Wednesday, 29 May 2013


The park beach was a good place to be during another chilly morning on Wednesday 29th, with the cliff acting as a good shelter from the cold northerly wind. After a sunny and warm weekend, the weather has returned back to cold, grey and at times wet days.

Two house martins joined ten swifts and one of the local sand martins as they hawked for insects along the cliff-edge in the morning. House martins have been very scarce at the park so far this spring while only one pair of sand martins appear to be nesting in the cliff. During the day about 30 swifts were noted passing west over the park and the usual half-dozen swallows were hunting low over the fields.

On the grazing fields 14 greylag geese, 2 Canada geese, 8 shelduck, 2 little egrets, 6 gadwall, shoveler, 3 lapwing, 2 redshank, 2 oystercatchers were present. On the pond the swan is still incubating on the nest, four coot broods are busy being fed and 8 tufted duck and 3 pochard were also here.

Birdsong of interest around a breezy park comprised of lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, blackcap and chiffchaff. Offshore two Mediterranean gulls flew along the edge of the mudflats and a common tern was seen too.
A male marsh harrier crossed low over the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall early evening and a corn bunting was on one of the bushes nearby.

On Monday 3 Mediterranean gulls circled high over Firs Chase, calling as they drifted north.

grey seal was seen in the river Colne from the East Mersea Point on Thursday 23rd by Emma Webb and also a sanderling with a few dunlin and ringed plover here too.

The unusual sight of a black rabbit has been present in the country park for the last week or so. Although it hops back into the bushes if anyone gets too close, it's less timid than the other local rabbits. At least there's plenty of grass for it to eat and it seems to be surviving in the wild so far.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Some of the "wild" apple trees at the country park are covered in eye-catching white blossom at the moment. However it remains to be seen how good the fruit crop will be with this prolonged period of cold northerly winds blowing at the moment. There wasn't much sun to see during Wednesday 22nd, although it was warm in areas sheltered from the wind.

Two little terns fished around the East Mersea Point on Wednesday morning and a pair of common terns sat on top of a marker post in the sea beside the park. Also at the Point was a singing reed bunting and also five linnets. A couple of whitethroats sang along the seawall and two reed warblers could be heard too. A weasel was obliging enough to scamper along the top of the seawall to within a metre, before running off into the grass.

On the grazing fields 10 greylag geese, 2 Canada geese, 10 shelduck, 6 gadwall, 3 little egrets, 8 lapwing, 3 shoveler, pair of oystercatcher, pair of redshank while on the pond were 3 pochard and 10 tufted duck. One sand martin hunted over the fields as did 6 swallows and two swifts flew over west.

Three adders basked out of the cold wind during the day while the only butterflies noted were a holly blue and a green-veined white and also a blue-tailed damselfly.
At West Mersea Adrian Amos has reported speckled wood in his East Road garden in recent days along with small tortoiseshell, holly blue, orange-tip and a comma.

A quick half-hour's visit in the early evening to the Reeveshall seawall provided views of 2 brent geese, 12 greylag geese, whimbrel, 2 common terns, 5 marsh harriers including one over Reeveshall, pair of yellowhammers and a gadwall.

Earlier Andy Field had noted along the Strood seawall, a cuckoo, 3 reed warblers, 2 common tern, 2 little tern and a corn bunting. Adrian Amos also reported a corn bunting close to the West Mersea Glebe field. On the subject of corn buntings, 2 singing birds were reported by Martin Cock on Sunday between Waldegraves and Rewsalls as well as one singing bird at Maydays along with the regular two at Chapmans Lane / Bocking Hall making an Island total so far of 7 pairs.

Andy Field heard the two East Mersea nightingales singing at 4.30am on Tuesday morning, one still present at Coopers Beach and the other one in Manwood Grove near Shop Lane. A turtle dove was also seen at Coopers Beach. In West Mersea Clive Walls reported the pair of turtle doves still visiting their garden near Willoughby car park in recent days.

The cuckoo was very vocal at the country park during Monday 20th being heard at various times and in various corners of the park including a noisy burst in the car park. The previous day a marsh harrier was seen flying away from the borrowdyke carrying what may've been a water vole as a tail could be seen dangling down from the talons.

At West Mersea early on Monday morning a black tern was seen near the outflow off Seaview Avenue at 7.30am by Graham Willmot. There was no sign of it later although 2 great northern divers were offshore and then later a gannet flying into the Blackwater was seen by Martin.
Steve Entwistle reported a cuckoo at Maydays on Sunday 19th.

A willow warbler was singing from the copse at the back of the park pond on Saturday 18th with no further sign of it the next day.

The moth trap was only put out this week just the once, on Monday night with a low catch of just ten moths. This colourful brimstone moth brightened up the small collection. A few springs ago up to a dozen brimstones would've been in the trap here in one night.

The first Chinese character moth, pictured above, of the spring was found, looking just like a bit of bird's dropping.

This yellow-barred brindle avoided the trap but was found resting nearby on the outside of the window in the morning. The only other moths were hebrew character and a chocolate-tip.

This distinctive drinker moth caterpillar was resting amongst the grass, its food-plant. It still has some feeding up to do and then after pupating, should be on the wing during July.

Friday, 17 May 2013


A pair of avocets was back on these saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse on Friday 17th. One of the avocets had coloured rings on its legs so it will be interesting to find out where it has come from. The avocets may stay around to nest although water levels will need to be higher than at present. An avocet flew over the Point calling on Wednesday 15th.

The cuckoo visited the park at least three times during the day calling from various corners during its circuit of East Mersea. Needless to say there were no views of this bird. The first view of the cuckoo at the park was in the field next to the car park on Thursday 16th.

Over the grazing fields 20 swallows and a sand martin were flying around while a reed warbler was singing from a hedgeline near the seawall. Not much around the pools other than 4 lapwing and 4 redshank, 4 gadwall, shoveler and also 10 greylag geese and 5 Canada geese nearby. Two golden plover were on the fields on the 15th as were 20 shelduck and 2 little egrets. On the park pond a few more coot chicks is the only news of interest here other than the swan still incubating and a pochard and 10 tufted ducks but no sign of the drake teal seen on 15th.

A male marsh harrier flew over the car park early on Friday evening, circled round a couple of times and then headed south and high over the mudflats. Seemed a strange route to be following although it may've turned westwards over to Bradwell. A hobby flew over the car park on Tuesday 14th.

On Thursday a little tern provided some close views from the seawall as it hawked along one of the saltmarsh creeks swooping down to snatch a few shrimps. After a few lengths it then flew along the nearby borrowdyke for a drink on the wing and then returned to fly along the creek again. A Mediterranean gull flew over the car park later in the afternoon.

A trickle of swifts have been passing over the park most days with one group of 20 flying west on Wednesday 15th. A house martin was also seen over the park today, the first one of the season for here. Over the mud various small waders were feeding in the distance with 20+ ringed plover, 20 dunlin and a few turnstone as well while a whimbrel flew over whistling.

The thick stand of the Alexanders plants covers the inside of the seawall near the East Mersea Point, shown in the picture above.

Recent cold nights have not produced many moths with just 14 moths on Thursday night, including this neatly marked chocolate-tip moth. the first for the year. Other moths included red twin-spot carpet, hebrew character and common quaker.

This grey / dark dagger was also the first of the year. Grey and dark dagger moths have very similar markings and both are known to exist at the park as their different looking caterpillars have been found here.

The only butterfly noted in the last few cold days at the park was a speckled wood on Friday.
Four adders were basking in an interwoven bundle on Tuesday morning, while two were noted on Friday.

A second corpse of a harbour porpoise was found washed up on the Island within two days of each other, the first at the park, then one at West Mersea Hard. Both had similar injuries with a head missing suggesting its deliberate removal from fishing nets.

Monday, 13 May 2013


It was nice to see this slow-worm, a legless lizard, in the compost heap in the Firs Chase garden for the second day running on Monday 13th. It was enjoying the warmth lying on the grass cuttings, under a plastic cover and didn't immediately slide away when the cover was lifted. It's the first time a slow-worm has been seen at this heap.

Wildlife noted in the garden during a breezy day of sunny periods included a chiffchaff, 5 swifts passing overhead while holly blue and 2 orange-tip butterflies fluttered across the garden.

The white flowers of scurvy grass are dotted across the saltmarsh and adding a bit of colour at the moment beside the Strood channel.

This common lizard had its beady eye on me whilst on a fence-post beside the Feldy View cemetery on Monday -nice to see this colony still survives on the edge of West Mersea. The second lizard species for the day.

A male marsh harrier was hunting low over the fields and dyke beside the seawall, eventually being chased off by a pair of noisy oystercatchers that may be nesting in the area. A male yellow wagtail was calling from some overhead wires, 3 reed buntings and 2 reed warblers were singing from the dyke and 10+ swifts were flying around.

Along the channel 2 common terns were seen, 2 whimbrel, 5 curlew, 3 redshank, 4 oystercatcher and 2 turnstone were the only waders seen on the mud. One little egret flew over while a kestrel was hovering over Ray Island.

The Strood seawall seems to have more of the yellowy-green flowered Alexanders plants growing on it this year. During the walk on Sunday 12th, 5 reed warblers were singing in the nearby dyke and also 4 reed buntings but no sign this year of any corn buntings for the first time. Two common terns flew over the seawall to hawk over one section of water in the dyke.

A sparrowhawk was seen circling over the nearby houses, 10+ swifts were seen flying about, 10 linnets and 5 goldfinches were flying about the fields. Along the channel 3 whimbrel, a curlew one noisy bar-tailed godwit and a handful of oystercatchers were the only waders present. Three little terns were flying along the Ray Channel.

In Firs Chase the cuckoo flew low over the gardens calling while a lesser whitethroat singing was also of interest. Butterflies seen were holly blue, orange-tip, speckled wood, small white and large white.

At the country park Andy Field located a garden warbler singing late morning although there was no sign of it in the afternoon. Also seen in the Colne were 12 little terns by Langenhoe Point and a hobby crossing the river.
A badly decomposed harbour porpoise was found washed up on the park beach on Sunday morning.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Sunny periods in the morning of Saturday 11th, brought one or two orange-tip butterflies onto the wing. This male closed up its wings when the sun disappeared behind the clouds. When the sun emerged again, it slowly opened them up to reveal the bright orange-tipped wings, before flying off along the hedgerow.

This female orange-tip was surprisingly hard to spot resting on the hedge when it closed its wings up as in the photo above.

In a short walk beside the Firs Chase caravan site on Saturday morning, a male yellow wagtail perched on wires, 2 swifts flew over the houses, singing lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, blackcap and chiffchaff could be heard in various places. A handful of linnets and goldfinches were near the cemetery while 25+ house sparrows were chirping at three or four locations.

A common tern was flying amongst the boat moorings while 3 were seen calling high over Firs Chase the day before. Four swifts were also flying over Firs Chase on Friday too.

A late morning walk across the fields from Shop Lane on a breezy Friday 10th, provided views of 2 marsh harriers, sparrowhawk, 2 yellowhammers, 3 whitethroats, chiffchaff and 2 linnets.

The sunshine brought out speckled wood, holly blue, orange-tip and green-veined white butterflies along the path.

This group of brown-tail moth caterpillars were found clustered on a bush in their distinctive silken tent. The adult moths with their white wings and brown-tipped tail, should be on the wing sometime in July.

Thursday, 9 May 2013


Clumps of bluebells have been adding a splash of colour in various places at the country park. The sunshine on a windy Thursday 9th helped brighten the place such as these plants in the dell were doing, in the spot frequented by the adders. Four adders were basking in the morning sun here, with another one beside the track and a sixth one at the east end of the park.

Checking out the remnants of the once extensive bluebell carpet in the old grove on the clifftop, a female mallard was unwittingly disturbed off her nest, not having seen it hidden amongst the bluebells. The nest was only a couple of metres from the cliff-edge with a steep drop down to the beach below. Hopefully the mother has a plan for getting the ducklings to some water after they've hatched out, as there's no water close-by other than the sea during high-tide.

Only one sand martin was flying around the cliff during the day while a small westward passage of swallows seemed to be trickling through during the morning with 20+ birds noted. No house martins yet but one swift flew over the car park. The cuckoo was heard calling from the nearby caravan site in the morning. A pair of green woodpeckers flew off the main field into the trees.

The male kestrel got very agitated on its nesting-tree as it watched a male marsh harrier hunting over the fields and then along the ditch-line getting closer and closer to it. The kestrel swooped after the harrier and chased it off with lots more anxious calling.

Birds on the fields much the same as recent days with 3 lapwing, 2 redshank, little egret, 20 teal, wigeon, 2 shoveler, 3 gadwall, 6 greylag geese, 2 Canada geese, 20 shelduck and  10 mallard. On the pond 4 pochard and 12 tufted duck were the main ducks present.

There was the briefest but classic glimpse of a hobby as it tried to chase down a swallow near the cliff-top on Wednesday 8th. The anxious calls of the swallows quickly drew my gaze towards the hobby rising high over the trees "empty-handed". It banked round and hurtled back towards the car park in typical rakish profile.

A barn owl hunting over the northern corner of the park near the entrance at 9am on Tuesday 7th was a bit surprising in the bright sunshine.

Five swifts were hunting over the houses near Upland Road in West Mersea on Thursday 9th.

The first speckled wood butterflies were on the wing at the park on Thursday 9th with about five individuals noted but surprisingly no other butterflies on the wing.

This purple thorn moth with its wings half-open, was discovered on the outside of the moth trap on Thursday morning, whilst inside the trap was a small catch of early thorn, hebrew character, common quaker and a double-striped pug.

Monday, 6 May 2013


The sunshine brought hordes of visitors to the park for the bank holiday Monday 6th, making it one of the busiest days for many years. Both ends of the Island appeared to be "mobbed" with visitors making the most of being by the seaside. A brief glance at the park pools in the grazing fields at the end of the day, showed a very tranquil scene. Low tide on the nearby mud, meant no waders roosting on the fields.

Six whimbrel feeding in one field were of note with other birds being a snipe, one brent goose, 7 greylags, 2 Canadas, little egret, 20 teal, 2 wigeon, 4 redshank, 4 lapwing, 12 mallard and 2 gadwall. The kestrel was on the nestbox tree while on the nearby pond were 17 tufted duck and 6 pochard.

Two adders were still lying in the early evening sunshine, although eight had been reported the previous day and another one crossing the patio of my house, appeared to be making towards the open back-door which had to be promptly shut!

In West Mersea late evening at least five swifts were flying above the houses near the Upland Road area on  Monday.

An early evening visit to the Reeveshall pool on Sunday 5th, provided views of 12 greylags, black-tailed godwit, redshank, 10 shelduck, while on the nearby fields one marsh harrier, 20 whimbrel was a good count, two golden plover and 6 Mediterranean gulls feeding amongst the sheep. A turtle dove was seen briefly flying into a copse near the Oyster Fishery. Along the Pyefleet 3 little terns were noisily flying up the channel and 4 marsh harriers were seen over Langenhoe.

The nightingale was singing loudly from the Manwood Grove wood in Shop Lane in the evening. At the beginning of Sunday the red-legged partridge was heard calling from the wheat field at Bromans Lane.

There were recent reports from West Mersea of holly blue in Broomhills Road and orange-tip butterfly being seen in Fairhaven Avenue.

The moth trap has operated on several recent nights with catches generally low with the clear skies. Four of these early thorns, one pictured above, were in the trap on Monday morning amongst a catch of 30 moths.

The common pebble prominent above, made a nice change from the many other regular Hebrew characters, common quakers, clouded drab and small quakers.

This red-green carpet was a nicely marked fresh specimen which visited the trap during Saturday night.
Other moths noted have been herald, powdered quaker, lunar marbled brown, frosted green, early grey, oak-tree pug, garden pebble and red chestnut.

Saturday, 4 May 2013


The sunny weather of recent days continued into the start of Saturday 4th, followed by a cloudy and breezy second half to the day. Migrant birds continue to trickle back from Africa with a small passage of 20+ swallows seen flying west across the sea and over the park from Colne Point in the morning.

Migrants of note included a transient willow warbler calling from some bushes, a reed warbler singing beside the dyke providing the first good views at the park this spring and a single swift flew west over the car park in the afternoon. A couple of sand martins were seen while blackcap, chiffchaff and whitethroats were also noted around the park.

Most bird interest centred around the grazing fields with a varied selection during the morning high tide. The male ruff with its blotchy black chest markings was still present for its fifth day, a whimbrel and curlew were feeding near to each other, while most of the 44 black-tailed godwits seen were roosting on the pools. Six lapwing, 5 redshank and a pair of oystercatchers, were the other waders on the fields.

One brent goose was resting on the fields and another pair was seen flying along the shore. One greylag was feeding with a pair of Canada geese while the usual small numbers of shelduck, teal, wigeon, shoveler, gadwall and mallard were also present.

The male kestrel was calling from the oak tree behind the fields and a sparrowhawk was seen drifting high over the park.

One peacock butterfly was seen sunning itself in the morning and at least two adders were seen too.

At dusk near West Mersea, a little owl was seen flying off a telegraph pole in Chapmans Lane towards the allotments.

On Thursday 2nd a common buzzard was seen flying across the East Mersea road and landing in a tree near Weir Farm.

Like the slow appearance of the migrant birds, the moths have also been slow to appear this season. Another cold and clear night on Friday produced 24 moths of seven species.
This scarce reed dagger pictured above provided a bit of interest, being confined to reed-beds and fens in East Anglia and the south coast. It has been recorded here a few times before.

The widespread moth, powdered quaker pictured above, made its first appearance of the season. The line of black dots across the wing is a distinctive feature.
Other moths noted were common quaker, hebrew character, clouded drab, early thorn and early grey.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


The cows were put back onto the park's grazing fields a few days ago and will stay through the summer season. The last couple of days they have spent  time tucking into the grass in the field beside the park pond, pictured above. Grass growth in the main grazing fields has been rather slow as it recovers from the intense grazing by brent geese and wigeon over the winter.

On the park pond on Wednesday 1st a pair of tufted duck was seen mating while four male pochard were chasing and squabbling with each other with several females looking on. The mute swan seems to be sitting on the nest in the middle but no sign of the little coot chick seen a couple of days ago. Two green woodpeckers flew across the pond.

Birdlife on the grazing fields during Wednesday appeared to be fairly similar to that of Tuesday. A ruff feeding around the pools on both days was the most interesting bird of note. Other waders included 3 snipe, 6 black-tailed godwits, 6 redshank, 2 lapwing, 2 golden plover and a pair of oystercatchers. Wildfowl noted were 2 brent geese, 6 greylag geese, 3 Canada geese, 40 teal, 3 wigeon, 3 gadwall, 6 mallard, and a pair of shoveler. Also seen in the fields were 4 little egrets, yellow wagtail with four pied wagtails, while 5 swallows and a sand martin were seen in flight over the fields.

A willow warbler singing at the park was the only migrant of note during Wednesday. A marsh harrier was mobbed by a carrion crow as it drifted over the park entrance. Possibly the same crow chased a sparrowhawk past the park entrance. A short while later another sparrowhawk flew over to the pond with a very deliberate floppy display flight. A sparrowhawk was also seen displaying over the pond area later in the afternoon.

The pair of kestrels is continuing to be seen beside and inside the nestbox in the grazing field oak tree. On Tuesday a marsh harrier flew close past the tree upsetting the kestrels, it then hovered briefly over the edge of the park pond checking the area for prey, before flying over the fields to the north of the park.

At the end of the day a tawny owl was heard calling from the direction of North Farm and a nightingale was back singing from the north end of Manwood Grove at Shop Lane. This is the same location where one was singing last year.

Martin Cock saw the great northern diver off West Mersea and also the first little terns were seen offshore with four flying east. Two corn buntings were singing from the Chapmans Lane field in the morning.

At Rewsalls marshes over the recent weekend, the common sandpiper found by Martin by the dyke on Saturday 27th was also seen the next day by Steve Entwistle.

Some of the blackthorn blossom is at its peak at the moment such as this bush near the grazing fields.
Only a few butterflies have been seen over the last few days because of the chill in the easterly wind. Comma, peacock, small white and small tortoiseshells have only been seen in ones or twos.

A check of the moth trap on Wednesday morning after a chilly and clear night revealed 18 moths including blossom underwing, early grey, early thorn, red chestnut, clouded drab, common quaker, hebrew character and March moth.

Two adders were glimpsed on Wednesday while six were reported in their usual spots on Tuesday. A pipistrelle bat was hawking along Bromans Lane on Wednesday evening at dusk.