Thursday, 31 March 2011


The moth trap was put out at the park in the evening of Tuesday 29th and despite the slight chill and only partial cloud during the night, there was a surprisingly good mix of moths the next morning. Ninety-four moths of eleven species were counted which is a good session for March for here. Several of these nicely coloured red chestnuts were noted, one pictured above.

Three of these shoulder stripe moths were also noted, each one resting with the abdomen tip curled upwards.

The oak beauty, pictured above, was the biggest of the moths noted, although the chestnut bands across the wings have faded a bit. One or two of these are often noted early in the spring.

Joining the moth melee were several blossom underwings, pictured above, some with a warm pinky-brown colouring to the wings.

Just the one dotted border was seen with this one pictured resting on the outside of the trap.

Resting on the side of the white walls of the house was this small brindled pug - another typical early spring moth for the park.
Other moths noted were the grey shoulder knot, small quaker, common quaker, hebrew character and the March moth.

Amongst all the moths in the trap was this great diving beetle, which would've flown into the trap, attracted by the bright light. One or two are often found in the trap during the year.

Birdwise at the park, the two chiffchaffs were still singing on Tuesday, with the first sand martin flying over the park on Tuesday afternoon and again on Wednesday. A male blackcap was seen feeding amongst the trees in the car park on Wednesday, the first of the spring here.

A male marsh harrier flew over the car park on Tuesday afternoon and then headed west over the fields towards the pub. There was another good view of a male marsh harrier at dusk on Thursday by the park pond, which scattered all the ducks off the fields and then it flew low over the nesting mute swan, which hardly bothered to look up. Amongst the wildfowl on the pond were 14 tufted ducks and 4 pochard. Thirty goldfinches roosted in the bushes by the car park on Thursday night.

The ruff was still present on Tuesday although no sign by Thursday, however there were 100 black-tailed godwits and 20 redshank. Little egret numbers have still not come back after the cold winter although one bird was in the fields on Tuesday. A little owl flew along Bromans Lane as night fell onTuesday evening while the first pipistrelle bat of the spring at the park was seen flying as night fell on Thursday.

Monday, 28 March 2011


It has been generally dry and bright over the last couple of days but the easterly breeze has remained chilly. The weeping willow tree at the back of the park pond is becoming more eyecatching than the other willows in the area - crack willow, goat willow and white willow. One chiffchaff has been singing for the last few days from these willows with at least one other bird seen here too on Monday 28th. Three fieldfares flew north-east over the park early in the morning.

There's been the familiar mix of wildfowl on the pond in recent days with a few shoveler, mallard, gadwall and 8 tufted ducks. The pair of mute swans appear to have chosen their nest site amongst the reedmace and have built a substantial nest recently. Two pairs of little grebes are also busy sorting out territories.

At least 800 brent geese were in the grazing fields on Sunday nibbling up the last of the grass as were 200 wigeon. In the pools the ruff is still present feeding along the edges, being joined on Saturday by 150 redshank at the high tide . No big black-tailed godwit roosts recently, like the numbers last week but a few were still present feeding beside the 100 teal. A dozen snipe, 30 curlew and 36 golden plover have also been on the fields. Martin Cock saw a white wagtail on the fields.

On Saturday a pair of adult Mediterranean gulls flew past the Point calling as they headed out of the river. They passed over a ringed plover that looked as if it was prospecting a nest site on the shingle beach. In the Colne 5 great crested grebes were the only birds of note seen here.

Five adders were eventually spotted in the park on Sunday when the sun finally came out with a similar number the previous day. A peacock butterfly was noted on Sunday, while 4 common lizards were out basking on Monday and a brown hare was seen at dusk by Bromans Lane.

The moth trap at the park on Saturday night produced the small selection of 14 moths from hebrew character, common quaker, small quaker and clouded drab.

A singing chiffchaff and 2 goldcrests were in Firs Chase in West Mersea on Monday morning and the corn bunting was singing beside the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall farm.

Friday, 25 March 2011


After allowing myself a short break away from the Island, it was nice to see some spring sunshine around the country park on Friday 25th. At least three peacock butterflies, one pictured above, were seen tussling beside the car park as they disputed territories for sunbathing and feeding. Some nearby blackthorn bushes in flower were also proving popular nectaring sites for them too. These are the first butterflies I've seen at the park this spring.

Whilst checking potential reptile basking spots around the park, this common lizard was noticed basking on an old elm trunk in a hedgeline. The lizard remained motionless as I tried to reach through the various branches in the way, to grab one or two photos of it. This is the first lizard noted this spring here at the park, which is about the normal time of the year for the first sightings here. Two adders were noted at one of their regular basking spots.

Two chiffchaffs were enjoying the spring sunshine, with one singing near the park entrance and the other by the park pond. Martin Cock had also heard a chiffchaff singing from trees near the overflow car park earlier in the week.

In the grazing fields the ruff that has been present for several days, was seen roosting amongst some of the 70 redshank on the pools. Also present were 50 black-tailed godwits at the high tide roost but no sign of the other 400 godwits seen roosting here a few days earlier. Twenty snipe were feeding around the pools along with 70 teal while elsewhere on the fields 150 wigeon grazed. Five hundred brent geese were still grazing one of the fields before something spooked the flock away.

Both the similar looking cherry plum and blackthorn bushes are in flower around the park with the latter one here buzzing with bees - and one or two of the peacock butterflies mentioned earlier.

Martin Cock noted earlier in the week, a notable count of 17 ruff along the Pyefleet by Maydays farm. Hugh Owen reported seeing on Saturday 19th by the Langenhoehall marshes just to the north of the Island, a short-eared owl, 5 common buzzards, a peregine and a barn owl - all in the space of 30 minutes!

Steve Entwistle saw a spotted redshank at Reeveshall and the little owl at the Youth Camp mid March. Martin Cock had a great raptor day at Maydays farm on Monday 14th when enjoyed good views of a goshawk as well as noting 2 ringtail hen harriers, common buzzard, peregrine and marsh harriers too. A brimstone butterfly was also seen in West Mersea by Martin in mid March.

Sunday, 13 March 2011


Andy Field took this photo a few days ago of a grey plover standing on the beach at East Mersea Point.

The weather over the weekend ended up disappointing with the only nice bit of sunshine being the first half of Saturday. There was grey sky and a cool breeze on Sunday 13th with the day ending with drizzle.

Despite the dull weather, the first summer migrant back from Africa was seen at the country park with a chiffchaff flitting amongst the reeds and bushes by the pond. The bird wasn't singing the distinctive "chiff-chaff" song and was almost overlooked, although the scanning of the various willow bushes with their yellow catkins proved worthwhile in locating this new arrival.

Also noted at the pond on Sunday were 10 tufted duck, 2 gadwall, 4 shoveler and a snipe on the edge. The previous day the male pochard and two snipe were present. To the side of the pond a female kestrel dropped down to feed, while the male bird was seen beside the nestbox in the oak tree for the first time this spring. Hopefully they will have better luck this year with nesting in the box.

The grazing fields still provide the main concentration of birds for this end of the Island. The flooded pools have held an impressive roost of 300+ black-tailed godwits over both weekend days with 315 counted on Saturday but a few less than the 340 counted on Thursday. Also on Saturday 50 redshank, 20 snipe, 30 lapwings - many displaying, 25 dunlin, 20 turnstone, 30 shelduck, 150 teal, 150 wigeon. The biggest flock of golden plovers were present over both days with 1000 birds in the fields, the most seen here this winter. Like the ginger- coloured godwits, a few of the goldies were also sporting their summer plumage with black on their bellies.

Catching the eye in the fields on Saturday was a big roving feeding flock of 400+ starlings. The nice weather also inspired some skylark activity with several males singing high in the sky and a couple of meadow pipits to squabble. Offshore 2 eider were noted as was a common seal in the mouth of the Colne. Andy Field watched a peregrine fly over the grazing fields on Thursday.

On Sunday there was the unexpected sight of a woodcock seen flying over the overflow car park early in the afternoon. It may've been disturbed from under some trees or a hedgerow by a dog. A goldcrest was noted in the clifftop trees and a song thrush continues to sing loudly near the car park.

Along the Pyefleet Channel, the female scaup was seen on both Saturday and Sunday near Maydays in the company of a few red-breasted mergansers. Steve Entwistle saw the two siskins by the conifer wood in Shop Lane on Saturday. Andy Field and Richard Hull noted during their visit to the nearby Langenhoe ranges on Saturday 2 water pipits, 4 stonechats, common buzzard, peregrine, Cetti's warbler and 4 bearded tits.

Adder numbers are increasing by the day as they emerge gradually from their winter slumbers. After the first sighting only 8 days ago, five were noted on Saturday with six being located on Sunday in the same regular spots as last year.

The moth trap operated through a dry and partially cloudy Friday night, recording 30 individuals of 3 macro-moth species. There were about six common quakers, one pictured above, a typical early spring moth here.

About a dozen small quakers, photo above, were noted - another typical early spring moth as were a similar number of hebrew character moths.

Thursday, 10 March 2011


The BBC Essex radio car came to Cudmore Grove Country Park on Wednesday 9th to help highlight the plight of adders. According to the national survey being carried out by the Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust since 2007, the once widespread adder has only been found in 7% of reptile surveys carried out. The ongoing threats of development and disturbance, have led to the decline of adders and that they're in need now of "serious conservation attention".

The park's adders didn't disappoint on the day they needed to show and despite the cloudy and cool weather early in the morning, one adder was lying in its usual spot near some young blackthorn. Listeners to the radio heard an excited reporter describe live that he was standing and admiring this adder "only about two feet away!" I think maybe a few feet got missed off his description in his excitement.
Later in the morning after the sun had come out, the second adder was also out in its usual spot by the track.

The moth trap was put out at the park for the first time this year on Tuesday night. For a change it stayed dry, there was a bit of cloud at times and the temperature hovered about 5 degrees above. As soon as the trap was switched on in the early evening, a handful of March moths, one pictured above, fluttered towards the light. By morning the same number of Marches were seen resting on the trap.

There was just the one clouded drab, pictured above, found in the trap, no doubt the first of several that will come to the trap this spring.

A couple of these Hebrew character moths were seen in the trap in the morning - again another common spring moth. The only other moth noted was the common quaker with three individuals.

Birdwise around the park it has been pretty much the same as recent weeks. There were about 600 brent geese feeding in the fields on Tuesday along with 50+ golden plover, as well as the usual roost of 150+ black-tailed godwits. In a nearby horse paddock there was a mixed flock of 15 fieldfares and redwings.

Monday, 7 March 2011


A rare day with blue sky from dawn till dusk over Mersea on Monday 7th. Spent a couple of hours in the middle of the day walking along the Reeveshall seawall on the north-side of the Island. Despite the welcome sunshine, there was a cold easterly breeze blowing.

The sunshine brought a few birds of prey into view with five species noted. Three common buzzards were noted as they drifted eastwards along the Pyefleet where they were joined by a fourth bird and a male marsh harrier aleady circling over Langenhoe. There was the typical showing of marsh harriers over Langenhoe with about 7 birds noted either quartering the marshes, perching on bushes or soaring high in the sky.

A peregrine was seen flying high over Langenhoe while flying closer to the ground were a couple of kestrels. On Reeveshall a sparrowhawk flashed low down a few metres past me, whilst I stood on the seawall. Just the one marsh harrier was seen over the Reeveshall reedbed before drifting over Maydays farm.

The tide was coming in along the Pyefleet Channel with a female scaup flying up-channel the highlight. Also of interest were 4 red-breasted mergansers, great grested grebe, 100 shelduck near Pewit Island and 2000 dunlin along the water's edge, whilst flying over Langenhoe were 4 pochard and 2 tufted ducks.

A common seal drifted up channel with the tide, occasionally sticking its head above water, meanwhile a fox was trotting along the saltmarsh behind Pewit Island flushing lots of wildfowl.

On the Reeveshall pool were 25 teal, 3 redshank, cormorant, grey heron with 9 stock doves feeding on the nearby field. In the nearby Shop Lane 3 siskins perched in a tree above the popular bird feeders next to the conifer wood.

There was a colourful end to the day with a bright sunset seen from the Hard at West Mersea. Over the Feldy fields 400 brent geese noisily flew around before settling back down. On the nearby mud were a typical selection of waders with oystercatchers, curlews, redshank, dunlin and turnstones all present.

A late afternoon walk along the Strood seawall on Sunday 6th provided views of at least 28 lapland buntings in the weedy field with 25 of the birds seen heading over to the mainland field on the east side of the Strood causeway, presumably to roost for the night. Also flying around the weedy field were 4 linnets, skylark and 5 reed buntings. A barn owl was seen flying along the seawall at the top end of Ray Channel. Amongst the many regular waders along the Strood, 100 knot were of note.

Martin Cock saw the female scaup still on the Strood fishing lake on Sunday as well as one in the Pyefleet from Maydays.

Two adders were seen basking at the country park today as they were yesterday too.

Friday, 4 March 2011


This was the first adder of the spring found at the country park today on a sunny Friday 4th. There was still a cold northerly breeze blowing across the park but this female adder had found a sheltered spot where it could soak up the sunshine. No adders have been found so far in the main dell area near the car park despite searching whenever it has been sunny in recent days.

The first adder sighting in the park last year was a very late 17th March, whereas the previous four years had seen the first adder appear during the last week in February.

During the middle of the day high tide, there was a good wader roost in the grazing fields with a big flock of 250+ black-tailed godwits and 100 redshank, some pictured above. One of the black-tailed godwits was already in its summer plumage with full ginger underparts and neck. Also in the fields were 20 turnstone, 25 dunlin, 20 snipe, 30 lapwing and 70 curlew.

Amongst the wildfowl were 25 shelduck, 200 teal, 200 wigeon and 400 brent geese with a few shoveler and mallard too. At the pond 10 tufted duck and 8 gadwall were the main ducks while feeding on some marshy ground nearby were 2 snipe and a curlew.

Around the park 2 or 3 skylarks were in full song in the sunshine, singing high in the sky. Small numbers of chaffinches and goldfinches were present as usual in hedges and trees near the pond.

On Wednesday Richard Brown's father saw two swallows fly over West Mersea, which I believe might be the first Essex sightings of the spring to be reported.
Earlier in the day I had to slow the car down whilst driving along the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall, to allow a male hen harrier to fly across the road. The elegant looking bird swooped low over the road about 30 metres in front of the car, allowing fine views as it continued to hunt the nearby fields.

Simon Cox reported seeing six Mediterranean gulls on the West Mersea beach near Seaview Avenue and the female scaup on the fishing lake by the Strood on Monday.