Wednesday, 15 June 2016


A bright male yellow wagtail perched up nicely along the footpath in East Mersea between Shop Lane and Meeting lane on Wed 8th, photographed by Martin Cock.

The short-eared owl was showing well again on the Rewsalls marshes near Coopers Beach on Wednesday, pictured by Martin.

The short-eared owl has now been present for about three weeks now.
Also seen in the area was the little owl chick in a tree near the Youth Camp entrance and a cuckoo.

This male reed bunting was photographed singing by Andy Field along the Strood seawall on Sunday 12th.

The female reed bunting has a brown head instead of a black head like the male has.

Several reed warblers can be heard singing from the reedbeds along the Strood, here photographed by Andy.

Sedge warblers have become harder to find now they have stopped singing, this one found by Andy along the Strood dyke.
Other birds noted in that area were a little tern, corn bunting and a yellow wagtail.

Monday, 13 June 2016


Great news on the Island's breeding bird front with a pair of common terns now nesting on Mersea for the first time for many decades. The common tern is pictured above on its nest close to a nesting avocet, near the East Mersea Point, seen on Friday 10th and Saturday 11th. The tern's mate soon appeared and dropped down alongside. This pair of common terns has been present in this area for almost three weeks now.

It seems to be a better season for terns around Mersea with 17 little terns and three common tern pairs seen on Cobmarsh Island on Friday 10th by Daniel Carne and Steve Hunting during an RSPB survey of the Mersea and Tollesbury Quarters.
It is important that boats don't land on these shingle beaches for the next couple of months so as not to disturb the nesting birds, especially these terns.

When the avocet stood up, two eggs could be seen underneath. There were six nesting avocets amongst the group of 12 avocets in the area. Last year the birds failed twice, once because of high spring tides, the second occasion no reason for failure of nine nests was found.

Also present at the lagoons were a pair of oystercatcher, pair of redshank and a single black-tailed godwit.

For a few days the swan family seemed to have lost a cygnet early on. That seventh cygnet did a good job at hiding as it has now reappeared and the family had the full complement on show in the dyke near the Golfhouse on Friday. As in previous years here, two of the cygnets have a much whiter down than the others.

Three different mallard broods were feeding either in the dyke or in the fields. This is the largest brood around with nine very young ducklings feeding along the main dyke on Friday. A second brood was seen with six ducklings, while a much older brood also still has six half-grown ducklings.

In the nearby grazing fields, two large lapwing chicks were seen and a flock of 22 greylag geese on Saturday while 5 gadwall were on the main pool on Friday.
The Cetti's warbler was singing as were a couple of lesser whitethroats and two singing reed buntings.

A group of ten shelduck were resting on the beach at the Point, some pictured above.
Also seen here on Friday were two pairs of ringed plovers, although no sign of nesting.
On Thursday 8th a pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the park calling.

A cuckoo flew over the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall on Wednesday 8th while the day before a little owl perched again on a road-sign in Chapmans Lane early in the morning.

Three adders were enjoying the warmth at the park on Saturday 11th.

Sunday, 12 June 2016


Several moth enthusiasts joined in a mothing evening at the country park on Friday 9th as part of National Moth Night - the annual celebration of moth recording. Luckily the weather was favourable, staying dry and with a light breeze blowing. Six traps were placed at various spots close to the car park area, this one pictured belonging to David Barnard.

Over sixty species of macro moth were recorded during the night which was a good tally considering how poor the spring has been for moths up until a couple of weeks ago.

The highlight was the number of cream-spot tiger moths -fourteen of them dropping in during the first half of the night. Pictured above is the full set of them, posing nicely for a team photo!
It was reassuring to see that most were freshly marked individuals and that the cold spring hadn't affected the numbers too much.
Cold springs in recent years has led to a decrease in numbers being seen at the park. The last double digit catch was almost eight years ago when twelve were noted in one night.

This year's target species for National Moth Night were the hawkmoths and it was good to see a few of them on the night at the park. The first hawkmoth to show was the lime hawkmoth, followed a bit later in the night by a second one.
The poplar hawkmoth also showed up before midnight, with three being noted by dawn.

One eyed hawkmoth was found in one of the traps at dawn, sadly missed by those who'd gone home at midnight.
Just after midnight three of the brightly coloured elephant hawkmoths made an appearance.

A green silver lines dropped in early in the evening, providing a splash of green colour to the proceedings.

The beautiful hook-tip seems to have become more established at the park in recent years.

The sand dart is noted each year at the park, a coastal species round the UK, it's larvae feed on various sand-dune plants.

The saltmarsh plume has a very distinctive posture with its long front legs and narrow wings pointing forwards.

Other macro-moths noted on the night included common swift, oak hook-tip, figure of 80, treble brown spot, common carpet, purple bar, pine carpet, common marbled carpet, sandy carpet, common pug, clouded border, brimstone, scorched wing, peppered moth, willow beauty, pale oak beauty, clouded silver, light emerald, yellow belle, swallow prominent, pale prominent, marbled brown, pale tussock, bufftip, buff ermine, white ermine, cinnabar, least black arches, heart and dart, shuttle-shaped dart, large yellow underwing, ingrailed clay, setaceous Hebrew character, nutmeg, shears, bright-line brown-eye, white-point, common wainscot, shoulder-striped wainscot, poplar grey, grey dagger, knot-grass, angle shades, dark arches, marbled minor, middle-barred minor, rustic shoulder knot, Vine's rustic, mottled rustic, snout and straw dot.

Saturday, 11 June 2016


This very pale swallow was seen near the Dabchicks Sailing Club on Saturday 4th by Mark, and Molly Dixon who took these photos. The creamy colouration suggests a leucistic form of plumage, rather than the much whiter plumage which would suggest an albino bird.

Mark emailed me to say - "Just been watching a pale grey swallow that is hunting and flying round between Wyatts slipway and Dabchicks. Got very clear sighting as it settled only 5m from us ( self and daughter Molly who first spotted it). Has a pink bit on the throat, no long tail feathers and grey/ very light blue back and paler to the white underneath. Has been hanging around all afternoon with the regular swallows."

Mark emailed me today the 11th, to say the pale swallow was still in the same area over the last couple of days. Should be a very striking bird to see in flight as well as when it perches.

Several red squirrel reports from around West Mersea over the last week. Sue Howlett was very pleased to see this one she photographed eating from her bird feeder in Estuary Park Drive on Thursday 9th just after mid-day. At the end of the afternoon presumably the same squirrel was seen at a bird feeder in the Seaview Caravan site alongside Cross Lane.
Earlier in the week a red squirrel was seen in Empress Avenue in the garden of David Titmuss on Monday 6th, probably the same individual mentioned above.
There was also a report of two red squirrels seen in Reymead Wood at the beginning of the week.

A muggy night on Tuesday 7th saw the moth trap being switched on in the Firs Chase garden for the first time this year - and it didn't disappoint! About 6o moths of 20 macro moth species were noted by 2am on Wednesday.
Probably the most colourful of moths, the elephant hawkmoth turned up as did a second individual.

Other moths noted included brimstone, light emerald, spruce carpet, riband wave, common pug, green pug, clouded silver, common marbled carpet, willow beauty, poplar grey, snout, fanfoot, least black arches, white ermine, heart and dart, flame, shuttle shaped dart and marbled minor.

The most impressive count of the night was of a small micro-moth - the diamond-back, pictured above. At least 200 of these small moths were gathered around the trap as well as inside the trap too. This is by far the most I've ever seen in one night - an impressive sight. There has been a massive influx into the country from the continent over the previous week or so of many thousands of them.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


The short-eared owl was still present on the Rewsalls marshes on Monday 6th - a fortnight after it was last seen. The owl was hunting over the rough grass fields between the Coopers Beach caravan site and the Youth Camp, as pictured above.

It seemed strange watching a short-eared owl flying about in the late morning sunshine and warmth, when we're normally used to seeing them on windy and cold days as winter visitors to the Island.

The short-eared owl at times flew with very pronounced deep wing-beats as if doing a display flight. As far as I can recall I don't think a short-eared owl has ever spent the summer on the Island before, certainly not in the last 30 years or so.

By coincidence another short-eared owl was being watched in East Mersea hunting over fields near the Oyster Fishery, seen by Martin Cock on Monday morning. This bird has also been in this area for the last two weeks at least.

The Rewsalls short-eared owl glided back and forwards across the three fields, sometimes perching on posts or dropping down into the grass.

At least three pairs of yellow wagtails are in and around the Rewsalls fields, this bright male perched on a bush quite close to Coopers Beach football pitch.

A cuckoo provided a couple of nice fly-pasts in between lots of calling from tree-tops at the back of the Rewsalls marshes.

Three male reed buntings were singing on the Rewsalls marshes, seems a slightly better year for them on the Island. Five males were seen singing in one rape field along the Strood a couple of days earlier.

Other small birds noted around the Rewsalls area included Cetti's warbler, 5 whitethroats, 2 lesser whitethroats, 15 linnets and 5 reed warblers.

Two little egrets were seen on the Rewsalls marshes along with 15 mallard, one tufted duck, 4 shelduck and 20 oystercatcher.
The only butterflies seen were 4 small heaths, large white, small white and a couple of holly blues.

On his morning circuit of the eastern end of the Island, Martin noted a pair of grey partridge in horse paddocks north of the park, 12 avocets and a pair of common terns on the saltmarsh lagoon.

At West Mersea along the Strood on Sunday 5th, a cuckoo called briefly from a bush before crossing over to Ray Island, also a marsh harrier over the fields, pair of Mediterranean gulls, a grey plover and one yellow wagtail.

Mark and Jane Dixon reported seeing an albino-type swallow flying around Coast Road near the Dabchicks and Hard last week. The bird perched up long enough for a few photos to be taken showing it with a faint pinkish throat but otherwise a whitish colouration all over, although with dark eyes.

Two slow-worms were enjoying the warmth on the compost heap in the Firs Chase garden on Monday.

A goldcrest sang from various trees in Firs Chase on Monday as did blackcap and chiffchaff. Ten swifts and five swallows were seen passing overhead.

Rosemary beetles seem to have become well established in the garden since first being found here last year. Now a dozen were counted on both lavender and rosemary bushes.

Butterflies in the garden over the weekend were 5 holly blues, orange-tip, small white 2 and a red admiral.

Monday, 6 June 2016


Several terns have been fishing along the Strood Channel during recent high tides. Pictured is a common tern which spent five minutes flying up and down a section of the dyke inside the seawall on Saturday 4th.

Several times the common tern dived down into the dyke after small fish. The tern headed back to the Strood where it continued hawking up and down the channel. Five common terns and three little terns were seen late morning along the Strood.

Also noted on Saturday was a calling cuckoo on Feldy, yellow wagtail, two grey herons, a pair of Mediterranean gulls, five male reed buntings in one rape field, dabchick in the dyke and a displaying meadow pipit on the saltmarsh.

In the Firs Chase area a sparrowhawk flew over the houses, the pied blackbird was feeding on a driveway, ten swifts and two house martins were overhead.

The saltmarsh in front of the Firs Chase caravan site has patches of thrift in flower at the moment.

Birds noted along the Strood seawall on Friday 3rd included 10 common terns, 5 little terns, pair of Mediterranean gulls, great crested grebe, 2 little egrets, pochard, six oystercatcher, 2 redshank, 4 male reed buntings, 3 reed warblers, 2 yellow wagtails, 20 linnets, ten swifts and a meadow pipit.

On Friday evening at the West Mersea Glebe, a hobby flew past, 15 house martins around Wellhouse Green, 10 swifts overhead and a cuckoo calling from Dawes Lane.

Seven clusters of these nationally scarce ground lackey moth caterpillars were found on the saltmarsh in front of the Firs Chase caravan site. Each cluster containing about a hundred caterpillars. The adult moth flight period is during July to August.

Butterflies numbers seem to be low after the recent cold spell with only a couple of small whites and a large white being seen along the seawall on Saturday.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


A pair of blue tits have chosen a nest-hole with a fine sea-view, using an old sand martin's hole in the country park cliff. The parents seemed to have got used to lots of folk walking along the beach and were busy on Thursday 2nd flying back and forwards to the nearby clifftop bushes bringing back caterpillars.

Also busy gathering food for their chicks was a pair of great tits nesting in a hole beside the gutter on the park bungalow.

The firecrest was singing again from the trees beside the park overflow car park on Thursday morning. The leaves have been swaying about so much that the bird hasn't been glimpsed since it was first heard on Sunday. It was also heard on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

A male reed bunting sang briefly from a bush-top near the car park on Thursday, a yellow wagtail flew over and a pair of Mediterranean gulls flew over the park. Offshore four common terns were noted in the afternoon.
In the grazing fields two nearly fledged lapwing chicks were sheltering from the strong breeze behind a tussock of rushes. A male shoveler was on the main pool in the fields.

On Monday at the park the firecrest was heard but not seen and the male reed bunting was singing in the park again. On the saltmarsh pools by the Point two pairs of avocet, a common tern and a little egret were seen, while nearby the swan family seemed to have six cygnets having lost one already.

On the fields a nesting lapwing was seen trying to distract some inquisitive cows away from the nest by dragging a seemingly broken wing along the ground. It seemed to work. Three shovelers and four Canada geese were present in the fields.

The rain on Tuesday morning was so torrential that this family of great tit chicks were seen clinging to the cedar tree in the Firs Chase garden, sheltering underneath the squirrel nut feeder. The tits stayed motionless for several minutes waiting for the rain to ease off.

The red squirrels soon discovered the nut feeder had been topped up a couple of days earlier with lots of hazel-nuts. This squirrel spent half an hour early on Wednesday morning at the feeder. Although the feeder has been visited almost daily, this is the first squirrel sighting for a fortnight.

Having had its fill of nuts, the squirrel scampered higher up the tree to sit on this limb for a few minutes.

Moth trapping continues to produce few moths at the park with the recent cold northerly winds. This large female fox moth was a nice surprise as it's become harder to see in recent years. Very few are being recorded in Essex now with one of the last ones recorded in the county being here at the park two years ago.