Saturday, 22 July 2017

STRANDED SEAL PUPS

Two common seal pups were found on the Cudmore Grove beach on Friday 14th with no sign of their mother in the area. Several people saw them on the beach, including John Feaveryear who took this photo and following advice from the Marine Mammals Rescue Unit, they were taken into care by the local West Mersea vets.

The two 3 week old pups appeared weak and in need of nursing back to health and had been on the beach for two days. The Blackwater Vets checked them over and then the pups were taken to the seal sanctuary in north Norfolk where they will spend the next few weeks before being released back into the wild.

Twelve years ago a similar thing happened to a very young grey seal pup found abandoned on the  East Mersea Point. Despite leaving it for two more high tides on the beach, there was still no sign of a parent, so following expert advice it was taken to the Norfolk seal sanctuary for a few weeks before being released back in north Essex.

John found this young pheasant beside the path between the East Mersea church and Rewsalls.

A hedgehog seen by John one evening recently at Coopers Beach.

A red squirrel was seen in Church Lane near Coopers Beach on Sunday 16th by John, sadly when he didn't have his camera with him.




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.