Friday, 29 May 2009
Plenty of sunshine on Friday 29th made it a warm walk along the seawall to the north of Shop Lane at East Mersea. Various insects enjoyed the sunny weather including the first four-spotted chaser dragonfly of the year to be seen. It was flying around the dyke pictured above, then rested every so often on the tops of reed stalks or on the edge of the bank.
Other insects seen along the seawall included a couple of painted ladies, common blue and small heath butterflies.
The tide was coming in along the Pyefleet Channel and very little of interest other than lots of black-headed gulls and a few shelduck. A couple of cormorants and a common tern were seen along the Channel.
On the Reeveshall pool there were 14 shelduck, 2 gadwall, 2 redshank, pair of lapwing, mute swan, 4 mallard, greylag geese, and a pair of little grebes. A male marsh harrier flew over Reeveshall and then crossed over the Pyefleet as it headed to Langenhoe, where a female harrier was also noted. No sign of any hobbies - Martin Cock seeing one on Langenhoe on Wednesday.
In Shop Lane a blackcap and chiffchaff sang while a young great spotted woodpecker, recently fledged, flew across the road and landed briefly on a telegraph pole. Two corn buntings were still perched up on bushes along the East Mersea road.
Thursday, 28 May 2009
This elephant hawkmoth is one of the most colourful moths that turns up regularly at the moth trap in late spring and early summer. It was found on Thursday morning along with a small catch of about 20 other species. Some of the other moths noted were light emerald, cream-spot tiger, white ermine, cinnabar, yellow belle, common carpet, ingrailed clay, lychnis, rustic shoulder knot, heart and club, common swift and blood vein.
The bright colour of this green silver lines moth doesn't seem like normal moth colours but it blends in well beside green leaves. This is an annual visitor to the moth trap in the spring in small numbers and is always a colourful addition to a trapping session.
The strikingly marked cream-spot tiger moth was seen during the day flying around some bushes before dropping into the long grass.
Another insect that blends well with the colour of leaves is the green hairstreak butterfly and this one with it's faded streak of white dots on the wing, was found alongside a path in the park. Not as many sightings as last year of green hairstreaks and this one will probably be the last of the year.
Painted ladies continue to outnumber all the other butterflies with a dozen flying westards across the park in mid afternoon. Up to 30 appeared to have stopped off at the park and were seen flying around or sunning themselves in all parts of the park. Other butterflies seen included an orange tip, small copper, small heath, speckled wood, holly blue and green-veined white.
A few more dragonflies were out enjoying the sun with three black-tailed skimmers noted for the first time this year. This one below seems to be a freshly emerged female that was seen fluttering weakly across the long grass.
It seemed as if there were four chicks inside the store room who all seemed to have fluttered around and perched on anything they could grab onto. Only the constant chirping from them indicated where they were hiding.
At the other end of the size scale, the mute swans were giving their week old cygnet a rest on the bank alongside the borrowdyke on Thursday morning. Dad kept watch while mum and junior snoozed.
Unexpected bird of the day was a fulmar gliding above the park beach as the strong wind blew it eastwards. It is several years since a fulmr has been seen from the park and luckily this one came close enough during the high tide, did a short loop doubling back on itself before continuing on its way.
Also along the dyke 4 tufted duck flew back to the pond and a little grebe was also seen. Three reed warblers sang from two sections of reeds while on the nearby saltmarsh, 2 reed buntings were singing. A water vole was watched swimming along the side of the dyke and then nibbling on some reed stems.
Several little terns flew past the Point during the morning as did a few common terns. On the mudflats a small group of 13 ringed plovers were feeding at low tide.
There was the usual selection of birds on the muddy pools with 11 lapwing chicks still present and also 3 adults still incubating. Also a pair of gadwall, 2 male shovelers, 10 shelduck, 20 mallard and 2 redshank were feeding or resting. On the pond a male pochard was briefly present in the early evening, alongside the usual 3 pairs of tufted duck.
In the park a nightingale surprisingly flew out of a bush and landed nearby on the path near the park entrance to pick up an insect. It briefly cocked its tail and then flew back up to a bush, flashing the orange tail as it went.
The warm evening sunshine was ideal for common lizards and this one above was one of two individuals seen basking on fenceposts at the park.
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
The picture below shows the inside of the store room with the nest hidden on top of the cream coloured bowl. Entry for the parents has been through a small hole in the exterior timber cladding.
The blue tits first got this site ready for the nest about 2 months ago and the scalding calls have been a frequent sound whenever I've had to enter the store room which is often several times a day. The adults have also had to contend with the daily flow of human visitors into the building every day, leading to more scalding calls from them.
I've allowed the tits to raise their family with as little disturbance as possible over the last fortnight. The noises from the chicks have been getting louder in recent days and the sight of a nearly fledged chick on the store-room floor indicated that the youngsters are ready to leave. I don't know how many chicks hatched out or have fledged, although the first photo above shows at least 3 young nearly ready for the big bad world outside!
After lots of rain in the morning, the day ended with clear blue skies and the tide was well out in the early evening as shown in the picture above. There weren't many birds on the mud except for a scattering of gulls and oystercatchers.
On the southernmost edge of the mudflats a group of 30 brent geese gathered, which seemed an unusual place for them, but maybe it was just a brief staging post. A short while later a small group of them were seen heading east past Colne Point out of the estuary and probably on their way back to the continent. Most brent flocks left for their breeding grounds in Siberia two months ago.
Making the return journey onto the Island this evening from the east were a couple of hundred swifts. There was a continuous flow of them crossing the river Colne, flying over the mudflats, then passing over the country park as they headed west in small groups.
Along the park cliff there were at least ten holes recently excavated by the sand martins. Many of the birds were flying over the nearby grazing fields and the park pond, along with several swallows.
The pair of mute swans were escorting their lone cygnet along the park dyke. The cygnet is about a week old and is the sole survivor of the brood which apparently only had one other sibling hatch out but has since been lost.
Also in the dyke were a pair of tufted duck, little grebes, coots and a pair of singing reed warblers. Two male reed buntings were seen along the the top of the seawall earlier in the day. In the pools on the grazing fields, there are still 11 lapwing chicks, with no apparent losses and still 2 other birds still incubating. A pair of redshank, pair of gadwall and 30 mallard also present.
At the park pond 3 male pochard and a female were noted along with 2 pairs of tufted ducks. There seems to be 3 pairs of coots with youngsters in various corners of the pond. No sign of the nice male fox that trotted round the nearside of the pond in the middle of yesterday morning.
Just before the sun set, there was a nice view of a barn owl hunting the grass field behind the pond and then flying back to Bromans Farm with a tiny mammal in its talons.
On the park a kestrel sat by the car park at dusk being mobbed by a pied wagtail, the male sparrowhawk returned to the clifftop trees for the night and the nightingale sang briefly by the park entrance. Two song thrushes were also singing loudly at the end of the day, one by the entrance and the other by the pond. During the day a pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the car park calling. Only a couple of painted ladies were seen during the day.
Yesterday an adder was seen basking in its usual spot in the park.
Sunday, 24 May 2009
The small group of nesting sand martins would've noticed the numbers of visitors to the beach. The birds spend more time hawking insects over the fields when there are too many people on the beach.
There were a number of painted lady butterflies around the park, especially in the evening as they basked in the sun. At least a dozen were seen around the park with all being very territorial, whilst basking. A few others were seen during the day passing over the park.
It appears as if this painted lady influx into the country is taking place in huge numbers with many reports both on the coast and inland of masses moving north-west through the country. An observation made on Sunday along the south side of the Blackwater river not far from Mersea, estimated between 700 - 800 heading north-west in a 3 hour period.
There was also a recent report of huge numbers of painted ladies amassing on the Dutch coast, ready to make the crossing to England. There have been reports of migrant clouded yellows and hummingbird hawkmoths in Essex in recent days too.
Other butterflies seen at the park included a brimstone butterfly which is the first for nearly 12 years here. Also a small heath, small copper small white and several speckled woods, also a mother shipton moth.
Not much else on the Island's bird front different from recent days. Andy Field saw 2 hobbies on the nearby Langenhoe Marshes on Saturday, while Richard Brown and Richard Hull noted 4 on an earlier visit.
Friday, 22 May 2009
The cream-spot is quite a scarce moth athough there are reasonable numbers around the grasslands of the Essex coast. The picture below show the vivid red markings on the underside of the moth.
Some of the other moths noted in recent nights have included pale tussock, sandy carpet, clouded silver, clouded border, figure of 80, nutmeg, ingrailed clay, maidens blush, muslin, marbled minor, scalloped hazel, lime-speck pug, white-point, common wainscot and shoulder-striped wainscot. The two trapping sesions on Wednesday and Thursday nights produced a combined tally of 32 species of macro moth, which doesn't sound too bad although only ones and twos of each species.
The poplar hawk is a common moth that looks like some loose peeling bark when it is at rest during the day. A couple of these large moths have been found in the trap on two of the recent mornings.
This tiny caterpillar only about 15mm in length, resting on a hawthorn leaf beside a path in the park, was spotted only because of its striking red / orange colour. This caterpillar is a yellow-tail moth, a reasonably common visitor to the moth-trap in July and August.
Insects seen at the park during the day include common blue, holly blue, several painted ladies, speckled wood, small white, orange-tip and peacock. A hairy dragonfly was seen just north of the park on Tuesday, hawking along a hedge. On Wednesday 3 adders and a common lizard were soaking up the sun at the park in their usual spot.
The nightingale is still singing loudly at times by the car park while its rival on the cliff-top is still present but less vocal. Common whitethroats seem to be in most corners of the park, lesser whitethroats are occasionally heard as is the blackcap and chiffchaff. Up to 20 sand martins are still flying around the cliff and the nearby fields. Two house martins were seen just north of the park on Tuesday and 2 swifts passing over the park has been a rare sight so far this spring.
The lapwing chicks are still flourishing on the grazing fields and despite the sight of the resident fox in the same field, none appear to have been predated with 10 chicks from 3 broods. Also on the pools are a couple of mallard broods, 3 redshank, greenshank occasionally, 20 shelduck, 2 pairs of gadwall and a pair of shoveler, along with the gulls, moorhens and others.
The sparrowhawk has been seen on a couple of occasions flying to the trees in the south-west corner of the park. The two kestrels were seen on Wednesday sitting on the oak tree with the nest-box, at the back of the grazing fields. The little owl could be heard calling from Bromans Farm on Wednesday evening.
Three corn buntings were seen perched up on bushes by the East Mersea road and the nearby Chapmans Lane on Thursday morning. A little owl perched on a telegraph pole on the East Mersea road by the Youth Camp lane at dusk on Tuesday.
Monday, 18 May 2009
Another windy seawall walk, this time beside the Strood Channel in the early evening of Monday 18th. The showers had stopped earlier in the day and the sun came out later on. Along both sides of the seawall at the moment are lots of clumps of the flowering hoary cress as in the picture above.
The high tide meant no mud was on show, not that there are many waders around the Island at the moment to look out for. Only a handful of oystercatchers could be seen on the saltmarshes along with various gulls. A pair of little terns crossed over the seawall and hunted along the borrowdyke, calling out excitedly as they flew along. Two little egrets and a grey heron were also looking for food along the ditches and dyke. A male marsh harrier was seen in the distance hunting over the Feldy fields on the mainland.
As on Friday evening the cuckoo crossed onto the Island from the Ray and perched on the overhead wires for several minutes calling out near the caravan site. In typical pose the long tail was tilted up and the wing-tips drooped down. Three male corn buntings jangled their songs from various points and skylarks and meadow pipits were also heard. Over the fields a few swallows and five house martins were seen while over the houses 10 swifts were noted.
Face to face with one of the 8 painted lady butterflies seen along a section of 200 metres of the seawall. This seems a good spring count in one locality of painted ladies here on the Island. The wind kept them down low but they were all trying to catch some of the evening sunshine while basking on the concrete seaward side. If one of the painted ladies flew over one of the others basking, they would both quickly spiral up into the air together.
Also keeping low down amongst the grass was a group of blue-tailed damselflies. These common damselflies were just a short distance from the water in the dyke and like the painted ladies, were enjoying the last of the day's sunshine.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
The weather improved in the afternoon of Sunday 17th for a walk along the Pyefleet Channel. Just a few minutes before this photo above was taken, I was sheltering inside the wood at the north end of Shop Lane waiting for the rain to stop. Although the blue skies appeared quickly, the wind was still very strong.
A turtle dove singing in Shop Lane is only the second one on the Island this spring. Also noted in the general area were chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroat and lesser whitethroat.
Birds noted on the Reeveshall pool included 3 black-tailed godwit, 2 redshank, pair of gadwall, mute swan, 2 shelduck, 2 little egret and a pair of Canada geese. Over Reeveshall marsh the pair of marsh harriers were seen flying around the reedbed. Later the male was seen quartering low over the pool and dyke near the Oyster Fishery. A large mixed flock of rooks and jackdaws numbered at least 200 birds. Twenty lapwings were also seen as were 30 greylag geese in the fields.
Despite plenty of mud on show along the Pyefleet, hardly any waders seen with only 4 dunlin, curlew and the scattering of resident oystercatchers to be seen. In the Channel there were two great crested grebes, 2 common terns, 3 little terns and a pair of common seals basking on the mud. A pair of marsh harriers were flying over the nearby Langenhoe marshes.
This mating pair of small heath butterflies were sheltering out of the wind behind the seawall amongst the long grass. This is the first sighting this year of this grassland butterfly often found along the grassy seawalls on the Island.
Less eyecatching but flighty, was this Mother Shipton moth pictured above. Three or four individuals of this day-flying moth were disturbed from the long grass, fluttering quickly away in the wind, before dropping down in the grass again. Their markings help them blend in amongst the tussocks of brown grass stalks.
Not the best of photos of a common blue butterfly but the two seen were flighty in the strong wind. This is the first sighting of the year so far and hopefully indicates a better year than last year for them. Other butterflies noted along the seawall were a painted lady and a large white.
Dotted around the Island's saltmarshes at the moment are pockets of the flowering thrift or sea pink. This patch of thrift pictured above was noted on Saturday at the St Peter's Marsh at West Mersea, as is the picture below.
Where the thrift grows, it flourishes in a reasonable concentration forming an eyecatching display.
The afternoon high tide and the strong wind meant that there was little bird activity. Ten cormorants stood on the shingle spit on Cobmarsh Island and there was the usual gull activity on the Island as well as the nearby Packing Shed with herring, lesser black-backed and black-headed gulls all busy with breeding.
Friday, 15 May 2009
There were several straggling lumps of common fumitory along the inside of the seawall, adding a little bit of colour, as in the picture above.
The kestrel calling near the church where it is nesting, was being fed by its mate who was later seen hunting over the Rewsalls marshes. Along the path a lesser whitethroat and a common whitethroat were heard singing and a handful of swallows passed overhead.
On the marshes one of the 3 lapwings seen was calling anxiously as if there was a nest or young nearby. Six shelduck, little egret, little grebe, moorhen and 12 mallard including 10 ducklings were noted aong the dyke. One or two meadow pipits and skylarks were seen on the fields.
Although the tide was coming in, the only waders seen on the mudflats were about 30 oystercatchers, while six cormorants stood on a distant shingle ridge.
A painted lady butterfly was of interest along the seawall with small white and comma also seen.
An evening walk along the Strood seawall also produced 3 more painted ladies - further sign of a recent immigration from the continent. There may've been more but the evening breeze was quite strong and could've kept them down.
A cuckoo could just be heard calling faintly from the trees on the nearby Ray Island. A short while later the bird flew close-by and landed on some overhead wires near the Firs Chase caravan site being chased by a meadow pipit. It proceeded to "cuckoo" repeatedly for several minutes and it was great just standing to listen to the real sound of spring. The pipit continued to mob the cuckoo which didn't seem to take much notice.
Other birds seen were a pair of avocets flying towards the West Mersea Hard, 2 little terns, 2 common terns, yellow wagtail, 5 singing corn buntings, 3 reed warblers, sedge warbler and a lesser whitethroat.
Despite the threat of overnight rain the moth trap was put out at the park on Thursday night and sure enough the trap was rather wet by the morning. The cloudy and mild conditions brought out a reasonable number of species with 15 noted but at very low numbers of individuals.
This distinctive white ermine pictured above is quite common and has already been seen on a few previous evenings in the last fortnight.
Other moths noted included rustic shoulder knot, shears, coxcomb prominent, chocolate tip, brimstone, cinnabar, green carpet, common carpet, flame shoulder, shuttle shaped dart and common quaker.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
This painted lady butterfly was enjoying the still conditions near the beach at the East Mersea Point on Thursday 14th. Spending some time basking on a path, it was later seen feeding on the flowers of beaked hawksbeard and catsear. For the last couple of days there has been a strong wind and most butterflies were resting out of the windy conditions.
The first painted lady of the spring on the Island was seen by Martin Cock on Tuesday near Meeting Lane. There seems to have been a small influx from the continent of painted ladies recently into Essex and this follows recent observations in southern France of lots of painted ladies heading north.
Also at the Point were 2 wheatears, sparrowhawk crossing back onto the Island, marsh harrier flying east over the Colne, cuckoo calling from near Brightlingsea, common sandpiper, 8 ringed plover, dunlin, whimbrel, 6 black-tailed godwits. There were no black terns in the Colne as have been reported in small numbers elsewhere in East Anglia, although 4 little terns and 5 common terns were noted here. A distant large diver appeared to be a great northern diver, also a great crested grebe.
On the park grazing fields 2 more common sandpipers, greenshank, wigeon, gadwall, 2 shoveler, 8 greylag geese, pair of Canada geese, mallard with 11 small ducklings, 2 lapwing broods still with 4 young each.
There's a report that the swans that nested alongside the dyke were seen with 2 cygnets yesterday. The swans today were feeding along the central ditch and any cygnets around were not in view. In the reeds along the dyke were 3 singing reed warblers and a water vole was seen swimming along the edge.
The kestrel still appears to be occupying the nestbox in an oak tree to the rear of the field. Four house martins were seen from the park today as were 12 swallows as well as 15 sand martins, with 2 swifts passing over yesterday.
A cursory glance alongside a track revealed this adder out soaking up the warmth under the cloudy skies. It's the first adder I've noticed in the park for nearly 3 weeks.
Three green woodpeckers were seen by the park pond with this one seen earlier pecking after ants on the lawn in my back garden. This one was soon joined briefly on a small tree by its mate. Also at the pond were 2 pochard, 6 tufted duck, 4 young coots and 2 pairs of little grebes.
A badger was seen trundling across the field and then quickly disappearing into a nearby hedgerow. At dusk the two nightingales were singing loudly and the little owl was also calling from the nearby Bromans Farm.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
More sunshine on Sunday 10th brought out the first of these uniquely coloured green hairstreaks of the year at the country park. The vivid green metallic colour of the underwings make this an attractive butterfly but often hard to spot. Luckily there was a small active group of 3 or 4 individuals that were very territorial, chasing rivals that came too close. Regularly two hairstreaks would chase each other rapidly round and round at a dizzying speed. When they landed on a nearby bush their green wings made them difficult to find amongst the green leaves.
This is the only site on the Island for these dainty butterflies and a small population has been present since the first pair were seen here 12 years ago. The low numbers here mean that the flight season is short and individuals are only seen during May for 2 or 3 weeks.
The green hairstreaks and several other butterflies were seen along this path leading away from the car park. There are lots of big hawthorn or may bushes around the park which have recently become laden down with white blossom. From a distance some of the bushes are just covered in white flowers nearly obscuring all their green leaves.
Along the sheltered paths, holly blue, orange-tip, green-veined white, small white, speckled wood and peacock butterflies were all noted.
Andy Field took this photo of two foxes that he saw at the back of the park grazing fields on Sunday morning. The two lapwing families with their two broods of 4 chicks each, have done well so far not to have lost any youngsters. However the large mallard brood originally with 13 ducklings has been whittled down to just 3.
The last hour and a half was spent along a windy Reeveshall seawall, watching the sun set over the Pyefleet channel. On the pool 66 black-tailed godwits was a surprise to see feeding furiously but little else here. The only waders other than the usual oystercatchers, seen along the channel fed in one area which included another 30 black-tailed godwits, 10 grey plover, 50 dunlin and a ringed plover. Four common terns and a great crested grebe were noted along the Pyefleet.
Saturday, 9 May 2009
Having lost his companion on Friday, the wood sandpiper was joined by a common sandpiper on Saturday, a slightly dumpier looking wader with a shorter neck. In typical common sandpiper behaviour, it was often seen bobbing the back end of the body up and down several times as it slowly worked its way round the edges of the pools.
The rare sight on these fields of a pair of avocets was a nice sight on Friday evening, and it was even more interesting when the birds proceeded to mate. The picture above shows the male on top of the female after the very drawn out courtship display, where the female stoops down waiting, while the male waded back and forwards, preening his feathers and trying to look his smartest for mating. Soon after they finished, they flew off and will probably try to nest on the nearby saltmarsh pools., where birds have nested before.
The pools have continued to attract a good variety of birds with 5 redshank, greenshank, 8 lapwings including the 8 chicks still, 2 pairs gadwall, 4 shoveler, 30 mallard including 3 ducklings, 12 shelduck, 8 greylag geese, pair of Canada geese, coots, moorhens, black-headed gulls, 3 yellow wagtails and 4 pied wagtails.
A cuckoo flew over the pools on Friday and was chased away by a pied wagtail to the trees near the pond where it started to call - the first cuckoo calls here this year. The male kestrel was seen perched in the tree where the nestbox is located and hopefully the female is sitting inside it. Also in the tree were a pair of stock doves, while a little egret flew past on Saturday evening.
In the park, singing willow warbler and reed warbler were new arrivals on Saturday morning. Martin Cock also reported a newly arrived willow warbler in his West Mersea garden.Two whimbrel flew north-east high over the park calling, while a pair of common terns were much lower when they passed over the middle of the park. On Friday 5 swifts came in off the sea and headed rapidly west across the park. As in recent days several tufted duck and a female pochard were on the park pond
Butterflies seen around the park in the last couple of days have been holly blue, peacock, small white, orange-tip and speckled woods. Some of the dainty looking damselflies have been out for several days and appear to be blue-tailed damselfly and azure damselfly so far.
Received sightings of two adders today, one by the top of the seawall and one presumed youngster from last year, seen in the park.
Andy Field and I walked to the East Mersea Point on Saturday evening, enjoying the still conditions. Both wood and common sandpipers were still on the fields, although the calls of a wood sandpiper were also heard coming from the mudflats by the Point. The greenshank was missing from the fields in the evening and a fox watched over the pools from a nearby hedgeline. Other waders at the Point were 24 dunlin, 20 ringed plover, 5 turnstone and 4 whimbrel flying up river.
Along the river Colne 5 little terns and 6 common terns were busy flying up and down and a common seal was seen in the mouth of the estuary.
Other recent reports include two wheatears seen on Thursday by Coopers Beach by Michael Thorley who also reported the kestrel has laid eggs in the East Mersea church tower. Steve Entwistle saw the tawny owl in Shop Lane on Thursday at dusk
Friday, 8 May 2009
The birds were smaller in size than the redshanks and a greenshank that were also feeding nearby. One of the sandpipers had very spotty upperparts and both had the distinctive pale stripe above the eye.
The least black arches pictured above has been recorded several times in the spring here although generally it has a local distribution. It is a small moth and was nearly missed as it rested on the side of the trap.
Other moths noted were white ermine, lunar marbled brown, spectacle, latticed heath, chinese character, common swift, brindled pug, spruce carpet, herald, common carpet, red twin-spot carpet, hebrew character and brimstone.