Monday, 31 July 2017


Recent sunny days have been ideal for watching butterflies and one rich spot has been the Feldy View cemetery field with its nice mix of grassy meadow and nectar rich flowers.

Brown argus pictured above was seen low down beside the clover flowers or on the clumps of lavender with two seen on Friday 28th and two on Monday 31st.

A smart painted lady was feeding on the lesser knapweed and also lavender flowers on 28th and 30th.

At least eight common blues were fluttering along the grassy paths.

A pair of gatekeepers was seen mating amongst the grass, up to 25 were feeding on knapweeds along one edge of the field.

Several large clumps of lavender were buzzing with bees as well as butterflies including a hummingbird hawkmoth on Monday 31st.

The lesser knapweed had several butterflies feeding on the purple flowers across the meadow.

Other butterflies seen in the field were small tortoiseshell, peacock, meadow brown, speckled wood, small white, large white and holly blue.

Several butterflies were also seen in the Firs Chase garden such as this comma on Sunday 30th.
Others seen in the garden were red admiral, small tortoiseshell, small white, large white, green-veined white, gatekeeper, speckled wood, holly blue and also a hummingbird hawkmoth visiting some salvia and buddleia on Monday 31st.

Friday, 28 July 2017


The little egret roost has been slowly building up in numbers during recent high tide roosts at the country park pond. Thirty-three birds were counted in the trees and by the water's edge on Monday 24th with 22 egrets present on the 23rd and 25 counted on the 21st. A pair of little grebes are still feeding their young on the pond and there were 24 mallard on the pond on Thursday 27th.

The plaintive calls of a young sparrowhawk were heard coming from the copse at the back of the pond on Wednesday 26th suggesting they've bred successfully here. One bird flew out of the trees briefly on 23rd and one of the adults was seen crossing the car park carrying some prey, heading in the pond direction.

Two muntjac deer were seen by the pond late evening on Thursday 27th and one of them also seen the previous week on Wednesday 19th, when a badger also made a brief appearance as it got dark. A red squirrel was reported in trees near the bird hide at the park on Saturday 22nd.
An adder was seen in the park on Thursday 27th.

Despite recent downpours of rain, there is no surface water in the park's grazing fields. A large stand of dock with their red seed-heads have now colonised the bare soil where the various pools were in the winter and spring.

A pair of grey partridge seemed to have taken up residence in the park this mid-summer period which has been an unusual sight during such a busy period with lots of visitors with dogs. One bird was flushed from the long grass in the middle of the main field where it had been feeding on one of the many ant-hills. Two grey partridges were flushed by dogs on the main field heading off in different directions on Saturday 22nd and the same pair were in the pond field on Tuesday 18th.

A small group of up to six mistle thrushes are making daily visits to the big crop of rowan berries in the trees in the car park.
Small numbers of swifts have been passing over the park in recent days in small numbers heading west with 30 on Monday 24th and ten the day before. Also on the 23rd three sand martins, 20 swallows and a house martin were flying over the grazing fields.

On the mudflats, black-tailed godwit numbers are building back up as birds return from their Icelandic breeding grounds. At least 150 were feeding on the recently uncovered mud in front of the park beach on Monday 23rd. Two greenshank were heard calling from the mudflats on Saturday 22nd.

At the Point on Friday 21st four avocets, six black-tailed godwits, fifty linnets and a meadow pipit were noted.

A marsh harrier was hunting over the fields near Weir Farm early evening on Wednesday 19th. Up to 50 house sparrows were feeding in the wheat field by Chapmans Lane until the crop was harvested on Tuesday 25th. Thirty swifts were seen above the West Mersea houses near Adrian Amos's garden in East Road on Tuesday 18th.

In the Pyefleet 19 little terns were seen on Langenhoe Point by Andy Field on Wednesday 26th, also a sand martin seen too. At Maydays two greenshank and a common sandpiper were seen on Sunday 23rd by Martin Cock. Two Sandwich terns were seen in the Pyefleet near the Oyster Fishery by Martin on Wednesday 19th.

A productive mothing session at the country park on Friday 21st produced over 85 species along with the help of fellow Essex Moth Group members Graham Ekins and David Barnard who brought along their moth traps. There was quite a bit of moth activity to begin with until the breeze picked up just after midnight.

This ruby tiger pictured above is always an eyecatching and colourful moth.

Probably the biggest moth of the night was this oak eggar, a regular visitor to the trap in mid-summer. The other big moth trapped were two poplar hawkmoths that dropped into one trap just after one o'clock in the morning.

A coastal speciality here on Mersea is the ground lackey, a saltmarsh species whose caterpillars feed on the leaves of sea lavender and sea purslane.

Another boxworm moth was trapped, two weeks after three were found on 7th July. This large micro-moth from the Far East is rapidly spreading north across Essex, its caterpillars devouring the leaves of box bushes.

Two tree-lichen beauties were noted, each one with varying patterns of green on them.

Two magpie moths were noted, still a common species here in mid summer.

A marbled green was the most interesting moth during a trapping session at the park on Wednesday 19th. One of nearly 60 species of macro moth and 200 individuals.

Under the bright lights of the moth trap, this colourful pair of harlequin ladybirds was locked together in deep embrace! Not sure what colour the future young ladybirds will turn out to be.

Butterflies at the park over the last week have included ringlet, common blue, small heath, meadow brown, gatekeeper, comma, small copper, Essex skipper, large white, small white, peacock, red admiral and speckled wood.
A clouded yellow was seen flying over the garden of Martin Cock in West Mersea on Friday 21st and he also saw one on near the Shop Lane seawall on Wednesday 19th.

The main stand of hogs fennel at the park has really thickened out this summer. There was good news on Friday 21st when feeding signs from caterpillars of the recently introduced Fishers Estuarine moth were found on three plants by Zoe Ringwood during a survey of the plants.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Two common seal pups were found on the Cudmore Grove beach on Friday 14th with no sign of their mother in the area. Several people saw them on the beach, including John Feaveryear who took this photo and following advice from the Marine Mammals Rescue Unit, they were taken into care by the local West Mersea vets.

The two 3 week old pups appeared weak and in need of nursing back to health and had been on the beach for two days. The Blackwater Vets checked them over and then the pups were taken to the seal sanctuary in north Norfolk where they will spend the next few weeks before being released back into the wild.

Twelve years ago a similar thing happened to a very young grey seal pup found abandoned on the  East Mersea Point. Despite leaving it for two more high tides on the beach, there was still no sign of a parent, so following expert advice it was taken to the Norfolk seal sanctuary for a few weeks before being released back in north Essex.

John found this young pheasant beside the path between the East Mersea church and Rewsalls.

A hedgehog seen by John one evening recently at Coopers Beach.

A red squirrel was seen in Church Lane near Coopers Beach on Sunday 16th by John, sadly when he didn't have his camera with him.

Monday, 17 July 2017


Discovering a brood of pochard ducklings was the noteworthy sighting of the walk along the Strood seawall on a very sunny Monday 17th. The family was feeding along the dyke in the same place where a pochard brood was seen last year.

All five pochard ducklings sticking together as they follow the mother along the dyke.
Two other young pochard broods were seen on the country park pond at East Mersea towards the end of June but were not seen again.

Yellow wagtails from the pairs at either end of the Strood seawall were seen on Monday, this female feeding just below the seawall.

Two sedge warblers were seen, one singing, also four singing reed warblers, two singing corn buntings, 100+ house sparrows in bushes near the dyke and a meadow pipit singing from the saltmarsh.
This male reed bunting was making the most of the hot weather by having a sunbathe and puffing its feathers out. Two male reed buntings were heard singing.

Ten little egrets were seen along the Strood channel, this one doing a spot of fishing near the sluice outflow.
Not much variety of waders on the mud at low tide although 3 greenshank, 5 whimbrel, 75+ curlew and 150 redshank were the main ones noted.
Three common buzzards circled over the Peldon side of the channel while a fourth bird flew south-west down-channel. A hobby mobbed one of the buzzards high over Sampsons Creek.

High over the West Mersea houses 40+ swifts were in the air while in the early evening a hobby chased after a flock of 200+ starlings over Victory Road.

Along the Strood seawall on Sunday 16th a greenshank, 2 whimbrel, one black-tailed godwit, four common terns, 3 common buzzards, sedge warbler, 4 reed warblers, yellow wagtail and 30 swifts were the main highlights.

A brown argus butterfly was seen on the Strood seawall on Monday 17th.

Sunday, 16 July 2017


A few plants caught the eye during a walk along the West Mersea beach to St Peters where the saltmarsh was a nice purple colour with the patches of sea lavender.

Several clumps of sea holly were in bloom with this big plant on the beach near the bottom of Kingsland Avenue.

Sea spurge used to be quite a scarce plant on the Mersea beaches 15 or so years ago but in the last dozen years has sprung up on many of the beaches in West and East Mersea.

Flitting along the back of the Kingsland beach was this freshly marked painted lady on Friday 14th.

Birds noted from the beach included 4 common terns, 25 house sparrows feeding on the strandline and lots of noisy herring gulls with their big brown chicks on Cobmarsh Island.

A tatty small copper dropped into the Firs Chase garden on Friday 14th.

During a walk along seawall at Maydays farm on Saturday 15th, a pair of corn buntings flew onto a bush and this male started to sing. Once a widespread bird at Maydays, this is the last pair on the farm now.

Also in bushes and along the dyke were 3 singing yellowhammers, 4 reed warblers, one reed bunting and ten linnets. Flying low over the fields was a passage of 12 sand martins, 20 swallows and 2 swifts while 25 resident house martins were flying around the farmhouse.

Along the Pyefleet were 2 greenshank, common sandpiper, whimbrel, 16 avocet, 50+ grey plover, 100+ redshank, 10 dunlin, 8 little egret, 3 great crested grebes, 4 common terns and a brood of 8 shelducklings with two nanny shelducks. Two marsh harriers flew over Langenhoe and another over Maydays marsh.

Saturday, 15 July 2017


The foxes in Firs Chase have been getting more brazen in recent months, usually sitting at the side of the road to watch the traffic go past - or in the case of this individual, sit in the middle of the road!

The Firs Chase garden feeder is still getting several red squirrel visits each day with this dark female with tufts a regular each day. 

One of the teats is just noticeable on this same female red squirrel.

Twenty minutes after watching the female in the early evening on Monday 3rd, this male red squirrel appeared and began tucking into the peanuts.

A red squirrel was also reported at the country park being seen on the grassy island in the middle of the car park at the end of June.

A surprise first thing on Sunday 9th was this grey partridge feeding in the middle of the car park at Cudmore Grove before the first cars arrived.
Forty swifts flew west over the park during the day on Wednesday 12th and 25 swifts were circling over West Mersea houses in the evening of Monday 10th.

The little egret roost is starting to build up again at the park pond with 24 counted on Thursday 13th. Also at the pond a sparrowhawk came out of the trees while nearby four kestrels were flying about. The distinctive call of a nightingale was heard in bushes near the car park on the 13th - a bird on passage heading south.

At Maydays farm a hobby, greenshank, common buzzard and 2 grey partridge were seen by Martin Cock on Wednesday 12th. A sandwich tern and the Strood yellow legged gull have also been noted in recent days too.

A barn owl was hovering alongside the East Mersea road at Bocking Hall at dusk on Sunday 9th. Various little owls have been on show recently too with one near Meeting Lane and Chapmans Lane on 4th, another near Meeting Lane on the 5th while a different individual was by the country park entrance on 10th.

The six-spot burnet moths are having a much better season than last summer, with these two locked together on a field scabious flower at the park. A dozen six-spot burnets were on the wing on Thursday 13th, and also in the long grass were 4 common blues, 20+ gatekeepers, 20+ meadow browns, ringlet, small copper and a number of both skipper species.
A black-tailed skimmer was flying along the park dyke on the 13th.

Four adders were noted at the park on Thursday 13th.

Friday, 14 July 2017


A very productive mothing session was held recently at the country park on Friday 7th. I joined Dave Grundy and Chris Williams visiting from the Midlands and between us we set up 16 moth traps across the park including at East Mersea Point.

By dawn on Saturday over 160 species of both micro moth and macro moth had been recorded with a final tally still to come. The warm and muggy evening was perfect for moth activity and there was plenty to keep us interested.

One garden tiger was noted, pictured above, always a highlight here as numbers elsewhere in southern England continue to decline.

The clouded magpie pictured, was one of the few macro moths recorded on the night for the first time here.
One of the other new moths for the site was the tiny small marbled, an immigrant trapped near the beach.

The most notable micro-moth was seeing three boxworm moths - a strikingly big micro with a slight purplish sheen to its wings. It's discovery is bad news for gardeners with box hedges as the caterpillars strip the leaves off box plants. It is spreading fast across Essex moving out from the London area, the first sighting at the park last summer, now three in one night this summer here.

Another moth continuing to spread but with negligible impact is the festoon. A woodland species it was first noted at the park in 2013 and on Friday over 15 individuals were noted.

A few lackey moths were found, this female noted at a trap close to the beach. One or two ground lackeys were also found in traps near the saltmarsh.

The orange moth has become a regular each summer, this individual above being one of the darker forms.

A handful of the delicate rosy footman moths were noted, showing their salmon pink colouring. It seemed a good night for them.

Just one scarce silver lines was found, in the car park area, a regular during July.

The dark spectacle was of local interest for the park.

A couple of peach blossoms were noted, their markings helping them to hide amongst the bramble flowers.

Several swallow-tailed moths came to the traps, this one resting on the white sheet on the ground.

A coastal speciality is the sulphur pearl whose caterpillars feed on the wild carrot plants growing along the coast. A couple were noted on the evening, this one with a faded hint of yellow on the wings.

Chris Williams did very well with his eight or so traps as he found 16 great silver diving beetles in his. A freshwater beetle, it has been on the decline nationally but this night's tally here suggests a very healthy local population.