Friday, 22 June 2012


The wind blew strong across the park pond on Friday 22nd accompanied at times with some heavy bursts of rain. The main noteworthy sight on the pond was an abandoned nest of mute swans eggs. Both adults were still present but the female was preening while the male was feeding. It has not been too much of a surprise since it was first noticed several months ago that the female was a young bird and didn't seem to have much maternal instinct. 

Her pale bill could suggest she's only a couple of years old and very inexperienced. Hopefully she will return next spring with a stronger instinct and will have learnt how to sit gently down on the nest, where to place her big-webbed feet, ensuring all the eggs stay in the nest and the importance of keeping them continually incubated if the weather is cold and wet.

Andy Field had noticed a couple of marsh harriers over the fields near the pond during the morning. One had flown hungrily over the pools in the nearby field yesterday before being chased off by a lapwing. There was also a report of a coot chick being snatched off the pond recently by a marsh harrier.

Despite the windy and showery day, there was a continuous flow of swifts flying west over the park with a rough figure of about 500 birds passing over during a couple of hours in the middle of the day. On the grazing fields a juvenile grey heron and little egret were seen while 10 gadwall, single teal and 10 mallard were also present.

Two corn buntings were singing beside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall and there was also a dead weasel on the road near Weir Farm.

Clive Walls and his wife reported the regular sight of turtle doves this spring in their garden near Willoughby car park in West Mersea with up to six turtle doves being counted on one day. Steve Entwistle enjoyed seeing 6 four-spotted chasers and 4 emperor dragonflies at Maydays Farm on Wednesday 20th. Also that day he'd seen 5 meadow browns at the park along with a red admiral butterfly.

On Tuesday 19th a smaller swift passage over the park was noted when around 50 birds were seen crossing over the river from Colne Point. A cuckoo flew along the clifftop calling and the nightingale was heard calling too. One adder was seen briefly by the track while a group of school-children were fortunate they spotted a green hairstreak butterfly on the ground in the car park, before it got trodden on.


As the sun was setting from the East Mersea Point on Monday evening, a marsh harrier flew down river, a sparrowhawk crossed west over the fields, 2 pairs of avocets were on the saltmarsh pools, while 5 little terns and 5 common terns hawked along the Colne river. Two black-tailed godwits, 20 gadwall and 10 mallard, including 2 ducklings were on the pools in the fields.

On the mudflats, 3 knot, 20 grey plover, 25 curlew, 5 little egrets were noted from the park, while 2 immature lapwings flew along the beach and there was an oystercatcher on the beach at the Point. A little owl flew out of a tree near the buildings in the car park after some persistent mobbing by blackcaps and jays.

This distinctive very white flower crab spider was seen on this flower in my garden. It's a common spider and is often seen on white and yellow flowers mainly, possessing the ability to change colour to match the flowers.

The moth trap was out a couple of occasions during the week with only the one soaking one morning. This buff-tip moth pictured above, dried out enough to pose on this twig, showing how it looks like a bit of twig itself.

This angle shades moth pictured above is another master of camouflage looking like a shrivelled brown leaf.

Two small fan-foot moths were seen in the trap after Wednesday night.
The catch of  moths noted on Wednesday night were 40 moths of 20 species. This included clouded silver, common white wave, mottled beauty, green pug, sandy carpet, straw dot, coxcomb prominent, white point, snout, dark arches, marbled minor, mottled rustic, vines rustic, common wainscot, shoulder striped wainscot, setaceaous hebrew character, flame, heart and dart and treble lines.

Sunday, 17 June 2012


An improvement in the weather on Sunday 17th was good for the insects around the country park like the azure damselflies, two pictured above, who were making the most of the sunshine. Up to fifty were seen resting beside some of the hedgerows and near the water too, where lots of blue-tailed damselflies were also present.
Steve Entwistle watched a nice blue-coloured male broad-bodied chaser as it rested along a scrubby ditchline. Near here the yellow coloured female was seen on a couple of occasions too.

A small number of butterflies were on the wing including 6 small heaths like this one pictured above, resting on the grass. The first large skipper of the season was noted in one of the regular corners of the park. A small tortoiseshell was in the car park, 3 common blues over the grassland, small white and 4 speckled woods while Steve also saw the first meadow brown of the year.
Feeding on the new blooms of cotoneaster in the car park was a hornet, an unusual record for the park.

This lesser stag beetle was one of three individuals resting in the cool cover of a large wooden rubbish box near the park entrance - the regular corner of the park where they're often seen each year.

The ox-eye daisies are adding a bit of colour to the grasslands at the moment, with these ones on show the results of some planting several years ago.

On the park pond the pair of mute swans are still busy incubating their eggs, although the young female seems a bit of a liability when she gets onto the nest. Most of the incubating this spring has been done by the male while the female snoozes or feeds nearby. On this occasion the female took a while to realise the male was off the nest and needing to feed up, which had allowed a mallard to stand on the unoccupied nest.

The female eventually waddled up onto the nest and after preening herself dry, lowered herself so clumsily onto the nest that she rolled an egg forward and nearly off the nest and into the water. After five minutes of the egg teetering on the edge, it was rolled back in, but when she sat back down awkwardly, another egg was still sticking out. It will therefore be a huge relief when the six eggs hatch out, and I'm sure the male will be relieved too having put in most of the time so far.

A marsh harrier was seen flying over the park entrance in the afternoon as it headed west. Later in the day another marsh harrier was seen flying over the car as it crossed over Chapmans Lane near West Mersea. Also not far from here were the two singing corn buntings beside the road near Bocking Hall.

Also on Sunday morning a water vole feeding in the ditch-like pond near the seawall, provided prolonged views as it nibbled at lengths of reed stems. On Saturday an adder was seen beside the usual track in the park while the day before, a very tan coloured adder was seen crossing the car park, past the information room and headed into my front garden! A brown hare was seen jogging along the East Mersea road near the pub.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


The sunshine on Thursday 14th brought this female broad-bodied chaser along with a second female, out at the country park. Both were keeping low down and out of the breeze along a reed-filled ditch. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to hold the camera about a foot away from this individual and click a number of pictures without it flying away.

The broad-bodied chaser used to be noted annually each late spring up until a few years ago. After several years of no sightings here at the park, it was nice to see one back again about a month ago. Now these two have appeared, and with all the water lying everywhere, they won't be short of a suitable wet breeding site.

A number of azure damselflies and blue-tailed damselflies were also seen at the park.
Butterflies seen in the morning were four speckled wood, small heath, and two small whites.

Around the park the cuckoo could be heard singing, the pair of kestrels were both busy hovering over the long grasslands finding food for their chicks, singing blackcap and lesser whitethroat in the carpark and a calling nightingale near the clifftop bushes.

On the fields a green sandpiper was the first sighting here this year, also 15 gadwall, wigeon, shoveler, redshank, 2+ chicks from each lapwing brood, 4 Canada geese, 2 little egrets, 6 mallard and also 2 coots. There were ten sand martins flying over the fields.

On the park pond the male swan is still incubating with still no interest in proceedings by the female snoozing nearby. Six tufted duck including a mating pair were the main ducks present as well as little grebes and lots of coot families. The reed warbler was singing from the reeds and a great spotted woodpecker flew past the pond.

Tucked inside the long grass beside the track were two well hidden adders.

Along the East Mersea road on Tuesday a yellow wagtail and 2 singing corn buntings were noted near the  Bocking Hall / Chapmans Lane area.

Lots of pretty purple flowers of these salsify plants were out in the morning sunshine. Like the yellow goatsbeard flowers, they close up in the afternoon.

Two recent dry nights made it possible to set the moth trap up on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Unfortunately the dry nights meant clear skies with a cold breeze blowing. This buff ermine was only one of four moths noted on the first night, along with vines rustic, common swift.

This shark moth that was in the trap during Wednesday night was the first one noted here for a couple of years despite it being quite a widespread moth. Also seen were poplar hawkmoth, common carpet, vines rustic, hebrew character and shoulder striped wainscot.

David Nicholls passed me this photo, taken by his wife Georgina, of a green hairstreak seen in their neighbour's garden in Queen Ann Drive at the beginning of the week. It's another interesting record of green hairstreak in the middle of the town, following the three in Firs Chase a few weeks ago.

Monday, 11 June 2012


There was no let up in the drizzle during Monday 11th, varying between light drizzle and heavy drizzle at various times. My wife Nolly and I ventured out into the afternoon gloom for a walk along the beach at St Peters.
The tide was coming in and covering the mud, with the only birdlife in the Mersea Quarters being a few cormorants and oystercatchers on Cobmarsh Island along with several herring gulls and black-headed gulls. In the reedbed nearest the houseboats, a reed warbler was singing in the rain as was a whitethroat from nearby bushes.

It was nice being able to enjoy the sun on Sunday 10th without the strong wind of the previous few days. This small copper dropped briefly into our Firs Chase garden in West Mersea and did a bit of basking before flying off again. I can't recall seeing this butterfly in this garden before. The nearest section of grass field / seawall is over 500m away which doesn't sound too far away, but it does involve flying over houses and lots of other gardens too.

Amongst the other butterflies seen in the garden were 4 holly blues such as this one on globe buddliea, also speckled wood, small white, large white and the orange-tip butterfly too.

Overhead 2 Mediterranean gulls called, a common tern flew over as did a dozen swifts during the day and more unusually a pair of jackdaws. I watched with interest as two starling chicks plucked up the courage to make their first flight from the old woodpecker-hole nest site in our garden. They managd to launch themselves from the hole towards some nearby branches and from there quickly fluttered into some ivy growth to await their parents return with food.

A late afternoon walk along the Strood seawall on Friday 8th was a sunny but windy walk. The tide was out and the channel was surprisingly empty of birdlife. Amongst the birds noted were four shelduck, two oystercatchers, little egret, singing reed bunting, 6 linnet and a cuckoo that was flying from bush to bush along the borrowdyke.

Martin Cock during his visit to Maydays farm on Wednesday 6th, noted a peregrine, marsh harrier, yellow wagtail and a red-legged partridge.

A dry night on Wednesday 6th seemed a good opportunity to put the moth trap out at the park despite the breeze picking up. This starwort pictured above, was probably the most notable moth seen as it is listed as nationally scarce. It's restricted to the saltmarshes of the south and east coasts of England with the caterpillars feeding on a number of saltmarsh plants like sea aster. The moth is often noted in small numbers each summer here.

The white-point moth, pictured above, has become a familiar moth here at the park in recent years suggesting a local resident population.

The broken-barred carpet is generally a common moth but has only been noted here previously on a couple of occasions.

Other moths noted that night included common white-wave, light emerald, brimstone, garden carpet, common swift, brindled pug, shears, rustic shoulder knot, marbled minor, silver Y, pale prominent, heart and club,

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


This little blue tit chick was a bit eager to leave the nest in the store room in the country park's toilet block. Three times during the day I had to scoop it off the floor and place it back in the nest. This chick seems to be wearing a little cap of spiders silk, having fluttered down into the cob-webs in the dark corners of the store-room.

The unexpected highlight of Wednesday 6th was seeing an osprey fly over the park during the morning. Having met up with Martin Cock at the bird hide, we spotted the osprey in the distance being mobbed by a crow as it passed over the East Mersea Point. The bird seemed to be coming out of the river Colne and following the coastline westwards.

We dashed out of the hide expecting to get a better view as it continued on its way but there was no immediate sign of it. However the local crows next to the car park were watching the bird and they rose up to chase it off. We looked up overhead and realised the osprey was passing high over the hide as it made its way over the fields towards West Mersea. If we'd stayed in the hide, we'd have missed the closer view as it passed overhead.

The purposeful westerly flight of this osprey would suggest that it was following the coast as it headed south, which certainly seems early although in some previous years I've seen ospreys flying south during June. The last osprey over the park was heading north and that was just 5 weeks ago. Although that bird seemed to linger in the Colne estuary for several days, there haven't been any osprey reports locally since the 18th May, when one was seen over the Alresford pits, to the north of here.

On the park pond the male mute swan continues to do most of the incubating, while the female carries on feeding nearby or often she has another snooze in the reeds. The eggs should be ready to hatch out next week sometime, after the 35 days of incubating is complete.

Also at the pond were 3 pochard and 6 tufted duck, although there seemed to be lots of coots everywhere feeding their youngsters. The reed warbler was singing again from the reedmace, present here for several days now.

At dusk the brown hare was seen in Bromans Lane again while earlier in the day 3 corn buntings were seen beside the East Mersea road in the Chapmans Lane and Bocking Hall farm area.

The previous day on Tuesday, a marsh harrier flew over the grazing fields putting up many of the wood pigeons feeding in the fields. Four Canada geese and 6 greylag geese were noted here along with 3 pairs of shelduck and a pair of oystercatchers. The female wigeon is still present along with 6 tatty looking gadwall and a few mallard.

Near the Point a little tern spent some time fishing at one of the big pools in the saltmarsh and the summering brent goose was seen again.

Four adders were seen enjoying the warmth out of the wind while butterflies seen included holly blue, speckled wood, orange-tip and a red admiral.

Monday, 4 June 2012


There were only Reeveshall sheep for company during an hours walk along the Pyefleet seawall in the early evening of Monday 4th. Despite the sun shining at times, there was a chill in the northerly wind.

The Reeveshall pool pictured above had a high water level and very few birds on it other than 2 shelduck, little egret, pair of redshank and a pair of oystercatchers. A little tern hawked up and down a few times, diving down to the water to fish.

A marsh harrier was seen flying over the Reeveshall reedbed and in the nearby field were 32 greylag geese. Fifteen swifts passed over and 10 swallows flew around the sheep fields. Two brown hares were seen crouching down amongst the sheep.

The tide was out along the Pyefleet Channel, pictured above, and despite plenty of mud on show, virtually no waders were noted. A small number of waders could be seen on the small Pewit Island with one or two redshanks, a few oystercatchers and a single curlew were seen amongst 50+ black-headed gulls. Four marsh harriers were seen flying around the Langenhoe marshes and a little tern and ringed plover were seen near the Langenhoe Point.

The cattle in the park grazing fields have plenty of grass to eat, having had plenty of rain and sunshine during the last month. Around the pools in the fields, the six lapwing are protecting the two broods of chicks from predators such as the fox that strayed out into the middle and then got bombarded from above by the anxious adults. Four gadwall, 6 mallard and a wigeon were the main wildfowl around the pools, along with 4 greylag geese.

Along the dyke were 2 singing reed warblers while a water vole was seen by the water's edge. A water vole was also seen swimming in the park pond and it was also here that a muntjac deer walked along round the front side of the pond, providing a nice view from the hide.

At the Point the ringed plover chick was seen running across the beach close to the parent on Sunday. Also on the same day on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse 6 avocets were still flying around with one bird still apparently nesting. However the following day the very high spring tide appeared to have flooded the nest and five avocets were out feeding on the nearby mudflats. Elsewhere on the mud 25 dunlin and 20 curlew flew off to roost as the tide came in.

On Saturday 2nd, a great spotted woodpecker chick was seen flapping around in the long grass near the hide, not quite mastered the art or the strength for flying. The reed warbler was singing again from the edge of the pond amongst the reedmace. A male sparrowhawk flew fast across the car park scattering many small birds in its path.

Three adders were seen in their usual spot by the track, a weasel was seen on the seawall, while the brown hare was seen again in Bromans Lane mid morning. The blustery conditions kept many butterflies inactive but it was a surprise to see two green hairstreaks on bramble in the car park area.

A male marsh harrier was seen flying over the fields near Weir Farm on Sunday 2nd, Adrian Amos was lucky enough to have a turtle dove in his West Mersea garden on East Road also on the 2nd while Steve Entwistle reported 2 green hairstreak butterflies at Maydays farm - a new location for these pretty butterflies.

The tall flowering spikes of the foxgloves add a bit of colour to one of hedgelines at the park.

Friday, 1 June 2012


Over the Easter Holidays I was handed a small hairy black caterpillar by young Phoenix Dence who was staying with her grandparents at the nearby Bromans Farm. Here is the beautiful and colourful cream-spot tiger moth that finally emerged on the 31st May, as it rests on the tip of my finger.

At rest the moth shows the big cream spots on the fore-wings, while the hidden hind-wings show a hint of yellow. This is the first one this spring as none have been noted in the trap yet, although coincidentally one was disturbed in the park by a dog-walker this same morning. Last year the first one was seen on the 10th May while the year before it hadn't been until the 5th June. It's a moth that's mainly found along the coast here in Essex, where it often hides up during the day in the long grass.

Here is the remnant of the old pupal case that sheltered the tiger-moth for the last month whilst it developed into the moth. It was kept in the same big match-box that little Phoenix passed onto me, along with a couple of oak leaves beside it for company!

The pale prominent moth pictured above looks like a little bit of wood. It's regularly noted at the trap here but only in ones or twos at a time.

The freshly emerged yellow-barred brindle is green in colour before it fades to a yellowish colour. One of it's foodplants here on the park is the ivy.

The grey pine carpet pictured above isn't a regular at the park although it's a widespread moth in the county where pines are present.

All the grass and bushes have been growing like mad at the park following the mini-heatwave during that last week of May. Of course everywhere got more than enough water earlier in the month to help with the growing. Work at the park in recent days has involved lots of grass-cutting.

Around the park the cuckoo continues to be heard at times while the nightingales have become much quieter recently. The kestrels have been hovering over the grass, looking for food for their 3 chicks in the nestbox.
The great spotted woodpeckers appear to have left their hole in the tree, apparently a newly fledged chick was seen on a path on Wednesday.

At the pond the mute swans are still sitting on the nest although the male still seems to be doing most of the sitting. Several tufted ducks and pochard are present on the pond along with several broods of coots and moorhens. A reed warbler was singing from the reedmace in the pond. A little owl was seen one morning sitting on a fence-post near the pond at the beginning of the week.

On the pools the two broods of lapwing chicks are hard to spot but at least one chick from each brood was seen on Thursday. Four gadwall and 2 redshank were present as were a couple of shelduck. Two reed warblers sang from the reeds beside the dyke.

At the Point on Thursday, a parent ringed plover was calling for the little chick to come and shelter underneath. Nearby the other parent was calling anxiously whilst I watched from a distance on the beach. On the saltmarsh pools 4 avocets were feeding and showing interest in nesting. A common seal in the river watched a fisherman and his dog on the beach at the Point.

On Friday evening as the tide came in over the mud, 50 curlew, 25 ringed plover, bar-tailed godwit, pair of shelduck, dunlin, turnstone and 3 little egrets were noted. A pair of Canada geese and greylag geese were also seen in the area. No more sign of the ten summer plumaged sanderling that Andy Field has seen at the Point on the 29th.

Four siskin were watched on the 28th as they flew over the car park calling before they landed in the tops of some pine trees. A house martin was flying round with some sand martins on the 31st.

Along the East Mersea road at least one corn bunting has belatedly taken up residence singing from bush-tops or on overhead wires. Birds have been noted beside Chapmans Lane and also near Bocking Hall during the week, and they've also been seen recently in Dawes Lane too. A sparrowhawk flew across the road near Haycocks stables and a little owl perched on wires over the East Mersea road at dusk on Monday 28th. Just off the Island a barn owl flew over the Mersea road near the Peldon Rose pub, 3 hours before darkness on the 29th.

Martin Cock has  heard 3 turtle doves over the last few days at the East Mersea church, Meeting Lane and near his West Mersea garden, without seeing any of them. He watched a barn owl fly out of a barn in Shop Lane and the hobby was seen at Maydays and Shop Lane recently. Two pairs of yellow wagtails were seen west of the East Mersea church.

Other wildlife in the last few days have included several sightings of a brown hare in Bromans Lane and also a badger along here as night fell on the 1st June. Four adders were seen in the park on the 31st with three seen the following day. A pair of grass-snakes were seen in the compost heap in my Firs Chase garden on the 31st.

Butterflies seen at the park have included the first common blue as well as several small heaths on the 30th while a red admiral was seen in the car park on the 28th. Martin Cock saw a green hairstreak alongside a field hedgerow west of Shop Lane on the 30th.