Thursday, 30 June 2011


A brief visit at the end of Thursday 30th to the Reeveshall pool was rewarded with views of 7 avocet chicks. The adult avocet above is crouching over four tiny chicks, probably only a few days old but old enough to wade along the muddy edge. Another brood of 3 chicks was also nearby and both sets of parents were very nervous and anxious at any likely threat.

Just walking along the seawall path was enough to set the avocets into the air calling loudly with their "kloot-kloot" calls. A young grey heron thought about paying the pool a visit but was quickly escorted out of the airspace. An oystercatcher was also watching proceedings as she was sitting on a nest nearby. The water level has risen sharply following the torrential rain during Tuesday's thunderstorm, which dropped about 23mm of rain according to David Nicholls rain gauge in West Mersea.

Along the Pyefleet godwit numbers are picking up with an even mix of 50 bar-tailed godwits and about 50 black-tailed godwits too - many of the latter still in their ginger summer plumage. Small numbers of redshank, curlew and oystercatcher were the other waders noted. Three little egrets were seen while 4 little terns and a common tern flew along the Channel and a Mediterranean gull was heard. On Langenhoe 3 marsh harriers and a barn owl were seen.

Above Langenhoe there was an impressive pre-roost gathering of about 1000 sand martins circling over the lagoon and it's reedbed at the Point. In recent mornings there's been a steady flow of sand martins heading west over the country park, a sign they're heading south already. One group of fifty birds were seen drifting slowly west over the car park on Wednesday morning.

On Wednesday evening Andy Field watched a hobby near the Barrow site on the East Mersea road and it was seen again the next night by Rob Lee. At the park on Thursday there was a brief glimpse of a hobby snatching at summer chafers off a tree as it got dark in the evening. A little owl flew across the car park on Tuesday at dusk.

Andy also managed to see the first purple hairstreaks of the year here at the park when three were seen on their usual oak tree near the cliff-top. An adder was seen along the track in the park on Wednesday afternoon.

The moth trap operated during Tuesday night and this pine hawkmoth above, was one of two in the trap in the morning along with two poplar hawks and an eyed hawkmoth. After the thunderstorm cleared away on Tuesday evening, some cloud still remained bringing in a reasonable number of moths. About 250 individuals of 35 species were noted with brown-tail moths, common footman and uncertains making up about two-thirds of the catch.

The pale looking miller moth was one of the new ones for the season and although it's been recorded here before, it doesn't turn up every year. Twenty or so years ago the very striking miller caterpillar was seen in the park, displaying long white hairs along a green body.

The common emerald has been seen on several occasions already this summer.

This maple prominent is the first one this year here at the park although it usually turns up in ones or twos each year. The larvae feed on the leaves of field maple and sycamore.

Other moths in the trap included riband wave, chinese character, brimstone, barred yellow, clouded silver, clay, smoky wainscot, uncertain, marbled minor, coxcomb prominent, large yellow underwing, cinnabar, barred straw, flame, heart and dart, heart and club, lunar-spotted pinion, snout, dun-bar, bright-line brown-eye, dark arches and light arches.

Monday, 27 June 2011


Enjoyed the sunshine along the Strood Channel over the weekend of Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th. Although there was plenty of mud on show, only a few species of wader were seen feeding. The main change from recent visits was a influx of redshank with about fifty birds noted, which is about fifty more than were present during the first 3 weeks of June! A few curlew and oystercatchers were the only other waders noted.

A couple of shelduck and two little egrets were seen while a great crested grebe in the channel was unusual. A couple of little terns and a common tern were also seen flying amongst the boat moorings.

Inside the seawall a kestrel, grey heron, little egret, 2 singing sedge warblers, corn bunting, 4 reed warblers, 2 reed buntings and a family of yellow wagtails were seen on the Saturday walk.

In several places the spiny rest-harrow clumps added some pale pink colour to the side of the Strood seawall.

The flowers of white clover were busy with small skippers and Essex skippers as well as a few meadow browns. Most of the grassland, bramble bushes and the seawall had lots of meadow browns fluttering around them. Also noted on the walk were 3 small tortoiseshells, 4 comma, red admiral, 25+ small heaths, small white and large white butterflies.

Along the dyke were several black-tailed skimmers jostling with each other and also seen were emperor dragonfly and a glimpse of a what looked like a four-spotted chaser too. Lots of blue-tailed damselflies and azure damselflies were resting amongst the rushes at the side of the dyke. On Monday a large red damselfly was seen in Firs Chase and a migrant hawker was seen in The Lane.

At East Mersea Martin Cock and Andy Field watched a Sandwich tern fly out of the Colne on Sunday morning. In West Mersea a sparrowhawk circled high, a pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over Firs Chase while young moorhen chicks were seen near the Monkey Steps and another brood at the pond near Firs Chase.

Andy's visit later on Sunday to the nearby Langenhoe ranges with Richard Hull provided views of peregrine, several marsh harriers, 2 spotted redshank, 2 greenshank, 100 bar-tailed godwits, 60 black-tailed godwits, Mediterranean gull, several bearded tits in the reeds and little terns on the shingle at the Point.

Thursday, 23 June 2011


A pair of Sandwich terns paid a visit to the mudflats in front of the park late on Thursday 23rd. One of the birds was very vocal flying around the edge of the outgoing tide while its mate perched silently on the wooden breakwaters. After ten minutes both birds flew off for a short distance before settling back down on the mud again. Having enjoyed this rare Mersea sight of actually seeing Sandwich terns settle down as opposed to a fly-past, I carried on my evening walk.

As it turned out, I thought my sighting of a Sandwich tern the previous evening flying out of the Colne was a good enough sighting. This time I was able to enjoy watching a pair that were settled on the mud close-by.

The main highlight of Wednesday evening was the slightly scarcer Mersea sight of a fulmar flying into the Colne. It was first spotted well out to sea but the very distinctive rollercoaster flight-pattern gliding on stiff-wings, kept me watching it. It flew east to the outer reaches of the Colne estuary before turning north and surprisingly heading right into the river past East Mersea Point. It continued up-river for several hundred metres until it had probably seen enough and decided to head back out to sea. If I'd only sat on the beach at the Point for a few more minutes I would have enjoyed even closer fly-pasts of both a fulmar and Sandwich tern.

Other birds seen from the Point on the Wednesday evening was a summer plumaged sanderling, young male eider, pair of avocets, ringed plover still on the nest, bar-tailed godwit and the summering golden plover.

On the pools the green sandpiper and a black-tailed godwit were feeding while in the nearby dyke the pochard was still with her three ducklings.

Earlier on Wednesday Martin Cock had seen the avocet still sitting on the nest at the Reeveshall pool but no other waders of interest here. Turtle dove was heard near Meeting Lane while Andy Field had noted another one by Shop Lane.

At dusk on Thursday night I just happened to glance over to this group of trees in a garden just to the north of the park when I saw the dark outline of a hobby feeding on the swarming summer chafers. The hobby showed great agility as it swooped up and around the tree-tops, snatching at these big beetles in mid-air several times. After catching a chafer with its talons, the bird could be seen pecking at its feet as it ate it in mid-air. For a short perod a second hobby joined the chafer feast but didn't stay around too long. The last hobby was seen heading over to the park where there were still several black-headed gulls feeding on the chafers around various tree-tops.

Near the park entrance one or two nightingales were calling and croaking to each other and the silhouette of one was glimpsed in one bush. Two fox cubs were out on the prowl near the pond and a little owl was heard calling from the nearby Bromans Farm area. A short while later a little owl was seen perched up beside Bromans Lane and then a second bird perched up near Meeting Lane.

The moth trap was run on both Tuesday and Wednesday nights at the Park with this lunar-spotted pinion a colourful addition to the year-list. It's normally a regular visitor to the trap during the summer in small numbers.

Tuesday night was the more productive night with 200 individuals of about 25 species being noted while only 100 of 18 species were seen the next night.

The first scalloped oak of the summer was found on the Tuesday night and it was noted on the following night too.

This obliging common carpet was the first for a few weeks and is either a late one from the first brood or maybe an early one from the second brood. The caterpillars feed on bedstraw plants.

The Figure of Eighty is well named as the moth clearly shows the scribbled numbers "80" on each wing. The caterpillars feed on poplar and here at the park, there are lots of white poplars.

Another one well-named is the spectacle moth with the white goggle-marks on it's face. Like a lot of moths, this once common species has become a less regular visitor to the trap.

Other moths noted included barred yellow, sandy carpet, green pug, clouded silver, mottled beauty, birds wing, common footman, clay, shoulder-striped wainscot, smoky wainscot, L-album wainscot, uncertain, marbled minor, large yellow underwing, cinnabar, barred straw, flame, heart and dart, heart and club, snout, dark arches and light arches.

Sunday, 19 June 2011


Looking from East Mersea Point the sun was setting on Sunday 19th on the horizon where it's virtually at its most northerly location for the year. In a couple of days it will be mid-summer day with the daylight hours at their longest and the sunsets will soon start to retreat back south again. I don't think I've enjoyed a mid-summer setting sun like this one before from the Point, looking north-west from East Mersea in such still conditions. The sun eventually disappeared out of view at about 9.10pm.

There was even a common seal enjoying the calm waters of the river Colne, while further out 3 eider were fishing along the edge of the estuary. A dozen little terns were flying about the river as were one or two common terns too. On the shingle beach at the Point a ringed plover was sitting on her nest, the second pair to have bred here this summer.

On the mudflats a pair of avocets were noted as were 20 bar-tailed godwits, 4 turnstone, 50 oystercatcher and 25 curlew along with 2 pairs of shelduck and 5 little egrets.

The three pochard ducklings were diving for food in this park borrowdyke under the watchful eye of the mother, while an independent little grebe chick seemed to tag along for company.
From the pools in the nearby fields a green sandpiper was heard calling as if it was maybe in flight. Twenty-five sand martins were hawking low over the fields and the pools for insects.

Martin Cock walked the footpath near Meeting Lane on a breezy Sunday morning and saw a hobby sitting in a tree and also the first purple hairstreak of the summer for the Island.

My eye-sight for checking the colour of the underside antennae tips of skipper butterflies isn't as good as it used to be. This photo is handy for showing me the orange undersides of the antennae tips, which indicate this is a small skipper and not the Essex skipper with their black-tips. Lots of skippers and meadow browns were flying around the grasslands of the park in the morning, as was a small tortoiseshell and the colourful six-spot burnet moth.

Amongst the sixty moths in the trap on Sunday morning was this very distinctive angle shades moth, looking like a brown crumpled leaf. It's a common and widespread moth although this individual is only the second one this year at the park. The caterpillars feed on a variety of herbaceous plants.

Other moths noted were mainly the same for recent nights and included poplar hawkmoth, riband wave, barred yellow, clay, white-point, shoulder-striped wainscot, smoky wainscot, L-album wainscot, uncertain, marbled minor, large yellow underwing, cinnabar, barred straw, flame, heart and dart, heart and club, dark arches and light arches.

One of the last bits of action late on Sunday in the park were two fox cubs chasing down some of the summer chafers. The chafers could be seen emerging from the short grass and then swarming in small numbers around the tree-tops where several black-headed gulls were trying to snatch them in mid-air.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


There were sunny periods during the morning of Saturday 18th when various butterflies were on the wing such as this common blue pictured above. This one was flitting between clumps of birds foot trefoil alongside the borrowdyke near the park seawall.

Lots of the pretty purple flowers of salsify were enjoying the morning sunshine. This flower was being paid a visit by a large skipper. The flowers usually close up in the afternoon, giving rise to the alternative name of Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon.

This large skipper is nectaring on the cousin of the salsify plant, the goatsbeard - so called because of the big dandelion-like seed head. The yellow flowers also close up in the middle of the day, so it's also called Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon. Both of these plants grow in the long grass at the park with the salsify more noticeable along the seawall.

There were lots of skippers around the park, especially in areas out of the breeze, with good numbers of the small / Essex skippers and several large skippers too. Lots of meadow browns across most of the park with speckled wood, comma and small white on the wing too.

The showers came through during the afternoon and evening with enough of a dry spell in the evening for a walk along the park seawall. The tide was out but the light helped show up a few waders out on the mudflats. Forty bar-tailed godwits was a little unexpected on the mud at this time of year here. Five turnstone, one golden plover and 5 ringed plovers were also feeding on the mud. Several curlew were in the distance along with lots of oystercatchers.
A pair of avocets flew off the mud and circled over the fields, where a green sandpiper was feeding. One green sandpiper was seen at the pools in the fields on Wednesday, while on Tuesday the ringed plover chick was still scuttling about the beach.

A pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the mud, 4 little egrets were seen in flight, 6 little terns and 4 common terns hawked along the edge of the Colne, while a female eider swam out of the Colne.

Along the seawall there were one or two greenfinches, linnets, common whitethroats, meadow pipit, reed warblers enjoying the seawall without the visitors at the end of the day. In the nearby dyke the pochard with her 3 ducklings swam past and a water vole bravely swam across the open water from one side to the other. A different water vole had also been seen on Wednesday swimming across the dyke.

At the park pond the swans still have all eight cygnets, one pochard duck has three ducklings here and another pochard duck just has the one duckling left here. Five tufted ducks and up to 20 mallard have also been on the pond in recent days. The kestrels are still feeding what looks like three downy youngsters in the nestbox in the tree at the back of the fields. Two cuckoos flew over the fields in the evening with the male stopping off by the pond to call.

On Friday evening a smartly marked male sparrowhawk flew over the seawall and crossed low over the fields, while the previous evening a little owl perched on a telegraph post in the car park at dusk.

On Tuesday I was told about an adder that appeared to have dropped into the old wartime pillbox in the hedgerow and it probably couldn't get back out. I managed to see it sticking out of a hole that evening and it was still there the following morning. I then laid some big logs at an angle to help it escape and as I haven't seen it again, I guess it managed to slide up and out!

It managed to stay dry enough on Wednesday night for the moth trap to run at the park. In the breezy and cool conditions around 60 moths of 25 species were noted. This L-album wainscot moth in the photo above is a regular sight in the trap especially in late summer.

Also seen was eyed hawkmoth, poplar hawkmoth, magpie, riband wave, common emerald, common white wave, light arches, dark arches, flame, large yellow underwing, mottled rustic, heart and dart, heart and club, white point, common footman, clouded silver, uncertain, snout, buff ermine, cinnabar, brimstone, and barred yellow.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


It was a surprise to find this painted lady butterfly resting on the track by the East Mersea Golfhouse in the early evening on Monday 13th. I haven't heard of any other sightings on the Island so far this summer and the lack of sightings elsewhere in the county, suggests only small numbers arriving from the continent so far this summer.

Further along the track a grass-snake was spotted briefly lying in a ditch catching the last of the evening's sunshine.

The tide was coming in during the evening along the Pyefleet and there was a nice sunset to enjoy from near the Oyster Fishery. Very few waders around with only 5 turnstone, 50+ curlew, 40+ oystercatchers, one ringed plover and 5 avocets. At least 20 little terns were noted mainly around the shingle spit on Langenhoe Point where several seemed to be nesting. A dozen common terns were also flying up and down the channels, while over towards Rat Island a Mediterranean gull was seen. Flying over the nearby Langenhoe marsh were 5+ marsh harriers, barn owl, 4 pochard, 4 little egrets and a pair of gadwall.

The pool at Reeveshall is still holding water although the level has dropped, exposing a bit more mud. One avocet was sitting on a nest with another four birds noted at the pool. Two green sandpipers feeding in the shallows were maybe on their return journey south. Four lapwing, redshank and a few black-headed gulls were the other birds here.

Two turtle doves were singing between Shop Lane and the Oyster Fishery and there were 3 singing yellowhammers heard near the seawall too and a cuckoo calling. In the dykes here were little grebe, tufted duck, two mallard broods of 4 and 8, while nearby was a grey heron, reed warbler and 20+ linnets.

Brown hares are hard to spot at the moment because the crops and the grass have grown too tall to see them in. This hare stuck it's head above the grass while I stood on the seawall late in the evening.

The Skinner and Gardner moth traps were run at the park through Monday night and checked at 4am before the crows got there first! Around 120 individuals of about 40 species provided more variety than the actual numbers. This blotched emerald above, was the first sighting this year at the park. When it flew off towards a nearby hornbeam tree, it's markings helped it blend perfectly to the colour and markings of the undersides of the leaves.

The first leopard moth with the distinctive spots on the wings and the white furry head was one of the interesting moths to find.

The first buff-tip moths of the season were noted, their very unusual markings and profile makes them look like a snapped off birch twig. Small buff-tips are often found in the trap in the early summer. Their black and yellow caterpillars can sometimes be seen in a big mass, stripping the leaves off a branch on a birch or an oak tree in the park.

Other moths noted were 3 privet hawkmoths, 3 poplar hawkmoths, 3 eyed hawkmoths, light arches, dark arches, flame, flame shoulder, large yellow underwing, mottled rustic, heart and dart, heart and club, shears, white point, pale prominent, common footman, clouded silver, uncertain, treble brown spot, shoulder-striped wainscot, marbled minor, snout, setaceaous hebrew character, buff ermine, cinnabar, brimstone, sandy carpet, barred straw and barred yellow.

It was a warm enough evening for the summer chafers to fly around with several coming to the bright lights of the moth traps. At dusk the fox vixen with her two cubs were running back and forwards over the grass overflow car park, snatching the chafers as they emerged from the ground.

Sunday, 12 June 2011


Many insects along the Strood seawall were keeping low out of the strong breeze on a grey and rain-threatening morning on Sunday 12th. This pair of blue-tailed damselflies clung low to the club-rushes alongside the borrowdyke. Masses of them preferred to shelter from the wind than fly about over the water.

Several dragonflies were noted with this female black-tailed skimmer resting on the side of the seawall. Beside the dyke another pair were seen as was an emperor dragonfly and two four-spotted chasers, buzzing about despite the grey skies overhead.

Butterflies were keeping low to the ground too with 25+ small heaths and 30+ meadow browns seen in one grass field while a handful of small skippers were noted in one area of mallow and black horehound.

The dull conditions and breeze kept bird activity down and very few waders were seen along the Strood Channel as the tide receded. One corn bunting sang, 2 reed buntings, 4 reed warblers, meadow pipit, 2 yellow wagtails, 10 house martins, 20 swallows, 25 swifts and a nesting little grebe were the main birds of interest around the fields.

Along the channel one avocet, curlew and 8 oystercatchers were the only waders noted while 6 shelduck were also seen along with various gulls. By the Strood causeway Martin Cock saw the yellow-legged gull on the mud at the island-end.

On the narrow strip of saltmarsh at the foot of the seawall, the first flowers of the sea lavender are starting to show.

Saturday, 11 June 2011


There was enough warmth around on Saturday 11th for various butterflies to be on the wing, such as this small skipper. It was one of several seen along the Maydays and Reeveshall seawall during a mid-day walk. This one was resting out of the breeze on a common mallow flower.

Other butterflies seen were several meadow browns, 3 small tortoiseshell, large white, large skipper and also a couple of six-spot burnet moths too.

Close to the Maydays Farm 3 singing yellowhammers, corn bunting, 2 reed buntings, 10 house martins, cuckoo, 20 stock doves and a male marsh harrier were noted.

Along the Pyefleet the only waders seen on 3kms of mud during low tide were 25 oystercatcher, 20 redshank, curlew, 5 knot and 20 grey plover. Also on the mud were 40 shelduck and lots of black-headed gulls. In the channel 5 great grested grebes were diving to feed.

Over nearby Langenhoe there was a huge swirling mass of about 2000 swifts gathered high over the ranges. Also seen were eight marsh harriers, 2 kestrels and two Mediterranean gulls.
A corn bunting was singing from wires next to Chapmans Lane and Steve Entwistle saw the yellow-legged gull at the Strood in the afternoon.

This little sheltered field to the west of Shop Lane in East Mersea was visited on Friday 10th where a singing male yellowhammer was the main bird of interest. The overcast conditions weren't ideal for butterflies although a handful of meadow browns were seen on the creeping buttercups, shown in the picture above. Also seen were a few small heaths in a grass field and a small tortoiseshell.

One turtle dove was singing on wires over Shop Lane and another singing in a copse near the Oyster Fishery. Also heard were blackcap, chiffchaff and several common whitethroats, while a common tern flew south over the fields.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


There's been a big influx over the previous week into southern Britain of lots of small and delicate Rannoch looper moths from the continent. This one pictured above was found in a rather sodden moth trap at the country park on the morning of Monday 6th. Lots of moth trappers ranging from Cornwall along the south coast to Kent, into Essex and Suffolk have been reporting Rannoch loopers over the last seven days or so. The biggest catches have been reported from Kent where over fifty were noted at one site.
The park's first Rannoch Looper was last summer when it was trapped on the 24th June.

Here's the Skinner moth trap at the park at 4.30am on Thursday 9th where about 75 moths of 25 species were noted. After 3 nights of trapping this week there were 40 species in total of macro moths noted. The greatest number dropped in during Sunday night when it also rained for about an hour in the middle of the night. However Tuesday and Wednesday nights weren't ideal as the night skies stayed clear and with a cold breeze. Wednesday's trapping was the thirtieth night session at the park since early March, a reasonable total so far helped by the dry spring.

The scarcest moth was this plain looking dotted fanfoot which also dropped into the trap on the wet Sunday night. This is listed as nationally scarce and mainly found in eastern England, and usually in wetland habitats, but it seems to be expanding its range both geographically and into other habitats in recent years.

It's always nice finding a privet hawkmoth, pictured above, in the trap and this very large moth was noted on each of the three nights. The moth is the largest resident hawkmoth in the UK with an impressive wingspan of 12 cms. Normally at rest the wings are folded along the length of the body concealing the pink banded abdomen.

The blood-vein moth is suitably named and this individual above seemed very fresh and brightly marked.

The first buff arches of the summer was in the trap on the Sunday night. It will be a regular visitor to the trap over the next month or so. Buff arches always look as if a chunk is missing from their backs!

Small numbers of the widespread magpie moths with their pied markings are noted each summer at the park.

Like many other moths, numbers of burnished brass have dropped in recent years and I'm not sure if any were even noted during June last summer. At certain angles the brass colouring really glints in the sunshine.

Some of the other moths noted this week have included eyed hawkmoth, poplar hawkmoth, peppered moth, marbled bown, light arches, dark arches, flame, flame shoulder, large yellow underwing, vines rustic, mottled rustic, heart and dart, heart and club, shears, white point, shoulder-striped wainscot, marbled minor, snout, setaceaous hebrew character, buff ermine, cinnabar, brimstone, marbled beauty, sandy carpet, barred straw and barred yellow.

Butterflies noted during the days have included lots of meadow browns, about 6 small tortoiseshells around the cotoneaster and also a red admiral here too. There were a few small / Essex skippers amongst the grass, while several large skippers and speckled woods have been noted. One adder was enjoying the periods of sunshine on Thursday whilst partially concealed under some brash.

A pair of Mediterranean gulls circled high over the park calling on Thursday, while on the park itself a nightingale sang as did a lesser whitethroat. On Wednesday 2 little egrets were seen on the mudflats as the tide went out and 25 sand martins were flying near the cliff. At the pond the eight swan cygnets continue to grow and a pair of gadwall were also present. On the fields a pair of shoveler fed on the pools and a male teal was seen on Monday. Offshore 3 eider and 20 curlew were seen from the park on Monday too, while in nearby Bromans Lane a little owl was seen at dusk.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


After a rather quiet period at the park during the previous 2 or 3 weeks, there was finally a little bit of excitement on Sunday 5th. Having found a small flock of crossbills firstly flying off the pools in the fields where they'd been drinking, they settled down in the cliff-top pines where we could watch them.

Steve and Andy arrived at the end of the afternoon and managed to see them in the tree-tops feeding on the pine cones. After an hour in the pines, the seven birds flew across the park and landed in the tops of some poplar trees, where we watched them for several minutes, (photo above). As expected the seven birds dropped down to drink from the water in the fields (picture below) and as they took off the loud "chip-chip" calls were heard.

There was just the one reddish coloured male with the rest dull green immatures and female birds. In the pine trees the birds flitted between branches feeding on the seeds in the cones. Every so often the discarded cones would drop noisily down to the ground, which was a good indicator as to which trees they were feeding in.
Although crossbills have been seen at the park before, previous birds have only been noted flying over. It's been great to see the birds stop off for over an hour at least to feed in the park pines.

Having just seen the crossbills fly off, a hobby raced over the pools right in front of us, providing a nice view of the distinctive white face, streaky underparts and the red thighs. It flew past the oak tree with the kestrel in the nestbox and then headed over the fields to the north. A short while later a male marsh harrier was also noted high over the Golfhouse to the north of the fields.

Earlier in the afternoon the pools witnessed the elaborate mating ritual of a pair of avocets. Both birds flew over from the Point calling loudly and landed in the water to feed. One bird seemed to be doing a lot of preening so I kept watching them. Sure enough within a few minutes of arriving, the female stooped down with her bill held low along the water's surface. The male carried on preening his chest feathers on her left side of the motionless female and then walked round to her right side and preened again.
Having walked back round to do more preening beside her other side again, he hopped onto the female's back, steadied himself with wings outstretched and then quickly mated. The final part of the ritual involved the male as he drops down off the female, holding his wing for a second or two over the female's body as if embracing her, before going their separate ways in the water. After a few more minutes, the birds took off and flew back over to the saltmarsh where they may hopefully nest soon. The last time a pair of avocets were seen in the fields was a few springs ago when a pair also arrived to mate.

Other birds noted were a pair of gadwall, pochard with 4 ducklings now moved to the dyke, the pair of ringed plovers near the stepping stones have at least one tiny chick running around the beach, 4 singing reed warblers along the dyke and 10 ringed plovers on the saltmarsh pools. A cuckoo flew over the car park as did a little egret, while offshore Andy saw the four eider again.

Yesterday morning a turtle dove flew north over the park and there was also one seen beside the East Mersea road near Fen Farm.

The most eye-catching moth in the trap on Sunday morning was this eyed-hawkmoth, pictured above showing off the brightly coloured "eyes". The eyes on the hindwings are normally hidden but this individual obligingly flicked them open when the moth was handled. The sudden flicker of the eyes is supposed to startle and deter potential predators. One poplar hawkmoth and a cream-spot tiger were the other main moths amongst 100 other individuals of 30 species. Most of the moths seen were species noted on recent nights with the main exceptions photographed here.

The first barred straw of the summer posed gracefully on delicate legs with the wings held out.

From above the barred straw shows the distinctive posture with the flat wings held away from the body.

This neatly marked light brocade was the first for the year and there should be several more of these individuals coming to the trap over the next few weeks.

Although the shark pictured above, is a common moth and is noted each year, it is only one or two individuals.

The green pug is also an annual visitor to the trap but only one or two moths. This one still appears reasonably fresh with the green colour still evident.

Weather conditions during Sunday weren't ideal for butterflies around the park as it got greyer and breezier through the day. Five small tortoiseshells coninue to feed on the cotoneaster and several meadow browns flew low over the grassland. Yesterday a very worn and brown looking green hairstreak was seen in the park and there were nearly 10 large skippers enjoying the morning sunshine. Also small heath, large white, speckled wood were seen as well.