Sunday, 27 June 2010
The ruddy darter is a common summer dragonfly on the Island, emerging ahead of the common darters. The pretty male ruddy darter is recognised by its red colouration and distinctive pinched-in abdomen.
The darters were close to this ditch at St Peters Meadow, presumably where they recently emerged from and where they will be laying eggs in the next few weeks. There were also lots of blue-tailed and azure damselflies on and beside the water.
A few butterflies were also enjoying the sunshine with this faded male common blue butterfly, pictured above, stopping briefly on the path next to me. Also seen were small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, large skipper, small skipper, small white, holly blue and red admiral.
Three reed warblers sang briefly, as did a whitethroat, while 14 long-tailed tits played follow-the-leader through the bushes.
Two sandwich terns called out as they flew east from Cobmarsh Island at the entrance to the Mersea Quarters. The shiny head of a common seal bobbed up to the water surface every so often, also beside Cobmarsh.
It wasn't too surprising to find lots of sheep in the heat of the middle of the day beside the Reeveshall pool on Saturday 19th. Unfortunately it meant there weren't any birds to be seen by the pool and with the tide still covering most of the mud in the Pyefleet Channel, not many birds noted here either.
Two male and a female marsh harrier were seen on Langenhoe, where 18 gadwall flying past was of interest. A lone brent goose was seen on nearby Pewit Island along with a young brood of greylag geese while 25 grey plover and 20 black-tailed godwits roosted during the high tide. A brood of 11 shel-ducklings were still present in the Pyefleet
Friday, 25 June 2010
Unfortunately the skies cleared just after midnight revealing plenty of moon-light.
Conditions were perfect just after dusk with masses of flies, mosquitoes, caddis flies and moths coming into the lights. Interesting beetles noted were 2 great silver diving beetles, lesser stag beetle and a few summer chafers. Several pipistrelle bats were also swooping low over the traps and close-by, five of them were showing interest in a roost site they used last summer, behind weatherboarding on the toilet building in the car park.
Checking the traps just after daylight broke had to be done reasonably promptly before some of the moths flew off with the increasing daylight and also before blackbirds and crows helped themselves to the easy pickings.
Just over 200 moths of nearly 50 species of macro moth were noted, making it a worthwhile session.
Amongst all the usual familiar moths, was this delicate small orange moth fluttering about which looked interesting and one I didn't recognise. This is the rare vagrant Rannoch looper moth, which will have arrived here from the continent with the recent warm winds. It had been very rare in Essex until last June when at least five were recorded just in the one month, involving 3 at Maldon, one at nearby Old Hall Marshes and a fifth in the west of the county. I'm sure the moth has already been recorded this month from other sites in Essex.
The picture below shows the Rannoch looper in typical pose with the wings held vertically, although after a while it lowered the wings down. Luckily it's not a flighty moth like some of the small ones and this one was happy to pose for photos.
Some of the ther moths noted included figure of 80, common emerald, blood vein, riband wave, single-dotted wave, barred straw, barred yellow, small yellow wave, scorched wing, mottled beauty, bordered white, pebble prominent, buff-tip, double square-spot, shark, poplar grey, small angle shades, dark arches, light arches, green silver-lines, middle-barred minor and lots of marbled minors.
A few hawkmoths were also noted with the first pine hawkmoth of the summer, pictured above, found resting on the grass a few metres from the trap. Also seen were a couple of elephant hawks, privet hawk and an eyed hawkmoth.
This sand dart stood out from the other moths because of its almost whitish colour and the finely traced markings. It was the other notable moth for the night as it's a nationally rare moth, restricted to coastal sites, where the larval foodplant are a number of strandline plants. It has been recorded here before but not for about four years, so it was good to see it is still present.
The aptly named and distinctive leopard moth with it's black spots, was found resting on some grass nearby. One or two are often seen during the summer trapping sessions here.
This blotched emerald hasn't been recorded from the park before although it's quite a widespread moth elsewhere.
On Thursday evening I visited Adrian Amos' garden in East Road in the middle of West Mersea, as he'd just seen 4 turtle doves coming to the birdseed in his back garden. Needless to say I didn't catch up with them but I did see several mullein moth caterpillars, photo above, feeding on his mullein plants. Earlier in the day the Bromans Lane turtle dove was heard singing near the park.
A male marsh harrier was hunting low over the fields near the East Mersea Pick Your Own early on Thursdy evening. A Mediterranean gull flew over the park in the morning and Neil Mortimer also reported seeing one recently at the Youth Camp.
During a late afternoon walk along the Strood seawall on Friday, I was surprised to get so close to this corn bunting. Normally they are quite wary but this one allowed me to get within 5 metres and point the camera at it. I think it was probably a female with some food in it's bill as the jangling song of the male could be heard close-by.
A male marsh harrier quartered the fields inside the Strood seawall, flying low along ditches and occasionally dropping down to rest. At one point it swooped down and was lunged at by a hen pheasant, presumably trying to protect her chicks. The harrier must have got something as it flew off and after landing briefly on a nearby track to pluck at it's feet, it climbed into the air, spiralling higher and higher heading off to the south-west - probably taking some food to its family at Old Hall.
There was no sign of the yellow-legged gull that has been seen recently from the Strood. Other birds noted included sparrowhawk, kestrel, yellow wagtail, reed buntings and a few reed warblers. Despite it being low tide, there were few waders to see other than 12 redshank and a few curlew, oystercatchers and lapwings.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
The first half-dozen small skippers of the summer were keeping low to the ground and out of the breeze. The orange-tips of the antennae as in this photo above, help to separate this moth from the similar Essex Skipper with its black-tipped antennae. Other butterflies seen around the park include a few meadow browns, small heath, large skipper, common blue, red admiral, speckled wood and holly blue.
This colourful clump of birdsfoot trefoil seemed to buzz with life with a handful of small skippers feeding as did a common blue, a couple of six-spot burnets and a Mother Shipton moth amongst the most conspicuous insects.
Had a late evening walk around the park on Monday as the sun dropped down, provding this view from the hide. A female pochard dropped onto the pond and quickly scuttled into the reedmace. The pair of swans were still looking after their single cygnet, while it appeared there were two families of little grebes also present.
On the pools in the grazing fields 2 green sandpipers were present, along with a black-tailed godwits, 4 redshank chicks, as well as 2 teal and a pair of shoveler.
The moth trap operating through Tuesday night produced 24 species of macro-moth but with low numbers of most except for the cinnabars. Numbers of the common dark arches, one well marked individual pictured above, are slowly increasing as we head into mid-summer. This moth will be the most numerous moth in the trap in a couple of weeks time. Other moths noted included eyed-hawkmoth, common swift, green carpet, sandy carpet, garden carpet, clouded silver, barred yellow, barred straw, single dotted wave, mottled beauty, buff-tip, buff ermine, white ermine, flame, heart and dart, large yellow underwing, white point, marbled minor and middle-barred minor.
This small fan-foot is the first record for the park, although with a widespread distribution across Essex, it's probably surprising it hasn't been noted here before. The larva feed on the healthy and withered leaves of a variety of broadleaf trees such as oak, birch and hawthorn.This shoulder-striped wainscot is a common moth of grasslands and with plenty of that habitat here, several are regularly recorded at the trap throughout June.
Sunday, 20 June 2010
The grass is some parts of the park is already turning brown with the lack of recent rain. A couple of six-spot burnet moths were staying low in the long grass in the cool breeze.
The pools of water in the fields are shrinking fast, although the rapidly growing docks and rushes are still making the most of the damp conditions. The green sandpiper was still present, as were 15 black-tailed godwits. It was pleasing to see 4 well-grown redshank chicks feeding at the pools, as it has been almost a month since three small chicks were first spotted, with no sightings in between. As well as several well-grown lapwing chicks still being present, a new young chick was also seen.
Amongst the 20+ mallard were two drake teal, which is a bit unusual for early summer here.
The cuckoo was heard calling from the park, while along the dyke 4 singing reed warblers were heard and a pair of tufted ducks were present.
At the Point 3 male reed buntings were singing from the sea-blite bushes, where 4 linnets were also noted. On the mud nearby 2 golden plover and a ringed plover were seen as were 25 curlew and 40+ oystercatchers. A couple of little terns flew past while a Mediterannean gull flew east over the Point crossing the river Colne to Point Clear. There was no sign of the brent goose that was standing on the beach near the Point yesterday.
Saturday, 19 June 2010
This common yellow shell moth was seen fluttering around some bushes, hiding briefly amongst the foliage before flying a short distance to another bush. Quite a few have already been seen over the last few weeks during the day, flying between bushes or out of hedgerows as you walk past. One or two six-spot burnet moths were resting low down amongst the long grass, waiting for the weather to warm up.
The horse paddock beside the Golfhouse, to the north of the park, has an eyecatching yellow carpet of creeping buttercups, covering most of the small field. Not much fodder for the horses but certainly a colourful scene to look at. A few swallows were flying around hawking after insects and also the welcome sight of one or two house martins which appeared to be gathering mud for nest-building at the Golfhouse. Unfortunately the mud was being collected from a saltmarsh creek, which isn't as strong as "freshwater" mud. House martins used to nest on the Golfhouse up until about 25 years ago but their salt-muddy nests often crumbled down.
In the grazing fields a green sandpiper joined the 15 black-tailed godwits on the muddy pools. There were still various lapwing chicks feeding amongst the clumps of docks with their parents watching closely over them nearby. Twenty mallard rested on the pools with a couple of broods of 7 and 12 ducklings noted. A fox cub was seen at the back of the fields also watching over the various birdlife on the pools. On the park pond two young little grebe chicks were seen for the first time and there was still a male tufted duck also present.
A check on this sandy cliff at the park revealed about 20 sand martin nest holes being used this summer. Last year's count was 90 holes but those were noted later in the summer, after the usual mid-summer influx involving families arriving with their youngsters reared somewhere else. A green woodpecker and a family of pied wagtails were seen on the beach in the morning.
At the end of the day a little owl was seen standing on a gatepost just inside the park as the light faded.
Friday, 18 June 2010
It stayed overcast with a northerly breeze for most of the day. Several sand martins and a house martin were hawking over these bushes and trees for insects in the early evening, while during the afternoon there was a steady passage of at least 50 swifts seen passing westwards.
Not much to report about any birds being seen at the park over the last few days. Two great spotted woodpeckers flew over the car park today as did a green woodpecker. The nightingales have virtually stopped singing although they are still regularly calling from inside bushes.
On the muddy pools in the grazing fields 15 black-tailed godwits, 10 redshank, pair of oystercatchers and at least a dozen lapwings including chicks of various ages. Two young broods of mallard ducklings fed in the pools with 20 adult mallard, pair of shelduck and a shoveler also present. A fox cub watched the proceedings from the edge of the field.
There seems to be a bumper crop of six-spot burnet moth caterpillars, one pictured above, on all the clumps of birds' foot trefoil plants in the park. Many caterpillars have already climbed up grass stalks to pupate and already there seems to be hundreds of the small papery cocoons scattered across the long grass in one area of the park. In fact the first couple of moths have already emerged, although in the dull weather, they stayed inactive.
The first meadow brown butterfly of the summer fluttered across the car park on Wednesday while an orange-tip seen on Tuesday was probably the last of the year.
A moth trap that was checked on Wednesday morning had a below average catch in it with about 30 moths of 14 species noted. These two species of common ermine moth in the photo above were noted, the white ermine on the left and the buff ermine on the right.
The ghostly coloured light emerald moth is a regular visitor to the trap at the moment, with its washed-out pale green colouring.
A walk along the Strood seawall on Thursday evening provided views of a male marsh harrier hunting over the fields and then crossing to Ray Island. A cuckoo flew along the dyke, while a yellowhammer flew past and perched briefly on a bush near the caravan site before flying off north-west to Copt Hall. A brown hare crossed Bromans Lane at dusk on Thursday.
A male marsh harrier was also seen on Wednesday morning hunting beside the East Mersea road at Bocking Hall while two little owls were seen at dusk - one at Bromans Lane and the other near Meeting Lane. A pair of avocets on the pools near the Point look as if they may be nesting.
Monday, 14 June 2010
A yellow wagtail also dropped down to the water's edge, juvenile grey heron also seen in the dyke, while nearby a corn bunting sang from the field. Also heard during the walk were a sedge warbler, 3 reed buntings and 4 reed warblers singing. A Mediterranean gull flew over the nearby houses calling and a kestrel was watched hovering over the seawall.
The tide was up along the Strood so not much to be seen here, although 85 herring gulls with a few lesser black-backed gulls roosted on the Ray saltings, while a curlew, 4 shelduck and a little tern were also noted.
This little brown butterfly caught my eye as I walked through an area of long grass and flowers near the Firs Chase caravan site. This picture confirms it as a brown argus butterfly with the arrangement of various spots on the underwing separating it from a female common blue - several of which were also flying around nearby.
The brown argus has been elusive on the Island in recent years since it was first discovered on Reeveshall about 1997. It arrived at a time when the population in north Essex seemed to have rapidly expanded. After a few years of individuals being seen in several localities on the Island, numbers have since dwindled. The last one I saw was beside the Pyefleet seawall near the Oyster Fishery about 3 summers ago.
Other butterflies seen during this Strood walk included a red admiral, peacock, common blue, large white, small white, green-veined white and small heath.
The sunshine brought many dragonflies out beside the watercourses with emperor, four-spotted chaser, hairy dragonfly, large red damselfly, azure damselfly and blue-tailed damselfly all noted.
This Mother Shipton moth with the distinctive markings of the old lady's face, was seen flying low amongst the long grass. One of the few day-flying moths of meadows and old grasslands, it seems to be a slightly better year for them, compared with previous summers.
Also seen were several colourful cinnabar moths with the red and black wings.
Trying to stay unnoticed on a thistle plant was this angle shades moth, which would have been better camouflaged if it rested on the ground amongst the brown leaves.
Sunday, 13 June 2010
The privet hawkmoth is the largest resident macro-moth in the UK with a wingspan of 12 cms. It would appear to be a widespread moth on the Island, as it is across the rest of Essex, regularly noted around gardens where the caterpillars feed on privet, lilac and ash. I've also come across one feeding on leaves of the guelder rose bush.
From those big macro-moths, to these dainty and delicate micro-moths pictured above, seen fluttering around a bush at St Peters. These moths pictured above belong to the group known as longhorn moths because of the very long antennae of the males. Sheltering out of the breeze, about 30 moths danced up in the air, waving their antennae as they flew, before settling back down on the foliage below. This micro-moth doesn't have an English name, only Nemophora degeerella so apologies for the Latin here!
Two other day-flying moths seen along the meadow were the cinnabar and the Mother Shipton. Along the St Peters ditch was a bright-blue male Emperor dragonfly hawking up and down when the sun came out.
Birds noted included a female kestrel, 2 singing reed warblers and 2 singing whitethroats, several swallows swooping over the marsh, house sparrow and goldfinch were also seen as was a great crested grebe near Cobmarsh Island.
Over Firs Chase a pair of Mediterranean gulls and a sparrowhawk were seen later in the day.
The Strood seawall on Saturday 12th provided views of lots of these pretty purple flowers of salsify. The cloud cover late in the morning prolonged the flower display as they normally close up in the middle of the day if the sun shines. A cousin of the more familiar yellow flower, goatsbeard, they are often known as Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.
This little patch of poppies waved about in the breeze by the Strood seawall.
Birds noted on the walk which coincided with the high tide, included 50 swifts, 2 sedge warblers, 4 reed warblers, corn bunting and 3 reed buntings, while the cuckoo could be heard calling from Ray Island. One or two little terns and common terns were seen flying along the Channel.
Thursday, 10 June 2010
There was a nice variety of waders noted both on the Reeveshall pool and in the Pyefleet as the tide came in. The 12 species seen included spotted redshank, 2 green sandpipers, 45 bar-tailed godwits, 35 black-tailed godwits, 2 golden plover, 25 grey plover, 10 curlew, 20 dunlin, avocet along with several redshank, oystercatchers and lapwings (including a chick on the pool).
Other birds seen were tufted duck, pair of shoveler, 11 shel-ducklings, Mediterranean gull and a pair of marsh harriers on Reeveshall.
Within a few minutes of arriving on the seawall just west of the Oyster Fishery building, in the distance in the photo above, there was a great view provided by a barn owl, hunting the long grass field two hours before dusk. A distant digiscoped photo below was hurriedly snapped in the bright evening sunshine before it resumed hunting.
A male yellowhammer perched in a hedge, common whitethroat sang, as did a distant cuckoo, while in the dyke a little egret and a tufted duck were seen. Two grey herons flew over and the male marsh harrier from Langenhoe came over to East Mersea to hunt and within ten minutes, returned to pass its prey to the female in a mid-air food-pass.
The moth trap was set during Wednesday night and this eyed hawkmoth pictured above, was a notable addition to the seasons trapping. The moth was peparing for take-off and the rapid fluttering of wings to warm them up, helped to reveal the colourful "eyes" on the hindwings.
Thirty moth species were noted the next morning including elephant hawkmoth, cream-spot tiger, pale tussock, white ermine, pebble prominent, light emerald, brimstone, cinnabar, common carpet, sandy carpet, green carpet, waved umber, clouded silver, flame, flame shoulder, shoulder-striped wainscot, marbled minor, middle-barred minor, large yellow underwing, large nutmeg and common swifts.
At the park on Thursday 4 adders were noted and a common lizard on a fencepost. A couple of common blue butterflies were the first of the season amongst the long grass. A couple of silver Y moths and Mother Shipton moth were feeding during the day.
On Wednesday the cuckoo was calling along the cliff at the park and 2 nightingales were heard, although only the one appears to be still singing now. Three adders were out basking in the sunshine. A painted lady flew rapidly across the car park in the morning, as if it was on north-westerly passage, following the same route as a painted lady the previous day. Perhaps the start of a larger influx, like the one last spring.
On Sunday Martin Cock had a good view of a peregrine at Maydays farm.
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Whilst watching 2 fox cubs playing with the vixen along the back of the grazing fields late in the morning, a third cub was spotted close to a muntjac deer. The cub seemed as if it wanted to play with the deer, or maybe just provoke it. At one point it bounded cheekily over to the deer, which quickly turned its head round, ready to repel the over-playful cub. The cub quickly stopped its charge and the deer carried on browsing a bramble bush. A fourth cub was also seen nearby and once the whole family had retreated into the hedge, the muntjac headed back to the copse behind the pond.
On the pools in the fields, topped up with overnight rain, were about 5 lapwing chicks from 3 broods, although no sign of the redshank chicks. Four adults were present as was the resident black-tailed godwit with the droopy wing, while also in the area were a pair of stock doves and a singing reed warbler from the back hedge. At the pond 2 tufted ducks and a male pochard were noted.
In the car park the two nightingales were heard singing as was the cuckoo at the end of the day. A marsh harrier was mobbed by crows as it flew over the park entrance in the afternoon.
Conditions were ideal for moth activity over Saturday night as the air turned muggy and cloud cover increased. The moth trap operated at the park during the night and survived the thunderous downpour. Thirty-seven species of macro moth were noted, by far the best session of the sping so far with this common elephant hawkmoth pictured above, the most eyecatching with the pink markings.
Another regular visitor to the trap here in late spring, is this strikingly marked cream-spot tiger moth, pictured above and below. In previous years there have often been a handful of these moths in the trap by morning which is a great sight to see - especially if you get a close-up view of it's bright red body.
Some of the other moths noted included pale tussock, blood vein, mullein wave, sandy carpet, green carpet, common carpet, red twin-spot carpet, common marbled carpet, rivulet, lots of marbled minors, light brocade, pale oak beauty, clouded silver, light emerald, pale prominent, pebble prominent, white ermine, cinnabars, heart and dart, shuttle-shaped dart, flame shoulder, brown-line bright-eye, white-point, common wainscot, shoulder-stripd wainscot, knotgrass and rustic shoulder knot.
Friday, 4 June 2010
The tide was in along the Channel with little tern and common tern both noted hawking over the water. By the seawall a reed bunting sang as did a couple of reed warblers from the reedbed.
The moth trap was checked on Friday morning at the park with this poplar kitten the most interesting moth noted. This is the first time this has been recorded at the park, whereas its' close relative the sallow kitten has been noted several times in recent years. This poplar kitten is larger in size and the outer orangey-black cross-line has a less jagged outline than on the sallow kitten.
There were about 18 species of moth in the trap with the largest amount being the cinnabar moth with 25 individuals noted. There were only one or two individuals of the other species, these including poplar hawkmoth, chocolate-tip, nutmeg, large nutmeg, green carpet, sandy carpet, red twin-spot carpet, light emerald, shuttle-shaped dart and light brocade.
The brimstone moth is one of the common moths at the park and a regular visitor to the trap. It often seems to be the first moth on the wing at dusk, fluttering along the hedgerows. One of these bright yellow moths in the trap adds a bit of colour to proceedings, especially when most other kinds of moth are designed not to be too showy.
The pale prominent pictured below is a moth designed to look like a bit of wood chip. It would be a hard moth to find if it landed in a pile of wood or on the side of a tree.
On the park grazing fields there was a strikingly marked spotted redshank with jet black underparts and spotted upperparts, standing in the pools. Spotted redshank are one of the first passage waders to return during June from their northern breeding grounds, so I wonder if this a bird already heading back south. Female spotted redshanks leave the breeding grounds first, once they've finished incubating their eggs, with the males staying behind to rear the young.
Also in the fields is the now resident black-tailed godwit along with 4 redshank, although the little chicks seen 2 days ago weren't visible. A fox cub was seen at the back of the fields.
Four avocets were feeding in the saltmarsh pools by the Golfhouse.
Noted around the park during the day were the cuckoo and nightingale both singing, whilst butterflies seen were holly blue, orange-tip, speckled wood, small heath, small copper and various whites and also basking in the sun was the regular adder.
At dusk the little owl was seen flying along Bromans Lane in East Mersea.