Thursday, 21 April 2011


This magnificient female emperor moth was a great discovery when the moth-trap at the country park was checked early on Thursday 21st. Having waited four years since the last emperor was recorded here, two drop in within a fortnight of each other. This empress is in near perfect condition, in comparison with the earlier individual, showing off all four eye-spots. Having initially flapped the wings with the big eyes when it was handled, it calmed down on these leaves and allowed the wings to be gently opened out for this photo. I don't know how regularly emperors turn up at other nearby sites but it has been reported within the last week not far from Mersea at Old Hall RSPB reserve and also at the Fingringhoe Nature Reserve.

The moth trap has operated on both Tuesday and Wednesday night with the first night being more productive with variety of species but low on actual moths. Thirty moths of 16 species were noted on Tuesday while 20 moths of 8 species the following night.

This relatively widespread purple thorn is a surprising first record for the site and was recognised in the trap by its distinctive open wing posture, as opposed to the wings being held upright (like it's decided to do in this photo!). An early thorn was also in the trap for comparison.

Two brimstone moths were the first of presumably lots more records to come this spring.

This water carpet finally appeared in the trap this spring, 2 or 3 weeks after other north-Essex moth-trappers have been finding it. Other moths in the trap have included pale mottled willow, blossom underwing, brindled pug, chinese character, common quaker, powdered quaker, pine beauty, early grey, frosted green, hebrew character, lunar marbled brown and clouded drab.

The continuing sunshine has been good for butterflies with green hairstreak seen near the hide again today while the brimstone has made several appearances near the park entrance today and yesterday. Also on the wing were 5 speckled wood, 3 peacock, 5 small white, 3 orange-tip and two holly blues. One adder was partially hidden beside the main track.

The cuckoo was heard today and yesterday although it hasn't given me any views yet. The first lesser whitethroat at the park this spring was singing near the park entrance, near where two nightingales are still singing loudly. A third nightingale was heard singing behind the pond on Wednesday. A yellow wagtail flew over the park, a whimbrel flew past the beach in the afternoon and offshore 4 eider could be seen.

No sign of any garganey since late on Monday with the wildfowl noted being 35+ teal, wigeon, 4 shoveler, 4 gadwall, 10 shelduck, 2 Canada geese, 3 pochard, 8 tufted duck and 10 mallard. Around the pools were 2 pars of redshank, 4 sitting lapwing with 20 black-tailed godwit feeding at high-tide. Last night a sparrowhawk was seen by the cliff-top and a little egret flew over the park heading north to roost.

A swift was seen over West Mersea by Martin Cock on Tuesday and there was a reed warbler seen near Fen Farm. Hugh Owen reported that the short-eared owl was seen again at the beginning of the week at Langenhoehall marshes.

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