Thursday, 27 March 2014


Little owls have been rather elusive on the Island in recent months. This one seen by Andy Field on Thursday 27th near the East Mersea Vineyard, was the first little owl sighting to be reported so far this year. This individual would have proved hard to spot in the row of alder trees had it not been for it calling loudly out mid morning.

A male marsh harrier was seen flying over the Rewsalls marshes heading towards the vineyard, while 70 curlew and a pair of shelduck were the only other birds noted here on Thursday morning.

The pair of kestrels is being seen around the country park a bit more over the last fortnight, now that they showing great interest in the new nest-box. Andy took this photo of the male bird hovering over the park.
Earlier today the female was perched on the nestbox tree, although by this afternoon a pair of stock doves was looking inside the box.
A sparrowhawk flew north over the fields away from the pond in the morning.

Two chiffchaffs have been singing at the park over the last few days with one of the birds at its usual spot in the copse behind the pond. No other migrants have been reported on the Island so far.

On the pond the pair of mute swans was back, 3 pochard were hiding in the stand of reedmace, 3 males had been present on Wednesday. A common snipe has been probing the soft pasture beside the pond for the second day running.

Numbers of waders and wildfowl have decreased on the grazing fields recently as birds head back to northern breeding grounds. Main flocks included 100 brent geese, 130 wigeon, 150 teal, pair of Canada geese, 80 curlew, 75 redshank, 5 black-tailed godwit, snipe, 15 shelduck, little egret, 6 shoveler, 6 lapwing, 8 pied wagtails while 12 tufted ducks were on the dyke.
A big flock of 800+ golden plover was feeding on the fields on Wednesday afternoon.

Three chiffchaffs were heard singing in East Mersea on Monday 24th by Martin Cock.
In Firs Chase on Monday 24th a chiffchaff and a goldcrest were heard singing in the morning.

Despite the chill in the easterly wind this adder was one of four seen at the park with another two also reported. One common lizard was also seen scuttling amongst the grass tussocks.
Four adders were also seen on Monday 24th.

At least one small tortoiseshell has been at the country park each day this week but no other butterflies noted.

The moth trap was run during Monday night with 45 individuals seen the next morning and again on Wednesday night when 55 individuals were noted the next day including this dotted border. Few species but reasonable numbers of the common moths with the chilly nights keeping numbers down.
Moths noted were common quaker, small quaker, hebrew character, red chestnut, early grey, March, twin-spotted quaker and clouded drab.

 There was this brief colourful glow to the setting sun, seen from the park on Thursday early evening.


Glyn Evans passed these following photos taken during his recent walk along the north side of the Island on Monday 17th.
Pictured above is a chiffchaff in full "chiff-chaff" song mode seen on the walk. One of the very early migrants to have made it back from Africa. The first chiffchaff was noted five days previously on the 12th March.

This female merlin was perched on a post at Maydays farm - a very obliging bird as most sightings are flight views. Also at Maydays was a greenshank and 80 corn buntings.

A pair of oystercatchers and a brent goose on the edge of the saltmarsh.

Three cormorants in flight.

A small tortoiseshell enjoying some of the sunshine.

Also on Monday 17th there was a woodcock seen near the Oyster Fishery by Martin Cock where a brimstone butterfly was seen here and also one at the country park too.

On Wednesday 19th the snow bunting was seen at the East Mersea Point again by Andy Field.

Sunday, 23 March 2014


In between the sunny spells during Sunday 23rd, there was a cold northerly wind which blew and several heavy downpours sometimes with hail too. The day had started promising with plenty of blue sky such as this period mid-morning during a brief walk along the Strood Channel seawall, pictured above.

The tide was well out and plenty of mud on show along the channel. The only wader of note was a pair of avocet feeding along the bottom of the channel. Most numerous were 100+ redshank and 70+ curlew, while other waders noted included 10 grey plover and singles of black-tailed godwit and knot. Also seen were 2 little egrets, 20 teal and 50 brent geese from the West Mersea Hard.

Circling over the Old Hall Marshes to the west of the Hard were five marsh harriers with a couple of males displaying high in the sky.

Small birds noted along the Strood seawall were reed bunting, linnet and several skylarks in full song.
Earlier in the morning a Mediterranean gull flew over Firs Chase calling.

At the start of last week Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Island on Monday 17th for the monthly WeBS count and reported seeing a male hen harrier near the Strood, then a female merlin, greenshank and 80 corn buntings at Maydays, while later there was the very unusual sighting of a great spotted woodpecker being flushed off the Pyefleet seawall.

Friday, 14 March 2014


Enjoyed a late afternoon along the Reeveshall seawall on Friday 14th with the sun weakly shining onto the water inside the seawall. A barn owl was hunting the fields near the Oyster Fishery, a green sandpiper dropped down beside the dyke here while a yellowhammer having perched briefly on a bush, then flew high and fast north-east across the river Colne.

Seemed like all the brent geese in the whole estuary had gathered together on a grass field at Reeveshall with about 2000 birds spread out as the evening mist began to creep back in again. As the light faded a marsh harrier flew over the flock and all the geese rose into the air in a great roar of noise. The sound of the geese flying off the fields and into the Pyefleet, seemed to carry for miles around and brought these bleak and misty marshes to life.

Also on Reeveshall were 40 greylag geese, 20 coots, little egret and 2 grey herons as well as a brown hare.

On Langenhoe at least 16 marsh harriers were seen gathering for their roost with one last fly around involving ten birds seen in the air together before they dropped into the reedbed.
Although it was low tide along the Pyefleet channel with plenty of mud, not much of note on the wader front other than the regular ones. There did seem more shelduck present with 250+ birds along the channel.

This dead woodcock was brought into the house of Charles and Lyn Williams in Queen Ann Road by the cat on Thursday 13th. There was no sign of any wound or injury to the bird and it is possible the cat may not have killed it. They have been seen in West Mersea in previous years but it is a rare visitor to gardens here. As far as I've heard the only woodcocks seen this winter have been during one of the East Mersea pheasant shoots.

Most of the coots at the park pond have been nibbling the grass alongside the moorhens on the adjacent field with eight birds seen on Thursday 13th. Three pairs of pochard and a couple of noisy little grebes were also noted here.
The second chiffchaff of the spring was heard singing from the hedge along from the back of the park pond.

A marsh harrier passed over the fields in the afternoon and sent all the 500 wigeon into the air along with lots of other waders and wildfowl including 200 teal, 50 curlew, 2 snipe and 20 shoveler.

The foggy start to the day left lots of water droplets on all the spiders webs.

On Thursday at the park small tortoiseshell and peacock were the butterflies seen while 2 adders and 2 grass-snakes were enjoying the sun too.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


This common lizard was enjoying basking on a fencepost in the afternoon sunshine on Wednesday 12th
Two adders and two grass-snakes were seen during the day.

Three peacock butterflies, one pictured above, and a couple of small tortoiseshells were seen during the day at the park.

The pair of mute swans was beside the park's borrowdyke on Wednesday.

The first migrant to the Island back from Africa was a chiffchaff seen flitting amongst a hornbeam tree beside the car park early on Wednesday. It gave out a brief song as it hopped from branch to branch.

A female marsh harrier flew over the grazing fields in the afternoon which led to many of the ducks and waders flying around. Rough numbers were 400 wigeon, 200 teal, 100 redshank, 80 curlew, 10 black-tailed godwit, 3 common snipe, 10 lapwing and 20 shoveler.

The pair of kestrels were on their tree in the morning, at one point a pair of jackdaws tried to get a closer look at the nestbox with a kestrel inside. On the pond 3 pairs of pochard, 12 tufted duck and six gadwall were present late afternoon.

At the Point a snow bunting was heard calling in flight and 5 linnets were seen over the sea-blite bushes.

The moth trap was operated during Monday night with this nicely patterned hebrew character one of the sixty individuals seen the next morning. Around a dozen hebrew characters were noted along with lots of common quakers, a few small quakers, red chestnut, twin-spotted quaker, clouded drab and early grey.

This beautiful plume moth was the only micro-moth in the trap.


Mike Taylor visited Cudmore Grove Country Park on a sunny Sunday 9th and took these photos of adders.

At least two adders were seen on that day in their usual spot.

This is one of the two grass-snakes that were also basking in the same area as the adders, although much more wary.

The snow bunting was still at the East Mersea Point, dodging the crowds walking along the beach.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Although the sun shone again on Monday 10th, there was a chill in the wind from the north. This peacock butterfly enjoyed the morning warmth whilst sheltering from the wind behind a bush in the country park. A small tortoiseshell was also seen at the park fluttering around some blackthorn blossom.

Also enjoying Monday's sunshine were 2 adders, 2 grass-snakes and a common lizard.

There was the colourful sight on Sunday 9th of this brimstone butterfly flying around the overflow car park area. It has never been a common sight at the park in past years with none seen last year. Also on the wing on Sunday were a peacock and small tortoiseshell.
Reptiles seen during the day included two grass-snakes and at least two adders near the car park.

The moth trapping has continued at the park for a sixth night in succession, making the most of the settled and dry weather. Compared with previous March moth trapping sessions, this first week of the month this year has been the most productive with fifty individuals being noted on a couple of nights and even eighty moths logged on Sunday night.
This red chestnut pictured above has been noted on a few recent nights, a common moth whose larvae feed on dock.

The first early grey of the spring pictured above, was also in the trap on Monday morning, another regular spring moth, whose foodplant is honeysuckle.

The twin-spotted quaker with its distinctive pair of dark spots on each wing, was noted for the first time this spring too during the Sunday night session.

Three engrailed moths were found resting on the side of the nearby building rather than inside the trap.

Birds of note at the park on Monday were a marsh harrier flying low over the fields which helped to stir up the flocks of wigeon, teal and other smaller flocks of waders and wildfowl. The kestrel was perched on its nest-site tree at the back of the fields while earlier in the day a sparrowhawk was mobbed away by a family of the crows.

On the pond two pairs of pochard, ten tufted duck, six gadwall and three noisy little grebes were noted in the afternoon. A Mediterranean gull flew over the park in the morning calling and the lapwings were displaying over the fields.

Birds seen on Sunday included the lone snow bunting on the Point in the morning enjoying the beach before the mass of visitors descended on the area. A common buzzard flew north west over the fields and pond in the morning, presumably a passage bird. A sparrowhawk flew past the hide late in the morning.

On the grazing fields 5 snipe, 400 wigeon, 200 teal, 50 redshank, 50 curlew, 20 shelduck, 30 black-tailed godwits were some of the birds seen on Sunday morning.

Saturday, 8 March 2014


Spring must be nearly here as the rather monotonous song of the reed bunting has been heard at East Mersea Point in recent days. This male was perched atop a shrubby sea-blite bush with a female skulking nearby. A couple of pairs bred in this area last year.

The tide was just beginning to uncover the mud at the Point towards the end of Thursday 6th, this pair of oystercatchers waiting beside the beach. Not much of note on the river other than a pair of red-breasted mergansers and two great crested grebes.

At the back of the park fields, the pair of kestrels seem to have taken a liking to the new nestbox and were even seen mating on one of the nearby branches on Thursday. A stock dove was checking out the "little owl" box in the hedge near the pond on Saturday which was an encouraging sign if no little owls use it this season.
Several lapwings have been flapping over the fields as they do their tumbling display flights along with their distinctive "peewit" calls of spring.

Offshore from the park on Friday late afternoon were 25 red-breasted mergansers and two Slavonian grebes, 25 great crested grebes as well as 400+ wigeon on a very flat sea.
At dusk the barn owl flew across the road inside the park entrance and perched briefly on top of a fingerpost sign, before continuing its hunting over the park.

Four adult adders were seen basking at the park on a sunny Thursday while three seen on Saturday included the small youngster from last summer, although a grass-snake in the same area was a big surprise. On the seawall there was the very rare sight of a harvest mouse scampering across the path on Thursday.

Two pipistrelle bats were seen by Adrian Amos over his garden on East Road in West Mersea on Friday evening.

The settled night-time weather has been reasonably good for moths with a couple of nights this week producing fifty individuals in the trap. The most notable moth was this nationally scarce dotted chestnut - a smart looking moth with its speckled markings. It's a moth that has been increasing its range in southern England with the park getting its first record three years ago, nine years after the first Essex record. I gather it reached Norfolk for the first time last year.

A regular visitor in the spring is this colourful pine beauty with two individuals turning up this week at the park.

The oak beauty is another regular early spring visitor but only in small numbers each year. One of the largest of the moths to be seen at this time of year.

The shoulder stripe pictured above, is another common spring moth in ones and twos in the trap.

Satellite moths could turn up anytime through the winter, although conditions this winter have been a bit too windy and wet to see them until now.

Other moths in the last few nights have included common quaker, small quaker, hebrew character, clouded drab, red chestnut, March and dotted border.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


 Blue sky all day over the Island and these two male pochards were looking particularly colourful in the bright sunshine on the park dyke on Wednesday 5th. Later in the day there were two pairs on the park pond with the males possibly these same two birds. Thirteen tufted ducks were on the dyke too in the morning with a few also on the park pond.

Around mid-day on the fields there were 700 brent geese, 5 snipe, 5 little egrets, 100 redshank, 20 black-tailed godwits, 10 dunlin, 500 wigeon, 300 teal with a kestrel and Mediterranean gull flying over.

At the Point a snow bunting was present again for the second day although by late morning it had flown back across the river. Offshore a great northern diver was feeding in the outer part of the Colne and there was a flock of about 100 golden plover on the mudflats.

At West Mersea Martin Cock and Mick Brewer saw a black-throated diver offshore on Wednesday morning.

 At least two adders were basking in the sunshine although in the shade there was still a slight chill to the light breeze.

It was worth spending the last hour of daylight alongside the Pyefleet seawall on the north side of the Island, watching the harriers coming into roost. This digiscoped image shows how distant the harriers are on the Langenhoe Point with one female marsh harrier seen perched on top of the seawall in the middle of the picture. Sixteen marsh harriers were seen in total with at least a dozen of them spending sometime perched on bushes or the seawall before they all dropped into the reedbed as the light faded.

One male hen harrier was seen coming from the west to the Point at about 5.40pm, circled round the reedbed for a few minutes before dropping down into the usual spot. Twenty minutes later a second male hen harrier appeared from the east, circled a couple of times and dropped down in the same area.

The regular peregrine was perched on its usual post on the Geedons during the evening. Six grey herons along the Pyefleet seemed a notable count for the area.

There was a brief tinge of pink to the sky just after the sun had dropped below the horizon, seen from the Shop Lane seawall. The barn owl was hunting the grass field close to the Oyster fishery in the last hour before dark. The big flock of 1000 brent geese flew off the North Farm field at dusk, to roost in the estuary.

A yellowhammer was heard calling from a nearby hedgeline.
Hawking along the wooded path next to the Shop Lane wood was a pipistrelle bat.

On Tuesday 4th a barn owl was seen heading into the park to hunt the last two hours of daylight.

The moth trap was put out on Tuesday night at the country park and despite the light frost on Wednesday morning, there was the surprising haul of 20 moths of 5 species including several of this aptly named March moth pictured above.

There were four dotted borders found but none of them in the trap, instead resting on nearby bushes or on the side of the nearby house.

One of the commonest moths of early spring is this common quaker pictured above, with 6 seen in the trap.

Just one clouded drab moth was found in the trap, widespread in small numbers in early spring.

Monday, 3 March 2014


It was just warm enough on Monday 3rd for this small tortoiseshell to bask in the sunshine near the Feldy View field in West Mersea. It was the only butterfly seen during the day.

Along the Strood Channel 500 brent geese were seen feeding on the Ray Island saltmarsh. There were 100+ teal, 50+ wigeon and 20 shelduck also along the channel, while 4 greylag geese flew over. Not much variety amongst the waders with mostly 200+ redshank feeding on the mud as the tide came in, while one knot and 4 black-tailed godwit were also seen. Ten little grebes were amongst the moorings.

Two common buzzards were soaring high in the distance over Peldon, a sparrowhawk spiralled high over the Strood Channel drifting across to the Ray while 5 marsh harriers could be seen in the air over Old Hall.

Alongside the walk 2 reed buntings, rock pipit, 2 meadow pipits, 5 skylarks, 12 linnets and 10 blackbirds were noted while a grey heron, little egret and cormorant were seen beside the inland watercourses.

Amongst the small selection of birds still coming to the Firs Chase garden feeder was this male greenfinch.

It was nice to see the song thrush underneath the bird feeders looking for seeds or scraps from suet balls that may have dropped to the ground. It is our resident thrush and is often in full song every morning.