Friday, 30 March 2007


The moth trap was put out on Wednesday 28th in still and cloudy conditions. About fifty moths of ten species was a reasonable return as it had turned chilly overnight. The new one for the Island list was this blossom underwing. Delicate pinky-brown colour with the darker central band across the wings.
These are two clouded drabs showing variation in markings. Other moths caught included 35 common quakers, 5 small quaker, grey shoulder knot, 3 march moths and 4 hebrew character. There was also a sexton or burying beetle found in the trap in the morning.

Other interesting sightings for Wednesday at the park was a male pochard on the pond, the first for the year. Also a small tortoiseshell butterfly in the car park whilst the adder count is now five including a small young one from last year.
Main points of interest for Thursday 29th saw two male corn buntings on the tops of telegraph posts on the East Mersea road near Chapmans Lane.
In the evening the little owl could be heard calling loudly from Cosways caravan site. Just after dark two male tawny owls could be heard - one near the park entrance and the other sounded as if it was nearer North Farm, a couple of fields away.
The best bit though was actually seeing the owl on top of its nest box as I drove along Bromans Lane. This is the first sighting this year of the owl although I have heard it many times.

Thursday, 29 March 2007


Migration time can do funny things to birds and to the birders following them. Maybe it was the clear starry night, or the lure of sunshine on the coast or maybe some weird underground magnetic activity but East Mersea saw the strange sight of a lesser spotted Andrew Thompson and accomplice Annie on Monday 26th. Actually they came to see two of the adders basking at the park.

Having joined them on the Shop Lane seawall we were able to enjoy the bright sunshine although frustratingly there was quite a heat haze through the telescope. At least five marsh harriers were seen over and above Langenhoe in near ideal conditions for raptors. Despite scanning the skies above, no passage buzzards or kites were seen.

On the Reeveshall pool, a ruff was an unexpected find as it waded in the shallows beside one or two gadwall. Two grey herons flying-by was notable only because little egrets seemed to have taken over their feeding grounds.

In the Pyefleet four red-breasted mergansers fed on the far side of the Channel whilst the main group of waders on the near-side were some 70 dunlin that got spooked off by something.


Following the number of moths recorded on the previous night, the trap was put out again on Sunday 25th, except this time using the Gardiner trap in my back garden in the park. This trap uses two types of bulb - actinic and halogen to bring the moths in and the large perspex trap means they can be clearly observed. All moths are set free the following morning.

Numbers were down by about half probably because the sky was clear and there was a heavy dew. About 45 moths of nine species was a reasonable return with a couple of real beauties on show.

Oak beauty was seen once last spring and has a striking pattern with a very fluffy head - probably to keep it warm on these cold dewy nights.
This Pine beauty is the first of what should be several records this spring.
Despite the cold northerly breeze, there was some real warmth in the sunshine especially out of the wind. A little splash of colour along the park cliff was provided by some clumps of coltsfoot. An early flowerer, this plant will produce its large round leaves later in the spring after it has finished flowering.

Near the car park at Cudmore Grove, a weasel was seen surveying the area where two adders were found basking. It stood on a log pile briefly and then disappeared into a nearby bramble bush. A peacock butterfly flashed past enjoying the sunshine away from the cold breeze, while later the first comma of the spring was seen flitting across the colourful crop of daisies

At the park pond, two pairs of little grebe were ferociously grabbling with each other as they tried to sort out their territorial claims to the water. The male ruddy duck emerged from the reeds to have a preen and wave its big bill around. The colourful bill seemed to reflect the bright blue of the skies above. There was only the one snipe seen at the edge of the pond today.

Careful scrutiny of the reedmace clumps in the middle of the pond revealed the rare water vole. Luckily there is a healthy population in this area and there are often views to be had from the hide for anyone with some patience. This water vole did very little in ten minutes but may have been nibbling at the fleshy roots of the reedmace.

In the grazing fields, there were still 600 brent geese, 300 wigeon, 10 shoveler, 24 shelduck, and pairs of gadwall, tufted duck and Canada geese.

Walking as far as the Oyster Fishery along the seawall, there were few waders on the mud except for some grey plovers and redshank. A pair of yellowhammers feeding at the foot of the wall were a nice colourful surprise for that area.

Monday, 26 March 2007


Saturday 24th walk to East Mersea Point revealed more recent damage to the shrubby sea-blite bushes. The thick stand of sea-blite here used to be one of the best in north Essex but this nationally scarce plant is fighting a losing battle with the sea. At least we got Dartford warbler in the area before the bushes get completely ripped out and smothered with shingle.

About 300 brent were grazing the saltmarsh near the Point before flying into the fields to feed. There were also half a dozen lapwings displaying in the air depite the chilly northerly wind. Dozing on the fields were 24 shelduck and a couple of little egrets.
At the park pond the male ruddy duck popped into view. He arrived about a fortnight ago to stake his claim to territorial rights on the pond. Two snipe could be seen feeding amongst some marshy tussocks. The brief song of the chiffchaff was heard from the copse at the back of the pond, so this little warbler is still around since he was first heard on Thursday morning.

Signs of spring at West Mersea were noticed with a singing chiffchaff at Firs Chase and a male corn bunting on top of a telegraph post on the East Mersea road.

In the evening the Skinner moth trap was run all night with better than expected results. Over 100 moths of nine speces were recorded. The cloudy sky and the slight drop in the cold wind must have helped.

Shoulder stripe moth - only recorded once last spring

Red Chestnut - typical spring moth

Grey shoulder knot - not recorded on Mersea before
Bumper crop of ninety Common Quakers with varying shades of brown or buff.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


Mersea was assaulted by all the elements on Tuesday 20th with the promise of a very high tide being worthy of a look. The stiff northerly wind meant the park cliff escaped the full force of the waves. A group of turnstones sought refuge at high tide on the old pillbox remains in front of the cliff.
The day had started off with a thin covering of snow but only two hours after this photo was taken at 8 am, two of the usual adders were already basking under the bramble bushes at the rear of this shot.

The other bit of action that caught the eye despite the cold, was the territorial display of several lapwings over the wet grazing fields. The wonderful sight and sound of the birds rising into the air, calling loudly to each other and then tumbling back down to the ground. A real sense of spring in the air.

Monday, 19 March 2007


It may have felt like spring had arrived here last week but winter hasn't left us just yet. Sunday 18th was cold with a raw northerly wind that whipped up the high tide so much it left many irritated car drivers stranded on the "wrong" side of the flooded Strood causeway onto the Island. Despite the threat of wintry showers in the afternoon it stayed sunny, although it was a job to stand still on the Reeveshall seawall in the strong wind.

One female marsh harrier managed to quarter the Langenhoe Marsh in the wind with ease. Lots of small flocks of waders flashed downwind along the Pyefleet, whilst those heading into the wind made slow progress. Only three great crested grebes were hardy enough to sit in the Channel but even they were being buffeted by the waves.
Usual waders such as dunlin, grey plover, redshank, curlew and one or two knot were seen. Showing signs of spring were three black-tailed godwits amongst a flock of twenty, already in their russet breeding plumage. Also starting to sport their breeding plumage were several golden plovers with their black chests, amongst the group of about 100 in the grass fields.

Around 500 brent geese were tucking into the grass on this sheep field at Reeveshall, feeding up before they start to leave in the next fortnight. A brief scan through the flock revealed one pale-bellied brent in with the dark-bellied flock. Nearby was the odd hybrid greylag goose feeding with eight Canada geese.

Having no problem with flying into the wind was a distant peregrine hurtling over the fields and hedges at the back of Reeveshall. Even when it momentarily disappeared out of view, its progress could still be followed by seeing the flocks of wood pigeons rising into the air.


Back to walking the Mersea foreshore after a short break visiting another magical and colourful island with its wonderful beaches too - in Cuba! Within minutes of arriving back to breezy old Mersea on Saturday 17th, it was straight out onto the beach to find something of interest and also ensure that Monty the mutt got to walk off some of his holiday excesses!

Had a brillant time away soaking up the sun and enjoying the blue skies and jade seas. However there is something unique and vibrant about our muddy estuaries here that the tropical coasts just don't do. Here there are flocks of waders, wildfowl and gulls all around the Mersea foreshore that make the shore really buzz with life. Coupled with big and dramatic skies and there is a different mood and atmosphere every day.

Pictured above, was this clump of lesser celandines which caught the eye because it was growing in a grassy bank less than 10 metres from the high tide line. This early spring flower is usually found in shady and damp ground such as along ditches.

No divers or grebes to be seen on the sea but then there were at least ten kite-surfers and several wind-surfers racing backwards and forwards. Close in to the beach several turnstones were flicking over pebbles as the tide receded.
Out on Cobmarsh Island behind this traditional old fishing smack pictured above, were about 100 oystercatchers still enjoying the last few minutes of their high-tide roost. Around the Mersea Quarters on the islands, boats and along the muddy shores were plenty of herring gulls with 300 or so on view. Only one pair of lesser black-blacked gulls were seen but there were probably others.

In the middle of the main channel near the Hard was the regular wintering shag, busy diving underneath for its fish amongst the moored boats. The similar looking cormorant is usually present all year round but shags only visit Mersea in winter so this bird was the highlight of the short walk.
Thirty brent geese fed on the mud only 30 metres away from Coast Road traffic and people.