Friday, 30 May 2008
A familiar selection of birds were encountered around the area with typical ones for the hedges, fields and ditches. One lesser whitethroat and three common whitethroats were singing from the hedgerows. Along the reedy ditches a sedge warbler, three reed warblers and a reed bunting were also noted. In the grass fields two skylarks and three meadow pipits were heard singing, adding to the Coopers Chorus.
A pair of kestrels headed over to fields not far from the East Mersea church where the pair have a nest this spring in the tower. A green woodpecker and a mistle thrush were noted on the football pitch.
There seemed more mallard than usual seen along the borrowdyke with up to 20 mallard, including one duck with 5 ducklings. One drake shoveler was the only other species of duck in the dyke, other than six shelduck seen in the area.
The tide was well out so very little seen on the mudflats other than one or two oystercatchers and a few gulls.
Thursday, 29 May 2008
The count got off to good start with the grasshopper warbler singing from the field next to the park. Neither nightingale was heard singing but one was seen skulking in a bush by the park entrance. Most hedgerows had a singing common whitethroat and was the commonest warbler seen and heard. A handful of lesser whitethroats were also encountered, while in the reeds by the borrowdyke were five singing reed warblers. One male blackcap was the only other warbler noted.
Many of the common garden birds were all made a note of - for a change! Dunnocks, robins, wrens, blue and great tits, wood pigeons, 4 members of the crow family, 4 species of finch, green woodpeckers and lots of the other familiar species too. Farmland birds such as skylark, meadow pipits, stock dove and reed buntings were also noted. The cuckoo was very vocal around the fields to the north of the park, perching up on tree-tops and telegraph wires.
On the park pond the mute swans had their five young cygnets following closely behind. The second pair of swans in the fields appeared to have deserted a nest some time ago, although the birds remain in the area. Three pairs of tufted duck were seen and a similar number of pochard were flying around the area. Other wildfowl seen in the fields were 3 shelduck, 1o mallard and a shoveler.
At least two pairs of lapwing appear to be territorial in the fields with possibly a third pair too. Another pair were also seen with a nest on the adjacent saltmarsh, while a pair of redshank seen mating were one of about three pairs in the area of the fields and saltings. The only other waders seen were the oystercatchers with one pair on the saltmarsh and another forty birds feeding on the mudflats. Little egret and 2 common terns were also seen on or near the mudflats.
Sadly there was no sign of any avocets on the pools where two pairs had been present all spring.
Hawking over various fields were 15 swallows, a sand martin and a group of about 10 house martins that nest on a house just north of the park. The biggest flock of birds were about 50 starlings, many of them newly fledged youngsters, noisily following their parents around the fields.
The starlings soon quietened down when the male sparrowhawk appeared in the area, although it circled up into the sky and disappeared off. Two marsh harriers were also seen heading in opposite directions with one nicely marked male heading high and east over the river Colne, while the other bird drifted west over the fields.
The warm and calm conditions brought a few insects out such as this well marked Mother Shipton moth seen fluttering low amongst the grass beside the seawall. One or two are often seen at this time of year amongst the grasslands flying around during the daytime.
The numbers of small heath butterfly such as this one above, are slowly increasing as we get into summer. This one was seen in the car park and when it folded and tucked up its forewings, it became hard to see against a grey background.
Other butterflies of interest seen were a green hairstreak and a holly blue sunning almost side by side on a bush - a nice colour combination.
Two water voles were having a small disagreement, splashing about along the edge of the borrowdyke. Further along, a third vole was seen briefly on a small mound of mud, so it seemed a good day for vole activity.
At the end of the day as darkness fell, the two grasshopper warblers were still reeling in the pouring rain, from their opposite ends of the wheat field near the park.
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
The local breeding lapwings didn't like the crane in their field and after constant mobbing, the crane flew off and landed on the mud in the Pyefleet. This was our first view of the bird when we arrived as it looked rather wary and apprehensive 100 metres ahead of us. After half an hour on the mud, it took off with huge wing-beats and headed back over the fields but was immediately harassed by lapwings, gulls and a flock of up to 18 shelduck. It landed in a distant field near Reeveshall Farm where it became harder to watch in the increasingly gloomy conditions.
Amazingly Graham Ekins drove to Mersea in record time from Chelmsford and after a long and speedy hike along the seawall and lots of fruitless scanning through the mist and drizzle, the crane was eventually spotted through the murk. Graham's Essex bird list for this year now stands at the very impressive tally of 198!
Graham's comments posted on the Essex Birders Forum are copied below.
Reeves Hall Marsh, Mersea island 20.25-21.00
Thanks to Andy Field and Dougal Urquhart who delayed their evening meal to help me refind the immature Common Crane. It had moved further to the E, Dougal picked it up flying in to an area behind the largest sheep field c.1km away, a great find in the gloom. It then spent the next 10 minutes wandering around apparently feeding. I really thought that we had little chance in the gloomy and wet conditions. Thanks guys. (Essex 198).
Two common seals kept watching us with curiosity from the nearby Pyefleet Channel. Two marsh harriers flew around Reeveshall and at least one other on Langenhoe. The northerly breeze wafted the loud song of a Cetti's warbler over to us on Mersea from Langenhoe along with the calls of the cuckoo. A common sandpiper flying overhead was the only wader of note and a couple of singing corn buntings, gadwall and a yellow wagtail were also noted.
At dusk the two grasshopper warblers were still singing from opposite ends of the large wheat field near Cosways. Earlier in the day, a second nightingale was heard calling near the male by the park entrance, which is reasonable confirmation that there's a pair here.
Sunday, 25 May 2008
Despite the weather it was pleasing to hear both male nightingales singing from opposite ends of the car park. I had presumed the singing season had finished for them as they've been a bit quiet for the last few days. In fact the one near the cliff-top hadn't been heard for nearly a fortnight. The nightingale by the park entrance was still singing loudly at least until darkness fell, as the park was being locked up for the night.
Not much opportunity to get beyond the car park today so a swift, lesser whitethroat and a couple of whitethroats were the only birds noted.
More unusually, the distinctive reeling sound of a grasshopper warbler was unexpectedly heard at dusk coming from the rough set-aside strip behind the car park. The sound appeared to be coming from the middle of the field about fifty metres away. This is the first time one has been heard from this corner of the field.
Driving away from the park at dusk, I stopped the car at the field edge of set-aside near Cosways and could hear the faint reeling song of the other grasshopper warbler, first heard a fortnight ago. I wonder if the bird heard near the park this evening was the second bird that was heard singing a fortnight ago by Cosways. Both grasshoppers singing this evening were about 500 metres apart with a great expanse of winter wheat separating them.
It was worth getting out of the car for a better listen of the grasshopper warbler as I immediately came face to face with a badger in the long grass! As I walked a few paces away from the car, I could see in the fading light a badger coming in my direction, so I quickly crouched down. The badger bounded through the long grass and then stopped dead in its tracks about 7 metres away from me, after spotting my strange crouching posture! After briefly sniffing the air, it turned quickly away and jogged off in the opposite direction, disappearing into the long grass.
In the car park at dusk yesterday, Saturday, a little owl was seen perching tightly to overhead wires that swayed in the wind. A couple of pipistrelle bats were seen flying around the car park as darkness fell.
Friday, 23 May 2008
Showing this moth to the members close up proved to be popular and fascinating experience for many. Poplar hawks have a strong grip and don't like letting go, although when this one decided he wanted to be left alone, off it flew into bushes above the heads of the group.
The wildlife we did see on the walk included green woodpecker, meadow pipit, oystercatchers on the mudflats, pochard and tufted ducks on the pond as well as the sitting swan who we were later told, had been seen with 7 cygnets.
One of the most striking moths of the park is this colourful cream-spot tiger, this is the first one of the season. This uncommon Essex moth is found mainly around the coast and occasionally seen in the daytime flying out of the long grass as you pass by.
The moth trap has been run on a couple of nights recently with the Thursday night haul providing the most variety with 30 species but with a very disappointing number of the actual moths with just under 60 individuals noted.
Among the moths seen were 3 poplar hawks, pale oak beauty, cinnabar, maidens blush, common wainscot, oak hook tip, clouded border, clouded silver, marbled minor, light emerald, coxcomb prominent, chocolate tip, spectacle, common swift, sandy carpet and green carpet.
It was interesting to compare these two ermine moths both with their furry heads with the white ermine above and the buff ermine pictured below. Both are common moths in early summer and always brighten up a dark trap at night.
On Wednesday a green hairstreak was seen near the car park enjoying the sunshine and also the first small heath of the year was seen flying low along a grassy path. Other butterflies seen in recent days have been the usual orange-tip, holly blue, speckled wood, peacock, small white and large white.
Returning late to the park on Wednesday evening, the grasshopper warbler was heard in the dark, reeling from the grassy field margin near Cosways. Driving into the park I was very surprised to have to jam on the car brakes while two badgers crossed the road right in front of the car. One badger paused momentarily beside the car and appeared to be a youngster because it was smaller than the other.
The distant call of the cuckoo and turtle dove have been heard on a couple of recent days although the familiar song of the nightingale in the car park appears to have stopped for the season. A pair of sand martins flew past the sandy cliff and the regular male marsh harrier was seen over nearby fields.
Monday, 19 May 2008
Despite the chill in the north-easterly breeze, there were patches of blue sky to enjoy. Amongst the cattle was a flock of about 30 starlings feeding in the grass. Swooping over the cattle were a handful of swallows hawking after flies, while a couple of linnets flew past too.
The fine bull kept a relaxed view on the proceedings surrounded by his cows and young calves.
Just when finding birds of any note was proving hard, a well-marked cock marsh harrier brightened up proceedings when it appeared over the seawall from Langenhoe and rapidly crossed the dyke pictured below, flying past the cattle as it headed to a pond in a neighbouring field.
Walking to the Reeveshall pool revealed in the area, a couple of little egrets, pair of lapwing, 2 pairs of oystercatcher, pair of gadwall and two pairs of shelduck. In the fields behind were 21 greylag geese, 6 shelduck, pochard, shoveler and 4 Canada geese.
The only waders seen in the Pyefleet at low tide were several noisy pairs of oystercatchers. Scattered along the mudflats were lots of gulls and a dozen shelduck but little else. A pair of great crested grebes were the only birds noted in the water of the Pyefleet Channel.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
Cobmarsh Island had the main concentration of herring gulls and lesser black-backed gulls while most of the black-headed gulls seemed to be on Sunken Island. Packing Shed Island had a few herring gulls and one or two pairs of oystercatchers. A few common terns were seen flying up and down the channels and these are probably nesting on Cobmarsh Island. Several cormorants were also seen at various times flying past.
Even Monty thought the display of thrift on St Peters was worth stopping by to admire. Where the thrift grows on the saltmarsh here, it seems to flourish in small carpets rather than just one or two scattered plants, making it more eye-catching.
The nearby reedbeds had the songs of a couple of reed warblers coming from them. In the bushes alongside St Peters Meadow, the chattering song of a lesser whitethroat was heard, along with some brief blackcap songs. A couple of pairs of linnets and some house sparrows were the only other birds seen here.
The sunshine brought a few butterflies out on the sheltered slope including small white, orange- tip and holly blue.
Friday, 16 May 2008
The tide was on its way out so a couple of pairs of little terns and 2 pairs of common terns were flying up and down the channel, diving into the water for fish. Very few waders to see with only 3 grey plovers, 3 ringed plovers, 2 turnstone, 8 oystercatcher and a curlew seen.
On the Ray Island a distant cuckoo was heard and eventually spotted on a tree-top. Two little egrets and about 8 shelduck were the only other birds of note other than various gulls herring gulls and black-headed gulls.
Whilst walking along the Strood seawall the songs of at least 5 different corn buntings were heard, as were 5 reed warblers, 3 reed buntings, sedge warbler and 2 whitethroats. A pair of yellow wagtails were present in one of the fields and in the air above were a few swifts and swallows.
At the back of the fields a little grebe was heard calling, whilst flying over to the reservoirs at the bottom of the Strood hill were a pair of pochard.
This colourful cinnabar moth was found in the moth trap at the park on Thursday morning. This moth is often seen in the daytime and one even fluttered under my tractor whilst grass-cutting, two days ago. The moths are searching out the ragwort plants on which to lay their eggs.
Just over 30 moths of about 16 species were noted in the trap including latticed heath, light emerald, marbled minor, chocolate tip, swallow prominent, green carpet and sandy carpet.
The first dragonfly of the summer, a freshly emerged four-spotted chaser, was seen fluttering weakly across the grass on the park on Wednesday.
The reeling song of the grasshopper warbler was heard again by the Cosways field at dusk on Thursday evening. Further along the East Mersea road near Meeting Lane, I had to brake sharply to allow a brown hare to cross the road safely.
Monday, 12 May 2008
Grasshopper warblers are uncommon visitors to the island and are only ever detected when their song is heard. Most birds are only heard here when they stop off for a day or two on their way north in the spring. However one grasshopper warbler stayed around long enough for us to suspect breeding in a young tree plantation near North Farm in East Mersea in 2006.
Did a nice circular walk from the park on the Sunday evening, along the beach, meeting up with the group at the "Gropper" (grasshopper), pictured above and then walked back down Bromans Lane to the park. A nice variety of birds were seen or heard on the leisurely stroll.
Ten turnstones were waiting for the tide to recede, while two little terns and 4 common terns flew along the shallow waters. On the beach by Cosways it looked like two different ringed plovers were displaying with one female running away from a presumed nest somewhere well hidden in the shingle. One reed warbler and reed bunting sang from the small reedbed and 4 linnets sat up in a bush.
A male marsh harrier was seen hunting low over a wheat field near the pub and calling continuously from Shop Lane was the sound of the cuckoo. One or two whitethroats were singing from the various hedgerows but there was no further sign of the corn bunting that was singing near Cosways in the morning.
A male sparrowhawk flew across the big field towards the park and a kestrel sat up in a large ash tree in Bromans Lane. Further down the Lane the turtle dove could be heard singing near the farm and at dusk the local little owl sat on top of a telegraph post. One or two pipistrelle bats hawked up and down Bromans Lane but the only tawny owl that was noted was the male calling from the park pond area. The last bird of note was the very vocal nightingale singing his little heart out after darkness fell to an empty car park.
There was a report of two ospreys seen flying over the Pyefleet Channel, seen by a yachtsman on Sunday morning. One bird was being mobbed by gulls but still managed a couple of dives into the water and on the third attempt came up with a flatfish.
One of the prettiest butterflies on the park is the delicate green hairstreak. The bright green underwings blend in so well with the green leaves, that you have to keep your eye on it as it settles down on a bush, otherwise it stays camouflaged. This individual seemed to get very agitated when I walked past it carrying a big green refuse bag with it flying over to it several times to check it wasn't a rival. A short while later it took off to have a mid air tussle with another rival, spiralling round and round.
Other butterflies noted were comma, peacock, speckled wood, small white, orange tip and holly blue.
The moth trap on Sunday morning had about 75 moths of 35 species which was another worthwhile session. The maidens blush pictured above with the hint of blusher on the wings,was one of a couple found. Also 2 poplar hawks, 2 pale tussocks, small waved umber, figure of eighty, leaqst black arches, oak hook-tip and clouded border.
Two big beetles have been attracted to the bright moth lamp in the last couple of nights. The one above is the great silver beetle found on the Friday night with the following night the commoner great diving beetle, pictured below.
Saturday, 10 May 2008
Flat calm sea at high tide provided a wonderful setting at the park to enjoy the rising sun early in the morning. The sun stayed in view for the rest of the day with hundreds of folk enjoying the warm delights of the park during the day.
The first turtle dove was heard at the park just after dawn, purring from the direction of Bromans Farm. A cuckoo was also heard for the first time this spring from the park.
The moth trap had been running all night at the park and an early start was needed to ensure the birds didn't scoff the moths before they had been identified. The cloudy night, a bit of drizzle, lack of wind and no moonlight all helped to make it a very worthwhile mothing session.
There were about 120 moths of thirty species noted which is quite a good tally for mid May.
As always the most eyecatching moths are the big hawkmoths and this one above is the common poplar hawkmoth and the most frequently recorded.
I've had to study this one above as it has features of two very similiar moths the peacock and the sharp-angled peacock. Both get very confusing when they're faded and worn and this one has some markings that have faded. Although it has a pale grey band across the wings, the very black paw-print mark on each wing point this to the peacock moth.
One of the scarcer moths in parts of Essex is this least black arches, a small moth with distinctive shape and size of wings. One or two have been noted here at the park in the past.
The green carpet, pictured above, shows a delicate shade of green to its wings. It is quite a common moth with several being noted in the traps last year.
After the hawkmoth, this is the next largest moth last night, the male pale tussock with its great furry front legs. One or two were found last year during the spring.
Amongst some of the other moths noted were maidens blush, red twinspot carpet, sandy carpet, waved umber, coxcomb prominent, white ermine, pine beauty, white-pinion spotted, muslin, yellow-barred brindle and cream-bordered green pea.
Evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall beside the Pyefleet. The tide was out and plenty of mud on show but sadly the time of year means that most waders have headed north. Three greenshank flew off the pool but a fourth stayed behind. In the Pyefleet, 10 grey plover, 5 dunlin and 3 knot were feeding together but only one curlew and a pair of redshank, also ten turnstone.
A pair of little terns and a pair of common terns flew along the Channel.
Over Reeveshall, 3 wigeon, 2 gadwall, pochard, pair of shoveler, little egret, 14 sand martins were all noted. Three brown hares were seen, usually sitting low down on the ground.
In the Shop Lane northern end area, a turtle dove was heard as was a cuckoo.
Returning to the park at dusk with my car windows down, I could hear the loud reeling song of a grasshopper warbler coming from the rough weedy field margin near Cosways caravan site. I was able to walk along the track near to where it was singing from the opposite side of a thick hedge. I left with the light gone but the bird still reeling.
In Bromans Lane the tawny owl was seen for the first time for many weeks, this time perched on the owl nestbox over the Lane.
Earlier in the day, a pair of male and female eiders were reported near Packing Shed Island at West Mersea.
On Thursday 3 siskin were seen flying north-east over the car park at Cudmore Grove, which seems quite a late sighting here.
On Friday night a brown hare was followed along Bromans Lane as it trotted along the road in the car headlights.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
Thanks to these two photos I can see for myself the sickly gannet that was found on the West Mersea beach opposite Broomhills Road on Tuesday afternoon.
Gannets are rarely seen from Mersea although they regularly pass other parts of the Essex coast.
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Andy Field above, and his wife Shirley, came along too with their smart new camera and we both clicked away from all directions, savouring the sight. These wild orchids are the remnants of a much larger population of orchids that used to grow alongside the Esplanade. Up until 1984 there was a small plot of a quarter of an acre, now occupied by flats, that was reckoned to hold 15,000 green-winged orchids as well as lots of common spotted orchids and adders-tongue fern.
For once the camera was turned on me, so just to prove I do get out and about, here's one for the album. There are one or two other photos of these orchids taken on the last visit posted on this blog for 5th May last year.
After visiting the orchid garden in the evening, the very sunny day ended with another typical sunset at the Hard at West Mersea. A pair of common terns flew up one of the channels.
Earlier in the day at the country park, a male marsh harrier was seen flying past the car park and then ten minutes later flying low over the middle of the park. Whitethroats, lesser whitethroat and nightingales have been the main songsters of interest in the park during the day.
The moth trap was checked on Wednesday morning where 30 moths of 12 species were found, including this swallow prominent moth, pictured above. This is quite a common moth and several more should be caught in the next few weeks.
The most colourful moth in the trap were a couple of brimstones and is often one of the first moths to fly around at dusk. Other moths noted were Chinese character, hebrew character, brindled pug, common carpet, powdered quaker and red chestnut.
Monday, 5 May 2008
An earlier walk along the Strood seawall was made more pleasant by the constant chattering of several reed warblers singing from the nearby reedbeds, photo above. In the sunshine at least 7 reed warblers were singing with one section of reeds having about five different songsters dotted along every ten metres or so. On top of a nearby tree was a sedge warbler singing its harsher song, while a reed bunting chipped in with its rather monotonous tones.
One or two swifts flew over the fields as well as about ten house martins and a few swallows. Three common whitethroats sang from the tops of bushes and there was also a yellow wagtail, a couple of linnets and a corn bunting singing too.
Before all the mud was covered along the Channel, a bar-tailed godwit and a whimbrel were the only waders of note.
There was the very recognisable and distinctive calls of three little terns heard and the birds were seen briefly landing on the mud before flying excitedly up the Channel. Two common terns were also seen hunting up the water as the tide came in.
The male sparrowhawk was making the most of the fine weather by putting on an impressive display over his West Mersea territory. The bird was first seen soaring higher and higher above the Lane area, climbing to a great height where it was just a tiny speck in the sky. It then folded its wings and plunged vertically down to the gardens below in an amazing show of speed.
The bird then climbed back up into the sky disappearing as a tiny speck again but this time about quarter of a mile away over the St Peters road area. Again it tucked its wings in and stooped straight down, scattering wood pigeons out of the gardens below as it made its way low and fast through the gardens back to the Lane area.
More of the same butterflies of recent days were noted such as speckled wood, holly blues, orange-tips, peacocks, small white and green-veined white.
David Nicholls saw a little owl at dusk along the East Mersea road near the parish boundary.
Sunday, 4 May 2008
The area of St Peters Meadow pictured below, is often a good site where several different kinds of butterfly can be seen. At the moment there is a dense stand of cow parsley at one end, which gives the area a bit of colour. A blackcap and a couple of singing reed warblers were singing, along with some noisy house sparrows.
The real sound of spring in the general area of Coast Road was the distinctive song of the cuckoo. The bird was seen flying from the direction of the church, towards Victory Road, where it perched at the top of a tall poplar tree, cuckoo-ing loudly for a reasonable period in the afternoon. However the bird quickly fell silent after the two lifeboat maroons whizzed into the sky nearby and exploded loudly. Lots of frightened wood pigeons flew around a few times too.
The old fishing boat pictured below, by the Dabchicks sailing club isn't just a favourite for photographers but also some swallows too. Four swallows were flying around the boat, perching on the old ropes and checking the old structure for nesting potential.
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Plenty of mud on show along the Strood Channel but all those hundreds of waders present during the winter have all headed north. A thorough scan of the area could only reveal five whimbrel, curlew, two bar-tailed godwits, one summer plumaged black-tailed godwit, four oystercatchers, ten dunlin, redshank and the elegant sight of an avocet feeding along the channel bottom.
Two common terns were busy diving into the water after fish and then calling out loudly.
Three swifts raced overhead as they headed off the Island while a handful of swallows hawked low over the fields, although rather surprisingly only one house martin was seen. There don't appear to be as many corn buntings to be heard so far this spring here with just one singing this afternoon, although three others arrived onto the Island from the west.
Singing from the depths of the reedbeds and nearby bushes were 2 sedge warblers and 3 reed warblers and a common whitethroat. A roving flock of 50 starlings fed in the fields with birds continually flying back and forwards from the nearby houses, where they'll have nests.
The cuckoo was again calling loudly in West Mersea this morning, perched high in an ash tree near Victory Road.
Friday, 2 May 2008
The real highlight as ever was provided by a couple of marsh harriers flying over the fields. One well marked male was hunting low along ditches and even the wheat field that was being crop-sprayed at the time. A second younger male briefly appeared and then flew in a determined manner westwards over the Hard towards Old Hall marshes.
It was great to see the common terns back feeding along the Channel after their winter away. A couple of pairs were flying about, resting up on boats or buoys with the males presenting tiny shiny fish to their waiting mates.
More migrant birds have returned to the bushes and ditches with lesser whitethroat, 3 common whitethroats, 3 sedge warblers and 4 reed warblers. A couple of yellow wagtails were seen, along with a corn bunting and pair of reed buntings.
Lots of insects were enjoying the warmth such as these St Marks flies, so called because they appear in swarms round-about (usually shortly after) the 26th April, which is St Marks Day. The large flies dangle their long black legs below them as they float over the flowers.
The first damselflies were seen with two recently emerged blue-tailed damselflies, weakly drifting away from a ditch. Small white and peacock butterflies were seen along the wall.
In Firs Chase, the cuckoo was heard early in the morning and a swift was seen passing over. The warmth also saw the first orange-tip and holly blue butterflies.
Michael Thorley saw a turtle dove at the Youth Camp on Friday as well as the one by his house near Meeting Lane in East Mersea. Also at the Youth Camp were 30 sanderling.
The previous day he noted another turtle dove by the East Mersea church, as well as the one by his house and 45 turnstone by Coopers Beach.