Wednesday, 19 August 2009


Could only find the time to visit the fields along the Strood late in the evening of Wednesday 19th. Martin Cock had a good view of a rare male ortolan bunting early in the morning perching up on bushes in this hedgerow pictured above and also watched it drop into the grass to feed. The eye-ring was very noticeable and the orangey belly was a distinctive feature too when viewed at a range of about 20 metres.

The ortolan was associating with lots of other small birds including yellowhammer, 15 or so corn buntings, 25 house sparrows and one or two reed buntings. The birds were disappearing into the rough grassland field to feed, before returning back to the bushes in the hedgerow. Martin alerted Andy Field once he got home but a two hour search later in the morning failed to provide any further sightings of the bird. The ortolan bunting is a rare visitor to Essex and has not been recorded on Mersea Island before.

By the time of my visit in the last hour of daylight, all the small birds had gone to roost. However the most interesting sighting were 2 young cuckoos perching in the same bush beside the reedbed near the seawall. Both cuckoos were very brown and barred and flew off in opposite directions, leaving behind an upset reed warbler still scolding at their presence. A handful of reed warblers could be heard calling along the length of the reedbed.

Three swifts and a swallow flying overhead were the only small birds noted and there was no sign of the whinchat that Andy had seen earlier in the day. At least 6 little egrets could be seen flying to roost in the trees on Ray Island. Light was poor for wader spotting along the Strood Channel although a few hundred gulls were gathering on the mud to roost for the night.

Today has been one of the hottest days of the year at around 26 or 27 degrees with the sea breeze helping to keep the air a bit cooler. The recent sunny and dry spell has turned the park brown and parched, as in the photo above with all the green colour gone out of the grass.

The sunny weather is perfect for the reptiles and this common lizard was basking amongst a pile of cardboard in my back garden at the park.

The wood sandpiper was still present for its seventh day on the rapidly shrinking pools on the grazing fields. Also present were 6 black-tailed godwits including the Portuguese bird, also 8 teal, 4 mallard, lapwing and 6 moorhens.

Ten yellow wagtails flew over the park during Tuesday, the most seen in a day this year at the park. Good numbers of warblers were still present along the hedgerows near the pond including whitethroats, lesser whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs and willow warblers, probably amounting to 50 birds as well as the roving tit flock.

Three wheatears were seen by Martin near the Reeveshall pool on Monday, along with 90+ avocets and 7 marsh harriers on Langenhoe.

Lots of setaceous hebrew character moths pictured above, are turning up at the trap at the park at the moment with a trapping session on Sunday night producing about 30 macro species. Not so many latticed heaths as the previous night but about ten sandhill rustics was of interest. Two poplar hawkmoths, iron prominent, 4 swallow prominents, willow beauty, common carpet, orange swift, spectacle and light emerald were some of the moths noted.

Clive and Lyn Pickering alerted me to the unusually loud tropical chirping sound coming from the lower section of Kingsland road at dusk on Monday. With the help of a torch we found a small cricket hiding in a crack in a brick wall rubbing its wings together to make each loud chirp. It appears to be a house cricket which is native in the Mediterranean but often kept in this country by reptile and amphibian enthusiasts as food for their animals.

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