Saturday, 22 August 2009


Various dragonflies such as this ruddy darter have been seen around the park over the last few days. The bright red abdomen of the males makes it an attractive insect to watch. Several males have set up their territories along one of the paths and any other ruddy darter that strays too close is quickly chased away.

Other dragonflies seen include lots of migrant hawkers also along paths and around the trees. A brown hawker was seen by the park entrance on Thursday 20th and a few southern hawkers have been noted too. One or two emperors have been hawking over the park pond.

An evening walk on Saturday 22nd along the park seawall provided views of 2 whinchats perching on the tops of thistles and bramble bushes between the two grazing fields. These are the first passage whinchats here at the park this autumn. Also noted were nine yellow wagtails flew over the park calling, six had been seen beside the cows at the pond the day before. In the dyke pictured above were 3 young pochard as well as several mallard. In the reeds along the edge were 3 reed warblers calling.

The most interesting sighting of the evening walk was a spotted flycatcher feeding actively around some tall blackthorn trees near the park pond. In characteristic fashion, the bird perched on branches on the outer side of the trees, dart out to catch an insect and then fly back to the perch again. There were probably lots of evening insects to catch as it never stayed still for long. Unfortunately the bird couldn't be relocated 15 minutes later and we will have to wait to see if any other spotted flycatchers turn up on the Island this autumn.

On the muddy pools in the fields the wood sandpiper is still present for it's 10th day, which is by far a record stay for one of these birds here on Mersea. Also on the pools were 4 black-tailed godwits, 13 teal, 2 lapwing some mallard and moorhens. A three-quarters grown fox cub walked across the fields where it then sat down briefly near the pools. After watching my wife Nolly and I through the hedge, it picked up a plastic bag tossing it playfully into the air several times. It soon wandered off past the pond. Towards dusk 3 badgers were seen crossing the pond field, disappearing quickly into the hedge at the bottom. Two nightingales called to each other near the park entrance as the light faded.

Whilst walking past the toilet block on Friday, this large brown Old Lady moth pictured above flew off the side of the building and landed straight into a nearby rubbish bin filled with ice cream wrappers and lots of wasps! After lots of rummaging amongst the litter, I managed to collect the moth so that I could have a close look at it. After letting it fly in my back garden, it flew straight through my doors and into the house where-upon I lost it and couldn't find it. It was relocated the next day and released back into the park.

Although the Old Lady is a common moth, usually just the one individual gets noted each year here and its large size makes it more interesting and distinctive moth. The brown shawl-like markings draped over its wings are supposed to look like a shawl over the shoulders of an old woman.

John Dobson kindly informed me he had seen a clouded yellow butterfly earlier on his walk alongside the park borrowdyke on Friday morning. As he was telling me about the sighting, the colourful butterfly fluttered past us giving us a brief view of this scarce immigrant.

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