Thursday, 29 March 2012


At the end of Thursday 29th, I spent the last hour of the day along the Reeveshall seawall. It had been another sunny day but as the sun dropped down to a hazy horizon, the temperature quickly dropped. There was plenty of water on the Reeveshall pool pictured above but only a redshank and a pair of Canada geese were seen here, although a shelduck and a pair of gadwall flew over.

On the main Reeveshall field 400 brent geese, 50 curlew, 85 golden plover, 3 grey herons and several greylag geese were noted. A marsh harrier flew over the Broad Fleet reedbed. A brown hare stood up and trotted around as the sun dropped.

The tide was just starting to uncover the mud in the Pyefleet with 150 redshank and a few dunlin, grey plover and black-tailed godwits seen. Small flocks of brent geese were dotted along the channel but little else of note in the Pyefleet other than a common seal swimming out. On Langenhoe marshes opposite, 5 marsh harriers were seen as were 4 pochard and several pairs of greylags on the seawall. A pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the Pyefleet heading to the gull colony on Rat Island. Earlier in the day a pair had flown west along the country park beach.

By the Shop Lane seawall a yellowhammer sang as dusk fell, while a chiffchaff was still feeding in the willow bush near the wood. A red-legged partridge called from a field near the wood.

At the park a blackcap singing from bushes near the car park was the first one of the spring. At the end of the day the little owl was seen again flying into a tree near the park entrance as the park closed.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012


Mike Taylor visited the country park yesterday and his patience with his camera was rewarded with great views of adders. Two of his photos are shown here, with this picture above showing the red eye in close-up with the adder.

A brief search of the park this morning, Wednesday 28th, revealed two new adders basking in locations where they were seen last year. Today's tally was four individuals and taking into account four seen yesterday and some duplication, suggests at least seven adders in the park so far. Also seen today were a couple of common lizards scurrying into the grass tussocks.

A chiffchaff was still singing loudly from the trees by the park pond. Also here were 15 shoveler, 10 tufted duck, 4 gadwall and 2 snipe. On the fields 180 wigeon, 70+ teal, 35 golden plover, 25+ snipe, 25 black-tailed godwit, 20 redshank and 10 lapwing. At the beginning of the day a red-legged partridge was seen calling from the top of a post and rail fence by a garden in Bromans Lane. At the end of the day the regular little owl called loudly from a tree in Bromans Lane near the park entrance.

From the seawall corner near the Point, 10 marsh harriers could be seen soaring and gliding over Langenhoe Point in the morning sunshine. Some of the males were performing their stoop displays over the marsh. On the nearby mud were 300 brent geese with 100 of them seen later feeding in the fields.

Yesterday a peregrine glided over the fields and caused a bit of panic amongst many of the birds. Earlier a marsh harrier had been seen flying over the fields as well. In the mouth of the Colne were 8 red-breasted mergansers in the afternoon.

Andy Field found a white wagtail in the park fields on Sunday, while Martin Cock heard two chiffchaffs between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane the previous day.

The moth trap had surprising amount of moths in it considering the clear and chilly night. In total 85 macro moths is nearly the biggest March haul here. This pine beauty was one that caught the eye, as very few are caught in early spring here.
Other moths noted were oak beauty, hebrew character, small quaker, common quaker, March moth, red chestnut, clouded drab,

A couple of these early greys, one pictured above, were the first ones noted this spring here.

This rather plain twin-spot quaker has the two small black dots on each wing which help to identify this moth. It turns up each spring but only one or two each year.

Butterfly numbers have been low at the park despite the sunshine with comma, peacock and small white the only ones seen over the last few days.

Thursday, 22 March 2012


The pied blackbird in Firs Chase posed briefly for this photo, taken through a venetian blind. This male blacky has been present since last autumn and shows a striking white head and rump.

The recent sunny days have seen a few chiffchaffs at the park with one heard calling from the park pond today Thursday 22nd. There were two birds calling from here yesterday with a third one seen in the car park. The first chiffchaff heard was on Tuesday when was was singing near the Golfhouse. Martin Cock noted a wheatear on the Reeveshall seawall on Tuesday.

A Mediterranean gull called from the mudflats today and two were seen circling over the car park on Tuesday. A little owl sat up calling at dusk by the car park today while on Tuesday afternoon a common buzzard flew west over the car park. There was the rare rasping sound of a grey partridge calling from the field to the west of the park on Saturday 17th at dusk.

Today there were 14 tufted ducks and 4 pochard on the park pond while on the fields 25+ snipe and 10 pied wagtails caught the eye.

Butterflies noted have been a couple of peacocks in the car park on Tuesday and a small white just to the north of the park.

The moth trap had a better catch than expected considering the clear skies on Wednesday night and a very heavy dew by Thursday morning. This clouded drab pictured above was one of fifty moths noted along with red chestnut, common quaker, hebrew character and oak beauty.

A dozen of these small quaker moths were seen in the trap, a better than average catch here for March.

Monday, 19 March 2012


It's a sign of spring when pairs of Canada geese like these pictured above, turn up on the grazing fields, checking the area out as a potential nesting site as they were on Monday 19th. They've been seen over the last few days in the area especially on the saltmarsh near the Point. Like the greylag geese which also visit the fields in the early spring, they've never stayed to breed.

On the fields during the morning high tide roost were roughly 250 wigeon, 100 teal, 55 shelduck, 100 redshank, 50 curlew, 50 black-tailed godwits, 25 golden plover, 30+ snipe along with a few lapwing, gadwall and shoveler.

The sun shone for most of the day with the park beach pictured above, empty of visitors early in the morning. Just a few brent geese and turnstones were present instead. Despite many reports of summer migrants already being seen elsewhere in Essex, none have been found on the Island yet. The first one should be a chiffchaff or maybe a firecrest but nothing found yet.

The sunshine in the morning brought at least two adders out and probably the other three seen yesterday also came out to bask.

In the evening two pipistrelle bats were noted at the park, the first ones seen here this year.

Despite the near sub-zero temperatures overnight, thirty moths were in the trap on Monday morning with 20 being the common quaker, pictured above.

Also seen were the hebrew character pictured above, small quaker, lead-coloured drab and oak beauty.

This is Ben, the new vermin control officer for the park, who has been passed the baton by Monty. This new addition is a lively little chap and will keep all of us on our toes!

The walk we did to the Point at the end of Sunday was rewarded with a view of a ringtail hen harrier crossing over the river from Colne Point, dropping briefly onto the saltmarsh near the Point before heading low over to Langenhoe. Nine red-breasted mergansers flew out of the river and 700 brent geese flew over the Pyefleet to roost.

Steve Entwistle saw a green sandpiper, 18 yellowhammers, 30 corn buntings and 20 redwings at Maydays on Sunday.

Saturday, 17 March 2012


At the beginning of the week, Glyn Evans photographed this male red-breasted merganser while carrying out the monthly wildfowl count on Mersea during Monday 12th. Offshore from the park that afternoon were 54 red-breasted mergansers, 4 red-throated divers and 2 Slavonian grebes.
Also seen during his walk along the north side of the Island were a stonechat, ruff, spotted redshank, 2 pintail, ringtail hen harrier and a common buzzard.

This little egret was also photographed by Glyn on Monday during the walk. Their numbers still a lot less than before the frozen spell at the start of February.

On the park pond on Monday 21 tufted duck and 8 pochard was probably the highest combined total for these two species here at this pond. Several of the ducks stayed throughout the week.They outnumbered all the other ducks with 8 shoveler, 3 wigeon, 2 teal, 6 gadwall and 6 mallard being the other ducks present.

The grazing fields held 50+ common snipe along with 50 redshank and 20 black-tailed godwits along with a handful of displaying lapwing.

On Tuesday 500 brent geese were feeding in the fields - it won't be long before they start to leave our shores for breeding grounds in Siberia. Other wildlfowl numbers are slowly decreasing with 150 wigeon and 50 teal, although 50 shelduck were starting to gather for the spring here.

On Wednesday a goldcrest was in trees on the park's clifftop while earlier in the morning a marsh harrier passed over the car whilst driving along the East Mersea road near Weir Farm. On Thursday just as darkness fell, a little owl was seen from the car calling loudly from an oak tree near the park entrance.

After some fog and a sub-zero overnight temperatures in the last few days, it was nice to have plenty of sunshine about the place on Thursday 15th. A few flowering cherry-plum bushes like this one in the car park have enjoyed the sunshine.

Martin Cock noted a Mediterranean gull, little owl and goldcrest during a visit on Monday to the Rewsalls marshes. Martin Dence reported that a pair of long-tailed tits had built a neatly woven nest in their garden at Bromans Farm.

Sunday, 11 March 2012


On the one hand, we've said our goodbyes to the trusted friend Monty but on the other hand it seemed time to welcome the new season.

The last few days have been dry and warm with the first adders being seen around the park. Three were out basking on Thursday 8th in the same sort of places as last year. The chill on Friday saw only one adder out while four were noted on both Saturday and Sunday.

These two photos above and the one below, are of two different adders seen near the car park.

There have been a number of indications about the place that spring is in the air.
The skylarks songs are richer and louder above the park, several lapwings are digging nesting srapes in the fields, pair of kestrels appeared to mate next to their nestbox, some deafening drumming from a great spotted woodpecker and bumble bees buzzing around the pussy willow flowers. In West Mersea the striking male pied blackbird with the white head might have some eye-catching white offspring later in the spring after being seen mating in Firs Chase today.

On the grazing fields today were 73 snipe amongst the pools which is a good late "winter" count. The recent afternoon high tides have brought a nice variety of waders and wildfowl into the fields with the main peak being on Thursday. Five hundred brent geese were seen grazing, while 55 shelduck was a high count for the fields. Other duck numbers have dropped with 100 teal and 200 wigeon being seen. Rough wader roost counts have included 150 redshank, 100 black-tailed godwits and 100 curlew at the pools. Two little egrets were in the fields on Friday.

At the park pond 8 pochard, 12 tufted duck, 12 gadwall were the main ducks on Friday 9th while a water rail was seen scuttling under the bushes at the back of the pond. Amongst 5 greylag geese flying over the car park on Thursday afternoon was a barnacle goose. A weasel was seen running across a path in the park on Thursday.

A flock of 60 fieldfares and 20 redwings were feeding in grass field near East Mersea church on Friday with 20 fieldares being seen near the pub the next day.

At the end of today, Sunday 11th, I joined Andy Field on the seawall near Shop Lane to watch the harriers coming into roost on the nearby Langenhoe Point. We stayed till 6.30pm, well after the sun had set but we were rewarded with seeing five ringtails coming into roost and a male hen harrier as darkness fell. There were less marsh harriers around this time with about 12 birds being seen.

As dusk fell 1000 brent geese flew noisily off Reeveshall to their roost in the Geedon Channel. Earlier Andy had seen 3 red-breasted mergansers and a yellowhammer.

The moth trap finally emerged at the country park from winter storage and was rewarded on Thursday and Friday nights with a number of moths despite the bright full moon.
The most numerous moth was this March moth with about 20 individuals on both nights.

The familiar early spring moth the shoulder stripe pictured above, came to the trap during Friday night.

This oak beauty was the most striking moth on Friday night and although it is common, only one or two are noted each spring.
Apart from the many March moths, there were about 20 other moths in the trap with small quaker, common quaker, hebrew character, dark chestnut and dotted border noted.

This dotted border above, was one of 3 that visited the trap on Thursday night. The 30 moths that were noted that night were also present the next day with the exception of a lead-coloured drab moth.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


Our faithful friend Monty and keen follower (sometimes chaser!) of local wildlife sadly passed away on Wednesday after quickly falling ill and being diagnosed with cancer, aged 13. It was a complete surprise to Nolly and I, especially at the suddenness of it all. From his first outward sign on Tuesday that something wasn't quite right, to the end when his pain ended was all of about 28 hours.

He had led a very active ten years on Mersea and was certainly well recognised and quite often was the real boss at the country park. Monty quite often provided the excuse to get outside and walk the footpaths and seawalls and much of the wildlife I've seen and admired was done with our faithful friend nearby.

Apart from wildlife watching, his next favourite hobby was watching lunchtime snackers. Not even the presence in the picture above of BBC Countryfile presenter Matt Baker next to him, could distract his concentration of watching my ham and cheese baquette being eaten.

Monty was a bit bored here with looking at the rare red-breasted goose again on the Strood seawall. His walk a few days earlier was the reason the bird was discovered here feeding with the brent geese last November.

I'm not sure Monty ever got the point of staring at a bright light over a white sheet on mothing nights. However he did know that rabbits came out at night and of course he just hated those foxes that strayed too close to the trap! One fox seemed to taunt him just before dawn one mothing session last summer, when it kept reappearing from the bushes knowing that Monty would sprint over to it but not go into the undergowth after it.

All sorts of wildlife were followed by our little friend including the frogs and toads although he never showed much interest in doing anything with them. At the park I was able to watch many adders over the years in his company, knowing he would usually stay a few feet behind me.

Wildlife comes and goes on the Island and one of the recent colonists has been the wasp spider. It was always tricky trying to make sure Monty didn't walk through the grass to disturb the big webs.

Amongst the many interesting wildlife incidents attended by the little chap was the refloating of the stranded porpoise at East Mersea Point a few years ago. His little head just visible in the background as he watches the drama unfold from behind a bush.

Mersea Wildlife pays tribute to a real faithful companion who wanted out in all weathers, happy to go out at some weird times of the night and would trott along any sort of Island path. He will certainly be missed by many admirers - although perhaps some of the local vermin might be able to relax a bit more now! His favourite Mersea wildlife was usually furry, four-legged, all shapes and sizes and usually lived underground.

Ten happy years on Mersea for the little chap!


Back from a short break where I was able to soak up some tropical sunshine. Seems like there's been a variety of weather during the last fortnight here ranging from heavy rain, some wind as well as some real spring warmth.

This common frog pictured above, was sitting on the pavement in Victory Road in West Mersea on a drizzly 22nd February. This is the first amphibian I've seen this year and although there was a second one seen nearby, there were no toads noted in Firs Chase that night.

A brief walk round the park in the afternoon on the 6th March produced two little owls sitting in a tree calling to each other just north of the park. A male sparrowhawk raced across the car park towards dusk and scattered the 50+ roost of goldfinches, all of which managed to escape safely.

On the park pond 6 pochard and 12 tufted duck were present as were 12 very vocal gadwall displaying to each other. Wildfowl were thinly dispersed on the flooded fields with only 100 teal and about 100 wigeon noted along with a few shoveler. A noisy flock of 300 brent geese flew over the car park calling loudly in the afternoon.

Alan Reynolds took these two photographs above and below of a Mediterranean gull he saw on the West Mersea beach on 2nd March. The Med gull is on the right in the picture above, whilst below it is the left-hand bird.

Martin Cock saw a water rail and a peregrine at the country park on March 5th whilst at Maydays Farm he saw a hen harrier hunting the fields. The little owl was seen in its favourite willow tree by the Youth Camp entrance on 29th February.