Monday, 29 August 2016


Four whinchats were perched on bushes beside the Maydays farm borrow-dyke in the shimmering heat of Monday 29th. There was plenty of sunshine during the walk along the seawall but there was a strong heat haze too. The whinchats are having a brief stop-over here for a day or so before  continuing south for the winter.

Birds noted over Reeveshall and Maydays included a common buzzard, 2 kestrels, yellowhammer, 2 reed warblers, lesser whitethroat, 2 common whitethroats, 6 linnets, 20 house martins and a yellow wagtail.

As the tide receded during the middle part of the day, this common seal enjoyed a bit of basking on the north side of the Pyefleet. Two more seals were basking on the saltmarsh further up the Pyefleet.

Birds feeding along the channel were 2 little terns, common tern, whimbrel, 8 little egrets, 50 grey plover and 100 redshank. On Langenhoe a hobby appeared to be hawking after dragonflies while a female marsh harrier was seen  quartering the marsh.

Several butterflies were noted in the hot conditions with two clouded yellows of most interest, also 10 common blues, 15 small heath, 2 small tortoiseshell and 25 small whites seen.

In Firs Chase a willow warbler in the garden first thing, a yellow wagtail, 10 swallows, 10 house martins and kestrel flew over while 3 common buzzard and a sparrowhawk circled high over the Hard.

A search for curlew sandpipers proved rewarding along the east end of the Pyefleet on Sunday when 11 birds were found on the mud near the Oyster Fishery. The digiscoped image above shows a moulting adult on the left and a juvenile on the right - as were most of the others seen close-by. Later in the afternoon, quite possibly the same eleven birds were seen near Ivy Dock by Steve Entwistle.

Other birds at that end of the Pyefleet with the tide going out were 50 avocet, 200+ golden plover, 10 ringed plover, 10 dunlin, 8 grey herons, while 50 common terns were feeding on a shoal of fish in the Colne.

On the army ranges of Langenhoe on Sunday, Richard Hull and Andy Field saw the red-backed shrike still present after being first seen on Friday. Also garganey, 2 little stint and 6 curlew sandpipers 6 green sandpipers, 4 ruff, 2 greenshank, common sandpipers, 3 marsh harriers, hobby and juvenile cuckoo while on Friday 6 whinchat were seen.

This family of mute swans with three young have recently taken up residence in this dyke near Shop Lane, probably a family from Reeveshall's Broad Fleet.
Calling from the clubrush filled dyke between Ivy Dock and the Oyster Fishery was a water rail which showed itself as it preened. Twenty swallows passed over as did a couple of sand martins.

A common sandpiper was heard calling in flight as it passed south over the country park just after dark on Saturday night.

A couple of walks were made along the Strood seawall on Saturday at low tide and also the day before at high tide, as seen above. Most birds were noted on Saturday such as a pair of Mediterranean gulls, 4 greenshank, 25 grey plover, 200+ redshank, kestrel and 10 linnets. On Friday 100 golden plover were in the field and 2 common terns were along the Strood.
Two Mediterranean gulls were seen flying off the field at Chapmans Lane on Friday morning.

A pair of common darters were perched on a couple of posts in the Firs Chase garden on Sunday 28th while a couple of migrant hawkers were busy catching insects.
The only butterflies noted in the garden have been speckled wood, several small white, red admiral, comma and holly blue.

The moth trap was run at the country park on the nights of the 25th and the 27th, with the latter being better with 240 macro moths of 34 species. This worn bordered beauty was a nice addition to the recent regular fare.

The second Webb's wainscot of the year was probably the most notable although the earlier record was in a different location, by the seawall a fortnight previously.

A shiny burnished brass visited the trap on the 25th, the coppery sheen showing up nicely.

One of the autumnal coloured moths, the frosted orange was seen on the 25th.
Other moths included oak hook-tip, orange swift, Chinese character, green carpet, sharp-angled peacock, latticed heath, poplar hawkmoth, iron prominent, white-point, tree lichen beauty, sandhill rustic as well as a few rusty dot pearls and rush veneers.

Friday, 26 August 2016


Three grey partridges were in the field by Chapmans Lane early on Thursday 25th, looking a bit tatty as they go through their summer moult.

At the country park the sparrowhawk passed over the car park a couple of times during the day, a willow warbler was heard, a swift passed over along with a big mixed flock of 400 house martins and swallows, a yellow wagtail flew over the car park and a Mediterranean gull was feeding on the mudflats.
In the evening 12 yellow wagtails flew out of the grazing fields, 200+ swallows were flying about, little tern, 2 common terns, 200 turnstone, 20 golden plover along the edge of the mud and at least two ringed plover chicks on the beach.

Four small heaths were enjoying the sunshine on Thursday morning at the park, also noted was a painted lady on the buddleia. Two adders were basking beside one of the paths in the morning.

The week old ringed plover chicks were still running about the beach feeding near the East Mersea Point, here pictured by Andy Field.

The ringed plover chicks continue to thrive even at this very busy summer period dodging the dogs and the walkers. Andy filmed this short video of the chicks

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Also noted on his walk through the park towards the Ivy Dock area were 2 curlew sandpipers, 100 golden plover, 100 dunlin, 150 black-tailed godwits, 3 little terns, 3 willow warblers and 2 yellow wagtails as well as 2 clouded yellow butterflies.

A very tame juvenile goldfinch flew out of a hedge at Fen Farm to look for food from Annie Gordon's hand on Wednesday 24th. Maybe this was the bird that someone was reported to have hand-reared recently. Noted at Fen Farm in the morning were 4 yellow wagtails and a painted lady on buddleia.

A flock of seven greenshank flew south-west over the Cudmore Grove car park on Wednesday afternoon.

A curlew sandpiper was seen on the mud by Ivy Dock on Tuesday 23rd by Martin Cock who also counted 7 clouded yellows along the seawall.

On Monday 22nd a wigeon was on the park pond,15 goldfinches were feeding on thistles and 2 willow warblers were at the park.

Mark Dixon and Mark Farrant enjoyed watching a black redstart by their cottages next to the Dabchicks Sailing Club on Wednesday 24th.

A number of red squirrels were seen on Wednesday morning from various locations, this one pictured above chasing another squirrel around the cedar tree in Firs Chase early in the morning.
Also on Wednesday in Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane 3 red squirrels were seen by Martin Cock.

This red squirrel was seen dashing along the back garden fence at the country park while I was emptying the moth trap early on Wednesday morning. There have been several reports recently of a red squirrel in the park and nearby Bromans Lane over the last ten days or so. One was seen in the middle of the car park on Tuesday 23rd and also in the park on Sunday 21st. The previous week there were three sightings in Bromans Lane - two sightings of them crossing the road and another by the Watkins in their Bromans Farm garden.

Recent warm evenings have been reasonably productive for moths at the park with 25 latticed heaths on 22nd of interest, one pictured above. Nearly fifty species of macro over the two nights were recorded.

The distinctive treble bar was one of the moths in the trap after the night of the 23rd.
Also noted were orange swift, least carpet, yellow barred brindle, canary-shouldered thorn, poplar hawkmoth, oak hook-tip, blood-vein, double-striped pug, sallow kitten, archers dart, nutmeg, white-point, silver-Y, sandhill rustic, flounced rustic, tree lichen beauty and rosy rustic.
Several rush veneers have been seen on recent nights, a well known immigrant, also a handful of rusty-dot pearls and the tiny diamond-back moth too.

The last few leaves of a once extensive patch of sea bindweed were still clinging onto the rapidly receding beach near Fen Farm on Wednesday. The plant produces pink and white bell shaped flowers in the spring/ early summer. This is the last site on the Island for this plant.

Monday, 22 August 2016


The family of ringed plovers have been having a testing time recently with very high spring tides covering most of the beach near the East Mersea Point on Sunday 21st. The three chicks were still scuttling about the beach under the watchful eye of their parents nearby. Luckily for the family, the eggs hatched a few days before the spring tides, as where they had been nesting, got flooded by the tide over this weekend.

The ringed plover chicks were first seen on Wednesday 17th and probably just one or two days old. Two chicks had crouched down on the beach, one pictured here on the left, taken from the seawall path. The third chick hadn't been seen at this early stage, no doubt crouching down and well camouflaged on the beach.
Seven common terns flew west offshore from the park.

The main pool in the park's grazing fields have dried up rapidly in the last few days with this lapwing the only wader seen using it on Sunday.
A swift and 25 swallows were seen flying over the fields in the morning.

In the nearby trees by the pond 34 little egrets were seen late afternoon and the two young sparrowhawks were still calling loudly.

A juvenile little gull flew along the saltmarsh near the old East Mersea Hard then landing for a few minutes near Ivy Dock on Saturday 20th. The distinctive black W pattern on the upperwing was the eyecatching feature seen as the bird flew across the Pyefleet towards Langenhoe Point.

On the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse 200 black-tailed godwits and 5 bar-tailed godwits roosted during the Saturday high tide.
Four teal, 35 little egrets and a shoveler were on the pond on Saturday, while the count of little egrets on Friday was 58 birds. Twelve mistle thrushes were feeding in the overflow car park.

On Wednesday 17th, a spotted flycatcher was found in the horse paddock at the Golfhouse by Martin Cock, where a whinchat and a couple of yellow wagtails were seen later that morning. Over the nearby fields 200 house martins, 100 swallows and a handful of sand martins were hawking.

At the park pond 61 little egrets roosted in the trees and 4 teal were noted while two willow warblers were calling from trees in the park on Wednesday.

Two willow warblers were calling from trees in the park on Tuesday 16th, a green sandpiper flew over the car park just before daybreak calling as it headed west and a red-legged partridge called from the nearby field.

Birds of note at the park on Monday 15th were a willow warbler, 8 teal and a shoveler.

Birds seen along the Reeveshall seawall on Sunday 21st by Andy Field included this obliging wheatear, also two little ringed plover, green sandpiper, 50 black-tailed godwits, 25 grey plover, 50 ringed plover, 12 dunlin, curlew sandpiper, 4 little terns, 3 common terns, 2 yellow wagtails and a common buzzard.

Hawking over Firs Chase on Friday 19th in the evening were 5 swifts, 10 house martins  and 5 swallows. A sparrowhawk passed over in the evening, while earlier in the day a willow warbler was calling from the garden.

This migrant hawker found itself inside the house in Firs Chase.

Recent butterflies at the park have included a clouded yellow on Sun 21st then two on Wednesday 17th and two on 15th along the seawall. Also on the 17th were 3 painted ladies on the buddleia as were 2 peacocks, 5 small tortoiseshells, 2 commas and 2 red admirals with two brown argus noted nearby too. Two painted ladies were also noted on the 15th at the park. Other butterflies noted have been small white, large white, meadow brown, gatekeeper and speckled wood.

Saturday, 20 August 2016


Dave Grundy travelled from the Midlands to carry out some moth-trapping ahead of a couple of moth identification courses he was running locally. The five traps he placed on or close to the beach at the park on Thursday 11th, here pictured just after dawn the next day. Three more traps were also operating back in the car park area.

The second visit was on the Monday 15th when six traps were dotted along the park seawall, beach and here in the picture on the cliff-top. I had three traps going in the car park that same night.
Conditions on the second night weren't as good for moths with a clear sky leading to a heavy dew by dawn.

The only pine hawkmoth of the summer at the park made an appearance on the 11th, this one looking a little bit worn. A poplar hawkmoth was found down on the grass covered in dew at dawn on the 16th.

There was a good showing of archer's darts from the traps along the seawall with about eight individuals noted - the most seen in one night here.

Amongst several orange swifts were a couple of very strikingly coloured purple females, one shown here.

The dark spinach was in a trap by the beach and I think the first record for the site, probably being overlooked in the past. It's a widespread moth generally and has the foodplants of orache and goosefoot here by the beach.

Other moths of note were several sandhill rustics, ground lackey, white-line dart, white-points, tree-lichen beauty, maple prominent, silver-Y, saltmarsh plume, Webb's wainscot and twin-spotted wainscot.
The three traps in the car park caught 46 species of macro over the two nights.

At and earlier mothing session at the park on Monday 8th, this poplar kitten was one of the less regular moths noted that night. On a clear but breezy night 53 species were noted.

A sharp-angled peacock was also noted at the park on the 8th.

Also noted were lackey, drinker, pebble hook-tip, maidens blush, least carpet, red twin-spot carpet, yellow-barred brindle, poplar hawkmoth, pebble prominent, ruby tiger, nutmeg, lychnis, white-point, poplar grey, sandhill rustic and flounced rustic.

An evening of moth-trapping in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday 13th was quite rewarding on a partially clear night. Thirty-two species of macro of just over 100 individuals were recorded.
This twin-spotted wainscot pictured above, was the most notable being an Essex Red data book species.

The pretty marbled beauty was found at the Firs Chase trap, a common moth it has been noted here before.

This common blood-vein moth caught the eye with the pretty pink border along the wings.

Other moths noted in Firs Chase included oak hook-tip, single dotted wave, garden carpet, cypress pug, coronet, copper underwing, sandhill rustic, silver-Y, herald and rosy rustic.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


A little bit of excitement was caused by the sighting by Martin Cock of this juvenile Montagu's harrier on Reeveshall on Sunday 14th. The bird was first seen perched on a fencepost near the seawall before it flew a short distance to land in a nearby grass field. At first it remained hidden from view until it flew to another part of the same field where it was watched for just under an hour and I managed to take these first two pictures.

When the bird stretched its wings, a coloured ring was seen on its leg. Some enquiries by Adrian Kettle revealed this Montagu's harrier was a youngster born this spring in north Norfolk. An interesting journey the bird has taken, stopping off on Mersea Island while on its way south for the winter.

The markings on the head and face were very distinctive with a dark band down the side of the face and also the pale spectacled-appearance. The bird had a general warm orangey-brown colouring, especially underneath. Andy Field took the photos above and below.

The bird at times was nodding off and could be seen closing its eyes for a couple of seconds a few times. Other times it was looking all around and on one occasion watching closely as an anxious and noisy buzzard passed overhead. The harrier took off to fly leisurely to the west and appeared to land in a recently cut wheat field over 500 metres away but sadly it didn't provide any more views.
The last Montagu's harrier to stop off on Reeveshall was in the same mid-month period 12 years ago, on the 13th and 14th August 2004 with the previous one to that on 19th August 2002.

Also seen in that area of Reeveshall at the north end of Shop Lane was a hobby flying east, 2 marsh harriers, 2 common buzzards, 2 kestrels and a juvenile sparrowhawk still calling from the wood.
A whinchat and wheatear were by the Shop Lane seawall, while in the Pyefleet 2 whimbrel, 50 cormorant and 50 avocets were of note.

The first returning wheatear on the Island was this one along the Strood seawall on Friday 12th. The bird was flying back and forwards along the seaward side whenever another walker passed by.
A juvenile cuckoo was flushed off the seawall and headed to a hedge on the Strood Hill fields. In one stubble field 300 golden plover were well hidden. Two kestrels were hunting over the fields.

Three grey herons and three little egrets were seen in the fields and ditches inside the Strood seawall.
Several birds were flycatching from a swarm above bushes beside the dyke including a couple of sedge warblers, reed warbler, whitethroat and even two reed buntings were catching flies in the air.

As  the tide came in that Friday evening a greenshank was among 250 redshank, 20 dunlin and a couple of whimbrel were of note. A Mediterranean gull was seen near a big flock of 300 black-headed gulls after the flying ants over the Ray.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


The main pool in the country park's grazing fields still held enough water in it on Wednesday 10th for this group of waders to roost during the high tide. In the early evening there were 150 redshank and 30 black-tailed godwits along with a handful of lapwings.

The swan family spent Wednesday on the park pond, here one of the white cygnets following a parent bird, beside some of the roosting little egrets in the bushes. Thirty little egrets were counted in the bushes and trees behind the pond.

Following the discovery by Alan Adkins of a ringed plover nest on the park beach near the old fort, this area was roped off to avoid the nest being damaged by walkers on the beach.

A quick peek at the nest revealed three very well camouflaged eggs among the shells and shingle. The nest is in a very vulnerable location on a well used and narrow bit of beach. Without the nest being cordoned off, no-one would even think there was a nest with eggs to avoid here. The ringed plover was quick to return to the nest as soon as I returned to the nearby seawall path and started to walk away.
Fingers crossed the eggs soon hatch out and the chicks manage to avoid the walkers and dogs on the beach.

The first wasp spider of the summer was found in a clump of sea purslane on the side of the park seawall on Thursday evening.

A brimstone butterfly paid a brief visit to the white buddleia by the park toilet building on Friday 12th, here pictured with a small tortoiseshell.

Early on Friday morning a painted lady was soaking up the early morning sun's rays on the side of the park seawall.

A big chunky dor beetle was found in one of the moth traps situated by the seawall early on Friday morning. It's been a few years since the last dor beetle was seen at the park, and that was in this same general area too. The dor beetle feeds on dung and performs a useful job in the countryside, eating its own weight in dung every day!