Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Weather conditions through the night of 30th March were ideal for moth activity as there was good cloud cover and no wind. The moth trap was put on in the country park and about 120 moths of 12 species seemed a reasonable amount for the time of year.

The most eye-catching moth was this herald moth pictured above with its orange patches on the wings and the distinctive jagged ends to the wings. Only one herald was seen last year and that was in mid July.

There were several of these blossom underwing moths in the trap as well as lots of the common quaker, hebrew character, small quaker and March moths.

There were two shoulder stripe moths, this one pictured above and also a very dark individual. Other moths found were satellite, nutmeg, clouded drab and a dark chestnut.

During the day a small white butterfly was seen near the car park, which is the first sighting at the park this year. A visitor to the park reported seeing 4 adders late in the morning.

No new summer migrants to report from the park with the pond chiffchaff still singing loudly. There was a brief glimpse of a martin / swallow flashing across the car park but it didn't provide a good enough view to tell which one it was. It was nice to see a pair of linnets after the winter near the cliff-top and in the afternoon two siskins flew over the park.

The still mild conditions were ideal for listening to several singing skylarks high above the park, whilst down below a couple of meadow pipits sang. In the grazing fields there was a pair of greylag geese and Canada geese, whilst along the dyke one of the swans was sitting on its nest and 2 pairs of little grebe squabbled with each other.

A visit to the Reeveshall pool for the last hour of daylight provided views of 1000 brent geese still wintering on the Island, feeding on the nearby pasture as well as several scattered pairs of greylags and Canada geese. On the pool there were a few wigeon, teal, mallard, shelduck, pair of mute swans and 5 black-tailed godwits. A bright male yellowhammer was seen last thing along the usual ditch. In the big grass field 7 brown hares came to life at dusk.

In the Pyefleet there were 8 red-breasted mergansers and 7 great crested grebes as well as the usual waers along the mudflats. On Langenhoe there were about 7 marsh harriers seen over the Point reedbed.

Monday, 30 March 2009


Following a tip-off from Michael Thorley, I decided to catch up with the two wheatears at the end of Monday 30th, that he'd found earlier in the day beside the Rewsalls marshes. Having walked along the seawall I was pleased to find these two birds but even more pleased to find there were 3 other birds. Three brightly marked males and two females perched up on nearby fence-posts as well being seen in the grass field.

Wheatears have become harder to find on the Island in recent years in early spring, as they stop briefly off on their northward migration. It has been several years since a group of five have been found in March on the Island.

Andy Field managed to see the birds in the evening too and we also watched a sparrowhawk fly low over the fields being chased off by a pair of lapwings that are presumably thinking of breeding here. The calls of four Mediterranean gulls could be heard out on the mudflats. Amongst the usual waders were 60 golden plover, 10 ringed plover and one bar-tailed godwit.

Earlier in the day the distinctive chattering call of the sand martin alerted me to the first two birds newly returned from Africa. The birds were flying around the sandy cliff where they will hopefully breed again, along with the other 50 pairs that nested last summer here.

The chiffchaff provided good views in the morning as it sang in a tree by the path. A male marsh harrier was seen flying high from the Pyefleet heading south-east out of the Colne estuary. A sparrowhawk flashed across the car park and one of the regular kestrels was also seen. Six gadwall were in the grazing fields

The warm weather brought out at least six adders in the morning and there were fly-pasts from a peacock and a comma butterflies in the car park.

Sunday, 29 March 2009


After an overnight frost, it took a while for Sunday 29th to warm up at the country park. The sun eventually broke through around mid morning and several of the reptiles at the park came out to bask.

This common lizard pictured above, was one of two individuals seen by participants on a well attended "Snake-watch" event. This lizard was spotted creeping up the side of a small tree amongst the long grass and was plucked off by one very enthusiastic young boy who gleefully passed it round to show some of the other 90 members of the group. The lizard was surprisingly obliging and sat very still on the young hand, despite cameras and lots of faces staring closely at it. It was then released back into the long grass where it made a hasty retreat.

The main stars of the morning walk were the adders which came out to bask in a variety of locations around the park and everyone got very good and close views of up to nine different adders. This is the highest count so far this spring and there should be one or two others in some of the other corners of the park still waiting to be located.

The chiffchaff was still singing from the trees around the pond but there's no sign of any other migrants yet. Also at the pond were 12 tufted duck, 5 shoveler, 2 pairs of little grebe and a few mallard. There had been 7 pochard seen here two days earlier.

Walked along the seawall at the end of the day, although the cold breeze made it a chilly walk. In the grazing fields there were 2 little egrets, 100 wigeon, 10 teal and 10 shoveler. The tide was well out so the only group of waders to catch the eye were 20 black-tailed godwits in summer plumage.

Andy Field had good views of a short-eared owl still present on the Rewsalls marshes near the Coopers Beach caravan site. A pair of Mediterranean gulls were also seen near here. During his later walk along the Reeveshall seawall he noted merlin, common buzzard and 12 marsh harriers over the nearby Langenhoe marshes. On Reeveshall there was a pair of pintail and a green sandpiper on the pool and a big flock of 1000 brent geese feeding on one of the pastures.

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Found time at the end of the afternoon for a walk around the country park on Thursday 26th, with the sun managing to break through the rain clouds just before sunset. Joined Brian Anderson and Peter Bash in the bird-hide overlooking the pond, to shelter from several squalls.

The chiffchaff that was found near the pond five days earlier, was still present in the willow bushes overhanging the water, occasionally singing as it flitted amongst the catkins. This is still the only summer migrant on the Island so far this spring. Also at the pond were 2 pochard, 6 tufted duck and 2 green woodpeckers.

In the nearby grazing fields there were 200 wigeon, 18 shelduck, 20 shoveler, 25 teal, pair of gadwall, pair of displaying redshank and the familiar 3 pairs of lapwing. In the oak tree at the back of the fields were a kestrel and 3 stock doves.

Early evening conditions in the Colne were calm as the sun set although the only birds in the Colne were one or two great crested grebes and red-breasted mergansers. The only waders of any note were a group of 20 black-tailed godwits, most of which were in their ginger summer plumage.

Near West Mersea on Tuesday morning a fieldfare fed in a horse paddock at Chapmans Lane with 2 mistle thrushes, while further along near Bocking Hall a corn bunting sang from its roadside tree.

On Tuesday Martin Cock had a fine view of a red kite flying west over the car park at the park at about 10am. Although I was walking across the park at the time, I wasn't aware of it passing over and didn't hear the local crows mobbing the kite as it passed over. This is the second red kite to pass over the Island this year.

The chiffchaff was also seen just to the north of the pond and there was a report of 40 snipe being seen flying around then dropping down onto the grazing fields. During one of the sunny spells 4 adders were seen in the park in their usual spots.

David Nicholls reported seeing a stoat crossing the entrance road at the country park earlier in the month. Stoats seem to be very scarce on the Island and the last sighting at the park was nearly five years ago.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


There was lots of sunshine during the first half of Sunday 22nd along the Pyefleet Channel where this common seal was enjoying the warm weather as it basked on the mud. The seal was in the favoured area for seals, the secluded and quiet spot opposite the seawall corner at Maydays.

The sunny conditions were ideal for bird of prey activity despite the heat haze with marsh harrier and common buzzards soaring over the Langenhoe marshes to the north of the Island. Steve Entwistle pictured below, was also out enjoying the raptor show.

At least 3 common buzzards were seen in the air together and at various other times during the mid-day vigil, marsh harriers were often seen tussling with them. Three male marsh harriers were seen with two of them displaying high up in the sky at the same time, climbing steeply up with deep wing-beats and then plunging down like a peregrine. The high pitched calls were often heard carrying over to the Island as the harriers displayed. A number of female and sub-adult marsh harriers were also seen both on Langenhoe and over Reeveshall with at least half a dozen birds involved.

Other raptors seen were 4 kestrels continually hovering over Langenhoe and a sparrowhawk crossing the Pyefleet onto Reeveshall. Steve had a brief view of a peregrine earlier in the morning.

Despite the tide being out the main wader on show were several hundred redshank and only a few of other wader species. One ruff was with some lapwing along the Pyefleet, a green sandpiper flew out of a Maydays ditch, while a low-flying kestrel flushed two snipe from the saltmarsh.
Also along the Pyefleet were 110 shelduck and 4 great crested grebes on the middle section of the Channel.

Only the one little egret was seen close to this creek at Maydays but no sign of the kingfisher seen here a few times in recent weeks. On the Reeveshall fields was a big mixed flock of 500 birds of jackdaws and rooks along with lots of starlings too. One brown hare was seen here too.
The only small birds seen of interest were a flock of 25 linnets, 2 yellowhammers and one corn bunting. A small tortoiseshell butterfly flew rapidly along a track by Maydays farm.

Andy Field saw two Mediterranean gulls at Coopers Beach on Sunday and also managed to find the first returning summer migrant the day before- a chiffchaff at the country park on Saturday. The ruff was also still seen in the grazing fields with some black-tailed godwits.

Friday, 20 March 2009


The early morning fog slowly cleared to provide a sunny day on Friday 20th. At least two adders were seen in their usual spot at the country park, soaking up the spring sunshine, with this one above lying close to one of the pathways. David Nicholls managed to locate 8 adders at the park last weekend, which is a good count for mid March here.

A quick visit to the park pond did not produce any newly arrived migrants as had been hoped. Several sites in north Essex reported the first chiffchaffs last weekend following the sunny weather with wheatear and sand martin also reported elsewhere.
The ducks on the pond included tufted duck and shoveler along with the usual mute swans and little grebes.

The nearby grazing fields are still holding good numbers of winter waders and wildfowl with the surprise being a ruff feeding at a pool with five black-tailed godwits. There were still 700 brent geese in the fields along with the rare sight in the fields of 400 starlings feeding.

It was nice and sunny along the Pyefleet channel although there was a slight haze to contend with. Over Langenhoe a peregrine, short eared owl, sparrowhawk, kestrel and four marsh harriers were seen during the 2 hour walk. On Reeveshall there was also another marsh harrier and second sparrowhawk noted over the fields.

In the Pyefleet 2 ruff were seen along the water's edge as were 7 summer plumaged black-tailed godwits. The majority of the waders scattered along the mudflats appeared to be redshank with several hundred on show. In the Channel there were 17 red-breasted mergansers and a pair of great crested grebes.

Four little egrets were seen while one skylark left the Island singing as it crossed the Pyefleet to land on Peewit Island, the view across in the picture above. Three brown hares were seen on Reeveshall.

Lots of bumble bees were buzzing around the catkins on this sallow bush along a hedgeline by Reeveshall.

A corn bunting was singing from its usual song-bush on the East Mersea roadside by Bocking Hall.

Thursday, 19 March 2009


The early sunshine on Thursday 19th soon petered out and the rest of the day ended up being cloudy accompanied by a cool easterly breeze. A brief walk along the side of the Strood and the West Mersea Hard produced the usual selection of birds as the tide came in.

Redshank were the commonest wader, dotted along both sides of the channel with a few curlew, oystercatchers, grey plover and turnstone with just one black-tailed godwit noted. Brent geese were also in small groups feeding along the water's edge, as was a flock of 20 wigeon near Ray Island.

Amongst the boats there were several little grebes but no sign of any seals or shags near the jetty. Plenty of herring gulls in the area with many adults in their pairs along with a number of the brown sub-adults. A lot of the black-headed gulls have recently donned their blackish hoods ready for the impending breeding season.


Returned from a two week break chasing some winter sun, to find that spring has come on in leaps and bounds here following some recent sunny weather. By the time I got out to enjoy some of this sunshine on Wednesday 18th at East Mersea, the sun was already setting. The clear evening sky above the Reeveshall pool, turned a familiar pink shade.

In the last forty minutes of daylight along the Pyefleet seawall, there was the usual interesting sightings to make the walk worthwhile. Just after sunset 1000 noisy brent geese flew off a nearby grass field to roost alongside the Colne river. On the nearby Langenhoe Point two male and three female marsh harriers were flying above the reedbed lagoon ready to drop down to roost.

On the Reeveshall pool two grey herons and a little egret were noted as were 20 mallard, 5 teal and a black-tailed godwit. There was a nice close view of a barn owl hunting low along a nearby ditch, occasionally pouncing down into the long grass. In the big grass field 3 brown hares came to life, 2 golden plover flew onto the field and 7 greylag geese were also noted.
The only bird of note along the Pyefleet was a male red-breasted merganser flying out of the channel.

Other birds seen recently on the Island include a common buzzard and 2 Mediterranean gulls near Meeting Lane at East Mersea, seen by Andy Field on Saturday 14th. Later that day beside Coopers Beach the two Med gulls were seen again as well as 4 Slavonian grebes and 120 great crested grebes. At West Mersea there were still 3 great northern divers, 6 eider and the shag on the same Saturday.

Richard Brown watched 4 Med gulls following a tractor and plough at Maydays Farm, with one of the birds having a colour ring on its leg indicating it had been ringed as a north Essex chick in Hamford Water.

On Monday 16th Glyn Evans saw a large bird of prey over East Mersea heading towards the country park, which appeared to be a large goshawk. David Nicholls reported seeing a couple of siskins feeding on his bird feeder in West Mersea recently.

Earlier in the month, Martin Cock found a black brant amongst a large flock of brent geese feeding in the field beside the Strood. The spotted redshank was also seen in the Strood channel here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009


Managed a short walk alongside the Strood Channel on Tuesday 3rd on a grey morning. The tide was right out and there was a good scattering of waders along the mudflats on both sides of the Channel.

The most interesting waders were at this spot in the picture above, where the water drains out of the seawall sluice and joins the main channel. Unusually there were three species of shank seen within a few metres of each other. A spotted redshank fed along the bottom of the channel, distinctive with its longer bill, paler eye-stripe and paler underparts than the common redshank that was also nearby. Preening on the mud close-by was a greenshank, almost white underneath, darker above and with its pale bill. It was good to have the three shanks together for comparison, especially during the winter period.

Also on the mud were 30 black-tailed godwits, 200 knot along with grey plover, oystercatcher, curlew and dunlin. There were also 100 wigeon and 50 teal with 10 shelduck seen. On the nearby wheat field 800 brent geese were busy turning the field from a green crop-colour to a muddy brown colour.

A marsh harrier was seen briefly near Ray Channel and 3 little egrets were seen on the Ray Saltings. Nearer the Dabchicks, there were 10 dabchicks and also a female eider.

Martin Cock today saw 2 snow buntings at the park and a red-throated diver at the east end of the Pyefleet as well as a summer plumage bar-tailed godwit.

Monday, 2 March 2009


There was plenty of blue sky on Monday 2nd but the ice still had to be scraped off the car windscreen first thing. There was plenty of wildfowl activity on the grazing fields to admire in the bright light. This small group of wigeon pictured above were some of the 400 birds in the fields. There was the big conspicuous flock of 500 brent geese also grazing, as were 3 greylags. The other usual ducks on the fields included lots of teal, shoveler, gadwall, mallard with a few tufted ducks and pochard on the pond.

The most interesting waders were two ruff that dropped briefly onto the very flooded section, teaming up with a handful of black-tailed godwits. The fields have looked ideal for ruff all winter but it has taken till today for any to be seen here. Also in the fields were 2 snipe, 10 curlew and 4 pairs of displaying lapwing.

Along the beach 3 snow buntings were almost stood on as they stayed motionless on the shingle whilst I walked past. Overhead a siskin flew east over the river to Brightlingsea, calling as it went. Several skylarks were also in song around the park.

There wasn't much to report from a very overcast park yesterday although offshore late-on, Steve Entwistle came to see red-throated diver, 7 eider, 4 Slavonian grebes, 25 great crested grebes and 2 red-breasted mergansers. Amongst the usual waders arriving to feed as the tide ebbed were one or two sanderling and knot. Two goldcrests fed in the company of some long-tailed tits in the bsushes on the clifftop.

Earlier in the day Andy Field, Martin Cock and Steve at various times, visited the Pyefleet and noted kingfisher, green sandpiper, corn bunting, stonechat and short-eared owl near Maydays Farm. Andy enjoyed close views of a weasel on the seawall here. Along the Pyefleet a red-throated diver was unusual, a couple of goldeneye were noted and on the Reeveshall pool there were 6 pintail. There were the usual marsh harriers flying around nearby Langenhoe with the males flying high and calling as they displayed.

On Saturday evening Steve and Andy watched 2 ringtail hen harriers joining the 10 or so marsh harriers for the Langenhoe roost. They were able to enjoy seeing a merlin perch on a bush on Langenhoe too.

The sunshine provided ideal basking conditions for the adders at the park with two seen intertwined in the picture above. A third adder was found on a tussock of grass a short distance from the main "adder-dell". By the pond a fox was seen snoozing in the morning sunshine.

The moth trap operated at the park throghout Saturday night and a few moths were found in the morning including a couple of the hebrew characters, one pictured above. The suitably named March moth pictured below, made its appearance on the first of March. Also found were clouded drab, dotted border and a satellite moth too.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


There was a real touch of spring in the morning of Saturday 28th Feb, once the clouds were rolled back. The picture above shows the clouds being pushed off to the south-east and out to sea, leaving a warm and sunny morning. The blue sky only lasted 2 or 3 hours but in that time 3 adders were out basking in the sunshine in their usual spot in the park - an increase of one.

A walk to the Point produced a close view of a red-throated diver close in to the beach and further out in the river Colne a common seal could be seen. Up river there were the usual handful of red-breasted mergansers near Langenhoe Point. No sign of the snow buntings first thing but there was the report of 4 birds seen later in the day. The only waders of interest near the Point were groups of 250 golden plover and 20 ringed plover.

On the grazing fields 300 wigeon were busy feeding although at one point a low-flying aircraft scared off 500 brent geese. Four greylag geese, 24 gadwall, 20 shoveler, 50 teal, 50 mallard, 20 shelduck were some of the wildfowl seen while on the pond there were 16 tufted duck and a pochard. Twenty black-tailed godwits and 2 snipe were noted during the low tide on the fields.

Offshore from West Mersea Martin Cock noted from his boat trip 2 great northern divers, 6 eider and 2 red-throated divers.

The mild end to Friday provided a good opportunity to set the moth trap running at the country park overnight. Within a couple of minutes of switching the lamp on, there were already some moths fluttering around and the cloudy and still conditions seemed ideal. The moth above is the male dotted border, looking very different to the female in the photograph posted a couple of days ago.

This richly coloured brown moth is the satellite moth, named after the two tiny "satellite" dots on either side of the big white spot on each wing. Although this widespread moth has been seen at the park before, it strangely wasn't recorded last year.

The only other species of moth noted in the trap were 4 March moths.

The big bug in the trap in the morning that immediately caught the eye was this great diving beetle, pictured below. These big beetles are often attracted to the light at night as they fly around looking for other watercourses.