Sunday, 5 July 2009


The sunshine of recent days continued into Sunday 5th and there were lots of insects buzzing around the park during the morning.The colourful six-spot burnet moth pictured above, was flying over the grasslands in reasonable numbers, often feeding on flowers of the creeping thistle. After many years of only being found at one end of the park, the moth appears to have spread into other areas, which is great to see. The six-spot burnet moth has not read the rule-book about the difference between butterflies and moths. Here is a moth that is colourful, flies around in the daytime and has the clubbed antennae just like butterflies.

Managed to locate the first wasp spider of the summer at the park in an area of long grass close to where an egg case was left by a female spider last summer. This young female is not fully grown yet and hasn't developed the bold yellow and black stripes that give the spider its name. The wasp spider was first found at the park in 2003, one of the early records for north Essex.

The hedge brown butterfly or gatekeeper, pictured above, has joined the hundreds of other brown butterflies at the park in the last few days. The hedgerows and grasslands really come to life at this time of the year with all the butterflies fluttering about. Also seen were red admiral, peacock, small skipper, Essex skipper, large skipper, small white, large white and small heath.

Much of the grassland areas have gone to seed and turned brown in colour. This big clump of lady's bedstraw stands out with the mass of bright yellow flowers adding a splash of colour amongst the grass.

Birdwise I managed to obtain good close views at the start of the day of the pair of nightingales without the aid of binoculars. The two birds were repeatedly calling to each other from 15 metres apart near the park entrance and both perched up on branches in bushes not obscured by thick undergrowth. The birds will be around for another month before they disappear back to Africa.

The plaintive calls of a young sparrowhawk alerted me to the rough location of the bird and the nest near the cliff-top trees. A closer look revealed four white downy chicks being fed morsels by the male bird who was standing over them on the nest. Later in the afternoon another parent was back on the nest again feeding the chicks. The youngsters are quite large and the nest doesn't look big enough for four birds, let alone having any parents around too.

An evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall, photo above, was made more interesting watching the clouds of meadow brown butterflies explode into the air as you passed by. One cloud must have had about 200 meadow browns in the air over one spot. Andy Field had walked the same section earlier in the afternoon and also remarked on the numbers seen. A very rough estimate suggests that with every pace about ten butterflies took to the air from the side of the seawall. As I walked about 800 metres this equates to several thousand meadow browns! One painted lady was also noted along the seawall.

On the Reeveshall pool the colourful ruff was still present as were greenshank, spotted redshank, green sandpiper and 3 grey heron. On the fields 60 lapwing, 2 golden plover, corn bunting and 8 stock doves were seen. Marsh harriers were showing well with four birds seen flying or perched up on Reeveshall. One youngster looked like it was flapping its wings from inside the reedbed.

Along the Pyefleet the tide was slowly coming in and 100 black-tailed godwits were the main wader with spotted redshank, the ruff again, 6 avocet, 9 turnstone and curlews and redshank also noted. On Langenhoe at least four marsh harriers were seen flying around as was a barn owl late in the evening.

This was the view of the moon as I was walking away from Reeveshall. Back at the country park a little owl perched up on a signpost in the car park. A short while later I stopped the car along Chapmans Lane as I drove to West Mersea and enjoyed a close view of another little owl perched on a fence only 5 metres from the car. Needless to say it didn't hang around and flew off.

Returning back along the East Mersea road late at night I had to stop the car so I didn't hit a muntjac deer that was thinking about crossing the road. The small deer was obviously dazzled by the car headlights and slowly decided to head back into the thick copse at the top of Meeting Lane. Muntjac have only recently become established on the Island with a youngster being seen with its parent just a few months ago.

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