Monday, 30 August 2010
The hawker was surprisingly obliging, allowing the camera to be held as close as was needed. This zoomed-in photo shows the big blue eyes close-up. These hawkers have such keen eyesight, they are normally very wary and tricky to get close-up to. Several southern hawkers and a few migrant hawkers were catching flies around the trees and bushes.
Lots of ruddy darters, such as this colourful male in the photo above, were also hunting or resting on the south-side of many of the bushes, keeping out of the wind. One or two common darters were also seen arond the park.
On the dyke, there were a few blue-tailed damselflies and one small red-eyed damselfly, resting on floating vegetation in the water.
Despite the wind a few butterflies were seen around the park in the morning included red admiral, large white, small white, speckled wood, hedge brown, holly blue, common blue, brown argus, small copper and small heath.
One darter came to an unfortunate end, getting tangled up in the web of a big female wasp spider. Darters often rest close to the ground amongst the grass, just at the right height for wasp spider webs. This spider had its prey already bound up in silk and was keeping a tight hold on it as both these pictures show.
On the saltmarsh near the Golfhouse pools, 2 whinchats perched on bushes, were the first park sightings of the autumn. Six common terns flew into the Colne and a greenshank flying over the mudflats was the only wader of any difference from the regular residents.
On the fields 15 teal and a little egret were seen while the pond had gadwall, shoveler and 3 tufted ducks present. Twenty stock doves gathered in the trees by the pond at dusk.
The last part of the day was spent in the hide where a pair of spotted flycatchers were enjoyng the last of the summer's sunshine. They perched up in this bush in the photo above, near the pond, where they darted out after flies. There was obviously plenty to feed on judging by the amount of sallies they were doing, right up until dusk. Three little owls were heard calling just to the north of the park late in the evening.
The spotted flycatchers were still being watched when a badger trotted across the field and a young fox was hunting the area too, keeping the rabbits alert as to it's intentions.
Steve Entwistle had noted 2 whinchats, wheatear, 3 yellow wagtails and a greenshank during an evening visit to Reeveshall. He also reported a hummingbird hawkmoth in his West Mersea garden earlier in the day.
Sunday, 29 August 2010
Sunday was windier than the previous day and there wasn't as much of note during the walk. However there was a very mobile whinchat that hopped and flew along the seawall, perching on tops of plants as they swayed in the wind. Two greenshank were the only waders of note along the Strood as well as 2 little grebes in the channel.
On Saturday there were 6 greenshank, 200 golden plover, 70 grey plover, 20 dunlin amongst the regular waders. Thirteen little egrets were dotted along the channel and the Ray saltings.
In the fields there were flocks of 50 linnets and 20 corn buntings a well as a few greenfinches with reed bunting seen too. Hawking low over one of the grass fields were 100 swallows with one or two house martins and sand martins as well. Sparrowhawk was noted near the caravan site on Saturday while a yellow wagtail was seen along the seawall on Sunday.
Out of the wind and when the sun was able to shine, one or two butterflies were seen such as this tatty speckled wood, pictured above. Others seen were common blue, holly blue, red admiral, large white and small white. Dragonflies noted included the southern hawker, migrant hawker and the common darter, while a female wasp spider was found on her web amongst the long grass near the borrowdyke.
Friday, 27 August 2010
Walking slowly towards the birds onto the mud, I managed to get within about 30m and get good views of this juvenile broad-billed sandpiper. The pale braces on the back, white underparts, noticeable whitish-split eye-stripe and a longish bill, all seemed similar to the bird seen in the Pyefleet on Sunday evening. The bird pecked and probed at the mud as it walked about, sometimes disappearing down into the little dips and rills and was watched in total for about 15 minutes.
The tide was well on the turn by mid morning and groups of waders on the Mersea Flats were either moving closer to shore, or flying away. This restlessness had obviously spread to this ringed plover group as half of the flock flew off including the broad-billed sandpiper. The flock of about 25 birds headed high westwards flying past the Cudmore Grove beach, in the general direction of West Mersea / Blackwater estuary. Flying away from the Colne Estuary would suggest that it's unlikely to be seen at East Mersea again but it would be nice to see it back again!
Other waders seen included 500 golden plover, 10 avocet, 100 black-tailed godwits as well as good numbers of grey plover, redshank, curlew, oystercatcher and turnstone. One greenshank was heard while 12 little egrets were noted across the mud and 5 common terns were also seen.
At the Point 2 wheatears were on the beach, while 15 linnets were feeding in the sea-blite bushes. In the dyke a pochard and wigeon were with some mallard, while on the pools in the fields 2 snipe, 15 teal and 3 little egrets were seen in the morning.
There seemed to be a very slow movement of swallows and martins during the day although there was so much flying back and forwards, it didn't seem much of a migration. Amongst the 100+ sand martins, house martins and swallows hawking over the park was a swift - the first here for about 3 weeks.
At least one nightingale was in the car park in the late evening "wheeting" but whether some quiet croaking was from the same individual or a second nightingale, was difficult to tell. Also at dusk 2 little owls called from hedgelines to the north of the park, while another bird perched on a tree as night fell where Bromans Lane joins the East Mersea road.
There have been one or two wasp spiders seen amongst the long grass in recent weeks, although none of the females have appeared full-size. This one was tucked down into the long grass with it's web strung between tussocks.
The run of red underwing moth sightings seen at rest during the day at the park continued, with one seen on a brick wall near the house. At least 6 different individuals are thought to have been seen this month.
The bright red berries on the rowan trees are making the branches sag with the extra weight. A small group of 6 mistle thrushes have been plucking off many of the berries in the car park, as have a few blackbirds. A pair of blackcaps were seen plucking some ripe elderberries.
Thursday, 26 August 2010
There was no sign of the broad-billed but it could still be present as it was seen yesterday morning in much better light. The ringed plovers were still scattered across the mud with at least 230 birds counted along with 100+ dunlin also present. Amongst the redshank, grey plovers, curlews and black-tailed godwits were a greenshank and 70+ avocets, while the summering brent goose was still on Pewit Island.
At the Maydays end of the Channel, 3 common seals were lying on the mud.
On Reeveshall 2 male marsh harriers were noted, also green sandpiper, wheatear, 10 yellow wagtails, 2 grey herons and 24 greylag geese flying in at dusk.
By the Shop Lane wood, back from the seawall, 2 spotted flycatchers were feeding in a garden.
In the country park, there was a bit of bird activity around the park pond where a spotted flycatcher was present with 3 blackcaps, sedge warbler, willow warbler, chiffchaff, several whitethroats, reed warblers and lesser whitethroats. Five little egrets perched in an oak tree beside the pools where 8 black-tailed godwits were feeding.
The only insect activity noted during Thursday were a few small white butterflies, holly blue and migrant hawker dragonflies buzzing about. There was the nice sight of 3 red underwing moths resting on the information room building during the day.
On Wednesday the broad-billed sandpiper was seen in the Pyefleet in the morning before the high tide. There was also a kingfisher seen beside the Reeveshall seawall and a wheatear too.
Also received a report of a kingfisher being seen at the park pond a fortnight ago - the first autumn record.
On Tuesday the broad-billed sandpiper was seen in the Pyefleet by Andy Field in the morning from Reeveshall. Two spotted flycatchers were seen at the country park. A spotted flycatcher was also found by the wood at the north end of Shop Lane and there was a turtle dove on wires near the pub. Twelve yellow wagtails were seen in a horse paddock by Chapmans Lane, West Mersea on Tuesday.
At the park one wheatear was at the Point and a possible second bird was seen closer to the main park.
On Monday 23rd it stayed bright enough for a walk along the Strood seawall although there was a strong wind to contend with. Despite a thorough scan of the waders on the mud, there was little of note amongst the 400+ redshank other than a greenshank, 30 grey plover and a bar-tailed godwit. A couple of common terns were noted resting on the mud and 5 little egrets wre noted on the Ray saltings. The 2 young little grebes and 3 young swans were still present on the dyke and one yellow wagtail flew past calling.
Sunday, 22 August 2010
Several birdwatchers flocked to the Pyefleet seawall on Sunday 22nd, to see a rare broad-billed sandpiper feeding on the mud along the Channel. Although the bird had been present in the Pyefleet since the middle of the day, it wasn't till early evening before I was free to look for it. It was a bit of a race to try and locate the small bird before the light faded.
After a couple of scans through the 100+ ringed plovers and 40 dunlin on the north side of the Channel, the broad-bill was eventually found. The small size, clear stripe above the eye, whitish underparts and a pale pair of braces on the back, stood out briefly during a moment of sunshine. The bird made a few short flights with the other small waders and it was then relocated on mud nearer Pewit Island, where it remained until 8pm.
Richard Brown and Richard Hull first located the broad-billed sandpiper in late morning, whilst surveying the birds on the Langenhoe ranges, where it was first seen roosting on the eastern lagoon in the company of some ringed plover. A low flying helicopter flushed all the birds off the lagoon but luckily the bird was found soon after, feeding on the mud in the nearby Pyefleet, beside Pewit Island.
There have been less than a handful of sightings in Essex of broad-billed sandpipers and as this bird is heading south for the winter, it is unlikely to stay in the area for long.
By all accounts it was a memorable day for Langenhoe today as a red-necked phalarope, Temmincks stint, 4 wood sandpipers, garganey and two ruff were amongst some of the star birds seen.
Along the Pyefleet in the evening a little stint was present with the ringed plovers and dunlin, while other waders noted were 6+ greenshank, 2 green sandpipers, 20 avocets, 100 black-tailed godwits and 50 grey plover. Four common seals were opposite the Maydays corner on the mud, a wheatear on Reeveshall and just one marsh harrier seen on Langenhoe.
At the country park there was an interesting mix of birds around the hedges near the pond with two spotted flycatchers being the main highlight. Other species noted in the area were lesser whitethroat, common whitethroat, blackcap, willow warbler, chiffchaff, greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker and nightingale. Two yellow wagtails flew over the park as did 100 swallows / sand martins and sparrowhawk.
On the pond a pair of gadwall were noted with 40 mallard and a fox, while on the pools in the fields 4 little egrets, 20 lapwing, 3 black-tailed godwits, 3 teal were present in the morning. A wigeon was seen along the dyke on Saturday.
Followed up a report in the morning of a dead harbour porpoise and found this corpse floating in the water near the East Mersea Point. There was no indication as to the cause of death but it had been dead for several days before arriving at the beach here. The most recent sighting of porpoise in the area was last Monday when two were seen from the park. At the beginning of the year a porpoise got stranded at the Point here and was successfully refloated back into the water.
The moth trap was checked on Sunday morning and amongst the 25 species of macro moth, this Webb's wainscot was probably the most noteworthy as it's a very local species in Essex, where its found mainly near the coast. There have been two or three previous records for the park before.
There was a nice showing of about 8 white-point moths, one pictured above, with the characteristic white dot on each wing. This moth used to be regarded as an immigrant but the number of records here and elsewhere during recent summers suggest there are resident populations locally.
There were 25+ of these delicate latticed heaths in the trap by morning, most of them eager to fly away as soon as the trap was opened up.
Other moths noted included poplar hawkmoth, blood-vein, common carpet, light emerald, heart and club, common wainscot, yellowtail, flounced rustic, straw underwing, brown-line bright-eye, silver-Y, shuttle-shaped dart and lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing.
Friday, 20 August 2010
Also seen on the buddleia this week have been small tortoiseshell, red admirals, commas, small copper, small white, large white and meadow brown. A brown argus was also seen beside one of the paths in the park on Tuesday and there was the very unusual sighting for the park of a brimstone butterfly flying across the car park on Thursday.
Another painted lady was seen on the golden samphire along the Strood seawall, as in the picture below, in the late afternoon of Friday 20th.
Amongst the 400+ redshank along the Strood were 4 greenshank, common sandpiper, 20 grey plover and 5 golden plover as well as the usual curlews, oystercatchers and lapwings. Three little egrets were noted in the Channel as was a little grebe.
In the dyke some young little grebes were calling loudly to their parents, while nearby the mute swans were with their three cygnets. Beside the fields there were small flocks of 20 corn buntings and 25 linnets with a few greenfinches and reed buntings noted too. A young great spotted woodpecker perched on a telegraph pole in the middle of a field, and a yellow wagtail flew over.
Lots of parasol mushrooms have sprung up in various spots around the country park, some amongst the long grass, while others have sprouted under the trees such as this one in the photo.
One of the park's nightingales called loudly on Wednesday afternoon and then obliged by sitting briefly on the side of a hedge to give a good view. Two willow warblers were noted amongst a tit flock on Monday morning in the park and one or two were seen at Bromans Farm where a pair of turtle doves were also seen. One or two yellow wagtails have been noted daily, while along the cliff-edge 15 sand martins are still present. A small flock of mistle thrushes have gathered around the red berries of the rowan trees, with six birds counted so far during the week. A badger was seen trotting along Bromans Lane after dark on Wednesday night.
Martin Cock saw the hobby and a willow warbler near Meeting Lane on Monday and had reported 6 common seals in the Pyefleet at Maydays on Sunday.
On Monday 16th, Glyn Evans reported that his WeBs bird count round the Island revealed a hobby, 5 marsh harriers, 169 avocet, greenshank, whimbrel, common sandpiper, green sandpiper, knot, 78 golden plover, 22 common tern, 15 yellow wagtails, 2 turtle doves as well as a juvenile adder. There was also a view of two harbour porpoises seen offshore from the country park.
Andy Field and Richard Hull visited Langenhoe ranges on Sunday 15th and noted a little stint, 3 little ringed plovers, 12 green sandpipers, 6 common sandpipers, 12 whimbrel, 4 turtle doves, garganey, whinchat, wheatear, bearded tit, 6 marsh harriers, 2 hobbies and a barn owl.
Saturday, 14 August 2010
This poor quality picture was the best of a couple of very hurried digiscoped attempts at trying to photograph a grayling butterfly which had landed on the roof of my house in the car park. Whilst sitting at a picnic table next to the information room at lunchtime chatting to a colleague Helen Harpole, we both watched a large pale-orange and brown butterfly fly strongly and erratically towards a white buddliea bush. The flight and size was similiar to a painted lady but the feature of the upper wings was the yellow-orange markings, very different to the regular meadow browns or any other resident butterflies here at the park.
The butterfly landed on a low white buddliea spike and began to feed briefly. It had tucked its wings in straightaway but still showed a black eye-spot near the forewing corner. Along this leading edge were one or two alternate pale and brown markings, while the underwing was mainly dark mottled brown with a creamy cross band, a feature suggesting a male grayling. The features are just about visible in the photo above.
Whilst turning to dash to get the camera, the grayling flew off high but luckily landed on the nearby bungalow roof where we were both able to get a view through the telescope. The butterfly soon tilted its wings to one side, presumably an attempt to reduce its shadow and catch the sun too. After a brief minute on the roof, it flew off back to the car park and wasn't seen again.
Not only is this a rarity for the country park, it is also an Essex rarity having been lost as a breeding species in the county for about 15 years, when they were last recorded on Middlewick ranges just south of Colchester. The nearest breeding site currently, is probably somewhere along the south Suffolk coast. Where this individual has come from, is a mystery.
Along the edge of the park borrowdyke are lots of clumps of narrow-leaved birds foot trefoil, where several common blue butterflies were seen and also a brown argus, the first record for the park this summer. On the water at least five small red-eyed damselflies were noted.
In the park a red underwing moth fluttered around some bushes and an adder was out basking.
Birds noted included a wheatear at the Point, 100 swallows flying over the fields, 5+ yellow wagtails, 2 sparrowhawks, 4 green sandpipers and snipe on the fields, 3 green woodpeckers, 10 stock doves near the pond, 2 willow warblers and 2 calling nightingales in the park.
An evening walk near Meeting Lane provided views of two duetting little owls, a marsh harrier, 2 willow warblers, 4 green woodpeckers, a greenshank but no sign of any hobbies.
Thursday, 12 August 2010
The buddleia bush near the park's information room has had a variety of butterflies on it including small tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma and small copper. The female adder was seen at the opposite end of the car park in some long grass.
Amongst the 30 or so species of macro moth found at the park on Wednesday night was this swallow prominent. Usually a common species here at the park, there have been fewer of them around this year. Other species noted included 4 poplar hawkmoths, drinker, straw underwing, blood-vein, oak hook-tip, magpie, white-point, ear moth, spectacle, lime-speck pug and cloaked minor.
This well-marked antler moth, photo above, was one a few moths noted during a short moth-trapping session on the army ranges of Langenhoe, just to the north of Mersea, on a very drizzly Tuesday night. The poor weather resulted in a low catch despite three lamps operating, with just over 30 species of macro being logged. Some of the moths seen included a Webbs wainscot, dark swordgrass, rosy rustic, mouse moth, straw underwing, drinker, least yellow underwing, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and early thorn. Amongst the micro-moths noted were masses of water veneers. There was the usual "laughing" call from various parts of the marsh during the evening from a number of marsh frogs.
sea wormwood, pictured below, which wafted a nice aroma when some of the shoots were stood on.
As the tide began to cover the mud, 3 greenshanks were noted amongst the 250 redshank, while other waders of interest were a single black-tailed godwit, 20 grey plover and a whimbrel calling in flight. The first Strood Channel little grebe of the "winter" was seen near the moorings.
Ian Black reported seeing from his boat on Monday, a harbour porpoise with a small pup, outside the Mersea Quarters near the Nass beacon. He also saw a peregrine, probably one from the family at Bradwell, while Martin Cock saw one of the hobbies at East Mersea near Meeting Lane.
Ten mistle thrushes have been feeding in a field by Chapmans Lane in recent days, while the local swifts have been conspicuous by their absence this week, no doubt already departed our shores.
Sunday, 8 August 2010
The painted lady was seen with a few other butterflies on the buddleia bush in the car park for the second day running.
This male adder has been seen regularly through the summer and was enjoying the afternoon warmth curled up beside the track near the car park. Nearby the regular female was also in her usual spot but well hidden amongst the grass.
This pair of large red underwing moths spent the whole day resting on the side of the information room wall by the car park. They do seem to like resting on the sides of buildings, even if the walls are bright white rather than a brown colour! These two moths are different to the one found a few days ago, which had a chunk missing from the corner of its wing.
Birds around the park on Sunday included a noisy calling nightingale, at least 3 willow warblers, five greenshank flying over, while on the muddy pools were common sandpiper, green sandpiper and 2 snipe.
Steve Entwistle has managed to locate a pair of hobbies near Meeting Lane which he's seen on three separate occasions recently, including this Sunday morning. Needless to say when I looked for them in the evening, there was no sign of them.
Martin Cock saw 160 avocets in the Pyefleet Channel during a mid-week visit to the area, although no birds were seen on the Reeveshall pool.
Saturday, 7 August 2010
A painted lady graced the white buddleia bush for the first time this summer. Other than a couple of fast flyovers in the spring, this is the first painted lady to stop and feed at the park this year. The buddleia bush will be at its peak for flowering in about another weeks time. In the last couple of days small tortoiseshell, red admiral, comma and peacock have been on this bush along with the browns and whites.
Two marsh harriers were seen way offshore in the morning as they crossed over the sea between Colne Point and the Dengie coastline. In the evening another two marsh harriers, a tatty male and a juvenile, circled over the mudflats, upsetting the waders below.
Waders noted on the mud from the park included 50 black-tailed godwits, 20 grey plover, 200 redshank with a few curlew, oystercatchers and one or two dunlin and turnstone. Also noted were 6 little egrets and 6 little terns on the outer edge of the mud.
On the fields, 3 snipe were present again along with 30 lapwing and 5 black-tailed godwits. In the tree at the back of the fields were 4 stock doves.
This common blue butterfly was an uncommon visitor to the garden in Firs Chase, West Mersea, as you would normally expect to see it near areas of grassland. This one spent most of its time resting beside a lavender bush where amongst the other butterflies seen was a holly blue butterfly.
A hummingbird hawkmoth made a fleeting appearance in the same garden on Friday evening.
Joined members of the Essex Moth Group at Hugh Owens at Langenhoe, just to the north of Mersea for the annual look for the nationally rare white-spotted pinion moth.
The evening proved very fruitful when this white-spotted pinion moth turned up just after midnight. It was a well marked individual with a rich brown colouring and bright white spots. It has declined in the country because of the decline of elms, the foodplant of the caterpillars. As the traps were being switched off at 12.30am a second pinion moth was noted at one of the other traps.
The other moth of note seen on the evening was a very green looking tree-lichen beauty.
Friday, 6 August 2010
The warm breeze appeared to subdue a lot of butterfly activity and there were just small numbers of meadow brown, hedge brown, comma, peacock, large white and small white noted.
Enjoying the sunshine out of the breeze were lots of ruddy darters, such as this male pictured above. There seemed to be 50+ of them resting on the foliage, hawking around the bushes or resting on the ground, like the one in the photo. One or two migrant hawkers were also seen in the area.
The birdlife was very quiet although there was a nice fly-over by a marsh harrier, checking out some of the nearby fields. Two green woodpeckers and great spotted woodpecker were noted as were a common whitethroat.
At the country park there were 30 curlew, 15 lapwing, 3 snipe, common sandpiper and 5 black-tailed godwits around the muddy pools in the fields.
The regular female adder was curled up and well hidden amongst the long grass near the car park at the park.
The red underwing moth made its annual appearance on Thursday next to the buildings, or to be more precise, resting on an inside wall in the toilet building - as has happened in previous years.
This one has a corner missing from it's forewing and also it's hindwing too. This large moth has a striking colour combination of the vivid red, white and black markings which flash rapidly when it flies.
I gather that a common seal came in close to the jetty at the West Mersea Hard, no doubt attracted by the bacon scraps used by some of the 85 folk that were counted on the jetty crabbing.
Wednesday, 4 August 2010
On Monday 2nd, there was a record count of 6 green sandpipers on the pool in the early evening.
The only sound that could be heard from the pools was that of the green sandpipers as they repeatedly called to each other. A short while later the group was seen flying away from the area. The next evening there were 3 birds seen flying over the pools again, maybe some of the same birds coming back again.
Also feeding around the muddy edges on both Monday and Tuesday evenings was a common sandpiper, its back-end bobbing as it walked about. A whimbrel was heard whistling as it passed over the park on Monday.
The black-tailed godwits are still the most regular wader using the site, after the lapwings, with up to 35 birds in recent days roosting during the evening high tide. Most of the 15 lapwings present during the day, spend the time snoozing amongst the low cover of docks. A few mallard, 2 shoveler, black-headed gulls and moorhens are the other birds often seen. Two little egrets were at the pools on Monday evening.
At the park pond the 5 tufted ducklings are still present as is the mute swan family and single cygnet, along with 15+ mallard, several young dabchicks and a single teal.
One or two willow warblers have been present at the park every day during the last week, some occasionally singing. The resident nightingales are still present as they are still calling out to each other especially in the late evening. One or two yellow wagtails have been heard calling as they flew over the park. Green woodpeckers seem to have had a successful breeding season with birds seen everywhere. Three birds were noted in Bromans Lane, an adult and juvenile were noted together on a park path, while one was sadly noted dead along the East Mersea road.
The adders have shown most days in their regular spot near the car park with 3 being seen on Sunday 1st.
Butterflies seen recently on the wing have included small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, comma, speckled wood, hedge brown, meadow brown, small white, large white, common blue, small heath and large skipper.
Two young wasp spiders were seen on their webs amongst the long grass - the first ones seen this summer.
The moth trap was checked on Monday morning and amongst the 34 species noted was this large drinker moth. Several have already been seen visiting the trap during the last month or so. Their unusual profile helps them blend in well on the ground amongst fallen leaves.
This common oak hook-tip splayed its wings out nicely with the hooked tips to each wing showing well here. There have been some good numbers on some evenings this summer of the oak hook-tip.
The scarcest moth of the evening was this ground lackey which is found close to saltmarshes where the caterpillars feed on various saltmarsh plants like sea lavender or sea purslane.