Monday, 29 September 2014


There was plenty of activity on the water in the Mersea Quarters on Saturday 28th. Pictured above were some of the competitors taking part in the RYA East Zone Championship sailing back to the Hard.

Birds noted from the Hard included 200 black-tailed godwits standing on a mudbank as the tide came in. Another 200 black-tailed godwits were also noted close to the Dabchicks sailing club. A common tern was hawking amongst the moorings while 100+ turnstones were counted resting on boats near the jetty.
A rock pipit flew over St Peters Marsh calling in the afternoon.

Some of the 200+ black-tailed godwits seen in the Strood Channel on Saturday morning near the Dabchicks. Mark Dixon commented on the large number seen here recently, counting 400 godwits feeding here a few days previously.
Jane Dixon also saw the great white egret by Cobmarsh Island the previous weekend on the 21st.

Mark was also pleased to see a red squirrel run across his garden by the Dabchicks a fortnight previously.

During a brief show of the sun on Saturday afternoon this small tortoiseshell was on the wing on St Peters Meadow, West Mersea. A small white was also seen briefly in flight.

Basking on a heap of dead grass were a couple of common lizards, seen just a few metres from the end of the St Peters Meadow boardwalk.
A sparrowhawk was seen in hot, but failed pursuit of a meadow pipit over Firs Chase on Saturday afternoon.

There was the unexpected call of a tawny owl late on Sunday night calling in the Lane and Firs Chase area. One was also heard by Martin Cock very late on Sunday 28th in the Coverts/ Broomhills area. These are the first callngs heard in these two areas for over ten or fifteen years.
The pied blackbird made an appearance again after an absence of several months in the Firs Chase garden on Monday 29th.

The tide was low during the mid morning walk along the Strood Channel on Saturday 27th. Along the mud were a kingfisher in flight that landed by the sluice outflow, 120 wigeon, 100 teal, 500 golden plover, 5 greenshank, and one knot. Seven little grebes and eight little egrets were seen along the Channel.

A male stonechat was perched on a bramble bush in the dyke, two reed warblers, 4 reed buntings, 10 skylarks, 100 linnets and 10 meadow pipits were some of the small birds noted. There was no sign of the wheatear that was seen by the seawall on Friday 26th.
A sparrowhawk flew across the Channel towards the trees on Ray Island while a male kestrel seemed to be seeing off the island a female/ youngster across the Strood Channel.

A swallow was still flying around the Dabchicks apparently the family has only just fledged chicks in the last few days.

The moth trap in the Firs Chase garden produced a few moths during the night of Thursday 25th with this barred sallow pictured above one of the typical autumn species noted.

The pine carpet used to to be a scarce moth but seems to be on the increase in recent years.

The common marbled carpet is a widespread moth and occurs in small numbers each year.

Other moths of interest from the 15 species noted included spruce carpet, red-green carpet and L-album wainscot.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


The greylag geese flock of about 80 birds were busy feeding around the marshy margins of the pools in the grazing fields in the country park on Thursday 25th.

As well as the geese there was a good number of other waders and ducks during the high tide roost in the early afternoon with over a 1000 birds here. Main flocks were the 500+ teal and the 500 redshank along with wigeon, a few snipe, black-tailed godwit, lapwing and curlew too.

A common buzzard circled over the field on the north side which appeared to unsettle many of the roosting birds. A short while later a female sparrowhawk then flew low over the fields and again the teal and redshank were startled.

Around 70 little egrets were beside the park pond and pools such as this group pictured above. Despite little egrets being around here for several years now, the scene above still looked more appropriate for a Mediterranean wetland than one on the Essex coast.

A kingfisher flew across the pond heading east across the fields without stopping in the morning. Swallow passage has dwindled to a trickle with only about 20 birds noted during the day heading west. In bushes by the pond 3 blackcaps and a song thrush were seen.

Pleased to see this autumn small copper at the park in the morning as they have been scarce at the park this summer.

A handful of speckled wood butterflies fluttered along the various paths, this one above resting on a footpath sign.

A couple of red admirals were seen nectaring on a flowering ivy bush in the car park.
A large white and a couple of small whites were seen on the park.
There's still a good showing of common darter and migrant hawker dragonflies around the park at the moment.

Something seems to have torn open this wasps nest found lying on the ground.

This might be the last photo of an adder this autumn as they will soon be heading underground to hibernate. This one was very wary and was soon disappearing down the nearby rabbit hole as I clicked the camera.
Two common lizards were also basking in the afternoon sunshine on a log.

One or two of the wild cherry trees around the park are putting on a colourful show.


Just returned from a short break away, sort of following the same route as some of the summer migrants chasing the sunshine south over the Channel.
Back on the country park on Wednesday 24th, numbers of wildfowl have increased on the fields with 80 greylag geese now grazing along with 150 wigeon and 500+ teal around the pools. The high tide roost brought more birds in with 400+ redshank, 50 black-tailed godwits, 30 lapwing and 25 curlew. On the park pond 70 little egrets roosted in the trees in the middle of the day.

The sun brightened up the evening walk along the beach to East Mersea Point with the tide well out on the mudflats. A flock of 18 brent geese were drinking and bathing in their favoured spot by Batemans Tower by Brightlingsea. Four brent were reported yesterday with the first brent seen from East Mersea this autumn being a week ago by Andy Field.

Also seen on Wednesday evening a wheatear on the beach at the Point, 120 golden plover on the mud, 15 avocets flying out of the river to feed, a marsh harrier flying up river to roost for the night and a couple of small groups of shelduck flying back into the estuary for the winter.

A couple of goldcrests were feeding with the long-tailed tit flock at the park in the morning and 10 swallows were seen flying west.
Martin Cock saw a little owl in the morning fly along the hedgeline near the park entrance. At the end of the day a little owl was seen at dusk in Bromans Lane and a second bird nearby beside the East Mersea road.

Bird highlights over the last fortnight on the Island included a tree pipit seen perched briefly at the country park by Andy Field, also a grey wagtail flying over here too the day before. Four wheatears were seen between the park and the Point by Andy too.

Ian Black saw a great white egret in the Mersea Quarters including Cobmarsh Island on 10th and 11th September, presumably the same bird that had been frequenting Abberton reservoir just a few days earlier. A search in the evening on the 11th by Andy Field from Coast Road failed to find it but did turn up an unexpected spoonbill seen standing on Cobmarsh. After a few minutes it flew off and wasn't seen again.

Sadly a lot of the rabbits around the country park have got the myxomatosis disease which reappears at the end of each summer at the park.

Three adders at the park were reported by some visitors on a sunny Tuesday 23rd.Butterflies seen at the park on Thursday included large white, small white and speckled wood. Andy Field reported a clouded yellow at East Mersea Point on 19th.

Five common seals were seen in the Pyefleet Channel by Maydays farm by a walker whilst doing a circuit of the Island path on Tuesday 23rd.

The cloudy night on the 23rd produced a haul of 110+ moths to the trap at the park including this sallow moth pictured above.Apart from masses of craneflies in the trap, half of the moth catch was made up with lots of lunar underwings.

This pale marked beaded chestnut was also noted, the first one of the autumn here. Most of the beaded chestnuts are a darker chestnut colour.

Three autumnal rustics were also the first ones seen this autumn, always very pale looking.

The rather featureless deep-brown dart usually makes an appearance each autumn with one or two individuals. Two were noted on this occasion in the morning.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The little egrets gathered at their high tide roost in the trees by the country park pond are a spectacle to behold especially when they take to the air such as these 25 egrets did on Tuesday 9th. Eighty birds in the trees was a site record. Three grey herons were also in the trees with the egrets.

More little egrets appeared at the roost on Wednesday 10th when at least 95 birds were counted in the willow trees. There is a lot of squawking and bickering going on during the roost and it's not a peaceful spot for an egret to snooze while the high tide covers their feeding grounds on the nearby mudflats.

The kingfisher was heard a couple of times during the day at the pond and was finally seen by Steve Entwistle after several visits over the last month, on Wednesday evening.

There was a surprise visit to the park pools of an adult little stint on Tuesday afternoon. It fed along one of the muddy edges in close proximity to the large redshank roost of 250 birds. The stint didn't stay long and soon disappeared when the redshank flew back to the mudflats. It's the first little stint on the fields for over 15 years.

Good numbers of redshank gathered for the high tide roost in the fields on Wednesday with 450+ birds counted. Only 10 black-tailed godwits, 20 lapwing, 50 teal, 5 wigeon and one snipe. Ten snipe flew off the marshy area beside the pools on Monday afternoon. Two greenshank could be heard calling from the mudflats on Wednesday afternoon.
Andy Field saw three wheatears on his walk to the Point on Wednesday.
A little owl perched on a telegraph post opposite the East Mersea shop at dusk on Wednesday.

On Tuesday a spotted flycatcher was seen near the trees at the park pond and perched on the kestrel tree to flycatch from. The first whinchat of the autumn at the park was on the clifftop with a wheatear, later moving to the fields. Three other wheatears were seen on the Point as were 30 linnets. The kingfisher flew over the seawall and along the dyke near the Golfhouse.

An adder was seen at the park enjoying the sunshine on Tuesday morning. Butterflies seen on the wing have included speckled wood, small heath, small white and red admiral.

Spent the last hour of Tuesday evening walking the Pyefleet seawall near Reeveshall. The large pool here has been gradually drying up through the summer with the only two birds seen during the visit were two green sandpipers. Ten yellow wagtails flew away from the cattle to their roost and a sparrowhawk was chased away by some crows.

Along the Pyefleet were noted common sandpiper, greenshank, 50 avocets and 100 black-tailed godwits. Five marsh harriers were seen flying about over the Langenhoe marshes.

A muntjac deer was glimpsed in the car headlights at the north end of Shop Lane as night fell.

Forty moths were in the trap after Tuesday night's session with all the familiar faces on show again such as this common snout pictured above. Some of the other moths noted were large yellow underwing, square spot rustic, flounced rustic, setaceous hebrew character, brimstone and single dotted wave.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014


 Andy Field and Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Island on a sunny Monday 8th as part of the national high tide wader and wildfowl count. Glyn passed these photos to me such as this obliging whinchat pictured above, one of seven noted along the seawall - Five at Maydays and two near the Oyster Fishery.

Also heading south with the whinchats were three wheatears, one pictured above.
The only other migrant count of note was of eight yellow wagtails.

Two sparrowhawks were seen briefly together, this one passing nicely overhead.
The sunny weather also saw eight common buzzards and two hobbies in flight.

This common tern was one of about ten seen in the Pyefleet channel.
Also of interest along the channel were 4 greenshank, common sandpiper and a whimbrel.

Sunday, 7 September 2014


This grey squirrel was found on the beach by Cosways caravan park in East Mersea by Roo Watkins on Sunday 7th. Being found on the beach would suggest that it had been recently washed up by the sea with the first report of it here was a couple of days ago.

There was an interesting observation earlier in the week of a grey squirrel seen swimming across the river Colne from Fingringhoe, scrabbling across the mud on the east shore and then scampering into nearby Alresford Grange Wood. It will be a worry if more try their luck by swimming onto Mersea Island.

Following the release of red squirrels from the wood near Victory Road in West Mersea last week, I had two more reports of sightings of one of the reds. David Nicholls relayed a sighting by a friend near Queen Ann Road and Prince Albert Road on Friday. About the same time Ann Cock enjoyed good views of one in Willoughby car park, presumably the same individual.

Apart from watching the swans swim serenely across the park pond on Sunday, the main highlight was seeing an osprey fly over late morning. It was watched approaching the pond from the east, passing over the grazing fields, then over the pond which it glanced down at whilst continuing purposely onwards to the west.
Interestingly, there was a report of an osprey seen flying west over the Abberton Reservoir visitor centre, about forty minutes later, presumably the same bird.

During mid afternoon a common buzzard flew west over the pond, fairly low down and as it was being watched passing overhead, a second bird could be seen much higher up, followed a few minutes later by another common buzzard high up. All the birds of prey seen drifting westwards over the park.

A female sparrowhawk was keeping low when it headed low over the fields and into the copse behind the pond. The kingfisher showed well again at least twice during the day, seen dropping into the water to catch small fish as well as diving in several times to help with preening. When it left the pond in the morning, the kingfisher flew directly towards and over the top of the hide as it headed south.

On Saturday 6th two wheatears were on the beach, 2 sanderling, the kingfisher flew along the dyke in the morning, 2 whimbrel calling, 100 golden plover flew overhead,10 common terns were feeding with a group of gulls in the river and there was also a feeding flock of 20 cormorants swimming in close formation in the river.

On the fields 200 teal, 5 wigeon, 2 snipe, 100 redshank, 10 black-tailed godwit, 5 shoveler were seen with 25 little egrets in the trees, 2 gadwall and 3 tufted duck on the pond. The kestrel was perched back on its tree.

Around the park 2 goldcrest were calling from the clifftop trees, a swift flew over the car park with 30 swallows and 5 house martins. Three blackcaps, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, chiffchaff and reed warblers were seen in various bushes near the pond.

On Friday a spotted flycatcher perched briefly on top of a bush in the car park in the morning before flying west.

After a misty start to Sunday with a short light shower late morning, the day improved with plenty of sunshine. Some flowering ivy bushes in a hedge just north of the park were buzzing with bees and also this red admiral too.

Butterflies seen in the park on Sunday were 3 common blue, 4 speckled wood, 4 small heath, 2 large white, 10 small white and a comma. Five small red-eyed damselflies were seen on the park dyke resting on the vegetation on the surface.
Two adders were basking in the sun on Sunday at the park and one was also reported on Friday in a field near the bus turning circle.

A doe muntjac deer strolled along the hedge at the back of the grazing fields on Saturday mid morning, nibbling leaves as it went. Offshore from the park a common seal swam past 70m from the shore at high tide.

Fifty moths were in the trap at the park after Saturday night session with this L-album wainscot the only new one for the season. There should be several more of these ones noted at the park over the next two or three weeks.

Thursday, 4 September 2014


Thinking the moths in the trap at the park were being eaten by a mouse was proved wrong when the culprit revealed itself as a common shrew! The trap had operated during Wednesday night and after being checked in the morning, was then put to one side and partially covered over - but not emptied of the fifty moths inside.

Towards dusk on Thursday 4th, consideration was being given to set the trap up again, except I noticed there was a little furry visitor with a long pointed snout scrabbling around inside the trap! After a couple of minutes of looking up and then scuttling away to hide under the egg-trays, the very nimble shrew reached up one corner and scrambled up and out of the trap. It ran into the thick leaves in the back garden and it could be heard making its escape to safety as it rustled the leaves in its path.

Needless to say there were few moths alive still in the trap after the shrew had been inside - only small piles of moth wings! Many moths will have flown from the trap during the morning, just after it is first put away.

The well marked burnished brass pictured above, with the brassy sheen on the wings was one of the moths in the trap. The main moth in the trap was a big poplar hawkmoth which had been lifted out of the trap first thing and hidden in a bush to escape the attentions of hungry robins and the tit party.
A dozen Chinese characters, large thorn, maidens blush and blood-vein were some of the 20 species of macro found.
The water vole was posing at the side of its small ditch near the seawall. It looked a bit nervous while I took one or two photos before it plopped into the water and swam away.

The park pond was a scene of lots of activity and lots of birds during Thursday afternoon. The highlight was the appearance twice by the kingfisher, once in mid afternoon and then a couple of hours later, it came back from the dyke to perch and feed. It was seen to dive down to catch a tiddler of a fish, whack it on the branch and then swallow it.

Also on the pond were 37 little egrets and a grey heron at the high tide roost. Most of the ducks in the picture above are mallard about 75, also seen were a gadwall, 25 teal, 3 shoveler, 4 little grebes and the family of 5 swans including the white cygnet. Two reed warblers were calling from the reedmace.

In the grazing field pools 30 lapwing, 100 teal, 2 snipe, 100 redshank, 30 black-tailed godwit, 5 wigeon, 4 shoveler were present late afternoon. Other birds seen at the park during the day were sparrowhawk over the car park, 7 mistle thrushes after the rowan berries, yellow wagtail flying over and 100 swallows at dusk.

It has taken till the start of September to find the first wasp spider at the park. This one wasn't a fully grown female but was hanging on its web in the long grass, having spun up an insect.

Martin Cock saw two whinchats near the Shop Lane seawall on Tuesday.

The Haynes were very surprised to have a red squirrel near their beach hut close to Broomhills Road, on Wednesday afternoon before heading off towards Shears Court. Following a quick phone-call, it turns out that the small group of 3 red squirrels that had been penned up in the wood near Victory Road, were set free yesterday morning. Several sightings were being reported including one in Yorick Road which may've been this squirrel heading on its way to the beach huts.
More red squirrels are planned on being brought from both Norfolk and Surrey later this autumn to boost the introduction numbers.

A grass-snake was reported in a garden water butt in Mill Road on Thursday.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014


Michael Thorley found this willow warbler in his East Mersea garden near Meeting Lane on Monday 1st. The bright yellow underparts are typical of a juvenile bird.

In typical willow warbler fashion it was very active in the trees in his garden and Michael said it was difficult to photograph the bird as it wouldn't stay still long enough! These three pictures certainly show the bird clearly.

Willow warblers are passing through at the moment on their southward journey for the winter to Africa. Two were calling from the country park today, while one was also in Steve Entwistle's garden in West Mersea yesterday.

Andy Field passed me these three images of some of the spotted flycatchers seen near the park pond last week on Wednesday 27th. The flycatchers were also on their passage south to Africa.

Some of the spotted flycatchers were very obliging by perching in the elder bush right beside the hide.

Two spotted flycatchers seen here in the early evening were very busy catching flies. At least four birds were still present the following day.

On Wednesday 3rd a spotted flycatcher was seen in the evening behind the car park feeding alongside the arable field. It perched on the telegraph wires and although distant to look at, its distinctive behaviour was easy to recognise. Earlier in the evening 3 red-legged partridge were seen in the same arable field next to the car park.

There seemed a fair gathering of wildfowl on the park pond on Wednesday evening with 30 little egrets in the trees, 70 mallard, 2 shoveler, wigeon, 3 gadwall and the family of swans too. Earlier in the day the kingfisher was seen perching up in a couple of spots and the grey heron was high up in the trees.

On the pools for the evening roost were 200+ redshank, 20+ black-tailed godwits, 100+ teal, 5 wigeon and 2 shoveler.

At the park during the afternoon an adder was basking as usual and 4 common blue butterflies and 2 small heaths were seen by the long grass.

Steve Entwistle visited Maydays and noted 5 green sandpipers and 10 house martins on Wednesday afternoon.

The previous day Martin Cock noted at Maydays 12 green sandpipers, 2 ruff, 2 snipe, 2 greenshank, curlew sandpiper, wheatear, whinchat, peregrine, 2 marsh harriers and 2 common buzzards.

A marsh harrier was flying over the fields by the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall and 20 golden plover were near Chapmans Lane early on Tuesday morning.
Steve reported seeing a barn owl on Sunday night in Dawes Lane and also a painted lady and wheatear at the country park. A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen in his garden in Empress Drive over the weekend.

Ian Black was interested to see 300+ black-tailed godwits along the Strood channel on Saturday 30th.

Sarah Thorley was very surprised to see a badger cross the East Mersea road near Church Lane in broad daylight at 8am on Friday 29th. Once it managed to clamber up and out of the ditch it soon disappeared into the hedgerow near the village hall.

Monday, 1 September 2014


 There were four common seals loafing on the mud in the Pyefleet Channel, three of them pictured above, seen from the Maydays seawall on Monday 1st. The red- coloured seals showed signs of iron oxidation on the fur.

The tide was out during the late morning walk with a good variety of waders along the mudflats. Highlights were 3 curlew sandpipers, 3 greenshank, 2 common sandpipers, 10 bar-tailed godwits, 150 dunlin, 100 grey plover, 70 ringed plover and one knot. Also 8 shelducklings and five common terns were seen.

Two common buzzards were over Langenhoehall marshes and 3 marsh harriers were seen over the Langenhoe ranges.

The long grass on the side of the Maydays seawall was being cut down during my visit.

A whinchat and wheatear were perched together on one of the Reeveshall fences while 20 stock doves fed in one of the Maydays fields. A common buzzard and marsh harrier were also seen on the Mersea side.

Beside a nearby farm reservoir 4 ruff, 5 green sandpiper, common sandpiper, 3 snipe and 2 teal were seen.

Around the Maydays farm buildings some of the 20 house martins seen in the area were still nesting under the eaves of the house. A swift passed overhead just after mid-day. In nearby bushes 2 yellowhammers, 10 linnets, 20 greenfinches, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and a chiffchaff were watched.

Yesterday a swift passed over Martin Cock's West Mersea house along with a steady passage of swallows through the day.

Discovered this pretty little pest in our Firs Chase garden over the weekend - the rosemary beetle. Three of these small beetles were on the main stalks of a big rosemary bush. At first glance the 8mm sized beetles appear dark green but close-up they show the red stripes.

The rosemary beetle is originally from the Mediterranean and was first found in the UK only 20 years ago. It has since spread across most of England, Wales and into Scotland, where the adults and larvae feed on rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme. It's the first time I've seen it here on the Island.

This Old Lady moth was the biggest moth in the trap in Firs Chase during Sunday night. The big dark band across the wings has faded on this individual but it supposedly resembles the dark shawl worn by "old ladies".

Amongst the fifty other moths in the trap were light emerald, willow beauty, large yellow underwing, copper underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and shuttle-shaped dart.