Wednesday, 30 May 2012


The last week of May saw an increase in the moths coming to the trap mainly due to the warmer weather.
The first big hawkmoth of the season was this poplar hawkmoth, (with the Skinner moth-trap in the background), was first noted on the 23rd and peaking five nights later with 7 in the trap. Last spring the poplar hawk was recorded on several occasions but never more than just a couple at a time.

The white ermine is usually a regular during May and June although so far it's been seen on only two nights. The foodplant of the larvae include docks and dandelion, of which there are lots around the park

This scorched carpet pictured above, found on the 26th,  is the first record for the park, despite it being quite frequent across the county. It's foodplant is spindle and I wonder if the handful of small trees I planted in the park 20 years ago have finally lured in this scorched carpet.

This white colon moth in the photo above found on the 26th, has been noted at the park on 2 or 3 previous occasions. It's foodplant is the frosted orache which is found mainly on the beaches, so the range of this moth is along the coast too.

This migrant silver-Y moth arrived with a group of nine others in the trap on the 26th. Two nights later only three of them were still around.

The diminutive least black arches pictured above, is the size of a micro-moth. In the last couple of years it seems to have increased a little so that it's being recorded on several nights during the spring rather than just one or two nights. Three were noted in the trap on the 23rd May.

The lime-speck pug is a small moth with a distinctive wing-shape. It seems to be having a better spring than last year with six already noted on the 24th May.

Other moths noted during the last few days in May included maidens blush, red twin-spot carpet, green carpet, common swift, brindled pug, common carpet, sandy carpet, garden carpet, brimstone, clouded silver, white-spotted pinion, purple bar, chinese character, yellow belle, coxcomb prominent, swallow prominent, chocolate tip, white-point, knotgrass, rustic shoulder knot, marbled minor and the shuttle shaped dart.

Sunday, 27 May 2012


Derek Chisnall took this picture of a cormorant on the dead tree in the saltmarsh in front of the Fen Farm caravan site. It's a very obliging bird holding out its wings, having just had a swim in the nearby creek.

Andy Field helped to check out the birdlife on the country park on a sunny Sunday 27th, while I got the place ready for the huge summer influx of visitors coming to soak up the sun. A turtle dove was heard calling near the park pond but could not be seen - the first record for the park this spring. The cuckoo made one of its frequent visits to the park with a fly-past in the morning. The kestrels nesting in the box had three young chicks appear for the first time as a parent came in with food.

On the pools in the fields, two common sandpipers were noted as were the two broods of lapwing chicks, both with three young each. In the reeds in the dyke were 3 reed warblers singing while on the saltmarsh a water rail calling is an unusual late spring record here. In the Colne a couple of little terns flew past while later in the day a common tern flew over the car park. On the mudflats 30 curlew were seen flying off as the tide came in and a whimbrel was also heard on the 26th.

In the evening one of the nightingales sang very briefly from the car park once all the masses of visitors had departed the scene. In Bromans Lane a brown hare jogged along the road in front of the car as darkness fell.

On Thursday 24th a marsh harrier flew over the grazing fields heading north while on the pools one black-tailed godwit and 4 gadwall were noted. On the saltmarsh pools 7 avocets were seen in the afternoon. At West Mersea Steve Entwistle located a turtle dove singing in Willoughby car park on Thursday evening. At Maydays Farm  3 sedge warblers were noted while around the farm were 8 house martin nests.

The recent heatwave has been good for the insects in recent days at the park with good numbers of small heath around, a green hairstreak seen on the 27th along with orange-tip, small white, holly blue, peacock, green-veined white and a comma on the 26th. A female broad-bodied chaser was seen by the park entrance on 26th and there was a hairy dragonfly hawking in the evening on the 24th.

At Maydays Steve noted 2 hairy dragonflies along the dyke along with 50 azure damselflies, while at West Mersea on 25th a hairy dragonfly and broad-bodied chaser were seen in Firs Chase.

Adders have retreated into the cover with all the heat but singles were seen on the 27th and also on the 24th. A muntjac deer was reported a week previously being seen near the East Mersea Golfhouse.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012


It was like mid summer on Wednesday 23rd at the country park with plenty of sunshine throughout the day.
There was little wind too which was a change and the afternoon turned quite muggy.
The recent dry weather and increase in warmth has encouraged a nice carpet of daisies to flower in the overflow car park, as in the picture above.

Whilst beside the clifftop during the afternoon, a Sandwich tern called as it flew westwards, while six little terns flying east were the first ones noted from the park this spring. A whimbrel flew onto the mud as the tide receded as did several curlew. Apart from lots of oystercatchers on the mud, 2 little egrets were noted too.

On the grazing fields two black-tailed godwits, pair of oystercatchers, one redshank, five lapwing were seen including the one month old chick as well as a young one of a few days old. Seven gadwall, one wigeon, one teal, 4 mallard, 7 greylag geese and a pair of Canada geese present too.

On the park pond 6 tufted duck and 3 pochard were seen and the swans were still sitting on the nest. Nearby, the chicks of the great spotted woodpecker are still making a lot of noise from the old hawthorn tree in the ditchline, while a reed warbler sang from bushes. A sparrowhawk flew over the fields while in the old oak tree the pair of kestrels are still using the nestbox. Twenty swifts were noted at various times during the day

The recent warm weather has seen lots of damselflies emerge and this azure damselfly was one of 50+ gathered well away from the water, resting out of the wind on the cliff-top. It was also nice to see a green hairstreak also near here alighting on a broom bush, while a second individual was seen in the car park.

This speckled wood was resting alongside one of the paths before the morning had warmed up.Other butterflies seen were several orange-tips, two small heaths, small white, green-veined white, large white, holly blue and peacock.

It was apt that the cuckoo was seen flying twice during the morning over the only clump of cuckoo flowers that grow on the Island, near the park pond. The cows in the field here have done a good job in nibbling some of the flowers off. Hearing the cuckoo in this area reminds me that I have to check out this small patch of plants before they finish flowering or get eaten.
A second cuckoo was seen flying strongly east along the clifftop and continuing across the river Colne towards Point Clear.

After a very empty moth trap on Tuesday 15th night, several species made an appearance the following night such as this herald moth pictured above. Maybe seeing this moth will herald the start of some better mothing nights at the park.

The brimstone moth pictured above usually adds some colour to the traps during May but this individual was the first one of the season.

The green carpet in the photo above is a regular moth to the trap in the spring with the caterpillars feeding on bedstraw.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Wednesday 16th was a rain free day for a change, although still with a chill in the northerly breeze. The pools in the park fields have been well topped up with water recently although there is less open water with all the masses of dock plants colonising the area.

In the evening 6 gadwall, 6 mallard, 2 Canada geese, 2 greylag geese and a pair of shelduck were the main wildfowl to be seen. The only waders present were at least two lapwing chicks, 4 adult lapwings, 2 redshank, oystercatcher and a black-tailed godwit. The pair of kestrels were still in the oak tree at the back of the fields.

The park pond seemed quiet for ducks although the male mute swan seemed to be sitting on the nest. A little egret flew past the pond while over the fields and park were 20+ sand martins and 10+ swallows. There was no sign today of the albino sand martin that Ian Black had seen over the park last night. The marsh harrier has visited the pond today and yesterday peering down into the reeds at the pond a couple of times searching out maybe some coot or moorhen chicks.

In the park today a great spotted woodpecker nest was easy to locate along the lower path, as the young birds are constantly calling from a hole in a hawthorn tree. The two nightingales have been singing in the car park today as have a whitethroat, lesser whitethroats and a blackcap too.
An adder and an orange tip, speckled wood were noted in the park during the day.

At the end of the day a little owl perched up on a telegraph pole beside the car park calling out to a second bird in the nearby caravan site. A short while later as night fell, a tawny owl flew alongside the East Mersea road as it headed back to the big garden of the Glebe.

A marsh harrier was mobbed by crows as it flew over the field by Chapmans Lane in the afternoon while a second bird crossed east over the Strood causeway. A hobby was seen at Waldegraves chasing martins and swallows by Ray Hempstead.

Martin Cock had noted at Maydays 2 sedge warblers, 30+ bar-tailed godwits, 5 knot, whimbrel and grey plover while yesterday there had been 10 little terns at the east end of the Pyefleet.

The pied blacky in the Firs Chase garden is still feeding its young at the nest in the ivy up an oak tree.

A Tuesday evening walk along the Strood seawall produced sedge warbler, reed warbler, reed bunting, corn bunting while on the Ray Island the cuckoo called and amongst 6 greylag geese was one brent goose.

On Monday there was a cuckoo calling and feeding along the clifftop trees at the country park. A turtle dove was seen and heard by Martin Dence near North Farm on Sunday.

Monday, 14 May 2012


Mike Taylor visited the park on the sunny Sunday 13th and saw a group of newly fledged long-tailed tits crashing their way along a hedgerow. These two photographs which he took of the young tits certainly look as if the youngsters have only just stumbled out of the nest. The very young birds have much shorter tails than the adults.

At least a couple of pairs have nested at the park this year, and the two families could get together later in the summer into one big foraging flock. A few years ago one big long-tailed tit summer flock numbered 36 birds.

Mike chose a good day to see four adders - two males and two females out basking in the sunshine. He was lucky enough to witness the two males perform the "dance" alongside the track.

Sunday, 13 May 2012


Several butterflies were making the most of the sunshine on Sunday 13th with this small tortoiseshell seen by the path in front of the Firs Chase caravan site.

The most unexpected butterfly in the Firs Chase garden on Sunday morning was this green hairstreak basking by the back door. This species hasn't been seen anywhere near this West Mersea garden before and they're not really regarded as a garden species, so its a mystery where these may have come from.

Even more unexpected was the appearance of a second individual which then led to prolonged spiralling tussles, suggesting rival males. Amazingly a third hairstreak also appeared but passed by the other two tussling, and then went and settled on a nearby bush.

Other butterflies seen in the garden on Sunday were holly blue, orange tip, small white and large white. Amongst the usual songs from blackcap and chiffchaff here was also the song of a goldcrest heard.

The flattened grass beside the footpath between East Mersea's Meeting Lane and Shop Lane, is evidence of fox cub activity beside their earth. There was also the gruesome discovery here of a blackish-white remnant of a  lamb's leg lying just inside the hedge.

Martin Cock found a spotted flycatcher feeding in and around the trees in the Gyants Marsh area west of Meeting Lane first thing on Saurday morning. The bird stayed around for a short while for me to see the bird too, although it was then watched working its way eastwards along the hedgerow. The Reeveshall cuckoo was heard calling in the distance and lesser whitethroat and whitethroats were singing too.

At the end of Saturday Martin managed to watch the osprey through his telescope from Cudmore Grove as it flew around the Colne Point area. The bird has been in that area for about three days up until now. At dusk Martin saw at least two tawny owls and heard a female too in Manwood Grove near Shop Lane. The nightingale was singing from the wood too.

Tucked just inside a bramble bush was this finely constructed long-tailed tits nest that looks like it's been raided with lots of feathers having been pulled out.

On Friday 11th two female marsh harriers flew west over the fields between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane. It's difficult to tell whether these were local birds or passage birds. However David Nicholls was lucky enough to see a red kite passing west and reasonably low over his West Mersea garden on Friday morning, which was definitely on passage.

A sparrowhawk was seen a couple of times over Gyants Marsh on Friday morning and amongst the butterflies on the wing were holly blue, orange-tip, small white, green-veined white and peacock.

It's not often I see this view which is the sunrise over the high-tide eastwards from the Strood causeway at 5.30am just after dawn on the Saturday. It was nice not to have masses of traffic thundering along the road at that time of the day.

Thursday, 10 May 2012


I've been scratching my head today Thursday 10th, trying to work out how this green hairstreak managed to get inside my car without me seeing it fly in. It was only as I started to drive out of the country park and glanced in the rear-view mirror, that I noticed a green butterfly on the back window! I didn't even know the green hairstreaks had emerged yet at the park as the weather has been so bad recently. It wasn't even a sunny day at the park although the wind was a lot warmer.

Last May was the best spring for green hairstreaks at the park when up to twelve individuals were seen in various corners about the place. Prospects don't look too good this year for a repeat showing because of the unsettled weather. For this individual pictured above, he went on a drive to West Mersea and then back to the park where he obliged with this photo opportunity. Only one other butterfly was spotted on the wing which was a small white in the car park. Martin Dence reported seeing a brimstone butterfly this week at Bromans Farm.

The two nightingales have been singing at various times throughout the day as have seveal blackcaps in the park. A swift flew over the car park in the morning and a cuckoo flew across the park to the clifftop late in the afternoon.

On the park pond the mute swan pair which appeared to have several eggs in the nest ready to incubate, weren't spending much time on the nest which seemed odd. A moorhen was seen to clamber onto the nest and appear to peck at something which could've been an egg. Has something happened to the eggs already and has the nest been abandoned?

On Wednesday 9th the hobby paid the park a couple of visits first successfully hunting down a sand martin over the grazing fields in the morning and then chasing after the 20 swallows in the afternoon. The small birds here had just settled down after a sparrowhawk had passed low over the fields.

The most unusual bird to catch the eye in the fields was a partial albino wood pigeon feeding with 50 other wood pigeons. This pigeon was the same large size of a wood pigeon rather than being a type of white feral dove. Only the grey head and the pinky chest were normal colours while the rest of the body, wings and tail were a creamy-white colour. The tail was pale banded like a wood pigeon but all cream-coloured. The wood pigeons flew off the fields and went and landed in the copse behind the pond.

Two reed warblers were singing quietly from the reeds in the dyke, the first ones back here. A whimbrel flew over the park calling and two little egrets landed in the fields at high tide.

On Tuesday 8th a hobby flashed over the car park providing a fleeting view of the first one back onto the Island this year. A marsh harrier also flew low over the car park, having passed over the fields and pond, as it headed west.

In the early evening on Tuesday there were two sedge warblers, a wheatear, singing corn bunting and two swifts noted during a walk along the Strood seawall. A pair of red-legged partridges have been seen several days this week in a Bocking Hall field near the East Mersea road. Three wheatears were also here on Tuesday morning. Forty linnets sat on the overhead wires above the ploughed field at Fen Farm. The little owl perched up in Bromans Lane on Tuesday night and the barn owl has been seen recently in Shop Lane a few times. A sparrowhawk flew over Firs Chase early on Thursday morning and another one over Upper Kingsland Road.

Monday, 7 May 2012


Spring made another appearance during Monday 7th with sunshine to enjoy and also a warmer wind from the south. Several butterflies were making the most of the warmer conditions with this small copper catching the eye near the seawall. This is the first sighting of the year here.

A couple of green-veined white butterflies were seen on the wing with this individual posing nicely amongst the grass. Other butterflies seen were peacock, speckled wood, small white and an orange-tip was reported too.

The adders were out in force too with five individuals being the highest day count for about a month. This one pictured above, shows up brightly in the morning sunshine, despite it looking like the camera-flash has been used.

Four of the adders were along the usual track wthin ten metres of each other, although the first look at about 9am revealed none present. However a follow-up check of the same area about 15 minutes later showed four had just emerged and basking, including these two.

Little patches of blue have sprung up around the park with the bluebells at their peak.This bluebell patch in the picture above, has been colonising this area of grass field for a few years, each year getting more colourful.

Singing from the car park in the sunshine despite the bank holiday traffic, were the two nightingales. There was the brief call of a cuckoo, a male wheatear was on the beach late afternoon and at least two yellow wagtails flew over.

On the pools in the fields, the common sandpiper was still present, 25 black-tailed godwits, 3 snipe and 3 lapwing chicks still.

An evening walk around some of the footpaths near Shop Lane got more rewarding towards the end of the two hour walk. One tawny owl was seen perched in an oak tree by Gyants marsh but soon flew off when I stopped to look at it. A second tawny owl was calling from the Manwood Grove in Shop Lane and briefly landed in a tree near the road. Steve Entwistle quickly joined me and we had several brief views of what turned out to be two males calling repeatedly to each other, sometimes perching for a moment in some of the trees.

Listening out for any nightingales during the walk produced nothing except at the end whilst listening to the tawnies in Manwood Grove. One nightingale was singing from the south end of this wood up until dusk. A little owl perched up on top of a barn at Bromans Farm as night fell.

Earlier on the walk a marsh harrier flew past, cuckoo sang, 2 yellowhammers seen, Mediterranean gull on Reeveshall as were 3 whimbrel and 3 gadwall.

A pair of red-legged partridge were in a field by Bocking Hall at the beginning of Monday morning - for the second day running. Martin Cock saw 5 little terns along the Pyefleet Channel.

Another very poor night with the moth trap - maybe it was due to the moon being at its brightest last night. This colourful pine beauty is the second one so far this season and was joined in the trap by 3 clouded drabs - and that was the sum total!

Lynne Hempstead took this photo of one of three wheatears seen early on Monday morning on the Monkey beach near St Peters, West Mersea.

Sunday, 6 May 2012


The cold weather on Sunday 6th had this lapwing standing over her 3 very young chicks to keep warm and dry. The winds today were particularly cold coming from the north.

One of the lapwing chicks was running around the grass close to the hedge, where I was able to get some sort of photo through my binoculars. It seems as though this family have managed to skirt round the pools since yesterday to feed along the southern edge instead of the northern edge, maybe to get further away from the foxes and kestrels nesting in the nearby tree.

Five greylag geese were feeding at the pools as is often the case each spring. Another digi-binned photo above of one of the geese.
Also seen here were common sandpiper for the second day, 40 black-tailed godwits, bar-tailed godwit, wigeon and 12 teal.

At the Point ringed plovers were on their two nests trying to keep their eggs warm. On the nearby mud 30 ringed plover, 40 dunlin, 3 bar-tailed godwit, 6 common terns, 6 whimbrel, 10 curlew, 2 little egrets, grey heron, 3 great crested grebes and a sparrowhawk were all noted.

On Saturday 5th a greenshank at the Point, common sandpiper on the pools, willow warbler singing in the park while on the pond were 20 tufted ducks and 2 pochard.

On Friday 2 Mediteranean gulls flew past the park calling, a group of 12 swifts flew over the car park while a cuckoo calling was the first one heard at the park

Thursday, 3 May 2012


The park grazing fields were even more flooded on Thursday 3rd after another night of heavy rain. Water has poured off the fields and filled up the borrowdyke, which in turn has flooded the path on the folding inside the seawall, as in the picture above. The last time this happened was after a period of heavy rain two winters ago but never in the spring before. The picture below was taken two days earlier.

A lunchtime walk along the seawall proved worthwhile as an osprey made an appearance just offshore. Fleeing curlews, upset oystercatchers and a mass of mobbing herring gulls drew attention to the osprey as it flew slowly along the edge of the receding tide about 100 metres from the beach. The bird hovered a couple of times over the water before leisurely heading across to the east side of the Colne with up to 50 gulls in attendance.

The osprey turned to head south out of the estuary and did a bit more flying around and hovering over the creek behind Colne Point. Having watched the bird in total for about ten minutes, I turned my attention elsewhere thinking the bird was heading into the distance. However a short while later the osprey was seen passing the East Mersea Point as it headed back up river.

Amongst the gulls on the flooded fields was a Mediterranean gull and also 50 black-tailed godwits, whimbrel and two pairs of redshank. The pair of lapwings that have the chicks were looking on anxiously as two foxes prowled along a nearby hedgerow. On the park pond 6 pochard, 12 tufted duck and 6 gadwall were seen along with the first coot chicks of the spring. In the car park a reed warbler sang briefly from bushes and a pair of sub-adult Mediterranean gulls flew over calling.

At the end of the day two little owls could be heard calling from Bromans Farm and Cosways. There was the rare glimpse of a tawny owl flying over the car as darkness fell, as it flew from a roadside bush near the East Mersea Glebe. A second bird also flew out of the bush at the same time and could've been another tawny owl.

The walk along the park seawall on Tuesday was quite pleasant in the afternoon when the sun decided to come out. A painted lady butterfly made a surprise appearance resting several times on the tarmac path but only for a few brief seconds each time. A brimstone butterfly was also reported near the car park and there was small white, green-veined white, peacock and speckled wood seen on the wing too.

A willow warbler sang from clifftop trees and a wheatear was seen near the clifftop too. Two lesser whitethroats were heard singing for the first time this spring and the two nightingales were in full song too. On the fields 3 lapwing chicks were being watched closely by their parents and 3 snipe, wigeon, pair of greylag geese and 20 black-tailed godwits were also present.

The following day on Wednesday 2nd, the willow warbler was still present singing on the park, 4 swifts passed over and six yellow wagtails were noted during the day including three on the fields. More whitethroats are singing about the park and also 4 lesser whitethroats singing too.

At the Point ringed plovers were found nesting as they do most years, three avocets were noted on the Golfhouse pools and 2 common terns were seen in the river.

Martin Cock missed seeing the willow warbler at the park but returned home to find one singing in his West Mersea garden along with lesser whitethroat, whitethroat and blackcap too. The previous day Martin had noted 100 black-tailed godwit, 2 bar-tailed godwits, 2 cuckoos and 7 pochard near Shop Lane seawall.

Another low turnout of moths in the trap on Tuesday night with 2 streamers being of interest, one in photo above.

Other than several Hebrew characters and a March moth, this swallow prominent pictured above, was also noted in the trap.