Saturday, 5 January 2008


One or two items to report over recent days. This harlequin ladybird above, is the first sighting on the country park of this foreign ladybird. They have probably been present here for the last couple of years but I've not actively gone searching for them. The first one on the Island was found two summers ago in a garden near to East Mersea church. Harlequin ladybirds are native to Asia but were first spotted in Britain in 2004 - in Essex. They have spread rapidly across central and southern England and have been described as "the most invasive ladybird in the world".

This one above was discovered in rather curious circumstances inside my house at the park, whilst flicking through the latest Essex Wildlife Trust journal. The ladybird appeared on the table when I picked up the journal but I couldn't say whether it actually fell out of it. The chances are that it was somehow already in the house but it seems quite a coincidence that it appeared to fall out of one of the magazines belonging to the main conservation organisation in the county! I wonder if it falls under the category of "biological warfare by post!"

Remains of another alien to Mersea Island, this time the jawbone of a muntjac deer. The striking features of a muntjac jaw are the very prominent tusks, something you wouldn't think deer possess. By all accounts you don't want to corner one of these cute little deer, knowing that they have tusks, as they will happily use them to make their escape. I recall being told of a muntjac tusk once being found found lodged in a fallow deer skull - so that must have been quite a clash of heads!

This jawbone was recently found at East Mersea Point and is probably the remains of a muntjac that was washed up about two years ago. There are currently no deer on the Island although in recent years, at least two individuals have managed to swim across, whilst several corpses have been found washed up at various points around the Island.

Other mammals of interest seen recently include a brown hare running over the wheat field next to Chapmans Lane early on Wednesday 2nd. It's encouraging to see a hare so close to West Mersea as they've normally stayed in undisturbed fields in the centre of the Island.

Graham Ekins watched a bull grey seal off Kingsland Road in West Mersea this Saturday morning, which is a noteworthy sighting. There were also three common seals seen from here too. A fourth common seal was also seen in the mouth of Colne.
Also off West Mersea were great northern diver, 2 red-throated divers, 2 eider, shag and a short-eared owl near the Strood.

At the country park 1000 brent geese flew noisily over the car park late in the afternoon as they headed to their night-time roost in the Colne. A thousand golden plover were noted on the mud near the Point.

Over the last month there have been one or two winter moths seen on the windows at night in the park. One or two have also been seen along Bromans Lane at night, fluttering about in the car headlights and also beside one regular bush in Chapmans Lane. Even on some of the chilly nights as low as three degrees, they have been seen flying about the park's car park.

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