Sunday, 5 June 2011


After a rather quiet period at the park during the previous 2 or 3 weeks, there was finally a little bit of excitement on Sunday 5th. Having found a small flock of crossbills firstly flying off the pools in the fields where they'd been drinking, they settled down in the cliff-top pines where we could watch them.

Steve and Andy arrived at the end of the afternoon and managed to see them in the tree-tops feeding on the pine cones. After an hour in the pines, the seven birds flew across the park and landed in the tops of some poplar trees, where we watched them for several minutes, (photo above). As expected the seven birds dropped down to drink from the water in the fields (picture below) and as they took off the loud "chip-chip" calls were heard.

There was just the one reddish coloured male with the rest dull green immatures and female birds. In the pine trees the birds flitted between branches feeding on the seeds in the cones. Every so often the discarded cones would drop noisily down to the ground, which was a good indicator as to which trees they were feeding in.
Although crossbills have been seen at the park before, previous birds have only been noted flying over. It's been great to see the birds stop off for over an hour at least to feed in the park pines.

Having just seen the crossbills fly off, a hobby raced over the pools right in front of us, providing a nice view of the distinctive white face, streaky underparts and the red thighs. It flew past the oak tree with the kestrel in the nestbox and then headed over the fields to the north. A short while later a male marsh harrier was also noted high over the Golfhouse to the north of the fields.

Earlier in the afternoon the pools witnessed the elaborate mating ritual of a pair of avocets. Both birds flew over from the Point calling loudly and landed in the water to feed. One bird seemed to be doing a lot of preening so I kept watching them. Sure enough within a few minutes of arriving, the female stooped down with her bill held low along the water's surface. The male carried on preening his chest feathers on her left side of the motionless female and then walked round to her right side and preened again.
Having walked back round to do more preening beside her other side again, he hopped onto the female's back, steadied himself with wings outstretched and then quickly mated. The final part of the ritual involved the male as he drops down off the female, holding his wing for a second or two over the female's body as if embracing her, before going their separate ways in the water. After a few more minutes, the birds took off and flew back over to the saltmarsh where they may hopefully nest soon. The last time a pair of avocets were seen in the fields was a few springs ago when a pair also arrived to mate.

Other birds noted were a pair of gadwall, pochard with 4 ducklings now moved to the dyke, the pair of ringed plovers near the stepping stones have at least one tiny chick running around the beach, 4 singing reed warblers along the dyke and 10 ringed plovers on the saltmarsh pools. A cuckoo flew over the car park as did a little egret, while offshore Andy saw the four eider again.

Yesterday morning a turtle dove flew north over the park and there was also one seen beside the East Mersea road near Fen Farm.

The most eye-catching moth in the trap on Sunday morning was this eyed-hawkmoth, pictured above showing off the brightly coloured "eyes". The eyes on the hindwings are normally hidden but this individual obligingly flicked them open when the moth was handled. The sudden flicker of the eyes is supposed to startle and deter potential predators. One poplar hawkmoth and a cream-spot tiger were the other main moths amongst 100 other individuals of 30 species. Most of the moths seen were species noted on recent nights with the main exceptions photographed here.

The first barred straw of the summer posed gracefully on delicate legs with the wings held out.

From above the barred straw shows the distinctive posture with the flat wings held away from the body.

This neatly marked light brocade was the first for the year and there should be several more of these individuals coming to the trap over the next few weeks.

Although the shark pictured above, is a common moth and is noted each year, it is only one or two individuals.

The green pug is also an annual visitor to the trap but only one or two moths. This one still appears reasonably fresh with the green colour still evident.

Weather conditions during Sunday weren't ideal for butterflies around the park as it got greyer and breezier through the day. Five small tortoiseshells coninue to feed on the cotoneaster and several meadow browns flew low over the grassland. Yesterday a very worn and brown looking green hairstreak was seen in the park and there were nearly 10 large skippers enjoying the morning sunshine. Also small heath, large white, speckled wood were seen as well.

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