Monday, 30 September 2013


Six of us went out to sea in Ray Hempstead's Sorcerer boat on Sunday 29th in search of birds. We headed out from West Mersea early on a nice sunny morning in the hope of seeing some seabirds and maybe some passage of birds flying over the water.

There was very little bird activity despite the fresh easterly winds. We anchored just beyond Colne Point and Ray tried to lure some birds in by tossing some fish scraps into the water. A few herring gulls and great black-backed gulls came in but there didn't seem to be many gulls around. About ten common terns were noted just off from West Mersea and an eider.

Inside the Blackwater a peregrine flew over the boat near Bradwell, another eider and two great crested grebes were the only birds of interest noted in the river. There was more bird activity along the north side of the estuary and alongside Tollesbury and Salcott creeks with brent geese, wigeon, teal, marsh harrier, little egrets and the typical variety of waders too. Around fifty brent geese were feeding in various parts of the muddy creeks with another 30 being seen later in the day near the Monkey Step beach.

Back on dry land a walk along the Strood Channel on Monday 30th provided views of a common buzzard drifting south down the Ray Channel, 300+ redshank, 30 golden plover, 30 wigeon and 25 teal were of interest. Only one swallow was seen near the caravan site while 4 linnets and two pied wagtails were the only small birds seen. Four chiffchaffs were calling from various hedges and a sparrowhawk glided over Firs Chase. Twenty swallows were flying around the Dabchicks area on Friday 27th.
The yellow-legged gull has been seen a few times recently along side the Strood causeway, most recently Saturday.

Three common lizards were seen along the usual path near the Feldy cemetery field.

The fishing lakes by the Strood Hill were surprisingly devoid of waterfowl other than a few moorhens. This large and very hairy fox moth caterpillar was resting on one of the wooden platforms. A silver Y moth was seen during the day while yesterday a hummingbird hawkmoth was seen flying from valerian flowers in Mersea Avenue.

At the country park on Saturday 28th, there was a good number of wigeon in the grazing fields with 450 seemingly a recent influx. No sign of the garganey seen earlier in the week, although 300 teal were mostly sleeping and also 38 greylag geese were busy grazing. Also ten snipe and 10 black-tailed godwits noted.
Sixteen brent geese flew over the Point while another 70 were on the east side of the Colne. Seventy avocets flew off the mud near Langenhoe Point.
Twenty linnets flew around the seawall near the Point and 25 swallows were flying over houses near the Golfhouse.

Two small coppers were seen inside the seawall at the park on Saturday, keeping low down in the fresh breeze. Also on the wing were comma, red admiral, speckled wood and small white.

Saturday, 28 September 2013


Several interesting birds continued to be found on the Island whilst I enjoyed a two week break-away.
Glyn Evans took these set of photos during his Wetland Bird count along the north side of the Island on Monday 23rd September.

This Sandwich tern pictured above and below was seen fishing in the Pyefleet Channel.

Sandwich terns are sometimes hard to see from the Island during the summer, so a noteworthy sighting.
Three Sandwich terns were also seen from the East Mersea Point by Andy Field and Martin Cock on the 17th.

Another noteworthy seabird seen from East Mersea on the 23rd was this immature gannet seen flying in the Colne estuary.

Also found during the walk was a Cettis warbler singing near the Oyster Fishery and a Mediterranean gull too.

One or two common seals can usually be seen in the Pyefleet and these two were photographed on the saltmarsh near Maydays farm.

Common seals often show an iron oxide reddish colouration to parts of their body.

This robin was in full song as it enjoyed the autumn sunshine in the Cudmore Grove car park, posing nicely for some photos for Glyn.

Other notable bird sightings over the last couple of weeks or so included a garganey found by Andy Field on the 17th at the park's grazing field pools. The bird was also seen on the 18th and the 22nd.
Also on the 17th a great skua was seen from the Park by Martin and Andy sitting on the water. Two wheatear. peregrine and six blackcaps were on the Park this day too. At Maydays farm Martin noted a hobby, 3 curlew sandpipers, 2 wheatears and 2 whinchats. The following day six wheatear and two gannets were seen at the Park by Andy.

On Thursday 19th a spotted flycatcher, 2 sanderling, wheatear and a record roost count of 73 little egrets were at the park. Martin saw two common buzzards, peregrine, kingfisher, whinchat and wheatear at Maydays on Saturday 21st.
Interesting autumn passage was seen by Martin on the 15th with 200 meadow pipits passing west and then 500 swallows passed west over East Mersea on the 22nd. Steve Entwistle saw two little stints and 8 curlew sandpipers in the Pyefleet at Maydays that same day.

The kingfisher was seen at Maydays by Martin on the 23rd along with a greenshank and curlew sandpiper there too. The Cetti's warbler was still at the Oyster Fishery on the 24th while the first autumn siskin was seen in Martin Cock's West Mersea garden on the 25th. Mark Dixon reported seeing a hobby taking young swallows recently from the area of the Dabchicks.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


This gate just inside the country park entrance has become known in recent years as the Flycatcher-gate because each autumn a spotted flycatcher is usually spotted from here. On a breezy morning on Wednesday 11th, a spotted flycatcher was indeed watched from the gate, along the opposite hedge across the field catching flies. This may be the same bird that was first seen further along the field on Sunday and again on Monday.

Andy Field caught a fleeting glimpse of a wood warbler just inside the park entrance early on Wednesday morning as it foraged through the trees in a mixed feeding flock. The bird didn't show again although later on it was heard to call three times from dense foliage. Also feeding here were up to ten willow warblers / chiffchaffs along with long-tailed tits, great tits and blue tits. Nearby whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and blackcap were also feeding along hedges.

Offshore Andy watched an Arctic skua fly upriver, briefly chasing a common tern as it headed into the Colne. A short while later the same dark-phase bird or maybe a second bird was found resting on the sea opposite the park beach. It rested here for several minutes before flying off west towards West Mersea.
A marsh harrier was reported flying over the park during the morning.

At Rewsalls marshes Martin Cock found a spotted flycatcher and a common buzzard at the back of the fields. A wheatear was also noted near here and 200 house martins flying west, some house martins were also being noted earlier passing over the park.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


The heavens opened for several minutes in the afternoon of Sunday 8th. This was the view of the pond taken whilst sheltering from the rain in the hide, as it hammered down on the water. The white shapes of three little egrets are in the top left of the picture.

Just before the rains came down, a pied flycatcher was unexpectedly discovered feeding in this hawthorn tree in the pond-field. In typical flycatcher fashion it would fly out from its perch low down in the bush to catch an insect before returning to either the same branch or another one nearby. The bird had the very distinctive white wing panel and very clean underparts too with a very rounded and darkish head.

The bird flew to the hedge at the bottom for a minute or so before coming back to the hawthorn where it seemed to enjoy the company of long-tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, lesser whitethroats, common whitethroats, blackcaps and even a great spotted woodpecker flew in.

All the birds cleared off when the rain pelted down for ten minutes. Joining in the search for the pied-fly were Martin, Steve and Andy and after another ten minutes we were surprised to find a spotted flycatcher along a nearby hedge. This is the first one seen on the Island this year.
The spotted flycatcher was still present along the same hedgeline near the bird hide the following day on Monday 9th along with five willow / chiffs, 4 blackcaps and lesser whitethroats and  whitethroats too.

The little egret roost in the trees near the pond was about 65 birds on Sunday. On the pond were 40 mallard and a gadwall too. On the pools in the fields 200 teal, 12 wigeon, 50 redshank and 30 black-tailed godwits with 5 snipe. Five wheatears were reported at the Point on Sunday.

Martin Cock had a common buzzard perched in a tree near Meeting Lane on Sunday morning.

There was good light late in the afternoon on Monday 9th with a clear view across the mudflats from the park. The tide was on its way out and lots of waders were arriving to feed. Of interest amongst them were 3 greenshank, whimbrel, sanderling, 25 knot, 100 dunlin, 100 black-tailed godwit, 10 bar-tailed godwit, 50 golden plover and 100 ringed plover. Offshore four common terns were fishing.

A male marsh harrier flew up river to the evening roost at Langenhoe. Earlier a juvenile marsh harrier circled over the pond and nearby pools scattering all the birds including 14 little egrets from the trees. A sparrowhawk also flew past the pools upsetting some of the birds as it sped by. In the fields 20 yellow wagtails were feeding beside the cattle. A Mediterranean gull flew over the park in the morning.

At the Point 4 wheatears were feeding on the grass and also on the beach and twenty linnets were noted. Offshore two common seals were watched heading upriver in the morning. One great crested grebe was offshore from the park.

Three of these feathered gothics were of interest in the moth trap after Monday night's session. This individual was one of 50 moths of 15 species, after a much colder night and a drop in moth numbers. Some of the other moths noted included white-point, rosy rustic, square spot rustic, flounced rustic, setaceous hebrew character and large yellow underwing.

The only butterflies noted on Sunday were several speckled woods, small heath and a small white.

A badger was seen dead on the East Mersea road early in the morning near Haycocks riding stables.

Saturday, 7 September 2013


A greenshank was seen from the Point flying northwards over the saltmarsh on Saturday 7th. This greenshank pictured above was standing in the pools in the fields on Thursday 5th.

Also noted at the Point on Saturday were 2 sanderling, 30 knot and 70 golden plovers.

Around ten snipe have been feeding in the shallow waters of the pools in the fields, some of them feeding out in the open like this bird.
Other waders have gathered at high tide with 100 redshank and 50 black-tailed godwits being the main gathering along with a few lapwing and curlew on the grassland.

More teal appeared to have arrived at the pools overnight with 450 birds being counted. All the teal are still going through their moult, so all the males currently look like females. On the pond a gadwall was a recent arrival for the autumn and also four wigeon.

The little egret high tide roost reached 65 birds on Thursday, 55 were noted on Friday including one flock arriving together of 45 birds.The wind was stronger today so many egrets remained hidden behind trees but around 45 birds were noted on Saturday around noon. One grey heron was also seen on the pond and fields.

Elsewhere in the fields a flock of 25 yellow wagtails were still feeding around the feet of the cows while 70 goldfinches were feeding on the thistles. A flock of 300 starlings were foraging across the fields too.
A wheatear was seen by the beach on Thursday and Friday. A grey wagtail flew east over the car park calling on Thursday morning.

The swan family with five cygnets have re-appeared on the park's borrowdyke after they went AWOL for over a couple of months. It's presumed this is the same family, albeit with one less cygnet, that had nested on the park pond but soon vanished in their search elsewhere for better feeding opportunities for the cygnets.

The brood of tufted ducks have stayed on the dyke feeding successfully by diving under the water. This youngster was one of eight ducklings in the water.
Two common terns flew along the dyke in their search for food and 20 swallows and 2 sand martins were seen over the fields.

A Mediterranean gull flew over the car park on Thursday while another bird was seen over a recently ploughed field at Chapmans Lane along with lots of black-headed gulls on Saturday early evening.

This early autumnal moth the frosted orange has started to appear in the trap over the last week or so with four individuals during Thursday night. Over 150 moths of 25 species were recorded such as chinese character, lime speck pug, common carpet, green carpet, light emerald, latticed heath, large thorn, brimstone, square-spot rustic, flounced rustic, white-point, common wainscot, large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, snout and setaceous hebrew character.

Thursday was a better day for butterflies as it felt about 26 or 27 degrees. Ones noted were peacock, small copper, common blue, small heath, small white, large white, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell and comma.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013


At least one wheatear has been present at the park on or near the seawall over the last few days. The hot weather seems to have kept many other migrants away or maybe passing us by on their long journeys south.
A grey wagtail flew over the car park early on Wednesday 4th while in the fields, 25 yellow wagtails were still around the feet of the cows. A willow warbler called from bushes near the pond.

The flock of little egrets still catches the eye with a new record of 55 birds seen on or by the pools in the grazing fields. Fifty egrets were standing by the water with the other five in the nearby trees.
At least twenty appeared to spend the night in these trees on Tuesday night after 51 had been counted in the middle of the day. No egrets spent Wednesday night in the trees despite at least 20 birds passing over and checking the area out.

Not so many waders on the pools on Wednesday morning with 50 redshank, 20 black-tailed godwit and a couple of snipe noted. There were higher numbers on Monday with 150 redshank and 70 black-tailed godwits and five snipe, along with 200 teal and 3 wigeon. The first returning gadwall was noted on the park pond on Wednesday.

A sparrowhawk flew across the car park on Wednesday morning and a little owl perched up beside the car park on Tuesday evening.

Present in the grazing fields on Monday were 30 goldfinches amongst the thistles and also 5 skylarks.

Considering how busy the park has been this summer, the park's black rabbit has done well to survive since it was first spotted in the spring. Although warier than it used to be, it is probably a domestic rabbit that has been left near the car park to fend for itself.

Various dragonflies have been seen around the park during this recent warm spell such as this pair of mating ruddy darters. Also seen were several migrant hawkers and common darters.

The distinctive elephant-like trunk on this large caterpillar led to this moth being called the elephant hawkmoth. This one was one of several seen feeding in a fuchsia bush in Woodfield Drive in West Mersea. It was a good season for the adult moths on the wing during mid-June to early August and this caterpillar will be the result of one of those females laying eggs during that period.

The large thorn moth was the main moth of note in the trap after Tuesday night's mothing session. It used to be a scarce moth in the county but there seems to have been more records in recent years. This is the third year it has been noted here.

The orange sallow is usually noted each autumn here in ones or twos. Although it belongs to the sallow family, the larvae feed on lime, of which there are several at the park including a lime tree above the moth trap.

The pinkish smudges on the wings of this moth have given rise to this being named the maiden's blush. A common moth, this individual is the second generation on the wing this year.

It had been a relatively warm night for trapping although there had been a clear sky. Around 150 moths of 30 species were noted with the commonest moths being the flounced rustic, square-spot rustic and a good emergence of about 40+ light emerald moths.