Sunday, 29 July 2012


It was nice and warm along the country park beach on Sunday 29th with a bit of colour and fragrance being provided by this burnet rose bush, pictured above. Missing from the beach over the last fortnight or so have been the sand martins. The colony in the sandy cliff was being used in the spring but it seems they've abandoned the area because of the wet and unsettled summer weather.

Looking at the cliff now, seemed to show about twenty nest-holes all with their entrances covered with spiders' webs, suggesting they've been abandoned for some time. One sand martin flew over the nearby fields with a handful of swallows.

On the park pond the little grebe chicks are still crying out to be fed while 6 teal and 10 mallard were the ducks present on Sunday. On the pools in the fields 8 black-tailed godwits and 10 lapwing were seen, while a little egret was also present. Two yellow wagtails flew over the car park during the day.

On the main mudflats in the morning 3 knot, 5 grey plover, 25 dunlin, 50 black-tailed godwits and 4 little egrets were the main birds of note here. A greenshank was heard calling in flight later in the day.

The previous week had been sunny and warm but came to an end when some thundery showers passed overhead on Sunday afternoon. This speckled wood butterfly pictured above was one of a handful seen about the park in the morning.

Amongst the variety of orangey / brown butterflies around the park was this single small copper pictured above. It kept low to the ground behind a hedge where it escaped the breeze. Other butterflies seen about the park were small / Essex skippers, large skipper, comma, hedge brown, meadow brown, small heath, small white and large white.
Also joining the butterflies as they fed on some of the flowers were ten six-spot burnet moths.

Several common blue damselflies were resting amongst the long grass and bushes out of the breeze. A few ruddy darters were seen while at the pond an emperor dragonfly and a four spotted chaser were patrolling their corners of the pond.

The moth trap operated on both Thursday and Saturday nights at the park with the former being the better session when 240 individuals of 36 species of macro moth were noted. By all accounts muggy conditions during Friday night proved ideal for moths according to several other Essex moth trappers but unfortunately the trap wasn't set up at the park that night.
 This common emerald pictured above was one of three that turned up on Thursday night / Friday morning.

The distinctive peppered moth made another appearance at the trap, this pale one pictured being the commoner form seen at the park.

This well marked moth with bright white spots is probably the ear moth although the small group of ear moth species are difficult to tell apart without dissection to confirm the identity.

The moths that turned up on Saturday night included 22 species involving 70 individuals. Amongst these were a reed dagger, drinker, common carpet, garden carpet, least carpet, latticed heath, early thorn, dingy footman, common footman, scarce footman, buff ermine, lesser yellow underwing, brown-line bright eye, clay, common wainscot, uncertain, grey dagger, dusky sallow and snout.

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Spent the last hour and a half of Thursday 26th along the Reeveshall seawall on the north side of the Island. Although it had been another hot day, the evening was much cooler and there were only the sheep and the birds for company.

There was the interesting sight of two short-eared owls hunting over a recently cut hay field on Reeveshall. The cut grass was still lying on the field and must've revealed some small mammals for the owls to be hunting back and forwards over the area. At one point both birds were in the same view as they perched up on fenceposts on opposite sides of the field. At least one bird was still hunting till well after the sun had set.

Also seen in the area were 2 kestrels and two marsh harriers, while on the Reeveshall pool, 3 little egrets, a mute swan and a small brood of mallard were noted here.

The tide was heading out of the Pyefleet Channel during the evening so a good number of waders were seen although the light faded fast. Those of interest included 2 common sandpipers, 50 avocet, snipe, 70 black-tailed godwits, 10 turnstone and 200+  redshank. A brood of 8 young shelducklings scampered across the mud by the Reevesall seawall.

Along the channel 2 common terns hawked down channel while 2 common seals basked opposite Maydays. As the light faded and the air became stiller, the distinctive laughing calls of several marsh frogs could be heard calling from the marsh on Langenhoe - the sound travelling a fair distance across the Pyefleet. Three marsh harriers were seen over Langenhoe.

At the country park on Wednesday 25th, 20 black-tailed godwits were on the pools as was a brood of 5 mallard ducklings. On the park pond 5 teal, reed warbler were present in the evening as were 3 foxes nearby. A little owl called from a hedgerow tree to the north of the park. A song thrush has been singing loudly from the car park in the last few days. Three purple hairstreaks were flying around the oak trees in the early sunny evening.

Martin Cock noted 4 crossbills flying over his West Mersea garden early on Wednesday morning. The previous evening at the park, 5 avocets, 50 black-tailed godwits were noted on the mudflats.

Martin had also noted during his visit to Maydays on Sunday a greenshank, common sandpiper and green sandpiper. Andy Field had seen a hobby fly over the park on Saturday 21st.

The warmer evenings has seen more moths come to the trap recently with 250 moths of about 35 species being a good tally compared with the poor tallies of earlier weeks. This purple thorn held its wings out in a distinctive manner, it is an annual visitor to the trap.

Four of the chunky looking drinker moths were sitting in the trap in the morning. They were having to share the trap with one privet hawkmoth and a poplar hawkmoth.

This oak hook-tip moth with the characteristic shape of the wings, has been noted a few times already this month.

This dot moth with the very white spots on black wings is only noted here each year in ones or twos.

Monday, 23 July 2012


Enjoyed an evening stroll alongside the Strood Channel on Monday 23rd, where the sea lavender flowers, photo above, added some summer colour to the Strood saltmarshes.  The tide was well out and there was plenty of mud on show and lots of waders too although most were 200+ redshank. Other waders noted were a greenshank, whimbrel, 2 grey plover, several curlew and 5 lapwing.

Five little egrets were seen feeding in the water in one part of the channel and 2 common terns flew amongst the boat moorings.

Other birds noted included 20 linnets, 2 yellow wagtails and a couple of reed warblers singing from the reeds,while 10 swallows were flying around the Dabchicks.

On the Strood reservoirs, a great crested grebe was of interest here but no sign of a mate or any breeding attempt. Twenty mallard, 5 coots and moorhen were also on the water while 3 reed warblers were noted around the edge in the reeds.

It was interesting to see this meadow brown butterfly in the Firs Chase garden, not exactly an area of meadow and its surrounded by other gardens. Although its feeding on catmint in the photo, it was later feeding amongst an area of half-mown lawn which was kept cut in the spring but then left to grow in the last month. This has encouraged a variety of flowers to flourish especially lots of self-heal.

Despite the sunshine the only other insects of interest were a ruddy darter, holly blue, comma, small white and large white. Overhead a screaming flock of 50 swifts circled above as did a few swallows.

It was nice being able to enjoy the sun setting after another hot and sunny day with this view taken just along from the Dabchicks at West Mersea.

Friday, 20 July 2012


The Pyfleet Channel looked very still during the high tide early afternoon on Friday 20th. The high tide was higher than usual covering most of the saltmarshes, which meant very few waders to watch. It feels as if nearly two months have passed since I last paid this area a visit.

However a male marsh harrier flew over Pewit Island on the north side of the Channel and flushed a number of different waders into the air. Fifty avocets caught the eye as they flew off the saltings while another 100 waders included redshank, grey plover, turnstone, dunlin and oystercatcher. On the Reeveshall side 50 black-tailed godwits stood on the last corner of saltmarsh during the high tide and a whimbrel flew away.

The main highlight of the hour-long walk along the seawall was a hobby circling over the Reeveshall seawall, then gliding over the Pyefleet before racing low over Pewit Island flushing the waders by a raptor for a second time. There has been a lack of hobby sightings on the Island for well over a month this summer.

There wasn't much to see on Reeveshall with only a little egret seen feeding on the pool with its high water level. A marsh harrier passed over but no sign of any over the nearby Broad Fleet, where they've bred in the past. On Langenhoe at least three marsh harriers were seen including the male described earlier.

Three male yellowhammers were seen in the Shop Lane area with two of the birds singing. One sang near the Oyster Fishery, while the other two were west of Shop Lane. A chiffchaff was singing from the Shop Lane wood and there was also the distinctive shrill calls of a young sparrowhawk from the conifer wood.

Amongst the butterflies seen on a partially cloudy afternoon were speckled wood, large skipper, Essex / small skipper, small white, comma, meadow brown, hedge brown and small heath. A black-tailed skimmer and ruddy darter dragonflies were also noted.

Along the East Mersea road the corn bunting was perched up on its dead bush near Bocking Hall again.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


Members of the Essex Moth Group visited the country park on Tuesday 17th for the annual moth recording evening. For once the conditions were perfect, with a dry night, cloudy skies and no moon either. Five traps were set up at dusk with two staying on until 4am, when they were checked and emptied just before day-break.

It turned out to be the best and most rewarding moth evening of the year so far. There was a good showing of all sorts of macro and micro moths with a final tally still to be confirmed but at least 72 macros were identified and with a possible 20+ micros, the total could be close to 100 species. This annual meeting has always been lucky with the weather conditions and the resulting long list of moths.

Five species of hawkmoth were the main stars of the session with this shocking pink coloured elephant hawkmoth being pictured above beating its wings ready for take-off. Surprisingly this is the first one of the season here.

The first hawkmoth of the evening was the small elephant hawkmoth, pictured above beside its bigger cousin. This is the first small elephant noted at the park since 2006, which seems a long period without being noted here. There seems to have been more reports of it this summer from other moth trappers.

The pine hawkmoth has become a regular visitor to this moth-meeting in recent years. This one was seen fluttering along the grass towards the trap. The first one noted at the park this summer.
Beside one of the other traps, a poplar hawkmoth was discovered resting amongst the long grass. In the small hours of the morning four privet hawkmoths made their way into the two traps and were discovered at dawn.

Two leopard moths were seen, one pictured above, showing the near translucent spotted wings. They have a very determined grip and don't like being moved around. One or two are noted here each year.

The common but colourful ruby tiger always makes a bright appearance to the collection of moths in the trap. The three noted were the first ones seen this summer with the prospect of a few more over the next couple of weeks.

Some of the other moths seen included oak hook-tip, drinker, buff arches, common emerald, least carpet, small scallop, shaded broad-bar, latticed heath, early thorn, bird's-wing, willow beauty, maple prominent, buff-tip, white satin, buff ermine, dingy footman, dot moth, white-point, clay, lunar-spotted pinion, dun-bar, silver-Y, spectacle, herald, double square-spot, nutmeg and fanfoot.

Several summer chafers were flying around the tree-tops at dusk with lots of black-headed gulls feeding on them. A handful of these chafers dropped down to the traps. A common sandpiper was heard calling as it flew over the park in the dark.

Sunday, 15 July 2012


Sunshine on Sunday 15th was a welcome break from the deluge of rain during the day before. Many more insects were on the wing during the day, making the most of the dry weather.
This colourful six-spot burnet moth is pictured having just emerged from its cocoon on a grass stalk. Up to five burnets were seen feeding on various flowers amongst the long grass at the country park. Numbers should increase in the next few days if the weather improves.

This pair of green-veined whites were locked together mating at the country park, making the most of the dry weather.

Other butterflies seen at the park were 3 purple hairstreaks in two opposite corners of the park fluttering high in some oaks. A handful of ringlets were on the wing again as were small tortoiseshell, comma, speckled wood, large white, small white, Essex / small skippers, large skipper, hedge brown, meadow brown and small heath.
An emperor dragonfly was hawking along one ditch near the seawall.

Good numbers of butterflies have been feeding on the colourful clumps of greater knapweed, photo above, that have spread amongst the areas of long grass.

Clumps of tufted vetch that were planted in the grasslands a few years ago are popular with many of the skipper butterflies.

This dead water vole was found near the borrowdyke with wounds on the back of the head suggesting a dog attack.

A good variety of waders were gathering along the mud as the tide receded from the park on Saturday morning with this picture showing some black-tailed godwits in the foreground and bar-tailed godwits with redshank in the background. Waders noted were 50 black-tails, 20 bar-tails, 8 golden plover, 10 grey plover, 100 redshank, 30 oystercatcher, 5 turnstone, 20 curlew. Offshore 2 little terns flew along the shallows.

On the pools in the fields 5 black-tailed godwits were seen feeding here as were a little egret and two juvenile grey herons. On the park pond at least 8 tufted ducklings were still swimming around with an adult pair nearby. The little grebe chicks are still being noisy on the pond.

The corn bunting was singing beside the East Mersea road at Bocking Hall on Sunday while at Maydays Farm Martin Cock saw a peregrine.

Friday, 13 July 2012


Plenty of sunshine on Friday 13th meant it wasn't all a day of bad luck. Lots of butterflies were enjoying a rare spell without any rain with the highlight being my first sight of ringlets in the park. Steve Entwistle visited the park the day before and made the initial discovery when he spotted at least three ringlets flying over some long grass in the south-west corner of the park.

The afternoon sunshine enticed them onto the wing and they would flutter around for several minutes, often tussling with other ringlets. Flying amongst meadow browns, the ringlets were a darker brown in colour and at rest showed a row of spots on both the upperside and the underneath side -  as seen in these two photos above and below.

Although ringlets have been seen elsewhere on the Island in recent years, they haven't been recorded at the park before, although it was only a matter of time. This new addition to the park's butterfly list brings the tally over the years here to 27 species. On that list, the only butterfly species lost from the park is the wall brown, which disappeared about ten years ago, mirroring the decline elsewhere in the county.

The warmth saw the first hedge brown butterfly of the summer in the same sheltered spot as the ringlets. It will be nice sign in the next couple of weeks to see masses of hedge browns fluttering along the hedgerows - weather permitting.

The first purple hairstreak of the season was also noted in the ringlet corner, landing briefly on an oak bush. This seems an earlier first date than usual for the purple hairstreaks here.

This comma was guarding a sheltered spot and enjoying soaking up the sunshine. Whenever another comma appeared nearby, it flew up to chase it away before settling back down on the same little bush. Other butterflies in this corner included lots of Essex / small skippers, speckled wood, large skipper, while small white and small heath were seen elsewhere on the park.

Flying over the car park during the day was a little egret, common tern and a yellow wagtail was heard calling in flight. The nightingale by the park entrance was heard calling, while one of the other birds was heard calling at the opposite end of the car park the day before.

At the park pond at least 8 small tufted ducklings were busy diving under, while the mother watched on. A female pochard was the other interesting duck on the pond. The little grebes have two very noisy chicks calling out for food.

On the pools in the fields, two grey herons stalked the shallows and also 5 black-tailed godwits were feeding here. A couple of teal were seen, although at least six birds were noted a couple of days previously. A kestrel was perched up in a nearby tree - apparently at least two young newly fledged kestrel chicks were seen with their parents away from the nestbox which is good news.

Along the East Mersea road near the pub on Tuesday 10th after darkness fell, an owl was briefly glimpsed in the car headlights which was either a barn or a tawny owl. A corn bunting was seen perched up in a roadside bush singing by Bocking Hall on the 10th. Fifty swifts passed westwards over the park on the 10th and a similar amount on the 11th too.

This large privet hawkmoth pictured above was the highlight of the moth trapping over Wednesday night when about 80 macro-moths of 25 species were noted -despite a deluge of rain early in the morning.

The eyecatching markings of this magpie moth in photo above, was an easily recognised moth. It turns up at the trap in ones and twos here at the park during mid-summer.

The scalloped oak, pictured above, is a regular visitor to the trap in small numbers, with this first night recording three individuals.

The near ghostly shape of the swallow-tailed moth normally has a tinge of pale yellow in its general colouring, although this one was a bit washed out.

The tiny V-pug moth, pictured above, is mainly a small green moth but with a little black V mark across each wing. It has been seen here before but not quite annually.

Other moths that were noted included - riband wave, barred straw, clouded silver, bufftip, buff ermine, common footman, heart and dart, heart and club, flame, large yellow underwing, setaceous hebrew character, dark arches, light arches, clay, brown-line bright-eye, smoky wainscot, snout, lunar-spotted pinion, uncertain, mottled rustic.

Monday, 9 July 2012


I had hoped that after a fortnight's break away from Mersea Island, that I'd be able to return and hope that the rain clouds might have disappeared for good. Sadly the summer continues to be wet with heavy bursts of rain passing over daily.
Apologies for the previous posting being almost three weeks ago, but we're now back in the groove again with normal service resumed as before. I've now had a few days to hear about several interesting wildlife sightings across the Island over the last two or three weeks.

Managed a short walk dodging the showers along the Strood seawall on Sunday 8th. A brief burst of sunshine was enough for 20+ skipper butterflies to take to the wing amongst the clover and grass. Two kinds of skipper were seen with the top photo showing an Essex skipper with the black tips to the antennae. The lower picture shows the orange-tipped antenna of the small skipper - a very similar looking species.
Other butterflies noted included several meadow browns, small whites and a small heath.

Seawall repairs are being undertaken along the main section of Strood seawall by contractors for the Environment Agency. As another shower began to fall, I turned back at this half-way point. The tide was coming in and nearly covering all of the mud along the Channel. Of the few waders noted were one whimbrel, several curlew, lapwing and redshank. One little egret was on the Ray saltings while little tern and common tern were hunting along the channels. By the Dabchicks 15 swallows flew around noisily and a cormorant was seen amongst the moorings.

The following day on Monday 9th I had a quick look at the pools in the park's grazing fields, pictured above. The growth of the docks and rushes has covered much of the water and obscured many of the little muddy pools. Andy Field did well to find a wood sandpiper on Saturday 7th here despite all the thick growth. The bird stayed all day but was not seen on Sunday presumably due to another rise in the water levels following more recent rain.

However the green sandpiper that was also seen on Saturday was there on Sunday and again on Monday when it was seen in flight. Three black-tailed godwits, 5 mallard and 6 teal were the only other birds noted here. The park pond was also quiet with 10 mallard and  8 coots being the most obvious birds  present. An adder was basking in the warmth beside the track at the park on Monday.

Andy Field saw several of the summer chafers flying round the bush and tree tops at dusk at the park on Monday evening. Remains of moth-wings lying on the floor inside the park toilets, suggests the regular long-eared bat is back again this year for a spot of mid-summer feeding and resting up.A tawny owl was seen flying across the East Mersea road near the Dog and Pheasant pub, and then perching in a tree. Martin Cock saw a turtle dove drinking from a puddle on a track at Maydays Farm.The yellow-legged gull has been seen by Strood causeway on a few occasions.

Several folk driving along Bromans Lane near the country park, have reported seeing the muntjac deer, including the sight of a young one with its mother on Saturday. Andy Field has even reported a muntjac deer being seen in his High Street North garden, which is definitely an unsusual record for West Mersea. Also noteworthy was a badger seen recently in the Robins garden along the Victoria Esplanade.

 A common seal pup was found washed up dead on the West Mersea beach over the weekend. Jenny Pyle saw a grass-snake in her Firs Chase garden try and swallow a frog from her pond. Lynn Hempstead saw a pair of privet hawkmoths mating in her West Mersea garden in late June.