Monday, 22 August 2016


The family of ringed plovers have been having a testing time recently with very high spring tides covering most of the beach near the East Mersea Point on Sunday 21st. The three chicks were still scuttling about the beach under the watchful eye of their parents nearby. Luckily for the family, the eggs hatched a few days before the spring tides, as where they had been nesting, got flooded by the tide over this weekend.

The ringed plover chicks were first seen on Wednesday 17th and probably just one or two days old. Two chicks had crouched down on the beach, one pictured here on the left, taken from the seawall path. The third chick hadn't been seen at this early stage, no doubt crouching down and well camouflaged on the beach.
Seven common terns flew west offshore from the park.

The main pool in the park's grazing fields have dried up rapidly in the last few days with this lapwing the only wader seen using it on Sunday.
A swift and 25 swallows were seen flying over the fields in the morning.

In the nearby trees by the pond 34 little egrets were seen late afternoon and the two young sparrowhawks were still calling loudly.

A juvenile little gull flew along the saltmarsh near the old East Mersea Hard then landing for a few minutes near Ivy Dock on Saturday 20th. The distinctive black W pattern on the upperwing was the eyecatching feature seen as the bird flew across the Pyefleet towards Langenhoe Point.

On the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse 200 black-tailed godwits and 5 bar-tailed godwits roosted during the Saturday high tide.
Four teal, 35 little egrets and a shoveler were on the pond on Saturday, while the count of little egrets on Friday was 58 birds. Twelve mistle thrushes were feeding in the overflow car park.

On Wednesday 17th, a spotted flycatcher was found in the horse paddock at the Golfhouse by Martin Cock, where a whinchat and a couple of yellow wagtails were seen later that morning. Over the nearby fields 200 house martins, 100 swallows and a handful of sand martins were hawking.

At the park pond 61 little egrets roosted in the trees and 4 teal were noted while two willow warblers were calling from trees in the park on Wednesday.

Two willow warblers were calling from trees in the park on Tuesday 16th, a green sandpiper flew over the car park just before daybreak calling as it headed west and a red-legged partridge called from the nearby field.

Birds of note at the park on Monday 15th were a willow warbler, 8 teal and a shoveler.

Birds seen along the Reeveshall seawall on Sunday 21st by Andy Field included this obliging wheatear, also two little ringed plover, green sandpiper, 50 black-tailed godwits, 25 grey plover, 50 ringed plover, 12 dunlin, curlew sandpiper, 4 little terns, 3 common terns, 2 yellow wagtails and a common buzzard.

Hawking over Firs Chase on Friday 19th in the evening were 5 swifts, 10 house martins  and 5 swallows. A sparrowhawk passed over in the evening, while earlier in the day a willow warbler was calling from the garden.

This migrant hawker found itself inside the house in Firs Chase.

Recent butterflies at the park have included a clouded yellow on Sun 21st then two on Wednesday 17th and two on 15th along the seawall. Also on the 17th were 3 painted ladies on the buddleia as were 2 peacocks, 5 small tortoiseshells, 2 commas and 2 red admirals with two brown argus noted nearby too. Two painted ladies were also noted on the 15th at the park. Other butterflies noted have been small white, large white, meadow brown, gatekeeper and speckled wood.

Saturday, 20 August 2016


Dave Grundy travelled from the Midlands to carry out some moth-trapping ahead of a couple of moth identification courses he was running locally. The five traps he placed on or close to the beach at the park on Thursday 11th, here pictured just after dawn the next day. Three more traps were also operating back in the car park area.

The second visit was on the Monday 15th when six traps were dotted along the park seawall, beach and here in the picture on the cliff-top. I had three traps going in the car park that same night.
Conditions on the second night weren't as good for moths with a clear sky leading to a heavy dew by dawn.

The only pine hawkmoth of the summer at the park made an appearance on the 11th, this one looking a little bit worn. A poplar hawkmoth was found down on the grass covered in dew at dawn on the 16th.

There was a good showing of archer's darts from the traps along the seawall with about eight individuals noted - the most seen in one night here.

Amongst several orange swifts were a couple of very strikingly coloured purple females, one shown here.

The dark spinach was in a trap by the beach and I think the first record for the site, probably being overlooked in the past. It's a widespread moth generally and has the foodplants of orache and goosefoot here by the beach.

Other moths of note were several sandhill rustics, ground lackey, white-line dart, white-points, tree-lichen beauty, maple prominent, silver-Y, saltmarsh plume, Webb's wainscot and twin-spotted wainscot.
The three traps in the car park caught 46 species of macro over the two nights.

At and earlier mothing session at the park on Monday 8th, this poplar kitten was one of the less regular moths noted that night. On a clear but breezy night 53 species were noted.

A sharp-angled peacock was also noted at the park on the 8th.

Also noted were lackey, drinker, pebble hook-tip, maidens blush, least carpet, red twin-spot carpet, yellow-barred brindle, poplar hawkmoth, pebble prominent, ruby tiger, nutmeg, lychnis, white-point, poplar grey, sandhill rustic and flounced rustic.

An evening of moth-trapping in the Firs Chase garden on Saturday 13th was quite rewarding on a partially clear night. Thirty-two species of macro of just over 100 individuals were recorded.
This twin-spotted wainscot pictured above, was the most notable being an Essex Red data book species.

The pretty marbled beauty was found at the Firs Chase trap, a common moth it has been noted here before.

This common blood-vein moth caught the eye with the pretty pink border along the wings.

Other moths noted in Firs Chase included oak hook-tip, single dotted wave, garden carpet, cypress pug, coronet, copper underwing, sandhill rustic, silver-Y, herald and rosy rustic.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


A little bit of excitement was caused by the sighting by Martin Cock of this juvenile Montagu's harrier on Reeveshall on Sunday 14th. The bird was first seen perched on a fencepost near the seawall before it flew a short distance to land in a nearby grass field. At first it remained hidden from view until it flew to another part of the same field where it was watched for just under an hour and I managed to take these first two pictures.

When the bird stretched its wings, a coloured ring was seen on its leg. Some enquiries by Adrian Kettle revealed this Montagu's harrier was a youngster born this spring in north Norfolk. An interesting journey the bird has taken, stopping off on Mersea Island while on its way south for the winter.

The markings on the head and face were very distinctive with a dark band down the side of the face and also the pale spectacled-appearance. The bird had a general warm orangey-brown colouring, especially underneath. Andy Field took the photos above and below.

The bird at times was nodding off and could be seen closing its eyes for a couple of seconds a few times. Other times it was looking all around and on one occasion watching closely as an anxious and noisy buzzard passed overhead. The harrier took off to fly leisurely to the west and appeared to land in a recently cut wheat field over 500 metres away but sadly it didn't provide any more views.
The last Montagu's harrier to stop off on Reeveshall was in the same mid-month period 12 years ago, on the 13th and 14th August 2004 with the previous one to that on 19th August 2002.

Also seen in that area of Reeveshall at the north end of Shop Lane was a hobby flying east, 2 marsh harriers, 2 common buzzards, 2 kestrels and a juvenile sparrowhawk still calling from the wood.
A whinchat and wheatear were by the Shop Lane seawall, while in the Pyefleet 2 whimbrel, 50 cormorant and 50 avocets were of note.

The first returning wheatear on the Island was this one along the Strood seawall on Friday 12th. The bird was flying back and forwards along the seaward side whenever another walker passed by.
A juvenile cuckoo was flushed off the seawall and headed to a hedge on the Strood Hill fields. In one stubble field 300 golden plover were well hidden. Two kestrels were hunting over the fields.

Three grey herons and three little egrets were seen in the fields and ditches inside the Strood seawall.
Several birds were flycatching from a swarm above bushes beside the dyke including a couple of sedge warblers, reed warbler, whitethroat and even two reed buntings were catching flies in the air.

As  the tide came in that Friday evening a greenshank was among 250 redshank, 20 dunlin and a couple of whimbrel were of note. A Mediterranean gull was seen near a big flock of 300 black-headed gulls after the flying ants over the Ray.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


The main pool in the country park's grazing fields still held enough water in it on Wednesday 10th for this group of waders to roost during the high tide. In the early evening there were 150 redshank and 30 black-tailed godwits along with a handful of lapwings.

The swan family spent Wednesday on the park pond, here one of the white cygnets following a parent bird, beside some of the roosting little egrets in the bushes. Thirty little egrets were counted in the bushes and trees behind the pond.

Following the discovery by Alan Adkins of a ringed plover nest on the park beach near the old fort, this area was roped off to avoid the nest being damaged by walkers on the beach.

A quick peek at the nest revealed three very well camouflaged eggs among the shells and shingle. The nest is in a very vulnerable location on a well used and narrow bit of beach. Without the nest being cordoned off, no-one would even think there was a nest with eggs to avoid here. The ringed plover was quick to return to the nest as soon as I returned to the nearby seawall path and started to walk away.
Fingers crossed the eggs soon hatch out and the chicks manage to avoid the walkers and dogs on the beach.

The first wasp spider of the summer was found in a clump of sea purslane on the side of the park seawall on Thursday evening.

A brimstone butterfly paid a brief visit to the white buddleia by the park toilet building on Friday 12th, here pictured with a small tortoiseshell.

Early on Friday morning a painted lady was soaking up the early morning sun's rays on the side of the park seawall.

A big chunky dor beetle was found in one of the moth traps situated by the seawall early on Friday morning. It's been a few years since the last dor beetle was seen at the park, and that was in this same general area too. The dor beetle feeds on dung and performs a useful job in the countryside, eating its own weight in dung every day!

Sunday, 14 August 2016


Just to the north of the Island, this glossy ibis was found on the Langenhoe ranges on Wednesday 10th by Richard Hull and Andy Field, who took these two photos.

Also noted on the ranges were a spotted redshank, ruff, 8 green sandpipers, 200 black-tailed godwits, 230 avocets, 6 yellow wagtails and 5 stonechats - although no sign of the osprey there.

A walk along the Reeveshall seawall near Shop Lane on Wednesday evening provided views of 2 marsh harriers over Langenhoe, 250+ black-tailed godwits, 100+ avocets, 20 ringed plover, grey plover, 10 common terns and 3 little terns along the Pyefleet.

At the country park this reed warbler was carrying this male ruddy darter dragonfly whilst perched in the reeds along the borrowdyke.
Seen at the park on Wednesday were 3 willow warblers, 41 little egrets, common buzzard over the fields, two young sparrowhawks calling from behind the pond, 50 black-tailed godwits and 150 redshank on the fields with two green sandpipers flying over.

On Tuesday 9th five whimbrel flew south over the car park calling, a willow warbler was heard and a clouded yellow was reported by the seawall.
The osprey was seen from Maydays by Martin Cock as it perched on the Geedons post.

On Monday 8th at dusk in Firs Chase 5 swifts and 4 swallows spent several minutes flying low over the tree-tops hawking through the swarms of midges /gnats.

Enjoyed a colourful sunrise across the Colne on Friday 12th just after 5.30am whilst emptying some moth traps at the country park.
Flying past the park as day broke were 3 little terns and 4 common terns.

Common blue butterflies have been a bit uncommon this summer - this one hanging onto a blade of grass at the park on Thursday 11th

The annual monitoring of the hogs fennel plants took place at the park on Thursday 11th under the guidance of Dr Zoe Ringwood, on the right. Also visiting was Rebecca Perry, conservation director at Colchester zoo who is supervising the rearing and planned release at some point of the rare Fishers Estuarine moth to the country park.

A marsh harrier was seen flying over the grazing fields, a willow warbler was still present and 5 swifts flew west over the car park on Thursday evening.

Friday, 12 August 2016


The osprey that has spent the last few days in the Colne Estuary was photographed by Andrew Neal on Monday 8th. It's favourite perch has been this tall wooden post in the middle of the Geedon marsh, with Andrew managing this photo on a hazy day taken from South Green at Fingringhoe.
The bird has been seen a few times from Mersea but it appears as a distant speck on top of this post.

An attempt to see the osprey on Sunday 7th perched on the distant post proved futile although there was the compensation of seeing the sun setting down behind the Pyefleet Channel.

In the tranquil setting of the north side of the Island, 30 common terns, 4 little terns, 50 avocets, 300+ black-tailed godwits and a bar-tailed godwit were of note along the channel. Heading north over the Pyefleet as the sun set were 25+ little egrets heading to the Fingringhoe roost.
In bushes near the Oyster Fishery were a Cetti's warbler, willow warbler and a yellowhammer while overhead 20 swallows and 3 sand martins were noted.

The ringed plover was still sitting on the beach near the corner of the park seawall on Monday 8th. The bird can be seen sitting, from the nearby path on the seawall.

A green sandpiper was feeding on the main pool in the park fields on Monday 8th, where the water level is receding rapidly providing a nice muddy margin. A common sandpiper was feeding along the muddy margin on Saturday.

Also on the muddy pool on Saturday were 100 redshank, 50 black-tailed godwits while a good count of 56 little egrets roosting by the pond was an impressive sight. On the mudflats 10 golden plover, 12 turnstone and 200+ black-tailed godwits were feeding.
A little grebe seemed to be sitting on a nest on the park dyke while by the park clifftop bushes 12 long-tailed tits were counted on Saturday.

A painted lady, 3 peacocks, 2 commas, 4 red admirals were some of the butterflies of interest at the park on Saturday, along with lots of meadow browns and gatekeepers.

At Maydays farm a merlin was seen by Martin Cock to catch a house martin on Saturday.

A mothing session on the night of the 5th provided 50 species of macro moth with this canary-shouldered thorn always catching the eye with its bright yellow furry head.

This colourful micro-moth the rosy striped knot-horn was a new addition to the park's moth list. It seems to be slowly spreading in the county especially near the coast where it's foodplant is birds-foot trefoil and clover.

The dark swordgrass is regarded as an immigrant from the continent, the first one noted here this year.

Sunday, 7 August 2016


A ringed plover was found nesting on the beach near the Point on Friday 5th. It was spotted sitting near the seawall corner and has chosen a very narrow strip of beach, very close to the high tide lines. The bird is well camouflaged in this picture - just above the green plant in the centre, facing left.

On the nearby mudflats 200 black-tailed godwits were feeding, as were 26 little egrets, 12 golden plover were also noted and a great crested grebe and two common terns were offshore. A sparrowhawk flapped lazily over the beach and across the mudflats.

The skies were grey on Friday evening but there was a big flock of about 300 swallows hawking back and forth over the fields and seawall, along with about ten sand martins. The flock was in the area till late in the evening although not sure where they eventually roosted for the night but somewhere nearby.
Six tufted ducklings were present in the dyke and the swans still have their seven cygnets.

A willow warbler was heard calling from bushes by the car park on Friday morning, the first returning one of the autumn. One was also heard first thing that same morning doing a brief sub-song in Firs Chase.

A young sparrowhawk was heard calling from the copse behind the pond, a water rail and Cetti's warbler were calling from the edges of the pond on Friday.
To the north of the park five common buzzards were circling in the air during the morning.

Along the north side of the Island the osprey has been seen at times perched on a wooden post on the Geedons over the last few days. First seen by Martin Cock on Tuesday 2nd, it has been seen over the next four days at least and has also been watched at a distance from Brightlingsea and Fingringhoe.

On Thursday evening I joined Steve Entwistle on the seawall near Shop Lane who had seen the osprey early evening before it flew off. Also seen was a hobby over Langenhoe as well as a flock of about nine Egyptian geese flying over the Pyefleet onto the marsh at Langenhoe Point. Three marsh harriers were also over Langenhoe, while 200 avocets fed on the nearby mud.

Ten common terns and a great crested grebe were noted along the Pyefleet. Fifty sand martins and 5 swifts were flying about over Langenhoe. On Reeveshall 3 green sandpipers were on the pool and 40 greylag geese on the fields while the young sparrowhawk was calling from the nearby wood.

One of a couple of comma butterflies seen on the buddleia in the car park during Friday. Also noted here have been 3 red admirals and a couple of peacocks with a further four peacocks, comma and 2 red admirals on buddleia by the hide.

In the fading light on Friday evening this badger was seen from the hide.

The moth trap overnight on Thursday 4th at the park produced about 100 individuals of 36 species of macro moth. One of the coastal specialities at this time of year is the sandhill rustic, one of the two found, pictured above.

One interesting moth wasn't near the trap but found resting the next morning on the side of the building, the red underwing. Each year it seems to like resting on this east facing wall of the information room. The drab grey-brown wings hide a pair of bright red hindwings underneath.

The coronet moth used to be a scarce moth here but has become more regular in recent summers.

Also of interest from the trap were tree lichen beauty, fen wainscot, saltmarsh plume, poplar hawkmoth, ruby tiger, herald and a drinker.