Monday, 28 July 2008


Spent an hour along the Reeveshall seawall on a hot Monday 28th. The tide was out along the Pyefleet Channel so waders were thinly scattered across the mudflats. Fifty black-tailed godwits were seen as well as 5 golden plover but other than a few redshank and oystercatchers, not much else of note here.

A hobby raced along the seawall to snatch a small insect presumably a dragonfly which it proceeded to eat. It then circled slowly round, gaining height until it disappeared as a tiny speck in the sky and was lost to view.

On the Reeveshall pool pictured above, a ruff was of interest, also 5 green sandpipers, 2 redshank, 3 black-tailed godwits and 15 lapwing present.

A female marsh harrier was seen hunting over a nearby field, while on Langenhoe a juvenile harrier was seen catching some prey from an adult male while a fellow juvenile sibling eagerly followed close-by.

Had to disturb some of the local sheep from a footpath, that were enjoying the cool shade under the trees from the heat of the mid-day sun. As I passed through the Shop Lane conifer wood, I recognised the loud chipping calls of a crossbill nearby. The bird flew a short distance but I was unable to see it in flight.

Luckily the bird landed in another section of pine trees and after some careful scanning of the tree-tops, I located a female crossbill perched high up. The distinctive feature of its' cross-bill could be made out, as the bird called repeatedly. Having watched it for only five or so seconds, the bird flew off, being followed by a second bird, they disappeared off to the south-east, calling as they went.

The last crossbills that were seen on the Island were about five years ago when a group of ten were seen in West Mersea. This summer in the last few weeks there have been quite a few sightings of crossbills across Essex, presumably part of an influx from the continent.


The sun shone all day on Saturday 26th at the country park, ideal weather again for many butterflies such as this Small skipper, pictured above. Both the Small skipper and the Essex skipper occur on the Island and both look similar to each other. One of the ways to tell them apart is to check the antennae tips which are orange in the Small but black in the Essex.

These two skippers are commonly found at the park especially during July. They love the grasslands where they lay their eggs but they also feed on any flowers in the area such as thistles, brambles, ragwort and clover.

Other butterflies seen included red admiral, peacock, comma, meadow brown, hedge brown, speckled wood, small white and large white. One or two six-spot burnet moths were also seen.

The path around the north side of the park provides a mix of sunny spots, shady areas and shelter from the breezes. Where the bramble is flowering, many of the butterflies could be found.

Not many birds were noted around the park in the hot conditions although 25 sand martins flew around the cliff, 50 black-tailed godwits were out on the mud, a pair of goldfinches fed on thistles and a stock dove were all noted. A sparrowhawk flew past the car park carrying some prey to the cliff-top so maybe they are nesting near here after all.

Later in the day a group of us were ferried out to Packing Shed Island on Saturday evening for a very worthwhile fundraising function and was able to enjoy the Mersea Quarters as the sun went down. The photo above shows the old oyster pits on the Island in the foreground, looking back towards Coast Road in the background.

The gulls were very noisy with a few herring gulls presumably nesting on the shell and shingle banks. Towards Salcott Creek were lots of the black-headed gulls nesting on Sunken Island. A distant marsh harrier could be seen over Old Hall marshes, while a little egret fed along the water's edge. Several noisy oystercatchers flew past.

Martin Cock visited Reeveshall and saw on the Pool a little ringed plover, greenshank, 8 green sandpipers while a ruff was seen on the nearby mudflats.

Andy Field and Richard Hull visited the nearby Langenhoe MOD ranges and noted wood sandpiper, 10 green sandpipers, 5 common sandpipers, 4 whimbrel, 18 greenshank, Cetti's warbler, 28 little egrets, hobby and 9 marsh harriers.

Friday, 25 July 2008


Another warm and sunny day on Friday 25th was ideal weather for many of the insects to be on the wing. This eye-catching dragonfly pictured above with the bright red body is the male ruddy darter. It's quite a common dragonfly along the seawalls - this one was seen resting on top of the Strood seawall.

Some of the ragwort plants have several cinnabar moth caterpillars with the distinctive yellow and black markings, stripping the plants of their leaves. Also on some of the ragwort flowers were half a dozen six-spot burnet moths, with their colourful red and black wings. The other day-flying moth seen was a single silver Y, amongst the long grass.

The late afternoon breeze kept many of the butterflies down but meadow brown, hedge brown, small and Essex skipper, small white, large white and peacock were all seen.

There are lots of clumps of the golden samphire in flower along the seaward slope of the seawalls. The flowers are often popular with some of the regular seawall butterflies.

Not many birds seen along the Strood walk as it was high tide but a little egret, reed bunting, linnet, skylark and meadow pipit were some of the usual birds seen in the area.
A weasel scuttled across the path on the top of the seawall, quickly disappearing into the long grass.

Called into the East Mersea Pick Your Own field where there were several peacock butterflies feeding on some of the flowers.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008


The moths at Cudmore Grove Country Park must've felt very confused on the night of Tuesday 22nd. Eighteen members of the Essex Moth Group descended on the park and like the moths that night, they had a choice of eight moth lamps in a variety of different spots to flutter round.

The weather conditions were perfect for insects to take to the air, as there was no wind, there was also good cloud cover and it was very warm and muggy. It was just as well that some of the very knowledgeable veteran Essex moth enthusiasts such as Don Down, Joe Firmin and Ian Rose were on the scene, as there were many micro-moths that needed identifying.

The visiting moth enthusiasts enjoyed a very rewarding evening, admiring a bumper variety of insects. This has been in stark contrast to a generally disappointing season in the county for moth-trapping, mainly due to the poor weather. Following the departure of everyone at midnight, I kept my two lamps going until dawn at 4.30am, when both traps were inspected and emptied.

This stunning creature was resting inside one of the traps at dawn, the garden tiger moth. At rest this large moth shows only the bold black-brown markings on its forewings but when it's disturbed, it flashes the bright orange hind-wings, marked with blackish-blue spots and tiger stripes. A once common moth throughout the county, numbers have dropped sharply in recent years. This individual is the first record for the park.

One of the largest moths seen was the oak eggar, this female was one of two noted. Other big moths included 2 pine hawkmoths in the first part of the night, while by dawn an elephant hawkmoth and 6 poplar hawks were found in one of the traps.

Also discovered at dawn was this herald moth, pictured above, a widespread moth in the county, although the only previous sighting at the park was one found resting one day inside the park's toilet building a few years ago. This individual wanted to hold its wings at a different angle to most other moths when at rest. On a flat surface it tilted its wings at an angle, whilst in the picture above, it turned to face downwards but holding its wings away from the tree, presumably to appear like some loose bark.

This iron prominent pictured above, is another widespread moth. Close-up it has some wonderful iron-red markings on its wings and also a small tuft along its back, giving the moth its name.

Between the eight traps, around 90 species of the larger macro-moths were identified with a possible 20 species of the micro-moths seen too. One of the more unusual moths seen was the archers dart, a coastal moth which has been found on the park before, but was the first time some of the members had seen one.

Amongst the other moths found were, leopard, reed dagger, pug-V, buff arches, ruby tiger, peppered, oak hook-tip, mouse, bird's wing, pale prominent, pebble prominent, copper underwing, lackey, least carpet, small blood-vein, fen wainscot, lunar-spotted pinion, small scallop and lots of dark arches and dusky sallows.

Amongst the other insects noted were two of the very big and scarce silver diving beetles. Also the bulky dor beetle was found inside one trap, while several summer chafers were attracted in by the lights.

It has been quiet on the bird front recently although a barn owl was seen flying over the East Mersea Road near the pub at dusk on Wednesday. At Maydays Farm on Wednesday Martin Cock saw 3 young marsh harriers flying around over Reeveshall, also greenshank, whimbrel and 10 yellow wagtails. The following day he saw 5 green sandpipers on the Reeveshall pool.

Sunday, 20 July 2008


There was enough sunshine in between the cloudy periods for Sunday 20th to be a warm summer's day. The beach at the country park, pictured above, was relatively deserted in the morning, before the summer crowds arrived.

The sand martins are still busy using the nesting holes in the cliff with around fifty holes looking as if they've been used. Some birds may be on their second brood, while others could've come to the area late to nest. The local sand martins have been flying low over the park and going back and forwards. For the last week there has been a very noticeable sand martin migration occuring over the park with passage birds flying higher and generally all heading in the same westerly direction.

Opening the park gates the great spotted woodpecker was seen pecking on a high up branch, the local Bromans Lane turtle dove could be heard singing, while flashing overhead was a nice male sparrowhawk that perched briefly in a tall tree.

The sunshine brought out the usual assortment of butterflies such as red admiral, peacock, comma, large white, small white, meadow brown, hedge brown, speckled wood, small skipper and Essex skipper. The first southern hawker dragonfly of the summer was hawking along a section of path, while a black-tailed skimmer was seen amongst the tall grass.

At the end of the day had an enjoyable stroll along the beach and seawall, the picture above showing the sun setting behind the park borrowdyke. It was a challenge to try and identify the distant specks on the mudflats with it being low tide. The last rays of sunshine highlighted the orange chests of the black-tailed godwits with about 200 birds seen, especially along the outer edge of the mud.

Also on the edge of the river there was a distinctive group of 8 avocets feeding with lots of side-ways bill-sweeping. The bright white plumage of 3 little egrets feeding in different spots, was also highlighted by the last rays of the sun. Lots of redshank, oystercatchers, curlew and small groups of dunlin could be seen too.

Beyond the mudflats a flock of 40 common terns were seen feeding at sea on a small shoal of fish, judging by the amount of circling around and diving into the water. Later the terns flew overhead as they headed to roost up the river Colne.


Spent the last hour of daylight along the Pyefleet seawall at Reeveshall on Saturday 19th. The tide was well out and although there was plenty of mud on show, the light was fading fast.

Feeding amongst a small group of black-tailed godwits was a ruff which was an unexpected find. The main waders along the Channel were redshank, curlew and black-tailed godwits but other waders were rather absent. Only 3 spotted redshank and two whimbrel were of note.

In the Channel 6 great crested grebe were seen and there was still the shelduck family with four ducklings. One or two common terns and little terns were hunting along the Pyefleet.

On the Reeveshall pool were 4 green sandpipers, 12 lapwing and a grey heron but little else.

The main bird activity over the Reeveshall fields were the large numbers of sand martins and swifts. Birds were swooping low along the seawall, hawking back and forwards across the Pyefleet and flying around the fields, sometimes high up sometimes low down. It was difficult to estimate how many there were but it seemed like there were a few hundred sand martins.

However a good half hour after the sun set, the martins flocked together into a vast swarm high above the Reeveshall reedbed. The flock had become more cohesive and twisted and turned like a column of smoke blowing in the wind. It seemed like there was now a couple of thousand sand martins gathered in this roost flock. After a few minutes of circling around, the birds soon dropped quickly down into the reedbed of Broad Fleet, where they would spend the night.
Earlier in the day there had been a noticeable sand martin passage occuring over the park around mid-day with about 200 birds flying west during a fifteen minute spell.

Also at Reeveshall two male marsh harriers left the Island after sunset, crossing over to Langenhoe. Just before I left the area, the regular barn owl was seen hunting over the big grass fields of Reeveshall.

A brown hare sprinting away over a grass field, was one of two seen during the evening.

The moth trap was switched on for Saturday night and a few moths were found the next morning inlcuding this close-up picture above of the common drinker moth. Several of these have been found on recent mothing sessions and is a very noticeable moth when it comes crashing into the trap. Drinkers soon settle down and fold their wings high up over their body like a tent, as in the picture below.
The weather conditions weren't ideal with a cool north-west breeze, clear sky and a bright moon shining all conspired to keep the moths away. About 90 moths of 19 species seemed a low tally for mid July. Moths found included buff-tip, magpie, brown-line bright-eye, common footman, scalloped oak, dark arches, light arches, buff ermine and common emerald.

The distinctive brown band on this female lackey moth, caught the eye as the moth lay resting near the trap.

One of the commonest moth at the moment is the dusky sallow, one pictured above. Around 20 were found inside and around the trap by early morning.

Friday, 18 July 2008


Have spent a couple of sessions over the last couple of days in the park grazing fields removing all the ragwort plants. The bright yellow flowers make the plants easy to spot although getting a hold of some of them by hand proved tricky amongst all the thistles.

The weather has been overcast but reasonably warm so many butterflies were flying around the flowering thistles especially the hundreds of meadow browns at their peak at the moment.
Several meadow pipits and skylarks were seen with a few goldfinches and linnets too.

Various birds were taking a short-cut over the fields as they flew between the Colne and the mudflats especially just after high tide. Fifty curlew many in heavy moult, 25 redshank and 20 black-tailed godwits flew overhead, while 8 common terns flew north over the fields.
On Thursday 17th at low tide there were around 200 black-tailed godwits on the mud in the evening, some very close in and others on the far outer edge of the mudflats.

The central ditch in the fields still has plenty of water in it this summer although not much waterfowl using it. The pair of swans were present but there was no sign of any cygnets. Amongst the reeds fringing this ditch and the dyke were at least six pairs of reed warblers, some of them singing. A little egret stalked one of the muddy pools in the field.

In the park on Friday the sparrowhawk flew over, two adders were under the tin sheet as usual and a small copper butterfly was seen.

Spent some time in the hide by the pond on Thursday evening where there was a great sight of 300 sand martins and 200 swifts circling over the fields. There had been a steady flow during the day of swifts flying over the Colne and heading west over the park.

On the pond a female tufted duck was keeping a close eye on her young brood of four dark brown ducklings. The little grebes were also looking after their two small hungry chicks. Twenty mallard here and also the first teal of the autumn.

As dusk approached a fox was seen crossing the fields and when the light was nearly gone a badger made a brief appearance. No owls were heard during Thursday evening but a tawny owl was seen perching alongside Bromans Lane at dusk on Wednesday evening and nearby the little owls could be heard calling.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


A warm night on Monday 14th provided ideal conditions for moth activity so two traps were put out at the country park. It wasn't just the variety of moths that was interesting but the sheer number of other insects also on the wing.

The main attractions were the hawkmoths and especially the first pine hawkmoths of the year. Three were found in the trap in the morning and this is one of them pictured above, resting on a signboard-post in the car park. This large hawkmoth was discovered late in the afternoon and had presumably spent the day resting on the post, hoping no predator would spot it until night-fall.

The other hawkmoths caught were 6 elephant hawks, 3 poplar hawks and one privet hawk. Other eye-catching moths included a couple of leopards, 3 drinkers, 2 common lackeys, 10 buff arches, early thorn, pebble prominent, maple prominent, brown-tail, yellow-tail, common emerald, lunar-spotted pinion, poplar grey, dun-bar and latticed heath. Around 65 species of macro moths were identified - worth missing out on a good night's sleep for!

Realising the conditions were ideal for moth trapping, the Skinner trap pictured above was set up in a corner of the park and powered by a small generator. Switched on at 10pm it was checked at various times until 1am when I retired to bed. However the alarm was set for 4am just before dawn, to inspect the trap before the moths dispersed in the daylight and also to get there before the blackbirds, crows, jays and robins find the traps. The resident rabbits were very confused by the bright lights shining over their feeding grounds during the night.

One of the less common moths at the park here is this white-satin moth, with its satin-like appearance to the wings and its black and white striped legs.

The Gardiner trap with its see-through perspex sides, allows you to see the moths inside the trap. It is very effective at luring the moths across the ground and there are plenty of moths who decide not to go into the trap and drop onto the grass 5 - 10 metres short. Across both traps the commonest moth was the dark arches with about 200 seen, also lots of large yellow underwings, lesser yellow underwings and the light arches too.

It may've taken only half an hour to set both traps up but checking them in the morning, brushing the insects off them and then dismantling them, took well over 2 hours! Masses of small grass moths were everywhere, the first big night this summer.

It was fascinating to see the huge numbers of other insects drawn into the trap with hundreds of tiny water beetles like whirligigs, also masses of small water boatmen, ground beetles, scavenger beetles, wood lice, summer chafers, green shield bug, harlequin ladybird, caddisfly, lacewings etc.

The local pipistrelle bats were having a feast of the insects as at least four were regularly swooping low over the traps for their evening snacks.

Birds of interest noted during Tuesday were 25 black-tailed godwits roosting on the saltmarsh pools near the Point. Martin Cock saw 2 well marked ruff on the Reeveshall pool in the afternoon, with a green sandpiper the only other bird of note there.

Monday, 14 July 2008


Visited the Rewsalls marshes area of East Mersea on a sunny Monday 14th. The picture above shows the view looking west towards the Mersea Outdoors Centre. As the tide went out there was plenty of mud revealed but very few waders. Twenty oystercatchers, 3 curlew and a little egret were the only birds other than lots of gulls, using the mud in a wide scan of the area.

On the Rewsalls marshes with its long grass and reed-filled ditches were a handful of meadow pipit pairs, singing reed bunting, two kestrels, singing reed warbler while in one corner there was an unexpected a corn bunting seen. There seemed to be a light migration of swallows and sand martins taking place with about 100 birds trickling westwards during the visit. Along the dyke there were 12 mallard including a brood of six ducklings.

Scanning along the water's edge in the dyke, I managed to find an elusive water vole hiding just inside the entrance to its burrow. As I watched it from the opposite bank, fifteen metres away, it stayed motionless with its' little beady eyes staring out. There seems to be plenty of burrows along the water's edge so there's probably quite a good population on these Rewsalls marshes.

There was the usual fine display of sea holly on the small beach, although winter high tides have removed large chunks of "dune" including clumps of sea holly. This clump above is still clinging on above the high-tide mark and will probably get washed away this coming winter.

The display of sea holly here is as impressive as I've seen it in recent years. A few summers ago, this area of beach was littered with small sea holly seedlings which have matured in the last two or three years into respectable clumps. However the continuing erosion of the beach each winter threatens this small but eye-catching colony.

The warm weather brought out the insects such as this female ruddy darter dragonfly. Many of these ruddies were keeping low in the long vegetation close to the water, out of the summer breeze. A few of the more colourful bright red males were also seen.

A good spot for dragonfly watching was at this pond at the rear of the Rewsalls marshes. A large male emperor dragonfly patrolled endlessly around the pond hardly stopping for a rest. Close to the water a four-spotted chaser perched on a short stalk in the water, also a few common blue damselflies, while lots of blue-tailed damselflies flew around in tandem, males and females coupled together.

Lots of the typical meadow / hedgerow butterflies flying around with meadow browns, hedge browns, small and Essex skippers, small whites, large white, peacock and commas.

Sunday, 13 July 2008


A warm sunny day had lots of butterflies out at Reeveshall in East Mersea on Sunday 13th. This colourful peacock above, was one of several fresh looking specimens seen along one of the hedges and also both sides of the seawall.
Thousands of meadow brown butterflies fluttered along the seawall and the adjacent grasslands. Several small clumps of creeping thistles had over a hundred meadow browns on them each. Mixed in with them were several small heaths, small and Essex skippers, small whites and lots of hedge browns.

This male hedge brown pictured above was photographed on a bramble bush beside a field gate - providing proof of its alternative name - the gatekeeper! Conditions were perfect for the butterflies with lots of them fighting over feeding rights on the various flowers. Some of the popular flowers were slender birds-foot trefoil, common mallow, creeping thistle, catsear, white clover, sea lavender and bramble.

Walked round the seawall to this point where there is a good view up and down the Pyefleet Channel. (Local birders refer to this point as the "Montagu's gate", because the gate here had the honour a few years ago of having a rare Montagu's harrier perch briefly on it.)

It was ideal conditions for checking waders along the Channel as the tide was on its way out. Through the haze there were 2 greenshank, 5 spotted redshank, 200+ redshank, 45 black-tailed godwits, one bar-tailed godwit, 15 dunlin, grey plover, turnstone, a few curlew, 25 lapwing and about 25 oystercatchers.

The most interesting waders were two ruff feeding on the Reeveshall pool, both with pale necks but speckled black on their bellies. Ruff are surprisingly scarce on Mersea and I think these birds are the first ones seen this year on the Island. These birds didn't stay around long and soon headed off into the Pyefleet. Also on the pool were green sandpiper, little egret and the shelduck family still with 8 ducklings.

The marsh harriers were to be seen in all directions both on the Island and on the mainland on the Langenhoe marshes. Was able to confirm that the marsh harriers have bred successfully on the Island again, following the sighting of two newly fledged youngsters. The mother flew into the reedbed carrying a small mammal, resulting in the appearance of two dark brown youngsters with orange caps. The mother flew to a nearby bush top while the youngsters flew around the reedbed, before one perched up too. A male was seen over Reeveshall but not near the reedbed, while over on Langenhoe a further 7 or 8 birds were seen.

Scanning the full length of the Pyefleet mudflats using the telescope, I spotted a couple of common seals basking on the mud opposite Maydays marsh. Closer scrutiny revealed a small pup with them, which humped its way round to its mum and appeared to have a go at suckling. Mum with her orange-stained head, lay on her side while the pup investigated her belly. A fourth seal was also out basking on the mud on the Mersea side. Common seals have bred in the Pyefleet in recent years as the area is normally free from disturbance.

The other interesting wildlife record was the loud laughing sound of marsh frogs carrying across the Pyefleet Channel from Langenhoe. The marsh frogs unexpectedly took up residence on the army ranges a few years ago but the slight northerly wind today, helped enable the sound to be heard on the Island for the first time.

Other birds seen were 500 swifts over the Island, 3 singing corn buntings, 3 kestrels, sparrowhawk, reed warbler and yellow wagtail while over Langenhoe a high flock of 500 rooks and jackdaws spiralled high on a thermal. In the Pyefleet 4 great crested grebes, little tern and a shelduck family with 4 young.

As I left the seawall I stumbled across this pair of mating six-spot burnet moths. This poor female hasn't had any time to enjoy being a colourful daytime flying moth, before a male has pounced on her fresh from the papery cocoon on the grass stalk.

Saturday, 12 July 2008


Met up with Steve Entwhistle, his wife Kate and their four retrievers in Meeting Lane, East Mersea for an evening walk on Saturday 12th, along the footpath towards Shop Lane. Some late evening sunshine after a light shower, lit up one of the wheat fields, pictured above, with a very faint rainbow set against the dark sky.

Swifts were everywhere you looked in the sky with at least a thousand heading west over the Island. The passage was continuous whilst we were out for the two hour walk and no doubt continued afterwards. Some birds raced low over the fields, most kept high while others occasionally circled back for a short way before heading west again. A few swallows and sand martins were also seen.

Despite being a good two fields inland from the Pyefleet Channel and not seeing any mud, a few interesting waders were still noted. Three avocets flew over the Reeveshall pool, a spotted redshank and a greenshank were heard calling nearby. A little egret perched on a post to preen and, on some fence-wires close-by were 200 starlings all lined up. Near North Farm two whimbrel fed in a grass field along with the larger curlew. A common tern carying a fish, crossed over the Island as it headed back from West Mersea towards Rat Island in the Colne.

A barn owl provided distant but prolonged views as it hunted over the large grass field of Reeveshall. A male sparrowhawk flashed overhead and headed down a hedgerow. A couple of kestrels were seen together near Shop Lane with another one hunting over the Reeveshall Marshes. Surprisingly there no marsh harriers seen during the walk.

Along the various thick field hedgerows were seen 4 great spotted woodpeckers, 3 singing yellowhammers, singing chiffchaff, turtle dove and stock dove, jay and a family of long-tailed tits.

A few butterflies enjoyed the early evening sunshine with comma and red admiral seen, while lots of meadow browns were seen in the long grass-field pictured above.

Friday, 11 July 2008


The walk along the Strood seawall on the morning of Friday 11th in the sunshine, made a change from the recent showers of recent days. The fresh breeze that blew, suppressed the insect activity and it also made it harder to hear some of the birds. It was very pleasant having a warm breeze in the face and seeing the blue sky above.

The sea lavender seems to be at its peak at the moment with many colourful patches across much of the various saltmarshes. Even looking across the Strood Channel towards Ray Island, the marshes were dominated by extensive carpets of the sea lavender in flower.

Plenty of mud on show along the Channel with increasing numbers of redshank and curlew to be seen but no other waders in any numbers. A common sandpiper flew onto some nearby brushwood breakwaters, bobbing its tail. A greenshank fed along the water's edge, while further along a spotted redshank fed along the shallows. A few oystercatchers and five lapwing were the only other waders, a little egret was noted while the only tern seen was a little tern.

Along the borrowdyke there were the usual small birds noted with 3 corn buntings, 2 reed buntings, reed warbler, and sedge warbler all heard singing. Also seen by the edge of the fields were the fifty house sparrows, a kestrel and common whitethroat.

The breeze kept many butterflies close to the ground and this hedge brown clung onto this ragwort swaying in the wind and was one of two hedge browns seen - the first of the summer. Other butterflies seen included lots of meadow browns, small whites and a few Essex and small skippers. A male emperor dragonfly flew along the sheltered part of the seawall.

Three days earlier at the country park on Tuesday, a marsh harrier circled over Ivy Farm, two avocets were on the saltmarsh pools with two yellow wagtails seen nearby. On the mudflats in front of the park, 100 black-tailed godwits were seen feeding.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


The wind whipped up the seas around the Island in the afternoon of Sunday 6th. It wasn't a typical summer's day seeing the waves crash onto the beach at the park, sending lots of spray up and over the seawall in one place.
Despite the wind, the day had started reasonably warm with patches of blue sky. Feeding out on the mudflats at low tide was a group of 112 black-tailed godwits and about 25 curlews.

Amongst the ducks at the park pond was a female ruddy duck happily diving under for food. This is the first sighting on the Island this year of a species that used to be a regular breeder in recent summers here on the pond. Also present were 5 tufted ducks and at least 20 mallard.

Hawking low over the pond and out of the wind was a group of 25 sand martins. A pair of stock doves flew past and a pair of goldfinches fed close-by on some thistles.

A couple of adders were found in their usual warm spot not far from the car park, hiding under a sheet of tin. This one is showing quite a brownish tone to its skin and after allowing a few pictures to be taken, slid off into the long grass.

The butterflies seen during the morning included comma, small white, large skipper, Essex skipper and small skipper, speckled wood and lots of meadow browns. A black-tailed skimmer was seen by the car park and on the pond, the large emperor dragonfly rested out of the wind.

Some of the moths seen over the last couple of nights in the trap have included this very distinctive and aptly named leopard moth, displaying lots of spots. Also present on Saturday morning amongst the 32 species were 3 elephant hawkmoths, the shark, swallow-tailed, bordered sallow, broad-bordered white, scorched wing, grey dagger and barred yellow.

Over Saturday night were 25 species noted, including this nationally scarce starwort, which has been recorded in previous years here. In Essex it is frequently recorded near the coastal saltmarshes. Also noted in the morning was the miller, L-album wainscot, white-point, silver-Y and the broad-bordered yellow underwing.

This summer chafer was also discovered hiding up in the light trap. Several have been seen in recent evenings flying around the tops of trees. The local black-headed gulls have been seen flying round the tree-tops at nightfall, swooping after these beetles. One chafer tracked me down the other night whilst standing on the featureless Reeveshall seawall, where it came and buzzed my telescope on the tripod and me - the only tall objects it could find in that flat area.

Also of interest was the sight of the regular brown long-eared bat resting in the toilet building at the park, just after midnight on Friday night. One of the regular visitors to the park reported seeing a brown hare close to the Point on Sunday morning.

Not sure if the sparrowhawks have bred successfully at the park this year but I had a fine view of the male bird on the ground thinking about having a bathe in a large puddle in the middle of Bromans Lane. I stopped the car about ten metres short of it, allowing the bird to fly off safely to a nearby tree.