Saturday, 9 April 2011


The sun continued to shine again on Saturday 9th although an onshore breeze in the afternoon brought a chill to the park. The recent warm spell saw this green hairstreak butterfly on the wing by the path near the hide. This is certainly the earliest date one of these has been seen at the park, as they're normally on the wing here during May.

The first holly blue of the spring flew past the hide in the morning, while elsewhere the peacock, comma and the small white were also seen.

Having an emperor moth in the trap should normally be a sight to treasure. However this female with the big striking eye-spots, was in a very worn state when the trap was checked on Saturday morning. She had also laid about 50 tiny brown eggs on the inside of the trap. It has been 4 years since the last emperor was recorded and it's always been a target species every April since.

Fifty moths of 12 species were noted after the Friday night mothing with species noted including twin-spot quaker, small quaker, common quaker, early thorn, brindled pug, streamer and blossom underwing.

The nationally scarce sloe carpet has also been a target species for April here and this rather plain individual was another nice sight to find. The moth is fairly local in parts of the south-east and East Anglia, especially in Cambridgeshire and Essex where it's found near blackthorn in woodlands, scrub and hedgerows. This individual was the second record for the park, following one trapped in the third week in April in 2009.

One or two lunar marbled browns, pictured above, are noted each spring in the trap.

The hot start to the spring has made one adder slough its skin a few weeks earlier than usual. In previous years it hasn't been until early May before the adders shed their skins. This skin pictured above seemed big enough to belong to a female adder. Earlier in the afternoon I had to gently nudge an adder with a long plant stalk, so that it would move away from the track it was sunbathing on. It flicked its tongue at the stick and then retreated swiftly into the undergrowth.

Returning to the same track with a colleague two hours later, we discovered this old skin had just been shed. Nearby the fresh-looking female was seen with her bright and silvery markings, as she moved along the side of the track.
Few other adders were on show this morning with just the one seen, although two others were seen later.

Whilst standing by the adder-track near the park entrance a peregrine flew low overhead from the grazing fields clutching a bird in its talons. It headed south-west although I wouldn't know whether it's one of the birds nesting at Bradwell but that was the direction it headed.

The nightingale was singing by the park entrance as were blackcap and chiffchaff. The ruff was still on the park fields in the morning with 10 snipe, while 40 black-tailed godwits circled round in the afternoon. A Mediterranean gull was heard calling as it flew along the shore.

Andy Field enjoyed this brambling (left bird) visit his bird feeder in his West Mersea garden on the 19th March.


Tim said...

I enjoy your postings Dougal - they provide a good guide to what to look out for on Mersea. Late afternoon on Sunday 10th (4.30 - 6.30pm) walking along the south side of the Pyefleet I saw two Swallows close to the Strood and a Lesser Whitethroat in the line of dense bushes about half a mile on. Was particularly hoping to see my first Corn Buntings but it took some work persuading myself that they weren't larks or first year reed buntings. Dark chest spot on a couple on the way back clinched it though.

Dougal Urquhart said...

Pleased that the pstings are of use to you. You picked a nice sunny afternoon for your walk with the reward of a corn bunting!