Wednesday, 10 September 2014

THE EGRET SHOW

The little egrets gathered at their high tide roost in the trees by the country park pond are a spectacle to behold especially when they take to the air such as these 25 egrets did on Tuesday 9th. Eighty birds in the trees was a site record. Three grey herons were also in the trees with the egrets.

More little egrets appeared at the roost on Wednesday 10th when at least 95 birds were counted in the willow trees. There is a lot of squawking and bickering going on during the roost and it's not a peaceful spot for an egret to snooze while the high tide covers their feeding grounds on the nearby mudflats.

The kingfisher was heard a couple of times during the day at the pond and was finally seen by Steve Entwistle after several visits over the last month, on Wednesday evening.

There was a surprise visit to the park pools of an adult little stint on Tuesday afternoon. It fed along one of the muddy edges in close proximity to the large redshank roost of 250 birds. The stint didn't stay long and soon disappeared when the redshank flew back to the mudflats. It's the first little stint on the fields for over 15 years.

Good numbers of redshank gathered for the high tide roost in the fields on Wednesday with 450+ birds counted. Only 10 black-tailed godwits, 20 lapwing, 50 teal, 5 wigeon and one snipe. Ten snipe flew off the marshy area beside the pools on Monday afternoon. Two greenshank could be heard calling from the mudflats on Wednesday afternoon.
Andy Field saw three wheatears on his walk to the Point on Wednesday.
A little owl perched on a telegraph post opposite the East Mersea shop at dusk on Wednesday.

On Tuesday a spotted flycatcher was seen near the trees at the park pond and perched on the kestrel tree to flycatch from. The first whinchat of the autumn at the park was on the clifftop with a wheatear, later moving to the fields. Three other wheatears were seen on the Point as were 30 linnets. The kingfisher flew over the seawall and along the dyke near the Golfhouse.

An adder was seen at the park enjoying the sunshine on Tuesday morning. Butterflies seen on the wing have included speckled wood, small heath, small white and red admiral.

Spent the last hour of Tuesday evening walking the Pyefleet seawall near Reeveshall. The large pool here has been gradually drying up through the summer with the only two birds seen during the visit were two green sandpipers. Ten yellow wagtails flew away from the cattle to their roost and a sparrowhawk was chased away by some crows.

Along the Pyefleet were noted common sandpiper, greenshank, 50 avocets and 100 black-tailed godwits. Five marsh harriers were seen flying about over the Langenhoe marshes.

A muntjac deer was glimpsed in the car headlights at the north end of Shop Lane as night fell.

Forty moths were in the trap after Tuesday night's session with all the familiar faces on show again such as this common snout pictured above. Some of the other moths noted were large yellow underwing, square spot rustic, flounced rustic, setaceous hebrew character, brimstone and single dotted wave.


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

PYEFLEET WALK

 Andy Field and Glyn Evans walked the north side of the Island on a sunny Monday 8th as part of the national high tide wader and wildfowl count. Glyn passed these photos to me such as this obliging whinchat pictured above, one of seven noted along the seawall - Five at Maydays and two near the Oyster Fishery.

Also heading south with the whinchats were three wheatears, one pictured above.
The only other migrant count of note was of eight yellow wagtails.

Two sparrowhawks were seen briefly together, this one passing nicely overhead.
The sunny weather also saw eight common buzzards and two hobbies in flight.

This common tern was one of about ten seen in the Pyefleet channel.
Also of interest along the channel were 4 greenshank, common sandpiper and a whimbrel.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

INVASION FOILED

This grey squirrel was found on the beach by Cosways caravan park in East Mersea by Roo Watkins on Sunday 7th. Being found on the beach would suggest that it had been recently washed up by the sea with the first report of it here was a couple of days ago.

There was an interesting observation earlier in the week of a grey squirrel seen swimming across the river Colne from Fingringhoe, scrabbling across the mud on the east shore and then scampering into nearby Alresford Grange Wood. It will be a worry if more try their luck by swimming onto Mersea Island.

Following the release of red squirrels from the wood near Victory Road in West Mersea last week, I had two more reports of sightings of one of the reds. David Nicholls relayed a sighting by a friend near Queen Ann Road and Prince Albert Road on Friday. About the same time Ann Cock enjoyed good views of one in Willoughby car park, presumably the same individual.

Apart from watching the swans swim serenely across the park pond on Sunday, the main highlight was seeing an osprey fly over late morning. It was watched approaching the pond from the east, passing over the grazing fields, then over the pond which it glanced down at whilst continuing purposely onwards to the west.
Interestingly, there was a report of an osprey seen flying west over the Abberton Reservoir visitor centre, about forty minutes later, presumably the same bird.

During mid afternoon a common buzzard flew west over the pond, fairly low down and as it was being watched passing overhead, a second bird could be seen much higher up, followed a few minutes later by another common buzzard high up. All the birds of prey seen drifting westwards over the park.

A female sparrowhawk was keeping low when it headed low over the fields and into the copse behind the pond. The kingfisher showed well again at least twice during the day, seen dropping into the water to catch small fish as well as diving in several times to help with preening. When it left the pond in the morning, the kingfisher flew directly towards and over the top of the hide as it headed south.

On Saturday 6th two wheatears were on the beach, 2 sanderling, the kingfisher flew along the dyke in the morning, 2 whimbrel calling, 100 golden plover flew overhead,10 common terns were feeding with a group of gulls in the river and there was also a feeding flock of 20 cormorants swimming in close formation in the river.

On the fields 200 teal, 5 wigeon, 2 snipe, 100 redshank, 10 black-tailed godwit, 5 shoveler were seen with 25 little egrets in the trees, 2 gadwall and 3 tufted duck on the pond. The kestrel was perched back on its tree.

Around the park 2 goldcrest were calling from the clifftop trees, a swift flew over the car park with 30 swallows and 5 house martins. Three blackcaps, lesser whitethroat, whitethroat, chiffchaff and reed warblers were seen in various bushes near the pond.

On Friday a spotted flycatcher perched briefly on top of a bush in the car park in the morning before flying west.

After a misty start to Sunday with a short light shower late morning, the day improved with plenty of sunshine. Some flowering ivy bushes in a hedge just north of the park were buzzing with bees and also this red admiral too.

Butterflies seen in the park on Sunday were 3 common blue, 4 speckled wood, 4 small heath, 2 large white, 10 small white and a comma. Five small red-eyed damselflies were seen on the park dyke resting on the vegetation on the surface.
Two adders were basking in the sun on Sunday at the park and one was also reported on Friday in a field near the bus turning circle.

A doe muntjac deer strolled along the hedge at the back of the grazing fields on Saturday mid morning, nibbling leaves as it went. Offshore from the park a common seal swam past 70m from the shore at high tide.

Fifty moths were in the trap at the park after Saturday night session with this L-album wainscot the only new one for the season. There should be several more of these ones noted at the park over the next two or three weeks.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

SHREWD MOVER

Thinking the moths in the trap at the park were being eaten by a mouse was proved wrong when the culprit revealed itself as a common shrew! The trap had operated during Wednesday night and after being checked in the morning, was then put to one side and partially covered over - but not emptied of the fifty moths inside.

Towards dusk on Thursday 4th, consideration was being given to set the trap up again, except I noticed there was a little furry visitor with a long pointed snout scrabbling around inside the trap! After a couple of minutes of looking up and then scuttling away to hide under the egg-trays, the very nimble shrew reached up one corner and scrambled up and out of the trap. It ran into the thick leaves in the back garden and it could be heard making its escape to safety as it rustled the leaves in its path.

Needless to say there were few moths alive still in the trap after the shrew had been inside - only small piles of moth wings! Many moths will have flown from the trap during the morning, just after it is first put away.

The well marked burnished brass pictured above, with the brassy sheen on the wings was one of the moths in the trap. The main moth in the trap was a big poplar hawkmoth which had been lifted out of the trap first thing and hidden in a bush to escape the attentions of hungry robins and the tit party.
A dozen Chinese characters, large thorn, maidens blush and blood-vein were some of the 20 species of macro found.
The water vole was posing at the side of its small ditch near the seawall. It looked a bit nervous while I took one or two photos before it plopped into the water and swam away.

The park pond was a scene of lots of activity and lots of birds during Thursday afternoon. The highlight was the appearance twice by the kingfisher, once in mid afternoon and then a couple of hours later, it came back from the dyke to perch and feed. It was seen to dive down to catch a tiddler of a fish, whack it on the branch and then swallow it.

Also on the pond were 37 little egrets and a grey heron at the high tide roost. Most of the ducks in the picture above are mallard about 75, also seen were a gadwall, 25 teal, 3 shoveler, 4 little grebes and the family of 5 swans including the white cygnet. Two reed warblers were calling from the reedmace.

In the grazing field pools 30 lapwing, 100 teal, 2 snipe, 100 redshank, 30 black-tailed godwit, 5 wigeon, 4 shoveler were present late afternoon. Other birds seen at the park during the day were sparrowhawk over the car park, 7 mistle thrushes after the rowan berries, yellow wagtail flying over and 100 swallows at dusk.

It has taken till the start of September to find the first wasp spider at the park. This one wasn't a fully grown female but was hanging on its web in the long grass, having spun up an insect.

Martin Cock saw two whinchats near the Shop Lane seawall on Tuesday.

The Haynes were very surprised to have a red squirrel near their beach hut close to Broomhills Road, on Wednesday afternoon before heading off towards Shears Court. Following a quick phone-call, it turns out that the small group of 3 red squirrels that had been penned up in the wood near Victory Road, were set free yesterday morning. Several sightings were being reported including one in Yorick Road which may've been this squirrel heading on its way to the beach huts.
More red squirrels are planned on being brought from both Norfolk and Surrey later this autumn to boost the introduction numbers.

A grass-snake was reported in a garden water butt in Mill Road on Thursday.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

MIGRANTS ON THE MOVE

Michael Thorley found this willow warbler in his East Mersea garden near Meeting Lane on Monday 1st. The bright yellow underparts are typical of a juvenile bird.

In typical willow warbler fashion it was very active in the trees in his garden and Michael said it was difficult to photograph the bird as it wouldn't stay still long enough! These three pictures certainly show the bird clearly.

Willow warblers are passing through at the moment on their southward journey for the winter to Africa. Two were calling from the country park today, while one was also in Steve Entwistle's garden in West Mersea yesterday.

Andy Field passed me these three images of some of the spotted flycatchers seen near the park pond last week on Wednesday 27th. The flycatchers were also on their passage south to Africa.

Some of the spotted flycatchers were very obliging by perching in the elder bush right beside the hide.

Two spotted flycatchers seen here in the early evening were very busy catching flies. At least four birds were still present the following day.

On Wednesday 3rd a spotted flycatcher was seen in the evening behind the car park feeding alongside the arable field. It perched on the telegraph wires and although distant to look at, its distinctive behaviour was easy to recognise. Earlier in the evening 3 red-legged partridge were seen in the same arable field next to the car park.

There seemed a fair gathering of wildfowl on the park pond on Wednesday evening with 30 little egrets in the trees, 70 mallard, 2 shoveler, wigeon, 3 gadwall and the family of swans too. Earlier in the day the kingfisher was seen perching up in a couple of spots and the grey heron was high up in the trees.

On the pools for the evening roost were 200+ redshank, 20+ black-tailed godwits, 100+ teal, 5 wigeon and 2 shoveler.

At the park during the afternoon an adder was basking as usual and 4 common blue butterflies and 2 small heaths were seen by the long grass.

Steve Entwistle visited Maydays and noted 5 green sandpipers and 10 house martins on Wednesday afternoon.

The previous day Martin Cock noted at Maydays 12 green sandpipers, 2 ruff, 2 snipe, 2 greenshank, curlew sandpiper, wheatear, whinchat, peregrine, 2 marsh harriers and 2 common buzzards.

A marsh harrier was flying over the fields by the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall and 20 golden plover were near Chapmans Lane early on Tuesday morning.
Steve reported seeing a barn owl on Sunday night in Dawes Lane and also a painted lady and wheatear at the country park. A hummingbird hawkmoth was seen in his garden in Empress Drive over the weekend.

Ian Black was interested to see 300+ black-tailed godwits along the Strood channel on Saturday 30th.

Sarah Thorley was very surprised to see a badger cross the East Mersea road near Church Lane in broad daylight at 8am on Friday 29th. Once it managed to clamber up and out of the ditch it soon disappeared into the hedgerow near the village hall.

Monday, 1 September 2014

BASKING IN THE MUD

 There were four common seals loafing on the mud in the Pyefleet Channel, three of them pictured above, seen from the Maydays seawall on Monday 1st. The red- coloured seals showed signs of iron oxidation on the fur.

The tide was out during the late morning walk with a good variety of waders along the mudflats. Highlights were 3 curlew sandpipers, 3 greenshank, 2 common sandpipers, 10 bar-tailed godwits, 150 dunlin, 100 grey plover, 70 ringed plover and one knot. Also 8 shelducklings and five common terns were seen.

Two common buzzards were over Langenhoehall marshes and 3 marsh harriers were seen over the Langenhoe ranges.

The long grass on the side of the Maydays seawall was being cut down during my visit.

A whinchat and wheatear were perched together on one of the Reeveshall fences while 20 stock doves fed in one of the Maydays fields. A common buzzard and marsh harrier were also seen on the Mersea side.

Beside a nearby farm reservoir 4 ruff, 5 green sandpiper, common sandpiper, 3 snipe and 2 teal were seen.

Around the Maydays farm buildings some of the 20 house martins seen in the area were still nesting under the eaves of the house. A swift passed overhead just after mid-day. In nearby bushes 2 yellowhammers, 10 linnets, 20 greenfinches, whitethroat, lesser whitethroat and a chiffchaff were watched.

Yesterday a swift passed over Martin Cock's West Mersea house along with a steady passage of swallows through the day.

Discovered this pretty little pest in our Firs Chase garden over the weekend - the rosemary beetle. Three of these small beetles were on the main stalks of a big rosemary bush. At first glance the 8mm sized beetles appear dark green but close-up they show the red stripes.

The rosemary beetle is originally from the Mediterranean and was first found in the UK only 20 years ago. It has since spread across most of England, Wales and into Scotland, where the adults and larvae feed on rosemary, lavender, sage and thyme. It's the first time I've seen it here on the Island.

This Old Lady moth was the biggest moth in the trap in Firs Chase during Sunday night. The big dark band across the wings has faded on this individual but it supposedly resembles the dark shawl worn by "old ladies".

Amongst the fifty other moths in the trap were light emerald, willow beauty, large yellow underwing, copper underwing, broad-bordered yellow underwing, square-spot rustic, setaceous hebrew character, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing and shuttle-shaped dart.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

FLYCATCHERS STILL FLYCATCHING

Some of the cows in the country park's grazing fields were enjoying having a long cool drink of water while about a dozen little egrets looked on from the background on Thursday 28th. Twenty yellow wagtails were feeding around the feet of the cattle. The high tide roost at these pools included 100 redshank, 15 black-tailed godwit, 10 lapwing, snipe and also 30 teal.

A kingfisher visited the park pond briefly on Thursday afternoon, whistling loudly when it arrived and then again when it left a few minutes later, flying low past the cows as it sped back to the dyke. On the park pond the first wigeon of the autumn was seen and also a gadwall amongst the forty or so mallard.

Four spotted flycatchers were still busy feeding from bushes by the park pond, providing good views from the hide. After all the busy feeding-up yesterday evening, the birds haven't migrated after all. In the car park the female common redstart was seen again near the buildings, four days after first being seen in this area. The bird was calling loudly from bushes by the toilets, feeding on the ground nearby. A short while later it was seen in my back garden close to my back door, before being chased off by the local robin.It's still unclear whether there have been two redstarts at the park this week, or just one mobile one frequenting two favoured locations about 200m apart.

An adder was basking in one of the usual spots at the park on Thursday morning.

Jo and Libby Watkins picked up a sick and injured barn owl from a field near Bocking Hall farm on Thursday and took it to the local vet. The owl had an infected wound to its body, close to its left wing and this no doubt weakened the bird as sadly it didn't survive into the evening.

Steve Entwistle saw two swifts near the Golfhouse on Thursday evening while on Friday morning he saw two greenshank by the Strood at West Mersea.

At least one of the spotted flycatchers was still present in the small field by the park entrance on Friday 29th.

Found this brown argus butterfly keeping low out of the breeze along a grassy path close to the Coopers Beach caravan site on Friday 29th.This is the first time brown argus has been found in this middle part of the Island, as far as I know. Now the fourth location this summer where it's been seen, two for East and two for West Mersea.

On a short walk around some of the Rewsalls fields on Friday morning a whinchat perched on some big round bales beside a game cover crop. Also a sparrowhawk flew over the fields, 200+ swallows trickled west, 5 golden plover and 15 black-tailed godwits dropped down briefly on the old marshes.

On Saturday 30th 3 swifts flew west over the West Mersea Hard in the afternoon during the local Regatta's  watersports session. Five swifts were also seen over Firs Chase the next day on Sunday 31st in the company of 20 swallows.

Flying over the car park at the country park on Sunday morning were 300+ golden plover. Martin Cock saw a peregrine and 2 greenshank at Maydays farm on Sunday.

The large thorn moth, pictured above, was one of the more interesting moths in the trap at the country park after Wednesday night's session. It used to be a scarce moth but in recent years seems to be turning up here at least once each autumn. A canary-shouldered thorn was also noted after Wednesday night's session.

The first frosted orange of the autumn was noted, pictured above. The moth colours match those of some of the fallen leaves.

Another moth to match leaves on the ground is the widespread angle shades moth, several have been noted in the last fortnight or so both in West and East Mersea.

Despite a mouse getting access into the Skinner moth-trap during the night and tucking into some of the moths, other moths noted were maidens blush, small white wave, maple prominent, swallow prominent, willow beauty, light emerald, brimstone, copper underwing, straw underwing, snout, spectacle, common wainscot, white-point, uncertain, Chinese character, setaceous hebrew character, square spot rustic, lesser broad-bordered yellow underwing, large yellow underwing and common rustic.

A red underwing was found resting on the side of the Park's Information room on Thursday morning.

Andy Field reported a hummingbird hawkmoth in his High Street North garden at the beginning of the week. Two hummingbird hawkmoths were also reported by Helen Mussett in her Garden Farm garden about a fortnight ago.