Saturday, 14 May 2011


Took to the water at West Mersea in a canoe with my wife Nolly and paddled up the Ray Channel on Saturday 14th. There were some colourful patches of pink in many places on Ray Island with lots of thrift or sea pink, plants in flower.

It was nice and peaceful on the Island although one nightingale was singing loudly from the scrub as was a blackcap, whitethroat and the cuckoo too. Other birds noted were a common sandpiper, kestrel, yellow wagtail, 2 great crested grebes, 8 little terns, one common tern and 2 little egrets.

It didn't take long to find the brown balls of caterpillars of the nationally scarce ground lackey moth on the saltmarsh on Ray Island. A quick walk around the eastern end of the Ray revealed about five separate spots where masses of caterpillars were gathered. Beside the caterpillars was often an extensive trail of silk, which helped locate them.

No doubt there were lots more ground lackey caterpillars elsewhere on this extensive saltmarsh. David Nicholls the Island's warden reported seeing more of these caterpillars on the saltmarsh close to the Strood causeway. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of various saltmarsh plants such as sea purslane and sea lavander.

It was a surprise to see this birds-wing moth inside the house resting on the side on a packet of biscuits! Having taken it outside and placed it on the flowers of chives, it started to probe the flowers to feed even in the middle of the day. The bird's-wing moth with the characteristic "bird's wing markings", is noted annually at the country park each summer in small numbers.

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