Thursday, 29 July 2010


Andy Field took these two photos recently of a hummingbird hawkmoth that he saw sipping nectar from flowers in his garden in High Street North in West Mersea. Considering these moths are always on the move, these photos clearly show the markings of the body and orange hindwings well. The one I saw in my garden last week was buzzing from flower-spike to flower-spike so quickly, that even holding a camera in my hand at the time, it was pointless attempting to get the moth in any sort of shot.

After a poor showing over the last two summers, there seem to be a few more reports this year from elsewhere in the county. Perhaps the warm summer has helped bring a few more into the country from the continent.

A moth trapping session at the country park late on Wednesday 28th was dominated by lots of these silver-Y moths, one pictured above. As a small group of us gathered to see what moths would be flying, many of these medium sized brown moths apeared out of the darkness and fluttered around the light. Many of them settled down on the nearest object they found, either the trap or the grass, as well as many resting on ourselves. By dawn 80 were in the trap, with at least a further 20 on the nearby ground. It has been a few summers since there have been such large numbers here, many of these ones being recent immigrants.

The iron prominent pictured above, was another visitor to the trap, about the third record this summer. Close-up the wings show the subtle iron-red markings. The larvae feed on the leaves of trees such as birch and alder.

Most of the main moth activity occurred in the first half of the night and as the sky cleared later on, there were less new arrivals in the trap by early morning at 4.30. About 35 species of macros were noted including 3 poplar hawkmoth, drinker, maple prominent, yellow-tail, oak hook-tip, magpie, flounced rustic, grey dagger, broad-bordered yellow underwing, bordered sallow and dun-bar.

Also joining in the big moth gathering were several pipistrelle bats hawking over the trap as the silver-Ys came in. Earlier in the evening a fox and 3 badgers were seen as night fell near the park pond.

In the morning 5 willow warblers were noted in various corners of the park, either feeding with tit flocks, heard calling or heard singing a loud sub-song. Two birds singing from the willows at the pond made the place sound more like a springtime scene than high summer. It seems 2 or 3 weeks early to have the willow warblers passing through in these numbers.
Some of the usual warblers still possibly resident, were seen including blackcaps, whitethroats, lesser whitethroats and chiffchaff. At least one nightingale was heard calling from its usual area of bushes, so they've not gone back to Africa just yet.

At the park pond the 5 tufted ducklings were still present while on the pools in the fields, 8 lapwing and 2 black-tailed godwits were the only waders of note here. A mallard watched over her brood of 5 ducklings.

The warm weather brought a selection of butterflies out such as this comma on a bramble flower. Others on the wing included red admiral peacock, common blue, small copper, large white, small white, green-veined white, speckled wood, meadow brown, hedge brown, Essex skipper, large skipper.

Amongst the dragonflies were one or two small red-eyed damselflies, brown hawker, ruddy darter, common darter, migrant hawker and southern hawker.

One adder was tucked into the base of a bramble bush in the usual spot for them near the car park. A couple of sloughed skins have been seen at the park in the last few days.

A hobby flashed over the East Mersea road at the bus turning circle on Tuesday scattering a flock of 40 swallows resting on the wires. The hobby made an unsuccessful attempt at snatching one, as the flock of swallows dispersed.

Martin Cock had a willow warber in his West Mersea garden and a Mediterranean gull over Waldegraves.

Monday, 26 July 2010


There has been lots of insect activity around a lavender bush in the Firs Chase garden in West Mersea in the last few days. Whenever the sun came out, a number of white butterflies appeared, such as this small white, as well as a few large whites too.

It was nice to see one or two meadow browns, one pictured above, flying about the garden, when you would normally expect to see them over areas of long grass like the seawalls.

On Friday there was a brief visit to the lavender by a hummingbird hawkmoth, that stayed for all of 30 seconds, hovering in front of about 20 different lavender spikes without resting, before zooming rapidly away. It's been 2 or 3 years since this hawkmoth has been seen in the garden

At dusk the garden has come to life with lots of silver-Y moths, especially around the lavender bush and also a big clump of knapweed. Around 20 of these brown moths at a time have been hovering around the flowers as they feed with their wings constantly quivering.
Many of these are probably immigrants from the continent and there seem to be reasonable numbers of hoverflies too which may suggest an influx with them too.

A walk along the Strood seawall on Saturday morning coincided with the tide coming in to cover most of the mud along the Channel. The only waders of note other than the usual redshank, curlew and oystercatchers were 2 greenshank, 3 dunlin, whimbrel and 5 black-tailed godwits.
One or two little terns and common terns were seen hawking along the Channel, as well as amongst the moorings by the West Mersea Hard. Amongst a roosting flock of 300 black-headed gulls in one of the grass fields, was an adult Mediterranean gull.

Inside the seawall a corn bunting was singing, as were 2 reed buntings, with 20 linnets, whitethroat and reed warbler also noted, while yellow wagtail and 3 stock doves flew over. By the caravan site a bright willow warbler seen amongst the bushes near the path would've been a migrant- an early sign that the small birds are already heading south for the winter.

A brief evening walk on Friday 23rd to the Strood seawall provided views of 2 spotted redshank, 10 little egrets in one loose group and 6 golden plover in the field with 10 lapwing.

Simon Gamble saw a hobby hawking insects over the country park on Thursday 22nd, while Steve Entwistle noted 2 green sandpipers, common sandpiper and 3 avocets on the Reeveshall pool. On Wednesday Steve had a cuckoo in Meeting Lane, while the day before there was a little owl also in Meeting Lane. Martin Cock saw 2 greenshank and 7 green sandpipers at Maydays about the same time.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


The annual visit by members of the Essex Moth Group took place on Tuesday 2oth on a warm and partially cloudy night. The conditions were ideal for moth activity and there was a lot to admire amongst the six traps that were operated up until just after midnight. Two of the traps continued through to dawn and were checked at 4am.
Although the final list of moths trapped by participants is still being collected, it would appear that nearly 100 species were noted, this including 20 - 25 micro moth species in the tally.

The most striking moth of the night, the garden tiger moth, made an appearance again on this annual EMG visit, and true to form as with the two previous years, waited till everyone had gone home before it dropped into the trap. The only two previous park records over the last two years have coincided with the date for the EMG visit.

Numbers of this once common and widespread moth have dropped sharply in the south-east of England over the last 20 years. It's nice to see it is still surviving at the park, although it's obviously a late night flier as all the three individuals have appeared between 1 am and 4 am.

The side-on view of the garden tiger the next day, shows the bright red body, as it flaps its wings and thinks about taking flight. It soon settled down and I left it resting under a picnic table where it was still present as darkness fell.

Another highlight was this diminutive tree lichen beauty, usually regarded as a scarce migrant from the continent. In recent years there have been lots more records from a number of locations that would suggest the moth is probably now resident. This is about the fifth record for the park in the last four years. This individual is a nice fresh specimen with bright green markings, whereas ones in previous years have been duller green.

One of the chunkiest and furriest moths of the night was this oak eggar, a regular visitor to the traps in mid summer.

It was a good night for the other big moths -the hawkmoths, with 14 poplar hawks just in my two traps, also 3 pine hawks, privet hawk, lime hawk and an elephant hawkmoth noted by morning.

Probably the scarcest moth of the night was this starwort, which although it is frequent around the Essex coast, is listed as a nationally scarce moth. Several usually turn up at the trap here each summer.

Moths that were noted in good numbers were latticed heath, clouded silver, brown-tail, common footman, scarce footman, dingy footman, lesser broad bordered yellow underwing, brown-line bright eye, smoky wainscot, oak hooktip, lunar-spotted pinion, dark arches, light arches, dun-bar, cloaked minor, dusky sallow, uncertain and silver-Y.

Some of the other moths noted included lackey, small emerald, common emerald, maidens blush, least carpet, July highflier, early thorn, swallow-tailed, bordered white, pebble prominent, swallow prominent, coxcomb prominent, iron prominent, least yellow underwing, green silver lines, scarce silver lines, knotgrass, poplar grey, fen wainscot, sycamore, small scallop and dot moth.

Other bits of wildlife interest were several pipistrelle bats flying above the moth traps and the house cricket was heard chirping again. A green sandpiper and whimbrel flew over the park calling on the Tuesday afternoon while a golden plover called out on Wednesday morning.

Monday, 19 July 2010


The moth trap was put out at the country park in the evening of Monday 19th on a warm and still night. Just under 40 species of moths were noted with this first ruby tiger of the season the most colourful. This is usually a regular visitor to the trap during late July and early August, with the caterpillars feeding on plantains and docks.

This moth pictured above, caught the eye when the trap was checked the next morning, looking like a member of the dart family of moths. This is a white-line dart, showing a thin white streak along part of the wing. It is a reasonably widespread moth in the county and has been recorded here at the park before.

Other moths noted on the night included L-album wainscot, poplar hawkmoth, least carpet, latticed heath, barred yellow, common emerald, early thorn, pale prominent, dusky sallow, dun-bar, lunar-spotted pinion, dingy footman and common rustic.

There has been an unfamiliar chirping sound coming from this area of trees near the park's overflow car park on a couple of recent evenings. This sounds like the house cricket, one of which I heard last summer chirping from a low garden wall under a streetlight in West Mersea. The chirp can be loud and this one at the park could be heard about 80 metres away, even with nearby leaves rustling on the trees.

Despite getting down on my hands and knees to try and see it, I couldn't find it. I believe the main records of house crickets in Essex have probably escaped from owners of reptiles and amphibians who breed house crickets as food for their pets.

The other interesting insect resident in the area of trees in the above photo, is the purple hairstreak. This stand of oak trees on the southern side has been the favoured haunt for these hairstreaks. One was watched flitting around the leaves high up, with the evening sun shining on the tree-tops. Nearby a comma and a red admiral were also sunning themselves in this corner.

It has been quiet on the bird front with a sparrowhawk being seen by the car park, 100 black-tailed godwits on the mud and 5 tufted ducklings still present on the pond. A common sandpiper flew along the dyke where there was also the family of pochard ducklings.

There was the unexpected sight of a tawny owl perched on a telegraph pole at dusk beside the East Mersea road near Weir Farm. This isn't usual tawny territory so this bird has wandered over a few fields to get to this spot.


Spent the last hour and a half on Saturday 18th at Reeveshall alongside the Pyefleet Channel, where the setting sun briefly shone before it dipped down for the night. There was a light breeze and the tide was low, so conditions seemed good.

The barn owl as usual was hunting over the fields at the north end of Shop Lane, while over Reeveshall, marsh harriers weren't quite so active although two birds were briefly seen. A further three birds were seen over Langenhoe marshes to the north of the Pyefleet.

On the Reeveshall pool the family of 3 avocets were still present as was a common sandpiper, 3 green sandpipers and a black-tailed godwit with a couple of lapwings. A yellow wagtail was heard calling in flight and towards dusk 100 sand martins passed overhead. A brown hare ran past the pool, while by Reeveshall farm a family of four foxes played in a field.

Along the mudflats 5 spotted redshank seen feeding was the main wader species of note although there were 100 black-tailed godwits, one summer plumaged bar-tailed godwit, 200+ redshank, 3 dunlin, whimbrel, as well as the usual curlew and oystercatchers. Along the Channel were one or two little terns, common terns, brood of 11 shelducklings and the summering brent goose.

At the park on Friday there was the unusual sight of 4 sandwich terns flying low over the park calling as they headed out onto the mudflats where they landed for a few minutes. The black-tailed godwits in their ginger plumage have been seen close in with up to 250 birds present. The pochard ducklings were still present on the park dyke while on the pools in the fields ony a few mallard, shoveler and lapwings present. A sparrowhawk flew low over the park near the pond and at dusk the nightingales have been calling out loudly to each other.

In the tops of the oak trees in the south-west corner of the park, were three purple hairstreaks flitting around the leaves. This is the regular corner for them and this is the first sighting this summer of these hairstreaks here.

On Saturday there were 3 females and a male adder tucked in the grass out of general view but still able to soak up the warmth from the sunshine.

The moth trap ran through Saturday night, attracting at least 32 species of macro moth, including this colourful lunar-spotted pinion pictured above. Despite the caterpillars feeding mainly on the diminishing elm, this moth is still turning up in small numbers.

The early thorn moth holds its wings like a butterfly when it is at rest, which makes it stand out from most of the other moths in the trap. This individual will be part of the second generation this year, with its parents being on the wing during April.

Some of the other moths noted included poplar hawk, latticed heath, barred yellow, magpie, browntail, pebble prominent, silver Y, broad-bordered yellow underwing, double square-spot and the dot moth.

This big furry caterpillar of the drinker moth was seen crossing a path in the park. The caterpillar is often seen amongst the low vegetation, as it feeds on grass. The first big brown furry adult moth was seen in the trap during Saturday night.

By the park pond 6 badgers were seen crossing the field, while elsewhere there have been reports received recently of one being seen by the East Mersea road near the pub, and sadly one found dead by the road a bit further west near Church Lane.

Thursday, 15 July 2010


There were one or two sheltered parts of the country park where the evening sunshine on Thursday 15th, provided enough warmth for a few butterflies such as this red admiral. It has been a windy day with showers in the morning and sunshine in the afternoon. The butterflies noted during the evening walk around the park included comma, meadow browns and hedge browns. A southern hawker dragonfly was catching various flies in one sheltered spot.

A combination of recent strong winds and spring tides appear to have cleaned up the park beach, taking the sand away in some parts and depositing it further along the beach. There was plenty of the mudflats on show by the evening and it was nice to see a large flock of 250 black-tailed godwits, many feeding close-in. Most of these godwits were still in their full ginger breeding plumage. Also noted were at least a handful of bar-tailed godwits appearing much paler in their non-breeding plumage. Around the park cliff were a small group of 10 sand martins.

On the park dyke a brood of 4 pochard ducklings were busy diving beside their ever-vigilant mother. On the muddy pools in the fields were 3 shoveler, black-tailed godwit, 10 mallard, 3 lapwing and a teal. On the pond there was still the cygnet with the parent swans, tufted duck, 15 mallard and the two families of little grebes.

On Wednesday at the Point there were 4 summer plumaged sanderling, the first ones post-breeding season. Also seen were a pair of ringed plover, turnstone, 3 bar-tailed godwit flying past as did a common tern. On the Point a reed bunting was singing while 4 linnets flew about and a little egret passed overhead.

On Tuesday the first hobby of the summer at the park, was seen briefly chasing after a small bird. The hobby was probably attracted to the area because of the 70 sand martins flying around the beach and fields. Four mistle thrushes fed in a field to the north of the park, while at dusk a little owl was seen by the roadside in Bromans Lane.

An evening visit on Monday 12th to the Reeveshall seawall proved quite productive with one or two things on the pool, pictured above. One adult avocet was present with two fledged youngsters and a similar family group on the mudflats nearby. Neither of these families were raised on the Island but are probably local breeders. Also present on the pool were 3 little egrets, green sandpiper, grey heron, 3 black-tailed godwits while a spotted redshank and golden plover were seen flying over calling.

Two hobbies were busy hawking along the back of the fields near the Broad Fleet catching dragonflies in their talons and eating them on the wing. Hobbies have been absent from Mersea over the last couple of months. In the skies above the hobbies were 100 sand martins, although earlier in the evening a larger group of 700 were seen flying back and forwards over the Shop Lane fields and copses.

A barn owl was seen a couple of times both by the Oyster Fishery and then later over the back of the Reeveshall fields. This is probably one of the pair breeding near the East Mersea Oyster Fishery. At least three marsh harriers were seen over Reeveshall with another three over Langenhoe.

Along the Pyefleet with the tide out, there were 2 greenshank, 5 little egrets, brent goose, 11 shelducklings and 5 adult avocets.

Martin Cock noted 4 spotted redshank in the Pyefleet at Maydays on Tuesday and the first 2 purple hairstreak butterflies of the summer near Meeting Lane in East Mersea on Wednesday.

A moth-trapping session at the park on Tuesday night produced typical July moths with 40+ macro species such as poplar hawk, lackey, least carpet, latticed heath, lunar-spotted pinion, common rustic, green silver lines, dingy footman, scalloped oak, clouded border, brown-tail, dusky sallow and chocolate-tip.

Sunday, 11 July 2010


The hot weather continued into the weekend with both Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th seeing temperatures into the mid to high 20's. A walk along part of the seawall by the Strood seawall, pictured above, during the late morning coincided with the high tide.

The family of kestrels were seen again on the recently cut hay field with a couple of noisy youngsters perching on the tall haystacks. A male sparrowhawk flew over from Ray Island towards West Mersea where it briefly met up with a second sparrowhawk. At the same time as the hawks were seen together, about 100 swifts were circling high over the houses.
Scanning the Feldy / Copt Hall area, two marsh harriers were seen flying over the fields.

The sunshine was ideal for butterflies and this male gatekeeper was one of several species seen around the hedgerows, grasslands and seawall. As the meadow brown season has reached its peak, the gatekeepers will be reaching theirs soon.

There were lots of skippers amongst the grass with this Essex Skipper joining small skippers and large skippers in the sunshine. Other butterflies seen included peacock, comma, small white, large white, small tortoiseshell, common blue and small heath.

The recent spell of fine weather has brought the sea lavender into flower on the saltmarshes, such as this patch near the Firs Chase caravan site.

Monty the JRT, had admired sea lavender the day before, and seemed more interested in whether he would be allowed to jump in the water to cool off. We were by the Pyefleet Channel by Maydays on Sunday 11th for a morning walk along the seawall. The tide was coming in and with a strong hot breeze, much bird activity seemed quiet.

Birds noted included 5 avocets, 150 black-tailed godwits, great crested grebe, singing corn bunting, reed bunting and yellowhammer, 3 little egrets, 2 marsh harriers on Reeveshall and 3 on Langenhoe.

This old lady moth was a surprise visitor around the fireplace in the house at Firs Chase, fluttering its big dark-brown wings. It must've been attracted into the house through the windows left open at night because of the muggy evening.

Friday, 9 July 2010


It was another hot day on Friday 9th and ideal weather for butterflies. This first gatekeeper, or hedge brown, was the first one I've seen of the summer, whilst walking along the Strood seawall late in the afternoon. Several gatekeepers were to be seen beside some of the bramble bushes, either nectaring on the flowers or resting out of the breeze.
Martin Cock had managed to see the first gatekeeper a couple of days previously along with a ringlet butterfly ay Maydays Farm.

There were plenty of the meadow browns, photo above, to be seen along the seawall, either amongst the long grass or feeding on the bramble flowers.
Other butterflies noted included small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma, small / Essex skippers, large skipper, small white, large white and small heath.

Along the dyke the emperor dragonfly was noted hawking over one section, while egg-laying in the water were lots of blue-tailed and azure damselflies. Lots of ruddy darters were gathered beside bushes away from the water's edge.

It has been perfect weather for making hay over the last few days with temperatures touching a sweltering 33 degrees today. The breeze off the sea in the afternoon helped to make conditions more bearable.

The hot conditions have suppressed bird activity especially in the middle of the day and in the afternoon. Along the seawall there were 2 singing corn buntings, 2 reed buntings, sedge warbler, a family of yellow wagtails with one youngster, five linnets and a whitethroat. Two kestrels flew over the fields calling out as if they were newly fledged young.

The tide was out along the Channel and a few waders were noted such as a greenshank, whimbrel, 5 black-tailed godwits, 250 redshank, 6 lapwing and 5 curlew.

John Dobson and Ted Benton walked the seawall section beside West Mersea on Thursday and noted nine species of bumblebee including the scarce moss carder bee feeding on black horehound near the Firs Chase caravan site, the area pictured above.

The moth trap operated at the country park on Wednesday night, producing about 70 moths of 25 species. The first lackey moth of the summer was seen, this is a widespread moth but in small numbers here at the park.

The delicate small blood-vein was seen in the trap along with a second individual. One or two individuals of this common moth are usually seen each year.

Other moths noted were the regular ones seen in recent days such as eyed hawkmoth, buff-tip, swallow-tailed, willow beauty, treble brown spot, common white wave, common footman, scarce footman, clouded silver, dark arches, light arches, sand dart, brown line bright-eye, grey dagger, snout, shark, lunar spotted pinion and clay.

The previous day on Thursday, 100 sand martins were gathered on the beach in a group, while the resident 30 or so birds continued to fly around the cliffs. Bird activity was suppressed in the heat although there were brief bursts from chiffchaff, blackcap and whitethroat, while one or two nightingales were calling to each other.
A corn bunting was perched up singing beside the East Mersea road at Bocking Hall.

Three adders were seen at the regular spot near the car park at the country park on Tuesday.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


The hot weather continued through Wednesday 7th, providing ideal conditions for many insects such as this colourful six-spot burnet moth feeding on a knapweed flower in the country park. These flowers have been a magnet for the burnet moths, growing in a handful of spots amongst the long grass.

This hot spell is turning the grass brown with the yellow flowers of the ladies bedstraw clumps providing a bit of colour in one or two places in the park. At the moment anything that is yellow or bright white is being set upon by masses of tiny black pollen beetles, as in the picture above.

There's not been much to report about birds at the park over the last few days. The nightingales have been calling to each other regularly at times but usually staying deep inside bushes. On the pond the two pairs of little grebes are both busy feeding their young chicks, while the lone cygnet is still being kept company by the two adults. A pair of tufted duck is the only other bird of interest other than the mallards, coots and moorhens.

On the grazing field pools, at least ten lapwing have been present along with the redshank family, whose chicks are nearly adult sized. Unfortunately a crow was seen to attack a presumed lapwing chick, which was then stolen by a fox which dashed out from the nearby hedge to snatch it.

There are still 50 sand martins circling over the cliff but a further 70 birds have been flying around the grazing fields and also swooping back and forwards over the sea on one occasion.

This privet hawkmoth came to the moth-trap over Tuesday night. Although the wings looked as though they were showing signs of being worn, the pink banding on the abdomen still seemed clear enough. This privet hawk was the first one to be recorded at the trap this summer.

The buff arches pictured above, has the rather unusual markings which include masses of intricate lines on the wings. There seemed a good showing of buff arches a week ago when about 25 were noted one night.

This striking dot moth caught the eye with its near black colouration and the bright white dot on each wing. The moth is a widespread moth being recorded each year here although only with one or two individuals being noted.

Saturday, 3 July 2010


The warm and sticky end to Friday 2nd, was just too good an opportunity to let pass for some moth trapping at the country park. The Gardner and the Skinner traps were both set up and ran between 10pm and 4am. Having risen to check the trap at 3.30am before it got light and before the crows started to look for their breakfast, there was the minor inconvenience of a short, sharp shower to deal with early on. The Skinner trap in the picture above has a plastic rain guard above the bulb but the Gardner trap has a 150w halogen bulb and two actinic bulbs that could easily shatter if they got too wet. Not wanting to switch the bulbs off before I had checked the moths, I quickly fetched a parasol to hold over the trap while the rain briefly pelted down for several minutes.

The conditions had been perfect for all sorts of insect activity throughout the night. Crane flies, small water beetles, lacewings, caddisflies, mosquitoes - of course, hundreds of grass moths as well as many other micro moths. Even the pipistrelle bats enjoyed the moth-trapping session with at least five bats performing acrobatics above one of the traps as they hawked after the incoming moths.

After a couple of hours of checking and removing the traps, around 500 individuals of 65 macro-moth species made it a very worthwhile session. Watching me examine one of the traps was one of the fox cubs that was relaxed enough to lie down on the grass only 20 metres from me just before daybreak.

The big hawkmoths always catch the eye with four species seen being the ones in the photo above. The top left is eyed hawkmoth with poplar hawkmoth below it while to the right is the lime hawkmoth in its camouflage outfit and an elephant hawk below. Ten hawkmoth individuals at the traps was a good tally for the night.

It was a good night for the eyed hawkmoth with four seen in and around the traps. This one in the photo above was found resting on the grass a few metres short of the trap with its hindwings open and exposing the colourful eyes.
The first lime hawkmoth of the summer was almost the first moth at the traps, arriving just a few minutes after one had been switched on.

A new species for the park was this lilac beauty which had me thinking at first it was a kind of thorn moth or a hook-tip moth, until I spotted the way it held its wings when resting on the side of the trap. The leading edge of the wings seemed to have a crease along it, which was an unusual posture. The lilac beauty appears to be reasonably frequent across Essex, using privet, honeysuckle as well as lilac as foodplants. The moth has some lilac markings on the wings which have also helped give the moth its name.

The small rosy footman with its salmon-pink colouring is one of the prettiest moths close-up with the fine black markings on the wings. Only one or two turn up at the traps here each summer, although none were seen during a couple of recent summers. The larvae feed on lichens growing on the trunks and branches of trees.

Although the miller moth has been recorded here in previous years, it's not a regular visitor. The foodplant of the larvae include birch, alder, poplars and oak.

There were good double figure counts of buff arches, riband wave, barred straw, clouded silver, common footman, heart and club, heart and dart, the flame, common wainscot, shoulder-striped wainscot, dark arches, light arches, marbled minor and uncertain / rustic.

Other moths noted were bordered white, swallow-tailed, magpie, treble-brown spot, figure of 80, lime-speck pug, green pug, sallow kitten, maple prominent, coxcomb prominent, swallow prominent, yellow-tail, sand dart, shark, poplar grey, lunar-spotted pinion, dun-bar, bordered sallow, silver Y, peppered moth, shaded pug and green silver-lines.

On the bird-front, a sparrowhawk flew over the park earlier in the morning and there was a small group of 50 swifts passed over. To the north of the park about 70 sand martins were flying over fields, this being the start of the mid-summer sand martin-swarm that in one recent year, involved 1000 birds.
An adder was seen in the main area near the car park on Saturday morning.
Martin Cock saw two greenshank at Maydays Farmon Saturday.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


A very poor photo taken at dusk of one of four foxes seen feeding at the park on Thursday 1st. Two adult foxes and two cubs were watched chasing after small cockchafer beetles emerging out of the ground in the area of the grassy overflow car park. The recent warm weather has seen lots of these summer chafers rise up into the air at dusk, attracting the attention of the local fox family. This was the second evening in a row the fox family had been feeding on them here.

The foxes were seen wandering over the field, staring at the ground, or running forward to snatch a chafer before it rose into the air and out of reach. Sometimes they needed to leap up to catch them in their mouths, quickly chomping them, before scanning around for the next chafer to emerge. The foxes were keen-eyed and very alert to spot them, as the little bugs didn't hang around on the surface of the ground before taking off. Each fox was probably catching a chafer every 30 seconds or so - so a good appetiser before the main night meal, probably involving some of the park rabbits!

The summer chafer seems to be present in good numbers at the park in the middle of summer. These big bugs are a good evening snack for various birds especially the black-headed gulls which walk across the park just before nightfall looking for them. The gulls also swoop over the tops of the big bushes and trees where the chafers often swarm around in small numbers , providing easy pickings for the birds. A couple of summers ago, a kestrel was even seen snatching these bugs in mid-air near the tree-tops.

The moth trap operating on Wednesday night produced around 35 species of macro-moth including this well-marked magpie moth with its mix of black and white markings. One or two magpie moths find their way into the traps during the course of a summer here.

The common emerald is suitably named with the green colouring blending well with the leaves. A common moth, several of these can be seen visiting the trap in a typical evening in mid-summer.

The small barred yellow moth has a striking colouration with a mix of oranges and brown markings. One or two of these are regularly seen in the summer-time.

Some of the other moths seen were the figure of 80, riband wave, single dotted wave, sandy carpet, barred straw, green pug, clouded border, mottled beauty, common white wave, clouded sliver, buff-tip, common footman, lychnis, clay and small fan-foot.

There are plenty of colourful insects flying around during the daytime such as this small heath. This is the beginning of the season for the various brown orange and brown butterflies seen fluttering over the long grassy areas of the park. The recent sunny days have been ideal for seeing lots of the meadow browns, small skippers, Essex skippers, large skippers, small heaths, as well as the colourful six-spot burnet moths.

Recent birds seen have been a green sandpiper on the muddy pools on Tuesday as well as the first sparrowhawk seen at the park for nearly a fortnight.

A visit to the north end of Shop Lane in East Mersea on Thursday evening provided views of male and female marsh harriers, a barn owl near Reeveshall Farm, 2 pairs of yellowhammer, pair of avocets and a green sandpiper.

On Monday 28th there was a big flock of about 400 swifts circling over the north of West Mersea. Two sedge warblers were singing from the dyke along the Strood and a cuckoo was seen on Ray Island.