Thursday, 30 October 2014

CHAT-UPS AT THE PARK

The pair of stonechats were perching up obligingly on Thursday 30th alongside the dyke at the country park. The female pictured above and the male shown below posed nicely for Andy Field to photograph.

The male stonechat pictured above shows a black throat and face when its seen from the front. This pair seemed to have been around for most of October, assuming they are the same birds, ranging between the main park and the bushes at the Point.

A number of small birds were feeding along the seawall / beach and adjacent field with 20 meadow pipits, 10 pied wagtails, 10 goldfinches, 4 reed buntings and five skylarks. A wheatear was found on the beach at the Point as was a rock pipit.

The water rail showed itself at the park pond for the first time this winter as it walked round the nearer pond-edge viewed from the hide. It seemed to be doing a clockwise circuit, stopping briefly to feed and to call. The male sparrowhawk flew over the pond in the morning and two tufted ducks were seen on the water and the Cetti's warbler was singing.

A siskin flying over the car park late morning was probably the first record for the park this year. A yellowhammer called from tree-tops near the pond and a redwing flew over calling too. There were a few thrushes at the park again with 15 blackbirds and five song thrushes feeding amongst the bushes.

Andy Field visited Coopers Beach and saw a grey wagtail feeding on the land being cleared while by the church there was an unexpected flypast by a kingfisher.

At the country park on Wednesday the kingfisher was perched along the central ditch in the park's grazing fields, a chiffchaff and two goldcrests were at the park while 300 avocets were feeding along the far edge of the mudflats. Near the Point 60 linnets were feeding on the saltmarsh and a common seal in the river. The high tide roost in the fields was a very noisy affair with 1000+ black-tailed godwits chattering away to each other.

Martin Cock found a snow bunting on the saltmarsh at Maydays farm on Wednesday, the first one on the Island this winter. The bird flew north over towards Langenhoe. The previous day a pale-bellied brent goose was seen at Reeveshall.

This adult common tern was photographed by Alan Reynolds, as it stood on this post by the Oyster Fishery in the Pyefleet Channel on Saturday 25th. It is a very late date for a adult still to be in the area, usually the late ones are juveniles.

This grey plover also posed nicely for another great photo by Alan during his walk from the park to the Oyster Fishery on Saturday.
One swallow passed west was a late one and two clouded yellows were also seen too.

The moth trap produced a catch of nearly fifty moths of eight species during a clear then drizzly night on Tuesday 23rd. The common  mallow moth pictured above, has been a regular at the trap for the last month.
Over half the catch was of November moth species, also seen were green-brindled crescent, large wainscot, large yellow underwing, beaded chestnut, streak, red-line quaker as well as four rusty dot pearls.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

NEW ARRIVALS

A curious red squirrel sticks its nose out of its box to survey its new surroundings having just been brought to the Island from Surrey on Tuesday 28th. I was fortunate in being able to join Richard and Sue Taylor who had just collected the twelve red squirrels from the captive breeding programme at the British Wildlife Centre at Lingfield in Surrey.

Eight red squirrels were put into the two separate release pens in East Mersea with the remaining four animals being taken to the release pen in West Mersea.

Here Richard unscrews the boarded up entrance hole that stopped the squirrels from escaping during the car journey. As time was tight with the daylight fading, there was little time to stand back to see if the squirrels would come out and show themselves. Sadly the only view of one was of the individual in the top picture.

The red squirrels will spend between a week to ten days inside this release pen before being set free. They will be able to come and go as they please with food being provided inside the pen if they feel the need to come back to feed.

These red squirrels join an existing number of previously released animals brought to the Island since the first individual about three years ago. Three were brought to East Mersea earlier in the summer while four were released in the middle of West Mersea. There have been a number of sightings across the Island in the last fortnight of squirrels being seen in various gardens and also one sighting in the country park last week.

Currently the Island is free of grey squirrels - the last individual tracked down the food for the reds inside this release pen at East Mersea back in the spring, which proved handy in detaining it, where it was duly dispatched.

Monday, 27 October 2014

AUTUMN SUNSHINE

The autumn sun shone for most of Monday 27th providing another warm day on the Island, here the sun setting at the end of the afternoon across from the West Mersea Hard.

The tide was still going down with a small selection of waders in the area including redshank, black-tailed godwit, grey plover, oystercatcher and turnstone. Fifty brent geese were on the saltings opposite, two rock pipits called overhead and at least six little egrets were roosting on the trees on Ray Island.

Earlier in the afternoon a male marsh harrier was being mobbed by a crow close to the Strood causeway.

This red admiral was enjoying the sun in Firs Chase, while there was the unexpected sight of a clouded yellow flying along Coast Road near the Yacht Club around the middle of the day.

These little egrets were some of the twenty gathered on the country park's pools late morning on Monday. The Cetti's warbler was heard singing from the trees behind the pond.


Philip Bawden, once a Mersea resident, joined Martin Cock and myself on the Maydays seawall on a grey and overcast Sunday 26th. Steve Entwistle also made an appearance, in the hope that the rough-legged buzzard might show itself again - but it didn't.

Noted during the walk were about five marsh harriers, two common buzzards, two swallows, rock pipit, stonechat, yellowhammer, lesser redpoll flying over and a goldcrest. The rising tide pushed waders along the Pyefleet channel as well as good numbers of 400 brent geese and 200 wigeon. A common seal was lying on the mud for a short while.

 Rather surprised to find massive earth-works taking place beside the Coopers Beach at East Mersea during a visit to the area on Saturday 25th. The movement of earth and construction of a number of raised banks is in preparation for the sea breaking through the seawall, so that the water only floods the old marshes and not the caravan site.

A big bulldozer has been through the large area of scrub, opening up large swathes of bare ground.
A variety of small birds seemed to be taking advantage of the disturbed ground with 20+ pied wagtails, song thrush, 10 blackbirds, 10 goldfinch, 10 greenfinches noted here too.

Birds seen on the nearby Rewsalls fields were 400 golden plover, 50 curlew, 200 starling, 10 skylark, 2 reed bunting and also two kestrels.

Walked across the field to get a close look at this hole in the seawall where the concrete path had collapsed. It is possible the sea could punch a hole right through the wall this coming winter, so flooding the fields behind. After the severe winter storms last winter, the Environment Agency has already told the nearby landowners that it will no longer repair this seawall in future.

Alan Reynolds reported seeing a very late common tern in the Pyefleet on Saturday and also a swallow, while two clouded yellows were seen by the seawall.

Birds of interest seen along the Strood Channel on Friday 24th included 3 pairs of stonechat, 4 avocet, 2 rock pipit, kestrel, 1000 golden plover on the mud, 500 brent geese and 20 black-tailed godwits.

The moth trap at the country park operating during the night of Wednesday 22nd, provided this first park record of cypress carpet. This moth has spread rapidly across southern England in recent years where the caterpillars feed on Leylandii cypress bushes and trees. Although there are no Leylandii trees in the country park, there are plenty in nearby gardens, helping this moth with its rapid colonisation.

A typical autumn moth is the yellow-line quaker, pictured above. A few individuals are noted in the traps each autumn, the caterpillars feeding on leaves of various deciduous trees like oak.
Other moths noted on Wednesday night were green brindled crescent, November sps, large wainscot, mallow, feathered thorn and beaded chestnut.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

THE EGRET HAD LANDED

The great white egret made a brief stopover along the north side of the Island on Wednesday 22nd. Having first been seen by Martin Cock as it landed from the east onto the Maydays saltmarsh mid afternoon, it was seen a short while later by Andy Field who managed to take this photo as it flew towards the Strood. The longer legs are obvious in the picture while the yellow bill can just about be made out. The bird made two or three short flights and then wasn't seen again.

I joined the search for the last hour of daylight from the Strood end of the Pyefleet Channel hoping to see it in the creek or in flight over the saltmarsh, but with no luck. There were plenty of little egrets with 16 seen in one group, some pictured above feeding in the creek as the tide receded.
However there was some consolation in me missing out on the great white egret........

Scanning the distant horizon over towards the Langenhoe ranges for anything flying, there was a large bird of prey hovering over the ranges with big pronounced wing-beats. Through the telescope the bird banked to the side and the white upper tail could be seen which suggested a rough-legged buzzard. The bird seemed to be spending a lot of time hovering, being mobbed by marsh harriers, it changed locations a few times and continued to hover. The pale underwing seemed reminiscent of a short-eared owl but with the distinct black carpal patches.

Martin and Andy who had only just got back to the warmth of their homes, came scurrying back out again before the light faded. After a while they managed to relocate the bird further to the east on the ranges still hovering.
A rough-legged buzzard was reported on the Langenhoe ranges just two days earlier on the Monday.

Other birds noted on this remotest corner of the Island were 5+ marsh harriers, sparrowhawk, kingfisher, greenshank, rock pipit and a stonechat. Andy found a ring ouzel along one of the hedges near the seawall north of Bower Hall and also a wheatear.

HARE TODAY

Very pleased to find this brown hare on the park's grazing fields on Monday 20th, and it even stopped very briefly for this picture to be snapped before it ran off. The grass in the field was being topped with a mower and this hare was hoping to lie low without being noticed. Unfortunately he couldn't stay hidden and made his escape. I didn't realise there were any hares in these fields at all, none have ever been seen here before. This is the first sighting.

The hare ran off to the uncut long grass, although it soon had to break cover again as the tractor got nearer and on the third occasion it ran off completely, not to be seen again no doubt.

The cows haven't been able to keep on top of all the grass growth in the fields, so this tractor and mower spent most of Monday cutting everything down, especially the thistles. The shorter grass will be more attractive for the brent geese, the wigeon as well as many of the waders too.
Other wildlife seen from the tractor were a common shrew scuttling away in the grass and also ten skylarks.

Ratty the regular water vole was in his/her usual ditch near the start of the seawall walk on Wednesday 22nd.
He seemed quite content munching into some reed stalks.

A red squirrel was seen at the country park on Tuesday morning by a couple of regular dog-walkers who got a good view of it on a path between the car park and the hide. They said it looked well fed! I quickly rushed over to the spot but there was no further sign of it. This is only the second red squirrel sighting at the park, the last one being a year ago.

A weasel was seen near the Point by Andy Field on Monday afternoon.

The golden plovers haven't wasted any time in resting on the newly mown grazing field with about 200 birds here on Wednesday, this picture taken by Andy Field. A group of 20 turnstones was also in the field with the plovers.

There is still a large flock of 900+ black-tailed godwits roosting at the pools in one of the grazing fields, this godwit photo taken by Andy. Also 50+ redshank roosting with the godwits.

There are still plenty of teal although most well hidden in the rushes and docks but probably 500+ at times. The wigeon weren't as evident today although on Tuesday afternoon 800 birds were counted.

A stonechat was on a bush near the start of the seawall on Wednesday and a wheatear was on the seawall path, also 20 meadow pipits. On Monday a pair of stonechats was seen beside the seawall in the morning and later in the fields.
The Cetti's warbler was still singing behind the park pond, now into its third week here.

Overhead a big passage of wood pigeons was noted with about 400+ birds passing west on Wednesday morning. Also 3 swallows were seen flying west over the park.

A ring ouzel was found beside the park pond on Monday afternoon by Martin Cock. It was seen on the ground to start with and then flew to the west a short while and into the hedge and not seen again. There seemed an influx of various thrushes on that afternoon with 20 blackbirds and 10 song thrushes being seen just inside the park.

The sun came out at times on Wednesday and so did one or two butterflies with a small copper, large white and 2 red admirals being seen at the park. Also several common darters and a migrant hawker.
A clouded yellow was seen near the park pond on Monday by Andy and one was also seen on the Seaview Avenue beach at West Mersea on Monday by Steve Entwistle, also 2 red admirals in his West Mersea garden.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

HERONS JOIN EGRETS

Up to three grey herons have been roosting by the park pond most high tides, whenever there's a big, little egret roost there. Andy Field photographed this bird on the weeping willow over the pond.

The little egrets seemed dispersed around the park in the morning of 19th October, such as this one checking a saltmarsh pool by the seawall. Around ten little egrets were on the saltmarsh by the Point at high tide and another ten by the pond.

Lots of various waders were roosting on the saltmarsh pools by the Golfhouse with at least 500 black-tailed godwits forming the biggest flock, some pictured above. Another 500 were roosting noisily on the park fields with 110 curlew also roosting here.
Also at the Point on Sunday were 70 linnets, one wheatear, six sanderling and 400 golden plover, as well as a common seal in the river.

Also noted were two goldcrest and chiffchaff with the mixed tit flock and 12 swallows passing westwards.

At the end of Sunday 19th I joined Andy Field on the seawall near Shop Lane to watch the harriers going to roost. Staying till it was dark at 6.30pm, we'd counted 17 marsh harriers going to roost on the Langenhoe Point. A similar count was being done at the same time, just to the west of West Mersea on the Old Hall Marshes RSPB reserve where 23 marsh harriers went to roost. No hen harriers were seen at either site.

Also along the Pyefleet was a peregrine trying to flush a redshank out of the water, a common tern heading out of the channel and a continuous flow of 70+ pied wagtails passing overhead on their way to a roost somewhere to the west.

On Saturday morning a short-eared owl flew over the Point heading north-west in the Pyefleet direction, putting up all the waders roosting on the saltmarsh. I received a text message from Chris Balchin at Colne Point late morning to alert me to a rough-legged buzzard he'd just seen heading across the river towards the country park. Sadly despite quickly scanning the skies, it wasn't located.

There had been a report of a rough-legged buzzard being seen by a birdwatcher a couple of days earlier along the Pyefleet on Thursday, which he'd seen flying with a couple of common buzzards.

Andy enjoyed a good view of an osprey circle over the park on Thursday afternoon before it drifted east to Brightlingsea. There was a report it was still in the estuary on Saturday in the Alresford Creek / Thorrington area.

There was bright rainbow over the park late on Saturday afternoon, following a quick downpour.
Birds seen at the park included a kingfisher flying over the pools to the pond, a stonechat in the fields and the Cetti's warbler still singing behind the pond.

A group of a dozen blackbirds and a handful of song thrushes were seen by the park entrance as were five redwings briefly and ten swallows.

 Thirty redwings flew along Bromans Lane early on Thursday 16th while later Andy saw the stonechat in the fields and 200 ringed plover on the mud.

A stoat made a fleeting appearance at the park on Saturday afternoon, bounding towards me for a few metres then standing upright to sniff the air and then dashing back to the undergrowth.


Moth traps were put out on a very mild Saturday evening at both the country park and also in the garden at Firs Chase in West Mersea. One of the first moths to arrive mid evening in Firs Chase was this pretty moth with the grand name Merveille du Jour.
Although a widespread moth it's only been seen once before on the Island about four years ago at the park. It's flight season being late in the year, it makes a nice addition to any trapping as the main season draws to a close. It's interesting finding it in the town when its more of woodland and scrub moth where the foodplant is oak.

The Firs Chase trap did very well in pulling in the migrant moths, much better than the East Mersea trap. Two of these dainty Olive-tree pearls came to the light around midnight.
Whilst working late on the computer I could see the moths fluttering around the lamp in the back garden and I quickly recognised the white translucent wings of this micro-moth. I grabbed a pot and dashed outside to catch it before it disappeared.

The night ended with quite a bit of rain which completely soaked the white sheet on the ground. A hurried check of the trap whilst getting wet, revealed this tiny little female Gem, another migrant moth.

Other migrants in the trap were this dark sword-grass, silver Y, white-point along with the immigrant micros 3 rusty dot pearls and a diamond-backed moth. There was even a red admiral in the trap, maybe trying to shelter from the rain.

Also seen were red-green carpet, pine carpet, green brindled crescent, Blairs shoulder knot, large wainscot, lesser yellow underwing, red-line quaker, brick and dark chestnut.

There were a few more moths in the trap at the park, although only two migrant moths, a Gem and a rusty-dot pearl. This streak was the only interesting moth out of the 48 macro moths noted. It hasn't been seen for a couple of years, so it was nice to record it again.

Different moths at the park were November sp, yellow-line quaker, feathered thorn, barred sallow, black rustic, deep-brown rustic and mallow.

Adrian Amos reported a good count of ten red admirals in his East Road garden in West Mersea on Friday 17th.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

OUZEL WATCH

Excitement at East Mersea early on Tuesday 14th when six ring ouzels were found beside the country park. This well-marked male photographed by Andy Field as it sat on a distant hedge, still showed the big white chest band and a very white wing-panel. The other ring ouzels were female / immature types and all very wary.

The first sign of a ring ouzel at the park was hearing the loud chacking call of a bird in the car park first thing on Tuesday morning. Summoning Andy and Martin Cock pictured above along with Wilma, the bird and a handful of others were found in this hedgerow just to the north of the park entrance. Some of the ouzels seemed quite settled but at other times they flew round flying high and fast.

This is the second autumn in a row that a group of ring ouzels have stopped off at the park and the views this time were much better. Hearing reports from elsewhere on the Essex coast, it appeared that lots of ring ouzels had made land-fall such as at the Naze, Frinton, Colne Point, St Oysth and also at Wivenhoe.

Also arriving across the North Sea this morning at the park were the first redwings with 20 noted, as well as 25 blackbirds and 5 song thrushes. By late morning most of these thrushes and the ring ouzels had moved on. A brambling called in flight in the morning and another bird in the afternoon, and 25 swallows passed over the park too.

An early bird over the car park on Tuesday was a merlin going against the flow of the thrushes, this one hurtled its way east towards the grazing fields.

There was little new influx of thrushes on Wednesday morning although two small flocks of five redwings in each, flew from trees. Two song thrushes were seen near the park pond where the Cetti's warbler was also singing loudly and showed for Tim Mendham. At least twenty swallows passed over the park during the day.

A female marsh harrier emerged out of the early morning fog scattering all the teal and wigeon on the pools in the fields, before it dropped down for a few minutes. The wildfowl soon settled back down when the harrier flew off. In the afternoon a sparrowhawk caused some chaos when it flew amongst the waders and wildfowl.

The kingfisher flew from the pond where it had been as noisy as usual in the afternoon, flying low over the pools towards the seawall. Andy saw at least two wheatears at the Point today, possibly another two birds also present. On the nearby mudflats 700 golden plover were resting late morning.
The previous day Andy counted 1500 black-tailed godwits in the grazing fields and 23 knot on the nearby mud.

The little egret roost behind the park pond was counted at 75 birds on Tuesday with about fifty of them pictured above. The Cetti's warbler was still singing by the park pond but not on show.

Martin Cock saw a stonechat and a Mediterranean gull at Coopers Beach on Tuesday morning.


Several common darters are still to be seen at the country park, basking on any piece of wood they can find, such as this male pictured above on a picnic table in the car park.

A small copper was seen again near the car park in the early afternoon of Tuesday when the sun came out and a  couple of red admirals were seen too. A clouded yellow was photographed near the Point by a visitor in the afternoon. A clouded yellow was also seen by Andy Field along the seawall on Wednesday.

An adder was basking in the usual spot near the car park on Tuesday early afternoon. Martin Cock also reported seeing an adder on the seawall at Maydays on Sunday.

A muntjac deer was seen twice on Wednesday near Manwood Grove, near the East Mersea pub, once in the field early morning and then again just after dark crossing the East Mersea road seen in the headlights.
The water vole was showing itself in the ditch near the park's seawall on Wednesday.

The moth trap went out on a seemingly dry Tuesday night, collecting thirty moths by the next morning.There were three of this micro-moth pictured above, the rusty dot pearl, which were of interest as these are usually regarded as migrants mainly coming in during the autumn period. The tiny diamond-back moth was also noted.


The resident feathered thorn is a regular visitor to the trap in October. One or two of them are happy to settle in the grass beside the trap and then spend the whole of the next day motionless.

This dark chestnut usually turns up in small numbers in the autumn.

A handful of November sps. moths were in the trap although this individual was resting on the side of the nearby wall of the house.