Thursday, 14 August 2014

RESTING SWALLOWS

Eight swallows have been resting on the roof of one of the buildings in the country park in the last few days. This juvenile was one of about six individuals that were waiting in the morning sunshine to be fed by their parents who were doing all the hard work catching food for them.
At least eight mistle thrushes continue to strip the rowan berries from the trees in the car park.

This kingfisher has been seen three days in row at the park, seen here perched in a bush halfway along the length of the main borrowdyke on Tuesday 12th. The first sign of the bird was a flash of blue as it flew over the seawall and then headed down the dyke to this bush. Later it was heard at the park pond.

The Burnham U3A group watched it on the park pond on Wednesday and then Martin Cock saw it the next day by the Golfhouse.

Also in the dyke is the tufted duck with the four ducklings, pictured above, as well as the swans with three cygnets and 2 little grebes too.

 Redshank numbers were building up for the early afternoon roost in the fields on Tuesday with at least 90 birds seen dropping in. Also 30 teal, one snipe and 6 black-tailed godwits. Six snipe flew over the fields on Monday 11th.
Six greenshank flew high over the grazing fields on Tuesday and on Wednesday a green sandpiper was seen at the end of the afternoon, as was the family of 3 avocets and 30 lapwing.
Up to 12 little egrets have been roosting in the trees behind the pond, although more hidden when winds have been strong.

The first returning wheatear of the autumn at the park was seen perched on the pillbox at the Point on Tuesday morning. Twenty linnets were feeding on the saltmarsh and nearby seablite bushes and offshore 10 common terns were seen in the river, fifty avocets on the mud. A Mediterranean gull flew along the shore on Wednesday early evening.

A few birds of prey showed on Tuesday and Wednesday with a peregrine failing to flush a redshank out of the sea despite swooping back and forth repeatedly for five minutes trying to snatch at it on Tuesday. The kestrel was perched back in the nest-tree at the back of the fields and the sparrowhawk was upsetting the swallows in the car park on both Tuesday and Wednesday. A little owl perched on wires above Bromans Lane as night fell on Tuesday.

On Wednesday Martin Cock watched a hobby fly west over the park entrance, while he watched about 12 willow / chiffs, a few blackcaps, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats in the bushes. The Burnham U3A reported a common buzzard flying to the north of the park being mobbed by crows. At the end of the day two marsh harriers crossed the sea heading from Colne Point towards Bradwell.

On Thursday a peregrine was seen over Langenhoe Point by Martin Cock, also sand martin and corn bunting near Ivy Dock. Martin saw 15+ green sandpipers during his visit to Maydays farm on Wednesday.

Over West Mersea on Thursday a parakeet, presumably ring-necked, has been flying around noisily, heard over Firs Chase early morning and also over Broomhills later in the day. Two yellow wagtails flew west over Firs Chase in the evening.

Richard Hull and Andy Field visited Langenhoe ranges on Wednesday 13th and saw a spoonbill perch on the seawall for about half and hour, potentially visible from East Mersea. Also seen were 18 species of wader, including 95 whimbrel, 12 greenshank,17 green sandpiper, curlew sandpiper and 300+ avocets, also 3 whinchat, stonechat, wheatear and numerous yellow wagtails.

The spoonbill was also seen by Richard Hull and Richard Brown on Langenhoe on Sunday 10th as was a little stint there too.

Michael Thorley reported recently that a lesser whitethroat had flown into the window of his East Mersea house near Meeting Lane.


The clouded yellow has been showing well beside the park dyke, especially in the morning when the yellow flowers of the bristly ox-tongue are open in the sunshine. It was seen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday too- presumably the same individual first seen here a week ago.
Other butterflies seen in the last few days have included speckled wood, meadow brown, small heath, gatekeeper, red admiral, comma, large white and small white.

Also enjoying the sun on both Tuesday and Wednesday was a female adder near the car park.

Moths caught at the park this week have included willow beauty, latticed heath, orange swift, brimstone, light emerald, yellow shell, starwort, white-point, square spot rustic, straw underwing, common wainscot, coxcomb prominent, magpie, small white wave, least yellow underwing, silver-Y, setaceous hebrew character, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, shuttle-shaped dart, flame shoulder, bright-line brown-eye and common rustic. Also a count of at least 35 of the very tiny diamond-back moths on the 13th.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

SNAPPING RATTY

This water vole was nibbling at some reed stalks out in the open near the country park seawall. It appeared to be standing on an upturned plastic flower pot. Picture above and below taken by Andy Field on Wed 6th.

Another obliging water vole in the same ditch at the country park on Wednesday. Two days later Matt Larkin reported also seeing a couple of water voles in the same area.

Rough weather swept across the country park on Sunday 10th with strong winds coinciding with the mid-day high tide. Thunder and lightening accompanied by a burst of torrential rain also engulfed the park.

A quick glance out to sea mid morning provided an unexpected view of a fulmar flying east past the park beach. It briefly circled the seas in front of the park on typical straight wings, before heading towards the mouth of the Colne. Little else out to sea other than a little tern and a common tern.

 The sun came out at the end of the afternoon and the cows here seemed happy enough in the grazing fields.
Birds seen on the pools during the day included 6 snipe, 16 redshank, 3 avocets, 10 black-tailed godwits, 25 teal and 2 lapwing. A flock of 200 starlings were feeding in the fields too.

At the park pond 8 little egrets roosted late morning, 2 gadwall, 10 mallard, 4 teal, little grebe family were on the water while nearby 8 goldfinches fed on some marsh thistles seedheads.

Passing over the park during the day was a steady trickle of swallows battling into the strong westerly winds with 100+ seen along with 20 swifts.

Conditions on Saturday 9th were sunny with a warm breeze. The park beach pictured above during the morning, soon filled up with visitors later in the day.
In the sheltered end of the borrowdyke at least forty small red-eyed damselflies were seen on the water surface, some of the females egg-laying in tandem.

Two juvenile grey herons were perched atop the kestrel oak tree at the back of the fields on Friday 8th. Four common terns passed over the park in the morning.

On Thursday 7th a nightingale was heard calling in the morning from bushes near the buildings in the country park but didn't show. Maybe this is the same bird that was heard calling ten days earlier in the car park.
Eight greenshank passed high over the car park calling loudly as they headed south-west.

Steve Entwistle saw the two sedge warblers along the park borrowdyke, first seen by Andy the day before. Amongst the bird activity in the bushes at the end of the central ditch in the fields were a willow warbler, whitethroat, five reed warblers and a yellow wagtail seen near here too. The willow warbler was present for a second day here.
Steve later at the end of Thursday watched a tawny owl beside the Shop Lane wood and heard it calling too, also two southern hawkers seen here.

Butterflies of note recently were a painted lady on buddleia in Firs Chase on the 7th and a clouded yellow seen flying past the park seawall by Martin Cock on Wednesday 6th.

There was the nice sight of 45 sanderling scurrying along the park beach in the evening of Tuesday 5th, with one bird showing a colour-ring combination of green and yellow. Also ten ringed plover and a turnstone appearing as the tide ebbed.


Resting all day on the outside white wall of the park information room was this red underwing moth. Interesting that this seemingly obvious spot is a regular day-time resting spot every year. This is the second time in a week one has been found here and one was also seen on Tuesday 5th on a nearby brick wall too.

Members of the Colchester Natural History Society visited the park on Tuesday evening and watched some of the moths come into a couple of lamps. This white-lined dart was probably the most interesting on the breezy night, the first one of the season here. Others noted amongst the 20+ species included angle shades, white-point, lesser spotted pinion and least yellow underwing.

Monday, 4 August 2014

EYEING UP

A handful of small red-eyed damselflies were resting on the bushes out of the wind at the country park on Monday 4th. This one obliged long enough for a close-up of its head showing the red eyes. These damselflies were the first ones seen at the park this summer. Also seen were several blue-tailed damselflies, migrant hawkers and common darters.

On the pools in the park grazing fields the two young avocets were still present with one of their parents, also 8 teal, 2 lapwing, 10 black-tailed godwits and a redshank here too.

Enjoyed watching some of the insect action in the Firs Chase garden on Monday with this female ruddy darter resting on a seed-head. One or two migrant hawkers were also busy flying about too.

There was the pleasant surprise of this brown argus in the garden for the second year running. Still a bit surprising to see one in this garden location here rather than out on the more grassy and open seawall.

Got a glimpse of the underwing just to confirm the identity of this brown argus with the pair of spots (one big, one small) half-way along the leading edge of the wing being one of the ID features.

For a nice comparison the argus was soon joined in the garden by its close relative the common blue butterfly. In this case the very close looking female, without showing the pair of close spots near the leading edge.
More tint of blue on the body was another indicator of this being a female common blue.

A female gatekeeper basks on a honeysuckle by our back door with the brown argus also soaking up the sun in the background.

Other butterflies in the garden on a hot Monday were large white, small white, speckled wood, peacock, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and comma.

Two recently fledged sparrowhawk chicks could be heard calling from a nearby wooded garden during the day. On Sunday two sparrowhawks flew over calling, one of them carrying some prey.

In the skies above 3 swifts were heard screaming, probably for one of the last times this summer, also two common terns were calling loudly high up.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

MAYDAYS MIDDAY HEAT-HAZE

Plenty of sunshine on Sunday 3rd during a walk alongside the Pyefleet Channel at Maydays farm. The heat in the middle of the day meant there was lots of haze, so it was better to enjoy the wildlife close-up.
This tatty painted lady butterfly was one of two seen on the golden samphire flowers beside the seawall. Also here were 10 small tortoiseshells, 10 gatekeepers and a brown argus.

Birds of note during the walk were 5 greenshank,3 reed warblers, 6 house martins and a yellowhammer on the Maydays side of the Pyefleet while along the channel were 5 common terns, 4 little terns, 200 redshank,70 oystercatchers, 20 black-tailed godwits, 5 grey plover and 10 shelducklings in two broods. Two marsh harriers were seen on Langenhoe.

Common blue butterflies have not been common this year, so it was nice to see four inside the Maydays seawall during the walk on Sunday. This male with the blue wings was reluctant to open its wings fully.

The underside of the common blue showing the intricate display of spots and dots.

The brown argus butterfly has an underside pattern closely matching the common blue except for a slightly different arrangement of spots. Spot the difference with the two pictures above.
This brown argus was seen on Friday in a small grass field near the Firs Chase caravan site at West Mersea. 

This brown argus was the first one I'd seen on the Island this summer, in a similar location to where one or two were seen last year.

A distant digiscoped picture of two common seals on the opposite side of the Pyefleet Channel on Sunday. Both seals showing the red-oxide colouring to the head and necks. The seals had swam up channel as the tide came in and hauled themselves onto the mud to bask.

The Strood Channel seawall was walked a couple of times during Friday 1st, this picture above showing the high tide in late afternoon. A common sandpiper and three Mediterranean gulls were resting on the edge of the saltmarsh at high tide along with lots of black-headed gulls.

More birds were seen during the low-tide visit in late morning with 6 greenshank feeding along the lower channel along with 200 redshank. Also seen were a whimbrel, 10 golden plover, 70 black-tailed godwit, while 2 little terns and four common terns flew up and down.

Small birds seen inside the seawall included a green woodpecker on the seawall also a chiffchaff here too, while yellow wagtail, reed bunting, 3 reed warblers, 2 corn buntings, 6 meadow pipits and 25 linnets were of interest.

At Cudmore Grove a turtle dove singing from the top of a tree at the entrance was a nice surprise first thing on Thursday 31st. This is the first singing turtle dove at the park for three years. Unfortunately this bird didn't stay around and wasn't heard or seen again. A sparrowhawk flew over the park being mobbed by a few swallows on Thursday. A green sandpiper flew over the park calling just after sunrise on Friday 1st.

A common sandpiper flew over the park calling through the darkness on Wednesday 30th. Three badgers were seen near the park pond at dusk on Wednesday evening.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

UP BEFORE THE LARK

There was a colourful sunrise to see from the country park on Friday 1st, looking east across the river Colne and above Point Clear. This was just before 5.30am and it wasn't long before the day warmed up again.
I'd already been up an hour checking the two moth traps, along with Chris Williams who had set up his four traps operating through the night.

Despite the clear overnight skies, around seventy macro species were noted in total.

 One of the most colourful and largest moths was this red underwing which was discovered later on Friday morning and nowhere near a moth trap. In typical red underwing fashion it was found resting on the outside white wall of the park's information room, in the full glare of the sun.
There are usually two or three records at the park each year during August, so hopefully a few more to see.

This bordered beauty is always a nice find in the trap with its smart orange colouration.The first record for the park was only found last year, so maybe they have become residents here.

 Another orange coloured moth is this male orange swift, a common moth in mid summer with several in the traps.


The twin-spotted wainscot was first noted at the park about four years ago and has been seen each year since, although normally just involving a single individual.

The tree lichen beauty is enjoying a good season at the moment with eight individuals being found although surprisingly only in two of the traps. This is certainly the highest count for the park but not quite the peak count from a week earlier in West Mersea of 22 in one night.
Andy Field also recorded a tree lichen beauty in his trap at the beginning of the week in his High St North garden.

A fresh maiden's blush with its pinkish-blush marks on the wings appeared in small numbers at the traps, always pretty to admire.

The aptly named blood-vein with the dark red band across the wings was noted, this fresh individual showing the red tinge to the wing-margins.

Other moths noted included oak eggar, oak hook-tip, pebble hook-tip, drinker, purple bar, lime-speck pug, peacock, poplar hawk, pebble prominent, iron prominent, black arches, ruby tiger, least yellow underwing, knot-grass, flounced rustic, sandhill rustic, ear moth sp, rosy rustic, silver-Y, marbled beauty, vapourer and August thorn.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

MORE MOTHING

This dunlin was one of the birds photographed by Glyn Evans on Monday 28th at East Mersea Point. The bird still shows some of the distinctive summer plumage with the black belly.

Three turnstones also photographed by Glyn at the Point. A few birds have been present through the summer although numbers are increasing with birds returning from their northern breeding grounds.

Spent an hour in the early evening on Tuesday 29th at Reeveshall on the north side of the Island. It was interesting to see how much water was left in this pool beside the seawall, with the water level lower than I expected.

Birds seen on here after a marsh harrier passed over were, greenshank, green sandpiper, lapwing, 3 black-tailed godwits, 2 little egrets, 2 gadwall and a grey heron flew in later. Also on Reeveshall were a second marsh harrier, 50 greylag geese, 6 Canada geese, while nearer Shop Lane were a singing yellowhammer, 30 swallows and a calling juvenile sparrowhawk from the wood.

Along the Pyefleet were a common sandpiper, 2 whimbrel, 200+ avocets, 100+ black-tailed godwit, 2 little terns and a common tern and a great crested grebe.

At the country park pond the little egret roost at high tide climbed to 22 birds along with the grey heron on Tuesday 29th. The two avocet chicks were still feeding and resting on the nearby fields where there was also a snipe, 5 black-tailed godwits and 4 lapwing.

A little owl perched beside Bromans Lane on Sunday 27th at dusk. There was the surprise on Saturday at the park of a nightingale, calling from the hedge near the park entrance. After a short while the bird started doing its croaking call and was seen flying into a big bush. Presumably this is a migrant heading south although this same area was where the nightingales used to breed up until a couple of years ago.

In the car park at least eight mistle thrushes are tucking into the ripening rowan berries, making one or two appearances whenever there's less people around. Three song thrushes perched on a hedge near the park pond on Tuesday 30th.

At least two Mediterranean gulls were flying with the other gulls after the flying ants above Firs Chase on Wednesday 30th.

A couple of commas were resting out of the breeze beside one of the park hedges.

The nice sunny weather is ideal for butterflies and this small skipper was found on a lesser knapweed flower at the park. There are still one or two large skippers flying at the park, as their season draws to a close.
It has been a poor season for the common blue butterfly with just one female and a male being seen in one of the main areas of grassland in the last few days.


This archers dart was one of the moths of note in the trap at the country park after the session on Saturday 26th. Although this dart turns up most years, this was the first time two individuals were seen together. The archers dart is mainly a coastal moth in Essex.

Another coastal moth to appear for the first time this summer was this sandhill rustic with individuals recorded at both the country park as well as the trap in Firs Chase. The moth's foodplants are various grasses on saltmarshes and beaches.

The antler moth with its distinctive antler-type markings on the wings was of interest at the park. Although it's quite a widespread moth, it's only been recorded here at the park once before, a few years back. It's foodplant is grass and there's plenty of that at the park.

One of the highlights of the mothing on a muggy Saturday night was the unexpectedly high tally of 22 tree-lichen beauties. Although this small green tinted moth has increased in numbers in recent years, I've never had more than a handful in one night in the past. At the park trap that night there was just the one TLB.
A dark swordgrass was found in the Firs Chase trap on Friday 25th session.

The caterpillar of the grey dagger is a very striking one with lots of fine hairs and a colourful body. The moth is a regular visitor to the trap, although very similar in appearance to the dark dagger moth, the caterpillars are very different - and both have been found at the park.

This little lively toadlet was hopping frantically across the lawn at Firs Chase on Sunday morning as the moth trap was being cleared away. This toad will have emerged recently from the big pond in a neighbouring garden in Firs Chase.

Friday, 25 July 2014

FLEDGED HARRIERS

Several young marsh harriers have left their nests, this youngster photographed by Andy Field on the Langenhoe army ranges on 12th July. There were at least seven nests on the ranges just to the north of Mersea Island - something like the usual sort of number of nests here. One pair also nested on Mersea with at least one young seen.

At the country park on Friday 25th, a green sandpiper, two snipe, family of four avocets, 3 lapwing and 5 black-tailed godwits were present on the pools in the fields. By the pond 10 little egrets roosted in the trees, 5 teal and a second brood of little grebes were on the pond, while a reed warbler sang in reeds nearby.

A hobby was reported flying near the seawall by the Oyster Fishery on Friday afternoon.

The first returning snipe of the autumn was back on the park pools on Thursday 24th where ten black-tailed godwits were also present and the avocet family with the two youngsters.

A little owl perched on wires over Bromans Lane at dusk on Thursday evening while the previous evening a tawny owl flew briefly alongside the East Mersea road and then perched on a roadside tree near the Cosways Lane.

A marsh harrier was mobbed by a carrion crow over the Chapmans Lane field on Wednesday 23rd.Andy Field saw two hobbies by the Strood on Monday 21st.

Other bits of wildlife interest seen at the park over the last few days have been the first common blue butterfly on 25th, painted lady on the 20th and two adders on the 19th.

One of the highlights of the mothing session with fellow members of the Essex Moth Group's at the country park on Tuesday 22nd was this very colourful but diminutive rosy footman moth. Unfortunately for the other moth enthusiasts who came along that night, this little fellow only appeared in the early hours of the morning, after everyone else had gone home.

The rosy footman is recorded each summer at the park but never more than a couple of individuals. This one seemed particularly fresh with a bright salmon-pink colour. The caterpillars feed on lichen.

Four traps were set up at the park at dusk on Tuesday with three continuing till 4am the following morning. Just under 70 species were noted, involving about 600 individuals- about 200 per trap. The breeze kept up through the night and the clear sky kept the temperatures down a bit too - so not as good conditions as last year.

Other highlights by dawn included 9 poplar hawkmoths, elephant hawkmoth, ground lackey, oak eggar, tree lichen beauty and the first record at the park of a black arches.


This canary-shouldered thorn was the first one noted for the summer season. It's a widespread moth and is easily recognised with the yellow head.

There have been lots of drinker moths coming to the traps over the last fortnight or so but all have been the dark brown males. This individual was the first female drinker seen this year,slightly larger and a pale brown colour.

There was a surprising amount of different kinds of yellow underwing moths, such as this tongue-twisting lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing. Others noted were the large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing and the least yellow underwing. The individual pictured above caught the eye as it showed a fresh dark red edge to the wing-tips.
 
Some of the other moths seen included maidens blush, small yellow wave, least carpet, iron prominent, chocolate tip, starwort, sycamore, green silver lines, white satin, nutmeg, lychnis, copper underwing and lunar-spotted pinion.

Other insects came flying to the bright moth lamps but the biggest one was this big and solid looking dung beetle or dor beetle. This individual pictured above was stretching its wings, usually concealed from view when at rest.