Tuesday, 29 April 2014


There was plenty of wildlife activity to enjoy in the Firs Chase garden during both Sunday 27th and Monday 28th. This long-tailed tit was busy trying to find food to feed the recently fledged chicks which were resting up in a bush in the garden.

The tight bunch of long-tailed tit chicks huddled together on a branch above the driveway waiting to be fed. Seven chicks were counted and certainly at one point, all were bunched up in one big fluffy ball.

Also noted was a male blackcap which dropped in for a bathe, as did a song thrush while the rattle song of a lesser whitethroat could be heard in a nearby garden. A Mediterranean gull flew over Firs Chase calling first thing on Sunday morning.

The butterfly highlight of the garden was the sight of two green hairstreaks spiralling rapidly round and round so fast it almost made me dizzy watching them! Both individuals were putting on a great show right by the backdoor of the house. Late in the day this male had settled down on a bush to soak up the early evening sun.

Both green hairstreaks were tussling with each other again on Monday morning. This individual rested on a rose bush beside the house at this very odd angle, hanging down so that the wings were almost flat on the leaf, catching the full rays of the sun.

This is the second time green hairstreaks have been seen in the garden following the sight of two males two years ago in the same spot by the backdoor.

Other butterflies noted in the garden over the two days included peacock, speckled wood, holly blue, orange-tip, large white and small white.

Resting high up in the same ivy bush on Sunday evening as the green hairstreak, was this hairy dragonfly. Another interesting sighting although they have been noted here before.

There were a couple of these tiny but colourful mint moths flying around the catmint and mint plants in the garden.

The moth trap operated over Sunday night and pulled in this silver Y moth amongst a small group of about 20 moths. Some silver Y moths are immigrants, so this one may have just arrived from the continent.

This first spectacle moth of the season was found in the trap. Most of the other moths were shuttle-shaped darts, along with brimstone, Chinese character, and hebrew character.

This spruce carpet was also noted for the first time this season.

Monday, 28 April 2014


Parts of the Strood seawall have a good covering of the white-flowered hoary cress which adds a bit of colour to the area. It was high tide during a brief walk along the wall during the middle of Monday 28th.

Two reed warblers were singing from the reeds in the dyke as were a couple of reed buntings. A yellow wagtail flew low over the seawall heading towards the pond at the back of the fields, as did a grey heron. Two little egrets flew out of the dyke, while five linnets were seen flying about the fields.

Along the Channel six common terns were noisily hawking up and down, sometimes resting on the buoys and yachts. A handful of shelduck were seen on the Ray saltings and a whimbrel was heard calling.

Two common lizards were resting on a fencepost near the Feldy View field, soaking up the sun.

Several butterflies were noted on the walk especially beside the hedges out of the wind, such as this small tortoiseshell, also speckled wood, holly blue, peacock, small white and orange-tip were seen.

Crossing one of the paths was this caterpillar of the oak eggar moth.


There was a common seal at its usual location on the saltmarsh by the Maydays seawall on Sunday 27th.

 There was a noticeable difference in the colour of the coat after the seal had clambered onto the saltmarsh and dried out. These pictures above were taken about an hour apart with the seal becoming much paler and with a whiter face in the second picture.

There was the nice surprise of seeing a pair of red-legged partridge running along the Haycocks Lane near Maydays farm - and a nice bonus that one posed in front of the car for this picture.

Two common buzzards perched up on hedges near Maydays farm and two marsh harriers were seen over Reeveshall. On Langenhoe a common buzzard was also seen flying around and three marsh harriers there too.

It was high tide along the Pyefleet channel so no mud on show. Two whimbrels and a greenshank were the main waders of interest although two or three pairs of lapwing appeared to be nesting in the nearby fields. Two little egrets, twenty greylag geese and 30 shelduck were noted in the area.

Two male yellowhammers were nice to see, while 3 reed warblers sang from the dyke and a lesser whitethroat from some scrub.

Steve Entwistle visited Maydays farm on Sunday afternoon and saw 5 common buzzards, 3 house martins, 4 whitethroats, lesser whitethroat, reed warbler, greenshank and also five orange-tip butterflies.

Found this very colourful large red damselfly during an afternoon stroll through the middle of West Mersea, as it rested in the churchyard in the High Street. A hairy dragonfly was seen flying over Coast Road on Sunday afternoon.

Friday, 25 April 2014


Many of the Island's swallows have returned to their traditional nesting sites including this pair behind the Dabchicks Sailing Club at West Mersea. These two were seen perching at the entrance to their shed on Friday 25th.

One of the swallows seemed to get very excited when its mate flew in to join it, squawking briefly at it. Also in the area were another half dozen swallows.

A couple of walks along the Strood seawall during Friday were the first visit to the area for almost six weeks. A male wheatear flew off the seawall and landed on the brushwood breakwaters on the mud - the first wheatear sighting on the Island this spring. Also noted were a singing reed warbler, 3 singing reed buntings, 2 lesser whitethroats, a common whitethroat, five linnets and a corn bunting.

In the Strood Channel 6 common terns hunted up and down with some visiting the Ray Channel too. Also 3 avocets, 10 black-tailed godwits, 4 grey plover, 4 whimbrel, 20 dunlin, 20 redshank, 10 oystercatchers and 5 turnstone. A pair of gadwall in the channel were unusual for here with shelduck numbers down to six birds. Two little egrets flew out of the borrowdyke.

There was a report from Colin Mackenzie-Grieve at the nearby Old Hall RSPB who had seen ten little gulls fly past Old Hall towards the West Mersea esplanade beach area on Friday morning.
A lesser whitethroat was singing from gardens near Firs Chase on Friday.

Last week's high spring tide-line has left hundreds of thousands of moulted shore crab shells littered along the shore.

The annual spring moult coincides with a high spring tide with some areas thick with empty crab shells.

All along the bottom of the whole seawall were these shell remains wherever you looked.

Thursday, 24 April 2014


 Paid a visit to the West Mersea garden of Dave Chadwick to admire the display of wild green-winged orchids. It's been several years since I last saw them and it's great to see them still flourishing here.

The camera has unfortunately distorted the actual colour in these photos as they are more red in colour than is shown above. There were probably about 300 green-winged orchid plants on show in this tiny back garden.

 Amongst the green-winged orchids were twenty or so common spotted orchid plants although only the very spotted leaves are showing at the moment. The flowers will appear later next month sometime.

A Mediterranean gull flew over TV's Ready Steady Cook celebrity chef Brian Turner whilst he was cooking up a dish on the West Mersea beach along with Janet Street-Porter on Thursday 24th for the forthcoming TV programme The Taste of Britain.

The bluebells are putting on their own colourful display at the moment in the country park.

Patches of bluebells can be found in a number of places at the park, although the best display used to be under the old Grove on the cliff-top which has sadly fallen into the sea with the erosion in recent years.

There is still a good depth of water in places on the park's grazing fields where this little egret was watched stalking on Wednesday 23rd. Also feeding or resting in this area were fifty black-tailed godwits, 4 redshank, 2 gadwall, 4 Canada geese, 2 greylags and 20 teal. Two common terns flew along the beach and a whimbrel was heard calling offshore.

Singing from various bushes around the park have been 3 blackcaps, 3 chiffchaffs, 4 whitethroats and 2 lesser whitethroats. No sign of any sand martins using the park cliff this spring.

An adder was seen on the Wednesday and another two were reported the next day at the country park. Butterflies seen over the last couple of days include holly blue, orange-tip, peacock and speckled wood.

Michael Thorley reported a willow warbler singing in his garden alongside the East Mersea road on 20th and 21st April. Two corn buntings have still been seen in recent days singing by the Bocking Hall and Chapmans Lane roadside.

This rather wet peppered moth of the black form, was the main interest at the trap on a drizzly Wednesday evening in the Firs Chase garden. Twenty or so shuttle-shaped darts were the commonest, also brimstone, yellow-barred brindle, pine beauty, least black arches, common quaker and hebrew character.

Monday, 21 April 2014


 The weather warmed up on Easter Monday 21st with a much warmer breeze blowing in from the east rather than the chilly winds of the last few weeks. This speckled wood pictured above was one of a handful seen around the country park enjoying the sunshine in the morning.

This red admiral pictured above was rather surprisingly, the first one seen at the park this year, found resting on the seawall.
Other butterflies enjoying the sunshine were the first holly blue of the year, orange-tip,peacock and small tortoiseshell.
At least two adders were reported at the park on Sunday with one of them possibly this one found late morning sadly run-over by a car on the approach road along to the car park. There were plenty of cars arriving at the park on Easter Monday and this adder sadly didn't realise how dangerous crossing the road would be.

As I was carrying my litter-picker when I discovered the adder, I picked it up with the picker whilst it was still alive, removed it from the road and then placed it back alongside a nearby trackside hedge where it had been seen by Tony Riley an hour earlier. Although it wriggled a little towards the vegetation, another check of it an hour later found it dead.
This common lizard was resting almost vertically on a tussock of grass to catch the morning rays of the sun.

A sedge warbler was discovered singing along the park dyke from inside a bramble bush on Monday morning. Also two yellow wagtails flew over calling as did a lesser redpoll when it passed over the car park. A willow warbler singing from trees in the corner of the park would be just passing through.

Twenty-four black-tailed godwits fed in and around the pools in the fields while in the Colne five brent geese were on the mud near Batemans Tower.

The saltmarsh at the country park is dotted with the small white flowers of scurvy grass, pictured above.

Moth-trapping has been poor over the last fortnight with clear skies and chilly northerly winds.
This pale prominent pictured above, was the first one of the season during Sunday night. Thirty moths were noted which is an improvement on some recent trapping nights with low catches.
Other moths recorded were blossom underwing, swallow prominent, brimstone, shuttle-shaped dart, hebrew character, streamer, common quaker, red chestnut, oak-tree pug and brindled pug.
The first maidens blush was also noted for the first time this year. Its fairly regular at the park and one or two others should be noted here during this summer.

 David Nicholls photographed this newly emerged large red damselfly that had just crawled up a reedmace stem in his West Mersea garden-pond. The damselfly is so fresh out from the nymph case, it hasn't acquired any colour yet.

Adrian Amos reported from his West Mersea garden holly blue, speckled wood and orange-tip butterflies on Monday.

Saturday, 19 April 2014


This old traffic ballard has sat against this wall at the country park for several months. Whilst trying to move it out of the way to mow the nearby grass, to my great surprise a great tit shot out from its very cleverly concealed nest inside, on Saturday 18th. A very unexpected nesting site!

Having accidentally startled the great tit away, I took this hurried record shot of this very unusual nest location. The striking feature of the nest construction was the amount of moss and feathers making up the thick base with a cosy centre for the eggs. The whole of the base was crammed full with material several inches high and all brought in through the small hole in the top of the cone.
After carefully replacing the cone back in the same spot, lots of small branches and bits of plants were placed back around the cone to keep it hidden from view, as it had been previously.
It was good to see the bird back at the nest later in the day.

Another bird seen on the nest was the mute swan at the park pond. The nest is hidden from view from the hide on one of the small islands tucked behind a bramble bush. Not sure how long its been sitting or even if there are any eggs yet.

Also on the pond were 5 pochard and 8 tufted ducks, while two swallows flew over early evening.

Up to thirty black-tailed godwits have been feeding in the fields with these birds pictured above probing the very wet soil for worms. Also seen were 2 Canada geese, 2 greylag geese, 2 redshank, 2 shoveler, 25 teal.
Two yellow wagtails were reported earlier in the afternoon.

The nightingale was heard singing from the Shop Lane wood at dusk on Saturday, first reported a few days ago by Peter Mann. It was a bit tricky trying to hear much of the nightingale song over the loud squawking from the nesting rooks in the trees above.

On Friday 18th a willow warbler spent the day singing at the park, sand martin flew over the car park chattering, two red-legged partridge were seen in flight west of the car park, the first common tern was seen in the Colne and an avocet was on the saltmarsh pool near the Golfhouse. Ten linnets and two male reed buntings were at the Point.

Martin Cock noted several lesser whitethroats, whitethroats, blackcaps and chiffchaffs between Shop Lane and Meeting Lane on Friday morning. On Wednesday a cuckoo and willow warbler were noted at Maydays farm.

This buck muntjac was in view for a good ten minutes along the hedgeline near the park pond towards the end of Saturday.

Thursday, 17 April 2014


A couple of pairs of greenfinch have been doing their display flight whilst singing, over the car park at Cudmore Grove. This obliging greenfinch perched close to the entrance track on a sunny Thursday 17th.

Migrants noted today included two singing common whitethroats near the car park - a day after the first sighting of the year here, also two singing lesser whitethroats, 3 chiffchaffs, 3 blackcaps, yellow wagtail flying over the car park calling, sand martin along the cliff while a sedge warbler sang from reeds in the dyke late afternoon.

A marsh harrier flew west over the park early in the morning and the red-legged partridge called from the field to the west.

This pair of greylag geese arrived noisily onto the park's grazing fields on Thursday morning. Noted on the pools were 15 black-tailed godwits, 40 teal, 3 shoveler, 6 shelduck, pair of redshank, oystercatcher and 3 pairs of lapwing.
Three of the regular pochard were seen on the dyke the previous evening. Up to ten tufted ducks continue to commute between the pond and the dyke. The pair of swans is also commuting / waddling between the two watercourses too but no sign of nesting yet.
Both kestrels perched in the oak tree on Thursday morning and a swallow flew over the fields later.

Three red-legged partridges were surprisingly glimpsed in the recently cut grassy-weedy field to the west of the car park.
Two corn buntings were singing first thing on Thursday 17th at Bocking Hall and Chapmans Lane.
A yellow wagtail flying over the car park on Thursday 10th was the first record of the year here. A house martin was reported flying over the park with a swallow on Saturday 12th.

Martin Cock noted 3 whitethroats and 2 lesser whitethroats on Wednesday 16th at Rewsalls marshes. An earlier walk to Gyants marsh produced 3 lesser whitethroats, 6 blackcaps and 6 chiffchaffs on Saturday 12th. His visit to Rewsalls on the 9th provided views of a yellow wagtail, red-legged partridge and a little owl, while a greenshank was noted at Maydays on Sunday 6th.

Steve Entwistle noted swallow along Chapmans Lane on Sunday 13th, as well as willow warbler at Cross Lane, while blackcap, 2 chiffchaffs and 2 swallows in Shop Lane. At the Youth Camp little owl, willow warbler and lesser whitethroat were also noted on the 13th.

Three speckled woods were seen on Thursday 17th at the park as was an orange-tip, small tortoiseshell and small white. A hairy dragonfly flew over the main field in the afternoon, the first dragonfly sighting this year at the park.
One adder was seen near the clifftop path on Tuesday 15th and there was one seen on Thursday 10th too.

The moth trap hasn't been in much use over the last fortnight, in part because the nights have been cold and clear. This Chinese character came to the trap during Wednesday night, the first sighting for the year.
It was one of only thirteen moths seen after a cold and clear night with a bright full moon.

The first colourful brimstone moth was also seen, pictured above.

Other moths noted were hebrew character, red chestnut, March, early thorn and shuttle-shaped dart.

This streamer was also noted, one or two often turning up each spring at the park.

Three frosted greens were noted, each one showing varying shades of green colouration.

David Nicholls found these brown-tailed moth caterpillars on bushes on the Ray Island, stripping all the leaves off. Several whimbrel have been seen over the Bonners and Ray Saltings over the previous weekend.