Sunday, 26 July 2015

PLOVER CHICKS

At the third time of trying this breeding season, a pair of ringed plovers have finally managed to produce some young. Thanks to Rick and Elis Simpson of Waderquest, a nest with eggs was found on the beach at East Mersea Point a fortnight ago. Two chicks were first seen on Wednesday 22nd by Andy Field and by Saturday the female was seen providing them shelter from the strong wind, pictured above.

One of the ringed plover chicks pictured here by Andy, was scurrying about the beach in short fast sprints, every so often returning to the safety of mum.

Patrolling the beach and on the look out for threats to the new chicks, was the male ringed plover pictured above.

The ringed plovers have had at least two attempts at nesting, laying eggs and incubating them for a period but without any success to the hatching stage, mostly likely accidentally trodden on by walkers.

Also by the beach at the Point on Saturday were five sanderling showing various stages of moulting from summer plumage on the left, to the greyer plumage of winter on the right bird. These were the first sanderling back from their northern breeding grounds.

Also seen on the mud as the tide turned were 40 golden plover while nearby 3 little terns were fishing close in.

On the pools in the grazing fields, water levels have risen overnight following lots of rain. The high tide wader roost consisted of about 60 redshank and 50 black-tailed godwits.
Along the dyke the swans still have 5 young but the swans on the pond appear to have lost their sole remaining cygnet recently. A female tufted duck was with three small ducklings on the pond, a fourth duckling apparently recently lost.

In the car park at least six mistle thrushes have been making regular sorties to the rowan trees which are laden down with ripening berries at the moment.

An adder was seen at the park on Saturday 25th and a painted lady butterfly at the park on Wednesday 22nd.

An evening walk along the Reeveshall seawall on Thursday 23rd, provided views of the two avocet chicks as well as the brood of five ducklings of shelduck. One of the adult avocets is pictured above with a half-grown chick to the right.

The avocets and the shelduck family were getting concerned about the flock of sheep passing nearby.

Also seen on the seawall walk were two male marsh harriers, 4 little terns and 6 common terns, 70+ avocets, 100 black-tailed godwits, 2 whimbrel and at least one bar-tailed godwit.
A yellowhammer was singing from a hedgerow near the seawall.
There was no sign of the ruff that had been seen the previous day on Peewit Island by Andy Field.

This common seal seemed to swim across the Pyefleet for a closer look at me, before diving under and swimming down channel.

On Tuesday 21st a red-legged partridge was beside the road at Chapmans Lane.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

MORE MOTHING MANIA

Members of the Essex Moth Group and friends, made their annual visit to the country park on Tuesday 21st to see what moths were flying around. Fifteen folk enjoyed a rewarding evening looking into the seven different traps placed in various locations near to the car park. The picture above shows the Skinner trap brought along by David Barnard.

The evening started slowly and despite the stiff breeze, the evening turned out to be the best night for the number of moth species logged. By 4am just before sun-rise, around 110 species of macro-moths had been identified - the best ever haul at the park in one night, mainly thanks to Ian Turner with his two traps who stayed till almost 2am! Folk pictured above are staring into the Gardiner trap, and Andy Field also brought his trap too.
The micro-moths came under scrutiny from Steve Rolls who logged 30 species and thanks to him for the list.

The big hawkmoths provide a bit of  awe and admiration to the session with this lime hawkmoth the first one to arrive. By the end of the night a pine hawkmoth, a couple of poplar hawks and a couple of elephant hawkmoths were logged.
Ian Turner logged one of the main target moths for the night - after the rest of us had finished for the night, a garden tiger. The second record for the year as one was also logged the previous week.

Other notable moths logged by Ian included a crescent-striped, 2 small mottled willow, archers dart, shark, starwort, olive, Mathews wainscot and ground lackey.

One of the most attractive macro moths is also one of the smallest - the rosy footman. Here this fresh specimen is a bright salmon pink colour with the fine black lines traced across the wings.

Several ruby tigers turned up in the various traps, although their bright red colour is more striking when seen in the daytime. It is a common moth in mid-summer whose caterpillars feed on various common plants like dock and plantain.

A couple of scarce green silver-lines visited one of the traps, their bright green colours suited to hiding amongst the leaves.It's quite a widespread moth in the county, the caterpillars feeding on oak.

Another "green" moth was this small emerald, this picture just a record shot as it sat on the edge of the trap. It has been recorded at the park only a couple of times before, so it's not particularly common here. There were several common emerald moths seen during the night.

By dawn a couple of thorn moths were seen, the early thorn and this one pictured, the purple thorn. Holding its wings half-open is a feature of the purple thorn, and although the lunar thorn does the same, this purple had the characteristic spot on the upper hind-wing.

Whilst a handful of us were watching over a trap, this delicate brown moth fluttered around the trap and was duly potted. The bordered white has been seen a few times at the park before but not in recent summers, so it was nice to see it on this night. It holds its wings like a butterfly at rest. It's foodplant is pine, and this trap was only a few metres away from some pine trees.

The big and fluffy looking drinker moth is a common moth and several turned up on the night. Their caterpillars are often seen at the park feeding on the grass, where they supposedly drink the dew off the grass in the morning - hence the name.

The scorched carpet was an unexpected visitor to the trap as it's not seen every year here. Although quite widespread elsewhere in the county, there are just three previous records here over the last nine years.

A freshly marked maiden's blush is one of the smartest of the common moths when it shows the red blush patches on each wing.

Some of the other moths noted included oak hook-tip, figure of 80, small scallop, green pug, wormwood pug, latticed heath, July highflyer, red twin-spot carpet, scalloped oak, swallow-tailed, pebble prominent, swallow prominent, coxcomb prominent, buff-tip, dinghy footman, buff footman, least yellow underwing, double square-spot, white-line dart, nutmeg, white-point, fen wainscot, poplar grey, knotgrass, lesser spotted pinion, lunar-spotted pinion, nut-tree tussock, bordered sallow, copper underwing, dot, cabbage, spectacle and silver-Y.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

STARING SEALS

I had the feeling I was being stared at whilst I walked along the Pyefleet seawall at Maydays on Monday 20th. These two common seals were in their usual seal basking spot beside the Maydays creek and after a couple of minutes both slipped into the water and into the Pyefleet. A little later one of the seals swam across the Pyefleet and carried on basking on the north side. The plaintive calls of a seal pup were then heard from nearby in the Pyefleet.

Up to four common seals have been seen in this area of the Pyefleet by Martin Cock recently, including seeing a young pup suckling its mother whilst both lay on the mud.

Large areas of the Maydays saltmarsh are displaying the mauve colours of the sea lavender, such as this pretty clump beside the entrance to Maydays creek.

Birds noted in this creek included a green sandpiper, four greenshank, a whimbrel, several redshank and a little egret.
Although there was a good number of waders along the Pyefleet mud, most seemed to be either avocets, black-tailed godwits or redshank.

Also along the Pyefleet were a pair of little terns, two common terns and a brood of 7 shelducklings.

Three male marsh harriers were seen but the mystery of the disappeared female marsh harriers continues as none have been seen anywhere in the area for over a month, which is very unusual.
One male was on Reeveshall, a second bird on Maydays a bit later and then a third bird on Langenhoe farm. A common buzzard was flying around the west end of the ranges.

Also noted around Maydays was one singing corn bunting, 2 yellowhammers, pair of yellow wagtails and 25+ house martins around the farm.

This immature herring gull was standing on the mud close to the seawall unable to fly away or walk other than flap its wings. These are similar symptoms of avian botulism which many gulls get in mid summer when they scavenge for food, especially on rubbish tips. Each summer there are one or two gulls seen floundering along the beach or on the mud, unable to take off and sadly they don't live for long.

On Reeveshall on Thursday 16th a wheatear and at least one hobby were seen by Martin Cock, while a couple of days later a green sandpiper was seen here and 25 little terns seen on Langenhoe Point.
At seen by Martin at Maydays, five greenshank, 2 bar-tailed godwits, 300 black-tailed godwits, whimbrel were on the mud while yellow wagtail, yellowhammer and sedge warbler have all been seen with young.

On Sunday 19th a common sandpiper, pair of avocet chicks and a brood of 5 shelducklings were seen on the Reeveshall pool by Steve Entwistle. Also a black-tailed skimmer over the water here.
The day before, a hobby was seen at the bottom of Strood Hill by Steve.

Monday, 20 July 2015

SINGING SKYLARKS

The skylarks at the country park are still singing loud and long. If you're lucky, one might sing for you while it perches on the back of one of the seats, as pictured above. Saves you from craning your neck to look up at a distant speck singing in the sky.

On the pools in the grazing fields on Saturday 18th about 70 black-tailed godwits and 80 redshank were gathered at high tide. On and around the pond were a dozen little egrets.

A green sandpiper flew west over the car park calling early on Friday 17th. A tawny owl could be heard calling from Manwood Grove in Shop Lane just before daybreak on Friday.

During the high tide roost on Thursday 16th, 36 little egrets were noted as were 82 black-tailed godwits while a hobby, kestrel and 6 yellow wagtails were reported by David Selley.
There were 25 little egrets seen feeding on the mudflats from the park at low tide as were 250 black-tailed godwits on Wednesday 15th.

At least fifty swifts passed west over the park during Wednesday as well as 25+ swallows.

At Reeveshall on the north side of the Island, a green sandpiper and the avocet family with two young were seen by Martin Cock on Saturday, and also 30 little terns on Langenhoe Point.
On Thursday a wheatear was on the seawall to the north of Shop Lane and at least one hobby, maybe a second, seen by Martin.

There are probably a couple of hundred gatekeeper butterflies around the park at the moment, especially along hedges and bramble bushes. This male pictured above was one of several seen basking in some evening sunshine.
Other butterflies noted in the last few days have included meadow brown, ringlet, speckled wood, red admiral, comma, peacock, small white, large white and holly blue.

Also on the wing amongst the long grass are the skippers such as this Essex skipper photographed by Andy Field at the park.

Andy and I enjoyed watching a purple hairstreak, the first for the season, high up in some oaks near the overflow car park on Wednesday 15th.

This female emperor dragonfly was photographed by Andy Field as it was egg-laying in the park dyke on Wednesday. Also seen was a banded demoiselle by the dyke, the second sighting at the park in the last week.

An adder was seen at the park on Wednesday and also on Thursday too.

Friday, 17 July 2015

MASS OF MOTHS

The moths at the country park came under a fair bit of scrutiny during the night of Thursday 16th. Amongst the large haul of about 2000 macro moths to nine traps, the most striking of all of them was this garden tiger. Although it's been recorded here each July, it feels as though the population is just clinging on as it has declined rapidly in recent years in southern England.

This garden tiger wasn't actually found inside the trap, but resting just a few metres from it on the ground and very nearly missed during the tidying up at dawn.After taking a few photos, it was then placed in a bush away from hungry birds, where-upon it repeatedly flicked its wings open, emphasizing the striking colours and patterning to protect itself.

Nine traps were set up at the park, six of which were set by Chris Williams making a return visit from Staffordshire to see some coastal moths. This perspex Gardiner trap was one of the traps to perform well and lured in about 440 moths, excluding the other hundred or so micro moths. The final species tally of macro moths was about 100, an impressive count.

Four of these small mottled willows were found, the first record for the park of this immigrant moth. There seems to have been an influx of them into southern England over the last month or so.

The small festoon has now been recorded for the third summer running, suggesting it has a local population here following its recent spread across the county. Its spread has even seen it expand to the coast where there's not so much woodland - its traditional haunt.

Not many large emeralds have been noted at the park, so it was nice to see this one in the trap.

Another notable moth was this crescent striped, a nationally scarce moth found along the south and east coasts of England.

A few lackey moths were seen with this nicely coloured male one of the smarter ones.
The scarcer cousin, the ground lackey was also noted with one faded individual in one of the traps.

The blood-vein moth is often noted at the park but not always in such pristine condition with the dark-red vein and the bright pink edging showing up so clearly.

One of the micro-moths to catch the eye was this orange-pine tortrix, a regular here in the summer where the caterpillars feed on Scots Pine. This individual was found just a few metres from some pine trees.

Some of the other moths noted included drinker, oak hook-tip, Chinese character, buff arches, common emerald, small scallop, barred yellow, least carpet, July high flyer, single dotted wave, green pug, bordered pug, latticed heath, early thorn, peppered, engrailed, pine hawkmoth, elephant hawkmoth, poplar hawkmoth, maple prominent, pebble prominent, rosy footman, ruby tiger, Kent black arches, fen wainscot, sycamore, miller, tree lichen beauty, marbled beauty, oak nycteoline, scarce silver lines, herald, beautiful hook-tip, silver-Y, bordered sallow, ear sp, shark and dotted rustic,

The moth trap was also operating at the country park on the night of Wednesday 15th, when this large oak eggar made an appearance,the first of the summer. During the following day an oak eggar was seen flying rapidly across the park.
Another large species that didn't show on Thursday night but did on Wednesday were a couple of privet hawkmoths. A sand dart also stayed away from the traps the next night.

The small Kent black arches has become a bit more frequent in the last couple of summers.

This is peak season for dusky sallows, here one feeding in the middle of the day on a knapweed flower, while nearby another was on a scabious flower. Some of the moth traps on Thursday night were over-run with dusky sallows, especially those beside the long grass.



Wednesday, 15 July 2015

HERONS IN THE HEAT

There continue to be three grey herons often seen beside the park pond, this one pictured above seemingly trying to stay cool with its beak open. Also up to twenty little egrets at the pond for the high tide roost.

A couple of broods of mallard ducklings have been feeding along the park borrowdyke. The mute swan family along here have five cygnets while the swans on the pond still have the one cygnet.

The pair of kestrels with their four young have been regularly seen hovering over the park looking for food, with the young still spending most time on their tree at the back of the fields. A siskin flew over the car park calling on Tuesday 14th while a yellow wagtail was also heard calling over the park.

At the western end of the Island a hobby flew across the Spar car park in Upland Road, as it hurtled north-westwards about house height early in the morning of Tuesday 14th. At the end of that day a hobby was also seen at Maydays by Steve Entwistle, chasing the resident group of house martins, also 26 long-tailed tits of note here too.

At Reeveshall a common sandpiper and two avocet chicks were seen by Martin Cock on Tuesday.

On Sunday 12th a common buzzard drifted westwards along the north side of the park. On the mud near the Point a small variety of waders included 20 golden plover, 15 turnstone, 20 dunlin and ringed plover while 30+ redshank and 10 curlew were noted in flight.
At the end of the day a little owl was seen near the park entrance at dusk and called briefly.

Two wary adders were seen briefly on an overcast Sunday morning at the park.
There was the unusual sight of a banded demoiselle fluttering across the car park on Sunday which was sadly soon lost to view.
On Saturday dragonfly species noted at the park included emperor, black-tailed skimmer and ruddy darter while 50+ small red-eyed damselfly were along the dyke along with hundreds of blue-tailed damselflies.

A handful of colourful six-spot burnets were feeding on field scabious, as above and also on some nearby knapweed flowers.

The moth traps have been operating a few times during recent nights at both the country park and the Firs Chase garden. A successful muggy and cloudy night on the 10th saw about 250 moths of nearly 60 species in the trap by 4am the next morning.
Star attractions were the large number of hawkmoths inside the trap with four privets (one pictured above), four elephants, two poplars and two pine hawkmoths.

One of the pine hawkmoths was itching to fly off, rapidly beating its wings to get them warmed up before it shot away over the neighbours gardens.

Not sure if the vapourer moth is making a bit of a comeback but a few individuals have been noted in the last couple of years, whereas it used to be a scarce visitor to the trap.

Three common emeralds were noted in the Firs Chase trap at dawn the next day.

The sycamore is an annual visitor to the trap but usually making just a single appearance. Its cousins the miller and the poplar grey were also noted in the garden trap.

Other moths of interest included three red-necked footman, lackey, maidens blush, least carpet, green pug, early thorn, white satin, dot moth and silver-Y.

This beautiful hook-tip was found at the country park trap on Saturday morning, a species that seems to have become more widespread over the last two or three years.

The bordered beauty was the most interesting moth on the 12th at the country park. It too has become an annual visitor to the trap in recent summers.

Friday, 10 July 2015

GODWITS GATHERING

Like the black-tailed godwits here, I too have just returned from a short summer break to foreign lands.
There's the annual colourful wader scene on the pools at the country park's grazing fields with over 100 black-tailed godwits in their bright russet plumage were on show on Thursday 9th. Most of the birds have been gathering to roost here during the high tide, some either feeding, others preening while some have a snooze.

A common sandpiper feeding along the muddy edge was found on Wednesday by Martin Cock and was still present the next day too, although often disappearing behind the thick clumps of rushes. This is the first record this year at the park of common sandpiper.
Also noted on Wednesday were two golden plover and a whimbrel.

At least four young kestrels were perched up on the oak tree at the back of the fields, the birds just newly fledged from the nearby nest-box.

 Two little grebe chicks have grown up well on the park pond and now feeding by themselves.

Perched on bushes and also amongst the reedmace at the pond were twenty five little egrets and three grey herons on Wednesday afternoon. The egret high tide roost seems to be slowly increasing in numbers as we head through summer.

Also on the pond were five teal, shoveler, one cygnet with the swan family, 2 tufted ducks and eight mallard.
A reed warbler was calling from the edge of the pond.

A hobby flew alongside the car park being chased by noisy swallows in the middle of the day on Thursday. The first hobby sighting at the park this year, they've been scarce at this end of the Island.

There has been an increase in hirundine numbers over the park during Wednesday and Thursday with 50+ swallows and ten sand martins while a steady flow of 50+ swifts passed over the park on Wednesday.
 
A grey partridge was heard calling from the grassy field to the west of the country park on Wednesday, while a barn owl was seen in Bromans Lane that same morning by Martin. A barn owl was also reported being seen hunting during the morning along the park dyke sometime last week.

A ringed plover nest with four eggs was found on the beach at the Point on Wednesday by Rik and Elis Simpson of WaderQuest during their visit to Mersea to look for waders.

At Maydays a greenshank and a common seal with a pup were seen by Martin on Tuesday 7th.

Other birds noted on the Island in the last couple of weeks include a hobby at Maydays by Steve Entwistle on Sunday 5th, four Mediterranean gulls at West Mersea on the 4th by Richard Allen and several visits by a turtle dove to the West Mersea garden of Adrian Amos.


This fox cub was one of two seen on the prowl in front of the hide on Thursday evening.

The first large skipper of the season at the park posed nicely on some leaves.
There have been 50+ small/Essex skippers fluttering amongst the grass on Thursday as were a couple of six-spot burnet moths.

A couple of ringlets were on the wing with this one sitting briefly beside the path near the hide.
Also noted have been common blue, comma, red admiral, meadow brown, gatekeeper, small white and large white.

The moth trap was set up at the park on Wednesday night resulting in about 170 moths of about 40 species.
Three of the large swallow-tailed moths were noted by morning, one pictured above.

A common visitor to the trap in the summer is the buff arches with its unusual patterning.

The sand dart makes just one of two appearances each summer, a scarce coastal moth.

Three poplar greys were noted, the first ones of the year here.