Sunday, 14 June 2009


Spent the last part of Sunday 14th at Reeveshall admiring the sun set behind the Pyefleet Channel pictured above. The Reeveshall pool had the usual variety of waders and wildfowl as in previous days. However the interesting addition to the scene were five very smart spotted redshanks, also known as dusky redshank because of their black breeding plumage with white speckling on the wings. It's always a treat to see these elegant waders in their near jet-black plumage, especially if they're mingling with other drab coloured brownish waders.

Seeing this group of spotted redshanks here in mid-June is an early return journey for them as they head south from the Arctic on their autumn passage. This early group will be the females as they will have left the males behind to tend the broods. Spotted redshanks pass Mersea in small numbers during early summer with numbers often reaching double figures along the Pyefleet during July.

The other main group of waders on the pool were the non-breeding group of 24 black-tailed godwits, a few with ginger necks but most having dull plumage. The pair of avocets were still present and a curlew joined the resident lapwing, oystercatcher and redshanks. Also on the pool were teal, grey heron, little egret, shelduck and a pair of non-beeding mute swans.

Along the Pyefleet 5 grey plover were noted and at least 8 little terns hunting up and down the Channel. On Langenhoe 5 marsh harriers and a barn owl were seen flying about.
On Reeveshall the female marsh harrier sat on a bush for long periods and it was also nice to hear the songs of yellowhammer and a corn bunting in the area.

As the light faded the insect activity decreased too and this common blue butterfly pictured above, was spotted clinging to a plantain flowerhead for the night on the top of the seawall.

Several meadow brown butterflies, one pictured above, continued to fly about in the cooler evening air. One or two had already settled down for the night amongst the long grass. At least a handful of painted ladies were still flying late into the evening along the seawall.

At the end of the day a fox was checking out the park car park after all the visitors had left, while also at dusk near West Mersea a little owl sat on a telegraph post along Chapmans Lane.

One of the big attractions for insects at the park at the moment are the flowering cotoneaster bushes that I planted nearly 20 years ago. I didn't appreciate at that time how much the bees, butterflies and many other insects would enjoy this profusion of flowers. On a quick glance during the morning at least 10 painted ladies were counted, there was the pleasing sight of the once common small tortoiseshell as well as a few meadow browns. There was a report of a late green hairstreak butterfly on the bushy part of the cliff behind the beach.

The best night of the year so far for moths was confirmed when these four species of hawkmoth were found in the two moth-traps when they were checked at dawn on Sunday morning. Top left is the poplar hawk with privet hawk to the right, while below eyed hawk sits alongside the pink elephant hawk. In total nine hawkmoths of these species were noted.

The weather conditions were touch and go during the night as some light drizzle stopped play twice briefly with one of the traps. However by dawn before the crows and blackbirds were up looking for their breakfast, nearly 60 species of macro moths were being noted, a better night than the previous one.

There was a similar variety of moths as the previous night although there were a few extras such as common emerald, figure of eighty, maidens blush, barred yellow, small yellow wave, scorched wing, bordered white, swallow prominent, common footman, poplar grey, grey dagger, marbled brown and shark.

This birds wing moth with its strange bird's wing-like markings was found in the trap. It has been noted each year but only with one or two individuals showing up at the trap.

The oak hook-tip is a regular visitor to the trap and like other hook-tips, has the distinctive tip of the forewing drawn into the shape of a hook. This is the first individual in the trap this summer.


Bennyboymothman said...

Nice Moths

Great to see another Essex wildlife blogger :)

Dougal Urquhart said...

We can compare moths from opposite sides of the county and see the contrast between coastal and inland.
- Dougal