Wednesday, 31 July 2019


There has been a nice variety of interesting wildlife in the Firs Chase garden during the month of July. A brown argus was seen on three dates at the end of July, seen here resting on the a stalk on the uncut back-lawn.

In recent years the brown argus has made an appearance each summer in the garden. It is usually seen in more grassy habitats such as along the seawall or at on the grassland site of Feldy View.

A handful of gatekeepers have been resident in the garden in the second half of July, here a pair mating.

One or two meadow browns have been regular too, this one feeding on some lavender.
The ringlet was seen on several dates but not seen to settle down to feed. Large whites, small whites and the green-veined white have all been regular visitors especially during the second half of the month. As the buddleia came into flower in the middle of July, several peacocks, red admiral, comma appeared while one painted lady was seen on the 29th.

The only large skipper seen in the garden was on the 1st July.

The lawn had three cuts in the spring before it was left to grow from early June onwards. This resulted in a nice growth of flowers such as catsear and smooth hawksbeard.

The bees enjoyed the large patches of flowering white clover, also some self-heal flowers to visit too.

The stock dove male has been singing from the tall cedar tree and seemed to have taken a fancy to the red squirrel box.

The stock dove was seen at the start of the month feeding under the bird feeders.

After a busy period building several nests, the wrens settled into a nestbox beside the house.

The wren parents were busy taking food back to feed the hungry chicks. Sadly the box was predated, maybe the noisy chicks gave the nest location away.

After a very busy spring with lots of red squirrel activity in the garden, visits dwindled through July. This male was photographed on 3rd July

Friday, 26 July 2019


Numbers of redshank have been gradually building up in the last few weeks around the Island, as birds return from their breeding grounds. This redshank still in breeding plumage was with another 100 along the Strood Channel on Friday 26th. Also on the mud were 2 greenshank,  one whimbrel and a grey plover along with 30+ curlew and several oystercatchers.

A common buzzard drifted slowly over Ray Island from Peldon, a Mediterranean gull circled above the Firs Chase caravan site, while along the seawall were 100 house sparrows, 8 linnets and 4 yellow wagtails.

At East Mersea Point on Friday, three ringed plover chicks were seen by Martin Cock, also another older chick was seen here from another brood, and also two avocet chicks feeding on the mud.

Four brown argus butterflies were enjoying the flowering bushes such as this lavender at the Feldy View field on Friday.

Four yellow wagtails were feeding on the saltmarsh near the Firs Chase caravan site on Thursday 25th, also a kestrel hunting over the nearby fields while a common tern was resting on a buoy in the Strood channel.
A common buzzard was mobbed by gulls as it flew over Firs Chase on Thursday.

Ten yellow wagtails were also seen along the Strood on Wednesday 24th, most perching on the telegraph wires late morning, as did a kestrel. Two little grebes and a common terns were of note along the channel. A peregrine was seen flying over Feldy Marsh, heading over to Old Hall where it swooped half-heartedly down on some birds on the saltings.

Along the Pyefleet Channel at East Mersea near the Oyster Fishery on Tuesday 23rd were a greenshank, 8 avocets, 5 common terns, shelduck with 11 young, 3 marsh harriers overhead, 5 little egrets with another ten in the Colne. A yellowhammer was singing near Fishponds Wood.

Earlier on Tuesday a great white egret was seen by Andy Field flying over Langenhoe marsh before dropping onto the lagoon by Langenhoe Point. Also seen at Reeveshall were the two avocet broods of 3 and 4 young, greenshank, 60 black-tailed godwits and a marsh harrier.

A male ruddy darter was seen by Fishponds Wood in Shop Lane on Tuesday 23rd.

A whimbrel was feeding along the Strood channel on Monday 22nd, as were ten black-tailed godwits and a greenshank. A marsh harrier flew over the Peldon fields and a kestrel was over the Strood fields.

A rather faded six-spot burnet moth was feeding on some ragwort flowers in the Feldy View field on Monday 22nd. A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen feeding on some lavender. Butterflies seen here included common blue, brown argus, meadow brown, gatekeeper, ringlet, small / Essex skippers, small white, large white, comma, peacock and red admiral.

Moths were flocking to the moth trap during the muggy night of Tuesday 23rd until a thunderstorm at 2.30am meant a hurried emptying and clearing away in the pouring rain. One strikingly marked moth to make the first appearance in the Firs Chase garden this summer was this black arches.
Over forty species of macro moth were noted including pine hawkmoth and elephant hawkmoth, magpie moth, iron prominent, ruby tiger, dot moth fen wainscot and the good count of 16 tree-lichen beauties.

Sunday, 21 July 2019


A common seal was resting on the pontoon in the Pyefleet Channel on Sunday 21st, with a second common seal resting on the saltmarsh further up channel. A grey seal was also watched checking out the Maydays creek just before high tide, looking for somewhere secluded to rest up.

A common sandpiper flew along the Maydays creek, while along the Pyefleet were 5 greenshank, whimbrel, 200+ redshank, 2 grey plover, 4 great crested grebes, 2 common terns and two shelduck broods of 3 and 5.

A corn bunting was singing beside the Maydays dyke with a second bird singing from a nearby field. Three yellowhammers were singing from bushes along the dyke too and five linnets also noted.

Two hobbies were watched from the seawall, one distant hobby trying to catch a small bird at the back of Reeveshall, while a second hobby a minute later flew along the Reeveshall seawall towards Maydays providing a nice close fly-past. Two marsh harriers were seen from the seawall on Langenhoe. A big mixed flock of 500+ rooks and jackdaws was feeding on the Reeveshall grass fields.

On Saturday 20th during a walk along the Strood seawall, 4 greenshank, 10 black-tailed godwits, a turnstone, 4 yellow wagtails, marsh harrier and common buzzard were noted along with 2 common terns, 2 little grebes in the Strood channel.
At East Mersea Point two ringed plover chicks were seen on the beach on Saturday by Helen Shore.

Two broods of avocet chicks were feeding on the pool by the Reeveshall seawall on Friday 19th. One brood of three chicks and a second brood nearby of four chicks were being closely watched over by their parents. On the nearby Pyefleet channel were 8 avocets on the mud.

Also along the Pyefleet were a common sandpiper on Pewit Island, 40 black-tailed godwits, whimbrel, 4 little egrets, common tern and a little tern fishing by Langenhoe Point. Two marsh harriers flew over Reeveshall and another three on Langenhoe while also seen over Reeveshall were two common buzzards, sparrowhawk and a kestrel.

During a cloudy end to Friday a flock of 100 swifts circled in the grey sky above Firs Chase.

Five sand martins were seen crossing the Strood Channel on Thursday 18th as they headed west off the Island. Also seen from the Strood seawall were 2 common terns, whimbrel, 5 ringed plover, 3 black-tailed godwit, yellow wagtail, 100 house sparrows and 14 linnets.

A siskin was heard calling as it flew west over Firs Chase on Tuesday 16th.
In East Mersea, Martin Cock noted the two broods of 2 and 3 avocet chicks at Reeveshall, also the coal tit in Fishponds Wood. A brood of 3 avocet young were also seen on the mud by East Mersea Point. A kingfisher seen near the Golfhouse is an early autumn sighting, also 6 sand martins seen too.

The large oak eggar moth was a nice visitor to the Firs Chase garden moth trap on Thursday 18th.

Only one ruby tiger has been noted in the last fortnight in the garden trap.

A single pebble hook-tip on 16th was the first one this year in the garden.
Up to four elephant hawkmoths are being noted in the trap most recent nights, while privet and pine hawkmoths were seen on 18th. A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen briefly in the garden near the end of Sunday 21st.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019


Half a dozen purple hairstreaks were seen on Monday 15th enjoying the warm but cloudy conditions alongside the footpath between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane in East Mersea. Some of the individuals came down from the tops of the oak trees to feed on the bramble flowers.

At least ten fresh looking peacocks were also seen along the footpath on Monday, as were comma, small white, large white, Essex / small skipper, ringlet, gatekeeper, meadow brown butterflies.

The Cetti's warbler was still present in the Gyants Marsh area giving out a loud burst of song late morning. Also three common buzzards, two male yellowhammers, great spotted woodpecker and a green woodpecker seen.

Also on Monday, Martin Cock noted at Maydays farm 3 little tern, common sandpiper, greenshank, sedge warbler, corn bunting as well as marsh harrier and common buzzard. A grey seal and a common seal were at the top end of the Pyefleet channel.

A skylark was seen singing from the top of a bush near the Bower Hall seawall on Sunday 14th.
A hobby flew over the fields between Maydays and Bower Hall scattering the local 30+ house martins, before it chased one unsuccessfully for a short while. The hobby then flew low over the Maydays saltings heading towards Langenhoe. A buzzard was by Bower Hall, a marsh harrier over the marsh and a kestrel flew over the seawall were also noted.

Three greenshank were in the top end of the Pyefleet as was a whimbrel, common sandpiper and five young shelducklings. Two grey herons, 2 yellow wagtails and 3 singing yellowhammers were seen as was a common seal.

There was a nice display of wild carrots in flower along the field edges between the Strood and Maydays farm.

A brown hare tried to stay hidden in a field although the big ears betrayed its presence.

A little egret was feeding near the Strood seawall on Saturday 13th.
Two greenshank, a black-tailed godwit, 5 yellow wagtails and two kestrels were also noted by the Strood.
A common buzzard flew over Firs Chase later on Saturday.

On Friday 12th, joined local RSPB volunteers Steve Hunting and Cheryl on Stacey Belbin's Lady Grace boat, to survey the breeding gulls, waders and terns on the shingle beaches of Packing Shed, Cobmarsh, Old Hall Point, Tollesbury Shingle-head Point and also Great Cob Island.

Haven't seen the final figures from the count but there were good numbers of herring gull chicks, three seen here on Packing Shed. No little terns were seen, ten common terns were on Shinglehead Point, Mediterranean gull on Great Cob, only one fledged ringed plover chick was seen but no oystercatcher chicks noted although lots of adult pairs seen.
A peregrine flew over the Hard car park mid morning, marsh harrier over Old Hall, yellow wagtail on Cobmarsh and four great crested grebes seen in the outer quarters.
A sparrowhawk flew over Firs Chase being followed by some swallows.

Sunday, 14 July 2019


The muggy nights during the second week of July were perfect for moths - and for moth trapping. Seeing one of the large hawkmoths in the trap is always a highlight and for the Firs Chase garden seven species were logged in just a week and a half, with the addition of the day-flying hummingbird hawkmoth making it eight species for this short period. Just under 90 species of macro moth were logged, with most nights averaging 260+ individuals a night.
Pictured above is one of the less regular hawkmoths, the colourful small elephant hawkmoth, which turned up on three nights.

The hawkmoth quartet of privet hawkmoth and elephant hawkmoth on the top row with lime hawkmoth and small elephant hawkmoth on lower row, were all seen on Monday 8th.

The pine hawkmoth made an appearance on the night of Tuesday 9th.

The poplar hawkmoth was seen on Tuesday 2nd and also on Wednesday 10th.

The aptly named eyed hawkmoth with the colourful eye markings was found in the trap on the 2nd.
The day-flying hummingbird hawkmoth was watched hovering in front of some salvia flowers in the garden on Saturday 13th for a minute or so before zooming away.

The leopard moth with the black spots on the wings, just the one individual seen.

The orange moth seems to be very slowly increasing and less restricted to woodlands.

This scarce silver lines was the second individual seen in the last fortnight.

The plain looking Clancy's rustic was the scarcest moth seen with only a scattering of sightings previously elsewhere in Essex of this immigrant from the continent.

Another species that has been slowly increasing its range in recent years is this small ranunculus. One was also trapped in the Firs Chase garden in 2014.

The cryptically marked buff-tip moth looks just like a snapped off twig.

The rapidly spreading pest of a moth is this box-worm moth whose caterpillars feed on box bush leaves. It was first recorded at the country park about five years ago and every year since.

Another moth on the increase in Essex is this cypress carpet whose caterpillars feed on cypress trees.

Saturday, 13 July 2019


Good numbers of butterflies have been on the wing in recent days in the nice sunshine. A good variety of species have been on the wing in the Feldy View cemetery on the edge of West Mersea. This male gatekeeper was one of 25+ seen fluttering around the flowering plants. As well as 50+  meadow browns there were 10+ ringlets in the field too.

An unexpected sight on Thursday 11th in the Feldy View field was this marbled white butterfly seen briefly on a knapweed plant for only about 20 seconds before it flew off and not seen subsequently. This is the first ever sighting on the Island of this species which is more common in the southern half of Essex, although its range has been slowly expanding north.

Also on Feldy View on Thursday was this brown argus flying about low over the grassland. A couple of common blues were also seen in the area too, as was a painted lady, peacock, small white, large white and red admiral.

Several Essex skippers were seen nectaring on some of the Feldy plants such as the lavender.

A willow emerald damselfly was a surprise visitor to the Firs Chase garden on Wednesday 10th when it turned for a few minutes to rest by the back door. This the first sighting in this garden  and only a handful of other sightings on the Island, although it has spread widely elsewhere since it was first discovered in the UK only ten years ago.

During a walk along the Strood seawall on Thursday 11th birds of interest noted included 2 greenshank, whimbrel, 6 yellow wagtails, sedge warbler, 2 reed warblers, common tern, great crested grebe, 30 swifts and 150 house sparrows.
A sparrowhawk flew over Firs Chase with about 30 swallows mobbing it on Thursday.

A curlew was feeding along the edge of the mud as the tide receded by St Peters on Wednesday 10th. Offshore 7 great crested grebes and 12 common terns were seen, also a Mediterranean gull while two reed warblers were singing at either end of St Peters marsh.

The proposed development field near Cross Lane was showing lots of colourful clumps of poppies on Tuesday 9th. From the Waldegraves seawall six Mediterranean gulls, 2 common terns and 2 little egrets were offshore, while 70 mallard and a reed warbler were at the nearby lake. Two lesser whitethroats were at the bottom of Cross Lane.

A colourful black-tailed godwit still in its summer breeding plumage was feeding close to the Strood seawall on Monday 8th, as was a second bird. Also along the channel were 2 greenshank, whimbrel, 2 common terns, 70 redshank and a great crested grebe. Three yellow wagtails, singing corn bunting and 30 swifts were also noted from the seawall.

A skylark was seen crouching down on the top of the Strood seawall, hoping it could stay undetected to passers-by.