Friday, 31 August 2012


The tide was out in the Strood Channel during a walk along the nearby seawall in the afternoon of Friday 31st. Lining the side of the seawall and the edges of some of the saltmarshes were the yellow flowering plant, golden samphire, pictured above.

The main waders of interest here were singles of greenshank, avocet and whimbrel with 150+ redshank being the commonest. Five little egrets were feeding along the bottom of the channel and 3 common terns were flying around the moorings.

Small birds noted alongside the fields and dyke included 2 yellow wagtails, 10 linnets, 5 reed buntings and 5 reed warblers.

Andy Field walked the Reeveshall seawall on Wednesday 29th and saw the osprey was still on the post on the Geedons. This bird has been in the area for almost a week now, although so far it hasn't provided any close views from the Island.Andy also noted hobby, 4 marsh harriers, 3 wheatear, 3 whinchat, 300 black-tailed godwits, 200 avocet, 100 grey plover, greenshank, 5 little tern, 2 common tern and 2 yellow wagtails.
 Steve Entwistle saw the osprey on Monday 27th and also a curlew sandpiper from Maydays.

The previous day Martin Cock was lucky enough to get good views of a honey buzzard from the Maydays seawall, flying over the wooded section of the Langenhoe ranges, behind which, the bird disappeared from view. Martin also saw a curlew sandpiper and 4 common seals in the Pyefleet here, while on Friday 2 common buzzards and a wheatear were seen.

Adrian Amos reported seeing two late swifts flying over his East Road garden in West Mersea on Wednesday. The majority of the swifts left the Island in early August and so any other sightings in late August like this one, or early September, could be the last of the year.

On the park's grazing fields, 120+ teal and 20+ blacktailed godwits were the main birds here with little egret and 10 lapwing also present. The nine mistle thrushes were seen in the car park and also Bromans Lane on Tuesday 21st.

A ball of three adders were coiled up together in the sun, alongside the main track at the park on Thursday 23rd. A water vole was seen at the park pond nibbling on some reedmace stems in the middle, on Monday 27th. The butterflies seem to be passing their peak as the buddleia flowers fade away. There were still 12 red admirals and 8 small tortoiseshells around the buddleias on the 27th but less than this by the end of the week. Two badgers were seen ahead of the car's headlights in Bromans Lane just after night-fall on Friday 31st.

The moth trap was run a couple of times during the week providing a fairly predictable catch of 50 - 70 individuals of about 25 species. The orange swift pictured above, has been turning up in small numbers over the last 2 or 3 weeks.

The small Chinese character pictured above, looks like a small bird dropping when it's at rest. The little silvery "character" mark can be seen in the middle of the wing.

Some of the other moths noted included common carpet, green carpet, common wave, light emerald, brimstone, flounced rustic, square-spot rustic, silver-Y, snout, common wainscot, white-point, uncertain, straw underwing, rosy rustic, large yellow underwing, and lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


The first red underwing moth of the season was discovered resting on the outside wall of the information room at the park on Saturday 25th. Having moved it onto the trunk of a small tree, it briefly flashed the bright red and black hindwings, as in the photo above. It soon closed the wings up, then shuffled a short distance up the tree where it stayed motionless for the rest of the day, even during the torrential downpour with the thunder and lightning passing overhead late afternoon.

The last hour of daylight on Sunday 26th alongside the Pyefleet Channel, pictured above, ended up being a worthwhile walk. Having heard that an osprey had been seen over the last few days in the mid Colne estuary area, I thought it was worth giving it a look. Martin Cock had seen the bird on Friday from the Island as it sat on a tall post on the Geedon Saltings. With this information, I scanned the distant tall posts and managed to see the osprey as directed.
The view wasn't great through the telescope as there was a heat haze and the light was beginning to fade. The bird stayed perched on the post, changing the direction it faced which showed off its white underparts. Over the years ospreys have often been seen perched on these tall posts on the Geedons.

The tide was in along the Pyefleet so no waders to enjoy feeding on the mud. However there was an unexpected sight of 17 common sandpipers seen flying about calling loudly as they passed by. This is by far the largest flock I've seen in a very long time here. Four greenshank flew south over the Pyefleet calling as they went. Something spooked the wader roosts near Pewit Island and 200 avocet and 100 black-tailed godwits rose into the air.

 Five marsh harriers were gathering at Langenhoe Point for the evening roost.There was quite a bit of little tern activity with up to twenty birds flying about fishing especially near Langenhoe Point.

On Reeveshall pool 20 black-tailed godwits were feeding while mute swan, grey heron, little grebe and 10 mallard also present. A water rail called from the reedbed at the back of the pool and there was the barking call of a muntjac from a wood near the Oyster Fishery. As night-fell, a tawny owl was seen perched in Shop Lane beside a tall grain hopper on the north side of Manwood Grove near the pub, while a little owl was perched on the south side of the Grove over the East Mersea road.

It was noticed during Sunday that several swallows and martins were passing westwards over the park with 100+ swallows, 20 house martins and 20 sand martins. At the park pond 2 yellow wagtails flew over while 2 willow warblers were foraging with a tit flock. A whinchat was reported near the seawall near the Point. Two adders were tucked into the grass beside the track at the park.

A walk along the park seawall towards Ivy Dock on Saturday 25th enabled views of a whinchat in the park grazing fields, 160 teal on the pools, 6 tufted ducklings in the dyke, sparrowhawk and 5 yellow wagtails near the Golfhouse. On the mudflats 100 golden plover, 2 little tern, 4 common tern and one knot were of interest.

Other wildlife of interest at the park were discarded silver-Y moth-wings left by the long-eared bat during Friday night in the toilets. An adder well hidden in long grass near the seawall and 10 small-red-eyed damselflies in the nearby dyke. At dusk a muntjac deer walked across a field to the north of the park pond and entered a nearby garden presumably to feed on some roses.

Friday, 24 August 2012


Recent sunshine over the last few days has brought lots of butterflies to the buddleia bushes in the country park. There's been a good display of up to 5 small tortoiseshells and 12 red admirals on the one buddleia bush near the buildings in the car park. Also attracted by the fragrant white flowers have been small numbers of peacock, comma, meadow brown, small white and large white. The main bush has attracted quite a bit of interest from passers by, as seen in the picture above.

Elsewhere on the park, it was nice to see four common blues butterflies amongst the long grass on Thursday 23rd with two the following day. They've been in short supply this summer. Other butterflies noted at the park during the last few days have been speckled wood, hedge brown and small heath.

On Friday 24th at East Mersea Point 50 avocet, 30 linnet and a common seal were seen. In Bromans Lane there were nine mistle thrushes the same flock that have been feeding on the rowan berries in the car park recently. The previous day a turtle dove was perched up on wires in the country park car park early in the morning. A short while later two young turtle doves were perched in the west end of the grazing fields near the pools. These are the first turtle doves I've seen in the park this year.

On Tuesday 21st Andy Field watched a spotted flycatcher near the park pond, which may've been the same bird seen by Doug and Tina Holden a couple of days earlier. In the bushes near the pond was a bit of warbler activity with about six willow warblers being the main interest along with a few blackcaps, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats too. It was nice to see a song thrush here too.

On the pools a green sandpiper was seen on the 21st along with two snipe and 20 black-tailed godwits. The teal numbers are quickly picking up with up to 80 birds on the pools during the week.Terry Wilby saw a hobby over the fields in the afternoon and another hobby flew over Shop Lane in the evening.

Martin Cock managed to see the osprey from Maydays Farm as it sat on a tall post on the Geedon saltings to the north of the Island on Friday 24th. The bird had been reported from this area of the Colne estuary over the previous couple of days. Also at Maydays were a wheatear, common sandpiper, greenshank and green sandpiper along with the grand count of at least 40+ wasp spiders beside the seawall. A whinchat was seen here on the 21st.

This poplar hawkmoth was the main attraction in the moth trap on Wednesday morning, with this individual showing the odd angle the wings are held. Around 60 moths of 30 species were noted that morning.

The moth trap was also run at the park during Thursday night when nearly 80 moths of 32 species were noted. This strkingly patterned archers dart was the main interest. It appears to have a restricted range in Essex being mainly coastal with the park having several records in the last few years.

The widespread blood-vein is well named after the red line across the wings. This individual pictured above seems to be a freshly marked specimen.

The latticed heath is another common moth sometimes turning up in large numbers although not this summer.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012


Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Island on Monday 20th whilst carrying out the monthly wildfowl count. It wasn't just wildfowl that were on show as these set of pictures of his show us. These two common seals were seen at one of their regular secluded spots near Maydays farm.

Sometimes it's a bit of a surprise if you don't see a fox. This one looks like a well grown cub of several months old.

This whinchat posed nicely on a wooden rail, stopping off briefly on the Island during the long migration south. There's been only one other whinchat reported on the Island so far this autumn.

This wheatear is undertaking the same long journey as the whinchat, and also posed nicely on this rail.

Late summer is the best time to see small flocks of yellow wagtails especially amongst cattle, where they feed on insects disturbed by the grazing cows.

The colourful clouded yellow butterfly has been scarce in Essex this year and maybe this one has arrived from the continent with the recent warm winds.

The seawalls have been the best place to see the common blue butterflies as there's plenty of their foodplant, the birds foot trefoil flourishing along here.

The yellow belle moth is a fairly widespread moth and often seen at the moth trap at the country park.

Monday, 20 August 2012


The last few days have been sunny and hot which have been perfect conditions for many butterflies like this small tortoiseshell seen on the buddleia in the country park. Up to three individuals have been gathering round the bushes in the car park, along with 5 red admirals, 2 comma, 2 peacock, meadow brown and 2 small white.

Andy Field found his visit to a very busy country park on Saturday afternoon very rewarding when he found a pied flycatcher in the trees alongside the horseride on the north side of the park. The bird was feeding well and giving good views although by early evening it had moved further west where it continued to perform. It's been a few years since a pied flycatcher was seen at the country park. This bird soon continued its journey south for the winter during Saturday as it wasn't seen here again.

The nasturtiums growing in the Firs Chase garden are currently taking a hammering as a sacrificial crop with masses of caterpillars of the large white butterfly devouring all the leaves. Luckily there aren't any cabbage related vegetables growing in this garden this year.

Butterflies seen in the garden over the weekend have included peacock, red admiral, comma, small tortoiseshell, speckled wood, holly blue, large white, small white and green-veined white.

In the evening of Monday 20th two little egrets flew over Firs Chase while two swifts flew around with 50 swallows and 10 house martins.Earlier in the morning a yellow wagtail flew west over Firs Chase.

This male migrant hawker was one of several seen beside the footpath to the west of Shop Lane on Monday early afternoon, as were a few ruddy darters. Birds of note included a sparrowhawk, willow warbler, male yellowhammer and a pair of stock doves.

Glyn Evans reported seeing a clouded yellow butterfly beside the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 20th - the first sighting this year here of this species that has probably arrived in the last few days with all the warm air from the continent.

Took to the water to cool off on a hot Sunday 19th with a paddle in the canoe over to Ray Island with my wife Nolly, and the J.R. terrier Ben equipped with his own life-jacket. The conditions were perfect and very still over the high tide period. We managed to find a quieter spot away from the fifty or so other folk who had a similar idea about crossing over to the Ray.

A marsh harrier crossed over the Ray Channel to the Feldy marsh while a sparrowhawk flew onto the Island disappearing quickly into the bushes. Five little egrets sat the high tide out on the saltings and a whimbrel was heard calling. Alongside the channel were seen a few lapwing, turnstone, curlew, redshank, oystercatcher and one common tern. Circling above the field near the Firs Chase caravan site were 100 golden plover.

Martin Cock noted a common buzzard near a wood at Maydays Farm on Sunday morning, the same spot where he'd seen one a week earlier.

On Friday 17th there was a small flock of forty linnets gathered over the recently cultivated field beside Bromans Lane in East Mersea. In the country park six mistle thrushes flew into the car park, the first visit of the summer now that the rowan berries are ripening up.

A quick walk through some of the long grass on Ray Island soon revealed five of these wasp spiders, each clutching their own webs. By coincidence the last visit to Ray Island by canoe was last summer also on the 19th August 2011 when I photographed a wasp spider that day too!

The moth trap at the park produced a small selection of moths during the night of Thursday 16th, with 34 species of macro moth being a typical haul. This copper underwing pictured above, was one of a couple found and is a frequent visitor to the trap during August.

Some of the other moths noted were poplar hawkmoth, drinker, maidens blush, orange swift, riband wave, latticed heath, peacock moth, pale prominent, square spot rustic, marbled beauty, straw underwing, burnished brass, silver-Y and flounced rustic.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Very surprised to see this smart looking painted lady butterfly in the country park near the buildings on Thursday 16th. I first saw it fly off the ground where it had been basking, having been very nearly stood on. They have been very scarce in Essex this year although there was an earlier painted lady seen at the park back in the spring.

The painted lady was quite obliging staying still on the ground or in this case in the picture above, feeding on a buddliea flower next to the information room. Just in the last few days a few butterflies have been gathering to feed on the buddleia with peacock, comma, small tortoiseshell and red admiral being seen.

The pools in the park's grazing fields were checked during the day but no sign of the wood sandpiper that had been present the day before, for its fourth day. Other birds on the pools were 40 teal, 15 black-tailed godwits, 2 wigeon 10 lapwing, 2 shoveler, little egret and a brood of 8 well grown mallard ducklings.

 Andy Field was able to watch the rare sight of a turtle dove perch in a tree at the back of the fields on Thursday morning. This is the first actual sighting of a turtle dove at the park, which is a sad reflection on the decline in the population. Twelve swifts flew over the park in the afternoon.

In the middle of the day 2 yellow wagtails were seen near West Mersea at Chapmans Lane along with a corn bunting singing on a tree and a swift was seen too.

Enjoyed an evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall on the north side of the Island. With the tide well out there was plenty of mud showing along the Pyefleet Channel. Having missed out on seeing the turtle dove at the park earlier in the day, I was pleased to see three turtle doves perch in a tree near the Oyster Fishery - the first ones I've managed to see this summer! The doves soon moved off when a sparrowhawk came flying alongside the hedgerow scattering all the small birds.

On the Reeveshall pool the water level was still high with a pair of mute swans, 2 black-tailed godwits, 4 mallard and a little grebe being the only birds seen here.

Along the Pyefleet, 250 black-tailed godwits, 100 grey plover, 70 avocet, 5 knot, 40 dunlin,10 turnstone, were the main waders seen while a whimbrel and a greenshank were heard calling and a there was a brood of 11 shelducklings. Also towards dusk were 40+ little terns gathering on the mud at Langenhoe Point. Several of them had been hunting up and down the Pyefleet Channel. Over the Langenhoe marsh were at least 4 marsh harriers flying about.

Common blue butterflies have been absent from the park this summer but this little one was found resting up for the evening on a grass stalk on the side of the Reeveshall seawall. Close-by was an extensive patch of the foodplant, the birds foot trefoil. Whilst walking along the grassy seawall, there were several meadow brown butterflies fluttering off in the breeze. Also a few ruddy darters were seen on the walk too.

 At West Mersea on Wednesday evening I was pleased to see a male banded demoiselle beside our Firs Chase garden, which seems an unlikely place to find this pretty damselfly.

Joined a moth trapping session on Tuesday 14th just north of the Island at Hugh Owens near Langenhoe, along with a few other members of the Essex Moth Group. We were hoping to see the nationally rare white-spotted pinion moth but it didn't show for us. However Hugh was lucky enough to find the white-spotted pinion moth sitting in his trap the next morning, so it's great to know the species is still present on this site, even if most of us failed to see it this year.

It was quite a reasonable evening for trapping and the weather stayed dry. This August thorn was one of two individuals that turned up, a species new to the site and one not often seen elsewhere either.

It was nice to see this tree lichen beauty, a species that used to be quite rare but is now noted annually at some sites, although it hasn't been seen on the Island this summer.
Just over 90 species of moth were seen including both micros and macro moths.

Sunday, 12 August 2012


The sunshine brought a few butterflies onto the buddleia bush in the car park of the country park with this colourful peacock admired on Sunday 12th. Also seen here was a small tortoiseshell and a comma with four red admirals seen a few days earlier here.

Bird activity has been quite quiet recently and the hot weather seems to have kept the small birds hiding in the bushes. However a last walk of the day in the last hour of daylight was rewarded with unexpected views of a garganey and a wood sandpiper on the pools in the grazing fields.

The evening high tide had brought a few more birds to roost on the pools with the usual 20 black-tailed godwits, 20 mallard, 10 lapwing but with an increase in teal numbers. A scan of the 40 or so teal revealed a similiar looking duck but with white markings on the face which was a female garganey. The bird swam around the open water along with the other teal allowing nice views. This is the first garganey sighting on the Island this year.

Whilst looking at these pools the loud "chip-chip" calls of a wood sandpiper in flight was heard and the bird was seen coming into land. It soon scuttled behind some rushes to feed providing a brief view a few minutes later. I had missed the first wood sandpiper that stayed for a day on these pools about a month ago.

Earlier in the day a couple of little egrets had been seen feeding in the pools with one bird perching in a tree over the pond and a willow warbler was heard calling from some trees.

The day before Andy Field had seen 3 wheatears at the park in the evening as well as a badger in Bromans Lane as night fell. A badger has been seen in this Lane on Friday night and also Thursday night too, probably on their way from the park to forage in a wheat field at the top of the Lane by the East Mersea road. Also on Thursday night at dusk a little owl was seen in Bromans Lane on the roof of a cottage while a second bird flew off a telegraph pole near the pub.

The sunshine on Sunday was ideal for the dragonflies such as this colourful male ruddy darter resting on some grass near the park borrowdyke. A few other ruddies were seen around the park, as were a couple of emperors and migrant hawkers too. At the western end of the dyke were at least 20 small red-eyed damselflies resting on various bits of weed and algae.

On Thursday evening 4 little egrets flew over Firs Chase as did a yellow wagtail, 50 swallows and 2 sand martins. The young sparrowhawk was calling from a nearby garden while the pied blackbird made another appearance having been absent over the last six weeks or so since nesting. Also in the garden were a migrant hawker and a toad.

There was a nice selection of moths in the trap at the park during sessions on last Wednesday and Friday nights with this pebble prominent one of the 35+ species noted involving about 80 individuals on the first night.

The swallow prominent was certainly prominent with five in the trap on the second night, which is the most in the trap here for a few years.About sixty moths of 34 species were noted.

Some of the other moths that were noted included poplar hawk, drinker, oak hook-tip, orange swift, least carpet, red twin-spot carpet, blood vein, latticed heath, yellow-tail, brown-tail, peppered, dingy footman, ear moth, lunar-spotted pinion, white-line dart, straw underwing, starwort and dot moth.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


It was a pleasant surprise to find this colourful banded demoiselle basking beside a path at the country park on Wednesday 8th. This isn't a species of damselfly that is resident on the Island with only a handful of previous sightings of wandering individuals over the years.

This striking male with the dark blue band on the wings and the irridescent green and blue body posed nicely and long enough for a good view. Sunning itself on a bush, every so often it would dash out to catch a fly, before returning back to sit on a leaf.

Whilst positioning the camera close to the demoiselle, it darted out to catch a fly and then returned and unexpectedly landed on my finger which had been ready to snap a picture. Surprisingly it stayed on the finger whilst I gently transferred the camera into the other hand and snapped this photo above before it flew back to the bush. 
The evening sun seemed to entice lots of insects onto the wing at the park, especially along the horseride path on the northern edge. A migrant hawker was resting on a bush while a few ruddy darters basked in the sun too. High up in one tree a handful of small red-eyed damselflies were also resting in the evening warmth.

A female emperor dragonfly appeared to be laying eggs at the pond, while lots of azure/ common blue damselflies and blue-tailed damselflies were noted across the pond surface.

Lots of butterflies were enjoying the evening sun too such as this red admiral sunning itself on the same bush as the banded demoiselle.One or two red admirals have also been feeding at the buddliea in the car park. Above the path were about ten purple hairstreaks in small groups flitting around and chasing each other round the tree tops. Others seen were holly blue, speckled wood, 4 comma, peacock, small white, green-veined white, meadow brown, hedge brown and Essex / small skipper.

Tucked into the long grass in the middle of the park were some of these wasp spiders with their distinctive yellow and black stripes. A brief search of one area suggested there were probably about ten of these spiders, or rather about ten webs as some spiders were absent from the vertically strung webs. None of these female spiders seemed fully grown yet.

On the grazing field pools 3 little egrets, 24 black-tailed godwits, 8 lapwing, 15 mallard and 12 teal were some of the birds that could be seen amongst the thick cover of rushes and docks. On the pond the little grebes were still feeding noisy young, a pochard and a few mallard and teal were also noted.

In the bushes nearby chiffchaff, blackcap, common whitethroat were seen from the hide. Earlier in the day a sparrowhawk flew along the clifftop trees and there was also a small passage of 50 swifts passed over the car park with some swallows too. A whimbrel flew over the park calling in the afternoon.

At West Mersea on Wednesday evening another small flock of 30 swifts passed over Chapmans Lane while 25 swallows and house martins flew around the fields. A young sparrowhawk could be heard calling near Firs Chase.

Yesterday on Tuesday two wheatears were seen on the seawall and an adder in the park. On Monday 6th a willow warbler and a wheatear were seen by Andy Field at the park.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Amongst the small group of black-tailed godwits feeding in the pools in the park fields, was this pale looking individual. Andy Field looked closely at this bird and took this photograph on the 21st July of what appears to be the continental race, standing in front of the commoner and ginger marked Icelandic race. This pale bird isn't in breeding plumage but looks like a continental with its longer bill. In the breeding plumage this race isn't as colourful as the Icelandic race.

Most black-tailed godwits seen in Essex are the Icelandic race but there are probably many continental birds that are missed and assumed to be the Icelandic birds. The nearest breeding sites for continental race birds is in the East Anglian Fens where there is a small population as well as the Netherlands, just across the North Sea.

Some of the other black-tailed godwits roosting at the pools, all birds showing the rich ginger breeding plumage of Icelandic birds, already back from those breeding grounds.

There were still 8 black-tailed godwits in the fields on Wednesday 1st along with 4 lapwing and 12 mallard. On the nearby mudflats at least 50 black-tails were noted in the early evening from the park. The tide was too far out to see any other waders of interest, although two little egrets could be seen on the mud.

In bushes by the car park a few brief calls from a nightingale indicated that at least one bird is still here and not gone back to Africa yet. A family of swallows with four recently fledged youngsters perched on the bungalow roof with the parents busy trying to keep them fed. This family have probably just left nearby Bromans Farm as one family had been ready to leave their nest according to Martin Dence.
Passing over the East Mersea road just west of the pub was a female marsh harrier, crossing south over the fields and road in the early evening.

A flock of fifty swifts passed over the park during Tuesday morning along with a few swallows and a sand martin. Martin Cock was lucky to see two turtle doves fly west across the fields on the north side of the park on Tuesday.

At Maydays farm on Monday Martin Cock counted 17 green sandpipers fly off a farm reservoir which is a record count for the Island. Twenty golden plover and a small lapwing flock were on the fields near here.

On Monday evening Ian Black saw a muntjac feeding in a recently harvested rape field next to Bromans Lane. A short while later just after dark, a young badger jogged along the Lane in front of the car for about 30 metres as I drove slowly back to the park. Martin Dence had recently noticed that one of the brown hares that had been seen in Bromans Lane, had sadly been hit by a car.

Other mammal sightings passed to me recently have included several sightings of muntjac on the edge of West Mersea both near East Road and also near the Strood Hill. Along the Pyefleet Martin Cock last week had counted five common seals basking on the mud near Maydays. David Nicholls had also seen mammal tracks going out to the Ray Island about a month ago, that were identified as a badger.


This dusky sallow moth was resting on a scabious flower at the park, whilst two others were noted feeding on other flowers nearby. Up to ten have been seen in the moth trap recently. Also feeding on the scabious and other flowers such as tufted vetch were 10 six-spot burnet moths, although many are starting to look quite faded.

The first copper underwing pictured above was noted for the year when the moth trap was checked on Wedneday morning. Only sixty moths of 24 species were noted a lower figure than hoped for due to the near bright full moon and clear skies.

Other species noted were least carpet, scalloped oak, yellow-tail, dingy footman, lesser broad-bodied yellow underwing, lunar-spotted pinion, red twin-spot carpet, common carpet, Chinese character, heart and dart, white-point, dun-bar, dark arches, common wainscot and uncertain.