the warm weather on Thursday with this small copper near the Youth Camp the first one of the season. Other butterflies also noted in the Rewsalls area were speckled wood, 3 orange-tip, 5 small white, 2 holly blue and 4 peacock.

Near Meeting Lane on Thursday a hobby provided good views for Martin Cock as it hunted over the fields. The Cetti's warbler was also heard singing from Gyants Marsh. A green hairstreak was seen in its usual small field just west of Shop Lane - the first Island sighting of the year.

On Wednesday 1st along the Strood, there was a sedge warbler singing from a rape crop again, 4 reed warblers, singing corn bunting, yellow wagtail, 4 swallows, 2 whimbrel, grey heron, 4 little egrets and the pair of gadwall.

A Sandwich tern was seen sitting on Langenhoe Point by Martin Cock on Wednesday.

A walk along the footpath between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane on Tuesday 30th produced views of two swifts flying north over the fields, 5 common buzzards, 2 yellowhammers, 6 blackcaps, 4 whitethroats and 2 lesser whitethroats.
Andy Field noted the first swift over the Island on Tuesday morning as it passed over his house in High St North.

A pair of greylag geese was feeding on the saltmarsh by the Reeveshall seawall on Tuesday 30th. Ten brent geese were also feeding nearby on the saltmarsh. On the Reeveshall pool a lapwing, black-tailed godwit, teal and pair of shoveler were noted. A marsh harrier was hunting over Reeveshall and two more on Langenhoe. A cuckoo flew over the Pyefleet and started calling from a tree behind the Oyster Fishery.

As the tide receded at Reeveshall a group of 21 bar-tailed godwits was seen, also 2 dunlin while in the Pyefleet were a pair of common terns and four great crested grebes.

At Maydays on Tuesday 30th, Martin Cock reported a hobby, greenshank, 9 whimbrel, 2 bar-tailed godwits, 11 grey plover, 2 common terns, 3 corn buntings, yellow wagtail and 5 reed warblers but no sign of the sedge warbler.

The family of red squirrels have continued to spend time in the Firs Chase garden with this youngster seen looking at the unripe fruit in the cherry tree. At least four individuals have been seen in the last few days with the female and three young being noted.

The moth trap was put out in the Firs Chase garden on Thursday evening as it seemed quite still cloudy. Twenty moths were caught including half a dozen brimstone moths.

A spectacle moth was also noted as were turnip moth, pale-mottled willow, pine beauty, oak tree pugs and half a dozen shuttle-shaped darts.

A spruce carpet was also noted on Thursday night.

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

STROOD SEAL

On Monday 29th a common seal was seen in the Strood Channel for the second day running. It was seen resting on the edge of the Ray Island saltmarsh just after the high tide. The day before it was seen in the channel at low tide near the last of the boat moorings. It had left a trail of marks across the mud where it had slid back down to the water from the saltmarsh. I've not seen a seal in this part of the Strood channel before, although I think this individual is the one recently photographed at the Hard near the crabbers.

Four common terns were seen in the Strood channel on Monday, this one perched on a post waiting to be fed by her partner.
A cuckoo was heard calling from Ray Island and a common buzzard glided high south west off the Island and over the Ray.

Three reed warblers were heard singing from the dense cover of the reeds as was one sedge warbler.

The pair of yellow wagtails was seen again feeding inside the Strood seawall.
A pair of gadwall, two grey herons and four little egrets were also noted.

The weather on Sunday 28th was drizzly with a cold northerly wind, a dark cloud pictured over Peldon from the Strood seawall.
A female marsh harrier was seen flying low over the fields and a common buzzard was mobbed by crows as it flew south-west over the Firs Chase caravan site. Later in the afternoon another common buzzard was mobbed by crows as it flew west over Firs Chase.

A sedge warbler and two reed warblers were singing from the Strood dyke. Four common terns, pair of Mediterranean gulls and 5 whimbrel were seen along the Strood. A lesser whitethroat and whitethroat were singing near the caravan site.

On Friday 26th a fulmar was an unexpected sight seen flying from the Strood channel heading east up Strood Hill past Wellhouse farm. The distinctive flight of rapid wing beats followed by the occasional glide on straight wings were the distinguishing features.

Twelve pochard were present on the country park pond on Thursday 25th as were 6 tufted ducks and a mute swan. A reed warbler and the Cetti's warbler were singing in the reeds, while whitethroat and lesser whitethroat were singing in the park. On the grazing fields were a wigeon, single lapwing and a golden plover while on the mudflats were 4 whimbrel and 4 little egrets. Two avocets were on the saltmarsh, 8 black-tailed godwits on the mud and 2 common terns were fishing in the Colne.
A cuckoo called from trees near the Oyster Fishery, yellow wagtail and sparrowhawk seen nearby while 12 brent geese were feeding in two small groups in the Pyefleet. A pair of red-legged partridge was seen near Bromans Lane.

At the park and nearby area on Wednesday 24th Andy Field noted 2 yellow wagtails, 8 common terns, 4 lapwing, 2 house martins, whimbrel, 3 avocets and 4 black-tailed godwits.

On Tuesday 23rd a raven was seen by Jane Dixon near the Dabchicks sailing club, being mobbed by carrion crows early morning. The deeper call and the larger size alerted Jane to this bird being a raven. This is the first sighting on the Island since 1958 although raven sightings have been increasing in north Essex in the last couple of years.

Monday, 29 April 2019

LOTS OF SQUIRREL ACTIVITY

Lots of red squirrel activity in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday 27th with six different individuals visiting the feeders at various times during the afternoon. Three youngsters are recognised by their blackish ear tufts - although the strong wind on Saturday blew this youngster's tufts down horizontally!

Occasionally the three youngsters have been seen at the same time on the cedar tree in the garden having a feed and a drink, sometimes having a nibble of the old deer antler bone.

This youngster was enjoying the mixed nuts at one of the feeders. The main feeder has been visited so often that it needs replenishing with another cupful every other day. Occasionally the young have had to climb right inside the feeder to reach the nuts, leaving just its bushy tail sticking out!

A female was then seen in the back garden having a drink from the half-barrel water feature on Saturday.

After having a drink the female then took a hazelnut from one of the feeders, later climbing onto the garage roof to eat it. This individual has been a regular visitor and might be the mum of the youngsters as the teats were very visible a fortnight ago.

A second female red squirrel that has a slightly scruffier fur also made a brief visit on Saturday. One of her teats can just be seen in the white fur near its armpit.

The last different individual seen on Saturday was this male which headed straight to some cut-up apples and then onto the nut feeder, staying for just a few minutes.

Other red squirrel sightings in West Mersea reported recently to me were one in Prince Albert Road on Sunday 21st by Martin Cock and another seen crossing Fairhaven Avenue in front of the Mersea Lions bus being driven by Adrian Amos on Monday 15th.