Thursday, 30 April 2009


The spring sunshine has brought out all the daisies in their thousands at the country park. The grass has been slow to grow in this area set aside as an overflow car-park pictured above, resulting in a white carpet of flowers. The nightingale in the clifftop scrub could be heard singing in full flow just to the side of this area of daisies on Wednesday 29th. The other nightingale was also singing by the park entrance.

A willow warbler singing on Wednesday morning in the trees in the park corner was most likely a migrant bird that arrived during the previous night. A few more sand martins are flying around the cliff with 10 birds noted. In the grazing fields a bright male yellow wagtail fed around the muddy pools along with a pair of pied wagtails.

A greenshank was still present in the fields on Wednesday, for the fourth day running. Also the pair of redshank, 6 pairs of lapwing, pair of oystercatchers, pairs of gadwall and shoveler and a mallard still with 13 ducklings. There was a lot of commotion in one corner of the fields when a fox broke cover in the middle of the day, with lapwings making the most noise. Earlier a group of 14 greylag geese had been seen in the fields.

Along the beach towards the Point a little egret was seen feeding in one of these brackish pools on Wednesday. In the mouth of the river Colne a little tern flew past calling as the tide came in. A dozen ringed plovers were noted along with a few turnstone.

At the Point a wheatear was seen perched on a signboard,probably the same bird reported for the day before. Six avocets were also noted on the saltmarsh pools on Tuesday with a couple seen on Wednesday. A pair of reed buntings were seen on the seablite bushes.

A grass-snake was found dead on the East Mersea road near the pub on Thursday, always a sad sight to see.

Sunday, 26 April 2009


More sunshine at the country park on Sunday 26th, with this clump of bluebells catching the eye amongst the trees on the cliff-top. The nightingale was singing again in this south-west corner of the park, as was the one near the park entrance. The latest migrant back from Africa to the Bromans Lane area near the park entrance was a turtle dove, singing from some overhead wires.

Other migrants well settled into the park during April include chiffchaff, blackcap, common whitethroat, lesser whitethroat with swallows hunting over the fields and one or two sand martins showing more of an interest in the sandy cliff again.

In the grazing fields a greenshank fed in the flooded section along with a very noisy pair of redshank and up to 6 pairs of lapwing. The first lapwing brood appears to be down to three chicks, having lost one youngster within the first week. In the clump of reeds at the east side of the fields the first reed warbler of the spring was heard and a sedge warbler also sang from the same area.

On the saltmarsh pools near the Point a pair of avocets were seen as was a brightly marked male wheatear perching on the pillbox on the beach. A common tern flew out of the river but little else seen here.

This sloe carpet pictured above, was found in the moth trap on Sunday morning, a nationally scarce moth but with a local distribution in the south-east of England. It's scarce enough in Essex to be listed as a red data book species.

The first of the bright yellow brimstone moths pictured above was found in the trap. This will be a regular visitor in small numbers to the trap over the next few weeks.

Martin Cock visited Reeveshall on Sunday and noted a pair of little terns and 2 common terns along the Pyefleet. Also the barnacle goose was on Pewit Island with some brent geese and a pair of Mediterranean gulls were also seen . On Reeveshall 4 whimbrel and 3 wheatears were seen in the fields but not much on the pool. A reed warbler sang from one of the ditches.

Andy Field and Richard Hull visited nearby Langenhoe and had a good count of 11 Mediterranean gulls amongst the black-headed gull colony on Rat Island.

Saturday, 25 April 2009


Joined Andy Field and Steve Entwistle for an evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Saturday 25th. Amongst the usual scattering of 24 greylag and Canada geese feeding on the fields, was a white goose similar to a snow goose although it was appreciably smaller than the nearby greylags and appearing brent goose-size. The goose was obviously an escape from a collection but we were curious as to whether it may've been a Ross's goose, as opposed to a larger snow goose. Unfortunately the bird was too far off to get the finer details of the reddish beak which would've helped with sorting out which species it was.

Feeding with a pair of greylag geese on the saltmarsh was the first sighting this year on the Island of a feral barnacle goose. A small group of 30 brent geese were seen in flight over Langenhoe.

On the Reeveshall pool during the evening were 26 shelduck, little egret, 4 teal, up to 17 black-tailed godwits, redshank and mallard, whilst pochard flew over. On the main field 6 wheatears were noted including one group of 5 birds, also 4 golden plover in the field and a whimbrel on the saltings. A pair of marsh harriers carried out a food pass to each other over the Reeveshall reedbed, in the same general area where the sound of a cuckoo was heard. Andy watched a hobby fly over the fields from the direction of Langenhoe - the first sighting on the Island this year.

On Langenhoe at least four marsh harriers were seen in the air, occasional birds flying over the gull colony on Rat Island sending thousands of mainly black-headed gulls into the air. A short-eared owl was seen briefly hunting low over the marshes as was a barn owl.

At least half a dozen sand martins passed over and one or two swallows as well. A brightly marked yellowhammer sat up on a fence as we walked back off Reeveshall at dusk. Four brown hares were more active in the fields as the light faded.

Earlier in the day at the country park, 6 avocets were seen on the saltmarsh pools near the Point, 3 greenshank dropped down onto one of the flooded fields where a mallard had a very young brood of 13 ducklings. There still seems to be about 6 pairs of lapwings with just the one brood so far of 3 youngsters. A brown hare was seen in the wheat field by Bromans Lane at dusk.

There has been no further news or sightings of a hoopoe seen on the army ranges on Langenhoe by some of the range wardens on Thursday. Andy Field and Richard Hull visited earlier today but only noted a common buzzard in the area where the hoopoe was seen. Also turtle dove, reed warbler, nightingale and greenshank on the ranges.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


The sunny weather has continued for the last few days helping to dry out the park grazing fields. On Tuesday 21st four tiny lapwing chicks could be seen on the wet muddy patches beside the pools in the middle of the photo above. The parents were keeping a close watch over them nearby and hopefully they'll grow quickly with the amount of muddy pools around. There are also 3 other pairs of lapwing in the same field, trying to make the most of the flooded pasture this breeding season.

Eighteen teal were also feeding on the flooded field and 2 snipe were seen flying off calling. In the dyke there were 12 tufted duck and a pair of pochard have been seen on the pond at times.

As the tide was coming in during the early evening of Tuesday, various waders were seen close-in with 70 black-tailed godwits, 50 dunlin, 40 golden plover being the main groups. A whimbrel flew off with some curlew and there was the sight of 50 brent geese flying high out of the Colne estuary as if on their way back to Siberia for the summer.

The faint calls of the cuckoo could be heard in the evening, appearing to come from about a mile away to the north-west of the park. Just before nightfall the barn owl was seen doing a circuit of the small thicket at the park entrance where the nightingale was singing loudly. For a moment the nightingale stopped singing until the owl had passed it by. Two pipistrelle bats were out hunting beside the hedges and trees near the park entrance.

On Wednesday morning two common terns were seen sitting on a buoy in the mouth of the river calling out loudly. A Mediterranean gull could be heard calling as it flew past the park on Wednesday morning. A whimbrel flew over the park whistling as it passed by and by the cliff, a sparrowhawk was seen briefly. Around the park the songs of several whitethroats and a couple of lesser whitethroats can be heard, also single blackcap and chiffchaff.

Butterflies enjoying the sunny weather have included orange-tip, peacock, small white and several speckled woods.

Despite it being a clear night-sky on Tuesday night, 14 species of moth turned up at the trap at the country park with this pebble prominent, pictured above, one of the first appearances this year. The big "pebble" disc-like markings on the wing show up clearly on this fresh individual.

This pale pinion was the most unusual moth found and is supposedly only recorded occasionally in East Anglia. It is listed as a rare vagrant in Essex although there were at least 3 recorded during the spring last year in the county, including 2 only about 3 miles to the east of the Island at St Osyth.

Other moths found in the trap included mullein, swallow prominent, angle shades, early thorn, herald, lunar marbled brown and early grey.

Monday, 20 April 2009


It was sunny enough along the Strood seawall on Monday 20th for several small copper butterflies to be seen flying around. This is the first day they've been seen this year on the Island and it was nice to see at least six individuals fluttering along the side of the seawall. Some were feeding on the tiny white flowers of chickweed.

This bright little butterfly with its striking coppery-orange wings is often seen along the seawalls on the Island. There are usually three generations here with the first one on the wing now, followed by one in July / August followed by a third one in early October. The other butterflies along the seawall were peacock and small white and there was also a common lizard seen too.

There have been lots of bee-flies, pictured below, seen around the Island over the last fortnight. They look like a bee because of their furry body but are often seen hovering in sunny sheltered spots along hedges, the country park and in gardens too.

A sparrowhawk swooped down on a turnstone amongst the boat moorings in the Strood Channel and despite the turnstone hitting the water and bashing into a buoy, the sparrowhawk gave up the chase. Later two sparrowhawks were seen soaring high over the western side of the West Mersea.

A pair of Mediterranean gulls called out loudly to each other as they flew south-west over the fields towards the Hard. Despite scanning the channel, there were no terns to be seen. The tide was just starting to recede but wader activity was low. A greenshank was seen, golden plover flew over and a whimbrel was heard calling and two little egrets stood briefly in one of the fields. Three brent geese were seen on Ray Island saltings and 15 shelduck were squabbling over rabbit burrows on the Ray.

The sedge warblers were singing well with four males holding territory along the borrowdyke, usually beside bramble bushes. They were easy to see especially if they did their eyecatching and noisy aerial display flight. Only one corn bunting appears to be regularly singing in the area this spring and surprisingly no reed buntings singing - maybe it's still early in the season. A yellow wagtail flew over twice calling and several swallows too.

Dotted around many areas of the Mersea saltmarshes are these small white flowers of the widespread English scurvy grass. It's the first splash of colour on the marshes after the long winter season.

Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Island in the morning and had a variety of interesting birds. A short-eared owl and yellow wagtail near the Strood, 3 male marsh harriers on the Island with another one possibly a migrant, buzzard, 2 Med gulls over Langenhoe, 6 common tern, 10 avocet, spotted redshank, 170 turnstone, 10 whimbrel, bar-tailed godwit and 2 female pintail on the Reeveshall pool. Opposite Seaview Avenue at West Mersea there were 2 great northern divers, an eider and a shag.

Martin Cock reported 3 wheatears along the seawall at the park but no sign of the little gull at the Reeveshall pool.

Last thing at night the two nightingales were singing loudly to each other from opposite ends of an empty car park.

Sunday, 19 April 2009


Had an enjoyable two hour walk along some of the footpaths in East Mersea around the Meeting Lane and Shop Lane areas on a sunny Sunday 19th. This carpet of bluebells is well hidden amongst the brambles and bushes in the wood at Shop Lane. It's always a great sight to enjoy in spring, being amongst the bluebells on a sunny day.

Several small whites like this one above, were seen around the field edges and along leafy lanes as were the green-veined white, orange-tip, peacocks and several speckled woods.

The main birds of note concerned the summer migrants that were back on their breeding grounds. Two blackcaps, 3 lesser whitethroats, 3 whitethroats, willow warbler, 2 chiffchaffs were the only ones located along with swallow and sand martin flying over. Unusually a lesser redpoll flew west over Meeting Lane, the first redpoll sighting on the island this year.

Other birds noted were kestrel, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, mistle thrush, song thrush, long-tailed tits, linnets, yellowhammer, skylark, 7 stock doves as well as a pair of little grebes on a pond to the north-east of Shop Lane. Looking over to the Pyefleet 2 female marsh harriers and a male were seen flying over Langenhoe and also 2 little egrets were seen.

This eyecatching fungus, the Dryads saddle was growing out of the stump of an old elm tree at the side of Shop Lane.

Having got back home and relaxed in the afternoon, Andy Field had several of us dashing back in the early evening to Shop Lane, to see the Little gull that he'd managed to find on the Reeveshall pool. This smallest gull in the world had been seen by Andy, as it stood alongside a black-headed gull, where the size difference was very evident.

The bird spent most of the time flying around the pool for over half an hour at least, sometimes picking off insects off the water or snatching at flies in mid-air. The bird appeared to be in its second summer with a blotchy grey hood but with white upperwings and the characteristic dark-grey underwing. It's a dainty gull with a small black bill but with red legs.

It has been over fifteen years since I'd seen a little gull on Mersea and this bird was the first little gull to be seen actually resting on the island. Previous little gull sightings have usually been fly-pasts in the estuary.

Other birds seen on the pool included 4 avocets, 8 black-tailed godwits, 4 teal, pair of shoveler and little egret. In the Pyefleet there were 50+ black-tailed godwits and 50+ brent geese still, while on Langenhoe there were 2 marsh harriers and a barn owl seen.

Martin Cock had seen a wheatear and whimbrel at East Mersea Point as well as a small flock of sand martins. There was a willow warbler singing in Firs Chase along with the blackcap and chiffchaff.

Saturday, 18 April 2009


The sun shone throughout Saturday 18th providing plenty of butterfly activity, especially out of the fresh north-easterly breeze. This peacock butterfly with rather worn looking wing-markings, was enjoying the sun at the side of the Strood seawall. At one point it settled amongst the grass alongside a common lizard. Other butterflies seen in the garden at Firs Chase were holly blue, orange tip, large white, small white and speckled wood.

Also in the Firs Chase area were a pair of adult Mediterranean gulls flying along Coast Road, one of the regular pairs of swallows seen here each summer, singing blackcap and chiffchaff and the first moorhen chicks of the season seen on a pond near Firs Chase. I believe this pair of moorhens managed to have several broods throughout last summer, successfully producing at least 22 young.

Along the Strood the first views this year of a singing sedge warbler were enjoyed as it perched on a bramble bush. Two sedge warblers were heard singing yesterday in different bushes around one of the Strood fields pictured above. Other small birds noted were singing corn bunting, a reed bunting, linnet, meadow pipit, skylark and a pair of swallows. A male wheatear was seen at the back of one of the fields here yesterday.

Only a few waders on show along the Strood Channel with 100+ redshank, 2 black-tailed godwits, 6 oystercatchers, 2 curlew noted here. Two little egret and 3 brent geese were also seen.

A late evening visit to the Reeveshall pool provided views of a pair of gadwall, shoveler, 2 redshank, several greylag and Canada geese and slightly more unusual was a ruff flying over.
A male marsh harrier flew strongly into the wind as it left Reeveshall for the evening roost on Langenhoe, where 3 other marsh harriers were seen as was a barn owl. Also two grey herons stood in one of the fields.

Along the Pyefleet the tide was still covering most of the mud and the waders of note included a group of 100 turnstone with other waders on Peewit Island, and also 50 black-tailed godwits flying past. At least 10 brent geese were still in the area on the saltmarshes.

This mute swan flew off the Reeveshall pool and headed into the Pyefleet Channel late in the evening.

The two male corn buntings were perched up as usual, singing on bushes alongside the East Mersea road. Two swallows were seen flying over fields near Chapmans Lane.

The Burr family at the north end of Shop Lane reported seeing two muntjac deer in a nearby field, with one of the animals appearing to be a young fawn. This could be the first breeding record in recent times of deer on the Island.

Thursday, 16 April 2009


Several toads and frogs went walkabout on Firs Chase in West Mersea on a wet evening of Thursday 16th. This common frog pictured above was just sitting in the road in the darkness. Luckily it posed for a few photos seemingly unfazed by several close-up flashes from the camera and then sensibly leapt into the safety of the nearby verge. Nearby a common toad also had the sense to get off the road before the next car came along. A few toads had already met an untimely end a short distance away on the same road.

At the country park the latest migrant back, a lesser whitethroat was singing from bushes near the car park, a day after the first bird was heard back from their wintering grounds in East Africa. The nightingale by the park entrance has been singing regularly over the last couple of days. Single yellow wagtails have been flying over the park on both Wednesday and Thursday, as have one or two swallows.

A goldcrest was seen in the car park bushes on Tuesday morning but still no sign of any spring firecrests yet. The loud song of a mistle thrush has been heard beside the car park, while the song thrush has been singing loudly by the park pond. A willow warbler was heard singing from bushes near the Golfhouse, a bird presumably just stopping briefly off for a migration re-fuel.

Two corn buntings were perched on bushes along the East Mersea roadside on Thursday morning and a couple of swallows were flying around the Chapmans Lane area next to West Mersea.

The night-time weather on Monday evening was not good for moth activity as it ended up being quite misty with a cool easterly breeze. Only a handful of moths made it to the trap including this lunar marbled brown moth. This is reasonably common and is usually recorded in ones or twos each April. The only other moths noted were clouded drab, early thorn and hebrew character.

The warm weather on Wednesday encouraged a few butterflies out with peacock, small white and speckled wood noted. There have also been several of the distinctive small bee-flies seen around the park over the last fortnight on sunny days.

Monday, 13 April 2009


The generally cloudy and still conditions over the last few days have been good for moths. The moth trap operated at the country park on Friday 10th catching about 60 moths of 11 species, although it had to be hurriedly dismantled at 6am when rain began to fall. There was a better showing through Saturday night into Sunday with 120 moths of 16 species noted. Several of the common red chestnut moth pictured above were seen with 8 seen on the second night.

Other moths seen included streamer, engrailed, early grey, powdered quaker, twin-spot quaker, common quaker, small quaker, early thorn, clouded drab, shoulder stripe, blossom underwing, dotted border, March moth and Hebrew character.

The common frosted green moth pictured above, was seen on both nights and although it has been recorded here in April before, it wasn't recorded last year.

A short late-night walk past a flowering blackthorn hedge revealed one or two moths with the help of a torch, feeding amongst the mass of white flowers, such as the early thorn, herald, pine beauty and brindled pug. The peace of the late evening by the park entrance was disturbed by the very loud song of the nightingale, newly returned back from its winter break in Africa for the third summer. Also joining in the Bromans Lane late-night chorus was the male tawny owl near Bromans Farm.

On Monday 13th two nightingales were singing with one male heard from the back of my garden at the park, presumably the bird from near the cliff. Other migrants heard singing during the morning were a willow warbler, 2 blackcaps, 2 chiffchaffs, 2 whitethroats while 3 swallows passed overhead. Later 4 sand martins and another swallow headed west over the park.

Some of the other regular birds sharing the park with the Easter crowds were the skylarks, meadow pipits, linnets, goldfinches and long-tailed tits.

A sparrowhawk flew across the pond and two green woodpeckers were seen here too. A cormorant circled above the pond before flying off, while the only ducks of interest on the pond were 6 tufted ducks.

On the grazing fields up to four pairs of lapwing are very obvious with lots of flying around as they display and call out loudly. A pair of redshank are also showing interest in the fields. Duck numbers have dropped right down with all the brent and wigeon now gone in recent days although there were still 10 pairs of teal on Saturday. The pair of mute swans are nesting again beside the seawall path near the Golfhouse, with the female now sitting for over a week.

A male wheatear was seen at the Point on Sunday morning and a pair of red-legged partridge were seen in the wheat field near Cosways caravan park. A male marsh harrier was seen flying north up the river Colne, heading to the evening roost on Langenhoe on Saturday night. Also on the same evening in the Colne were 250 black-tailed godwits and a pair of avocets.

Friday, 10 April 2009


The weather was certainly good enough on Friday 10th and along with all the visitors to the park enjoying the hazy sunshine, this speckled wood butterfly was the first of the year. Several peacock butterflies were out and about as were two comma butterflies.

The adders have been hard to locate in recent days although two were reported by a visitor to the park. Seeing a grass-snake was more unusual especially as it basked amongst the young trees on the cliff-top.

There are several young bunnies around the park at the moment with these two keeping the grass in my back garden well cropped.

The only new migrant to the park during the day was the common whitethroat singing from the hedgeline alongside the car park. However after dark the loud distinctive sound of the nightingale sounded out across the car park just before midnight. The chiffchaff and blackcap were still to be heard by the park pond. There were a couple of sparrowhawk sightings during the day, while there was the interesting sight of a kestrel heading purposefully east off the Island as if it was on passage.

This half-grown drinker moth caterpillar still has a bit of growing to do before it settles down to pupate and then emerges as a moth in July into early August.

The nice weather had gone by evening time and a walk along the Reeveshall seawall was under grey clouds. On the pool one of the two pairs of avocets were seen to mate, which would indicate that they will attempt to breed for the third year running. Also seen here were 5 black-tailed godwits, 6 teal, 4 redshank, little egret, and 20 shelduck.

Nearby 80 brent geese were still grazing one of the pastures, while overhead the first local yellow wagtail was seen flying by as did a swallow. A pair of marsh harriers were seen over Broad Fleet, 2 green sandpipers, pairs of pochard and shoveler and 4 stock doves were also seen over Reeveshall.

Along the Pyefleet 2 ruff were picked out amongst a few hundred redshank, while some of the 100+ black-tailed godwits looked colourful in their ginger plumage. Also seen were 30 dunlin, knot, avocet, 100 grey plover, 50 curlew along the mudflats.

On Langenhoe 4 marsh harriers and a barn owl were seen and 2 pairs of Mediterranean gulls flew north to roost on Rat Island.

Steve Entwistle had a walk alongside the Pyefleet and noted spotted redshank, green sandpiper and 2 Mediterranean gulls.

Birds seen locally in recent days include a nice male wheatear at the East Mersea Point seen by Michael Thorley yesterday. The tawny owl was seen perched by the side of Bromans Lane on Thursday night. On Wednesday Michael saw a ringtail hen harrier flying over his garden as did a pair of Med gulls, while a marsh harrier quarted fields near Bocking Hall.

Swallows have been seen at Chapmans Lane and along Coast Road in West Mersea. A dead barn owl was lying by the side of the Strood causeway at the mainland end, presumably having been hit by a passing vehicle. A red kite was reported from Fingringhoe during the week and a firecrest was seen in Hugh Owens garden near Langenhoe Farm on Tuesday.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009


Several birdwatchers such as Steve Entwistle and Peter Triston pictured above, descended on East Mersea Point on Tuesday 7th following a report of a rare Kentish plover seen yesterday. Despite several pairs of eyes, scopes and bins trained on the mud around the area at various times during the morning, no plover was seen. Details of yesterday's find remain sketchy with the only information available being a few words posted on the "rare birds hotline" late yesterday.

Interestingly the only other Kentish plover record for the Island was virtually on the same date April 5th but in 1957, also here at East Mersea.

Other birds seen today near the Point included whimbrel, a pair of avocets, wheatear and reed bunting. In the park two willow warblers were singing as well as blackcap and chiffchaff, while a brief glimpse in the car park of a small "crest" could've been a firecrest. A redwing was seen near the park entrance, with a fieldfare being seen yesterday at nearby Bromans Farm. Blackcap was reported today from the farm by Martin Dence.

Steve noted the first two swallows back on the Island at Chapmans Lane near West Mersea.

Enjoying the sunshine were several peacock butterflies and Glen Moore saw 2 adders out basking at the park.


By the time I got out for a walk by the Strood in the early evening of Monday 6th, most of the sunshine had turned hazy and the breeze stiffened. I took a closer look at this pond pictured above, recently dug out with all of the reeds and reedmace removed. It will be interesting to see how it develops and gets recolonised in the months to come. At the moment a little grebe and moorhen were the only occupants although a grey heron has been feeding here too.

Two corn buntings sang from the overhead wires near here and a handful of linnets were also seen over a rough set-aside corner. One of the winter wheat fields beside the seawall still had a small flock of brent geese in it, while one of the pools had a pair of shelduck and some gulls on it.

The tide was well out along the Strood but wader numbers and the variety of species seen, is a lot less than seen on the winter visits. Most widespread wader was the redshank with 300+, while 25 grey plover, 20 black-tailed godwit, 10 dunlin 10 oystercatcher and 20 curlew were the main waders noted.

A female marsh harrier was the only raptor seen, passing west along the Channel, it disturbed a few curlew from the saltings around the Ray Island. A distant hirundine flying across the Ray Island appeared to be a sand martin heading east. At dusk 15 linnets roosted in the thorn scrub along from the Dabchicks Sailing Club.

The only other migrants noted during the day were a chiffchaff and a blackcap singing in Firs Chase. The female sparrowhawk, green woodpecker and great spotted woodpecker were seen during te day here too.

Sunday, 5 April 2009


My wife Nolly and I were joined by Andy Field for our mid morning stroll on Sunday 5th along one of the Mersea's paths in the middle of the island, between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane. Nolly was trying out her new digital compact camera, a Panasonic TZ5 which has a very good macro as well as a more vivid colour mode. The picture above of a blackthorn flower shows some of the detail close-up. For the moment my photos are still coming out of my trusty Sony Cybershot.
Along some of the ditches and the verges are plenty of lesser celandine adding splashes of yellow to the start of springtime. The sunshine brought out several butterflies especially peacocks, small whites and a comma along the sheltered paths. One or two bee-flies were noticed too but finding a female adder enjoying the sunshine was unexpected in this area.

Searching out early migrants along the hedgerows, we located 2 blackcaps and a chiffchaff singing but no other new arrivals. Other birds seen included yellowhammer, a pair of stock doves, kestrel, long-tailed tits and green woodpecker. A pair of adult Mediterranean gulls flew over as they headed south towards the beach near the Youth Camp direction. In the distance to the north a male marsh harrier could be seen displaying high over the Langenhoe Marshes, along with a couple of female marsh harriers.

Earlier in the morning Andy located a singing willow warbler near the country park pond, the first one for the spring here on the Island.

Friday, 3 April 2009


There was sunshine for most of the afternoon on Saturday 4th with the setting sun casting a pink glow onto the water by the West Mersea Hard, pictured above. The early evening high tide was flat calm and the various gulls including herring, lesser black-backed and black-headed, seemed particularly noisy.

Not many waders to see during the short evening stroll with a few brent geese, oystercatchers, redshank and turnstones being the main ones noted.

Earlier in the afternoon a blackcap and a chiffchaff were heard singing from Firs Chase, which would appear to be the regular birds returning back to breed. The distinctive spring calls of the green woodpecker and the drumming of the great spotted woodpecker were also heard.

The Strood seawall was visited a couple of times during Friday but not much to report in the rather gloomy conditions. A corn bunting sang from some overhead wires, fieldfare by the caravan site, 2 reed buntings, 5 meadow pipits also seen, while 35 linnets roosted at the end of the day in a thorn copse.

Also seen along the channel were a pair of red-breasted mergansers, great crested grebe, 2 little egret, grey heron and small groups of brent geese along the water's edge. Not much oportunity to have a look at the waders except to note the usual black-tailed godwits, grey plover, redshank, curlew, oystercatcher. A group of 11 golden plover flew onto the fields to roost for the night.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


Sunny weather on Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd brought out the bees to buzz around the flowering blackthorn bushes, like this bush pictured above at the country park. Some of the similiar looking cherry plum bushes have nearly finished flowering already while many of the blackthorn bushes are still to flower.

Looking like a butterfly when at rest, this early thorn moth was one of several species found in the moth trap on Wednesday morning. The early thorn has been a regular visitor to the moth-trap during the first part of April in recent springs. Around 40 moths of 8 species were found, a lower tally than the previous night with most species pretty much the same.

During the day there were brief glimpses of the peacock and small white butterflies at the park.

The sunshine was ideal for bringing the adders out to bask and there were the usual four in the regular spots at the park, including this one seen quite late in the afternoon with the sun dropping a bit too low to provide any real warmth for the adders.

Earlier on the Wednesday the first male blackcap back from Africa to the park this spring was heard singing from bushes in the car park. Later in the morning having enjoyed seeing the early pair of sand martins again near the cliff, a lone swallow swooped low along the seawall and rapidly flew east across the river Colne, presumably following the east coast northwards. A sparrowhawk appeared to take the same route as it crossed high over the grazing fields, while a second bird flying east may also have been on passage.

By the park pond the chiffchaff continued to sing on both days from the nearby willow trees. On the water there were the usual 10 tufted ducks and 2 pochard, little grebes, coots and pair of swans.
On the grazing fields there were 100 brent, 100 wigeon, 40 shelduck, 5 shoveler, 10 teal, 4 gadwall, 40 curlew, 5 snipe, 2 little egrets and the 3 pairs of displaying lapwing.

Earlier on Thursday two corn buntings were seen on bushes singing alongside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall farm.

Spent the last hour of daylight on Thursday evening along the Reeveshall seawall where there was still a big flock of 1000 brent geese feeding on the grass field. Normally the goose flock on East Mersea drops in numbers during late March, with a noticeably smaller flock in April. This spring the geese seem to be hanging on a bit longer, despite the warm sunny weather.
Dotted around Reeveshall were various small groups of Canada and greylag geese numbering about 25 birds.

On the pool a ruff was the most notable wader seen here along with 5 black-tailed godwits. Also here were 10 teal, little egret, 6 shelduck, 8 mallard and a pair of coots. Two male marsh harriers passed close by as they drifted north to the Langenhoe roost, where they joined at least five other marsh harriers for the roost.

Two pairs of Mediterranean gulls passed over Reeveshall in the company of small flocks of black-headed gulls as they headed to the Rat Island roost. On the big grass pasture there were 60 curlew feeding and 6 brown hares came to life. In the Pyefleet the tide was just starting to recede and redshank were the most noticeable wader in one muddy bay with 250 birds seen here.

The sun slowly slipped down through the hazy sky, casting a nice red glow as it dropped lower.
It wasn't until the sun had set that the little egret flew to the nearby conifer wood to roost and the big flock of brent geese noisily took off for their night on the nearby river Colne.