Wednesday, 18 June 2014


A couple of corn buntings were singing their jangling song from roadside wires beside Chapmans Lane and Dawes Lane in the evening sun on Wednesday 18th. There was no sign today of the other corn bunting on the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall.

Another notable sighting on the wires beside the East Mersea road was a silhouetted tawny owl seen just after dark near Fen Farm on Wednesday. The first sighting of the Shop Lane birds for some time.
Several nights ago two little owls were also perched on roadside wires on Sunday at dusk with one beside Bromans Farm and the other near the village shop.

The barn owl provided some close views at the park at dusk on Saturday 14th, as it hunted over the areas of long grass on the main park.

The noisiest birds on the park was a pair of avocets anxiously watching over their newly hatched three young chicks near the Point. Two of the pale coloured chicks can be seen together on the left in the picture above. Seven avocets were on the pools here with another seven birds on the pools in the fields.

Also seen at the Point were 3 little terns, 3 common terns, one dunlin, 4 lapwing, reed bunting, two sand martins and 5 linnets.

There was the nice sight of at least two very young lapwing chicks seen on Wednesday feeding along a muddy edge in the pools in the fields. The two parents keeping a nervous watch over the area, including mobbing the kestrel sitting on the nearby tree.
Also on the pools were two teal, shoveler, 12 redshank and a brood of mallard. The female shoveler with seven ducklings was on the central ditch and the swans on the dyke still had six cygnets and 8 tufted duck were present too.

On the pond another adult swan was present, 2 little egrets in the trees and 2 pairs of little grebes.

The marsh harrier was reported flying over the fields on Monday morning -a regular occurrence at the moment. The cuckoo was flitting between bushes and doing lots of calling from the trees beside the park's overflow car park on Saturday 14th. At the end of the day 30 swifts circled round at dusk screaming high above the park. At the start of the day a male marsh harrier glided over fields on both sides of Bromans Lane.

Adrian Amos has been privileged to have not one turtle dove visiting his garden recently but now a second bird has been coming to his East Road garden in West Mersea on at least three consecutive days.
Steve Entwistle noted three sand martins at the park on the 17th while two cuckoos were still calling on Saturday and Sunday at Maydays farm, and also one heard on Langenhoe.

An adder was seen basking at the park on Saturday 14th and a brimstone butterfly flew through the Firs Chase garden on Wednesday 18th.

A little bit of colour along the park's clifftop with this flowering everlasting pea.

The latest hawkmoth to visit the moth trap in the Firs Chase garden was this handsome pine hawkmoth pictured above and below, found during Friday night.

The pine hawkmoth has become a regular visitor to the traps at the country park in recent summers, with the first seen on Sunday night.

The eyed hawkmoth with its strikingly coloured eye on the hindwing, was at the trap at the park on Sunday night.

Chris Williams visited the park from Shropshire to carry out some coastal mothing on Sunday night and was rewarded with the impressive tally of seven species of hawkmoth -  a record haul for here in one night. Also noted amongst the seventy other species were two cream spot tigers, a sand dart and blotched emerald.

The second record for the park of lilac beauty was at the trap on Friday night. The distinctive leading edge of the wings has a crumpled effect.

The first swallow-tailed moth of the summer arrived during Friday night with this individual looking particularly sulphur coloured.

Friday, 13 June 2014


A small group of avocets have taken up residence recently on the saltmarsh lagoon near the East Mersea Point. These two avocet photos were taken by Andy Field on Tuesday 10th. Fifteen birds were noted in the area the next day including two birds on the pools in the nearby fields.

Andy watched three Sandwich terns fly into the mouth of the Colne estuary  before they turned round and headed back out to sea. A little tern was resting on the Point as was a ringed plover.
The marsh harrier has continued to visit the fields recently and was reported on Friday morning and the cuckoo was still calling by the pond on Friday too. Two Mediterranean gulls flew to the west of the park calling as they passed, on Friday.

Thirty black-tailed godwits were feeding in the fields on Wednesday and the pair of kestrels have been feeding at least two young in their box. The barn owl was hunting the main park at dusk on Thursday, providing a nice close fly-past at one point.

Various snippets of mammal sightings in the last few days from around the Island. A red squirrel was seen in the garden of Harry Sharp at the east end of the Island, probably one of the new ones recently brought into East Mersea.

A brown hare was reported recently at the Whitings garden near Chapmans Lane, while one was also seen on Tuesday evening trotting into the car park of the country park - the first hare sighting here for years. A muntjac deer was seen freshly dead on the East Mersea road near Weir Farm on Wednesday evening, although there was no sign of it the next morning. There was the rare sight these days of a hedgehog, sadly this one dead by the East Mersea road near the pub on Sunday morning.

Small numbers of butterflies about the park over the last few days have included red admiral, small tortoiseshell, meadow brown, speckled wood, large skipper, Essex skipper and small heath. The first six-spot burnet moth was seen on some knapweed flowers at the park on Friday morning.

The big privet hawkmoth was the main attraction in the moth trap during a very muggy night on Monday 9th. The threatened thunderstorm never materialised, providing ideal conditions for the trap at Firs Chase which pulled in 4 privet hawks and 5 elephant hawks amongst around forty other species.

The barred yellow is a colourful moth and widespread where dog-rose is the foodplant.

Another common and colourful moth is the cinnabar, the caterpillars feeding on ragwort.

This very pale moth stood out amongst the many brown moths in the moth trap at the country park, as being a sand dart. This is a scarce coastal moth which has been noted here before but only a couple of previous records.
The first of the strikingly marked magpie moths have emerged in the last week with this one pictured at the country park.

Not quite a cousin to the magpie moth except by name, this small magpie is one of the easier micro moths to recognise. A common moth at the traps at the moment.

Andy Field's moth trap in High Street North is pulling in a few moths now such as this very cryptic looking buff-tip moth.

The common footman has been appearing at the traps in the last couple of weeks in small numbers.

Michael Thorley was interested in this delicate looking grass vetchling found in his garden beside the East Mersea road. It's not really regarded as a garden species, more of a grassland plant found on the Island along the seawalls and other areas of long grass such as the country park.

Monday, 9 June 2014


 This male marsh harrier was one of two males and a female seen hunting over the fields between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane on Monday 9th. The harriers were seen at different times during the afternoon, as they flew slowly over the wheat and pea fields.

A sparrowhawk flew low over the fields towards the Shop Lane conifer wood while a common buzzard was seen perched on a fencepost on Reeveshall.

Other birds noted during the warm walk were two singing yellowhammers, cuckoo calling, two lesser whitethroats and a pair of stock doves.

Despite the warmth there were few butterflies on the wing today. However the first large skippers for the season were flying beside a grassy track, one pictured above. In total about six individuals were seen.

 Eight small heaths were keeping low down either in a couple of areas, one sheltered amongst some buttercups and the other in a grass pasture. Other butterflies seen were a speckled wood and a meadow brown.

Steve Entwistle reported turtle dove still calling in Willoughby car park on Saturday evening, while at the country park a broad bodied chaser, painted lady, four meadow browns while four avocets were seen on the park pools before being flushed off by a marsh harrier.

Sunday, 8 June 2014


There was a small group of eleven avocets on the saltmarsh lagoon by the East Mersea Point on Saturday 7th. Pictured above is one of the avocets resting on the ground with its mate standing over a shelduck.

The seawall near the Point is covered in the big plants of black mustard, adding a bright yellow colour to the place.

On the park dyke on Saturday morning were the shoveler with seven ducklings still, two singing reed warblers and a dozen mallard. On the fields were 60 black-tailed godwits, a marsh harrier seen quartering the fields and cuckoo calling near the pond.

The Strood seawall was walked twice on Friday 6th, once in the morning, pictured above, and again early evening during high tide. Its the first visit to this area for almost six weeks.

Birds of note included a marsh harrier being mobbed away by a crow from the fields towards Ray Island, pair of yellow wagtail near the caravan site, brief song from a sedge warbler, six singing reed warblers, singing corn bunting, reed bunting and also a cuckoo calling on the Ray.
Two male pochard were on the Strood reservoirs and a great crested grebe was in the Strood Channel. Four common terns were hawking amongst the moorings.

Two painted ladies were seen on Friday - the first for the year. One on red valerian at the bottom of The Lane, and another worn specimen along the Strood seawall. Also noted was a four-spotted chaser alongside the dyke

Birds from the Firs Chase garden were a soaring sparrowhawk, singing chiffchaff and singing blackcap along with song thrush and up to eight swifts overhead.
The Robinson moth trap was switched on in the Firs Chase garden on Friday and Saturday nights with the latter night being rewarded with at least forty species of macro. As always the large moths provided the main interest and two poplar hawks and three elephant hawks nice to see.
During Saturday afternoon a hummingbird hawkmoth nearly settled on the garage roof before speeding off.

The first buff arches of the season was noted, one pictured above. A moth that displays a strange set of markings on its wings that look like a chunk has been taken out of the back.

Several buff ermine moths were found at the trap, a common moth in the early summer.

A scarce moth in most parts of the country, this dotted fanfoot has been recorded at the country park before and is widely distributed across Essex and East Anglia especially near watercourses and marshes.

Other moths included peppered, common marbled carpet, treble brown spot, scorched wing, miller, figure of 80, riband wave, broken-barred carpet, green pug, peacock, cinnabar, green silver-lines, pebble prominent, pale prominent, common footman, heart and dart, heart and club, flame, flame shoulder, large yellow underwing, common wainscot, white-point, shoulder-striped wainscot and dark arches.

Thursday, 5 June 2014


Marsh harriers have been visiting the park's fields and pond at least a couple of times each day this last week. Usually it is the male that is seen but this individual pictured above is the female with the pale shoulder markings which was pictured on Tuesday over the pond.

The same female marsh harrier passing over the pond at the park on Tuesday evening, in its distinctive "V" shaped profile. The following evening the male marsh harrier was chased away from the saltmarsh near the Point by a pair of noisy avocets.

The cuckoo has been calling daily from the hedges and trees near the pond, where this one was pictured on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday one flew low over the middle of the grazing fields early evening.

All six cygnets are still following their mum around on the park pond. A second pair of swans have been seen on the dyke in recent days which will no doubt lead to conflict with this resident family.

Having recently enjoyed the sight of the first ever brood of shoveler at the park, now the first ever brood of gadwall have now appeared at the park. Six tiny ducklings were seen on the dyke with the female gadwall on Wednesday and Thursday. The seven shoveler ducklings were also seen on the dyke again.

Two little egrets were perched in the trees beside the pond on Wednesday and there was the usual 50+ black-tailed godwits in the fields. A grey plover was seen on the Golfhouse pools on Tuesday morning.

The first meadow brown butterflies of the season were seen on Tuesday afternoon when two individuals were keeping low amongst the long grass at the park.
Other butterflies noted on Thursday included small white, small heath, speckled wood, red admiral and small tortoiseshell.

Three colourful elephant hawkmoths were in the moth trap in Firs Chase on the night of Monday 2nd. This one pictured above from the underneath, seemed to be hanging from the edge of the moth trap by its fingertips. There was also the first showing of a small elephant hawkmoth too.

Thirty species of macro moth was a few more than other recent nights, the conditions quite warm overnight.

Two miller moths were noted that evening, a widespread moth in small numbers. The distinctive hairy caterpillars feed on birch.

This faded orange footman is probably the same one seen in the trap a couple of times last week, when it was more orange in colour. Numbers across the county have been increasing in recent years.

Some of the other moths noted were pebble hook-tip, riband wave, garden carpet, lime-speck pug, peppered, clouded silver, coxcomb prominent, dark arches, treble lines and shoulder-striped wainscot.

Monday, 2 June 2014


I thought this duck was another mallard brood, until I lifted up the binoculars and saw it was a female shoveler. Seen on the park dyke on Monday 2nd, the brood seemed quite young and mum was very nervous and uncertain where to take the young to feed.

This is the first proved breeding of shoveler at the park, although in the past pairs have been present in the spring. It could be the first proved breeding on the Island for sixty years when four pairs bred on the north side of the Island. Most of the shovelers breeding in Essex are found at various sites along the coast.

A very distant record shot of a male marsh harrier that spent some time in the early evening hunting around the park's grazing fields. Even at a distance of about 500m, when the shot was taken from the bird hide, the very pale head stands out. A male marsh harrier, probably this same individual was seen hunting the fields in the morning too.

The harrier disturbed 40 black-tailed godwits off the fields and got mobbed by a pair of lapwings over the fields. Two little egrets perched in the willow tree and a grey heron was stalking the pools in the fields in the morning.

The cuckoo was particularly vocal again today along the north edge of the park especially by the pond where it perched high in the willow. Two sand martins flew around the fields and cliff during the morning - the first pair seen in the area for over a month.

At the beginning of the day three cuckoos flew high over the East Mersea road near Weir Farm heading north, a weasel thought about crossing the same road near Church Lane, while the morning before there was the unusual sight of a red-legged partridge perched briefly on the top of a telegraph pole near Meeting Lane.
The sea kale has managed to survive the damaging winter storms that scoured many sections of the park beach away. At least three plants are growing on the first beach beside the start of the seawall.
Pleased to stumble across this clump of ground lackey moth caterpillars feeding on some sea lavender leaves. Around a hundred caterpillars were spread over a small area of saltmarsh close to the seawall.

The strange distinctive posture of the very thin saltmarsh plume moth was found resting on the park moth trap when it was checked on Monday morning. There are two generations a year with the second one appearing later in the summer.

Other moths noted after Sunday night's session included elephant hawk, poplar hawk, mottled beauty, treble brown spot, shark, common footman, sandy carpet, clouded border, white-point, ingrailed, marbled minor, heart and dart, shoulder-striped wainscot and angle shades.

This coronet moth was the highlight of the moth trap at Firs Chase on Sunday night. It used to be quite a scarce moth in the county but seems to have become more widespread in recent years. The park recorded its first one last summer.

Other moths noted here included marbled brown, latticed heath, treble lines, small fanfoot, buff ermine, coxcomb prominent, flame, bright-line brown-eye and rustic shoulder knot.

Sunday, 1 June 2014


The pair of swans at the park have been showing off their six young cygnets over the weekend. The youngsters were feeding close-in to the edge of the park dyke on Saturday, although by Sunday the family had walked back across the fields to the pond. At the end of the day they were seen climbing back onto their old nest.

Other birds seen on the pond included 14 tufted duck, drake pochard, three shoveler, pair of little grebes, a few coots and a family of moorhens with four young. On the fields 112 black-tailed godwits present in the morning was the highest count so far this spring of this non-breeding flock. A pair of redshank, lapwing, little egret and grey heron were also seen.

The cuckoo was calling loudly from the trees beside the pond on Sunday morning, although it managed to stay hidden from view. There was a report of a marsh harrier flying over the fields during the morning.
At the beginning of the day a male marsh harrier glided slowly over the East Mersea road near Weir Farm, as it hunted adjacent fields.

The barn owl was seen by one or two lucky folk at the park just before dusk on Saturday, hunting low over the areas of long grass.

The sunny weather on Sunday brought a few dragonflies out such as this female broad-bodied chaser found resting along side a second female in the evening sunshine. Two others were seen in different parts of the park during the morning. Also on the wing during the day were two hairy dragonflies.

Butterflies noted were green hairstreak, 5 small heath, large white, small white, holly blue, red admiral, small tortoiseshell and 10 speckled woods. A Mother Shipton moth was seen on an ox-eye daisy flower.

There was the colourful sight at the moth trap at the park of a couple of elephant hawkmoths, one pictured above in the morning of Thursday 29th. It's a common moth and a regular visitor to the trap during June and July.

There was the welcome sight of four cream-spot tiger moths with their striking markings. Recent cold springs has not been kind to these tigers with only one trapped last year preceded by none the previous year. The cream-spot tiger is a moth of mainly grasslands, so the park provides ideal conditions for them. The little black hairy caterpillars are often seen in early spring each year.

Some of the other moths noted here were, sandy carpet, clouded silver, pale oak beauty, turnip, common wainscot and least black arches.

The moth trap was also operating in the garden at Firs Chase, West Mersea on the warm night of Wednesday 28th. This burnished brass is a common moth but with striking brassy sheen on the wings.

This iron prominent has the typical iron-red markings on the wings, some just slightly worn. A widespread moth, the caterpillars feed on birch, of which a couple of these trees stood just a few metres from the trap.

Other moths noted were pale prominent, garden carpet, orange footman, figure of eighty, scorched wing, shears and white-point.