Saturday, 31 August 2013


This young grey heron was stalking the park pools on Saturday 31st and also present were 20 little egrets for the high tide morning roost. The wader gathering here included 150 redshank, 50 black-tailed godwits, 10 snipe, 50 lapwings while the 200 teal were the most numerous birds noted. Eight wigeon, 10 shoveler and up to 50 mallard were in the area. Sparrowhawk and a kestrel were seen circling over the park pond and fields in the morning. A dozen yellow wagtails were feeding by the cattle and overhead 50 swallows and 20 house martins were flying around.

The calls of a curlew sandpiper in flight were recognised as it passed over the park beach on Saturday morning and two birds with their white rumps were seen in the company of two dunlin and four ringed plover. The small flock seemed put off by the lack of mud and the busy beach and returned to the mouth of the Pyefleet, passing over the grazing fields as they flew away.

There was a report of 11 curlew sandpipers seen in East Mersea on Saturday along with 380 avocets. Adrian Kettle watched a red kite early on Saturday morning flying over the back of the Reeveshall fields where it then perched on a tree.

At the end of the afternoon I spent a couple of hours along the Reeveshall seawall just before the high tide. There were good numbers of waders being pushed around the Pyefleet with 3 curlew sandpipers, 5 greenshank, 2 spotted redshank, green sandpiper, 10 knot, 250 avocet, 100 black-tailed godwit, 50 grey plover, 50 ringed plover, 100 dunlin and 200 redshank the main wader gatherings.

A hobby was perched on a post on Langenhoe marshes, 4 kestrels were hovering in the air here and 10 marsh harriers were seen over Reeveshall as well as Langenhoe. Five wheatears, 25 yellow wagtails and 200 swallows with 5+ sand martins were noted over Reeveshall. A sandwich tern flying along the Pyefleet was unexpected, also counted were 25 common terns and 2 little terns.

On Friday at the country park a common buzzard flew west over the pond scattering the egrets and other birds away from the area. Ten mistle thrushes were seen eyeing up the ripening rowan berries on the car park. A willow warbler called near the hide and at night-fall a little owl was perched on one of the picnic tables near the car park.

The sunshine continued to be kind for butterflies and this pair of small tortoiseshells and a meadow brown were enjoying the buddleia flowers beside the park's information room. Other butterflies noted at the park during the day were holly blue, common blue, painted lady, comma, red admiral, speckled wood, gatekeeper, small heath, small white and large white.

This smart looking centre-barred sallow moth was one of 130 moths of 20 species noted in the trap after Thursday night's session.

There's been an emergence of light emeralds this week with up to a dozen noted in the trap. The pale green colour of this species matches the pale underside of the white poplar leaf.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


This curlew sandpiper was one of eight seen and along the Pyefleet Channel by Andy Field when he met up with Martin Cock on the Reeveshall seawall on Tuesday 27th.

Another image by Andy of a curlew sandpiper on the mud. Other birds noted included 6 greenshank, 2 common sandpiper, 2 little tern, 10 whinchat, 6 wheatear, 4 yellow wagtail, hobby and 3 marsh harriers.

Steve Grimwade walked the Cudmore Grove to Shop Lane circuit with his Swallow Birding colleagues on Wednesday 28th and noted 7 curlew sandpipers in the Pyefleet as well as a juvenile black tern, 27 little terns, green sandpiper, 120 ringed plover, 12 yellow wagtails, 2 sparrowhawk, 2 common buzzards, marsh harrier while closer to the park were 2 whinchat, 2 wheatear, willow warbler and 20 snipe on the pools.
Also noted on the walk were 5 clouded yellow butterflies, common seal, brown hare and a water vole.

The high tide roost this week at the pools in the park's grazing fields have almost been like the mid winter roosts with a big concentration of waders and teal. There appeared to be a big influx of teal following the heavy rain last Saturday with around 350 present by Wednesday, along with 7 wigeon present by Thursday.

Up to 200 redshank and 150 black-tailed godwits were roosting on Thursday 29th as well as 30 lapwing, 10 snipe and 2 golden plover. Twenty five yellow wagtails were round the feet of the cattle.
The little egrets have been roosting on and by the pools in record numbers with 47 counted on Wednesday mid afternoon. By late afternoon 31 birds were standing in the pools, which was a great sight.

This wheatear was seen on the park seawall along with two others in the area near the Point on Thursday. At least one whinchat was on the thistles in the fields as were 10 goldfinches while 20 linnets were at the Point. In the Colne 10 common terns and 4 little terns were seen but no sign of any black terns.

A hobby flew west over the fields to the north of the park on Thursday and one was also seen flying high over the Point as it headed south-east over the Colne. A male sparrowhawk flew over the park entrance on Thursday.

Dave Allen noted one whinchat, wheatear and 65 ringed plover during his walk along the seawall on Tuesday 27th.

Andy noted a brown argus butterfly and also this paler coloured clouded yellow, which sounds like it was the "helice" form along the Reeveshall seawall on Tuesday. On Wednesday he saw the hummingbird hawkmoth on the buddleia by the park hide, back again for its second day here. The painted lady and up to ten small tortoiseshells have been feeding on the buddleia in the car park in the last few days. Up to 20 common blue butterflies were seen at the park today, most inside the seawall. Also 5 small red-eyed damselflies on the weed in the borrowdyke.

It got muggy enough towards the end of Thursday afternoon for the flying ants to take to the air at the park.

 Once some of the ants climbed to the top of the nearest grass stalk they were off into the air in their masses. Waiting for them in the skies were up to 2000 black-headed gulls and at least a couple of Mediterranean gulls circling round above the park. Later on, many gulls dropped down onto the sea where they appeared to swim around picking off ants that had fallen on the water.

Moth trapping at the park during Tuesday night produced about 125 individuals of 25 species of macro moth. This canary-shouldered thorn was the first one noted here this season, a regular late summer moth at the park in small numbers. Other species included swallow prominent, maidens blush, blood-vein, lime-speck pug, chinese character, square spot rustic, flounced rustic, common wainscot, white-point and light emeralds.

Monday, 26 August 2013


The bank holiday Monday 26th was a hot day with blue sky for most of the day, although with quite a strong breeze blowing throughout. The beaches on Mersea were busy with the holiday crowds and this section of seawall between Coopers Beach and the Youth Camp was busy with many walkers.

A visit around the middle of the day to the Rewsalls marshes revealed a common sandpiper along the dyke, a wheatear flying from the beach onto the field and 2 willow warblers amongst a small mixed flock of blackcaps, whitethroats, greenfinches and goldfinches in Coopers Beach bushes. A kestrel, 2 juvenile green woodpeckers, 25 swallows and 2 sand martins were also seen over the marshes.

Offshore the tide was coming in and 80 golden plover was the main wader flock of note, while 5 little egrets were noted along the water's edge.

Two clouded yellow butterflies were seen over a corner of grassy set-aside near the East Mersea church.

Steve Entwistle was busy birding parts of the Island during the day with a wheatear and sedge warbler noted at the park in the morning along with two painted ladies. In the late afternoon along the Pyefleet near Maydays 3 whinchat, 2 wheatears, four Arctic terns flew past with one landed on the mud, 6 curlew sandpipers as well as a few knot and bar-tailed godwit, rounded off with a barn owl near the farm.
Two clouded yellows were seen along the Maydays seawall.

On Langenhoe Marshes a wryneck was a rare record for here, seen by Richard Hull and Richard Brown on Monday afternoon. The previous day 8 curlew sandpipers, 9 ruff, 3 whinchats and 2 wheatears were also noted here.

The butterflies enjoyed another sunny day on the Island with this common blue feeding in the Firs Chase garden the first sighting of the year here. Other butterflies noted here were speckled wood egg-laying on long grass stalks, holly blue, meadow brown, hedge brown, large white, small white, small tortoiseshell, red admiral and peacock.

A willow warbler was calling from trees in the garden and in the skies above a mixed flock of fifty swallows and house martins circled around all day.

A handful of silver Y moths were seen during the day in the garden with some of them feeding on the lavender and salvia flowers.

A visit to the Point on Sunday 25th saw at least two whinchats, maybe three, perched on bushes and tall plants on the saltmarsh and the seawall. Also in the area were 20 linnets and a corn bunting too, while offshore a little tern and 5 common terns flew past.

On the fields the water level has risen a lot following the two inches of rain on Saturday afternoon. The extra water made it better for ducks with 300 teal a big increase, also 200 black-tailed godwit, 100 redshank, 15 snipe and 13 little egrets amongst the pools too. Ten yellow wagtails were feeding around the feet of the cows.

Saturday, 24 August 2013


Regular checks of the butterflies in the Firs Chase garden on a sunny Friday 23rd paid off with the discovery of this brown argus pictured above. It was the only butterfly on the clump of flowering mint in the back-garden and spent a fair amount of time enjoying the mint.

It's the first sighting of brown argus in this garden and probably the first known sighting in any West Mersea garden. The nearest possible breeding site where it might've come from would be the seawall beyond the Dabchicks sailing club over 500m to the north.

Other butterflies in the garden were small tortoiseshell, peacock, red admiral, red admiral, small white, large white, speckled wood and holly blue. A painted lady was seen feeding on buddleia near the Dabchicks.

Plenty of mud on show during the mid morning walk alongside the Strood on Friday. Waders noted included 6 greenshank, 250 redshank, 300 black-tailed godwits, 30 grey plover and 25 golden plover. A pair of little grebes and a family of reed buntings were seen along the borrowdyke.

A sparrowhawk flew over Firs Chase being mobbed by several swallows while higher up 20+ house martins and a couple of sand martins flew around.

Spent an hour on the water off West Mersea watching some of the sailing regatta in which this winklebrig boat belonging to Mark Farthing was taking part. There was no sign of the harbour porpoise which had been seen earlier in the week a couple of times by Ian Black near the Nass beacon.
Forty five common terns were roosting on Cobmarsh Island and a greenshank flew over the moorings calling.

After a light drizzly start to the day, the heavens opened and torrential rain fell during the afternoon as this picture of the back-garden shows. It wasn't a day for garden butterflies!

This orange swift moth was one of about 25 species recorded at the country park on Wednesday night. Other moths included flounced rustic, silver Y, pebble prominent, flame shoulder, lesser broad bordered yellow underwing, straw underwing, brimstone, latticed heath, magpie, chinese character and common rustic.

On Thursday morning the little ringed plover was still present for its third day on the grazing fields along with fifty teal.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Thrilled to discover a silver-washed fritillary feeding on the buddleia in the car park on Tuesday 20th and again on Wednesday 21st. Members of the weekly health walk had been watching this unfamiliar butterfly and had asked me to have a look at it. I quickly grabbed my camera to record the first ever sighting on Mersea Island of this large member of the fritillary family. The butterfly was in a very poor condition and was very tatty around the edges.

The markings suggest a male with the black scent markings along some of the veins on the upperwing. The brown hairs on the body appear to have worn away to a greeny-yellow colour.

The underside is very faded although the faint silvery- white colouring can just be made out on the hindwing.
The butterfly seemed quite attracted to the buddleia and was often disturbed by people walking past it, often flying away a short distance but always returning to feed.

The silver-washed fritillary has been expanding its range across Essex in recent years with individuals turning up in woodlands and other locations too. They breed usually in oak woodlands where the dog violet plants grow which the young caterpillars feed on. This individual won't be staying to breed on Mersea Island as there's no suitable habitat for it.

The buddleia bushes by the hide had a nice selection of butterflies on it with 10 small tortoiseshells, 5 peacocks and a red admiral along with a few meadow browns and a few whites too. A purple hairstreak was above some oaks along the park horseride on Wednesday.

Andy Field logged the first hummingbird hawkmoth for the Island this year, on his plumbago plant in his West Mersea garden on Tuesday afternoon.
An adder was basking at the park on Tuesday early evening.

A little ringed plover was found on the mud on the pools in the park's grazing fields on Tuesday afternoon. It was still present on Wednesday too, often feeding close to the roosting redshank and black-tailed godwits pictured above. This is the first record in these grazing fields of a little ringed plover, bringing the total of different wader species seen in the grazing fields over the last twenty years to a very respectable 28 species.

There was also a record high tide roost count of 29 little egrets in the trees behind the park pond, seen by Andy Field on Wednesday. Three yellow wagtails flew off the fields on Tuesday and five snipe and 20 lapwing were seen too.

Monday, 19 August 2013


Walked the Maydays seawall on a warm Sunday 18th in search of some of the clouded yellows seen during the week. Finally managed to find this one pictured above, having walked a fair distance and then beginning to retrace my steps back to head home. The breeze was lighter on the Pyefleet side of the seawall which is where many butterflies were feeding on the mass of golden samphire plants. This clouded yellow was pausing briefly to feed on the yellow flowers before skipping on to the next clump to feed.

Amongst the many other butterflies on the golden samphire were three painted ladies, one of them pictured above.

The small tortoiseshells were the most numerous with about thirty nectaring on the yellow flowers of the golden samphire. Other butterflies noted included small white, large white, meadow brown, hedge brown, common blue with speckled wood near the farm.

Keeping a close eye on my seawall endeavours were these two common seals basking on the mud on the opposite side of the Pyefleet Channel. Further up channel were another three seals up on the edge of the saltmarsh.

Waders noted along the Pyefleet mud included 2 curlew sandpipers, 50 dunlin, one sanderling,170 ringed plover, 70 grey plover, 90 avocet, 30 black-tailed godwit and 100 redshank. Two greenshank flew out of Maydays creek and 3 green sandpipers flew over Reeveshall.

Along the Pyefleet was the family of shelduck with 10 ducklings, 4 common tern and little tern while on Langenhoe 4 marsh harriers were flying about, 4 kestrels hovering and a spiralling "kettle" of 300 rooks and jackdaws high over the western end.

More butterflies were on the wing on Monday 19th along the Strood seawall with this brown argus posing obligingly for me. It was one of two noted along the inside of the seawall. I had to check the pattern of spots on the underside to separate it from common blue, one pictured below. The brown argus has the pair of black dots close to the leading edge of this hindwing, which common blue lacks.

This male common blue was one of a handful of individuals on the wing inside the seawall. One brown female was also noted but much smaller than the brown argus.

The tide was up during the Monday walk alongside the Strood but 3 common sandpipers were of interest while 30+ golden plover hiding in a stubble field were also seen. A hobby flew over the back of the fields before heading west over the channel to Feldy. Four common terns were hawking along the channel and 12 little egrets were resting on the Ray saltings.

A wheatear on top of the seawall is the first one of the autumn on the Island, a willow warbler was calling near the caravan site and two yellow wagtails were on the saltmarsh. Eight corn buntings were also of interest, one flying over to Ray Island.

The Firs Chase garden was a good place for more butterfly watching over the weekend with eleven species seen on Monday including three of these holly blues.

The surprise visitor was this small copper which dropped briefly in during Monday afternoon, although not the first sighting for the garden. Other butterflies on the wing mainly feeding on the buddleia were 12 peacock, 10 small tortoiseshell, comma, red admiral, 5 large white, 10 small white, 2 green-veined white, gatekeeper and meadow brown.

Other insects of note included two hornet hoverflies, 10 migrant hawkers, common darter and 10 silver-Y moths.

At the country park on Sunday two red underwings moths were resting on the outside of the information room during the day and a painted lady was on the nearby buddleia.

Friday, 16 August 2013


This grass-snake had been apparently run over in St Peters Road, at the Coast Road end and was found by Caroline Belcher. Although there is a small wound visible, it still seems in reasonable condition if a car had run over it. Sadly quite a few grass-snakes get run over as they move from one garden to another.

At East Mersea a hedgehog dead in Bromans Lane was comforting to know they're still in that area but sad that there's one less hedgehog now.
A muntjac deer luckily had some road-sense near Weir Farm by the East Mersea road when one thought about crossing the road early on Tuesday 13th but turned back towards the copse as I drove slowly past it.

Andy Field counted about a dozen clouded yellow butterflies along the Reeveshall seawall on Monday 12th, one of them pictured above. Together with the three Martin had a few days earlier on the Maydays seawall, these sightings are reminiscent of the last big influx into southern England in 2000 when about 34 clouded yellows were seen in a number of localities in East Mersea during August into September.

The high count of eighteen species of wader were noted at Reeveshall by Andy, including a curlew sandpiper, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, greenshank and whimbrel.

At the country park on Wednesday 14th, there was the usual wader roost on the pools in the grazing fields with 50 black-tailed godwits and 50 redshank gathered here during high tide. Some of the godwits were feeding in the field along with a handful of curlew. At the park pond a boisterous group of 15 magpies were trying to disrupt the little egret roost of 18 birds. A handful of magpies seemed to target the egrets on the periphery of the roost by perching nearby and pestering them with their beaks. The little egrets soon gave in and flew off.

The buddleia bush in the car park has had up to eight species of butterfly on it with the main ones being small tortoiseshells, peacocks and a single painted lady.

Like the clouded yellow butterfly, this dark swordgrass moth is an immigrant from the continent. Although it's regarded as a regular immigrant to the UK, it's not very regular at the park with just one individual a year being noted here.
Amongst the 20 species noted on a cool Tuesday night were poplar hawkmoth, oak hooktip, least carpet, red twin-spot carpet, buff ermine, ruby tiger, magpie, dusky sallow, flounced rustic and common / lesser common rustics.

The micro moth mother of pearl, pictured above, was the largest of the micros in the trap. It is a common moth and there have been several of them noted in the trap over the last fortnight or so. They're often found amongst nettle-beds, the foodplant of the caterpillars.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013


This sparrowhawk was seen taking a blackbird from the garden of Lyn and Charles Williams, who took this photo, in Queen Ann Road in West Mersea recently. A few pairs of sparrowhawk have nested again on the Island and adult birds have been visiting gardens for food to feed their hungry young.

On Monday at the park the birds on the grazing fields were first disturbed by a sparrowhawk that flew over the pools towards the pond. Later in the day a marsh harrier glided north over the same area scattering all the roosting waders and other birds away. Amongst the waders here were 20 black-tailed godwits, 24 lapwing and a couple of redshank. Twenty four teal were also seen on the pools earlier in the day and 15 little egrets roosted at the pond. A Mediterranean gull flew away from the pools and a yellow wagtail called as it passed over.
A willow warbler was heard calling from bushes in the car park.

On the Langenhoe ranges on Sunday 11th, Andy Field and Richard Hull noted a wood sandpiper, curlew sandpiper, 15 green sandpiper, 6 common sandpiper, 2 whimbrel, ruff, 8 greenshank, 42 avocet, 12 yellow wagtails, 3 marsh harriers, 30 snipe and 80 black-tailed godwits.

The first wasp spider of the season was located in the long grass of the park on Sunday 11th. Having made a conscious effort to try and find the first one of the year, this individual pictured above was found surprisingly promptly within the first dozen or so paces into the long grass. No doubt there are plenty of others around other areas of long grass too.

The butterflies are enjoying the ongoing hot weather with this small copper seen at the park, surprisingly the first one of the year here. It was a surprise not to see any in the spring. Also at the park were common blue, masses of gatekeepers on the bramble flowers and up to eight species on the one white buddleia bush in the car park which included a painted lady.

A recent moth trap session produced about 90 moths of 25 species which included this rosy rustic pictured above. A widespread moth, several are noted here during the late summer period. It's colour pattern seems to match the colour of a dead leaf. 

This twin-spotted wainscot almost went unnoticed in the trap. A small white dot is visible on each wing but the second of the "twin-spots" is barely noticeable alongside each white dot. This species has been recorded on a couple of occasions in the past here but is generally a scarce moth, restricted to reedbeds and marshes in southern England.

Saturday, 10 August 2013


This was a proud South Devon bull in the park's grazing fields, as he stood admiring the latest offspring of his to be born earlier in the morning.

The water level in the grazing field's pools is dropping gradually, exposing more mud around the edges. Numbers of waders here at high tide on Saturday included 25 black-tailed godwits, 6 redshank, 12 lapwing and 2 snipe. Fifteen teal are also feeding in the shallow water. Along the borrowdyke 20 mallard and two tufted duck with 14 ducklings were also present and feeding amongst the grassland were 200 starlings.
On Friday a greenshank flew over the pools calling but didn't come down and also 5 yellow wagtails were feeding in the fields. A whimbrel flew over the shore calling.
The little egret roost in the trees was up to 19 birds with nine of them at the pond.

At the beginning of Saturday a bit of bird activity was watched near the park entrance where a willow warbler, 2 blackcaps, 5 whitethroats, 2 lesser whitethroats, 2 song thrushes, as well as small numbers of greenfinch, goldfinch and chaffinch.

The sunshine brought out four adders basking on top of each other in their usual spot near the car park. Amongst the great numbers of butterflies around the park a painted lady was the main one of note on the buddleia in the car park.

In the early evening an hour's visit along the Reeveshall seawall including the pool provided views of 2 common sandpiper, 3 green sandpiper, 2 greenshank, 180 black-tailed godwit, 150 avocet, 25 ringed plover, 20 grey plover and 3 whimbrel. On the pool an adult avocet was feeding beside two fledged young avocets, although these ones aren't Mersea born.

Three marsh harriers flew over Langenhoe, a female was sitting on Reeveshall. Along the Pyefleet one common tern and a common seal were noted. A male yellowhammer was singing from a bush top, 3 reed warblers in the reeds, while in the Shop Lane wood a young sparrowhawk called as did a willow warbler.

A reasonable haul of moths during Thursday night on a warm and muggy night provided over 300 moths of 55 species of macro moth. The big red underwing pictured above was the main star of the show, the first appearance of the season so far. Although several are noted at the park at the end of each summer, very few drop into the trap, with most resting up on the side of buildings.
The various other underwing moths seen were large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, lesser broad bordered yellow underwing, least yellow underwing, copper underwing and straw underwing.

This freshly emerged blood-vein caught the eye with its bold red line across the wings and the pink fringe to the wings too.
Two tree lichen beauties were also of note in the trap.

In West Mersea a muntjac deer was seen sprinting out of a neighbour's drive in Firs Chase by my wife Nolly and she watched it climb a six foot fence to escape into another garden on Friday morning. A muntjac was also recently seen crossing the road near Blue Row late one night. A grey squirrel, and not a red one, was reported in a back garden in Seaview Avenue recently too.

Thursday, 8 August 2013


Andy Field took this nice clear image of a little stint at Maydays on Tuesday 6th. It's the smallest wader that turns up on Mersea, measuring only 13cms (5 inches), so a good photo for such a small bird. Only one or two are usually found each year as they stop off during their autumn migration. Most little stints have often been found feeding with dunlin, although on this occasion this bird was by itself when it was observed by Andy and Martin Cock.
A cuckoo was also seen at Maydays that morning too.

A female tufted duck has taken on the job of watching over two broods of ducklings along the park borrowdyke. Fifteen ducklings seemed at first to be too many to hatch out from one female, until a second female was spotted 30 metres away watching over a single duckling. Both broods were of the same age and size and all responded to the calls and concerns of the one mother, pictured above in a digi-binned image. All the ducklings were busy feeding by diving under for several seconds at a time.
A water vole scuttled along the bank of the dyke behind the ducklings on Thursday 8th.

Interested to see the little egret high tide roost had swollen from the usual 7 birds to 18 birds near the park pond on Thursday 8th. Seven of the birds can just about be made out in this dig-binned image above. At one point all the egrets flew out of the copse with 14 birds landing back down on top of the old kestrel oak tree.

On the pools nearby 20 black-tailed godwits, 14 lapwing, snipe, 2 redshank, 10 teal and 10 mallard. On Tuesday 6th there were two snipe present on the pools and a yellow wagtail on the seawall. A female marsh harrier flew low over the pools and the park pond too, scattering the egrets off the trees and upsetting the coots and moorhens on the water. A Mediterranean gull flew over the car park and a whimbrel called from the foreshore on Wednesday 7th. Up to fifty swallows passed over the park with several sand martins noted with them.

Three purple hairstreak butterflies were noted high up on an oak tree at the park on Tuesday evening and a painted lady was also seen at the park too. Along the borrowdyke at least 20 small red-eyed damselflies were resting on the algae in one small area. A couple of emperors were hawking up and down the water.

This lesser stag beetle picture was taken by David Nicholls, found in his Queen Ann Road garden a few days ago. One or two are often seen at the park each year although the only one noted this year was sadly dead.

Also in West Mersea Adrian Amos reported hearing the calls of young sparrowhawks from the Oakwood Avenue area. A sparrowhawk was also seen on Tuesday gliding over the allotment field.