Thursday, 24 September 2009


More sunshine at the country park on Thursday 24th was ideal for the butterflies and this small copper was one of 3 seen flying low amongst the grass. The most colourful butterfly seen was a brightly marked clouded yellow, which crossed the park and passed right in front of me as it headed down onto the beach. This is only the second sighting this summer on the park although there have been 3 other sightings along the north side of the Island. Other butterflies seen today were speckled wood, large white, small white and red admiral. One ivy clump in flower to the north of the park was alive with insects on Tuesday including 2 painted ladies, 2 red admirals and a comma.

Lots of house martins have been passing over the park again today with 50 seen although not quite as many as the day before when 200 flew over. A few meadow pipits also flew over as did 3 skylarks.
Having to make a rare visit to the rear of the park grazing fields was so unusual that 2 foxes were caught napping in the long grass. They jumped into this ditch to make their escape and sprinted off across the grass field in different directions. A snipe was also flushed from the muddy edge of this ditch.

A reed warbler was seen in some reeds at the back of the fields and elsewhere a few linnets and goldfinches were seen. On the re-flooded pools 30 teal loafed or fed in the shallow waters as did 25 moorhens. Around the park a whitethroat and 4 chiffchaffs were seen or heard from various corners.

Earlier in the morning the flock of linnets at Bocking Hall farm were gathered on some overhead wires with about 200 birds present.

Driving along Bromans Lane from the park late on Thursday evening, two badgers were seen jogging along the road in the car headlights.

An early evening check of the waders on Wednesday 23rd, on the beach as the tide was on its way out from the country park, provided views of about 70 curlew, some pictured above. Also seen were one sanderling, 50 ringed plover, 100 golden plover, 20 grey plover, 50 oystercatcher, 100 redshank and 70 turnstones, on the newly exposed mud. Offshore were a couple of common terns seen flying past but little else.

Earlier in the day 15 little egrets were seen feeding along the water's edge as the tide came in.

The Gunfleet Sands windfarm is slowly becoming operational with just under half of the planned 48 turbines installed so far. This digiscoped view above from the park is looking over towards Colne Point and out at sea beyond Clacton and Jaywick. Visibility this evening wasn't quite so clear to get good views of the wind-farm offshore from north Kent.

At dusk 2 badgers were seen jogging down the small field past the pond, disppearing into the hedgerow. The water vole was seen in the same place at the pond feeding on some reedmace stems. Two little owls called to each other at dusk.

Monday, 21 September 2009


The last hour of Monday 21th was spent on the seawall near the Oyster Fishery at East Mersea, as in the picture above. There was an unexpected appearance of a barn owl hunting in this long-grass field, providing close views a good hour before it got dark. As the light began to fade a little owl was heard calling from a nearby hedgeline and a fox was seen prowling across a field.

Scanning the Langenhoe Point on the opposite side of the Pyefleet Channel, 8 marsh harriers were seen coming into roost for the night with only the one adult male being seen. Five of the harriers sat around on the top of the Langenhoe seawall waiting to drop into the reedbed for the night.

There were plenty of waders as far as the eye could see along the Pyefleet mudflats with the tide out but the dull haze made viewing poor. Thirty avocets were seen flying down the river Colne with a few feeding in the Pyefleet. Four knot were noted amongst ringed plovers and dunlin, while black-tailed godwits were scattered about in good numbers.

A group of 60 shelduck on the east side of the Colne was the biggest gathering in the area for over 2 months. Two common terns flew along the Channel while 10 little egrets headed off to roost.

Earlier in the day Glyn Evans and his team of helpers carried out the monthly wildfowl count around Mersea. On their walk around they noted hobby, common buzzard, whinchat, 6 wheatears, green sandpiper, yellow wagtail, 17 corn buntings and a count of 247 turnstones. Glyn also had a good view of a brightly coloured clouded yellow butterfly near the Oyster Fishery - the fourth sighting on the Island this summer.

Also earlier today a flock of 200 linnets perched along wires over a stubble field by Bocking Hall farm. The presumed parent brown hare of the leveret photographed at Bromans Farm, was seen in the adjacent field.

There was no repeat fly-past today of the honey buzzard that Andy Field had seen yesterday in mid afternoon from the Shop Lane seawall. He had a good view of the bird flying quite low over the Shop Lane wood being mobbed by crows as it flew north-east, where it headed over the Pyefleet towards Alresford Creek direction.

Other birds seen by him in the area included a curlew sandpiper, 2 greenshank, green sandpiper, 3 wheatears and 3 marsh harriers. Martin Cock saw the kingfisher at Maydays farm on Saturday.

Birds seen around the park on Sunday included 3 chiffchaffs, 3 blackcaps, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, yellow wagtail, a small passage of swallows with the occasional house martin and sand martin and two wheatears at the Point. At the park pond a sparrowhawk flew past and a water vole obligingly sat at the base of some reedmace for several minutes chomping through a few reedmace stems.

Enjoying the calm and sunny weather in the last couple of days have been painted lady, speckled woods, small copper, small white, commas and red admiral. Also several southern hawkers and common darters seen around the park.

There was a reasonable selection of moths in the trap over Saturday night compared with recent sessions. The trap was operated overnight, joining in the National Moth Night event, where lots of other moth trapping sessions were taking place across the country to raise the profile of moths.

On the Sunday morning the trap at the park yielded about 250 moths of about 26 species with a typical selection of autumnal moths noted. The three members of the sallow family pictured above and below were the prettiest found, with their pale markings matching the colour of autumnal leaves.
The one above is The sallow, while the moth below is the barred sallow, both common moths and regular visitors to the trap in previous autumns.

The moth below is the orange sallow, again a widespread moth with 2 other freshly marked individuals in the trap.

Other moths seen included L-album wainscot, common wainscot, engrailed, light emerald, yellow-tail, large yellow underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, square spot rustic, feathered ranunculus, black rustic, brick, beaded chestnut, frosted orange, rosy rustic, angle shades, shuttle-shaped dart, mallow and snout.

Saturday, 19 September 2009


Visited the Dences at Bromans Farm near the country park on Saturday 19th to get a close look at this young brown hare, also known as a leveret. Two small leverets were discovered crouching low down in the Dences flower border whilst they did a spot of gardening. Both leverets remained still, and were almost touchable. When I visited at the end of the afternoon, only this leveret pictured above could be located after it bolted out of a border which was being watered.

The young leverets have the dark eye to begin with, which develops later into eyes with a yellow iris. The fur is different in texture and appearance to a rabbit, being less uniform grey and maybe the fur is a bit longer too.
The adult hare has been seen in the neighbouring arable field during the day and I'd noticed it a few days earlier near to the Bromans Farm. No doubt the mother will return to the young in the garden sometime after dark. This is the first time the Dences have seen young hares in their garden.

The rowan trees in the car park are laden down with red berries, adding a bit of colour to the area. The trees have put so much energy into producing the berries recently that some of the leaves have been dropping much earlier than usual. A few chaffinches were feeding in the trees at the beginning of the day but generally the birds aren't in a hurry to eat the berries yet.

A big flock of house martins flew around the park during the morning with about 400 birds feeding over the fields and swooping low over the water on the pond. Andy Field noted 150 of them resting along the central hedge in the fields. About 100 swallows were also flying around as well with one or two sand martins. By mid afternoon the martins had moved on but swallows were still to be seen.

The appearance of a sparrowhawk sent all the house martins into one big flock as well as 100 starlings. One of the local kestrels perched on some overhead wires as it scanned the ground for prey.

The cows enjoyed the sunshine in the field beside the park pond. Duck numbers are still building up for the autumn and one group of 24 newly arrived wigeon circled above the pond several times before heading off to the saltmarsh near the Point. On the pond 7 wigeon, 5 gadwall, 2 tufted duck, 2 shoveler, 30 teal, 70 mallard were some of the more visible ducks. The muddy pools in the fields have become muddy again after a short period of only 2 weeks of drying out. Six teal and 10 moorhens were seen feeding in the shallows.

The only migrants noted in the bushes were 3 chiffchaffs, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, blackcap with yellow wagtail flying over as did 20+ meadow pipits. At the Point 2 wheatears were seen by Andy in the morning. Offshore there were 15 little egrets seen flying away as the tide came in.

The sunshine also saw 3 commas, 3 red admirals, 4 speckled woods, 15 small whites and small copper on the wing in the morning. Two common lizards were seen on some logs near the car park of the park.

Friday, 18 September 2009


Sunshine on Friday 18th enticed this male adder out beside a track in the country park. Tucked amongst some twigs and brambles, the adder was able to stay out of the breeze from the east. Adders at the park are normally still around at the park until mid October, after which they disappear off to hibernate.

A few more butterflies seen around the park duing the morning included red admiral, comma, a few speckled woods and several small whites. A pair of mating southern hawkers flew across the car park in tandem and a few common darters were seen too.

The small flock of chaffinches seen in the car park in the last fortnight grew to about 20 birds this morning. Earlier in the week a small flock of 20 birds were seen by the East Mersea road at Weir Farm. The usual tit flock was roving around the park but the only warblers noted were about 3 calling chiffchaffs.

On the walk to the Point a nice male stonechat was seen on bushes at the east end of the park. Three wheatears were noted on the wall with one on this section of beach at the Point in the picture above. A handful of swallows passed over the park and also several meadow pipits, with about 20 noted. Three reed buntings were perched up on the sea-blite bushes at the Point.

Twenty little egrets were dotted along the water's edge as the tide came into the park beach. Just north of the Point were 24 shelduck, the first ones back from their moulting grounds in Heligoland in northern Germany. Also on the mud were about 50 avocets feeding along the edge of the river and a dozen common terns flew into the river Colne.

At the park pond lots of ducks were hiding amongst the stands of reedmace but 25 teal, 6 wigeon, tufted duck, gadwall were noted amongst the many mallard. A sparrowhawk flew past the area heading north, attracting the attention of a flock of starlings as it climbed into the air.

Received news that Richad Brown had heard a bee-eater as it flew over his garden in West Mersea as it headed north early in the afternoon. Interestingly Andy Cook also heard a bee-eater over his garden in Tolleshunt D'arcy, just a few miles west of Mersea Island a short while later.

Recently 10 wigeon and a female pintail were seen on the pond on Wednesday with a marsh harrier flying over the Point on that afternoon. The day before on Tuesday, 2 bedraggled wheatears were seen in the rain by the seawall.

The moth trap was operated on Monday and Thursday nights with about 20 species noted with the better catch being found on the Friday morning when 150 individuals were recorded. The most striking one was this black rustic pictured above, with three seen in the trap. It's reasonably regular to the trap here at the park in the early autumn.

This fresh and brightly marked brindled green is another regular visitor to the trap in the early autumn. Three other individuals were also in the trap this morning.

The dusky-lemon sallow pictured above is an annual visitor to the trap each autumn but only just one or two each year. It's listed as an Essex red data book species as numbers have declined in recent years, probably following the decline in elm, the foodplant of the caterpillars.

The burnished brass is another eyecatching moth with the brass markings on the wings glinting in the sunshine. It's quite a common moth and there should be a few more turn up at the trap in the next fortnight.

Other moths seen included square spot rustic, brick, L-album wainscot, mallow, oak hook-tip, chinese character, silver Y, frosted orange, rosy rustic, flounced rustic, feathered ranunculus, setaceous hebrew character, large yellow underwing and snout

Monday, 14 September 2009


Returned to the cliff-top vantage point on Monday 14th to see if there was anything of interest flying about offshore. There was no main gathering of birds but there was a steady stream of around 100 terns which were most likely common terns heading east.

On the horizon there seemed to be a steady flow of distant gulls flying north-east past Colne Point. The distinctive profiles of at least 3 gannets could be seen amongst the gulls. Later an immature gannet, similar to the bird seen yesterday was seen in the same area, circling round and diving into the sea. Through the telescope the views were distant but clear and for once the bird was staying to feed in the same area rather than flying away.
Andy Field and Martin Cock were also looking out to sea a mile to the west at Coopers Beach and we were able to relay sightings to each other as we scanned the sea from different points.

The main highlight whilst scanning offshore to the south was watching a peregrine fly low over the sea as it headed into the river Colne. Ten minutes later the turnstones in front of me panicked at something and when I looked to see what had spooked them, a peregrine flew past before turning round and then flying right overhead as it headed back inland.

Also out at sea were 3 eider in the river Colne with a further 3 off Coopers Beach where six common scoter were also seen by Martin and Andy. A group of 12 wigeon arrived from offshore, new arrivals from the continent for the winter.

Noted on the mud were 4 sanderling, 80 turnstones perched on the tops of the posts, 70 ringed plover, 50 golden plover as well as lots of redshank, dunlin, oystercatcher, curlew and grey plover. When the tide came back in at the end of the afternoon, 15 little egrets were noted.

Some of the sea buckthorn bushes along the cliff-top are laden with orange berries, ready for any hungry migrant birds to eat. Elsewhere around the park are lots of bright red rowan berries, which are also waiting for birds to eat them.

Small birds of interest in the park centred around a mixed tit flock of mainly long-tailed tits. Blackcap, lesser whitethroat and chiffchaff were the only migrant warblers noted in the bushes by the car park.

It seemed a bit surprising to find this clump of sea aster flourishing on the sandy beach in front of the cliff, instead of its more preferred place in the saltmarshes.

Sunday, 13 September 2009


After the sunshine yesterday, Sunday 13th turned out cloudy and with a cool easterly breeze. Quite a contrast today to all the recent weeks of blue skies. The tide was on its way out during the morning and the view in the picture above is from the park cliff-top looking out over the mudflats.

A scan of the sea from this vantage point revealed a large group of gulls and terns feeding on a shoal of fish in the distance. Through the telescope this group of about 100 birds were flying around the same area of sea, about a mile offshore. One bird that stood out and instantly recognisable was a gannet, which dived head first into the water several times. The immature bird with brown wings and white underbody, could be seen folding its wings against its body just before plunging into the water. Considering that the Island faces the sea, very few gannets come close inshore and only one or two birds are seen each year.

Other than lots of common terns, not much else of interest offshore other than a great crested grebe and a group of 6 wigeon that flew in off the sea.The usual waders were arriving on the mud to feed, although as more mud was exposed, the waders moved further away from the beach.

In bushes in the park one or two blackcaps, chiffchaff and lesser whitethroat were noted near the pond. Four song thrushes were seen near the park entrance with two birds flying off high east, the sort of high flight that migrant song thushes make. Six house martins flew east past the beach and a few swallows were also seen during the day.

A second visit to the park beach was enjoyed at the end of the day with the tide in. The beach was deserted with the last of the visitors already gone. Not much birdlife to be seen here although a male gadwall with two mallard close inshore was a bit unusual.


Whilst walking round the park on Saturday 12th, it was surprising to get such a close view of this wood pigeon in an elder bush by the path. As I sneaked close enough to click the camera, I noticed that its right eye was deformed and presumably unable to see with it. Unfortunately in the picture above, the elderberries obscure the pigeon's eye. It could obviously see well enough to feast on the berries with its left eye as the bird suddenly realised I was nearby and flew swiftly away.

The park enjoyed another hot day during Saturday although the only butterflies seen enjoying the sunshine were a few small whites and a couple of speckled woods along with southern hawker and common darter dragonflies.

The only sign of warblers were along the hedge behind the park pond where 3 blackcaps, 3 lesser whitethroats, reed warbler and a couple of chiffchaffs were noted. Only a few swallows passed over the park during the day and a couple of meadow pipits flying west along the beach was a sign of autumn.

Duck numbers have increased noticeably in recent days on the park pond with around a hundred birds present. These have been mainly mallard with about 60, also 20 teal, 3 gadwall, 5 wigeon, shoveler and tufted duck. The mute swans appear to have lost the last of their 4 cygnets, as none have been seen for about a fortnight.

On Saturday Steve Entwistle saw 4 curlew sandpipers on the mud along the Pyefleet Channel, along with 34 knot and 118 avocet.

On my evening visit the day before to the same area of the Reeveshall seawall, there were 3 curlew sandpipers along the Pyefleet. Also seen were 80 black-tailed godwit, 30 ringed plover, 200 redshank, 1 knot, 30 avocet, 1 spotted redshank, 25 grey plover, 30 dunlin, snipe and a bar-tailed godwit.

Two marsh harriers were present on Langenhoe, 2 yellow wagails flew over the seawall as did a few swallows.

On Friday the regular yellow-legged gull was seen standing on its usual lump of concrete beside the Strood causeway.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


Had an evening walk in a cool easterly breeze to East Mersea Point pictured above, on Wednesday 9th at the end of another sunny day. Timed the visit to the Point to coincide with the tide starting to uncover the mud, so that the various waders could be looked at through the telescope.

There was the usual nice seletion of waders gathered by the Point but nothing unusual and numbers weren't as high as expected. Approximate numbers of waders seen were 150 redshank, 15 curlew, 70 black-tailed godwit, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 10 lapwing, 20 grey plover, 20 golden plover, 40 ringed plover, 1 knot, 30 dunlin, 4 turnstone, 2 avocet, common sandpiper and 5 oystercatcher.

Five little egrets stood around a pool on the mudflats and offshore a handful of common terns were seen. In the distance a marsh harrier was seen over Colne Point and another bird over Langenhoe Point. The "resident" family of mute swans with the single cygnet from the dyke, swam back across the river Colne having had a few days away at Brightlingsea.

Four whinchats sat out of the cool evening breeze on a bramble bush near the seawall. Fourteen linnets flew around the sea-blite bushes at the Point. In the grazing fields 20 curlew were seen and 2 yellow wagtails flew over calling. At the park pond a wigeon and a pair of gadwall were recent arrivals.

Martin Cock saw a kingfisher and 2 turtle doves at Maydays Farm and also a spotted flycatcher at the north end of Shop Lane along with one or two whinchats and wheatears by the seawall.


Another scorcher here on the Island on Tuesday 8th with a reported temperature in a car locally reaching 30 degrees. At least here at the country park there was a breeze blowing in from the sea during the day. In the picture above, the breeze is turning over the silvery white underside of the leaves of the white poplar trees.

Butterfly numbers have dropped off sharply since the park appeared to dry up about three weeks ago. Two small coppers, speckled wood, painted lady, several small whites and large whites were the only ones during the day around the park.

A male grass-snake was enjoying the sunshine as it basked beside a path on the north side of the park. It quickly slipped away and managed to cleverly disappear under the barest cover of leaves and a tuft of grass. The previous day a young adder was seen along the same path.

Making the most of the good weather were the migrating swallows passing over the park during the day. The main passage appeared to be in the afternoon when at least 300 birds slowly passed over in a continuous stream. One or two house martins and sand martins were seen too. A single swift was with the martins in the morning and Richard Brown noted one passing over West Mersea in the afternoon.

Two great spotted woodpeckers were seen by the park entrance in the morning while later, 2 green woodpeckers were seen on a small tree by the pond. Blackcap, chiffchaff and whitethroat were noted in bushes near the pond.
A sparrowhawk glided over the area scattering wood pigeons from the copse while one or two swallows bravely mobbed it as it flew past. A juvenile sparrowhawk swooped low over the car park during the day, while a little egret passing over the car park is a familiar sight. A whimbrel was heard calling from the mudflats.

In the evening a dog fox was seen in the grazing fields marking every grass tussock in the area. A short while later a young fox also appeared nearby and took an interest in the some rabbits along a hedgeline. Just before darkness fell a badger was seen jogging acoss the field by the pond and the little owl was heard calling from nearby Bromans Farm.

Conditions seemed ideal for moth trapping on the Monday night but despite some cloud cover and the warm air, the partial moon was probably still too bright and kept moths away from the trap. By dawn on Tuesday about 17 species of about 120 individuals were noted.

The newest addition to the park's moth- list was the cypress pug, a species that seems to be getting more widespread in the county. Other moths noted included canary-shouldered thorn, oak hook-tip, willow beauty, latticed heath, light emerald, brimstone, orange swift, white point, flounced rustic, square spot rustic, snout, broad-bordered yellow underwing and large yellow underwing. Also in the trap in the morning was a common darter dragonfly.

This feathered gothic with its distinctive fine lines along its wings has been seen at the park before, although not last year.

There are normally small numbers of the L-album wainscot through September at the park and although some may be migrants, some are probably locally resident with often a handful of individuals in a night in the trap.

Monday, 7 September 2009


It was warm and still during an evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 7th. The relatively calm conditions made it easy to hear various birds calling. The tide was out so there were plenty of waders scattered along the Channel.

Scanning through a mixture of 100 dunlin and 70 ringed plovers feeding on the opposite side of the Pyefleet were 6 curlew sandpipers. Appearing slightly larger than nearby dunlin, at least a couple were juvenile birds with a slight buffy tone to the throat. The birds soon took off and flew up-channel showing the distinctive white rumps as they flew.

Other waders seen included 2 greenshank, common sandpiper, 3 avocet, knot, as well as lots of black-tailed godwits, redshank, curlew and with a few turnstone, oystercatcher and grey plover too. Also seen were 4 grey herons, 3 little egrets, 12 fledged shelducklings in two broods and 5 common terns.

The peace was occasionally broken when a common seal splashed around in the shallows trying to catch fish. On its third attempt it managed to bring a flatfish to the surface and once it had turned the fish the right way round, it swallowed it head first. A second seal was also seen slowly swimming down the channel.

The anxious calls of an avocet on the opposite side drew attention to a hobby swooping after some of the small waders. It singled out a dunlin which managed to evade the snatches by climbing higher and higher until the hobby gave up. Only one marsh harrier was seen over Langenhoe.

On Reeveshall at least 35 yellow wagtails were seen, with one group of 30 flying out of a sheep field. One wheatear was seen near the seawall as were 6 skylarks and other than some martins, not many other small birds.

Thursday, 3 September 2009


It was windy during the evening walk along the park seawall on Thursday 3rd but at least the sun was still shining. There had actually been some rain on the Island last night for a few hours but the strong winds of today have removed all traces of puddles.

Two whinchats perched on low bushes on the beach and beside the seawall, so that they didn't get blown about by the wind. Four linnets were also seen near the seawall, while reed bunting and reed warbler were also heard by the dyke. Swooping low over the dyke by the Golfhouse were 50 swallows as they did some early evening flycatching beside the water. Five yellow wagtails fed in the nearby horse field with a further five by the cattle in the grazing fields.

Two black-tailed godwits and 2 lapwing were in the muddy pools that were now a little wetter after last night's rain. A kestrel flew up to the nestbox in the tree where they nested earlier in the summer.

The tide was well out opposite the park and a variety of waders were scattered into the distance although 5 avocets were noted, also a dozen golden plover and 30 black-tailed godwits were closer in.

Yesterday Wednesday, Martin Cock watched a hobby catching a swallow near the Rewsalls Marshes in East Mersea, also 150 linnets, 50 yellow wagtails and 12 mistle thrushes seen in a stubble field near here. On the Reeveshall pool a little ringed plover was present as was the single wigeon. Five whinchats and 4 wheatears were seen near the pool and a clouded yellow butterfly flew along the Reeveshall seawall, while a further 25 yellow wagtails in the cattle field made it a good wagtail tally for the day .

Hugh Owen reported seeing an osprey flying away with a fish just north of the Island beside the Mersea road near the Langehoehall marshes in the morning. This could've been the same osprey seen at the Abberton Reservoir in the afternoon. Also seen over Langenhoehall marshes were a buzzard and two marsh harriers, while whinchat and wheatears have been noted recently.

Over the park on Tuesday was a swift flying west with a group of swallows.

A terrier dog has now made a full recovery from a nasty adder bite on its foot after it accidentally stood on the snake beside the footpath between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane in East Mersea a fortnight ago. Here at the park the only recent reports of adders have been beside the seawall. In previous years the last adder sightings of the autumn are usually seen up until mid October.