Monday, 31 August 2009


This area of "grass" at the country park has been getting browner and more barren through August. The area took its final pounding for the summer on the bank holiday Monday 31st, when a hundred cars had to park here after the main car park had filled up by mid-day.
Apparently parts of Essex recorded only 10 mms of rainfall during August, helping to create the parched landscape here at the park. An earlier posting 4 months ago on this blog on 30th April shows a photo of this area with the wall-to-wall carpet of daisies. Seems such a distant memory now trying to recall the area with green grass!

Despite the dry August the pools in the grazing fields have not quite dried completely up. The Portuguese colour-ringed black-tailed godwit is still finding food in the soft mud as were 3 lapwings, 3 teal and 12 moorhens. On the park pond 20 mallard were the main ducks while the 2 little grebe chicks the most vocal.

Martin Cock noted the female common scoter still off the park on Monday morning at high tide. The little owl was seen again near Bromans Farm, with one heard calling at dusk on Saturday night from Cosways caravan site. Les Bird saw a hobby fly over the park pond on Monday.

A spotted flycatcher was seen on the hedge by the pond on Sunday morning along with 3 blackcaps, 3 willow warbler, chiffchaff, 5 whitethroat and lesser whitethroat.

The moth trap set on Monday night produced about 160 moths of 17 species with the most numerous being the square spot rustic pictured above with 100 individuals noted. Colours of these square spots vary slightly in colour from light brown through dark brown and also a rich brown colour as in the individual above.

This dainty maidens blush moth with its pink blush-marks on the wings, clung to the underside of a leaf on the nearest tree. There have been several records since late spring but never more than the one specimen on each occasion.

On recent nights there have been one or two green carpets as in the picture above. This one flew off and dropped down to the ground trying to blend in amongst the grass.

Several of the tiny Chinese character moths have been coming to the trap in recent nights. When they fold their wings up at rest, they look just like a small bird's dropping. In the middle of the wing is a white squiggle that looks like a character from the Chinese alphabet.

Other moths noted included latticed heath, brimstone, light emerald, large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, flounced rustic, white point, common wainscot, setaceous hebrew character, frosted orange, red twin-spot carpet, cloaked minor and snout.


This hedge near the country park entrance, pictured above, often has one or two migrant birds feeding along it and on Saturday 29th three spotted flycatchers were seen here in the morning. Spotted flycatchers stopped nesting on the Island about 10 years ago and the only ones seen in recent years are the autumn migrants that stop off on their way south. These 3 flycatchers together would appear to be different to the single bird seen near the pond a few days earlier.

The area often catches the morning sun but is sheltered from the westerly winds and is often popular with the roving tit flocks. Other warblers which could've been migrants were 3 blackcaps, 4 willow warblers, 2 chiffchaff, 5 common whitethroats and lesser whitethroat. The nightingale called briefly too, which is the latest date that one of the resident ones has been noted here over recent summers.

Before the crowds arrived onto the park beach for the day 2 wheatears were seen in front of the cliff, 2 whinchats hopped along the seawall and 3 reed buntings were seen at the Point. A rred warbler flew into the reeds alongside the dyke.

Butterfly numbers have dropped off sharply in recent days but those noted include painted lady, red admiral, speckled wood, small heath, large white and small white.

An evening visit to the Pyefleet Channel coincided with the tide pushing the waders close to the shore. Some of the birds such as the gulls fitted in a short snooze before the tide covered the mud. Most of the 40 common terns seen in the area were standing on the brushwood breakwaters as the tide rose.

Whilst scanning through 200 dunlin, a hobby swooped down sending the group scatteing in different directions. The hobby flew slowly past and headed off east where 50 swallows and martins rose into the air. The main waders on show were 300 redshank, with 80 black-tailed godwits, 20 ringed plover, 3 knot, one avocet, whimbrel and a grey plover.

Beside the Reeveshall pool 6 whinchat and 2 wheatears perched on bushes and fences, while on the drying out pool 5 black-tailed godwits, 4 little grebes, wigeon, 3 lapwing and a pair of mute swans were seen. Feeding noisily amongst the large flock of sheep and cattle were 400+ jackdaws and rooks. Two marsh harriers were seen flying over the Langenhoe marsh, opposite East Mersea. A flock of twelve little egrets headed off east to the evening roost, presumably to St Osyth Priory.

Earlier on Saturday morning Graham Willmot watched an osprey from West Mersea flying westwards just 100 metres off the beach below Seaview Avenue.

The moth trap was set on Saturday night at the park and this nicely patterned frosted orange was one of the moths noted. The clear night sky and breeze kept moth numbers low with only about 70 moths of 15 species noted. The most numerous ones were flounced rustics and square spot rustics, while also noted were angle shades, orange shell, rosy rustic, scalloped oak, green carpet and common wainscot.

Friday, 28 August 2009


The fine weather of recent days gave way during Friday 28th to strong winds, increasing cloud with the odd shower, culminating in thunder and lightning passing over in the evening. One black cloud passed to the north and east of the Island in the picture above, presumably soaking Colchester as it went.

The black skies above Brightlingsea to the east of the Island, caught the last pink rays of the setting sun. To the south of the Island another black thunder-cloud passed out to sea leaving Mersea with just a brief shower and dodging the worst of the storm clouds as usual.

There didn't appear to be anything offshore with the evening high tide but a scan of the sea off the park revealed a female common scoter 100 metres from the beach, appearing as a very dark brown duck but with a paler brown face. It was busy diving regularly underwater to feed, staying under for 20 - 30 seconds each time. One or two common scoters are often seen offshore in the winter time but rarely in the summer.

A small group of 25 swallows and 4 sand martins fought their way into the strong wind as they headed west just before dusk. A couple of long tailed tit flocks could be heard calling from the bushes but not much other activity in the blustery conditions.

The pools of water in the fields have shrunk considerably over the last week and 2 lapwings and 8 teal were the only birds noted. At the park pond 25 mallard were making lots of noise, as were the young little grebe chicks, while the swan cygnets are down to two birds. A badger was seen just before nightfall crossing the field by the pond.

Andy Field saw 3 wheatears and 4 whinchats at Reeveshall earlier in the day along with 120 ringed plovers in the Pyefleet. Ten willow warblers seen sheltering from the wind in the Shop Lane wood is a good count.

An osprey was seen yesterday afternoon on Thursday flying north-east over the Mersea Quarters but no sign of it today. Last autumn 3 ospreys were seen in the Salcott Channel area to the west of the Island with one bird staying around for at least a month.

The moth trap operating at the park through a windy Thursday night produced about 90 individuals of 15 species with flounced rustics, square-spot rustics and setaceous hebrew characters the most numerous. Other moths noted were white point, rosy rustic, Chinese character, light emerald, latticed heath, large yellow underwing and lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


It looks like someone has sown an old button onto the face of this canary-shouldered thorn moth, when it was found in the moth trap on the morning of Tuesday 24th. The moth is a regular visitor to the trap at the end of the summer months and like the other thorn moths, holds its wings upright.

The clear sky through Monday night meant the moth catch was an average evening. About 25 macro species were recorded the next morning totalling about 70 moths. The haul included latticed heath, riband wave, chinese character, small white wave, green carpet, common carpet, willow beauty, white ermine, flounced rustic, white-point, dark swordgrass, antler, setaceous hebrew character, square-spot rustic, small square-spot and snout.

There were about 10 light emeralds, one pictured above, in the trap, suggesting a recent emergence of the late summer brood.
Several orange swifts were also noted, pictured below with their wings folded along the sides of the body.

The spotted flycatcher was seen by Steve Entwistle at the back of the grazing fields on Tuesday morning, most likely the same bird first seen near the pond on Saturday night. The nightingale was heard calling by the park entrance at dusk, whereas in previous summers they've normally gone by mid August.

Martin Cock also located a spotted flycatcher on Wednesday morning close to the entrance of the park. There seemed to be a lot of small bird activity along the various hedges and bushes between the park entrance and the pond. It was difficult trying to estimate numbers as they moved around so much but probably 70+ birds mainly following a large mixed tit flock around.

Garden warbler perched briefly by the path, 3 blackcaps, 3 lesser whitethroats, 5 whitethroats, 10 willow warblers, 2 chiffchaffs were the migrants mixing with 30+ long-tailed tits, blue tits, great tits. In the area were robin, dunnock, wren, great spotted woodpecker, goldfinch, chaffinch, song thrush, blackbird, wood pigeon and collared dove. Martin noted one of the Bromans Farm little owls on its regular fenceline just to the north of the park.

The breeze picked up during the day whipping up the sea here in front of the country park by early evening. There was a hint of spits of rain in the wind although the sun blazed hot again in the middle of the day. Recently in the coastal waters, Martin's brother saw 2 harbour porpoises in the river Colne on Sunday near East Mersea Point, while at West Mersea the resident common seal has been seen near the jetty by the Hard.

The pools in the fields have nearly dried up with no sign of the wood sandpiper since Monday morning. The usual mix of other birds were still present with 5 black-tailed godwits, 3 lapwing, 10 teal, 10 mallard and some moorhens.

In the dyke 3 pochard and a tufted duck were seen with little grebes, coots and mallard. Three yellow wagtails flew over calling while earlier two small groups of swifts on passage totalling 12 birds flew west over the park.

One young child searching for bugs and mini-beasts in the long grass in the park, squealed with excitement when this large female wasp spider turned up in her sweep net. Sitting in the hand it looks a fiercesome creature and it's just as well it prefers grasshoppers for its lunch!

Looking like a large painted Easter egg, the bright stripes make it a very colourful spider. This one was located only a few metres away from where the very first one was found in the park nearly 6 years ago.

Monday, 24 August 2009


The Mersea Quarters had returned to some sort of peace on Monday 24th after a hot weekend coincided with the local sailing regatta. Although Monday morning was cloudy, it was warm and muggy with the sun breaking through in the afternoon.

Most of the birds seen were roosting for the high tide on Cobmarsh Island with a small flock of ringed plover, oystercatcher, redshank, dunlin and turnstone. Herring, lesser black-backed and black-headed gulls were also sitting around as the tide approached high-tide. Also noted were common tern, cormorant and 2 great crested grebes.

A few hundred gulls streamed westwards away from West Mersea and it appeared they joined in a massive gull feeding frenzy in the sky above Tollesbury Wick marshes where several thousand gulls circled round, presumably feeding on flying ants.

Five swifts flew over Firs Chase late morning along with several swallows. In the early evening about 50 swallows and a swift were seen passing westwards over a field on the eastern side of West Mersea.

An evening visit to Reeveshall didn't produce anything unexpected with the usual birds at the pool, pictured above. Pair of swans, Canada goose, 6 teal, 6 mallard, 10 lapwing, 4 little grebe, 5 black-tailed godwits and a redshank were the birds noted on the pool.

Many of the waders along the Pyefleet Channel were distant silhouettes scattered across the mudflats. One whimbrel whistled loudly from the nearby saltmarsh. Five marsh harriers flew into the evening roost on Langenhoe Point, just opposite East Mersea.

The last of the sun for the day shone across one of the borrowdykes beside the seawall near Reeveshall. A couple of yellow wagtails flew off the cattle field to their roost.

Glyn Evans walking along the north side of the Island noted the wood sandpiper still at the country park muddy pools, 4 bar-tailed godwits, 4 whimbrel, common sandpiper, 33 little egrets and 5 common seals along the Pyefleet. At West Mersea one arctic tern was seen along with 30 common terns.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


Having been casually checking the outside walls and woodwork on the park buildings over the last fortnight, finally found this red underwing moth resting on the outside of the information room on Sunday 23rd. In previous years this reasonably widespread moth with its strikingly colourful hindwings, has shunned the moth trap but instead has been found resting during the day on the outside of the buildings. It is a large moth with an eyecatching colour combination on its hindwings which flicker red, black and white when it flies.

In the country park the spotted flycatcher was relocated at the rear of the grazing fields and one whinchat was noted in the fields too. Sixteen yellow wagtails were seen in the fields by the cattle.

Had an evening stroll along part of the Strood seawall at the end of another hot day on the Island. Although the tide was out, many of the waders were in silhouette. One greenshank flew along the channel and 2 green sandpipers flew overhead calling. Five little egrets and a grey heron stalked the shallow channel, whilst many gulls arrived for the evening roost.

Three swifts were still flying around the houses, although most appear to have left a fortnight ago. Twenty swallows flew over the Dabchicks area of West Mersea and a few more flying over nearby houses. In one thick bramble bush about 25 house sparrows chirped loudly as they tried to settle for the evening roost. A corn bunting perched on some overhead wires.

Andy Field had a hobby fly over his West Mersea house in the evening and also noted a large privet hawkmoth caterpillar in his garden. Martin Cock reported a hummingbird hawkmoth in his Broomhills garden.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Various dragonflies such as this ruddy darter have been seen around the park over the last few days. The bright red abdomen of the males makes it an attractive insect to watch. Several males have set up their territories along one of the paths and any other ruddy darter that strays too close is quickly chased away.

Other dragonflies seen include lots of migrant hawkers also along paths and around the trees. A brown hawker was seen by the park entrance on Thursday 20th and a few southern hawkers have been noted too. One or two emperors have been hawking over the park pond.

An evening walk on Saturday 22nd along the park seawall provided views of 2 whinchats perching on the tops of thistles and bramble bushes between the two grazing fields. These are the first passage whinchats here at the park this autumn. Also noted were nine yellow wagtails flew over the park calling, six had been seen beside the cows at the pond the day before. In the dyke pictured above were 3 young pochard as well as several mallard. In the reeds along the edge were 3 reed warblers calling.

The most interesting sighting of the evening walk was a spotted flycatcher feeding actively around some tall blackthorn trees near the park pond. In characteristic fashion, the bird perched on branches on the outer side of the trees, dart out to catch an insect and then fly back to the perch again. There were probably lots of evening insects to catch as it never stayed still for long. Unfortunately the bird couldn't be relocated 15 minutes later and we will have to wait to see if any other spotted flycatchers turn up on the Island this autumn.

On the muddy pools in the fields the wood sandpiper is still present for it's 10th day, which is by far a record stay for one of these birds here on Mersea. Also on the pools were 4 black-tailed godwits, 13 teal, 2 lapwing some mallard and moorhens. A three-quarters grown fox cub walked across the fields where it then sat down briefly near the pools. After watching my wife Nolly and I through the hedge, it picked up a plastic bag tossing it playfully into the air several times. It soon wandered off past the pond. Towards dusk 3 badgers were seen crossing the pond field, disappearing quickly into the hedge at the bottom. Two nightingales called to each other near the park entrance as the light faded.

Whilst walking past the toilet block on Friday, this large brown Old Lady moth pictured above flew off the side of the building and landed straight into a nearby rubbish bin filled with ice cream wrappers and lots of wasps! After lots of rummaging amongst the litter, I managed to collect the moth so that I could have a close look at it. After letting it fly in my back garden, it flew straight through my doors and into the house where-upon I lost it and couldn't find it. It was relocated the next day and released back into the park.

Although the Old Lady is a common moth, usually just the one individual gets noted each year here and its large size makes it more interesting and distinctive moth. The brown shawl-like markings draped over its wings are supposed to look like a shawl over the shoulders of an old woman.

John Dobson kindly informed me he had seen a clouded yellow butterfly earlier on his walk alongside the park borrowdyke on Friday morning. As he was telling me about the sighting, the colourful butterfly fluttered past us giving us a brief view of this scarce immigrant.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Could only find the time to visit the fields along the Strood late in the evening of Wednesday 19th. Martin Cock had a good view of a rare male ortolan bunting early in the morning perching up on bushes in this hedgerow pictured above and also watched it drop into the grass to feed. The eye-ring was very noticeable and the orangey belly was a distinctive feature too when viewed at a range of about 20 metres.

The ortolan was associating with lots of other small birds including yellowhammer, 15 or so corn buntings, 25 house sparrows and one or two reed buntings. The birds were disappearing into the rough grassland field to feed, before returning back to the bushes in the hedgerow. Martin alerted Andy Field once he got home but a two hour search later in the morning failed to provide any further sightings of the bird. The ortolan bunting is a rare visitor to Essex and has not been recorded on Mersea Island before.

By the time of my visit in the last hour of daylight, all the small birds had gone to roost. However the most interesting sighting were 2 young cuckoos perching in the same bush beside the reedbed near the seawall. Both cuckoos were very brown and barred and flew off in opposite directions, leaving behind an upset reed warbler still scolding at their presence. A handful of reed warblers could be heard calling along the length of the reedbed.

Three swifts and a swallow flying overhead were the only small birds noted and there was no sign of the whinchat that Andy had seen earlier in the day. At least 6 little egrets could be seen flying to roost in the trees on Ray Island. Light was poor for wader spotting along the Strood Channel although a few hundred gulls were gathering on the mud to roost for the night.

Today has been one of the hottest days of the year at around 26 or 27 degrees with the sea breeze helping to keep the air a bit cooler. The recent sunny and dry spell has turned the park brown and parched, as in the photo above with all the green colour gone out of the grass.

The sunny weather is perfect for the reptiles and this common lizard was basking amongst a pile of cardboard in my back garden at the park.

The wood sandpiper was still present for its seventh day on the rapidly shrinking pools on the grazing fields. Also present were 6 black-tailed godwits including the Portuguese bird, also 8 teal, 4 mallard, lapwing and 6 moorhens.

Ten yellow wagtails flew over the park during Tuesday, the most seen in a day this year at the park. Good numbers of warblers were still present along the hedgerows near the pond including whitethroats, lesser whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and willow warblers, probably amounting to 50 birds as well as the roving tit flock.

Three wheatears were seen by Martin near the Reeveshall pool on Monday, along with 90+ avocets and 7 marsh harriers on Langenhoe.

Lots of setaceous hebrew character moths pictured above, are turning up at the trap at the park at the moment with a trapping session on Sunday night producing about 30 macro species. Not so many latticed heaths as the previous night but about ten sandhill rustics was of interest. Two poplar hawkmoths, iron prominent, 4 swallow prominents, willow beauty, common carpet, orange swift, spectacle and light emerald were some of the moths noted.

Clive and Lyn Pickering alerted me to the unusually loud tropical chirping sound coming from the lower section of Kingsland road at dusk on Monday. With the help of a torch we found a small cricket hiding in a crack in a brick wall rubbing its wings together to make each loud chirp. It appears to be a house cricket which is native in the Mediterranean but often kept in this country by reptile and amphibian enthusiasts as food for their animals.

Sunday, 16 August 2009


Had an evening visit on Sunday 17th along the Pyefleet Channel to look at the waders gathering together on the mud as the tide came in. The viewing conditions were ideal and the tide similar to a fortnight earlier but not nearly the same interesting variety of waders.

The redshank were the most numerous with 200 birds noted including two colour-ringed birds. Seventy black-tailed godwits were also seen along with small numbers of avocet, grey plover, golden plover, dunlin, ringed plover, curlew and turnstone. Greenshank and whimbrel were only heard.

Several little terns and a few common terns hunted along the channel with 5 little egrets seen in flight and 2 grey herons also noted. Two marsh harriers were seen flying around the Langenhoe marshes but otherwise the harrier activity was quiet.

The Reeveshall pool didn't hold much other than 25 lapwings, 5 black-tailed godwits, 10 teal, 4 dabchicks and a Canada goose. However there was the first whinchat of the autumn for the Island perching on a fence by the pool along with two wheatears nearby.

Earlier in the day the wood sandpiper was still present along with 2 green sandpipers on the pools at the country park. There was an increase in warbler activity between the park entrance and the pond with 20 whitethroats, 8 lesser whitethroats, 4 willow warblers, 3 chiffchaffs and 2 blackcaps mingling with a mixed tit flock. The nightingale also called from its regular hedge near the entrance.

Also around the park were seen several painted ladies, common blue, lots of hedge browns, large whites, small whites, speckled wood and small heaths. The first brown hawker of the summer was flying above a sheltered corner of the dyke. Also ruddy darter, common darter, southern hawker, migrant hawker and the emperor were also noted around the park.

The main feature of the mothing session on the Saturday night were the large numbers of latticed heaths present, one pictured above. By dawn the next morning nearly 200 latticed heaths were counted in and around the trap, as seen in the picture below. In previous years there have been large numbers visiting traps operating close to the Essex coast, so it will be interesting to find out if good numbers of latticed heaths have been noted elsewhere, suggesting an immigration from the continent.

Despite the clear sky and a breeze there were over 30 species noted at the trap with poplar hawkmoth, swallow prominent, several sandhill rustics, straw underwing, copper underwing, white-point and silver Y's.

A brown hare was forced out into the open after its wheat-field by Bromans Lane was harvested by the farmer.


Another hot and sunny Saturday 15th enticed the crowds to come flocking to the beaches on Mersea. Even the mute swans at the country park waddled across the sand in search of the sea. Dad swan led mum and cygnet up and over the seawall, down onto the beach on the other side and then across the mudflats. However the cygnet soon realised the tide was out and decided against the long waddle across the mud and turned back to shore with mum following behind.

The wood sandpiper was still present on the pools in the park grazing fields for its third day. It seemed happy feeding regularly as it waded through and around the shallow pools. Also present were the two green sandpipers, 10 teal and 5 black-tailed godwit including the colour-ringed bird from Portugal.
Andy Field and I were very surprised to see a kingfisher flash over the pools three times before heading off. This is the first sighting of this autumn on the Island and as always just a fleeting glimpse of the bird in flight.

An evening walk on the Rewsalls marshes near to the Coopers Beach caravan site in East Mersea, provided one or two sightings of note. In a field of bramble scrub by the football pitch 150 linnets arrived and sat around on the bush tops. Also a few goldfinches and greenfinches flying around too and two green woodpeckers noted too.

In a recently cultivated field 320 golden plover were counted as they roosted in a group. The only other waders seen during this high tidewalk were 3 ringed plover and a turnstone on the Youth Camp beach. Walking back along the seawall an adult Mediterranean gull passed overhead with some other gulls. Offshore small flocks of gulls were seen and one or two common terns too.

Friday, 14 August 2009


This large female wasp spider was hugging its bound-up insect caught in its web in the long grass at the park on Thursday 13th. A second wasp spider was also close by and no doubt a closer look amongst the long grass would reveal more of them. Other insects seen around the park included a dozen painted ladies, comma, common blue, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, large white, small white. Also ruddy darter, migrant hawker, southern hawker, emperor dragonfly and blue-tailed damselfly.

The main wildlife highlight of the day was a wood sandpiper found on the pools on the park grazing fields by Andy Field. The bird is a nicely marked individual with some bright white spots on the wings. It has been feeding actively as it wades through the shallow water, picking at insects on the surface.
Having waited ten years since a wood sandpiper was last seen on these fields, this individual is now the sixth wood sandpiper to have visited these fields since early May. Also feeding in the pools were 2 green sandpipers and 6 black-tailed godwits including the colour-ringed Portuguese bird.

Along the park beach Andy found 2 wheatears on Thursday morning although the first birds seen were by a regular dog-walker who reported 3 birds on the seawall the day before. Along the dyke were sedge warbler and reed warblers while 2 yellow wagtails flew overhead.

In the park there were a couple of willow warblers, chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats. Amongst a group of 100 hirundines flying around to the north of the park was one swift, the first for a few days as numbers appear to have dropped off recently. On the nearby mudflats 80 golden plover were noted along with at least 100 black-tailed godwits.


A few more interesting moths turned up at the moth trap on the night of Tuesday 11th with the park's first record of this pretty gold spot moth. At certain angles the small gold markings on its "back" and the silvery-white spots on the wings sparkled in the light. It appears to be found close to damp places with the caterpillars feeding on sedges and yellow iris, although in Essex it is found mainly along the coast and is listed as being scarce.

An even scarcer moth is the one on the right hand side in the photo above which is the sandhill rustic, along side the much commoner flounced rustic on the left. The sandhill rustic has been recorded at the park before and is a coastal species feeding on saltmarsh grasses. Although it is nationally scarce it is a common moth along the Essex coast.

The second record of a tree lichen beauty this summer here was found in the trap the next morning. This small moth with greenish markings is an immigrant from the continent.

The very distinctive latticed heath with its chequerboard markings was the most numerous moth in the trap with about a dozen individuals noted. Other moths found included poplar hawkmoth, copper underwing, white-point, pale prominent, coxcomb prominent, single dotted wave, riband wave, magpie, willow beauty and several lesser broad-bordered yellow underwings.

Several painted ladies have been feeding on the last few buddleia flowers along with a small tortoiseshell and comma. The first holly blue of the summer was also seen close to the car park.

A Meditteranean gull flew over the car park on Monday evening and 100 sand martins were still flying around the fields near Ivy Lane in East Mersea. The two green sandpipers, 5 black-tailed godwits and up to 10 teal have been on the grazing field pools on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th.

Monday, 10 August 2009


Lapwings continue to feed at the shallow pools in the park grazing fields with 3 birds seen on Sunday 9th August. The pools have managed to hold some water throughout the summer months so far although in recent days they appear to be contracting leaving more mud exposed.

A couple of green sandpipers have been seen feeding in the muddy pools. Also seen on the pools was a greenshank, 5 black-tailed godwits, dunlin, 10 teal, 5 mallard and a handful of moorhens.

This black-tailed godwit shows some colour-rings with a small black flag on its legs. This has helped to track the bird back to near Lisbon in Portugal where it was ringed last November. We have been able to keep the Portuguese researcher who ringed the bird, updated on the bird's feeding habits. The rich feeding in the muddy pools meant it was tricky trying to get a photo of the bird with its head still, as it moved its beak rapidly up and down like a sewing machine. The bird was first seen here on the 10th July and has been present nearly every day since then, along with a handful of other black-tailed godwits.

This rabbit seen in front of the hide by the pond is showing signs of having myxomatosis with the distinctive swollen eyes. Unfortunately the large numbers of rabbits around the park mean that a large proportion of them will succumb to the disease in the coming weeks.

On the pond were 20 mallard, little grebes, tufted duck and duckings, mute swans with 3 cygnets, moorhens and various coot families. The nightingale was heard calling by the park entrance late in the evening on Saturday night. At least one young sparrowhawk is still calling out from the trees in the south-west corner of the park.

This field corner by the Golfhouse dyke at the east end of the Island was packed with lots of sand martins. About 200 birds sat in the bushes in the hedges, with others flying around while others dropped down onto the horse paddock to tug at what appeared to be the short grass with their beaks. Every so often the whole flock which included a few swallows and at least one house martin would take to the air, fly around and then drop back down again. About a quarter of the sand martins appeared to be youngsters.

Also in the field were a couple of yellow wagtails feeding near the horses, with whitethroats and lesser whitethroats seen in the hedges too.

On the estuary 200 black-tailed godwits were seen on the outer edge of the mudflats along with a single ruff. Thirty avocets were feeding on the eastern side of the river Colne by Brightlingsea. Twenty little terns were seen on the mud by Langenhoe Point and also a couple of common terns while one marsh harrier was noted too.

The moth trap was operated on Sunday night on a warm evening with a bit of cloud cover. This pebble hook-tip pictured above, was one of the more distinctive moths found at dawn the next morning. About 40 species of macro moth were noted but with low numbers of each species. Other moths noted included white-line dart, maidens blush, blood vein, red twin-spot carpet, lime-speck pug, peacock, poplar hawkmoth, iron prominent, dingy footman, ruby tiger, white-point, reed dagger, copper underwing and latticed heath.

The antler moth is generally a widespread moth but this individual is the first record for the park. This one has some fresh markings where the white line in the centre of the wings nearly show signs of antler-type markings that give the moth its name.

Saturday, 8 August 2009


Made the annual visit just off the Island to the garden of Hugh Owen at Langenhoe on Friday 7th to check for the nationally rare white-spotted pinion moth. Sadly the moth decided not to show on the night. Joe Firmin and Ian Rose of the Essex Moth Group in the picture above check one of the five traps.

This very plain cresent striped moth was the most notable find, listed as nationally scarce, it's a coastal species reliant on saltmarsh grasses as the foodplant for its larvae. It's not been recorded on Mersea yet but it's quite likely to occur as individuals have been found to the east and the west of the Island.

Other moths noted on the night included lesser spotted pinion, black arches, poplar hawkmoth, bulrush wainscot, iron prominent, ruby tiger, white point, magpie, flounced rustic, red twin-spot carpet, maidens blush, cypress pug, canary-shouldered thorn and cream-bordered green pea.

An evening visit on Saturday 8th to Reeveshall provided a hazy sunset over the pool. Birds here included the adult and young avocet, green sandpiper, snipe, 4 little grebe and 10 lapwing. Two hobbies were watched flying high over the Pyefleet Channel to Langenhoe, before returning back high over the Oyster Fishery building. They homed in rapidly on a large flock of 150 sand martins with the first hobby diving down onto one martin. Immediately the second hobby joined in the hunt and also dived down after another martin. Despite the twists, turns and more stoops both hobbies were unsuccessful and flew off high.

There was plenty of mud on show along the Pyefleet with a reasonable wader tally of 15 species noted. These included greenshank, whimbrel, avocet, grey plover, golden plover, ringed plover several avocets and the regular redshank, curlew, black-tailed godwits, turnstone and oystercatcher.

Also seen were 3 marsh harriers, 25 little terns, 10 common terns, yellow wagtail and two shelduck broods.

The little owl was sitting beside the East Mersea road at Weir Farm just after nightfall.

Earlier in the day willow warblers were heard in Firs Chase, Broomhills road and 3 were noted off Meeting Lane.