Monday, 31 October 2016


A few butterflies were making the most of the last of British summer time with this small copper enjoying the sunshine at the country park on Saturday 29th.
Other butterflies noted / reported were a clouded yellow, two speckled woods, red admiral and a small white.

At least ten common darters were also seen at the park in various locations, this male resting on an old tree trunk on the beach.

Wildfowl enjoyed the balmy autumn weather with 80+ greylag geese, some pictured above, also the four white-fronted geese still present, 300 brent geese and 1500+ wigeon too.
Offshore 5 common scoter, 6 red-breasted mergansers and 6 great crested grebes were feeding in the flat calm sea.

On the park 40 goldfinches flew out of the alders, 25 linnets in the grazing fields, 2 redpolls, one siskin and a yellowhammer were heard calling in flight over the park.

Birds seen on Sunday 30th included the same five common scoter still offshore from the park and 30 little egrets at the park pond.
A kingfisher was seen near the Oyster Fishery and 14 marsh harriers and a merlin on Langenhoe by Steve Entwistle on Sunday afternoon.

Night-time temperatures crept up on Friday night and resulted in 75 moths in the trap at the park by the next morning. The most interesting was this Cypress carpet, only the second record for the park but a species that is spreading across the county, so no doubt more sightings here next year.

Half of the catch was made up by lots of November Moth sps with over 40 being noted, so certainly the peak night for them. Also noted was yellow-line quaker, beaded chestnut, green-brindled crescent, large yellow underwing, setaceous Hebrew character and mallow.

Friday, 28 October 2016


The four Eurasian white-fronted geese were still in the country park's grazing fields on Friday 28th, the two adults are pictured above during one of their regular visits to the pool of water for a drink. The two juveniles were also having a drink for a few minutes before they all flew off to graze in the other field.
Also in the fields were 1500 wigeon, 80 greylag geese and 100 brent geese.

There has been no further sign of the cattle egret that dropped briefly onto the grazing fields on Wednesday morning. Martin Cock and I were extremely lucky to have been standing on the path alongside a gap in the hedge that overlooked the main pool, when we noticed a stocky egret with a yellow bill standing beside a cow! We enjoyed a brief good view but sadly the bird didn't stick around and flew off but not before providing a nice flypast view when it was heard calling a couple of quiet croaks in flight. This is the first record for the Island.

This common snipe had a lucky escape whilst it fed on Friday on the pool in the fields, when a sparrowhawk swooped low after it and nearly managed to snatch it. The snipe saw it at the last second and flew quickly away.

At the Point 3 reed buntings were feeding amongst the sea-blite bushes, and a rock pipit was seen dropping down to feed amongst the bushes.

The incoming tide at the Point pushed 2000 dunlin closer to the shore on Friday morning, as were 150 avocets.
At the end of the day 200 avocets and 62 little egrets were seen on the mudflats at low tide.

On Wednesday 26th a siskin, lesser redpoll, chiffchaff and two redwings were noted at the park while a marsh harrier flew up the Colne at the end of the afternoon.
Three stonechats were seen by David Wallace on bushes between the two grazing fields on Tuesday 25th. Also 5 lesser redpolls flew over, 3 siskin and 25 linnets were seen at the park.

A late flowering clump of sea rocket enjoying the mild autumn weather on the beach at the Point.

A weasel was seen scuttling along the back of the beach at the bottom of the seawall checking out the various bushes for prey on Friday.

Moth numbers are dwindling as the autumn season progresses. This large wainscot was the only different moth from recent nights, to make an appearance in the trap at the park on Monday 24th.
Other moths were green-brindled crescent, large yellow underwing, mallow, yellow-line quaker, beaded chestnut and November moth sp.

A clouded yellow fluttered low across the car park on Wednesday 26th.

Thursday, 27 October 2016


A nice surprise on the fields by the Strood on Saturday 22nd was this ringtail hen harrier perched on a bush along one of the ditches. After sitting for a few minutes and surveying the surroundings, it then spent half an hour or so flying back and forwards over the back of the weedy field. Every so often it would drop down into the field and out of sight for a few minutes at a time. It's been a few years since a hen harrier has been seen hunting these fields.
Each time it flew, there were several small birds went up in the air such as meadow pipits, skylarks and a few reed buntings too.

The sunny morning seemed to get other raptors on the move with ten common buzzards seen with several heading west off the Island, as did a female marsh harrier. A sparrowhawk flew over the edge of West Mersea and a pair of kestrels was also noted over the fields too.

In the Firs Chase garden on Saturday a holly blue, speckled wood and red admiral were enjoying the sunshine while 2 goldcrests and the pied blackbird were seen and a sparrowhawk passed twice overhead.

Amongst the typical variety of waders along the Strood Channel on Saturday were six greenshank, three of them pictured above in the bottom of the main channel.

The paler greenshank stood out in the sunshine against the browner redshank, a greenshank pictured here with two of the fifty or so brent geese. Two knot were the only other waders of note.

On a brief walk along part of the Strood seawall on Sunday morning provided views of a kingfisher amongst the moorings, 13 little grebes in the channel, 28 fieldfares flying west off the Island,  yellowhammer, 2 rock pipits, 15 shelduck and 100 brent geese.

Offshore from the West Mersea Esplanade on Sunday afternoon was a shag and eight eider, seen by Steve Entwistle. Presumably the same group of eider seen 7 days earlier from Old Hall Marshes.

A visit to the north side of the Island at Maydays farm on Monday 24th produced views of a peregrine hunting over the fields and trying several times to flush all of the wood pigeons out of the Maydays Grove. Three marsh harriers were seen over the fields while a fourth bird was on Langenhoe.

A kingfisher was seen just a few feet away when it was found perched on the ladder rungs of the Maydays seawall sluice. Two yellowhammers and two rock pipits were the small birds of note, although no sign of the stonechat that was seen the previous day by Martin Cock.

The only birds of interest in the Pyefleet Channel with the tide out were the increasing numbers of shelduck with 70 birds now back after their summer break away. Twelve little egrets were on the Maydays saltings and a common seal was hauled out on the remote saltmarsh further up the channel.

At Cudmore Grove the group of four white-fronted geese that have been around for a few days, were getting scrutinised over the weekend by several birdwatchers. The arrival at the end of last week of a family of two adults and a juvenile provided comparisons with the juvenile that had already been present for a few days in the grazing fields.
The longer-staying juvenile seemed to look like the Greenland race of white-fronted goose rather than the commoner Eurasian race, because it's bigger and with a darker olive-brown chest rather compared with the other paler smaller juvenile nearby. The bill shows as being a light pink colour with a dark tip. However after a few days of scrutiny and debate, this goose has now been confirmed as not being a Greenland race.

Also seen at Cudmore Grove on Monday 24th were 8 lesser redpolls feeding in the alders with 10 goldfinches while a guillemot was seen in the Colne by Martin Cock.

Friday, 21 October 2016


 A family of three white-fronted geese turned up in the park's grazing fields on Friday 21st to join up with the juvenile that has been present since Tuesday. The pair of adults stood out with their barred bellies and the white at the base of the bill.

Four white-fronted geese stayed close together amongst the 400 wigeon, 100 brent geese and 80 greylag geese. The original darker juvenile is pictured closest in the picture, while the newer juvenile on the left-hand side of the picture is a bit paler.

At the Point 2 rock pipits flew over the saltmarsh, 5 knot and 70 shelduck on the mud, 500 brent on the Brightlingsea side and a common seal in the river.

The brent geese seemed to have had a good breeding season in Siberia as seen with this family on the park dyke with six juveniles beside the two parents on the right.

Two brambling perched in the car park calling on Friday morning, beckoning me away from the office computer with the camera in hand but not needing to step outside to see the birds. The birds flew off east after a couple of minutes. Earlier in the morning a brambling had flown over the park as did five redpolls. A yellowhammer flew over the fields and 5 reed buntings were feeding near the park seawall.

The resident male kestrel perched on a bush near the pond on Friday morning.
Two shoveler and two tufted ducks were on the pond along with a few mallard, teal and wigeon.

Yesterday at the park Andy Field saw the single white-fronted goose, 2 snipe at the pond and a chiffchaff during his walk round the site.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


A juvenile white-fronted goose was found at the park on Tuesday 18th, feeding in the fields with greylag geese. It seems this same goose was seen on the Langenhoe ranges two days earlier by Andy Field who then took these two photos at the park on Wednesday 19th.

The juvenile lacks the white front around the bill and forehead of an adult bird. It's a darker and smaller bird than the greylags in the field and has yellow legs. There have been several reports of white-fronted geese turning up in north-east Essex over the last fortnight.

Ninety greylag geese, 100 brent geese and 200 wigeon were in the grazing fields on Wednesday as were two snipe. The rarest bird of the day was a male bullfinch seen in flight and calling before disappearing into a tree on the edge of the grazing fields. After about 15 years of living on Mersea, Andy finally saw a local bullfinch on the Island! Sadly the bullfinch soon moved on and wasn't seen again.

Three swallows flew over the park in the morning, a brambling and redpoll flew over the car park calling, and a sparrowhawk was seen by the pond.

 A black redstart was seen by the Esplanade near the bottom of Empress Avenue on Wednesday afternoon.

Both photos of the black redstart taken by Andy.
The last black redstart on the Island was near this same location back in April, the same day one was also found at East Mersea too.

This male stonechat was a new arrival at the park on Tuesday 18th, perched up beside the cliff-top. Further along the seawall the female stonechat was still present for her fourth day. A brambling, 6 swallows, 2 siskin, grey wagtail and 20 meadow pipits were all seen passing over westwards. In the trees by the pond 55 little egrets roosted, a snipe dropped down to the marshy edge and a water rail called.

Three skylarks were seen at the park on Tuesday morning, this one perched on one of the benches as I walked past.

A painted lady was resting out of the cold wind on a gatepost at the park on Monday 17th.
A clouded yellow was reported from the Point on Tuesday and a comma in the fields on Wednesday.

A common seal swam close past the East Mersea Point on Tuesday morning.

A very small red squirrel that appeared to be a youngster was reported by Mrs Shean crossing Firs Chase about ten days previously to me being told on the 19th.

Numbers of moths at the trap at the park have dwindled sharply with the recent cold nights. Amongst only ten moths noted on the night of Monday 17th, were three green-brindled crescents, one pictured above. Also noted were large yellow underwing, mallow, square spot rustic, lunar underwing and barred sallow.

Sunday, 16 October 2016


The first stonechat at the park this autumn was seen over the weekend, first being seen on Saturday 15th in the grazing fields, and still present on Sunday too.
Also in the fields were 250 wigeon and 30 greylag geese grazing.

An unusual sight on the park pond on Sunday morning were eleven pintail, pictured here along with a male mallard. A rather dull image taken on a wet morning in the rain. Most of the birds were still in their eclipse moult plumage, appearing as brown females. Only one bird had the start of a whitish chest of a male. The pintail didn't stay for long and were gone by mid morning.

At the end of the afternoon 2 siskin flew away from the alders with a handful of goldfinches, one grey wagtail flew over the pond twice in ten minutes, calling as it headed northwards, 2 redpolls flew over calling earlier in the day, while the kingfisher appeared noisily at the end of  the day.

On Saturday a pair of bearded tits flew along the seawall near the Golfhouse calling their distinctive pinging sounds, before climbing higher and higher to cross over the Colne to Brightlingsea.
Also on Saturday a swallow flew over the Point, two rock pipits over the saltmarsh, 2 redpolls, sparrowhawk and a clouded yellow by the Golfhouse while a grey wagtail was seen over the bus turning circle by Martin Cock.

At the park pond 56 little egrets were seen at the roost while 130 wigeon were feeding in the fields.
In bushes by the pond two blackcaps, 3 chiffchaffs and two goldcrests were noted.

A dozen fieldfares were in trees in Bromans Lane first thing on Friday 14th, this one perched high up above the park entrance along with a redwing. A fieldfare flew over the car park on Saturday 15th.
Thirty little egrets roosted by the pond and 50 greylags were in the fields.

There are good numbers of turnstone along the beach with this one seen near the Point.

On Wednesday 12th four swallows passed over the park, also blackcap and 3 chiffchaffs seen. In the grazing fields a marsh harrier flew low over in the afternoon, 110 curlew, 2 snipe, 8 skylarks, 50 linnets, 15 goldfinches and 30 greylag geese also in the fields.
A white wagtail was seen by the Golfhouse by Andy Field and a pintail was reported at the park pond.
Two redwings flew out of the bushes at the Spar shop in West Mersea just after daybreak on Wednesday 12th.

A yellowhammer was seen briefly perched in the park on Tuesday, also 2 blackcaps and a clouded yellow near the hide. On the pond were 3 shoveler and a tufted duck.

An interesting bit of interaction at the park on Saturday 15th between a group of 15 magpies and a weasel - the latter just visible in the middle of the picture. It seemed that the weasel was trying to extract a mouse or vole from the ground, which the magpies also wanted too! The weasel spent a couple of minutes trying to ward off the magpies in every direction by charging at each bird who came too close! In the end the weasel disappeared and a magpie seemed to pluck something from a hole in the ground, which presumably was a small mammal, and ate it.

A red squirrel was in the trees behind the park buildings first thing on Saturday morning. This is the first sighting / report of one at the park since early September.
The Bowring family were welcomed into their new house opposite the old East Mersea PYO by the sight of a red squirrel scampering across their front garden on Thursday 13th.

One or two brown rats are feasting on the glut of blackberries in the bushes at the park.

A rainbow appeared to the west of Cudmore Grove, as the park was being opened up at the beginning of Sunday 16th.

Autumnal tints at the park provided by some wild cherry trees.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016


Despite the chilly north wind on Monday 10th, there was a fair amount of warmth in the sun out of the wind. Making the most of the autumn sunshine along the sheltered path between Meeting Lane and ShopLane were a nice selection of butterflies.
The highlight was this colourful clouded yellow which seemed to favour the yellow flowers of a bristly ox-tongue growing in a field corner.
A clouded yellow was also seen a few days previously by Martin Cock near Cross Lane on Wednesday 5th.

At least five red admirals were also enjoying the sunshine on the hedgerow with this feeding on the blackberries.

Speckled woods were flitting along the bottom of the hedge in three different spots.

It seems to have been a poor year for small coppers on the Island with this individual the first sighting this autumn. There might be still be one or two to find at the park over the next fortnight.

Six small whites were nectaring on various plants such as this fleabane above, and also on the bristly ox-tongue. At least fifty common darters were seen along the same sheltered path from Meeting Lane.

Birds noted along the walk from Meeting Lane included a common buzzard, yellowhammer, 4 chiffchaffs and 2 goldcrests.

A rewarding couple of hours along the Strood seawall on Monday afternoon provided views of a peregrine over the Strood Hill, marsh harrier quartering the fields, also kestrel and sparrowhawk over the fields. A pair of stonechats were at one end and a third bird at the other end, with a wheatear in between.

A green sandpiper and a snipe flew out of the ditches, 50 teal and 10 reed buntings were in the dyke, 20 linnets and a rock pipit were also noted flying about.
In the Strood Channel 5 greenshank, 200 golden plover and 100 black-tailed godwits were the waders of note.

A bearded tit was heard calling from the dyke reedbed along the Strood on Sunday 9th by Ian Black, but no sight or sound of it on Monday.

At the country park on Monday morning this grey plover was one of several seen near the Point. Also from here a wheatear, rock pipit, snipe and 25 linnets at the Point with 20 shelduck on the mud and 300 brent geese in the estuary.

A sparrowhawk was seen flying low across the park pond, thumping into the reeds, then emerging clutching a small brown bird in its talons. Luckily the Cetti's warbler was heard continuing its singing after this incident, so it wasn't the male snatched! A reed warbler was heard calling from the reeds.
On the pond 50 wigeon, tufted duck, twenty teal, pair of gadwall and two shoveler were the main wildfowl here.

Around the park a pair of blackcaps, 2 house martins, ten skylarks over, brambling over the car park, swallow, 7 chiffchaffs and at least two goldcrest were all noted. At nightfall a barn owl was quartering the long grass of the main park on Monday evening.

A wryneck was heard calling from the back of the park pond on Sunday by Mike Harris. No sight or sound of it the next morning.

This lapwing was seen beside the park borrowdyke on Saturday 8th, where it did a bit of preening.
A kingfisher was seen at the park pond, a redpoll and four swallows flew over the pond, 16 goldfinches fed in the alders.
At the Golfhouse 2 blackcaps, 100 linnets, 10 meadow pipits and rock pipit were noted, while 200 wigeon and 300 brent geese and a snipe were in the Colne.
Eight red-legged partridge were in the field by Bromans Lane.

This big hornet hoverfly came buzzing towards Steve Entwistle and myself at the park on Sunday and looking just like a hornet had us worried when it got a bit close. We glanced at this quickly taken photo and realised it was only a hoverfly!

A partially obscured male kingfisher was the best view of this bird after it flew the full length of the park dyke, one of a pair seen along the dyke on Friday 7th.
A brambling perched briefly in the car park in the morning, also fifty linnets, 3 goldcrest and a redwing were the other birds of note at the park that morning.

A visit on Friday morning to the fields by Coopers Beach and the church area produced 20 blackbirds, 5 song thrushes, 2 chiffchaffs, blackcap, 10 skylarks, 6 meadow pipits, 20 goldfinches, 50 little egrets on the mud, 5 Mediterranean gulls, 4 little grebes and a common buzzard.

At West Mersea a black brant was seen by St Peters on Friday by Neil Mortimer.

Monday, 10 October 2016


A family of pied wagtails has been a familiar sight around the car park at Cudmore Grove recently. Some of their feeding has taken the birds onto the roofs of the buildings which is where this male was seen calling from.

Also feeding close to the park buildings was this goldfinch, one of a dozen birds feeding on the buddleia seeds beside the information room.

Birds noted at the park on Thursday 6th were 100 golden plover, 100 linnets, snipe and a marsh harrier - all seen on the grazing fields. Also 50 brent geese and 180 wigeon by the foreshore and 10 skylark flew over the car park.
Steve Hunting noted nine goldcrest in the conifer wood in Shop Lane on Thursday.

On Wednesday 5th three common scoter were dozing on the sea opposite the park, a red-breasted merganser flew into the Colne, yellow wagtail flew over, also one redwing heard calling, while 98 little egrets roosted at the pond.
At West Mersea Martin Cock noted 15 Mediterranean gulls were offshore from Waldegraves, also a merlin flew south over the Blackwater to Bradwell.

A peregrine flew fast over the park's grazing fields on Tuesday 4th heading east into the estuary, snipe, 2 redwings were seen near the pond and a yellow wagtail was feeding beside the cows.

Seventy little egrets roosted at the park pond on Monday 3rd, also 100 wigeon, 50 brent geese, 50 linnets, 3 common terns and 2 redwings were noted.

Catches of moths at the park since the end of September have been dominated by lots of lunar underwings. This autumn seems to have been a good year for them, with a peak of about 100 individuals on 29th September. The surrounding grassland of the park provides the foodplant nearby.
There is quite a variation in the colours of the lunar underwings as seen above.

Another grassland moth that has also had a good autumn has been the beaded chestnut with a peak of 20 individuals in the one trap. Last year's peak was only 8 individuals on the 4th October.

One or two mallows have been coming to the trap since the start of October.

Other moths in the first week of October have included angle shades, large yellow underwing, deep-brown dart, black rustic, barred sallow, L-album wainscot, square-spot rustic, shuttle-shaped dart, setaceous Hebrew character, autumnal rustic, yellow-line quaker, green-brindled crescent as well as rusty dot pearl and one or two rush veneers.

The first sighting of a rosemary beetle at the park was this individual in the moth trap on 3rd October.

Stephen and Josie Marshall have been enjoying views of a red squirrel in their garden in Firs Chase, these photos taken on Tuesday 4th. Feeding on walnuts was interspersed with drinks from the bird-bath.

The red squirrel visited twice during the morning about twenty minutes apart, feeding on the many walnuts on a tree in the garden.

It was seen to shuck and shell the walnuts before running off with each one in its mouth to bury it.

Some of the nuts have been buried in a raised vegetable bed down the garden and others in some herb pots by the back door.
The Daniel family next door to the Marshalls have also been watching the red squirrels recently in their garden too and noted how the ground is so hard the squirrel has struggled to dig a hole, and has reverted to burying walnuts in softer soil in plant pots.

These photos kindly passed to me by Stephen were taken through the glass window of their house.

Another report of a red squirrel sighting was in Haycocks Lane, seen running along the lane on Thursday 6th by Sheila Rayner.