Friday, 24 April 2015

SINGING SEDGE

Two sedge warblers were in full song along the Strood seawall, this one pictured here showing particularly well, during the morning of Friday 24th. Full of song after the long flight back from Africa.

Sometimes sedge warblers can be real skulkers, but when they want to be they can also be really showy - like this one was on a bush halfway along the seawall walk. Here the orange gape shows well when it opens its mouth.

To emphasize its presence, several times the singing sedge warbler rose several metres into the air before parachuting back down, landing close-by amongst the thick stand of Alexander plants on the seawall.

Sedge warbler numbers have declined markedly on the Island in recent years with no birds seemingly holding breeding territory last summer. This spring three birds are singing on the Island, so let's hope they stay.

The first reed warbler onto the Island was also seen along the Strood seawall - one near the caravan site and a second bird in the reedbed halfway along. A pair of yellow wagtails perched up on telegraph wires at the back of the fields and there was also the faint song of a distant corn bunting. Two pairs of reed buntings, three singing whitethroats and a lesser whitethroat were also noted.

Along the channel a common tern hawked up and down while a greenshank was the most interesting wader - the first one noted this year on the Island, also two whimbrel. A couple of pairs of Mediterranean gulls were flying about calling over the fields and along the channel. A distant common buzzard was being mobbed over Copt Hall Grove by some crows.

Half a dozen whimbrel were seen by Andy Field during his walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Friday morning.

This speckled wood was seen along the footpath folly at the top of the Lane, enjoying the sunshine out of the breeze on Friday morning. Other butterflies noted on the walk included peacock, comma, small tortoiseshell, large white and small white.

Later on Friday an orange-tip and a holly blue were seen in the Firs Chase garden.

Long sections of the  Strood seawall have been taken over by large stands of Alexanders plants, most of it in flower at the moment. The plant seems to have spread rapidly into all corners, hedgerows and gardens across the Island in recent years.

SWANS NEST-BUILDING

After a few false alarms earlier in the month thinking the mute swans were nesting, it now appears the pair on the park pond have finally chosen their spot amongst the reeds. It's going to be a well hidden nest once all the new reedmace stems grow up around it. The female was sitting on the nest, although probably not on eggs yet with the male adding more reed stems, mid afternoon on Thursday 23rd.

The sub-adult grey heron was standing at the back of the pond, later flying onto the grazing fields.

The pair of long-tailed tits have been busy over the last month building their nest in the bramble bush beside the pond.

The sedge warbler was singing in short bursts from the edge of the park pond during Thursday afternoon. Most likely the same bird that came in a week ago. The Cetti's warbler has also been singing in loud bursts every day, mainly from the pond towards the kestrels' oak tree. A lesser whitethroat was singing from the back of the grazing fields.

Other birds seen at the pond was the pair of little grebes, one pair of tufted ducks was seen mating with three other pairs still around, also a pair of shoveler, while a male pochard was present on Monday 20th.

On the grazing fields 30+ black-tailed godwits and 30 redshank were present for the high tide roost on Thursday. Also present was a pair of wigeon, 8 shelduck, 25+ teal, 2 little egrets

Around the park at least half a dozen whitethroats have been singing, at least one lesser whitethroat, 4 blackcaps and 3 chiffchaffs. A couple of swallows have been seen over the park most days recently but no sand martins.
A late fieldfare was seen near the park on Wednesday 22nd by Martin Cock.

At Maydays Farm on Sunday 19th, a great white egret flew past Steve Entwistle, providing a good view as it headed up the Pyefleet channel. It was seen to drop down on its way towards the Strood but a subsequent search soon after failed to relocate it.

The next day Steve saw the yellow-legged gull on the Strood and a house martin near the allotments, then at dusk a tawny owl in Shop Lane. On Thursday 23rd a pair of red-legged partridge and blackcap were seen at Maydays farm while the cuckoo was heard. The Thorleys also reported hearing a cuckoo in the area of Meeting Lane in recent days.

Other wildlife noted in the last few days include a weasel by the park pond on Monday 20th, also an adder and the first speckled wood butterfly at the park while a brown hare was seen dead on the East Mersea road near Bocking Hall. An adder was seen again on the park on Tuesday 21st and a slow-worm was found dead at the park two days later.

The first Island report of an orange-tip butterfly was in Adrian Amos' garden along East Road on Wednesday 22nd along with a brimstone butterfly and a blackcap seen here too. The first orange-tip sighting at the park was on Thursday 23rd.

Some blackthorn bushes are still in full blossom around the country park, although other bushes were at their peak a fortnight ago.

Coinciding with the blackthorn in flower was this nationally scarce sloe carpet moth that visited the moth trap at the park on Wednesday night. This is a different individual to the three trapped last week. The caterpillars feed on the blackthorn leaves.

The slightly milder night temperatures on Wednesday night saw 38 individuals of about 11 species noted by the next morning. Other moths noted included northern drab, blossom underwing, early grey, pine beauty, powdered quaker, common quaker, hebrew character, oak-tree pug and frosted green.

This brimstone moth was found resting in the grass a few feet from the trap - the first of the year.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

REEVESHALL REFUEL

This fine looking male wheatear had stopped off at Reeveshall to feed-up during its passage to northern breeding grounds, here photographed by Glyn Evans during his walk along the north side of the Island on Monday 20th. Three other wheatears were also seen between Reeveshall and Ivy Farm.

Four whimbrel were noted along the Pyefleet, feeding up on the Island during their northwards migration.

For the last few weeks several pairs of lapwing have been performing their acrobatic display flights over the country park's grazing fields, as captured here by Glyn.

The recent sunny weather has got the male lapwings up in the air, while the females sit tight on their nests on the ground.

Little egrets are a familiar sight along the north side of the Island, here wading through the saltmarsh.

A male linnet perching up, one or two small flocks can be found in the spring. Numbers much reduced in recent years from the big flocks of the past.

This lone brent goose looks a bit ragged and maybe not well enough for the flight back to Siberia for the summer.
A flight of avocets, some of them maybe thinking about nesting somewhere on the Island.

Just like the flying ducks hanging on the wall, except here's a male gadwall in between a pair of mallard over the park's grazing fields.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

MIGRANT DELIGHT

There's always the hope that spring migration might throw in a few surprises - and it duly happened! The very nice sight of two male ring ouzels were discovered just north of the country park by Martin Cock on Wednesday 15th. The birds hopped around the grass beside one or two blackbirds, song thrush and a green woodpecker for company. Photos by Andy Field.

Although a small group of ring ouzels stopped off near here last autumn for the second year running, spring sightings on the Island are very rare. These two stayed all day, feeding up before continuing their journey northwards to the mountain tops of somewhere like Scotland or maybe Scandinavia.
A pair of red-legged partridge was in a neighbouring field.

The fine weather seemed to have brought several other migrant birds to the park during the night with the first cuckoo being seen calling along the back of the park's grazing fields. Also a willow warbler sang briefly from a garden to the north of the park.

In the park the first lesser whitethroat was singing near the entrance, two or three common whitethroats were also in song while the sedge warbler showed occasionally whilst singing beside the pond and nearby ditch for the second day running. There seemed to be a handful of male blackcaps singing louldy about the park on Wednesday morning. Even the Cetti's warbler was joining in the spring chorus and being glimpsed a couple of times too around the pond.

At West Mersea several swallows are being seen in a number of places and a blackcap was seen in an East Road garden by Adrian Amos.

This male shelduck posed close to the hide at the park on Tuesday 14th with the female close by the edge of the pond. Several pairs of shelduck have been seen recently in the fields checking out rabbit burrows for nesting.

A close look at the large red-bill of the male shelduck - looks like a bit of red plastic!

A mixed group of just under 90+ black-tailed godwits and redshank were roosting in the park fields on Tuesday morning. A whimbrel was seen along the Colne as was a common tern by Martin Cock on Tuesday.
Three sparrowhawks and a male wheatear were seen just north of the park while 2 whitethroats were by the Oyster Fishery that same day.

The sunshine brought out a grass-snake and at least two adders at the park on Tuesday while butterflies noted that day were brimstone large white, small white, peacock and small tortoiseshell.

Jo and Libby Watkins were thrilled to see a red squirrel scamper across the path in front of them and up a nearby tree, as they walked alongside the conifer wood at the north end of Shop Lane on Monday 13th.

SPRING MOTHS

The country park had its first serious moth-trapping session of the year with eleven traps dotted about the place. Eight of the traps belonged to Chris Williams visiting from Staffordshire who'd come to sample some of Essex's moth specialities for the second year running.

Despite the weather being very warm during Wednesday 15th, the sea-breeze picked up towards the end of the day bringing a chill with it. Clear skies brought the temperatures down to just four degrees overnight. The final tally across all traps was about 250 individuals of 25 species.

The target species was sloe carpet, the national rarity that's mainly found in parts of East Anglia, including the country park in the past. Traps were set close to the flowering blackthorn bushes and this individual was one of three found by dawn.

The northern drab that occurs in Essex is a plainer individual than those found elsewhere in the country.

The country park does well with blossom underwings and this one was one of six recorded at the park.

The herald moth is a widespread and common moth but it's always a nice moth to see with its striking colour and patterning.

Amongst the various species of quaker moth was this powdered quaker, the first one of the season.

About half a dozen frosted greens turned up at the traps, some of them very dark green.

Other moths noted during Wednesday night were waved umber, early thorn, early grey, hebrew character, common quaker, small quaker, clouded drab, red chestnut, brindled pug, oak-tree pug, shoulder-stripe, streamer, March moth and dotted border.

This pine beauty was found in the moth trap after the previous night's session on Tuesday. Also the first blossom underwing was noted amongst a general catch of 30 moths.

Monday, 13 April 2015

BASKING BUTTERFLY

Sunshine on Monday 13th brought a few more butterflies out, such as this comma basking in the garden in Firs Chase. Also seen here were a peacock and a small tortoiseshell.
Birds noted from the Firs Chase garden included sparrowhawk, blackcap, song thrush and two swallows.

A walk past Feldy View and along the Strood seawall provided views of 5 peacocks, 6 small tortoiseshells and 2 small whites.

Playing hide and seek between two fenceposts near the Feldy View field was this common lizard trying to enjoy the warmth from the sun without being too exposed.

Birds of note along the Strood included a common buzzard heading south-west towards the Hard, pair of Mediterranean gulls, two whimbrel, 20 black-tailed godwits, 150 redshank and two greylag geese. Two pairs of blackcap and  two chiffchaffs were noted near the caravan site while a swallow was back by the Dabchicks.

High above Coast Road was the unexpected sight and sound of a displaying male marsh harrier, seemingly trying to impress a passing female with his high-pitched calls and tumbling flights. Earlier in the morning a male sparrowhawk was displaying with its similar rollercoaster flight high over the Lane.

To the west of the Hard five marsh harriers were in the air together over Old Hall Marshes while a common buzzard circled high over Copt Hall late morning.

It was sunny but breezy along the Maydays seawall during a two hour walk on Sunday 12th. Two marsh harriers and a common buzzard were seen over Reeveshall as was a pair of Mediterranean gulls. Four hundred brent geese were feeding in one of the fields as were 25 greylags and 4 Canada geese.

Along the Pyefleet a big colourful flock of 800+ black-tailed godwits were lined along the water's edge with 10 bar-tailed godwits also seen here. Two great crested grebes were in the channel.

A peregrine and two common buzzards were seen over Maydays by Steve Entwistle on Sunday while on the Langenhoe ranges a short-eared owl was seen by Andy Field and Richard Hull.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

RETURN OF THE TERN

The first common tern of the summer was seen standing on this buoy up-channel from the Dabchicks on Friday 10th. I haven't heard of any other reports off Mersea so far this spring. This bird didn't seem to do much flying around except switch buoys to stand on. There was no sign of this bird in this area later in the day.

Walked the Strood seawall twice on Friday, in the morning and again late afternoon, with an interesting bird noted on each outing. Walking back up Firs Chase late morning, I glanced upwards and noticed a red kite gliding high over our garden heading south-west. It kept going and no doubt would've crossed the Mersea Quarters over to Old Hall Marshes.

At the end of the afternoon a little ringed plover was heard calling in flight as it passed over the seawall and then watched as it appeared to drop down to a muddy pool at the back of one of the fields. A few minutes later the bird was heard calling again and then a short while later it called in flight as it headed down channel towards the Hard. The first spring record on the Island for many years.

Other birds noted during the day were a couple of noisy Mediterranean gull pairs flying up and down the channel, a male marsh harrier flying along the Peldon seawall, 3 little egrets on the Ray, 20 black-tailed godwits, 30 knot, 3 Canada geese, 20 linnets and 3 chiffchaffs. One swallow was flying around the bottom of the Strood Hill for the second day running.

At the country park on Thursday a swallow and blackcap were noted while at West Mersea a red-legged partridge was reported recently at the back of a garden off Seaview Avenue.
A brown hare was seen in the field by Bocking Hall on Wednesday 8th and a swallow at Blue Row.

The warmth on Friday brought out several small tortoiseshells with six noted along the Strood seawall and in front of the caravan site where this one was photographed.

One small white was keeping low on the seawall, trying to stay out of the breeze, the first one of the season.

A brimstone butterfly was seen in Oakwood Avenue by Adrian Amos on Wednesday 8th.

It was worth putting the moth trap out at the country park on the night of Tuesday 7th as about 90 moths were noted by the next morning. The most notable one was this dotted chestnut, a moth that has become quickly established in the county in recent years.

The grey shoulder knot is a regular visitor in the spring to the trap.

Other moths noted were common quakers, small quakers, clouded drabs, hebrew characters, dotted border and March moths.
The only micro moth in the trap on the Wednesday morning was this beautiful plume moth.