Wednesday, 24 April 2013


After several weeks of lying around at the park, some of the adders were getting down to some serious business during a sunny Wednesday 24th. This male pictured above had just shed its skin and now shows striking black and white markings. A second male nearby was also looking very fresh having just sloughed its skin too. One of the visitors to the park showed me a newly cast-off skin yesterday, presumably from one of these two males.

Another couple of adder-watchers this afternoon, told me they'd seen the two male adders "dancing" beside the track. Sure enough whilst chatting away to them, the two males came back together again, rearing heads up, they then writhed around in the undergrowth, each one trying to force the other down. The two males seemed evenly matched, both about  45cms long, they danced around for about a minute, before parting.

When I next passed this spot, I glanced down to find one male adder curled up in the late afternoon warmth while the second male - the victor, was a few metres away locked up with a female mating! The successful male was rewarded with the female and were joined together, slowly rolling and writhing around amongst the vegetation. The bigger and duller female was pulling the bright male backwards and they then swiftly disappeared out of sight when they realised they were being watched.

This is the first time I've seen adders mate and surprised to see the male hitched up so quickly, within a couple of hours of seeing the very special "adder-dance". Also nearby was one other un-sloughed male, a tan coloured female and another female in the dell making the tally of six adders.

A couple of sand martins were flying above the park cliff on Wednesday. Elsewhere 2 blackaps, 5 whitethroats, 2 lesser whitethroats and a chiffchaff were some of the singing migrants at the park. On the fields a brent goose, 3 Canada geese, 10 snipe, 40 teal, 20 redshank, 10 black-tailed godwits were present while 2 yellow wagtails and whimbrel were heard calling overhead.

On the park pond numbers of male pochard increased to five birds with four females and 10 tufted duck also present. There was also the strange sight of the swans mating, but with the female clambering onto the back of the male, who had to have his head held under water for a few seconds.

A water vole was seen for the second day running at the south-west end of the dyke and a weasel was seen near the park entrance. Butterflies were enjoying the sunny weather with the first small white seen, along with 5 peacocks and 2 small tortoiseshells on the wing.

Andy Field took this rare shot of a female merlin perched at Maydays Farm on Wednesday during a visit there with Martin Cock.The only other birds of note were six Mediterranean gulls and a couple of house martins by the farm.

On Monday 22nd there was the very unusual sight of six black-necked grebes all in summer plumage offshore from West Mersea. The tight-knit group was first found by Martin Cock early in the morning and were present all day being seen from the bottom of Kingsland Avenue. The last time a group of this size was seen off West Mersea was probably in the 1950's, when they used to be a bit more frequent here.

At the park on Monday a singing firecrest was the highlight, as it flitted amongst bushes near the park entrance. A common buzzard drifted south-west over the car park in the afternoon and a Mediterranean gull was heard calling to the west. A willow warbler was heard singing from bushes near the hide and a yellow wagtail flew over calling. At the end of the day a little owl was perched beside Bromans Lane.

There was an unconfirmed report of about ten waxwings seen perched on a tv aerial in the Garden Farm area of West Mersea on Sunday 21st. The birds were described as being starling sized, with crests and making lots of trilling type calls.

The moth trap was set during Monday and Tuesday nights with about thirty moths on both nights with 10 species being noted. A few of the common red chestnut one pictured above, have been in the trap a few times recently.

This early grey moth pictured above, shows a little bald patch behind its head. This is the first one of the spring here and usually turns up in ones or twos to the trap. Other moths recorded included hebrew character, common quaker, small quaker, early thorn, chestnut, clouded drab, pine beauty, and the March moth.

This hairy caterpillar was marching along a little sandy path amongst the sea-blite bushes at the Point and appears to be the larva of a cream-spot tiger moth. The adult moth should be on the wing during late May and into June.

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