Sunday, 21 June 2015


The lazy song of the yellowhammer - "little bit of bread and no cheese" was heard from a few bush tops at Maydays farm on a bright and breezy Sunday 21st with 4 males singing.
Also one corn bunting was singing too, possibly a second songster too, one female nest-building close to the seawall. Three reed buntings, three reed warblers were along the dyke or nearby.

A female cuckoo "bubbled" over the farmyard while a hepatic phase bird was seen again by the dyke and a dozen house martins were over the buildings.

A common buzzard was over Reeveshall, a Mediterranean gull flew over, a greylag goose family had at least two goslings, while grey heron and little egret flew out of the dyke and ditch.
In the Pyefleet two common terns, two great crested grebes, 30+ shelduck and 30+ redshank were seen as the tide came in. Other than a few oystercatchers no other waders were seen.
A common buzzard hung in the wind over the west end of Langenhoe ranges and a couple of kestrels were the only other raptors seen.

Although there was a strong breeze blowing over Maydays, several butterflies enjoyed the lee of the seawall such as this small tortoiseshell. Two painted ladies flew off rapidly after they were flushed from the long grass. Also noted were Essex skipper, common blue, 25 meadow browns, 8 small heaths and a small white.

Also enjoying the periods of sunshine were emperor dragonfly, black-tailed skimmer and four-spotted chaser.

Most of the butterflies at Maydays farm were enjoying this sheltered side of the seawall with lots of flowering narrow-leaved birds foot trefoil.

Flushed from the long grass was this neatly marked Mother Shipton moth, with its markings of an old lady's face on the wings.

On Saturday 20th the cuckoo was calling from the park in the morning and a painted lady was seen there too. The swallow is still nesting inside the bird hide.

On Friday 19th a young sedge warbler chick newly fledged was foraging on the seawall with its parent close-by. Further along the seawall another sedge warbler was heard singing from the top of a bush. Three oystercatchers were still in the middle of the fallow field and a cuckoo was heard singing from Ray Island. Over the fields and houses 25 swifts were seen flying about.

A red kite flew over Martin Cock's West Mersea garden on Thursday 18th in the morning. A walk by Martin at Maydays on Tuesday 16th provided another sighting of two hobbies flying over Langenhoe.

A bit of exotic colour near Hall Barn in West Mersea on Friday 19th was provided by a free-flying lovebird, that perched up in a birch tree and squawked happily away. Not sure which species but a light reddish face and green body showed up well. Sadly no sign of its companion!

The moth trap is producing a few more moths now that the nights are warming up a bit. Ninety moths of 18 species of macro moth were noted in the trap in Firs Chase by 5.30am on the 20th. This included this orange footman pictured above, a moth that has become more widespread in recent years here.

Two elephant hawk-moths were the most notable, while two thirds of the catch were lots of heart and darts. Also noted were marbled minor, heart and club, figure of eighty, flame shoulder, bright-line brown-eye, lime-speck pug, green pug, dark arches, spruce carpet, clouded silver, willow beauty, riband wave, barred yellow, and common marbled carpet.

Thursday, 18 June 2015


Whilst checking the saltmarsh lagoons near the East Mersea Point on Thursday 18th, this redshank chick, probably about three weeks old,  was rescued by Ian Black of Natural England after it dropped into a deep rill in the saltmarsh. It was lifted back up to the main body of marsh where it could continue feeding.

Along with Ian's colleague from Natural England Nicola George, we were having a close look at the saltmarsh to find out if there were any clues as to why the nine or so pairs of avocet had stopped nesting a few days ago. No reason could be seen but at least three avocets were still feeding on one of the lagoons

The little egret roost seems to be slowly growing in size from a low a month ago of just three birds, up to ten seen at the park pond, along with a grey heron. Also five tufted ducks and two families of little grebes.

The kestrels in the nestbox have at least two chicks that showed on Wednesday 17th. The Cetti's warbler was singing well from the hedge along from the pond and a Mediterranean gull flew over the car park.
A cuckoo flew along Bromans Lane at dusk on Thursday.

At least two painted ladies were seen on this cotoneaster bush at the park on Thursday. Another two were feeding on the cotoneaster bush by the toilets the day before.

Numbers of meadow browns have quickly increased in the recent weather this week with the first one seen on Tuesday followed by about twenty on Thursday over the meadow.

This cotoneaster bush was planted nearly 25 years ago and has become a real magnet at the moment for the bees and butterflies. Other butterflies seen here were red admiral, holly blue and small tortoiseshell.while speckled wood, small white and large white were noted around the park.

An old woodpecker hole in an oak tree at the park has been colonised by tree bumble bees, the species which has been spreading across the country from Europe in recent years.

The wild flower meadow is coming to life with these ox-eye daisies adding some colour, while birds-foot trefoil and clumps of knapweed are ready to add more colour to the area.
Four common blues, small/Essex skipper, small heath and cinnabar a Mother Shipton were noted amongst the flowers, while a broad-bodied chaser and emperor dragonfly were also noted at the park.

The much warmer night on Saturday was ideal for moth activity and the highlight from the Firs Chase moth trap was this very colourful elephant hawkmoth. This common and widespread moth should be a regular visitor to the trap over the next few weeks.

The most unexpected moth was this pretty red-necked footman, a species that has not been recorded on the Island before in the ten previous years worth of trapping. Although it is a breeder in some of the woods in Essex, it is also an immigrant, and this one probably came in with the recent warm weather.

Eighty moths of twenty-five species were seen including heart and dart, marbled minor, middle-barred minor, dark arches, flame, figure of eighty, snout, spectacle, common swift, garden carpet, riband wave, foxglove pug, common marbled carpet, grey pine carpet, pale oak beauty, brimstone, small dusty wave, light emerald, 

A mothing evening at the park on Tuesday night produced just twenty moths including poplar hawkmoth, a peppered moth and a brown rustic were of interest.

Two turtle doves were seen in Adrian Amos's West Mersea garden on Sunday 14th with a single bird the previous day.

Saturday, 13 June 2015


Most skylarks seem to spend most of their time as little dots high in the sky, however this one provided a good close view when it perched on a bench at the country park.

Even with its beak stuffed full with caterpillars to take to its nest, this skylark still managed to sing without dropping any of them. There seem to be at least three pairs of skylarks around the main field of the park this year which is more than last year.

Interested to see how the swan families are managing at the park, and it appears that the borrow-dyke family have lost one cygnet in recent days, so they are now down to six.

The swan family at the pond appeared to have lost one too until I realised one of the six cygnets was hitching a ride on mum's back!
Also at the pond were three young little grebes, recently hatched out. One reed warbler was singing from the reeds at the pond and the Cetti's warbler was heard singing too.
Three avocets were on the pool in the field along with three shoveler and a black-tailed godwit on Saturday 13th.A steady westward trickle of swifts was noticeable at various times during Saturday with over seventy birds noted.

Eight little egrets roosted at the pond on Thursday 11th, a cuckoo was heard singing to the north of the park for the third morning running, while near the Point possibly nine avocets were sitting on the saltmarsh lagoons.

It's great being able to enjoy the song of the song thrush in our Firs Chase garden. Unfortunately the loud song starts very early each morning from trees very close to the bedroom window, so you  don't need an alarm clock at the moment!

Turtle doves have now become rare on the Island so it was good to hear one was feeding in the East Road garden of Adrian Amos in West Mersea on Monday 8th.

A hobby was seen at Maydays farm on Thursday 11th by Martin Cock and also a bull grey seal was seen in the Pyefleet there too.

A keen lad at the park showed me this slow-worm that he'd just found in the grassland. Slow-worms always seem quite elusive at the park with only about one sighting each year.
Two adders were reported at the park on Thursday 11th and one on Saturday 13th.

There was this sad sight along the East Mersea road in mid evening on Saturday of this badger that had been hit by a car not far from the village pub. It was lifted off the road and into the verge.
A badger cub was reported as being seen in the daylight crossing one of the grassy paths at the park at the beginning of the week - this is the fourth cub sighting in the daytime.

Moth-trapping at the park continues to be poor due to the cold night temperatures. Only 18 moths were noted on Wednesday 10th with this buff ermine moth pictured above, the first of the season. Most of the other moths were marbled minors and heart and darts.

A couple of painted ladies were flying around the car park on Friday 12th and another one seen on Tuesday 9th. Two common blue butterflies were in the long grass on the 11th.

Sunday, 7 June 2015


There was a pleasant surprise on Sunday morning when it was realised that two swan families had bred at the park this spring. This very young group of six cygnets were seen feeding on the park pond for the first time this morning. The family had their nest amongst the thick stand of reedmace.

After seeing the cygnets at the pond I walked along the park seawall and saw this original group of seven cygnets resting by the central ditch in the fields. This has been their usual haunt for the last fortnight. Only now I realise this family was not the one that nested at the pond but had probably had a nest hidden along the central ditch.
Thirteen cygnets will be a lot of hungry beaks to find food for - and there's bound to be some nasty family rivalries to sort out this summer!

The swallows have finished building their nest in the hide and are presumed to have some eggs that she's incubating. She seems quite tolerant of visitors to the hide if they come in quietly.
Work was done today to screw shut the window flap beneath the nest so it can't be opened. One of the other window flaps has been wired open to allow the birds to come and go. Fingers crossed!

This skylark looked a bit anxious as I walked towards it on the seawall, sticking its crest up before it flew off to the field.
The avocets have returned to the saltmarsh lagoons near the Point having been flooded out three weeks ago. Sixteen birds were noted here with possibly four or five birds sitting. Another pair were feeding on the park pools.
Two of the month old lapwing chicks were still feeding in the field and a pair of redshank were also in the fields.

At the park pond 2 little egrets and six tufted ducks were noted along with a number of chicks of coots and moorhens. At least one reed warbler was singing here and also the nearby Cetti's warbler sang too.

Three fox cubs were enjoying the peace and quiet of the back of the park's grazing fields on Sunday morning. Here the vixen watches over while one of the cubs pins another cub to the ground.

 Nice to record some of the nationally rare ground lackey larvae on the saltmarsh by the Point. The adults should emerge between mid and late July.

Butterflies noted at the park today included a painted lady, 2 common blues, holly blue, speckled wood, small white, orange-tip, small heath and large white.
Two broad-bodied chasers were noted and also the first emperor dragonfly of the season.

There was a report of a badger cub seen in Bromans Lane in the afternoon for the second day running.
One adder was noted at the park in the morning in its usual spot.

This hummingbird hawk-moth was seen feeding on the honeysuckle in the car park on Saturday, photographed by Kerry Sturdy.

Saturday, 6 June 2015


Visited the West Mersea garden of Dave Chadwick on Saturday 6th to look at the wild orchids in his back garden. The 56 common spotted orchids were at their peak, such as this one pictured above.

The green-winged orchids had finished flowering although this one was probably the last one with any colour.

The remnants of the flowering orchids were still an amazing sight with about 300+ of them packed into a small patch in the back lawn.

Over the back fence of the orchid garden was this colourful patch of meadow buttercups in Willoughby car park. No sign of any flowering orchids here in the car park, although one common spotted orchid has a spike that should flower in a week's time.

The long grass meadow in Feldy View near the Firs Chase caravan site has an eyecatching sight of ox-eye daisies.

Also adding a splash of colour in Feldy View were masses of yellow flowers of common catsears.
A silver-Y moth was amongst the grass while along a nearby path 3 speckled woods and 4 holly blues were seen.
On the saltmarsh beside the Firs Chase caravan site was a carpet of sea pink or thrift.

In one part of the saltmarsh close to the edge with the caravans, were four clusters of ground lackey caterpillars - a nationally scarce moth. In each cluster at least fifty caterpillars were gathered together, resting in between feeding frenzies on the saltmarsh plants.

The female oystercatcher was still sitting on her nest in the middle of the fallow field alongside the Strood Channel. This single bird was presumably the male keeping an eye on proceedings.

Also noted during the late morning walk along the breezy seawall were a pair of Mediterranean gulls, 3 avocets, 30 stock doves in the fields, reed bunting singing and two reed warblers singing. A third bird was singing from bushes in Feldy View. One common tern was fishing amongst the moorings at the Hard.

There was the surprising sight in Bromans Lane towards late afternoon of a young badger cub crossing the road and then disappearing into a ditch in broad daylight with lots of traffic and humans about.
Liam and Kerry photographed a hummingbird hawk-moth in the car park of Cudmore Grove and also saw a green hairstreak, small copper and a broad-bodied chaser at the park.

Friday, 5 June 2015


This corn bunting was perched in its usual spot on the wires alongside Chapmans Lane near West Mersea in the early evening of Thursday 4th. I've often passed it here in the morning when the sun is behind it and not worth stopping to photograph. However by early evening the sun shines from a kinder direction and this bird posed nicely while traffic continued to whizz past.

Every so often the bird would sing its distinctive jangling song, pictured here in full flow.
Numbers of corn buntings have continued to decline on the Island, as they have nationally, with less than a handful of pairs present here this spring. This spot is one of two perches alongside the road to East Mersea where the song can be heard from the comfort of the car.
The bird was also seen in Chapmans Lane, singing on the wires on Friday 5th. There was a kestrel over Chapmans Lane too and another kestrel on a telegraph post near Fen Farm.

The park received a deluge of rain first thing on Friday morning when a thunderstorm passed over. The moth trap had to be hurriedly put away as the rain pelted down. One poplar hawkmoth was the highlight amongst a small collection of 18 moths, mainly marbled minors.

A Mediterranean gull was heard calling over the park, for the third day running. A pair flew over the park yesterday both calling out repeatedly to each other as they headed to the beach.

On Thursday a ringed plover's nest with four speckled eggs was found on the beach at the Point but at a different location to a nest found a fortnight previously. The swan family was still in the area with at least six young, maybe seven. An avocet was on the pools in the grazing fields.

Butterflies noted at the park in the last couple of days have included a red admiral, holly blue, small white and a speckled wood.

There was a report of a young badger being seen crossing a path at the park first thing in the morning a fortnight ago.