Thursday, 28 July 2016


Fourteen moth enthusiasts gathered at the country park for the annual summer mothing night. The get together was a joint Essex Moth Group and British Entomological & Natural History Society meeting. Eight moth traps / lamps were set up around the area of park close to the car park. Three traps continued till dawn and by that time the final tally of moths recorded for the night was about 95+ species of macro moth and at least 20 species of micro moth. A very rewarding night.

One of the target species was the spectacular garden tiger, the first individual arrived just after midnight with a second one being found in the trap at dawn.

It's great to see this colourful moth still present at the park as numbers have declined greatly nationally in recent years.

The most notable moth was this box-tree moth, a new record for the site and possibly the third record for north Essex. It is native to east Asia and has become recently established in southern England, the first individual in the UK being seen in Surrey in 2008. Since then the moth has been spreading across London and into the Home Counties. The caterpillars feed on box bushes and have become serious defoliators in parks and gardens. Luckily there's no box here at the country park.

The actual moth is quite an attractive one with slightly iridescent wings, and a large one too with a wingspan of 4 cms. Despite the large size, it's in the micro-moth group.

Several of the colourful ruby tigers were found in a number of the traps - a widespread and common moth.

The rosy footman was one of the attractive moths with its salmon pink colouration and the black squiggle marks on the wings. There must be a small population at the park as there's only one or two individuals get seen each summer.

One of the biggest moths of the night was this oak eggar, a regular species to the trap each mid-summer period.

The festoon seems to have become established at the park following its big spread through Essex three years ago.

Another familiar resident is the tree-lichen beauty, also well established here for the last few years.

The nicely patterned archers dart is a regular at the park during mid-July to early August. It's distribution in Essex is limited to the area around the north-east coast of the county.

A moth becoming more widespread in the last few years is the Kent black arches with several being recorded at the park each year now.

Other moths noted at the park on Friday evening were saltmarsh plume, leopard, poplar hawkmoth, fen wainscot, one silver-Y, scarce silver-lines, green silver-lines, drinker, early thorn, green pug, maple pug, lackey, least carpet, lesser-spotted pinion, maple prominent, marbled white-spot, oak hook-tip, pebble hook-tip, peppered, plain pug, slender pug, V-pug, poplar grey and white satin

Monday, 25 July 2016


The recent warm weather has seen the water level slowly recede on the main pool in the park's grazing fields. Here a little egret with three lapwings were present on Monday 25th.
The little egret high tide roost at the park pond comprised 28 birds perched in the trees on Monday.

Two yellow wagtails, a house martin, 2 green woodpeckers were seen during the day. At dusk an angry blackbird mobbed a little owl all the way across the park and both then perched at either end of a park bench with the blackie continuing to berate the owl.

At the park on Saturday 23nd a flock of 70 swallows flew high over the park at daybreak and a yellow wagtail flew over later in the day. The little egret roost was 36 birds at the park pond, 5 tufted ducklings were on the dyke and the swans still have 7 cygnets. Twelve golden plover and 3 dunlin flew off the mudflats as the tide came in.

Butterflies at the park included speckled wood, ringlet, meadow brown, gatekeeper, comma, red admiral, peacock, small / Essex skipper, large white and small white.
Dragonflies noted along the park dyke on Saturday were emperor, black-tailed skimmer, ruddy darter along with several small red-eyed damselflies, blue-tailed damselflies and azure damselflies.

There was a surprise sight of a kingfisher making a brief appearance on Friday 22nd at the park pond, staying only for a minute or so. Thirty-five little egrets were at the pond, while on the main pool in the fields were 90 redshank and 15 black-tailed godwits.
A grass-snake was seen crossing one of the paths in the park - the first report this year at the park of a grass-snake.

Alongside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall two barn owls were glimpsed in the fading light hunting the fields just as night fell on Sunday 24th.
A sizeable flock of 100+ swifts were seen by Andy Field flying over High St North in West Mersea on Thursday 21st. The previous day 30 swifts were seen over the Queen Ann area.

An evening walk on Thursday 21st past Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane, provided the surprise view of a couple of sparrowhawk chicks on their nest. One of the nearly fledged youngsters can just about be seen in the picture with its head facing right partly obscured by a cross-branch. The youngsters showed the barring on the chests while around the head were a few tufts of down still present.

On the Reeveshall pool was a good gathering of 15 green sandpipers, 3 grey heron, 5 avocets, black-tailed godwit and a passing pair of common tern. Also noted on Reeveshall were 42 greylag geese, common buzzard, 20 swallows while in the Pyefleet was a greenshank, little tern, 20 avocets, 4 common tern and three broods of shelducklings.
On Langenhoe a juvenile marsh harrier was flying around and the chorus of several marsh frogs could be heard carrying across the Pyefleet.

The following day at Reeveshall a greenshank, 9 green sandpipers and two common buzzards were seen by Andy Field. On Sunday 24th ten green sandpipers, sparrowhawk chick and 7 ruddy darters were seen by Steve Entwistle here.

At the park pond on Wednesday 20th a hobby passed over the hide a couple of times in the early evening. A small group of swallows were flying over the fields including a couple of sand martins.

A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen in the park on Tuesday 19th by Andy, the first report this summer on the Island so far. A hornet hoverfly was seen at the park by Annie Gordon.

A Sandwich tern flew west past the park offshore on Sunday 17th, also two common terns seen offshore. A wigeon and a couple of teal were on the main pool in the grazing fields.

A red squirrel was noted at the feeder in Firs Chase on 18th pm, 20th am, 22nd pm while on the 24th early in the morning the regular squirrel was briefly joined by a second scruffy one.
On Monday 18th a red squirrel was reported by Sheila Rayner in Cross Lane.

Friday, 22 July 2016


It was a bit of a scorcher along the Pyefleet Channel at Maydays on a very sunny Monday 18th. The high tide and amount of heat during the late morning period meant there were only a few things on show.

The song of several yellowhammers around Maydays farm was of interest with at least four birds heard, one of the males pictured above.

Other birds noted were a whimbrel over the saltmarsh, pair of great crested grebes and a pair of common terns in the channel, 5 yellow wagtails and a reed warbler.
Around the Maydays farm buildings 30+ house martins were flying around with a recent count of 44 nests on one of the houses there.

Also walking the seawall on the north side of the Island on the same hot Monday "until beaten back by the heat!" was Andy Field who found this comma at rest near Shop Lane.

At Reeveshall five green sandpipers were on the pool there, 2 hobbies were over the Pyefleet, greenshank flew along the channel, 32 black-tailed godwits, 2 dunlin, common tern with a juvenile and a little tern also along the Pyefleet.

This large hoverfly Volucella pellucens was photographed by Andy beside the Shop Lane wood where at least one common buzzard was heard calling frequently. A yellowhammer was heard singing from a nearby hedgerow and a red squirrel was seen by Nicola Pollard opposite her Shop Lane garden.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016


This young hedgehog has been out and about in our Firs Chase garden over recent nights during this last week. Its home is inside the base of a wooden pallet at the back of our garden.

It's a bit of a challenge trying to find the hedgehog by torchlight before our terrier Ben finds it during his last visit to the garden before bedtime! On Sunday 17th it was on our patio by our back door, where it stopped briefly for these two photos.
It's reassuring to know that any slugs and snails here have got some hungry predators living on our doorstep with resident hedgehogs and song thrushes!
Also feeding at night over the garden on recent nights have been a couple of pipistrelle bats.

Another worthy daily visitor to the garden is the red squirrel who was snapped early evening on Monday 18th raiding the feeder. It stayed for at least twenty minutes tucking its head inside the feeder each time to pull out some nuts. Earlier in the day a jay was seen stealing some nuts a couple or times, having learnt to lift the lid with its head just like the squirrel.

This red squirrel is very recognisable with its very tatty tail. This same individual was also seen early on Saturday morning just outside our bedroom window having woken us up by the sound of it pit-a-patting across our roof! This early morning "call" was one way of getting us to jump out of bed so we could catch a glimpse of it!

A sad sight was this grass-snake found dead in Firs Chase alongside our garden, having been run-over on Monday afternoon. A slow-worm was in the garden compost heap on Sunday.

Birds of interest noted from the garden included a little egret flying over on Monday, five sand martins on passage flew west overhead on Saturday and a goldcrest was calling from the cedar tree the same day.

Thought it worth switching the moth trap on in the Firs Chase garden during the very muggy night on Saturday 16th. Rewarded with 150 macro moth individuals of 33 species by 5am on Sunday.

The most colourful moths were three elephant hawkmoths, one pictured above, a common moth in gardens especially where there is fuchsia growing.

It was nice to find this leopard moth as it's not been noted in the garden before, despite it being quite a widespread moth. Aptly named with its wings covered in lots of black spots.

Other moths noted included 8 least carpets, buff arches, common emerald, scarce silver lines, barred yellow, peppered moth, 6 swallow-tailed, marbled beauty and a silver-Y.

Butterflies over the recent hot weekend have been low in numbers with only passing comma, red admiral and meadow brown while one or two large white and small white have lingered for longer. 

Monday, 18 July 2016


A group of about twenty swallows, mainly young ones, were gathered on wires near the East Mersea church on Friday 15th.

The swallows took the opportunity to have a preen in between flights around the area. Up to fifty swallows in total were seen here during the mid morning period.

A walk along some of the paths in the Rewsalls area provided views of three singing reed buntings on the marshes, and also this female perched on a bush.

Also noted were 5 yellow wagtails, 2 reed warblers, 8 linnet, meadow pipit, kestrel and three little egrets in the dyke. Two whimbrel were on the shore while a flock of 50 common terns were fishing in a group offshore.

Good numbers of butterflies were enjoying the sunshine with lots of meadow browns seen as were half a dozen or so ringlets.

Gatekeepers were fluttering along the hedgerows and over the bramble flowers with probably 50+ noted.

An early evening walk along the Strood seawall revealed a brood of pochard on the dyke. Five ducklings in total were being nervously watched over by the mother. Pochard with young have occasionally been seen along this dyke in previous years

There was plenty of mud on show along the Strood Channel and a greenshank was of interest here. Also seen were 200+ redshank, 3 black-tailed godwits, 2 whimbrel and a single golden plover, while a great crested grebe was in mid channel and four common terns were seen fishing.

A sparrowhawk flew over the channel carrying some prey towards the Ray. A corn bunting was heard singing in the middle of a field and 10 sand martins flew west off the Island.

The saltmarsh along the channel has some colourful clumps of sea lavender in bloom at the moment.

On Saturday 16th there were two common buzzards seen in East Mersea near Gyants Marsh, west of Shop Lane. This bird was calling out while perched as if it might have been a youngster telling its parents it needed feeding.

A sparrowhawk was seen flying over the fields and what sounded like a youngster calling from the Fishponds wood. A yellowhammer was singing to the east of this wood and a pair of common terns flew south with a hungry youngster in tow.

A couple of small tortoiseshells were seen, as were a red admiral, comma and peacock. Also small white, large white and green-veined white on the wing too.

One or two large skippers were along the field edges near the bramble bushes as were several Essex / small skippers, meadow browns, gatekeepers and 20+ ringlets.

Fifty swifts were flying over the houses at High Street North on Saturday while a hobby was seen the previous day over Martin Cock's house.

A harbour porpoise was reported being in view for twenty minutes just inside the river Colne, while a grey seal was seen in the Pyefleet by Martin from Maydays on Wednesday.

Saturday, 16 July 2016


This group of tufted ducklings was following their mother along the park dyke on Thursday 14th. I think this brood started off with seven youngsters, so possibly they've lost one. There are a couple of other families although one of those comprises just one duckling now, which was on the park pond on Wednesday.

The common tern pair was still feeding a chick on the saltmarsh lagoons near the East Mersea Point. Two pairs of redshank chicks were walking around the lagoons, two of the chicks are recently hatched out with the parents looking on anxiously as they walked across some floating algae. The other pair is about three weeks old and starting to look like the adults.

During the early morning high tide roost, 100 black-tailed godwits were gathered by the lagoon, pictured above with a few black-headed gulls. A singe avocet, oystercatcher, shelduck and a handful of lapwing were also present.

A skylark was feeding on the seawall path as I walked along on Thursday - one of a handful seen during the day at the park. Three kestrels were sat on the tree at the back of the fields.
Thirty sand martins passed over the park, and another ten were seen earlier in the morning by Fen Farm. A red-legged partridge was seen in Bromans Lane at the start of the day, while two common buzzards were seen circling in the sky to the north-west of the park.

On Wednesday there was the interesting sighting of two water rails on a reedy island at the park pond being seen chased off by a coot by Helen Mussett.

The on-going sand martin passage was noted again on Tuesday when fifty passed over westwards as did 5 swifts and also two house martins were over the fields.
A sparrowhawk was seen by the overflow car park, 13 long-tailed tits followed each other through the bushes while 2 mistle thrushes made their first appearance at the ripening rowan berries in the car park.

Fifty swifts flew west over the park on Monday and three green woodpeckers were seen together near the car park.

Along the Pyefleet on Sunday 10th seven little terns, 3 common terns, and a Sandwich tern were seen by Andy Field along with five marsh harriers on Langenhoe including three juveniles.

At the East Mersea Point on Saturday 9th a Mediterranean gull, common gull and a brent goose were seen. At Maydays on Saturday a big flock of 500 sand martins was seen by Martin Cock and also 2 greenshank here too.

This small red-eyed damselfly was resting on a bush near the park dyke on Thursday 14th.
A brown hawker was seen in the park on Thursday and black-tailed skimmer has been seen a couple of times this week by the dyke.

There are good numbers of gatekeepers on the wing now along with lots of meadow browns and ringlets to be seen around the park too. Fifty skippers, showing a mix of small and Essex were feeding on a clump of tufted vetch at the park on Thursday. A painted lady was flying about the park seawall on Saturday 9th.
Three adders were noted on Thursday.

A couple of common seals have been washed up recently on the East Mersea beach with this one photographed here by Annie Gordon near Coopers Beach. A second one was found on the park beach in front of the cliff.

This greenfinch sat up nicely for Andrew Neal to photograph on a bush near Rewsalls on Sunday 10th.

A long-tailed tit perched long enough for this photo to be taken by Andrew near Rewsalls.

On a warm night on Monday 11th the moth trap at the park recorded about 150 moths of 40 macro species.
This early thorn was one of the distinctive moths to be seen inside the trap.

A couple of buff-tip moths were noted, looking like a bit of snapped-off twig when at rest.

Two sharks were also noted that night, a species noted most years here.

This July highflyer with it's green and black markings was found resting on the side of the trap.

Other moths noted included common emerald, scorched wing, buff arches, bordered beauty, poplar hawkmoth, pale prominent, L-album wainscot and a rusty dot pearl.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


The recent warm spell has been ideal for moth activity at the country park over the last week. The most productive night was on the night of the 6th when 400 macro moth individuals were counted in two traps by 4.30am the next morning.

The biggest moth was this privet hawkmoth, found resting on the grass a short distance from the trap. A poplar hawk and an eyed hawkmoth were also logged that night, while the following night two privets were found inside the trap.

The bordered beauty has become an annual visitor to the trap in recent years.

The orange moth seems to have become established at the park in the last few years although this is the first time this darker form has been seen here. This individual is a bit worn and faded in places.

The aptly named swallow-tailed moth is a regular in mid summer in small numbers.

The magpie moth has appeared in good numbers with about ten noted on the 6th.

A scarce silver lines is noted annually in ones or two, not quite as scarce here as the name suggests.

The dot moth is a regular moth at the park. This one is in a good condition with the very black wings and bright white dot standing out.
The golden colouring of the brown-line bright-eye moth often gets overlooked as it Is a widespread moth- fifteen were noted on the 6th.

The common emerald is a regular in small numbers in mid summer with four in one night.

The brightly marked barred yellow is an eyecatching moth when it has newly emerged.

Just under 70 species were noted in the four recent sessions over the last week with nothing unexpected recorded. Beautiful hook-tip, cream bordered green pea, L-album wainscot, and one silver-Y were of interest. A rusty-dot pearl was one of the micro moths noted on 11th.