Sunday, 14 July 2019

GARDEN HAWKMOTHS

The muggy nights during the second week of July were perfect for moths - and for moth trapping. Seeing one of the large hawkmoths in the trap is always a highlight and for the Firs Chase garden seven species were logged in just a week and a half, with the addition of the day-flying hummingbird hawkmoth making it eight species for this short period. Just under 90 species of macro moth were logged, with most nights averaging 260+ individuals a night.
Pictured above is one of the less regular hawkmoths, the colourful small elephant hawkmoth, which turned up on three nights.

The hawkmoth quartet of privet hawkmoth and elephant hawkmoth on the top row with lime hawkmoth and small elephant hawkmoth on lower row, were all seen on Monday 8th.

The pine hawkmoth made an appearance on the night of Tuesday 9th.

The poplar hawkmoth was seen on Tuesday 2nd and also on Wednesday 10th.

The aptly named eyed hawkmoth with the colourful eye markings was found in the trap on the 2nd.
The day-flying hummingbird hawkmoth was watched hovering in front of some salvia flowers in the garden on Saturday 13th for a minute or so before zooming away.

The leopard moth with the black spots on the wings, just the one individual seen.

The orange moth seems to be very slowly increasing and less restricted to woodlands.

This scarce silver lines was the second individual seen in the last fortnight.

The plain looking Clancy's rustic was the scarcest moth seen with only a scattering of sightings previously elsewhere in Essex of this immigrant from the continent.

Another species that has been slowly increasing its range in recent years is this small ranunculus. One was also trapped in the Firs Chase garden in 2014.

The cryptically marked buff-tip moth looks just like a snapped off twig.

The rapidly spreading pest of a moth is this box-worm moth whose caterpillars feed on box bush leaves. It was first recorded at the country park about five years ago and every year since.

Another moth on the increase in Essex is this cypress carpet whose caterpillars feed on cypress trees.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

BUTTERFLY DISPLAY

Good numbers of butterflies have been on the wing in recent days in the nice sunshine. A good variety of species have been on the wing in the Feldy View cemetery on the edge of West Mersea. This male gatekeeper was one of 25+ seen fluttering around the flowering plants. As well as 50+  meadow browns there were 10+ ringlets in the field too.

An unexpected sight on Thursday 11th in the Feldy View field was this marbled white butterfly seen briefly on a knapweed plant for only about 20 seconds before it flew off and not seen subsequently. This is the first ever sighting on the Island of this species which is more common in the southern half of Essex, although its range has been slowly expanding north.

Also on Feldy View on Thursday was this brown argus flying about low over the grassland. A couple of common blues were also seen in the area too, as was a painted lady, peacock, small white, large white and red admiral.

Several Essex skippers were seen nectaring on some of the Feldy plants such as the lavender.

A willow emerald damselfly was a surprise visitor to the Firs Chase garden on Wednesday 10th when it turned for a few minutes to rest by the back door. This the first sighting in this garden  and only a handful of other sightings on the Island, although it has spread widely elsewhere since it was first discovered in the UK only ten years ago.

During a walk along the Strood seawall on Thursday 11th birds of interest noted included 2 greenshank, whimbrel, 6 yellow wagtails, sedge warbler, 2 reed warblers, common tern, great crested grebe, 30 swifts and 150 house sparrows.
A sparrowhawk flew over Firs Chase with about 30 swallows mobbing it on Thursday.

A curlew was feeding along the edge of the mud as the tide receded by St Peters on Wednesday 10th. Offshore 7 great crested grebes and 12 common terns were seen, also a Mediterranean gull while two reed warblers were singing at either end of St Peters marsh.

The proposed development field near Cross Lane was showing lots of colourful clumps of poppies on Tuesday 9th. From the Waldegraves seawall six Mediterranean gulls, 2 common terns and 2 little egrets were offshore, while 70 mallard and a reed warbler were at the nearby lake. Two lesser whitethroats were at the bottom of Cross Lane.

A colourful black-tailed godwit still in its summer breeding plumage was feeding close to the Strood seawall on Monday 8th, as was a second bird. Also along the channel were 2 greenshank, whimbrel, 2 common terns, 70 redshank and a great crested grebe. Three yellow wagtails, singing corn bunting and 30 swifts were also noted from the seawall.

A skylark was seen crouching down on the top of the Strood seawall, hoping it could stay undetected to passers-by.

Monday, 8 July 2019

DUCKLINGS ALONG DYKE

A mallard was being ultra cautious with her brood of seven very young ducklings as they swam along the dyke near Coopers Beach on Sunday 7th. As there was nowhere easy for the ducklings to hide, they all huddled motionless and silent close with mum, until I'd finished walking on by.
Another brood of seven young mallards was at the west end of the dyke as was another older brood of three.
Two little egrets and a grey heron roosted on a bush in the middle of the day during the high tide.
Offshore a Mediterranean gull, 4 common terns, 7 great crested grebes and 8 curlew were noted.

One of the last breeding pairs of meadow pipit on the Island is on the grass fields near Coopers Beach. This male spent some time hiding in the long grass, and at other times rising in the air to sing.

A male kestrel was hunting by the seawall, 4 linnets and 4 goldfinches were also noted. A juvenile carrion crow with striking white wing bars was seen near the caravan park.

Half a dozen swallows were hawking over the Coopers caravan park with this recently fledged youngster waiting to be fed by a parent.


Excavations on the Rewsalls marshes have already begun to create a new boating lake.

There's a good display of narrow-leaved birds foot trefoil on a track near the Coopers Beach football pitch.

Earlier in the day the coal tit was heard singing and showed again in Fishponds Wood, having first been found on Friday. It was also seen on Saturday by Martin Cock.

On Saturday 6th along the Strood a male marsh harrier was hunting low over the fields, the regular common buzzard was keeping an eye on a recently cut hay crop with a second buzzard seen over Peldon. A kestrel also hunted over the fields while a sparrowhawk was seen over Firs Chase.
In the Strood channel 70 redshank, common tern and a great crested grebe were noted, while 2 yellow wagtails were also seen by the seawall.

 
It was ideal warm weather for making hay on Friday 5th at Reeveshall.
Four marsh harriers including a couple of juveniles on Langenhoe were seen, a distant hobby and two common buzzards were also seen over the Ranges.
Along the channel during the low tide were 16 avocets, greenshank, 12 black-tailed godwits, 20 redshank, golden plover, ten lapwing including an apparent parent calling anxiously by the pool maybe with a chick nearby. Also in the Pyefleet were 20 shelduck and a brood of ten juveniles, 2 common terns and 6 great crested grebes

On Reeveshall a flock of 200+ jackdaws and rooks were feeding, a sand martin flew over the Pyefleet, a yellowhammer sang in Shop Lane and a coal tit was heard singing in Fishponds Wood - probably the first breeding bird for several decades on the Island.

There were good numbers of meadow brown butterflies along the Reeveshall seawall on Friday with 100+ seen along with several Essex / small skippers and one or two gatekeepers. Two purple hairstreaks were seen by Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane.

On Thursday 4th along the Strood seawall, 4 common buzzards were in the air together, singers included corn bunting, 2 reed buntings and 4 reed warblers while 2 yellow wagtails and 25 swifts were noted over the fields. In the channel were 2 common terns, 30 curlew, 20 redshank and 4 little egrets.

Five birds of prey were the highlight on Wednesday 3rd along the Strood seawall with a peregrine drifting high over the fields, a hobby caught a swallow/ house martin and carried it over to Ray Island, while a buzzard and kestrel hunted over the Strood fields and a marsh harrier hunted over Peldon fields. The corn bunting was singing, 3 yellow wagtails, 20 swifts, 10 curlew and 50 redshank were also noted.
A Mediterranean gull flew over Firs Chase later on Wednesday.

Friday, 5 July 2019

PLOVERS AT POINT

Two ringed plovers were on the beach by the muddy bay behind the East Mersea Point on Tuesday 2nd. There was no sign of any chicks or interest in any nest in this area of the beach.

The adult ringed plovers didn't seem to be showing any interest in this nest with eggs about fifty metres away. It was first spotted seemingly abandoned about two weeks previously. It is in a section of beach where a pair managed to raise three chicks three years ago. It's strange that these abandoned eggs haven't been predated yet.

A recently fledged pair of avocet chicks with a parent was also seen inside the bay at East Mersea Point on Tuesday. These youngsters have not bred on the Island and have come from elsewhere.

Three avocets were sitting on their nests on the island in the saltmarsh lagoon near the Point on Tuesday. The following day three chicks from this sitting adult were seen by Martin Cock recently hatched and feeding in the lagoon.  On Thursday two other new avocet chicks were also seen on the second lagoon by Martin.

Amongst the roosting flock of 50+ black-headed gulls on the saltmarsh lagoon on Tuesday, was a pair of Mediterranean gulls, one in the middle of this picture with the black head.
Also on lagoon were 2 black-tailed godwits, with 4 lapwing, 2 dunlin and a curlew noted nearby.
In the Colne were 2 common terns, great crested grebe and a common seal swimming out of the river.

Two pairs of tufted ducks were in the park dyke, while 2 reed warblers were singing from the reeds and a reed bunting singing from the saltmarsh.
A sand martin flew around the Golfhouse on Tuesday morning with 10 swallows, 4 house martins and 2 swifts.

Several large clumps of sea holly were in flower on the beach at East Mersea Point on Tuesday,

On Monday 1st a skylark was seen on the Strood seawall, several others in song over the fields.
A hobby flew over the Strood fields and crossed low over the channel towards Peldon. A yellow wagtail was also noted near the seawall.

The jangling song of this corn bunting was heard coming from bushes near the Maydays seawall on Sunday 30th. Two yellowhammers and two reed warblers were also heard singing along the dyke and three yellow wagtails by the seawall.

Three marsh harriers, 3 common buzzards were seen during the walk along the Maydays seawall while a hobby was seen distantly flying towards Bower Hall farm. The flock of 50 sand martins flying over the fields and Maydays marsh was probably the reason the hobby made an appearance.
Thirty house martins were seen around the Maydays farm buildings.

The tide was coming up along the Maydays creek during the middle of Sunday. In the Pyefleet 5 great crested grebes, common tern, 3 curlew, 5 redshank, 5 little egrets and 20 shelduck along with 3 young ducklings. A common seal stuck its head up briefly in the Pyefleet.
A painted lady was seen by the seawall.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

SCARLET TIGER VISITOR

This striking scarlet tiger moth was discovered lying beside the moth trap in the Firs Chase garden on Sunday 30th. When it flicked its wings open it revealed the bright scarlet hindwings - very eye-catching. There was only one previous record of scarlet tiger in Essex prior to this year, although in the last couple of days it has been reported from Stebbing and also Shoeburyness. The species is mainly found in the south west of England and Wales with a small population in Kent. One of the main foodplants is common comfrey of which there is a lot in this Firs Chase garden which may've persuaded the moth to stop by here.

Five elephant hawkmoths were a colourful sight in the trap on Sunday evening.

The large privet hawkmoth was resting beside the trap, the first one noted here this summer.

A couple of common emeralds were also noted.

The first festoon sighting in the garden, a species that has increased across the county in recent years.

The white satin moth is aptly named with its pure white wings while the legs are a distinctive black and white.

The scarce micro moth Evergestis limbata seen in the garden on Sunday has been recorded previously at the country park a couple of times in recent years.

Thirty three species of macro moth were recorded on Sunday evening totalling just over 100 moths.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

PAINTED LADY INFLUX

A tatty painted lady was seen on Friday 28th in the West Mersea Feldy cemetery. Three painted ladies were seen at various locations near the Firs Chase caravan site and the Strood seawall. There have been several reported in West Mersea gardens over the last week following the recent influx in the second half of June from the continent. 

Three small tortoiseshells were also seen enjoying the sunshine in Feldy cemetery.

The first ringlet for the season in West Mersea was another butterfly seen at the Feldy field on Friday.

A check of some purple toadflax proved worthwhile as at least ten caterpillars of the nationally rare toadflax brocade moth were found feeding on one of the plants in Feldy.

The moth has been spreading across Essex and was first seen on the Island by the Potifars in Shop Lane last year. The toadflax brocade caterpillars should be easy to spot at the moment on any flowering purple toadflax in gardens.

A great crested grebe was feeding in the Strood Channel on both Friday 28th and Saturday 29th.
Also on Friday a marsh harrier quartering the fields, the regular buzzard perched on one of the field hedgerows with another common buzzard flying north-east over the Lane. A corn bunting, whitethroat, 2 reed warblers were heard singing, while 3 yellow wagtails and 50 house sparrows were by the seawall.
The first returning waders of the autumn were feeding on the Strood mud with ten curlew and ten redshank noted.

At East Mersea Point a ringed plover chick was seen on the beach by Martin Cock during the third week in June although by the 26th the adults were calling anxiously but the chick wasn't spotted, maybe it was hiding. Another ringed plover nest with three eggs was found seemingly abandoned with no sign of adults nearby.

The red squirrels have continued to visit the Firs Chase garden feeders throughout June such as this adult male without the ear tufts.

One of the regular young adult males still with the dark ear tufts, has also been making daily visits. There were at least half a dozen visits on Thursday 27th including two red squirrels present at the same time in the morning and again in the afternoon.

A muntjac deer was seen just after daybreak in the Firs Chase garden on Thursday 27th.