Wednesday, 19 April 2017

WELL-MARKED WHEATEARS


A nice group of five wheatears were in the park's grazing fields on Wednesday 19th, for the second day running but down from a record spring count of eight birds that were seen on Monday 17th along with a ninth bird seen in the Golfhouse sheep field.

Most of the wheatears were colourful males like this one pictured in the two photos that was feeding close to the park dyke.

The two ring ouzels were still present on Wednesday morning but in separate fields either side of the East Mersea Golfhouse. At least one bird has been present now for just over a week since it was first found on Wednesday 12th. Two birds were still being seen on 15th and 16th but only one was located on Monday 17th.

The linnet flock of up to 50 birds has been flying around the paddocks near the Golfhouse and also feeding on the saltmarsh where this bird was seen.

Summer migrants noted in recent days have been a singing willow warbler at the park on 15th, 16th, 18th and 19th probably at least two different birds, along with another one by the Golfhouse on 19th. A sand martin flew over the seawall near the Golfhouse on 16th and up to four swallows have been hawking along the seawall. A yellow wagtail flew over the Golfhouse seawall calling on the 17th.
Three lesser whitethroats were heard singing in the park on Monday 17th by Karl Kennedy while the only common whitethroat nearest the park was singing near Ivy Dock on the 16th.

This non breeding grey heron has been seen in recent days stalking the ditches and watercourses at the park. Two little egrets have been seen most days around the park, either on the fields or maybe beside the seawall.

Several avocets have been noted on the saltmarsh pools by the Golfhouse over recent days with eight on Wednesday 19th being the most. A pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the park on both Saturday 15th and Monday 17th.

At least twenty teal were on the park's fields on Wednesday 19th, although many are well hidden in the increasing vegetation. Also three wigeon and six shoveler and six shelduck on the pools. The high tide wader roost on Wednesday saw 100 redshank and 20 black-tailed godwits resting or feeding in the fields. A male pochard was on the park pond on Tuesday 18th.

The first brood of 3 lapwing chicks were seen on the edge of the rapidly receding area of pools in the fields on Tuesday 18th and again on Wednesday 19th. Coot chicks were first seen on the park pond on Friday 14th while a brood of 9 mallard ducklings have been seen in the park dyke.

The sunny weather on Wednesday 19th saw a bit more raptor activity with ten birds high in the air to the north of the park over Langenhoe involving a mix of both marsh harriers and common buzzards. Two different common buzzards flew over the park pond mid morning, one heading north, the other mobbed by crows as it flew east. A sparrowhawk flew high and eastwards to the north of the park.
Two different sparrowhawks were noted at the park on 17th, one heading east over the Colne.

At Maydays farm on Wednesday 19th, a yellow wagtail, four house martins, greenshank, common buzzard, 5 yellowhammers and 5 great crested grebes were noted by Martin Cock.
On Monday at Maydays, a common whitethroat, two reed warblers heard singing, four house martins, greenshank and whimbrel were seen at Maydays by Steve Entwistle.

A sad sight of a dead red squirrel found beside Empress Avenue suggesting it had been hit by a car. Having been first alerted to it by Chris Cheetham, I collected the squirrel and took it to Chris Burr and we could see it had been a healthy looking male. Thankfully this appears to be only the second road casualty on the Island in the last 12 months. However drivers need to take care on our Island's roads.

A muntjac deer was seen in the park fields on Wednesday 19th by Andy Field and a badger crossed the East Mersea road near Fen Farm just after dark on Sunday 16th.
Two adders were seen at the park on both the 19th and the 15th.

Butterfly numbers have been quite low in recent days in the cold northerly winds although orange-tip, speckled wood, green-veined white, holly blue, peacock, small tortoiseshell and comma have been on the wing. Moth trapping has been very disappointing during the recent cold nights with less than ten moths noted on a couple of nights.

Friday, 14 April 2017

RING OUZELS STILL ON SHOW

The two ring ouzels were present for a second day near the East Mersea Golfhouse, with one of the birds now having been present since Wednesday. Both birds showed well all day in the sheep field, sometimes flying into the nearby hedge for a few minutes before dropping back down into the field again. Sean Nixon kindly passed onto me these two photos he took on Friday of one of the ring ouzels.




One of the male ring ouzels was heard singing from the nearby hedge and on another occasion was heard making its harsh chacking call.

Also in the field was a male yellow wagtail earlier in the morning, a female wheatear, redwing, 5 song thrushes while two swallows hawked along the seawall.

Two common scoter, two great crested grebes and at least two common terns were in the Colne while two avocets were on the saltmarsh and ten sanderling were on the beach just after high tide.


A willow warbler was singing in trees on the park cliff-top on Friday morning, skilfully photographed through the tangle of branches and twigs by Sean. Two other willow warblers were also noted at West Mersea in Firs Chase and Strood Close.

Three different common whitethroats were heard singing, one at the back of the grazing fields, another at the top of Bromans Lane and a third between Bromans and North Farm.
A pair of grey partridge was seen in one of the fields to the north of the park by Andy Field on Friday morning.
At the end of Friday as the light faded, a little owl perched on a bare tree at the top of Bromans Lane, before flying low across the field.

One of the coots along the park borrowdyke was sitting tightly on her nest which will hopefully become more concealed as the club-rushes grow up around it.


Up to 14 tufted ducks were on the park pond and also the nearby dyke. In the grazing fields 78 black-tailed godwits roosted along with ten redshank in the afternoon.



This web of brown-tail moth caterpillars has started to defoliate a blackthorn bush next to the dyke.


Seven speckled woods were noted around the park, also holly blue, orange-tip, peacock and comma. One adder was noted at the park in the morning and a muntjac deer was seen by Andy Field to the north of the park.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

RING OUZEL EXCITEMENT


Having enjoyed the sight of a single male ring ouzel in a field near the East Mersea Golfhouse on Wednesday 12th, there was double the excitement the next day when another ring ouzel was found alongside the first one.

The first bird was found by Martin Cock and Andrew Tilsey as they walked along the seawall. Then early on Thursday morning Angela Buckley doubled the ring ouzel count with the discovery of a second bird. At times the birds fed close to the seawall where good views were provided, such as this one pictured above on Thursday afternoon.

On the first day the ring ouzel spent most of the time at the back of the field, where these two photos were taken by Andy Field. This is the third spring in the row a ring ouzel has been found at this end of the island. The ring ouzels are stopping off on their migration from north Africa where they've spent the winter, to their breeding grounds on the mountain tops of the UK and Scandinavia.


As well as the ring ouzels in the field, a redwing was present on both Wednesday and Thursday, as well as 4 song thrushes and 5 blackbirds. Also on Wednesday 70 linnets were in the Golfhouse horse paddock, also 4 avocets, snipe and a whimbrel on the saltmarsh, while a common tern was in the Colne. A common whitethroat was found on Wednesday by Martin and Andrew further along the seawall towards the Oyster Fishery and they also noted 4 common scoter and 4 common terns in the Colne.



On Thursday a mallard was keeping a close eye on her new brood of ten small ducklings in the dyke by the Golfhouse.
There was a variety of waders roosting on the Golfhouse saltmarsh pools during the Thursday high tide with 3+ knot, 150+ dunlin, 20+ turnstone, 50+ redshank, black-tailed godwit and two avocets.

A pair of avocets dropped onto the main pool in the park grazing fields on Tuesday 11th.
The first swallow at the park this spring was seen flying over the fields on Tuesday evening. Two wigeon, 4 shoveler and a pair of kestrels were also noted here while on the park a sparrowhawk flashed past, a willow warbler singing, 3 blackcaps and 3 chiffchaffs also singing. Four Mediterranean gulls flew over the park calling.

On Wednesday at the park pond, a pair of swans appeared to be thinking about nest-building until they were given their marching orders by the resident pair of swans. The beaks on the "foreign" pair appeared to be duller pink in colour, suggesting young-adult birds trying their luck here.


Also at the pond on Wednesday were 14 tufted ducks which increased to 18 the next day along with 8 pochard. Two swallows flew over the pond and fields on both Wednesday and Thursday.


On the park's grazing fields on Thursday 72 black-tailed godwits were roosting late afternoon on the main pool.


A corn bunting was singing from the overhead wires by Chapmans Lane near West Mersea on Tuesday morning. A swallow was flying near Haycocks Stables on Thursday.
Two grey partridge were seen in a field near Home Farm, East Mersea on Sunday 9th by Martin Cock. A willow warbler was singing in Firs Chase, West Mersea on Friday 7th.



The recent sunny weather has brought a few more butterflies onto the wing with four speckled woods seen at the park on Thursday 13th. Also orange-tip, comma, small tortoiseshell, peacock and green-veined white.
An adder was seen at the park on Wednesday 12th.


The clear skies at night have been poor for moths at the park although this nut-tree tussock pictured above, is the first spring sighting here. It has become more regular in recent summers and now it seems it has managed an early generation this year.

The first Chinese character is a regular both in the spring and summer, although this individual is probably a month earlier than usual here.

The V-pug is a regular especially in the summer although this individual is a first one for the early spring. Only twenty moths were found during Wednesday night - although much better than just the five recorded on Tuesday night. The two other species making up the numbers have been common quaker and Hebrew character.


A muntjac deer was barking loudly and continuously for half an hour on Tuesday evening from the back of the park pond.
A female muntjac with a young fawn was seen last week by Teresa Parkin in her back garden near Meeting Lane. Also last week a red squirrel was seen in the garden of the Golfhouse by Graham Gurton.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

SQUIRREL SHOW

The female red squirrel returned for a prolonged feed to the Firs Chase garden on Friday 7th. The teats are much more noticeable on her at the moment, which might suggest she has young somewhere.
I managed to gently open the window of the house to take a number of photos without disturbing her- the first good photo-opportunity here for three months.

She was on the tree for about forty minutes during the first part of the morning. She had last visited here two afternoons previously. No sign of the male today so the female enjoyed her feed in peace!

Reaching into the feeder for the favourite hazel-nuts along with a few peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Sometimes the  red squirrels curl their tails over their backs but this time the big tail hung down, letting the sun show off how bright and bushy-tailed she is!

The recently installed deer antler tied to the tree was nibbled for the first time by the red squirrel. This will help reduce calcium deficiency in the nut diet of the squirrels, especially the females and young.

After satisfying her hunger, the female red squirrel reached over to the tiny-trug for a drink of water to wash down all those nuts, before scuttling back up the tree and high over Firs Chase.
Now that she had finished, I could finally get on with the rest of the day!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

THIRSTY SQUIRRELS

As we enter a spring drought on Mersea, I've made life a bit easier for the red squirrels in the Firs Chase garden by providing a tiny-trug of water for them beside the nut feeder up the tree. It has taken just over a week for the squirrels to start using it with this female having a quick drink before settling down for 15 minutes to feed on Wednesday 5th mid-morning. She later appeared again for a five minute feed late afternoon. (Apologies this video isn't working at the moment!)

The regular pale male red squirrel had his first drink of water from the tiny-trug the previous morning on Tuesday 4th. He then spent five minutes tucking into the mixed nut selection.

A red squirrel was reported being seen crossing Seaview Avenue on Wednesday.
The water levels on the park's grazing fields continue to drop each day. Late on Thursday 6th there were 35+ black-tailed godwits, 10+ redshank, 15+ lapwing, 50 teal, 6 shoveler, 18 wigeon present, also the pair of kestrels on the tree and the Cetti's warbler singing.
On the park pond a little egret and 14 tufted ducks were noted along with a few noisy little grebes.

A pair of chiffchaffs was gathering nesting material close to the park's horseride, while in the car park a blackcap was serenading visitors most of the day and a pair of linnets was nearby too. A red-legged partridge was calling from the field to the west of the car park.
A common tern was seen in the river Colne, also 5 common scoter flew past while two avocets were seen on the pools near the Point by Andy Field on Thursday 6th.

A sparrowhawk flew low across the park late on Wednesday afternoon.
A pair of greylag geese was present in the grazing fields on Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th. Five house sparrows were chirping cheerily just inside the park entrance on Monday.

Two corn buntings perched beside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall early on Wednesday. Two redwings perched in a tree briefly calling in Firs Chase on Monday. 

A weasel was seen chasing a rabbit at the park by Annie Gordon on Thursday, also here two adders and also a recent sloughed adder skin. Two common lizards were seen in the long grass.

An orange-tip, green veined white, 2 peacocks and 2 small tortoiseshells were on the wing at the park on Thursday. A speckled wood was seen near the car park on Tuesday as was the first green-veined white butterfly.

It's been a bit quiet in the moth trap recently with the cold nights. This shoulder stripe was the only different moth at the park trap on Tuesday night out of only 15 moths.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

SPRING SNAKES

This grass-snake was watched sliding through the undergrowth at the country park on Saturday 1st. It's the first sighting of a grass-snake at the park this year - and judging by previous years, this sighting might be the only one this year here.

Happy to soak up the sun at the park on a warm Sunday 2nd was this very brown looking female adder. The adders have been very scarce at the park this spring, maybe with all the attention in recent springs, they're getting a bit camera-shy these days.

A handful of teal including this male were feeding on the saltmarsh pool inside the old fort near the East Mersea Point on Sunday. Further round the saltmarsh 12 avocets were noted on the pools below the Golfhouse.

A snipe was resting on the grazing fields and a grey heron was standing by the central ditch in the grazing fields on Sunday. A common buzzard flew west over the car park on Sunday afternoon.

Thirteen black-tailed godwits were on the park pools on Saturday, many starting to develop their summer russet plumage.
Also present on the fields were 15 shoveler, 40 wigeon, 50 curlew, 50 redshank and 20+ lapwing. On the pond were two pairs of pochard and 16 tufted ducks. A marsh harrier flew west along the park coastline.
A fox was seen sleeping near the back of the park pond on Sunday morning, lifting it's head up briefly for a quick look around before nodding back off again.

Two small tortoiseshell butterflies and 5 peacocks were on the wing during Sunday at the park.

A female red squirrel made a brief visit to the bird bath for a drink in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday morning. She had just spent ten minutes at the feeder in the other corner of the garden. The female has been absent from the feeder for over a week, although the paler male has still been making early morning visits each day, including an hour and a half before this female visited on Saturday.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

MARCH MIGRANTS

A few more migrants have been dropping into the country park in recent days with this nicely coloured male wheatear seen on the grazing fields on Thursday 30th. With declining wheatear numbers, finding one in March has become more challenging in recent years. There was no sign of it the next day.

At least three chiffchaffs have been singing around the park, one pictured above. Joining them on Thursday was a singing willow warbler near the park pond which stayed for a couple of days. The first blackcap at the park was also seen on Thursday, singing near the park entrance.

Also noted on Thursday were two pairs of pochard and 12 tufted ducks on the pond, 30 black-tailed godwits on the fields while in the Colne a male red-breasted mergansers and 5 common scoter flew out of the river. Four avocets were on the saltmarsh pools near the Point.

A peregrine circled above the field to the north of the park on Wednesday 29th before drifting north. Eight little egrets were at the pond for high tide while on the fields fifty redshank, 10 black-tailed godwits and 45 curlew were roosting.
A weasel ran across the car park on Wednesday afternoon.

The loud call of the male grey partridge in the car park on a foggy Tuesday 28th was very unexpected. It called for a minute before flying onto the main field of the park and calling again, presumably in the hope of locating a mate.
The following day a red-legged partridge was calling from the field to the west of the car park and then a pair was seen on Friday 31st.

This male great spotted woodpecker was seen tapping an electricity pole to the north of the park by Andy Field on Friday 31st.

At West Mersea the black redstart was reported back again behind the Dabchicks sailing club by Mark Dixon on Tuesday 28th.

After ten years of waiting for the grassland habitat to become suitable, several batches of eggs of the nationally rare Fishers Estuarine moth were introduced to the stand of hogs fennel plants at the country park. Under the guidance of Zoe Ringwood and the help of Glen Fairweather at Colchester Zoo, the eggs were delivered and should be ready to hatch out in the next few weeks and the tiny larvae will find plenty of well established hogs fennel plants for them to feed on.

An orange-tip butterfly fluttered along the track by the car park on Friday 31st, the first time one has been recorded in March here before. A holly blue flitting around the holly bushes in the car park on Wednesday 29th was the first ever record here in March too. A comma was noted on Thursday 30th at the park.

Six early thorns were found by the moth trap at the park during the night of Tuesday 28th - the best tally for early spring for this moth. Just over 100 moths of eight species were noted with most of them either common quakers or Hebrew characters. Also noted were red chestnut, chestnut, clouded drab and small quaker.

A frosted green came to the trap on Wednesday night, the first for the season.

A couple of twin-spotted quakers were also in the trap, showing their distinctive pair of black spots on each wing.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

BACK-GARDEN BLACKCAP

A female blackcap was a surprise visitor to the Firs Chase garden on Monday 27th. This is the first one back to the garden this spring and only the second one back onto the Island so far.
A chiffchaff was singing from some nearby trees in Firs Chase.


A male sparrowhawk flashed overhead and a pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over calling during the afternoon.
The male robin was examining the newly mown lawn for grubs and then presenting them to his female partner waiting nearby.

The sunshine on Monday brought several butterflies into the garden, where they sheltered out of the strong breeze such as this comma sitting on a stick.
Two peacocks were seen chasing each other a few times during the middle of the day.

Two small tortoiseshells rested on the roof of the house, soaking up the warmth for almost half an hour here.

The male red squirrel with the pale eye-rings is still making early morning visits to the feeder each day, although the female hasn't been noted for several days. The great spotted woodpecker was seen perched beside the feeder the day before.


A hedgehog was seen recently seen by Carole Reed in her Firs Chase garden


A morning walk along the Strood seawall on Monday 27th produced 50 brent geese, 2 greylag geese, 2 little grebes, 40 linnets, 10 skylarks and 3 reed buntings. Two chiffchaffs were heard near the Lane.