Sunday, 3 July 2011


Called round to two locations in West Mersea to check out sightings of the large and spectacular privet hawkmoth. This mating pair pictured above were found by John and Christine Green in Norfolk Avenue on Saturday 2nd. David Nicholls took these two photos and this one above shows the two moths still joined. Both moths show the striking pink and black banding on their abdomens. The moths were relocated onto a post hidden amongst the privet leaves where they would be less vulnerable.

This was how the moths were first seen, resting on a fence panel alongside the pavement and tellingly, just an inch away from a small privet bush - the foodplant of the caterpillars.
The moth is quite widespread on the Island and the following day Bernie Catchpole also reported a privet hawkmoth resting on his trellis in his garden in St Peters Road in West Mersea.

The mute swan family have returned to the park after a few days absence. The usual summer shortage of pondweed on the park pond had driven the adults away in search of more food, unfortunately leaving three of the eight cygnets behind to fend for themselves. It's unclear where the family went to but it was probably out into the river Colne, somewhere along the coast.

When they were first spotted back on the dyke on Wednesday, one cygnet was stranded on the beach and was lifted over the seawall by Andy Field to rejoin the others. In the meantime the three cygnets on the pond have been reduced, probably by the local fox, over several days to one lone cygnet. Hopefully the adults currently on the dyke and the three cygnets with them, will waddle back across the field to meet back up with the lone survivor on the pond.

The ringed plover is still nesting on the shingle at the Point with the four eggs well camouflaged amongst the stones and shells. A simple cordon was put around the nest site last week with rods and string. However this morning it was found lying discarded on he beach and so more metal rods and string were again erected ahead of a hot and busy Sunday with lots of trippers and dogs expected on the beach. Having spent five minutes knocking the rods into the beach, the female ringed plover was watching proceedings anxiously nearby. Surprisingly she only needed three minutes to reassure herself that the cordon wasn't a threat to her and after checking the eggs were still there, she quickly sat down.
A hundred metres back from the Point along the beach, the other ringed plover family managed to get one chick fledged and it was seen during the week running about.

Other waders noted on the mud on Saturday were 7 golden plover, 7 avocets and 25 redshank.
On the pools in the fields a green sandpiper was seen to drop down while later 2 grey herons flew over the pond. At the back of the fields 3 kestrels were seen near the nesting tree.

On the park pond 7 tufted ducklings were new on the scene although they might've been around for a few days already. Three little grebe chicks were calling noisily to be fed and two drake teal were noted here too. In the reedmace by the edge, a reed warbler was singing for the second day running. On Friday a reed warbler had been singing from bushes in the car park.

The beach and the cliff at the park have been swarming with sand martins this weekend. Over a hundred birds have been circling round the beach close to the nest-holes are with many birds swooping into the holes to feed their young. Some of the martins are local nesters but I also suspect that many have arrived from elsewhere and have just stopped briefly off on their journey south. The big flock of 1000 birds a few evenings ago on nearby Langenhoe indicate a huge influx of sand martins into the area.

Not surprisingly with all these sand martins around, two hobbies flew right over the cliff on Saturday morning and headed inland. The martins had already got out of their way and the two hobbies were last seen circling above the end of the East Mersea road before heading to the north side of the Island.

Three purple hairstreaks were seen in the oaks on the clifftop at the park on Saturday and there was also peacock, comma, speckled wood, small white as well as the skippers and lots of meadow browns.

This swallow-tailed moth was one of the new ones for the year at the park during Thursday night's trapping. Around 100 moths of 30 species were noted with least carpet, small white wave, riband wave,scalloped oak, magpie, buff ermine, chinese character, brimstone, clay, white-point, smoky wainscot, uncertain, marbled minor, coxcomb prominent, large yellow underwing, cinnabar, poplar hawkmoth, brown-tail, yellow-tail, flame, heart and club, lunar-spotted pinion, snout, dun-bar, bright-line brown-eye, brown-line bright-eye, buff arches, dark arches and light arches


Mel Lloyd said...

Hi Dougal. Great blog. Never been to the island, now sorely tempted. I'm not too comfy with your first photo today though. Mel

Dougal Urquhart said...

Hi Mel,
Mersea's a great Island to visit at anytime of the year. I've added a brief explanation that the moths were in the hand so that they could be hidden away in the nearby bush. Most hawkmoths are quite docile in the hand and can tolerate gentle handling.