Sunday, 10 May 2009


More sunshine on Sunday 10th brought out the first of these uniquely coloured green hairstreaks of the year at the country park. The vivid green metallic colour of the underwings make this an attractive butterfly but often hard to spot. Luckily there was a small active group of 3 or 4 individuals that were very territorial, chasing rivals that came too close. Regularly two hairstreaks would chase each other rapidly round and round at a dizzying speed. When they landed on a nearby bush their green wings made them difficult to find amongst the green leaves.

This is the only site on the Island for these dainty butterflies and a small population has been present since the first pair were seen here 12 years ago. The low numbers here mean that the flight season is short and individuals are only seen during May for 2 or 3 weeks.

The green hairstreaks and several other butterflies were seen along this path leading away from the car park. There are lots of big hawthorn or may bushes around the park which have recently become laden down with white blossom. From a distance some of the bushes are just covered in white flowers nearly obscuring all their green leaves.

Along the sheltered paths, holly blue, orange-tip, green-veined white, small white, speckled wood and peacock butterflies were all noted.

The cinnabar pictured above, looks too colourful to be a moth and is often seen flying around during the day over fields and waste ground looking for ragwort plants. This one was found in the moth trap on the Sunday morning along with 14 other species, although the clear sky kept the catch low.

Other moths included pale prominent, light brocade, early thorn, early grey, coxcomb prominent,white ermine, shuttle-shaped dart, chocolate-tip, lunar marbled brown and green carpet.

There were lots of damselflies such as this azure damselfly, pictured above resting amongst the nettles and low foliage beside the path not far from the pond. Also present were the common blue-tailed damselfly resting in the sun, sheltered from the breeze.

Along the cliff-top path a hairy dragonfly was seen briefly flying over the bushes which was a sighting of note. Hairies appear to have spread to many places in the county recently but have been slow to reach Mersea. They were first seen here at the park only 3 years ago but have remained elusive wth none being seen last year.

The sunny aspect of the park beach and cliff seems to have brought out yellow flowers of the beaked hawksbeard, slightly earlier than many other of the hawksbeards elsewhere in the park. Up to 15 sand martins were flying around the beach close to the parts of the sandy cliff where they have their nest-holes.

The nightingales continues to sing loudly day and night, especially the one near the park entrance. At dusk it moves to the side of the car park and belts out its rich song across an empty car park, its song travelling a few hundred metres. During his brief pauses a second nightingale could be heard singing in the middle of the night a kilometre to the west. A little owl was also heard calling from Bromans Farm during Saturday night.

Andy Field took this photo of two foxes that he saw at the back of the park grazing fields on Sunday morning. The two lapwing families with their two broods of 4 chicks each, have done well so far not to have lost any youngsters. However the large mallard brood originally with 13 ducklings has been whittled down to just 3.

No sign of the wood sandpiper, common sandpiper or greenshank on the fields although a female wigeon was present along with gadwall, shoveler, mallard and shelduck. On the park pond the regular group of 10 tufted duck and a pair of pochard were noted. Andy had a male sparrowhawk hunting low around the Point and one or two common terns in the river.

Andy and I visited Martin Dence at Bromans Farm and together we saw 2 barn owls flying out of one of the barns. There was no sign of the little owl that Andy had seen earlier in the day perching on the top of a barn. There was also no sign of the turtle dove which had reappeared earlier in the day after ten days absence.

The last hour and a half was spent along a windy Reeveshall seawall, watching the sun set over the Pyefleet channel. On the pool 66 black-tailed godwits was a surprise to see feeding furiously but little else here. The only waders other than the usual oystercatchers, seen along the channel fed in one area which included another 30 black-tailed godwits, 10 grey plover, 50 dunlin and a ringed plover. Four common terns and a great crested grebe were noted along the Pyefleet.

A pair of marsh harriers flew over the Reeveshall reedbed, 80 greylag geese including 4 young goslings, 6 Canada geese, whimbrel, 10+ pairs of lapwing and the nice sight of 3 Mediterranean gulls feeding in the grass field. Later two more adult Med gulls flew north to Rat Island in the Colne for the night.

Other than two swifts passing north, the only other bird of note was the cuckoo that was calling loudly from trees near the Oyster Fishery at dusk.
Steve Entwistle saw 2 wheatears at Rewsalls on Sunday and also saw a tawny owl in Shop Lane on Thursday night.


Anonymous said...

Hi Dougal,
I envy you your walk along that hawthorny lane - 'the risen cream of all the milkiness of May-time' as H.E.Bates put it so well.

Dougal Urquhart said...

It is a rewarding month for enjoying the countryside.