Monday, 31 May 2010


Several holly blue butterflies were seen fluttering around some of the West Mersea gardens on Saturday 29th. The strong breeze that blew for most of the day meant they had to find sunny spots sheltered by the trees and bushes. This one pictured above with its ice-blue colouring, was found low down beside a path near the Firs Chase caravan site.

Out of the wind it was nice and warm with various white butterflies also on the wing including one or two orange-tips whilst along the Strood seawall a small heath flew amongst the long grass.

A grass-snake was also enjoying the sunshine amongst a patch of nettles alongside a quiet section of path near the caravan site. It was too alert to get any close views, sliding quickly away into thick cover.

Along the seawall 3 reed warblers, 2 reed buntings and a sedge warbler were singing from the dyke. A little tern hunted back and forwards along the dyke where a little egret also fed. In the fields a pair of oystercatchers were seen as was a grey heron by a pond and a singing skylark, while several swifts passed overhead.

During the brief walk along the seawall, the high tide in the Strood Channel meant there were few birds to be seen other than a cormorant, pair of shelduck and 2 pairs of oystercatchers.

Martin Cock saw a hobby flying near the bottom of the Strood Hill earlier in the day. Several days earlier on the 24th a pair of Mediterranean gulls joined a group of black-headed gulls flying over the gardens near Firs Chase.

Andy Field was lucky enough to see a red kite fly over him at the country park on Sunday 30th. A message was quickly relayed to Steve Entwistle who managed to see it fly west near Bocking Hall and then Martin Cock was lucky enough to see the bird fly over his West Mersea garden a short while later.

There have been two more sightings passed onto me of the muntjac deer recently near the park - one seen at dusk near the pond and another sighting a few days later in a garden just to the north of the park.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


The nights aren't so chilly as a week ago and when the moth trap was checked early on Saturday 22nd there were a few more different moths to check out. This one above is the common buff-tip which looks like a bit of twig that has had the end snapped off.

I recognised this white-colon quite quickly as it also made an appearance last spring. The tiny colon spots near the kidney mark on each wing are a bit faded in the individual above. The moth is not a very common one, so this rather non-descriptive species was probably the most interesting one in the trap.

The coxcomb prominent pictured above is a common moth regularly appearing in ones and twos at the trap in the spring and summer. Its unusual pose makes it look like a bit of bark, bit of wood or maybe a scrumpled up dead leaf.

At the East Mersea Point the ringed plover parents were having an anxious time with all the trippers on the beach in the fine weather. The mother was keeping watch over the nest from a short distance away, every time a walker or a dog passed nearby. Having been told by a dog-walker earlier in the day he'd seen a little chick running around, I thought I'd try and see it for myself. One tiny chick was discovered crouching low down in the shingle and so motionless, it even appeared to be lifeless. It was staying low and still to avoid detection with mother watching on nearby as lots of walkers trudged along the beach.

On the park grazing fields the avocet was present for its third day feeding well in the pools. Also 12 black-tailed godwits and five lapwing chicks. Three pochard were resting beside the pools and the usual other kinds of ducks were present too such as gadwall, shoveler, mallard, shelduck and a small group of tufted duck on the pond.

A green hairstreak was seen in the car park on the busy Sunday 23rd. The male and female cuckoo were very vocal around the car park in the evening as were the two nightingales by the entrance. A little egret flew over the car park in the middle of the morning.

Saturday, 22 May 2010


Three of these dainty green hairstreaks were seen at the park on a sunny Friday 21st. One amongst the grass on the cliff-top was too flighty to get near but this one pictured above was found along one of the sheltered paths. In between resting amongst the leaves, it was regularly having to see off a rival green hairstreak that seemed to stray into its territory. After the aerial duel had finished, the hairstreaks settled back into the foliage, where they were easy to miss.

Other butterflies seen around the park were holly blues, speckled woods, orange-tips, small whites and green-veined whites.

On the grazing fields the avocet was still feeding in the pools for its second day along with 12 black-tailed godwits. Four tiny lapwing chicks were still at the back of the pools and there were 12 mallard ducklings seen too.

Had a stroll around the Shop Lane area and nearby footpaths of East Mersea (part of the Lane pictured above), for the last couple of hours of Friday. It provided a good selection of typical Mersea farmland birds. The two nightingales were heard (one right beside the lane), male marsh harrier flew over, sparrowhawk, male kestrel, pair of turtle doves, 3 singing yellowhammers, cuckoo calling, yellow wagtail, green woodpecker, the noisy rookery with lots of newly fledged young, as well as several warblers whitethroats, lesser whitethroats, chiffchaffs and blackcaps. At dusk a tawny owl was seen perched in a tree being mobbed by blackbirds.

A brief visit to the Shop Lane seawall co-incided with a big sunset. On the Reeveshall pool 7 pochard were the main birds of note along with one or two redshank and lapwing. The only other waders seen on the outgoing tide of the Pyefleet were 9 curlew, oystercatchers, 5 grey plover and a couple of turnstone. Five little terns and a common tern flew along the channel. More marsh harriers were flying around both on Langenhoe and Reeveshall, than on my last visit here last week with about 8 birds seen.

The moth trap produced a few more moths over Thursday night with the slightly warmer night. This big poplar hawkmoth was the most eye-catching one and although they are regularly trapped in the spring and summer, it's always nice to see them around. They are very placid and rely on their imitation of a piece of loose tree-bark to escape detection.

There were lots of these red and black cinnabar moths in and around the trap. A common moth often seen during the day flying around looking for ragwort plants - the foodplant of the caterpillars.

There were a handful of latticed heaths in the trap in the morning and with all the grassland here, it's quite a common moth in the spring and again in late summer.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


This grass-snake was brought to me at the country park on Wednesday 19th by Simon and Maddy Clifton who had found it in their Yorick Road garden in West Mersea. The distinctive yellow collar shows up well and the fork in the tongue tip can just be seen too.

The grass-snake had been found close to their pond with what seemed like a swollen section of its body, as if it had just swallowed one of the newts from the pond. As grass-snakes are widespread across West Mersea - and to spare some of the newts, it was decided to release the grass-snake here at the park at East Mersea. Simon and Maddy can enjoy their newts for a bit longer - until their pond soon gets discovered by the next passing grass-snake!

Grass-snakes aren't often seen at the park although one was seen near the cliff-top in early April. Adder sightings have dropped off and there is just the one frequenting a regular spot being seen on both Tuesday and Wednesday. During a walk around the park with members of the Mersea Wildlife Forum on Thursday evening a slowworm was unexpectedly seen crossing a path.

Also during the walk on Thursday evening an avocet was a surprising sight as it fed in the pools in the grazing fields. The last time avocets were seen in the fields was a year ago when a pair stopped off briefly to mate. Also seen in the fields were a new brood of 4 young lapwing chicks and also the brood of 12 mallard ducklings. Four black-tailed godwits and 2 redshank were seen along with the usual mix of gadwall, shoveler, shelduck and mallard. At the park pond there were 3 pochard, 7 tufted duck and the swan still sitting on her nest.

The cuckoo was seen near the pond and as with recent days was calling out loudly. On a couple of occasions the bubbly call of the female has been heard, and the bird is then glimpsed in the company of the male cuckoo. The nightingales have been singing well over the last few days and the turtle dove has also been seen in the car park singing.

The most interesting recent bird sighting was on Tuesday morning when an osprey flew over the car park. Whilst chatting to a friend at the south end of the car park, I noticed a crow rise up to mob a large raptor which was drifting west. Unfortunately I was 200m away from it and without binoculars wasn't sure what it was. Luckily 3 birdwatchers had seen the bird and one of them came dashing up to me to tell me excitedly they had just seen an osprey! I quickly grabbed my binoculars from the house and ran over the car park to be shown the distant speck of the bird heading away west. Later on Tuesday I received a message to say that Richard Hull had seen a honey buzzard fly over the Hard at West Mersea early in the afternoon.

The little owl was seen alongside Bromans Lane at dusk on Tuesday evening. A couple of times in the last few days the pied blackbird has been seen by Blue Row, once on the verge and then later on the overhead wires. Instead of this male bird being all black, it has big blotches on its upper body and head, so very recognisable.

On Wednesday night this big common cockchafer or May Bug, came crashing onto the window of the house in Firs Chase. When I went outside it was crawling about in the flower border, with its big feathery feelers waving about. It's been some time since I've seen one of these here on the Island.

There was a green hairstreak butterfly fluttering along the seawall on Tuesday morning, although it was often hard to watch once it landed, as its green wings blended well with the green leaves and grass.

Monday, 17 May 2010


Managed a couple of walks along the Strood seawall on Monday 17th and the generally sunny conditions seemed to encourage many of the birds to sing, especially in the early evening. Along many sections of the seawall there are big patches of the hoary cress with their white flowers on show at the moment, as in the photo above.

Songsters along the seawall included 4 corn buntings, 4 reed buntings, 5 skylarks, sedge warbler and the cuckoo too. Also noted were 2 pairs of yellow wagtails, male marsh harrier, little egret, 3 grey herons (including a youngster), 3 whimbrel, 4 little terns, common tern and 2 sand martins heading north.

It was a surprise to see this dainty female large red damselfly resting on some nettles on a path near the Feldy cemetery on the edge of West Mersea, a bit unexpected as there's no obvious watercourse nearby. In time it will no doubt head to a pond or ditch to pair up and lay eggs. Although the large red damselfly has only recently turned up on the Island at the eastern end two years ago, this is the first sighting for the west of the island.

The sunshine also saw lots of orange-tips, small whites, green-veined whites, large whites, speckled woods and holly blues in gardens and along the seawall.

Also enjoying the sunshine was this common lizard found basking amongst the long grass beside the Feldy cemetery. It's nice to see these little creatures right on the edge of West Mersea.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


The Gardner moth trap was one of two traps checked just after dawn at the country park, having operated through the night of Saturday 15th as part of National Moth Night. Unfortunately the catch was disappointing, no doubt due to the clear night sky and low temperatures.

Two herald moths, one pictured above, were the most colourful with their orangey-brown colours. The herald has been one of the few moths that has alread been seen this spring at the park. Also seen were the pebble prominent, sallow kitten, muslin, clouded drab, common quaker, shuttle-shaped dart and hebrew character.

This great silver diving beetle was seen crawling through the grass towards the bright light of the trap. This big beetle has only ever been recorded at the park at night-time, when it's attracted to the moth trap and has been an annual visitor over the last four years.

An eye was also kept open on this National Moth Night for bats too and 3 or 4 common pipistrelle bats were seen near the park entrance and in the car park. Later the bat detector device was telling us that one or two were hunting above the moth traps. Also seen as daylight faded were a fox in the car park and a badger near the pond.

For a change of scene I had a walk along the leafy Cross Lane on the east side of West Mersea. The visit was certainly made worthwhile when a spotted flycatcher was seen feeding in the trees above the Lane. The little bit of shelter from the breeze inside the Lane, may've helped the flycatcher find some flies to feed on. Spotted flycatchers have become scarce migrants to the Island in recent years and only one or two stop off on their journey south in the autumn now.

Saturday, 15 May 2010


Spent the first part of the morning of Saturday 15th doing a circuit of East Mersea, catching up with what birds were holding territories in this breeding season. Luckily the weather was warm with a light wind which meant calls and songs were able to carry a reasonable distance.

The walk started at 5.30am at the park, then along Bromans Lane into Shop Lane, across to Meeting Lane to Weir Farm, then down to Rewsalls, across to the church, through Coopers Beach and finally back along the beach to the park at 10am. The picture above shows the path near to Gyants Marsh, just east of Meeting Lane. I'm not sure what the total distance walked was but Monty the JR, was glad for a break when I stopped for a chat with a couple near the end of the walk, nodding off for a snooze at my feet within a minute!

Some of the highlights and notable counts of singing males included 3 nightingales, 3 corn buntings, 4 turtle doves, 51 common whitethroats, 11 lesser whitethroats, 2 yellow wagtails, 1 yellowhammer, 11 linnet pairs, 7 blackcap at least one cuckoo and a pair of red-legged partridge. Also seen during the circuit were two sub-adult Mediterranean gulls near Coopers Beach, wheatear, sparrowhawk near Fen Farm and the male marsh harrier over Reeveshall.

This walk provides a brief snapshot of what birds are potentially breeding in the area. Hopefully a few more walks in other local areas as well as a few repeat visits in the next few weeks, will give us a good idea of what's breeding here this year.

The moth trap was put out at the park over Friday night and checked first thing on Saturday before I started the walk. Despite the cloudy night sky, it had still been too cold for much moth activity. This pebble prominent pictured above was the most interesting of the small haul of about a dozen moths. Others included sallow kitten, brimstone, early grey, muslin, spectacle, hebrew character and clouded drab.

Martin Cock had seen 2 green hairstreak butterflies, the first for the year, along Shop Lane. They've not been seen in the country park this spring yet. He also reported a turtle dove singing at Gyants Marsh, adding to the parish tally for this species.

Following the earlier posting a couple of days back about the collar-ringed greylag goose, I received confirmation that it had come from southern Sweden. The goose was ringed in 2000 and spent the first 8 years being seen around Sweden. There were no reports or sightings during 2009 but then it was seen in early 2010 in northern England in Northumberland, then Yorkshire before moving to Bedfordshire earlier this spring. Leif Nilsson who has overseen the ringing of 6000 greylags in Sweden, has described this goose's wanderings as "most extraordinary!"

Friday, 14 May 2010


Visited this private back garden next to Victoria Esplanade in West Mersea to admire the display of green-winged orchids on Friday 14th. I've visited this site several times in recent years, (except last year) and it's still a fantastic sight to behold, marvelling at several hundred wild orchids flourishing in a little back garden!

Most of the spikes were a deep purple-pink colour, although this one pictured above had paler flowers. The orchid is named after the green-veins on the sepals that form the hood on each flower.

No count was made of the number of spikes flowering but there were probably 400+ spikes on show. It seemed as if I timed my visit right, just at the peak of their flowering as there signs on quite a few spikes of flowers just starting to fade. The lady owner told me how the flowers were almost a month late appearing on the lawn this spring, presumably due to the cold winter, and then suddenly they shot up with the sunny weather of the last month.

This undisturbed back garden beside the Esplanade is located only 50 metres away from a block of flats known as Orchid Court, that were built in the mid-eighties on a site full of green-winged orchids. Up until 1985 it was estimated that 15,000 orchids flourished on this old pasture only 0.4 ha in size. Not surprisingly this little site made national headlines when the orchids were sprayed off to make way for the new flats.

Hidden amongst the green-winged orchids are a few common spotted orchids, although the leaves of this plant seem exceptionally spotty. These will flower next month with pale pink spikes.

Earlier in the morning I visited the Rewsalls marshes including the small beach, pictured above, near the East Mersea Youth Camp. The erosion has eaten into the beach a lot over the last winter and the clump of sea hollies is much reduced. Ringed plovers have usually nested on the beach here in the past but not this year.

Other birds noted in the area including either side of the Coopers Beach caravan site were cuckoo, turtle dove, corn bunting, 3 male reed buntings, 4 singing sedge warblers, 5 singing reed warblers and 20 common whitethroats.

The first hairy dragonfly of the spring at the park was seen and also one or two orange-tips, speckled woods and small white butterflies.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


Discovered this greylag goose with a neck collar in the park's grazing fields on Wednesday 12th. Through the binoculars the letters OEB could be read on the collar and later in the day armed with my telescope, I could see the same letters marked on a small ring on its lower leg. The goose was keeping company with 10 other greylags and spent time either grazing or snoozing. Greylags are often seen in the fields each spring in small numbers as pairs check out suitable sites for breeding.

Having done some preliminary research on the internet, it would appear that this goose was ringed in southern Sweden as part of a study into the movements and dispersal of greylags away from their breeding grounds. Despite having lots of resident greylags in Essex, little is known about any movements they make, so if this goose is from Sweden, it would be an interesting sighting.

Five black-tailed godwits have been feeding in the fields for the last few days, with the brightest coloured individual this one pictured above with its ginger head and neck. The only other waders on the fields were several redshank and lapwings including the lone chick still.

From the beach 200 dunlin, 70 ringed plovers and a whimbrel were out on the mudflats along with a scattering of oystercatchers. The ringed plover was still on her eggs at the Point and five brent geese flew past the beach. Around the middle of the day there was a small influx of swifts into the Colne estuary when about 50 birds were seen flying upriver.

This delicate small copper was enjoying the warmth of the morning sun as it basked out of the cool wind. This is the second small copper seen this spring but generally numbers of butterflies have been lower because of the chilly breezes. An adder was also out enjoying the sun at the park during the day.

The last couple of hours of Tuesday were spent along the Pyefleet Channel at Reeveshall. Along the Channel were 10 little terns, 30 grey plover, 100 dunlin, 8 whimbrel, 7 curlew, 10 turnstone, single brent goose and one common seal. On Langenhoe only one marsh harrier was seen but a cuckoo could be heard calling.

On Reeveshall a Mediterranean gull flew past, the male marsh harrier was flying about, 65 greylags and 10 Canada geese were seen as were 5 brown hares. On the pool 2 wheatears, gadwall, pochard, 2 pairs of swans and a little egret that flew off to the nearby Shop Lane wood to roost for nightfall.

In the area of Shop Lane a sparrowhawk, yellowhammer, cuckoo were seen while at dusk a tawny owl flew off the roadside wires and there was the pleasant surprise hearing a nightingale singing from Manwood Grove. Interestingly Martin Cock had also heard a nightingale earlier in the day in Shop Lane but from a copse 300 metres away, so should be different bird.

Sunday, 9 May 2010


It was quiet at the East Mersea Point on a dull morning's walk on Sunday 9th, although the sight of the old sailing barge Reminder heading out of the river Colne loomed large out of the gloom.
Birds seen on the beach included ringed plover, 2 turnstone and a knot as well as a few oystercatchers flying past.

Along the nearby borrowdyke were a couple of singing reed warblers, reed bunting, pair of swans and 10 tufted ducks.

Most of the bird interest in the area is still centred around the flooded section in one of the grazing fields, although the variety has remained the same in recent days. There was a lot of commotion in mid morning when a fox was on the prowl, attracting the concerns of lapwings and redshank. The little lapwing chick probably only a week old had the sense to cower behind a dock tussock as the fox trotted past only 15 metres away. The fox then stopped by a rush-filled creek and pounced into the water after something without any reward. This may've been some little ducklings in the creek as no birds flew away. At one point 5 lapwings and about 6 redshank were standing and calling close-by to the fox, which after a while headed off to a nearby hedgerow.

Other birds seen in the fields included 5 black-tailed godwit, pair of oystercatchers, grey heron, yellow wagtail, 10 swallows, little egret, wigeon, 10 teal, 2 gadwall, shoveler, 25 shelduck, 4 greylag geese as well as a few mallard, coots and moorhens.

At various times during the day around the park the songs of nightingales, cuckoo, blackcaps, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat and chiffchaff could all be heard. In the early evening the turtle dove purred from the wires at the side of an empty car park, before flying away over the nearby field.

As all the trees and bushes quickly cover themselves in greenery, several self-seeded apple trees around the park catch the eye with all their blossom.

Dandelion plants around the park don't normally get a second glance but having read recently that it has been a good spring for dandelions, following the cold winter, there does seem to be a better display than is normal. Most of the dandelions in the picture above, have gone to seed with most flowers peaking about a fortnight ago.

Friday, 7 May 2010


The bluebells have been late flowering this spring because of the cold winter but this patch in the picture above on the park cliff-top were worth admiring in the sunshine on Thursday 6th. Many of the bluebells under the old Grove have all disappeared over the years over the cliff-edge because of the coastal erosion. In other places around the park it's nice to see bluebells springing up in open grasslands as well as along hedgerows.

The main wildlife sighting for the park over the last few days was seeing a pair of muntjac deer in the grazing fields on Tuesday morning. Daily park visitor Myrna Fahie came to tell me excitedly that she'd seen two muntjac cross the park in front of her. Two hours later I was very surprised to relocate them myself as they walked alongside the hedge at the back of the grazing fields. As the two deer slowly walked along, exploring as they went, the slightly smaller female would cock her tail up to her male companion with small antlers who was following closely behind.

This is my first sighting of muntjac on the park although I recall a local resident reporting a sighting after an early morning visit into the park last year. Muntjac appear to have finally become established on the Island only in the last 2 or 3 years. My only two previous island sightings have been East Mersea road ones in the car headlights. It will be interesting to see if there are lots more muntjac sightings in the park.
Three foxes were also seen along the back of the fields later that morning.

The cuckoo has been much more in evidence this year compared with last spring. The male has been perching on tree-tops and on telegraph wires both in the park and close to it. It has been very vocal every day, calling repeatedly from the same perch for long periods.

The turtle dove was seen on both Tuesday and Wednesday in the park, purring its soft song from trees close to the car park. The two nightingales continue to sing loudly near the park entrance and birds are often seeing flitting between bushes.

On Wednesday the first lapwing chick was walking about the edge of the water in the grazing field. There are at least 6 pairs of lapwings nesting on the fields this year, which is down slightly from last spring. However there could be other females sitting so low on their nest on the ground that have not been seen yet as the grass grows up.

Amongst the other waders on the fields were about 8 redshank and 12 black-tailed godwits while ducks noted included a 10 teal, wigeon, gadwall, shoveler, several shelduck and a mallard duck keeping a close eye on her 14 ducklings. On the pond and dyke 16 tufted duck and a male pochard were present while a water vole was seen feeding on one of the reedy islands on the pond. A house martin was seen flying over the fields with several swallows.

At the Point on Wednesday a ringed plover was incubating 3 small, pebble-coloured eggs on the beach. Fingers crossed she will have some luck in trying to get them hatched off and away from the beach and the walkers. Most years they usually try and nest here but not normally with much success.
Also seen at the Point were 8 linnets with 10 common terns and 4 great crested grebes in the river Colne.

Martin Cock noted 3 sedge warblers, 4 reed warblers, 20 whitethroats and a corn bunting between Coopers Beach and Rewsalls Farm on Wednesday. Two little owls were seen beside the East Mersea road at dusk on Tuesday, one near Bromans Lane and the other just east of Weir Farm.

The recent cold nights are still not producing many moths, although this common rustic shoulder knot was one that came to the trap on Wednesday night. Amongst the 26 other moths of 5 species were lots of hebrew characters, early grey, clouded drab, turnip and a muslin.

Butterfly numbers have been low with first sightings of holly blue and orange-tip in the park this spring as well as several speckled woods. Two adders were out enjoying the sunshine on Wednesday.

Monday, 3 May 2010


This common seal was basking on the mud along the Pyefleet Channel near Maydays Farm on a day of squally showers on Monday 3rd. The photo is a digiscoped one with the seal about 250 metres away, so even at that distance it was keeping its muddy eyes on me. The wind was blowing strongly from the north, making it difficult to keep the tripod and telescope still to take some pictures. The picture seems to show the seal half-way through moulting its light brown coat.

Close-by to this seal was a second smaller seal, which was a little bit more active, flopping back into the water for a short swim before shuffling itself across the mud. These two seals were presumably a mother and its young pup born last year.

The strong wind made it difficult to birdwatch and at one point had to seek shelter behind the seawall as a hail squall blew through. The Pyefleet was at its emptiest for many months for its waders. Apart from 30 or so oystercatchers, a grey plover and a curlew, there were just lots of gulls and a few groups of shelduck. Feeding in the deep creeks and rills of the Maydays saltings were 2 greenshank, a very dark spotted redshank, 2 whimbrel, 10 redshank and 2 little egrets. A flock of 30 brent geese were seen flying over Langenhoe Marsh.

Whilst lying down waiting for another squall to blow through, a male sparrowhawk got blown across the Pyefleet and landed in a nearby tree for 10 minutes. The male and female marsh harriers were seen over Reeveshall as were a further two males over Maydays that crossed to Langenhoe.

Also on Reeveshall were 12 lapwings, 3 whimbrel, 24 greylag geese, pair of gadwall, yellow wagtail, grey heron, reed bunting and a swift passing over. Four brown hares were seen in one wheat field.

Richard Hull and Andy Field had braved the morning squalls and wind on Langenhoe and noted 2 spotted redshank, common buzzard, 2 Cetti's warblers, several marsh harriers and lots of common whitethroats but little else in the strong wind.

The saltmarshes in many places around the Island at the moment are dotted white with the little flowers of the scurvy grass. There were many scattered clumps across the Maydays saltmarsh and also on the saltmarsh near the Strood pictured above.

An evening walk along the Strood seawall on Monday provided views of two sparrowhawks, 2 whimbrel, 10 grey plover, 10 turnstone, little tern, 2 linnets, yellow wagtail and a male marsh harrier along the Feldy seawall on the mainland.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


After the rain had cleared in the afternoon on Sunday 2nd, took the opportunity of walking around the St Peter's Marsh area of West Mersea. The highlight was being treated to a flypast of a peregrine in real hunting mood as it flashed along Coast Road. The first sign that something was arriving at speed was when a group of wood pigeons flew quickly off the nearby St Peter's saltmarsh with their wings clattering in haste as they made their escape.

Two seconds later, the recognisable profile of a peregrine appeared fast over the trees heading east. The white face and bold streaks on a big chest, were easily seen as it made a bee-line for the nearby West Mersea church. The last glimpse of it, was as it tucked in its wings, giving it one last surge of power, presumably homing in on the pigeons on the tower of the church.

This peregrine could be one of the birds currently attempting to breed in a nestbox on top of one of the nuclear reactors on the Bradwell power station on the opposite side of the Blackwater river.

The songs of a reed warbler, common whitethroat and lesser whitethroat could be heard coming from one clump of bushes at St. Peters, while also noted were a few goldfinches and house sparrows.

Around the entrance into the Mersea Quarters there were 5 great crested grebes, 15 cormorants, 30 oystercatchers and 12 turnstones. One or two little terns and common terns could be seen flying along some of the channels, while in the distance four marsh harriers could be seen flying over Old Hall Marshes.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


It started off warm and dry on Saturday 1st but my walk along the Strood seawall during the late morning was interrupted by a shower of rain that had me sheltering rather pointlessly under a bush whose leaves weren't out yet!

There was very little wind and any sounds, songs and calls were able to carry further. As the tide came in, the sounds of the terns fishing could be clearly heard as they dived into the water with a plop. About five little terns and ten common terns were hawking up and down the Channel, occasionally flying off with a small fish.

There was little else to see during the high tide although 2 whimbrel were the only waders of note. A group of 10 brent geese flew towards the Strood from the Pyefleet before turning back. A distant marsh harrier could be seen circling to the east of the Strood causeway. Towards the end of the walk a fast flying falcon was seen heading rapidly over to and beyond Copt hall, which looked like a hobby.

The cuckoo was being very vocal, sitting up on wires near the caravan site and then later on the tops of the trees on Ray Island. Ten swifts were noted both up over the houses and sometimes down over the fields, accompanied with that summer sound of them screeching. A few house martins and swallows were also seen, some of the latter keeping 100 foraging starlings company.

In the fields 2 yellow wagtails were seen, 2 corn buntings were singing,as were 2 reed buntings, while the reedbeds in the dyke had 4 singing reed warblers in them. Two little egrets were seen during the walk. Also noted were 2 common whitethroats, lesser whitethroat and a handful of house sparrows near the caravan site.

The butterflies enjoyed the morning warmth although I wonder if a bird has tried to grab this speckled wood butterfly, pictured above near Firs Chase with a piece missing from it's wing. Other butterflies seen were the orange-tip, peacock, small white, green-veined white and several large whites.