Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Thrilled to discover a silver-washed fritillary feeding on the buddleia in the car park on Tuesday 20th and again on Wednesday 21st. Members of the weekly health walk had been watching this unfamiliar butterfly and had asked me to have a look at it. I quickly grabbed my camera to record the first ever sighting on Mersea Island of this large member of the fritillary family. The butterfly was in a very poor condition and was very tatty around the edges.

The markings suggest a male with the black scent markings along some of the veins on the upperwing. The brown hairs on the body appear to have worn away to a greeny-yellow colour.

The underside is very faded although the faint silvery- white colouring can just be made out on the hindwing.
The butterfly seemed quite attracted to the buddleia and was often disturbed by people walking past it, often flying away a short distance but always returning to feed.

The silver-washed fritillary has been expanding its range across Essex in recent years with individuals turning up in woodlands and other locations too. They breed usually in oak woodlands where the dog violet plants grow which the young caterpillars feed on. This individual won't be staying to breed on Mersea Island as there's no suitable habitat for it.

The buddleia bushes by the hide had a nice selection of butterflies on it with 10 small tortoiseshells, 5 peacocks and a red admiral along with a few meadow browns and a few whites too. A purple hairstreak was above some oaks along the park horseride on Wednesday.

Andy Field logged the first hummingbird hawkmoth for the Island this year, on his plumbago plant in his West Mersea garden on Tuesday afternoon.
An adder was basking at the park on Tuesday early evening.

A little ringed plover was found on the mud on the pools in the park's grazing fields on Tuesday afternoon. It was still present on Wednesday too, often feeding close to the roosting redshank and black-tailed godwits pictured above. This is the first record in these grazing fields of a little ringed plover, bringing the total of different wader species seen in the grazing fields over the last twenty years to a very respectable 28 species.

There was also a record high tide roost count of 29 little egrets in the trees behind the park pond, seen by Andy Field on Wednesday. Three yellow wagtails flew off the fields on Tuesday and five snipe and 20 lapwing were seen too.

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