Friday, 18 May 2018

SMART SUMMER DIVER

A summer plumaged great northern diver was an unexpected sight for Andy Field from the Esplanade on Wednesday 16th. Mid May is quite late to see great northern divers here and it's not often the smart markings of the breeding plumage get to be enjoyed off Mersea.

The diver was close enough to the beach for Andy to take these photographs of it.

An immature great northern diver was also seen beside the adult great northern diver.

A pair of common terns was back on the saltmarsh lagoon at the park on Tuesday 15th, hopefully they're thinking about breeding again here, as they've bred here for the last couple of years.

A single brent goose was feeding on the saltmarsh near the Point on Tuesday 15th and a pair of greylag geese was in the grazing fields.

Three reed warblers were singing from the reeds along the park borrowdyke.

Half a dozen lapwing are still in the park's fields, some looking after their broods of young chicks, at least one brood in each field. Four redshank were on the saltmarsh on Tuesday.

There are three families of coots at the park pond each with chicks, also several tufted ducks and pochard whose numbers fluctuate each day, usually a handful of each.

The cuckoo has been heard calling from and near the park in recent days including calling from the middle of the car park on Friday 18th. A willow warbler was also singing at the park on the 18th. A little owl perched up by the car park at dusk on Thursday 17th. At Weir Farm on Monday 14th a little owl perched by the East Mersea road.


The first green hairstreak at the park this spring was on Tuesday 15th, enjoying the sunshine out of the northerly breeze. It was also seen again along the same path near the hide on Thursday 17th as were the first small heath and small copper butterflies of the spring. Also that day a hairy dragonfly and lots of azure damselflies.

The "woolly bear" caterpillar of the garden tiger moth was found basking in the sunshine amongst the long grass at the park on Tuesday 14th. The adult moth will be on the wing in a couple of months time.

An eyed hakwmoth was a nice find in the moth trap after the night of Tuesday 15th. A hint of the colourful eye markings on the hindwing just visible. Thirty moths of 15 species were noted by the next morning.

A couple of light brocades were also in the trap.

The distinctive green coloured V pug was also noted. Other moths that night included heart and dart, shuttle-shaped dart, white ermine, common carpet, red-twin spot carpet, Chinese character, latticed heath, clouded silver, least black arches and brimstone.

Monday, 14 May 2018

GARDEN ORCHIDS

Made the annual visit to the West Mersea garden of Dave Chadwick's on the Esplanade to admire the impressive display of wild green-winged orchids on Sunday 13th.

The display of green-winged orchids was as good as ever with a few hundred spikes on show in the back garden with a further thirty on the front lawn too.

By chance the timing of the visit seemed to coincide with the flowering peak of the green-winged orchids. Last year I visited too late. Dotted about the lawn were also the spotted leaves of several common spotted orchids which will be flowering in a month's time.

Birds seen at the country park on Sunday 13th included 3 sanderling, 4 ringed plover and 2 turnstone at the Point, while a cuckoo was heard calling to the north of the park.
On Saturday 12th a hobby raced across the busy car park at tree height heading west, also a greenshank and three whimbrel flew over the park calling. At the park pond were 4 pochard and a reed warbler singing.
Along the Strood three yellow wagtails were seen by Andy Field on Saturday 12th.

Two common buzzards flew over the park on Friday 11th and the cuckoo was heard calling from trees near the pond. At West Mersea 3 swifts were over Upland Road area and a house martin was back nesting at Queens Corner.
On Wednesday 9th six common buzzards were in the air together just to the west of the park. It appeared a couple of local birds were displaying to some migrant birds that were arriving from the south-east. Nine swifts were in the skies over Kingsland Road on Wednesday, with the summer sound of screaming heard.

Butterflies at the park over the weekend have included brimstone on 12th, also speckled wood, orange tip, holly blue, large white, small white and green-veined white. Adders seen were 2 on the 13th, one on the 12th and one on 8th.

Eighteen species of macro moth visited the trap at the park on the night of Friday 11th. This nicely marked pebble prominent was the most interesting one for the night.

The swallow prominent is a regular visitor to the trap.

The well camouflaged pale prominent is another moth often seen during the season.

A latticed heath was resting on a blade of grass early in the morning.

The first clouded silver for the season, another common moth at the park.

The Chinese character moth, looking like a bird dropping.
Other moths noted were buff-tip, shuttle-shaped dart, pine beauty, angle shades, least black arches, maidens blush, white-pinion spotted, scorched carpet, common quaker, brimstone, common carpet, oak hook-tip, lychnis, cabbage and knot-grass.

Friday, 11 May 2018

SONG OF THE NIGHTINGALE

A colourful male linnet sat in the early evening sun near the East Mersea Oyster Fishery on Sunday 6th.


The loud song of the nightingale was heard from the seawall near the Oyster Fishery, singing from a hedge at the back of the field. A second nightingale was heard calling from the other end of the hedge. This is the second year the nightingales have been here, the only place on the Island for them.
Also singing from the same hedge was a Cetti's warbler, while reed bunting was also seen nearby.
Seven pochard, 2 tufted duck, whimbrel and a pair of oystercatcher were in the area too.


On Monday during a walk along the Strood seawall in the blazing heat, 2 corn buntings were singing, as were 3 reed warblers, a yellow wagtail seen, while along the channel were a pair of common terns and 4 whimbrel.
The first swift over Adrian Amos' West Mersea garden along East Road was on Monday.


Two green hairstreaks were spiralling round with each other near Feldy View, a new location for them. Four green hairstreaks were watched by Steve Entwistle at the Youth Camp entrance also on Monday


A great spotted woodpecker visited the bird feeder in the Firs Chase garden, taking a peanut and pecking at it after wedging it in the bark of the nearby tree.
Individual common buzzards passed high over the garden drifting west off  the Island on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. A pair of sparrowhawks was also seen circling above the garden being mobbed by a crow.
The songs of goldcrest, blackcap and chiffchaff were heard in or near the Firs Chase garden.


A couple of large-red damselflies rested in the sunshine in the garden on Monday 8th  - the first sighting here for three years. Also a hairy dragonfly in the evening hawking after insects.
Garden butterflies over the weekend included speckled wood, holly blue, small white, large white and orange-tip.


After the regular female red squirrel had enjoyed feeding on the nuts, she washed them down with a good drink of water from the plastic cup. In the hot weather the squirrels have needed to drink more.


The red squirrel then turned and scurried up the tree in the evening of Monday 8th.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

MELLOW YELLOWS

The air around Maydays Farm on a hot Saturday 6th was full of the smell of the fields of oil seed rape in flower. Quite a colourful display of yellow under the blue sky.

A couple of male yellowhammers were singing by the side of the yellow rape fields.

Two yellow wagtails were seen, this bright yellow male perched up near the seawall.

Two sedge warblers were singing in close proximity to each other from bushes along the Maydays borrowdyke. Also 3 singing reed warblers, 3 singing reed buntings, 4 linnets, and lots of skylarks in full song over the rape fields.
A female wheatear perched up on fenceposts beside the Maydays seawall.
Five whimbrel, 6 shelduck and a lapwing were in the fields, while 6 house martins were by the farm buildings.

In the Pyefleet 2 common terns were the only bird of note as the tide came in, while over on Langenhoe, 4 common buzzards and three marsh harriers were seen in the air.

A distant common seal basked on the Pyefleet mud on the Langenhoe side.

A brown hare lay hidden in the long grass except for this brief glimpse. Another hare was seen running along the top of the seawall.

Butterflies noted during the Maydays walk included peacock, small tortoiseshell, small white, orange tip and large white.

The hot weather brought a nice selection of six species of raptor on show along the Strood Channel on Friday 5th. This common buzzard circled overhead as it crossed over the channel towards Ray Island. Also a hobby circled over Ray Island, a peregrine flew low and fast up the channel passing over the causeway early afternoon, a marsh harrier flew north over the fields, a sparrowhawk over the houses and a couple of kestrels rounded up an enjoyable couple of hours walk.
Mark and Jane Dixon later reported a possible male hen harrier flying past the Dabchicks early afternoon.
This male wheatear was one of three along the Strood seawall on Friday. Managed to see and hear my first cuckoo of the spring with one calling above the Firs Chase caravan site and then flying to the Strood Hill to call, before calling over on Ray Island. Other migrants included 2 swifts in the sky above Jumbo, also 5 yellow wagtails, singing sedge warbler, 2 reed warblers and five swallows.

Along the channel were 3 avocets, 15+ whimbrel, 2 common terns, while on the fields were 2 little egrets and 4 shelduck.
Butterflies seen near the caravan site and the seawall included a brimstone, orange tip, small white, large white, peacock, small tortoiseshell, holly blue and speckled wood.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

RARE MOTH TO PARK

This tiny caterpillar of the nationally rare Fishers Estuarine moth was on its way on Wednesday 2nd from Colchester Zoo to the introduction site at Cudmore Grove where there's lots of hog's fennel for it to eat. This caterpillar was safely transferred onto a clump of hog's fennel at the park. The caterpillar is tiny at only about 3mm, it was the first one already hatched out whilst being bred at the zoo.
I had a call from Zoe Ringwood the Natural England project leader for the moth, just the day before to say the warm weather was helping the eggs quickly develop and they needed putting out on site.

The female moth lays her eggs inside a sheath of grass the previous autumn. After overwintering, the eggs start developing and the tiny larvae soon hatch out in the spring, ready to start looking for hog's fennel plants to feed on. Seven separate blades of grass with eggs were collected from the Zoo where they'd been reared over the winter.

Each blade was taped to a cane which was stuck into the ground among a clump of hog's fennel at the park.

The hog's fennel plants were first planted at the park in 2007 especially in readiness for the Fishers Estuarine moths and have been allowed to flourish in the long grass and now total over 1000 plants. The first batch of eggs from the Zoo were brought to the park last spring and although there were no adults seen flying in the autumn, there had been signs in the summer of some caterpillars successfully feeding inside the fennel stalks.

Glen Fairweather has been the moth's custodian at the Zoo and has been managing the project for ten years. Here the plastic containers with the egg batches on grass stalks, were being prepared for transit to Cudmore Grove. Some of the other batches were destined for the National Trust site at Copt Hall.

Forty small wooden and wire enclosures were specially built at Colchester Zoo for the rearing of the Fishers Estuarine moth. The area is not open to the general public and is a bio-secure zone.

Each enclosure has a batch of moths being reared in it, some with the hog's fennel in big plastic tubs.

The moth only occurs in the UK on the north-east Essex coast and a small colony in Kent. Its only food-plant, the hog's fennel is threatened by rising sea-levels, so the big project of planting lots of hog's fennels and the breeding programme with the zoo has managed to successfully establish more populations in north Essex set back from the coastline.

Friday, 4 May 2018

BLUEBELL BLOOM

Small clumps of bluebells are in full flower at the moment, the best display at the country park is under the single oak tree not far from the car park. The display won't last long if the weather stays sunny and warm.

The male whinchat was still in the park's grazing fields on Tuesday 1st May as were the ten wheatears. The birds staying put whilst the rain and cold northerly winds lashed the place during Monday.

Ten swallows were hawking over the park fields on Tuesday, one or two birds resting at the side of the borrowdyke.
The grazing fields were looking much wetter following the inch of rain on Monday. It was reassuring to see four lapwing chicks from one brood survived through the cold and the deluge. Also in the fields were a black-tailed godwit and a gadwall. At the pond were a pair of shoveler and 5 pochard.

Two pairs of oystercatchers have been feeding in the park's grazing fields over the last month, weighing up the site for possible breeding. A pair was also standing on the beach at East Mersea Point.

At the west end of the Island a red kite was seen near Strood Hill on Tuesday 1st by Martin Cock. At Maydays a little tern was seen in the Pyefleet and also 2 wheatears on the seawall.

On Wednesday 3rd a marsh harrier flew west along the mudflats in front of the park early evening. Seven wheatears were still in the park's fields as were four lapwing chicks while 3 reed warblers were singing from the reeds. A little egret flew over the fields, a pair of avocet feeding on the saltmarsh lagoon and ten common terns feeding in the Colne, were the birds of note early evening.

At the park on Thursday 4th, a sparrowhawk flew past the pond, 8 pochard were on the pond, reed warbler and Cetti's warbler singing from the reeds here. Three whitethroats and a lesser whitethroat were singing from bushes at the park.
To the north of the park, a distant male marsh harrier was displaying high in the air over Langenhoe, while 2 house martins circled high over the Dormy Houses.

A pair of green-veined white butterflies rested on some plants in front of the bird hide on Tuesday 1st. Also noted in the morning sunshine were a brimstone, hairy dragonfly and two adders including a small young one from last summer.
On Thursday a brimstone, speckled wood, 4 small whites and a couple of orange-tips were seen at the park.

David Hope found this web of brown-tail moth caterpillars stripping the leaves off a tree in his West Mersea garden. The moth is quite a common moth on the island and the whitish webs are often noticeable on bramble and thorn bushes in hedgerows. The caterpillars with their irritant hairs are often eaten by cuckoos.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

WHINCHATS AND WHEATEARS

Two whinchats were found in one of the park's grazing fields on Sunday 29th. They rarely stop over here in the spring, their usual stopover is in the autumn period during August and September. The whinchat pictured above by Andy Field shows a nicely marked bird in smart breeding plumage.

Several wheatears were also at the park on Sunday with these two males seen on the seawall. At least ten wheatears were seen, eight of them together with the whinchats in the grazing field.

Several of the wheatears started the day on the beach near the Point, like this male, before heading onto the nearby grazing field. Five wheatears were also in the fields the day before, on Saturday.

Also on Sunday 4 reed warblers were singing along the park dyke and another singing at the pond, ten swallows over the fields, 4 greylag geese, grey heron, 2 little egrets, 2 black-tailed godwits in the fields, 2 summer plumaged bar-tailed godwits on the nearby saltmarsh lagoons, while 3 common terns flew up-river. At the pond a sparrowhawk and 4 pochard.

 The first two lapwing broods were seen in the park's grazing fields on Saturday 28th. This parent bird was just settling down in the middle of the field to shelter her four young chicks under her wings. At least one chick from another lapwing brood was seen briefly feeding amongst the tussocks of rushes.

Other birds noted at the park on Saturday included 15 swallows, 2 house martins, yellow wagtail, 3 Mediterranean gulls, whimbrel, pair of avocet, grey heron, 2 little egrets, 5 pochard, 2 common tern and 4 greylag geese.

Near the Oyster Fishery on Saturday Martin Cock saw 4 common terns, 24 brent geese and heard the nightingale while at West Mersea the great northern diver was offshore. At Rewsalls marsh, Andy Field reported two singing sedge warblers that have joined last week's bird, also a whimbrel and 3 wheatears.

One of four whitethroats singing at the park on Sunday was this one photographed by Andy. A willow warbler was also heard singing at the park.

On Friday 27th a pair of grey partridge was seen flying onto the main part of the park, 15 linnets feeding on the park, whimbrel flew over calling and a little owl perched up by the car park at dusk. Twenty linnets fed in the field beside Manwood Grove.

A willow warbler and whitethroat were heard singing at the park on Thursday 26th and the pair of grey partridge flew across the main field of the park.

On Wednesday lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, 2 swallows, house martin, 20 tufted duck and 4 pochard were noted at the park.

Three swifts and a swallow flew rapidly west over the car park on Tuesday 24th. The first cuckoo at the park was a bird seen calling from wires to the north, by Andy Field who also noted 2 wheatears and 2 reed warblers.

nightingale was heard singing on Tuesday in the same plantation near the Oyster Fishery, where one was singing last year. Two cuckoos and a Cetti's warbler were heard singing by Martin Cock who also had the rare sight of a pair of bullfinches perch briefly before flying towards Shop Lane. Seven pochard were seen on the nearby pond near the Oyster Fishery.
A male hen harrier was reported by Neil Mortimer flying over Rewsalls fields towards Meeting Lane on Tuesday.

This first spring speckled wood butterfly at the park was seen on Wednesday 25th.

One of the ever elusive adders was glimpsed at the park on Thursday 26th.