Monday, 30 April 2012


Finally there was some nice warm sunshine for a walk along the Strood seawall on Monday 30th. A quick visit to the Strood reservoirs pictured above, revealed a pair of great crested grebes, 10 mallard, reed warbler and whitethroat as well as a few coots and moorhen. A cuckoo perched on top of a tall tree calling near the East Mersea road and then called from trees near Strood Hill.

The hoary cress flowers are just about past their best alongside the seawall, although there haven't been many sunny days recently to enjoy them. The cuckoo first seen and heard near Strood Hill, flew low across the fields and perched in some bushes where it fed on some of the many tent-webs of brown-tail moth caterpillars. The cuckoo called a few times and then flew across off the Island towards the trees of Ray Island.

In the channel 2 avocets and 10 whimbrel were the main waders of note, while 2 common terns and a Mediterranean gull were noted too. A female marsh harrier was seen beside the Ray Channel but no sign of the short-eared owl on the Ray.

One wheatear flitted along the seawall, one corn bunting sang from one field while a second bird flew onto the Island from the Ray direction. One reed warbler, 2 whitethroats, yellow wagtail, 4 linnets and 3 reed buntings were seen along the walk.

The rape fields were looking very yellow and no doubt providing real misery for any hay fever sufferers at the moment. The sunshine brought lots more butterflies out and about than of late, with small tortoiseshell, peacock, small white, orange-tip, large white and green-veined white all noted on the wing during the walk. A common lizard was basking on an old wooden pole.

Sunday, 29 April 2012


There was the unexpected find of this long-eared owl by Martin and Ann Cock at Maydays Farm on Sunday 29th. The discovery was quickly relayed to Steve, Andy and myself and we all abandoned whatever quiet Sunday afternoon activities we were doing and dashed down to see the bird.

Andy Field took these two photos of the owl as it perched on a fencepost with it ruffling its wings getting ready to fly, in the picture above. A few minutes earlier it had watched a fox walk close by which we thought might have flushed the bird.

Martin had first seen the long-eared owl as it flew along the borrowdyke towards a small plantation. He was surprised to find it wasn't the more often seen short-eared owl, but the scarcer long-eared owl. The last one seen on the Island was probably about ten years ago. This bird eventually took off and flew alongside a hedgerow for another 80 metres where it perched up for a few more minutes, with a few small birds making anxious calls beside it.

Other birds noted here were 5+ yellowhammers, house martin, cuckoo, pair of Canada geese and a couple of reed warblers were heard.

Earlier in the day a wheatear was seen on the beach at St Peters and a lesser whitethroat was heard singing. At the end of the day Steve walked the Strood seawall and noted cuckoo, whimbrel, 5 common terns and 2 swifts.

It turned out to be a good weekend for seeing the "eared-owls" as the previous day, I managed to see the short-eared owl again on Ray Island whilst walking the Strood seawall on Saturday. The bird was seen in the middle of the day flying low over the long grassland for several minutes. David Nicholls tells me that he has seen this owl several times over the last month. A cuckoo was also seen landing on a bush on the Ray, probably the same bird seen heard calling over the seawall on Friday.

The fields beside the Strood, pictured above, are mainly oil-seed rape although some are looking very patchy. One brent goose was still feeding in one field, a sparrowhawk flew up Strood Hill, four reed buntings were heard singing but only one corn bunting and also a little egret in the dyke.

In the channel 5 whimbrel were noted but other than 25 black-tailed godwits, very few other waders seen during the low tide.Two marsh harriers were flying over Feldy marshes and 2 common terns flying noisily up channel.

In Firs Chase 4 young moorhen chicks were seen at a pond near Firs Chase and some young robins have also fledged near here. The cuckoo flew over Firs Chase calling on Saturday as it headed towards Coast Road.

Thursday, 26 April 2012


The sea off the country park on Thursday 26th was still rough following more unsettled weather. It was a bit of a struggle to stand still in the strong wind whilst looking out to sea in the afternoon. No sign of any interesting birds offshore such as the two arctic skuas Martin Cock had seen from West Mersea the day before.

There was the colourful sight again on the grazing fields of 300+ black-tailed godwits during the high tide. The big highlight here however was the sight of at least 3 tiny lapwing chicks walking about the grass amongst the pools. One of the parents, presumably the mother, walked across and crouched over the chicks to give them some shelter. The parents have done well to get the eggs to hatch as the local foxes prowl around so much.

Also around the pools were snipe, several redshank, avocet, 25 teal, gadwall and mallard while close to the borrowdyke were two wheatears in each field.

The two nightingales were still singing at opposite ends of the car park, although not quite so much in the wet weather. Two chiffchaffs and two blackcaps and a whitethroat were also singing while a small flock of 10 linnets were noted too.

Earlier in the day a male marsh harrier was seen flying over fields near the East Mersea P.Y.O field. The day before a male marsh harrier was seen flying alongside the Strood causeway as it headed off the island.

Another disappointing mothing session on Tuesday night with only twelve moths noted. Two species made their first appearances of the year with an oak tree pug and 3 frosted green moths, one of them pictured above. The hebrew characters are still outnumbering the other moths with common quaker the only other species noted.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Recent rains have topped up the pools in the park's grazing fields to the levels they were in late winter. There was more rain at the start of Tuesday 24th but then the day brightened up.
Having teamed up with Martin Cock for a walk along the seawall, we were surprised to find the juvenile spoonbill feeding on the edge of the mudflats. Martin had also seen the bird flying north over the fields yesterday so maybe it'll stay in the area for a while.

There appeared to be a small influx of wheatears with 8 birds seen in 3 different locations. By the end of the afternoon all eight were together in one of the fields with 6 of the birds being males. A swift flew east over the Point, 3 whimbrel were seen near the Point, 2 singing whitethroats were heard by the seawall, while a sedge warbler singing at the pond was a new bird in.

A male marsh harrier was mobbed by 2 common terns as it headed upriver and a great crested grebe and a common seal were seen near the mouth of the Colne. Two pairs of avocets were in the area still and two brent geese were on the saltmarsh near the Golfhouse.

Despite the shower squalls, the two nightingales were still singing on and off during the day from opposite ends of the car park. On the pools 200 black-tailed godwits roosted and also present were 6 snipe, 6 redshank, 25 teal, pair of wigeon, 2 pairs gadwall, pair of shoveler and 6 lapwing. On the pond 3 pochard and 12 tufted duck were the main ducks of note.
Two adders were noted in their regular spots on Monday.

The run of disappointing catches in the moth trap continues since the start of April. This neatly marked chocolate-tip moth was the only moth different in a haul of about 15 moths on Monday night, compared with the other recent regulars.

Sunday, 22 April 2012


In between the showers, this common lizard was seen basking on top of a wooden post in the country park on Sunday 22nd. A second lizard was nearby on another post, also enjoying the warmth as were a couple of adders at their usual spots. A group of walkers also reported seeing an adder on the seawall near the Point. Butterflies seen during the sunny spells were speckled wood, small white, large white and a peacock.

Best bird of the day found at the park today was by Ron and Jenny Harvey who found a colourful male redstart feeding briefly beside some bushes in the corner of the park around midday. Unfortunately the bird soon moved on and couldn't be relocated. Ron was lucky enough to see a redstart in his West Mersea garden last autumn, the only redstart on the Island last year.

A quick early morning walk to the Oyster Fishery building pictured above, provided views across to Langenhoe Point. A common buzzard crossed the river Colne and headed over Langenhoe passing six marsh harriers that were in the air. On the Langenhoe Point mud were a pair of avocets, while along the river were seen 3 common terns.

Along the seawall were at least a couple of common whitethroats, 2 swallows while the male wheatear was at the Point again for the third day. Singing from bushes near the hide in the park was a willow warbler, with 2 singing chiffchaffs, 2 nightingales and 2 blackcaps all adding to the spring chorus.The sand martins are still flying around the cliff although only five birds so far.

On the grazing field pools, 300 black-tailed godwits were present on the high tide roost and a pair of avocets in the evening. A water vole was seen in the dyke on Sunday and a weasel in the car park on Saturday.

Martin Cock saw a muntjac deer by the footpath to the east of Meeting Lane in East Mersea and also noted one or two blackcaps, chiffchaffs and whitethroat.

The evening walk beside the Strood Channel on Saturday evening was threatened with looming black rain clouds as in the photo above. Birds of note during a quick walk were 40+ corn buntings in a flock, 5 common terns along the channel where 70 noisy redshank were also noted. Numbers of other waders much lower along the Strood with a few black-tailed godwits, curlews, oysteratchers and grey plovers seen.

Earlier in the day at the park a yellow wagtail flew over the fields, a male marsh harrier swooped down and hovered briefly over the reeds at the park pond scaring a moorhen. A grey heron and little egret were noted here while 3 pochard and 10 tufted duck were still present. On the fields a summer plumaged dunlin fed in the pools and  five snipe were also seen.
At the Point the male wheatear perched up on the pillbox for the second day and 2 common terns were seen over the river and two whitethroats were along the seawall.

Friday, 20 April 2012


One of the local pairs of avocets turned up on the pools in the grazing fields at the country park on Friday 20th. The pair seemed to be feeding well for some time and then began the elaborate mating ritual for a few minutes before getting distracted by something and so went off to stand with the black-tailed godwits, pictured above.

The sight of this pair of  potential breeding avocets suggests that they'll try and nest on the saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse again. The other local pair of avocets were also seen this morning, as they fed in the saltmarsh pools.

Also noted in the fields were 100 black-tailed godwits, 60 redshank, 5 snipe, 8 lapwing, 25 teal and pairs of wigeon, gadwall and shoveler. Four swallows were seen during the day passing over the fields, while at the cliff there were at least four sand martins. A male sparrowhawk perched in the hedge behind the pond for several minutes, where some of the wildfowl on the water included 8 tufted duck and 2 pochard.

Singing throughout most of the day were the two male nightingales. One of the birds was singing so loud, it could still be heard over the loud noise of the lawnmower and whilst I wore a set of ear defenders too.

In between the heavy squalls which included one heavy flurry of hail during Friday, there was some pleasantly warm weather. A walk towards the Point along the seawall lined with Alexanders plants, pictured above, provided views of a nice male wheatear and 2 common terns at the end of the day. Fifty brent geese flew low downriver, while earlier in the day 16 curlew were calling loudly as they headed out high, presumably on their migration north.

A weasel scampered across the car park in the middle of the day, while sunny periods saw peacock, small white and the speckled wood butterflies on the wing.

During a quick walk round the park on Thursday afternoon, I was surprised to find a cuckoo feeding in an oak bush near the beach. Usually my first cuckoo of the spring is normally heard calling first or maybe seen in flight. The bird was feeding on the caterpillers of the brown-tail moth clustered near one of the tent-webs, pictured above. The cuckoo flew a short distance and perched on a fence post providing a nice clear view before it flew away.

On the grazing fields on Thursday 400 black-tailed godwits provided a colourful sight alongside sixty noisy redshank. Offshore a flight of 60 cormorants flew along the outer edge of the mudflats and a common tern was seen too.

There was the nice sight of a barn owl flying low over the car by the Strood reservoirs at about 7pm Thursday, still in broad daylight. A bit further north from the Strood, Hugh Owen reported a marsh harrier, ringtail hen harrier and a common buzzard flying over Langenhoehall marshes earlier in the day. Back on the Island, late on Thursday evening, a badger was seen trotting along Bromans Lane in the car headlights.

On Tuesday a peregrine flew over the grazing fields on its way northwards, scattering many of the birds as it passed by. At the end of the day a little owl perched on wires over Bromans Lane.

The saltmarsh near the East Mersea Point is displaying lots of the tiny white flowers of scurvy grass, as in the picture above.

Monday, 16 April 2012


A pair of very confiding robins joined in the gardening in Firs Chase over the weekend. Both birds were showing great interest as I turned the compost heap over, dropping down onto the compost to pick up spiders, centipedes, worms and other tasty morsels. It seemed as if the birds might have had young to feed as they carried beakfuls away with them.

Elsewhere in the garden the pied blackbird was still present, while singing from the nearby trees were a chiffchaff and blackcap. Overhead a pair of displaying stock doves glided together, above the gardens, which seemed an interesting sight for a bird not normally associated with gardens. One of the regular sparrowhawks passed overhead coming from The Lane, where there was a goldcrest heard singing.

This green-veined white butterfly was the only butterfly seen in the garden over the last few days, but then it has been surprisingly chilly in the northerly breeze.

A Monday evening walk alongside the Strood channel was a bit quiet as the sun went down and the tide came in. Twenty black-tailed godwits were the main waders of note other than the noisy 150+ redshank. A little egret and pochard were noted in the dyke and the two brent geese were still feeding in the fields, while a kestrel and 20 linnets were seen nearby.

A late afternoon walk on Friday by the Strood provided views of a short-eared owl hunting over the long grasslands on Ray Island, a pair of avocets in the channel, a male wheatear by the seawall and 2 singing corn buntings in the oil-seed rape crop.

Martin Cock heard the first nightingale back to the Island singing by the country park entrance on Saturday morning. This is eight days later than the first date last year when the nightingale was first heard. A lot of other migrants seem to be a bit later this year and the cold northerly winds won't be helping them.

Other birds noted by Martin at the park were a swallow, sand martins, common tern and also the first whitethroat by the Oyster Fishery. On Saturday swallows were also seen over the East Mersea Vineyard, Haycocks Lane and over Firs Chase too.

Thursday, 12 April 2012


It has been a mixed bag of weather over the last few days with some periods of sunshine interspersed with April showers. There's been a lack of butterflies around the park recently although this speckled wood pictured above was the first one of the season, seen on Wednesday morning. Also making the most of the sun were a large white and a couple of small whites. Two adders were seen alongside each other and a couple of common lizards were also noted.

A water vole was heard plopping in the water of the borrowdyke and after seeing the ripples on the water, it was then seen scuttling along the muddy edge and then disappearing down a small burrow. Two foxes were together at the back of the fields in the morning.

Two sand martins returned to the sandy cliff on Wednesday morning, probably the same two birds that first appeared 5 days earlier but then vanished when the weather turned unsettled over Easter weekend. The other nice sound of spring was hearing three willow warblers singing from various bushes along the park horseride. The birds were only heard that day, stopping off at the park to refuel before continuing their migration northwards on Wednesday night.

A few more migrants were seen on Thursday 12th at the park with the first swallow seen flying over the grazing fields, a female wheatear was with some skylarks in the fields and a common tern was seen hunting for small fish in the river Colne near the Point. A swallow was also seen by the Strood on Thursday evening.
On the mud near the Point were two pairs of avocets that were maybe keeping an eye on the nearby saltmarsh pools near the Golfhouse. In the river were 3 great crested grebes but little else of note.

On the pools in the fields during the high tide roost, 150 black-tailed godwits were roosting as well as one bar-tailed godwit and the rare sight of 5 knot roosting here too. Sixty teal, ten wigeon, pair of shoveler, 10 snipe, displaying pair of redshank, pair of oystercatchers and 4 pairs of lapwing were also present here. From the hide 8 marsh harriers could be seen displaying high to the north over Langenhoe on Thursday morning.

A tawny owl was heard calling from Manwood Grove by Shop Lane as darkness fell on both Wednesday and Tuesday nights. Martin Cock saw a wheatear and a spotted redshank at Maydays on Wednesday evening.

This shuttle-shaped dart was the first one of the year when it was found first thing on Wedneday morning in the trap. Catch numbers were low as well as the general number of species too over both nights. Other species noted included small quaker, common quaker, clouded drab, blossom underwing, early grey, red chestnut and hebrew character.

Monday, 9 April 2012


The Easter bank holiday weekend was wet, windy and a bit cold too. A complete contrast to the warmth and sunshine of a couple of weeks ago.
The afternoon high tide on Monday brought many black-tailed godwits to roost at the pools in the country park's grazing fields. A quick count revealed about 280 birds with these two pictures above and below, snapped through the binoculars.

Although a few godwits have been feeding and roosting in recent days here, today's flock was a surprise and a colourful sight too. Most of the birds were in their ginger-coloured breeding plumage and it was a noisy flock too with lots of chattering and their distinctive "wicka-wicka" calls.

Also in the pools were a few redshank, lapwing although snipe numbers have dropped in recent days down from 20 birds to about 10. Wildfowl numbers have dropped too with about 50 teal, 30 wigeon, 25 shelduck and one or two shoveler. A flock of 20 golden plover dropped down onto the fields too.

On the pond 2 pairs of pochard and 10 tufted duck were noted today although numbers have fluctuated over recent days as birds come and go. The pair of mute swans don't appear to have settled either with a pair turning up yesterday after a few days absence but today the male was calling out for its mate who'd gone missing. On Saturday a water rail was seen briefly by the reeds after being spooked by a little grebe.

Still quiet on the migrant front with a chiffchaff and blackcap the only ones back so far although 2 sand martins were seen briefly by the park cliff on Friday morning by Martin Dence.

On Saturday a sparrowhawk was seen twice at the park during the day while in Bromans Lane, 3 green woodpeckers were noted. The previous day a marsh harrier was hunting over a field near the East Mersea road near Weir Farm.

On Sunday evening as the park was being closed up a badger crossed the track near the entrance. A brown hare was seen in the Bromans Farm garden on Friday. Three adders were seen on the sunny Friday morning with two of them noted again the next day.

Much of the park has dense stands of the Alexanders plants growing profusely at the moment. The plant has spread into many more corners of the park in the last few years, such as along the sides of the seawall, as in the photo above.

An evening walk on Monday along the Strood seawall was a bit blustery with a few waders noted along the channel. Two avocets, 10 black-tailed godwits, 30 grey plover, 10 dunlin, 50 redshank, 25 curlew were some of the waders seen. A little egret flew over the fields and two brent geese fed amongst one of the crops.

Numbers of moths in the trap have been lower recently compared with a week ago. This shoulder stripe was one of 20 moths found on Sunday morning, amongst the other regular moths. The trap also operated over Friday night into Saturday morning with 30 moths noted. Over half of these were hebrew characters while the rest included small quaker, blossom underwing, common quaker, clouded drab, red chestnut, early thorn and March moth.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


Despite the cold northerly breeze and a cloudy morning on Thursday 5th, three adders were soaking up the late afternoon sun at the country park. At least 8 adders have now been found in the park with three of them in recent days having shed their skins. This adder pictured above shed its skin a week ago with the sloughed skin pictured in the previous posting. This adder plus another one have now got the bright silvery-grey colouring, making them easy to spot while a third one is a brightly marked golden colouring.
Yesterday four adders were basking in their usual spots along with 2 common lizards seen too.

The pools in the fields were topped up with some rare rain that fell through Tuesday night into Wednesday. The high tide roost yesterday saw about 60 redshank, 40 black-tailed godwits, 15 snipe, 8 lapwing, 50 wigeon and 50 teal noted. The pair of kestrels were at the old oak tree, left in the picture above, cementing their bond with another bout of calling and mating.
A Mediterranean gull flew along the beach yesterday and there was a pair flew over the park calling on Tuesday. About 70 golden plover were on the mud at low tide on Tuesday too.

From the hide 7 pochard and 12 tufted duck were the main ducks as usual here with the most noise coming from feuding pairs of little grebes. Three green woodpeckers flew along one of the paths near the pond the afternoon and 2 chiffchaffs called too. From the hide yesterday one of the male marsh harriers could be seen in the distance to the north, doing its rollercoaster display flight over Langenhoe.

Very quiet on the arrival of migrants other than a few chiffchaffs, although one blackcap was near the car park on Monday with another one seen singing the next day. A house martin was reported flying past the houses near the end of the East Mersea road a couple of days ago.

A walk along the Strood seawall during the last hour of daylight on Thursday evening was bright but chilly. A moulting spotted redshank fed beside the drainage outflow before flying off showing its mottled black colouring. Lots of noisy redshank probably itching to head north were noted with about 200 birds seen, otherwise 20 dunlin, a few curlew and black-tailed godwits and some oystercatchers were present. Thirty brent geese and 25 shelduck were the only wildfowl seen and a little egret flew over Ray Island. A blackcap and chiffchaff were singing in Firs Chase.

This pale pinion moth was the most interesting moth in the trap on Monday morning at the park. It has been recorded two or three times here before in previous springs and I get the impression it's becoming a bit more widespread than it used to be.

Amongst the 50 or so moths trapped were small quaker, common quaker, hebrew character, clouded drab, March and red chestnut.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


The annual Snakewatch event took place at the country park on Sunday 1st on a perfect sunny morning with thirty adults and children being rewarded with views of two kinds of reptile. One boy brought this common lizard over to me, which he'd found in the long grass. After the lizard scuttled up his sleeve, it was eventually coaxed back down his arm and put back in the grass. Several other lizards were noted scurrying into cover as we walked across the grass.

The adders were showing well with most folk seeing all of the six adders that were looked for. This freshly shed adder skin just a couple of days old, was found amongst some bramble branches and was taken home as a souvenir by this young girl. Five metres away was the freshly-marked adder with its bright silver-grey colouration basking in the sun.

Four adders braved the cool and cloudy yesterday in various parts of the park.

Birds seen around the park today have been the chiffchaff at the pond along with a pochard and 12 tufted ducks. On the fields 12 snipe, 50 curlew, 30 shelduck and 20 black-tailed godwits were noted with the pair of kestrels in the nearby oak tree. Two hundred brent geese including the pale-bellied brent, flew onto the mud near the Point where there were also 200 golden plover seen near here too. At the end of the day a pair of little owls sat up on a telegraph post in the car park, watching the moth trap being set up for Sunday night.

Mike Dawson reported seeing the first swallow on the Island at Home Farm near the East Mersea Oyster Fishery earlier in the day. Martin Cock saw a hen harrier over Langenhoe and 3 common seals in the Pyefleet along with a peregrine over his West Mersea house. Martin's visit to Gyants marsh near Meeting lane produced a calling tawny owl and 3 chiffchaffs on Tuesday. Ian Black saw a red kite fly west over his house in Mersea Avenue in West Mersea on Friday.

On Friday morning a red-legged partridge was seen near the East Mersea road just west of the pub and a marsh harrier was seen flying up-river to Langenhoe on Saturday morning. There was also the interesting count of 16 pied wagtails feeding around the pools in the fields on Saturday afternoon.

Helen Mussett saw the pair of muntjac deer near the park pond on Monday 26th and then two badgers here a couple of evenings later. Donna Moncur watched a badger jog along Rewsalls Lane as she was driving along one evening, about a week earlier.

The moth trap operated through Thursday and Friday nights with a good catch of 90 moths on the first night but dropping to 50 on the next night. This early thorn pictured above was a distinctive moth to spot in the trap with the wings raised like a butterfly.

The first two blossom underwings of the spring were noted on the first night. This moth is surprisingly common here each spring with up to ten individuals noted one night last year.

The red chestnut with its reddy-brown colouring is a regular visitor in ones and twos through the early spring here.
Other moths noted included engrailed, small quaker, common quaker, hebrew character, clouded drab, March moth and early grey.

The only butterfly seen today at the park was a peacock flying alongside the car park.