Monday, 17 July 2017

STROOD POCHARD BROOD

Discovering a brood of pochard ducklings was the noteworthy sighting of the walk along the Strood seawall on a very sunny Monday 17th. The family was feeding along the dyke in the same place where a pochard brood was seen last year.

All five pochard ducklings sticking together as they follow the mother along the dyke.
Two other young pochard broods were seen on the country park pond at East Mersea towards the end of June but were not seen again.

Yellow wagtails from the pairs at either end of the Strood seawall were seen on Monday, this female feeding just below the seawall.

Two sedge warblers were seen, one singing, also four singing reed warblers, two singing corn buntings, 100+ house sparrows in bushes near the dyke and a meadow pipit singing from the saltmarsh.
This male reed bunting was making the most of the hot weather by having a sunbathe and puffing its feathers out. Two male reed buntings were heard singing.

Ten little egrets were seen along the Strood channel, this one doing a spot of fishing near the sluice outflow.
Not much variety of waders on the mud at low tide although 3 greenshank, 5 whimbrel, 75+ curlew and 150 redshank were the main ones noted.
Three common buzzards circled over the Peldon side of the channel while a fourth bird flew south-west down-channel. A hobby mobbed one of the buzzards high over Sampsons Creek.

High over the West Mersea houses 40+ swifts were in the air while in the early evening a hobby chased after a flock of 200+ starlings over Victory Road.

Along the Strood seawall on Sunday 16th a greenshank, 2 whimbrel, one black-tailed godwit, four common terns, 3 common buzzards, sedge warbler, 4 reed warblers, yellow wagtail and 30 swifts were the main highlights.

A brown argus butterfly was seen on the Strood seawall on Monday 17th.


Sunday, 16 July 2017

SEASIDE PLANTS

A few plants caught the eye during a walk along the West Mersea beach to St Peters where the saltmarsh was a nice purple colour with the patches of sea lavender.

Several clumps of sea holly were in bloom with this big plant on the beach near the bottom of Kingsland Avenue.

Sea spurge used to be quite a scarce plant on the Mersea beaches 15 or so years ago but in the last dozen years has sprung up on many of the beaches in West and East Mersea.

Flitting along the back of the Kingsland beach was this freshly marked painted lady on Friday 14th.

Birds noted from the beach included 4 common terns, 25 house sparrows feeding on the strandline and lots of noisy herring gulls with their big brown chicks on Cobmarsh Island.

A tatty small copper dropped into the Firs Chase garden on Friday 14th.

During a walk along seawall at Maydays farm on Saturday 15th, a pair of corn buntings flew onto a bush and this male started to sing. Once a widespread bird at Maydays, this is the last pair on the farm now.

Also in bushes and along the dyke were 3 singing yellowhammers, 4 reed warblers, one reed bunting and ten linnets. Flying low over the fields was a passage of 12 sand martins, 20 swallows and 2 swifts while 25 resident house martins were flying around the farmhouse.

Along the Pyefleet were 2 greenshank, common sandpiper, whimbrel, 16 avocet, 50+ grey plover, 100+ redshank, 10 dunlin, 8 little egret, 3 great crested grebes, 4 common terns and a brood of 8 shelducklings with two nanny shelducks. Two marsh harriers flew over Langenhoe and another over Maydays marsh.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

FIRS FOX

The foxes in Firs Chase have been getting more brazen in recent months, usually sitting at the side of the road to watch the traffic go past - or in the case of this individual, sit in the middle of the road!

The Firs Chase garden feeder is still getting several red squirrel visits each day with this dark female with tufts a regular each day. 

One of the teats is just noticeable on this same female red squirrel.

Twenty minutes after watching the female in the early evening on Monday 3rd, this male red squirrel appeared and began tucking into the peanuts.

A red squirrel was also reported at the country park being seen on the grassy island in the middle of the car park at the end of June.

A surprise first thing on Sunday 9th was this grey partridge feeding in the middle of the car park at Cudmore Grove before the first cars arrived.
Forty swifts flew west over the park during the day on Wednesday 12th and 25 swifts were circling over West Mersea houses in the evening of Monday 10th.

The little egret roost is starting to build up again at the park pond with 24 counted on Thursday 13th. Also at the pond a sparrowhawk came out of the trees while nearby four kestrels were flying about. The distinctive call of a nightingale was heard in bushes near the car park on the 13th - a bird on passage heading south.

At Maydays farm a hobby, greenshank, common buzzard and 2 grey partridge were seen by Martin Cock on Wednesday 12th. A sandwich tern and the Strood yellow legged gull have also been noted in recent days too.

A barn owl was hovering alongside the East Mersea road at Bocking Hall at dusk on Sunday 9th. Various little owls have been on show recently too with one near Meeting Lane and Chapmans Lane on 4th, another near Meeting Lane on the 5th while a different individual was by the country park entrance on 10th.

The six-spot burnet moths are having a much better season than last summer, with these two locked together on a field scabious flower at the park. A dozen six-spot burnets were on the wing on Thursday 13th, and also in the long grass were 4 common blues, 20+ gatekeepers, 20+ meadow browns, ringlet, small copper and a number of both skipper species.
A black-tailed skimmer was flying along the park dyke on the 13th.

Four adders were noted at the park on Thursday 13th.

Friday, 14 July 2017

SUMMER MOTHING

A very productive mothing session was held recently at the country park on Friday 7th. I joined Dave Grundy and Chris Williams visiting from the Midlands and between us we set up 16 moth traps across the park including at East Mersea Point.

By dawn on Saturday over 160 species of both micro moth and macro moth had been recorded with a final tally still to come. The warm and muggy evening was perfect for moth activity and there was plenty to keep us interested.

One garden tiger was noted, pictured above, always a highlight here as numbers elsewhere in southern England continue to decline.

The clouded magpie pictured, was one of the few macro moths recorded on the night for the first time here.
One of the other new moths for the site was the tiny small marbled, an immigrant trapped near the beach.

The most notable micro-moth was seeing three boxworm moths - a strikingly big micro with a slight purplish sheen to its wings. It's discovery is bad news for gardeners with box hedges as the caterpillars strip the leaves off box plants. It is spreading fast across Essex moving out from the London area, the first sighting at the park last summer, now three in one night this summer here.

Another moth continuing to spread but with negligible impact is the festoon. A woodland species it was first noted at the park in 2013 and on Friday over 15 individuals were noted.

A few lackey moths were found, this female noted at a trap close to the beach. One or two ground lackeys were also found in traps near the saltmarsh.

The orange moth has become a regular each summer, this individual above being one of the darker forms.

A handful of the delicate rosy footman moths were noted, showing their salmon pink colouring. It seemed a good night for them.

Just one scarce silver lines was found, in the car park area, a regular during July.

The dark spectacle was of local interest for the park.

A couple of peach blossoms were noted, their markings helping them to hide amongst the bramble flowers.

Several swallow-tailed moths came to the traps, this one resting on the white sheet on the ground.

A coastal speciality is the sulphur pearl whose caterpillars feed on the wild carrot plants growing along the coast. A couple were noted on the evening, this one with a faded hint of yellow on the wings.

Chris Williams did very well with his eight or so traps as he found 16 great silver diving beetles in his. A freshwater beetle, it has been on the decline nationally but this night's tally here suggests a very healthy local population.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

LITTLE OWLS

This young little owl was peering out at its surroundings from the nestbox in the Thorley's garden in East Mersea near Meeting Lane. These photos were passed to me by Michael on 17th June.

It is the first time the little owls have nested in this box on the garden shed in the back garden. 

Michael wasn't able to see how many chicks actually fledged from the box but presumably two or three youngsters have joined the small number of little owls already on the Island.

Another little owl seen in East Mersea recently was this one just north of the country park perched by some horse paddocks. Watched by Andy Field who saw it catch a vole just shortly after this photograph was taken on Wednesday 28th June.

The kestrels at the back of the park's grazing fields have had a bumper breeding season with these six youngsters perched on the branches near the nestbox. This pair have always been very productive with often four or five chicks fledging each year - but six is impressive this year. Photographed by Andy on the 28th June.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

BETTER FOR BUTTERFLIES

One or two common blues have been seen at the park in recent days, this one on birds foot trefoil on Sunday 11th. Conditions have been getting better and warmer for the butterflies recently.

The tall cotoneaster bushes have been buzzing with activity mainly honey-bees but there have been plenty of butterflies too with a couple of painted ladies present on Friday 9th - one pictured above.

There have been good numbers of small tortoiseshells on the cotoneaster flowers with up to 20 noted on Tuesday 13th. Also attracted to the cotoneaster in the car park has been 1 comma, 6 red admiral, 4 meadow brown and a holly blue.
Elsewhere on the park speckled wood, small skipper, large white and small heath have also been on the wing.

Two female black-tailed skimmers were on the wing at the park on Sunday 11th with this one at the Point while another one flew feebly into the long grass on its first flight away from the water.

At the Point the pair of avocets continued to look after their two chicks out on the mudflats, while ten other adults were on the nearby saltmarsh lagoons. At least two common terns were still sitting on the island, maybe the third bird too and also four black-headed gulls nesting. The ringed plover is now sitting on four eggs on the beach at the Point.

The sedge warbler was still singing at the Point on Sunday 11th, five reed warblers singing along the dyke, while three house martins flew over the park.

Six mallard ducklings followed closely behind their mother along the park dyke on Monday 12th.
Also that day a little grebe nest was found hidden amongst the reeds in the dyke, a reed warbler singing by the park pond, a Cetti's warbler singing at the back of the fields and a reed bunting along the central ditch. A pair of Mediterranean gulls landed on the mudflats calling to each other and six swifts crossed the Colne westwards to East Mersea.

Two turtle doves have recently returned after an absence of a fortnight back to the garden feeder on the edge of Willoughby car park. A pair was seen on Monday 12th in the early evening by Steve Entwistle who also found them again the next evening Tuesday 13th in the same place before they flew fast north-east over the car park.

A sparrowhawk flew over the car park on Tuesday 13th

These broken egg-shells of a moorhen were found in the park fields alongside several bits of crab half-eaten by some local crows.

A very grumpy young blackbird newly out of the nest awaiting to be fed by its parents in the Firs Chase garden in West Mersea.

Twenty swifts were flying over the West Mersea houses in the evening of Saturday 10th.

Two elephant hawkmoths brightened up the moth trap at 4.30am at the park, some of the 300 moths of 44 species noted during the night of Tuesday 13th.

A handful of the brightly marked barred yellow moths were found in the trap at the park on the night of Friday 9th.

A couple of L-album wainscot moths were also noted.

An adder was seen near the car park on Friday 9th.
A grey squirrel was found marooned on a pontoon mooring in Ray Channel on Sunday 11th. I gather an attempt was made to try and rescue the individual and point it back to the mainland.

Monday, 12 June 2017

SINGING SEDGE

A sedge warbler has been very vocal at East Mersea Point, singing from the thick stand of sea-blite bushes. First seen here on Wednesday 7th, it was still performing well the next day, as seen in these two photographs taken by Andy Field.

This area of saltmarsh bushes isn't the traditional sort of habitat normally used by sedge warblers on the Island. Maybe it will move to the ditches and reedbed areas inside the nearby seawall, where they used to nest in the past.

At the Point on Wednesday the ringed plover was found to be now sitting on four eggs and still safe inside the roped off section of beach. On the nearby saltmarsh lagoons twelve avocets were noted along with 3 chicks, three common terns still sitting as were at least 3 black-headed gulls. One golden plover was also noted here.

Two reed warblers were singing from the dyke and eight swifts were seen flying over the park during the day. The female kestrel was perched on the tree at the back of the grazing fields on Wednesday and the following day at least three chicks were seen in the nestbox.

A common tern spent several minutes hawking up and down a section of the dyke by the Strood seawall on Monday 5th. Also noted here were 6 house martins, 5 swallows and a swift, while a corn bunting, yellow wagtail, displaying meadow pipit, 2 singing reed warblers and a nesting oystercatcher were also seen. A pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the Hard car park calling.



A common buzzard was photographed by Andy as it perched on a bush near the Shop Lane seawall on Wednesday 31st. Presumably one of the locally breeding birds.

In the nearby Fishponds Wood in East Mersea this red squirrel was seen by Andy on Wednesday 31st.