Tuesday, 27 September 2011


The country park has been basking in some late September sunshine over the last few days. Despite having some rain during August, the ground has dried out a lot since then. The grass on the park in many places is looking parched and in the picture above the grass is more brown than green in colour.

A thick mist covered everywhere first thing on Tuesday 27th and after a sunny spell, a sea fog rolled over the Island in the afternoon. Not much to report for today.

There was no wind on Monday 19th with plenty of sun and good visibility. Scanning the mudflats at the end of the day revealed 18 brent geese on the mud at the mouth of the Colne estuary. Along the edge of the mudflats were 200 feeding avocets, while offshore 5 common terns were seen. One mudflat pool had 6 little egrets feeding in it.

On the pools in the park grazing fields were 25 wigeon, 100+ teal, 5 shoveler, 30 mallard with 15 greylag geese dropping in to roost in the evening. The female ruff (a reeve) was present again for it's fifth day, feeding along a muddy edge, also 10 snipe and 10 black-tailed godwits also present.

The park pond was a bit quieter on Monday with only 30 mallard present although their numbers have been over 100+ birds. The swan family seem to come and go between the dyke and the pond with the two cygnets following behind the mother.

The bushes between the hide and the car park often hold a variety of small birds with chiffchaff, blackcap, chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit often seen. A couple of goldcrests have been mixed in with the tits for the last fortnight or so. Martin Cock had the rare sight of two yellowhammers briefly on bushes in this same area on Monday. A reed warbler was heard calling from the pond hedgerow on Sunday.

Not many migrants passing over the park during the sunny Monday although 50+ swallows seemed to be flying around the fields and houses just to the north of the park. Two siskin flew over the park on Sunday calling and a lesser redpoll too.

On Saturday, 2 brent geese were in the fields, 2 yellow wagtails were with the cows, 70 curlew roosted at high tide here. Two wheatears were at the Point with another on the seawall, while 30 linnets fed in the sea-blite bushes at the Point. On the mud 140 avocets roosted in a group ahead of the high tide and a distant marsh harrier was seen over Langenhoe. A common seal and 3 eider were just offshore from the park on Saturday morning.

Martin Cock and Steve Entwistle saw a common buzzard over Maydays farm on Saturday, while the next day 4 red-legged partridge were seen in the field behind the Strood reservoirs on Sunday. A Mediterranean gull flew over the East Mersea road near the church along with a number of other gulls circling over the fields on Monday.

A badger was seen scuttling along the side of the pond at dusk on Monday night and then an hour after dark one jogged along Bromans Lane ahead of the car.

On Sunday a small copper and small heath were some of the small number of butterflies at the park along with red admiral, speckled wood and small white, while the day before a grass snake and two adders were out basking in the park. Martin Cock noted a hummingbird hawkmoth along the path near Gyants Marsh on Sunday and another one was reported in West Mersea on Monday.

The moth trap was set out in the light drizzle on Monday evening and on Tuesday morning 95 moths of 18 species were noted. This barred sallow in the photo above, is a frequent autumn visitor to the trap with this individual being the first of the season.

A rather unexpected discovery was disturbing this very worn herald moth, found while mopping up the floor of the park toilets. In the past the herald moth has been seen in the autumn resting inside the building, as well as individuals coming to the moth trap in the spring.

Two beaded chestnuts were the first of the season, one pictured above. Other moths included frosted orange, dusky lemon sallow, sallow, orange sallow, rosy rustic, square spot rustic, snout, black rustic, deep brown dart, broad-bordered yellow underwing, brindled green, lunar underwing, brick, large yellow underwing and flounced rustic.

Friday, 23 September 2011


More sunshine over the last few days with this comma butterfly basking on a bush at the country park on Friday 23rd. Several butterfly species have been making the most of the autumnal sunshine with speckled wood, small white, small heath seen around the park in small numbers. However the commonest one has been the red admiral with at least a handful crossing west over the car park each day this week.

Two adders were along their regular section of hedgerow near the car park during the morning.

In nearby bushes 4 chiffchaffs foraged along with a flock of mixed tits, while a couple of goldcrests were also in another flock in the morning passing through the car park trees. Two song thrushes were seen in trees by the pond and blackbirds that have been a bit scarce recently have started to reappear in small numbers. Three blackcaps and a lesser whitethroat were near the pond on Thursday morning.

On the fields a ruff was present for the second day around the pools amongst the 150 teal, 10 wigeon, 5+ snipe, 10 black-tailed godwit. Two brent geese were seen at the pools in the morning, the first here this winter, 3 were on the sea later in the day, while 15 greylag geese dropped in at dusk. At high tide 120 curlew roosted in the fields and 2 yellow wagtails were with the cattle.

Migrants were still passing west over the park with the biggest flock of house martins noted this summer with 100 birds hawking over the fields while 150 swallows passed over during the day. Three siskins flew east calling while 10 redpolls flew west in the morning and 50+ meadow pipits trickled over during the morning in small groups.

A sparrowhawk suddenly appeared inside the seawall near the Golfhouse, maybe following the migrants across the Colne. It perched on a fencepost while 25 linnets and some of the other small birds flew away to safety. At the Point a wheatear was seen along the beach as were 4 reed buntings. A big avocet flock roosting on the mud with 140 birds, had at least 3 birds colour-ringed, while 7 little egrets fed in some of the pools on the saltmarsh.

Ten snipe flew off the pools in the fields and a wheatear was also seen here on Thursday while on Tuesday early evening a hobby unsuccessfully tried to catch a martin high over the fields.

A badger jogged along Bromans Lane in front of the car headlights before it turned into the verge late on Thursday evening. On Wednesday morning a nice flock of 200+ linnets were flying above one of the recently cultivated fields at Bocking Hall along the East Mersea road.

The moth trap was run at the country park on both Wednesday and Thursday nights. The relatively clear and still nights produced similar catches with about 65 individuals of 15 species each. This neatly marked flounced chestnut pictured above was one to catch the eye on Friday morning. The only individual noted last autumn turned up a day earlier than this year's record.

This brick moth seemed another neatly marked specimen. It's noted each autumn here but only one or two each year.

Just one autumnal rustic was in the trap on Thursday morning and maybe a few more will be seen in the next few nights too.

The sallow moth is a regular in small numbers in mid September into early October. The picture above doesn't convey it's yellow colouring very well.

Other moths included L-album wainscot, common wainscot, large yellow underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, flounced rustic, square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, shuttel-shaped dart, deep-brown dart, black rustic, snout, frosted orange, willow beauty, latticed heath, brindled green and lunar underwing.

Monday, 19 September 2011


This common lizard was enjoying another sunny September morning on Monday 19th. It was basking on a wooden post alongside the path near the Firs Chase caravan site, probably watching lots of walkers go past without being noticed by anyone - well nearly no-one!

There was a bit of bird passage taking place during the walk along the Strood seawall with 250+ swallows, 70+ house martins and 20 meadow pipits seen crossing west off the Island. Also flying off the Island were a small flock of 8 siskins and a lesser redpoll, crossing over the Strood Channel.

The most interesting bird to catch the eye were several common buzzards in the air near Peldon. Five were seen circling low over a wood just east of Peldon, then 3 others circled over Copt Hall Grove near Wigborough, while at least another couple circled high in the sky in the general area. It seemed an ideal day for birds of prey to soar and for them to migrate south. However most of these buzzards didn't appear to be on the move away from the Peldon area.

Noted from the seawall were one wheatear, 25 linnets, common tern, 1 bar-tailed godwit, 30 black-tailed godwits and 5 little egrets.

Andy Field walked the north side of the Island on Monday afternoon and noted 6 common buzzards in the air over Langenhoe and Alresford areas. Also hobby, common sandpiper, wheatear and 4 red-legged partridges were seen. Martin Cock found a spotted flycatcher near the Golfhouse at East Mersea and a grey wagtail flew over. Ian Black reported hearing a few whimbrel flying over West Mersea during the last couple of nights.

The red admiral seems to be the most widespread butterfly around at the moment with a few seemingly heading west off the Island for the winter. The westerly passage was noted a few days ago at East Mersea Point, again yesterday along the Coopers Beach seawall and today across the Strood Channel. Although most of the ivy seems to have flowered, some clumps are still pulling in the wasps, bees, flies as well as a few red admirals too.

Several migrant hawkers are on the wing at the moment with this one pictured above, resting on leaves in the Firs Chase garden. A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen resting on a solar panel early in the afternoon, maybe trying to regain its energy! A goldcrest and chiffchaff were heard calling from nearby trees.

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Made the most of the lovely weather on Sunday 18th with a 9km walk around some of the footpaths in East Mersea. There were quite a few other folk also out enjoying the sunshine too although this photo of the beach between Fen Farm and Coopers Beach appears momentarily deserted.

Walking along the foreshore as the incoming tide covered the last of the mud, 30 golden plover and 5 little egrets were noted near Coopers Beach and a few swallows flew west along the seawall.

Along some of the paths bramble bushes were laden down with a good crop of blackberries and in several places the blackthorn bushes seemed to be covered in masses of sloes. The good weather in the spring provided ideal conditions for flowers to get pollinated.

My wife Nolly ensures that Monty gets his fair share of the juicy blackberries during our walk along the path between Shop Lane and Meeting lane.

A scan of one of the fields revealed a hobby standing on one of the clods of earth near the Gyants Marsh area. The distinctive "wheet" call of the chiffchaff was heard from many copses and hedges during the walk with about ten birds noted.
At Rewsalls farm there was a flock of 150 linnets perched up on wires over a recently cultivated field.

There were up to 25 red admiral butterflies seen during the walk, many close to the big clumps of flowering ivy in the hedgerows. The other main spot for butterflies was a game cover crop at Rewsalls where about 20 small whites were flying around.

Saturday, 17 September 2011


Managed to enjoy a breezy walk along the Maydays seawall on Saturday 18th just as the skies were starting to threaten with rain. The strong wind kept many birds low and there weren't many waders to see in the Pyefleet with the tide already quite high.

However a nice selection of birds that were seen in the Pyefleet included one curlew sandpiper, 25 ringed plover, 20 dunlin, 120 grey plover, 10 knot, 5 avocets, great crested grebe and 6 common terns.

Over the Maydays fields and saltings were 2 marsh harriers, sparrowhawk, 2 greenshank, 3 green sandpipers and a whinchat. Two common seals sat on the Maydays saltmarsh, close enough to the seawall to provide the best seal views for some time.

Alongside a hedgerow near the farm at least 4 willow emerald damselflies were resting amongst the foliage. There were probably more waiting to be found as the hedge offered an ideal spot for them in the sun but out of the westerly wind.

On Friday afternoon, I joined Andy Field at Coopers Beach in East Mersea. We set our telescopes up in the hope of seeing some seabirds offshore at high tide. During about an hour of sea-watching, six immature gannets were seen in the distance and also two shearwaters flying too far out to make out which species. One common tern was seen while amongst the large group of gulls resting on the water, 2 Mediterranean gulls were spotted.

Around the Rewsalls marshes a wheatear, reed bunting, 50 linnets, 36 golden plover and also 2000+ gulls mainly black-headed, following some tractors cultivating fields. There was a bit of bird activity around the Coopers football pitch with about 70 birds noted. Amongst the goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches, great tits, blue tits, robins, dunnocks and pied wagtails were 7 chiffchaffs and whitethroat noted too.

On Friday evening 2 badgers were seen trotting past the park pond and into the nearby hedgerow as night-fell. Twenty minutes later just after the park gates were locked, one of the badgers was briefly followed along Bromans Lane in the car headlights.

On Thursday night the moth trap was put out on another partially clear and fresh night with a bright moon shining. By dawn on Friday morning just over 90 moths of 17 species were noted. This dusky lemon sallow pictured above was the pick of the moths in the trap. This is usually a regular visitor to the trap here in the autumn in ones and twos. However it has declined in many parts of the country because of the demise of elm trees, the foodplant of the caterpillars.

Other moths seen included black rustic, lunar underwing, large yellow underwing, oak hook-tip, brimstone, willow beauty, flounced rustic, square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, brindled green, snout and frosted orange.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


This common seal pup was resting on the mud close to East Mersea Point on Thursday 15th. It looked about two-thirds the size of an adult seal and seemed happy enough basking in the morning sunshine. After a while it edged back to the water and swam into the river Colne. Most summers there's usually a seal pup seen somewhere round the Island usually along the Pyefleet.

Also at the Point as the tide came in were 25 avocets and 50 black-tailed godwits and some of the other regular waders. A couple of common terns flew past and a distant marsh harrier was seen on Langenhoe Point.

The westerly breeze dropped during the morning and the increasing sunshine meant the passage of birds slowly reduced. A common buzzard was reported flying west over the car park. A few meadow pipits trickled westwards as did some swallows, while the calls of lesser redpolls flying over were heard on two occasions during the morning.

On the park pond 100 mallard were gathered along with a gadwall and 2 tufted ducks. On the fields 150 teal, 2 wigeon and 4 shoveler were the main wildfowl along with 6 black-tailed godwits, 20 lapwing and 2 snipe. A green sandpiper was heard calling as it flew over the fields and pond.

In the hedges 2 song thrushes perched up high with several blackcaps being the main warbler in the bushes with a handful noted.

The bright sunshine was ideal for butterflies with a couple of late peacocks, one pictured above, seen along the seawall along with a common blue and 20 small whites. Others seen around the park included 3 small coppers, small heath, speckled wood, meadow brown, red admiral and comma. Common darters and migrant hawkers were the dragonflies seen.
Also basking at the park during the morning were at 6 common lizards and 2 adders.


Steve Entwistle did well to find Mersea' first small colony of the rare willow emerald damselfly at Maydays farm on Wednesday 14th. At least ten individuals were seen resting on the sunny side of a hedgerow with both males and females providing good views. A pair were seen locked in the mating wheel. The picture above shows one of the obliging females resting on an elm leaf.

Willow emeralds have begun rapidly colonising East Anglia and the south-east from the continent, since their first discovery in 2009. I believe the first Essex discovery in September 2009 was just north of Mersea at the Fingringhoe nature reserve. Such has been the spread of these damselflies, it was only a matter of time before they were found on the Island. Steve's patience and effort has been richly rewarded and generated a bit of emerald excitement!

One of the features that separate willows from other emerald damselflies can be seen in this close up of the shiny green thorax on this female. The slightly darker green "saddle"shows a pointed spur which is not present on other emeralds.

This female seems to have a browner thorax than the previous individual which was greener. The white upperside to the tip of the abdomen is also a distinctive feature.
Willow emeralds are unusual amongst most other native damselflies in that the eggs are laid in the bark and twigs of willow branches over water rather than in aquatic vegetation or in the water.

This male was reluctant to come down lower to rest like the females on the hedge but the bright green body showed up well in the sunshine. The pale brown spot on each half-raised wing is another willow emerald feature.

It is quite likely that other ponds on the Island will also have willow emeralds present too.

Following the report from Martin Cock that he'd seen 4 gannets from Coopers Beach earlier in the afternoon, I joined Steve at the end of the afternoon looking from the country park, view pictured above. Within the first scan of the sea, an immature gannet was seen flying offshore. Another two brown immatures were also seen a short while later further out over the water.

Two marsh harriers were also seen flying out at sea as they crossed from Point Clear to Bradwell. A Mediterranean gull flew past the beach while offshore 3 eiders were noted.

Steve found a spotted flycatcher near the car park in the early evening, only the second record for the Island this year. Five blackcaps were seen near the pond, willow warbler called in the cliff-top trees, 2 wheatears on the beach and a lone brent goose at the Point.

The westerly wind saw many migrants passing low over the park in the morning with 20+ siskin, 10 sand martins, 15 house martins, 150 swallows, 50+ meadow pipits all heading west.

Martin Cock saw 8 wheatears and 5 whinchat during his visit to Maydays / Reeveshall on Wednesday afternoon as well as 10 siskin flying over. In the evening a marsh harrier was hunting fields near the East Mersea road at Weir Farm.

On Tuesday at the park a hobby was seen in the evening resting for a few minutes on the mudflats. A turtle dove was seen in a hedge by the pond and there was also a report of one near the beach at Fen Farm. A lone swift was seen passing west over the park on Tuesday evening. Steve Entwistle saw 2 kingfishers at Maydays on Tuesday, the first reported sightings on the Island this year, as far as we know.

On Monday a marsh harrier flew over the grazing fields, a sparrowhawk was seen near the pond, 5 blackcaps in bushes by the pond, 2 wheatears by the beach, a goldcrest called with some tits in the cliff-top trees. In West Mersea a willow warbler was calling in Firs Chase in the morning.

An update on the resident mute swans shows that they are all well and even more puzzling, the incoming rival pair were nowhere to be seen by Tuesday and looked as if they had cleared off. The resident male who had to retreat back to the pond after losing the dispute, was later reunited on Monday with mother and their two cygnets. However the next day the mother had walked the two young ones back across the field to the dyke again, leaving the male by himself on the pond.

The moth trap was put out on Monday and Tuesday nights although catches were low due to the bright full moon, strong breeze blowing and the cool temperatures.
This smart black rustic was one of two noted on Monday night, the first ones to be seen this autumn here. On Tuesday night the first lunar underwing of the autumn was noted.

Other moths noted were brimstone, willow beauty, brindled green, square-spot rustic, flounced rustic, large yellow underwing, snout, setaceous hebrew character, frosted orange, rosy rustic.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


The serenity of the park's waterways was shattered on Sunday 11th when a new pair of mute swans descended on the borrowdyke and then set about ousting the resident family! The picture above shows the new pair pursuing the resident mother with her cygnets. There had been the usual swan posturing with raised wings, puffed out chests, lots of flapping and chasing as well as lots of grappling and pecking.

I hadn't seen when the dispute began but certainly by mid morning the resident male was already having to back off and by the afternoon had retreated to the pond, leaving the cygnets and mother on the dyke still being pestered by the new pair. The two cygnets have been growing steadily since mid May despite losing their 6 fellow siblings weeks ago.

On the grazing fields 2 wigeon, 100+ teal, 3 shoveler, snipe, 10 black-tailed godwits, 40 curlew were seen along with 2 wheatears. A greenshank was seen flying over the pools in the morning calling loudly as it headed west. Overhead in the morning 2 hobbies were seen chasing after a small finch while later in the afternoon they were flying around the end of the East Mersea road keeping the 30 swallows on high alert. At least six sand martins were seen flying west over the park

Not much warbler activity around the park although a couple of chiffchaffs and a whitethroat were seen near the pond. Fifty mallard, teal and a tufted duck were the ducks present here.

During some of the sunny periods the park warmed up nicely out of the wind and one of the regular adders was seen beside the track. One sheltered sunny section of hedge had 2 commas, 2 red admirals, green-veined white and a common darter dragonfly present. Also out of the wind in some places were several small whites, speckled wood and migrant hawker.

There were some nice patches of blue sky during Sunday and views up the river Colne were nice and clear. For the second morning running the Colne osprey was seen by Martin Cock and myself from near East Mersea Point, pictured above, flying around the Langenhoe /Geedons to the north of the Island. Even in the distance this large bird with the deep wing-beats, could be seen circling high over the water, occasionally hovering but not seen dropping down to catch anything.

Another two wheatears were at the Point and a sparrowhawk was seen crossing the river and swooping low over the saltmarsh as it headed westwards. As the tide came in, six avocets which might be the local family, flew onto the Golfhouse pools, while 30 black-tailed godwits flew off to roost on Langenhoe.

On Saturday the osprey was seen from the Point flying in the distance over the river Colne near the Geedons. It plunged down into the Geedon Channel but failed to catch anything and then slowly headed across Langenhoe and Reeveshall being mobbed by two persistent crows. A marsh harrier was seen flying out at sea, seemingly making the crossing from Point Clear towards the Dengie coastline to the west. A hobby flew over the houses to the north of the park and a sparrowhawk flew along the back of the grazing fields.

Along the seawall a turtle dove was seen feeding on the beach, 4 wheatears were also seen on the beach with 25 avocets, greenshank and 2 eider seen from the shore. Fifteen common terns flew south over the car park as did a little egret and a yellow wagtail while 2 late swifts flew over the park pond in the afternoon. Two snipe were seen feeding at the pools in the fields along with 100+ teal.

This orange sallow moth was one of 20 species of about 140 individuals noted in the trap on Saturday morning. One or two of these orange sallows are noted here each autumn.

One or two brindled green moths are noted each autumn and this first one appears to be reasonably fresh and still looking green.

There was a good showing of the dainty latticed heaths by morning with 35 noted in the trap.

Other moths noted were purple bar, green carpet, willow beauty, orange swift, light emerald, brimstone, frosted orange, large yellow underwing, lesser yellow underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, square-spot rustic, snout, flounced rustic, common wainscot, setaceous hebrew character, uncertain and white-point.

Friday, 9 September 2011


It got quite dull for my short evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Friday 9th. At least the tide was out so there was the usual scattering of waders along the Pyefleet Channel, pictured above.

The main bird of note was a young hobby that flew over a nearby field and perched on a fencepost for five minutes, preening its feathers every so often. A flock of 50 swallows with one or two sand martins mixed in passed over the seawall. Two whinchats and wheatear were noted on some of the fences, while 4 yellow wagtails were heard calling.

On the Reeveshall pool only 2 green sandpipers, 3 teal, 2 mallard and a little grebe were present.
A marsh harrier was seen on Langenhoe about to drop into the roost near the Point. Along the Pyefleet 100 black-tailed godwits, 10 avocets and 25 knot were the main waders of note while 5 little terns were flying round the entrance to the Pyefleet.

Andy Field visited Reeveshall on Friday and saw 4 curlew sandpipers, 220 knot in the Pyefleet, also 3 hobbies overhead and 17 yellow wagtails all perched on a fence with green sandpiper and greenshank on the pool.

Earlier in the day another sign that autumn passage is underway was the sight of 40 siskins split in two flocks flying west over the Golfhouse in the morning. One bird had passed over the park calling earlier in the morning. Four wheatears were still on the first beach near the park and 5 yellow wagtails were flying around the grazing fields. A sparrowhawk flew low over the fields, where the pools held 100+ teal, 2 wigeon, 3 shoveler, 66 curlew, 10 black-tailed godwits.

Offshore a Sandwich tern flew west along the shore at high tide as did 8 little terns and 10 common terns, while 2 eider were on the sea.

Enjoying the warmth and brief sunshine was one adder, as well as red admiral, peacock, large white, small white and several migrant hawkers.

This gate just inside the park entrance has become known as the "flycatcher gate" as it's often been the best place to see spotted flycatchers in the autumn in recent years. Keeping to its reputation, a spotted flycatcher was seen yesterday morning as it flew along the lower hedge and landed in a nearby dead tree, providing a nice but brief view from the gate. Hopefully more will stop off here over the next fortnight or so.
Warbler activity along the hedges has been quieter than some recent days with the most noticeable being about 5 blackcaps.

A cursory glance eastwards from the car park in the evening provided an unexpected distant view of an osprey which was seen circling slowly over the mouth of the Colne estuary. It drifted slowly over the Point and gained height as it headed back up river. This maybe the bird that has been seen in the Fingringhoe part of the estuary for the last week or so.

Earlier in the morning a good count of at least 9 wheatears were seen dotted along the beach from the park to the Point. A sign of autumn passage was provided by small flocks of meadow pipits totalling 48 birds crossing the river and flying west over the park.

On Wednesday the tanned adder was basking at its usual spot by the track in the morning and a wheatear on the seawall. A hobby flew low over the car park on Tuesday morning and a turtle dove was seen in Bromans Lane.

Two curlew sandpipers were seen in the Pyefleet on Monday 5th by Martin Cock and then 3 birds noted along with 20 knot by Steve Entwistle the following day.

A muntjac deer was reported being seen near the Golfhouse earlier in the week.

There were two of these silver-Y moths in the moth trap when it was checked on Thursday morning. They've been scarce this summer except for the last two weeks when one or two individuals around the Island have been seen during the day nectaring at various flowers.

The first L-album wainscot of the autumn was found, pictured above. This once scarce Essex moth seems to have become well established in recent years. Last autumn individuals were noted from mid September till mid October, peaking with 20 individuals in early October.

One of the typical autumnal moths at the moment is the square spot rustic, pictured above. This should be one of the commonest moths in the trap over the next month or so.

Other moths noted were hedge rustic, latticed heath, rosy rustic, flounced rustic, lesser yellow underwing, large yellow underwing, uncertain, snout, frosted orange, cloaked minor and setaceous hebrew character.

Monday, 5 September 2011


It was nice and sunny during the morning walk along the Strood seawall on Monday 5th, although there was a strong breeze blowing. The tide was out so there were plenty of waders to look at on the mud, as long as the binoculars could be held still in the wind.

The redshank were the most numerous with about 300 birds scattered along the channel. Three greenshank were noted but no sign of any spotted redshanks here. Twenty knot and four bar-tailed godwits were seen and there was a mixed group of 100 golden and grey plovers feeding on the mud. Very few small waders were found although 50+ ringed plovers were seen on mud opposite the Hard.

Also seen along the channel were 6 shelduck, 3 common terns, one grey heron and 5 little egrets along the edge of the Ray saltings. On the Ray Island 1500 starlings were flying around in a big foraging flock. A small flock of 10 house martins crossed over the channel towards Mersea.

Inside the Strood seawall a wheatear was still in the middle field, 10 skylarks, 30 house sparrows and 10 linnets were seen but otherwise relatively quiet here. Two common lizards were basking by the Feldy View field.

Martin Cock saw two curlew sandpipers along the Pyefleet near Maydays farm on Monday.

Sunday, 4 September 2011


These three common seals were basking in their usual remote spot in the Pyefleet Channel opposite Maydays Farm on Sunday 4th. Lying on the northern side of the channel, they were able to remain undisturbed. This digiscoped photo above was taken from about 150m away from them.

The close-up image of the left-hand seal shows it with a very red coat which apparently is often found in common seals and is a condition involving iron oxidation known as red pelage. It is thought to be caused by an accummulation of iron on the outer surface of the animals hair.

This area of Reeveshall alongside the seawall from Maydays, was worth the long walk. A big flock of about 50 yellow wagtails were feeding in the grass fields with cattle and sheep, while some were also feeding along the seawall in small flocks. Five wheatears and a whinchat perched along this fence, while over the fields 300 swallows flew around with one or two sand and house martins too.

Along the Pyefleet mud 3 curlew sandpipers fed with 70 ringed plover and 30 dunlin. Also seen were 4 greenshank, 20 knot and many of the other regular waders such as redshank, grey plover and black-tailed godwits. A shoal of small fish-fry drifted up the channel on the incoming tide with 150 black-headed gulls, 4 common terns and 20 cormorants joining in the feeding frenzy.

On Langenhoe 3 marsh harriers and 3 kestrels were seen while a common buzzard was perched up on a bush on the nearby Langenhoehall marshes.
By Maydays farm two yellowhammers, blackcap, whitethroat and a chiffchaff were noted. A swift was see flying with some swallows over the fields near Chapmans Lane near West Mersea.

Plenty of water along the Strood Channel on Saturday afternoon at high tide and being another hot day, several water-skiers and speedboats were out in force. Not much birdlife to be seen during a high tide walk along the Strood seawall. Three common terns, 5 little egrets were the main birds of interest while 100 curlew flew off the Ray saltings as the tide continued to rise.

Fifty golden plover flew along the seawall with at least 10 dropping to roost in a field. The only small birds seen were a single wheatear, 15 linnets, 20 skylarks, 2 yellow wagtails and a meadow pipit. Over the houses 3 swifts were seen flying around with 50 swallows late afternoon.

Also noted on the walk were 20+ small whites, small heath, southern hawker and 2 wasp spiders.

It was a bit of a surprise to see two hummingbird hawkmoths soaking up the early morning sunshine, basking in a yew tree in our Firs Chase garden. Most of the time they basked with an occasional fly around before settling back 15 feet up in the tree. Both settled a couple of feet apart from each other.

Also enjoying the morning sunshine on this same yew tree was this migrant hawker pictured above. Elsewhere on the sunny south side of the tree were 2 basking red admirals and a small white butterfly.

Friday, 2 September 2011


The hot and still conditions on Friday 2nd provided a good excuse to get in the canoe and visit the nearby Pennyhole Bottom lagoon on the Old Hall RSPB reserve opposite West Mersea. In the picture above, oystercatchers and black-headed gulls roost within sight of some of the houses in the background along West Mersea's Coast Road.

Visiting during the high tide meant that there were lots of waders roosting and feeding on the lagoon, with about 1000 gulls and 800+ waders. Amongst some of the waders noted were 2 curlew sandpipers, 20+ ruff, 20+ spotted redshank, 2+ greenshank, green sandpiper and 5+ avocet while the main roosting flock consisting of several hundred redshank and black-tailed godwits.

Over the nearby pastures 2000+ black-headed gulls appeared to be hawking through the air after flying ants. A noisy juvenile Sandwich tern followed one of it's parents as they crossed from the Mersea Quarters into the Blackwater river. A couple of yellow wagtails were seen along the seawall and 50 ringed plovers were on the saltmarsh as the tide receded.

In the evening 4 swifts were flying around the Coast Road and Firs Chase area along with 30+ swallows.

Earlier in the day a walk around the Rewsalls marshes near Coopers Beach in East Mersea was generally quiet in the heat. However a marsh harrier circled overhead, at least 5 Mediterranean gulls were mixed in with mainly black-headed gulls as they hawked after ants in the air and a wheatear was along the seawall near the Youth Camp.

The main wader on the mudflats as the tide came in were 100 golden plover, while a little egret was also seen. Fifty swallows flew around Coopers Beach with a couple of house martins mixed in, while other birds noted were kestrel, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, 2 skylark and a meadow pipit.

Andy Field found a wood sandpiper on the Reeveshall pool late Friday morning which unfortunately flew off and wasn't located again. Also seen were ruff, green sandpiper on the pool and 3 whinchats still along the fenceline near the Shop Lane seawall.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


This whinchat was photographed by Andy Field near the Shop Lane seawall early last week. Small numbers of whinchats are passing through at the moment on their journey south. During this evening's walk to the Reeveshall pool on Thursday 2nd, three more whinchats were seen perched on a fence near the same Shop Lane seawall.

The sun was seen setting behind the Reeveshall pool at about 7.30pm with very little life on the pool. Other than 5 teal, gadwall, green sandpiper flying away, a juvenile cuckoo flying into the oak tree was a bit unexpected. Also seen over Reeveshall were marsh harrier, 4 yellow wagtails and 40 black-tailed godwits feeding in the field.

The tide was well out along the Pyefleet with 90 knot on the mud at Langenhoe Point the main wader of interest while on Langenhoe 6 marsh harriers flew over the roost site and a sparrowhawk was also seen. Back towards the park at dusk, a little owl was seen perched on a telegraph post in Bromans Lane.

At the country park during the day a common buzzard drifted west over the car park, and a sparrowhawk and kestrel were seen near the pond. In the bushes near the pond a garden warbler was seen feeding on elderberries alongside 3 blackcaps, common whitethroats, lesser whitethroat and chiffchaff. A goldcrest calling from bushes near the hide was the first of the autumn for the park.

The previous day, Wednesday 31st a marsh harrier flew east over the park pond and fields while earlier in the morning two others flew south-west over the East Mersea village shop. Also at the park yesterday a snipe flew over the car park calling, two turtle doves perched up by the grazing fields (probably the same two seen earlier in Bromans Lane) and a kestrel hovered in this area. A wheatear on the beach has been present for its fourth day, while flying away from the cows to roost were 11 yellow wagtails. Flying around the fields and seawall round to Ivy Farm in the evening were 200 swallows and one or two sand martins. In the grazing fields 150 teal were seen flying off during the day and the first wigeon was also noted too.

An evening walk on Wednesday to the Oyster Fishery provided views of 28 little egrets, 5 eider, 30 golden plover, 13 knot, 100 avocet, 200 black-tailed godwits, 8 little terns, 5 common terns, 7 marsh harriers on Langenhoe while 2 greenshank were heard calling.

Two adders were seen enjoying the sunshine together in the park on Thursday.

The moth trap ran on both Tuesday night and Wednesday night with this nicely patterned feathered gothic pictured above, found on the latter night. It wasn't recorded at the park last autumn although it has been noted in previous years. This was one of about 180 moths of 27 species noted, not quite as good as Tuesday night under the still cloudy skies with 220 moths of 33 species.

There were three hedge rustics in the trap this morning, one pictured above. Just the one hedge rustic was noted last autumn, it being a relatively scarce moth locally.

There were five of these small Chinese character moths on Tuesday night, each one looking like a bit of bird dropping. This is the second generation on the wing at the moment, following the first ones that were on the wing during May here.

A couple of the small lime-speck pug moths were noted on both nights. The outline of the moth and the manner the wings are held very flat on the surface make this moth very recognisable.

Some of the other moths noted over the two nights were mullein wave, blood-vein, small dusty wave, oak hook-tip, willow beauty, green carpet, common carpet, yellow belle, scarce footman, orange swift, turnip, nutmeg, broad bordered yellow underwing, square-spot rustic, dark arches, rosy rustic, pale mottled willow, white point, copper underwing and common rustic.