Saturday, 23 May 2015

POOCH IN THE PINK

Cheeky chappy Ben enjoyed taking a breather beside this colourful patch of sea pink plants on the saltmarsh along the Strood seawall on Friday 22nd.


Male yellow wagtails were singing at either end of the seawall walk, this one on a bush at the Strood Hill end, while nearer the caravan site another male was singing from some telegraph wires beside a pond at the back of the fields.

One cuckoo was calling from the trees on Ray Island and then later was seen flying with a second cuckoo, presumably a female, both crossing the Channel and then over the Strood fields to the caravan site, the male calling continuously as it flew.

Other birds noted were one sedge warbler, 4 singing reed warblers, one singing corn bunting, 3 singing reed buntings all along the dyke, 35+ stock doves feeding in the fields, one oystercatcher seemingly nesting in the bare field, pair of Mediterranean gulls passed over, 15+ swifts, 20+ swallows, pair of little terns on the mud in the Channel, pair of avocets, 5 ringed plover, four common terns hawking up and down, male pochard in flight and a sparrowhawk on the Ray.

Crawling along the top of the seawall was a group of 30+ caterpillars that looked like those of the ground lackey. Normally they would be on the nearby saltmarsh feeding on the various plants there, not going walkabout in single-file.

Clouds drifted across from the west in the early evening, leaving the sun to shine through one or two gaps in the clouds onto the Strood Channel.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

SWALLOW SWOOPS IN

The swallows at the country park are trying to find somewhere to nest and this male swooped into my house through the front door, then flew into the kitchen where it spent five minutes surveying the scene on Wednesday 20th.
After perching on one of the wall cupboards for a while, it made its escape out the back door to join its mate. The pair has also been checking out the beams in the Information room and no doubt the birds will be trying to nest in the toilet building again - like they tried last year.

At the end of the day, I received the good news that a brood of seven very small cygnets from the mute swan family were seen in the park's grazing fields. The cygnets who had been born on the pond, were seen in the central ditch dropping down into the dyke which the male has been guarding for the last few weeks.

The cuckoo was heard calling to the west near Fen Farm, two little egrets flew along the park coastline, two common terns were fishing just offshore at high tide. In the car park a blackcap was singing loudly and a lesser whitethroat was singing near the car park too. Four little terns and eight avocets were seen near the Point on Wednesday by Andy Field.
At the end of the day a little owl was perched on a telegraph pole in Bromans Lane.

At Rewsalls two yellow wagtails, five singing reed warblers and a sitting lapwing were noted by Andy on Wednesday morning.


Despite the breeze one or two butterflies were seen at the park in the morning such as this small copper - the first sighting of the year here. It stayed low in the long grass basking during a warm spell in the morning. Also seen were large white and small white during the morning.

The weather has been very mixed this week with sunny spells interspersed with short bursts of heavy rain and the occasional hailstones thrown down for good measure. The winds were particularly strong on Monday and when this coincided with the high tide, the sea thumped against the park seawall, pictured above, sending lots of spray over the seawall.

Birds seemed to have enjoyed the garden in West Mersea of Adrian Amos recently with evidence of breeding by robins, blackbirds, song thrush, great tit, dunnock, collared dove and wood pigeons. Also noted recently has been a pipistrelle bat over the garden in the evening and up to half a dozen swifts in the skies in the day.
Butterflies have been quiet in Adrian's garden over the last fortnight although small tortoiseshell, peacock and holly blue have been seen.

On Friday evening at Maydays farm a pair of red-legged partridge, a cuckoo and 3 painted ladies were seen by Steve Entwistle. The next day a hairy dragonfly, brimstone butterfly, four holly blues were seen near Gyants marsh.

Cold temperatures continue to deter any moth activity with more of  the chilly nights and clear skies. Moth traps have had very poor catches in them.
However it's always a bonus to find one of the big hawkmoths in the trap, even if it is the very common poplar hawkmoth, one of the two found in the trap is pictured above.

Adding a bit of colour was this very common cinnabar moth, just the one in the trap. Females will be flying around at this time of the year laying their eggs on the developing ragwort plants.

The first white ermine of the season made its appearance, hopefully if the weather warms up there will be lots more to see in the trap.
Amongst the handful of other species were bright-line brown-eye, red twin-spot carpet, brimstone, common quaker, white-point and hebrew character.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

FOX ON PROWL

There was the sight of a fox on the prowl on the grazing fields at the country park during the middle of the morning of Sunday 17th. This one pictured above was also on the prowl mid morning by the park pond, seen a couple of days earlier. Both adult foxes probably have hungry cubs to feed back at their earths.

Several pairs of linnets can be seen around the park, this male with its neat pinky chest perched on top of a bush at the East Mersea Point. Also perching in the sea-blite bushes were a couple of reed buntings.

Other birds noted on and near the Point included 15 avocets and 20 black-tailed godwits on the saltmarsh lagoons, whimbrel, nesting ringed plover, 2 little terns, 8 common terns, 100+ dunlin and 70+ ringed plover.

A peregrine circled over the beach and mudflats in the morning before drifting north-west over the park. It was seen again in the early evening over the fields, upsetting the wood pigeons and lapwings as it headed over to the Colne.

Up to three swallows have been flying in and out of the bird hide in recent days with this individual swooping in and then sitting quietly on top of one of the window shutters for about five minutes - just a couple of metres from me. A bird-watching the bird-watcher!

On Sunday morning a trickle of 20+ swallows crossed the river Colne westwards onto Mersea with a couple of house martins mixed in, while in the evening two swifts flew over the park.

Jays are seen everywhere on the scavenge for any sort of food, this one seen by the pond. There was a report of one seen recently attacking a slow-worm in the middle of the road near Blue Row.


At least two lapwing chicks were seen in the park's fields and seemingly feeding quite a way from the watchful eye of their parents. Six adult lapwings were seen, as were redshank, oystercatcher and a high tide roost of the 20 black-tailed godwits, although yesterday 80 black-tailed godwits were noted here.

Also in the fields on Sunday was the single brent goose, 3 Canada geese, 2 greylag geese, pair of teal, grey heron, two pairs of shoveler, gadwall and a pair of shelduck. One reed warbler was seen singing from reeds in the dyke, another sang from the pond, while the Cetti's warbler was singing loudly from the back of the fields. A pair of pochard and six tufted duck were seen in the dyke.

On the park pond on Sunday a pair of pochard, two pairs of little grebe, the swan still on the nest and three little egrets perched on a tree.

On Saturday a cuckoo flew low along the central ditch to the seawall while a sedge warbler was singing from a bush by the dyke, although probably just a migrant on a brief stopover as it wasn't heard the next day.
On Wednesday two cuckoos were seen flying across the seawall and heading along the beach to the Point. The cuckoo has been heard on Sunday morning to the north of the park while on Tuesday morning it was alongside the overflow car park at the park.

Butterflies noted on Sunday at the park were a green hairstreak near the hide, elsewhere small white, orange-tip, peacock, speckled wood and large white. A painted lady was seen flying fast and low across the long grass on Wednesday 13th.

Single adders were seen at the park on Saturday and Wednesday while another snake reported that day moving through some bushes was thought to have been a grass-snake.

The recent run of poor nights for mothing activity continued with only a handful of moths seen in the trap on the park when checked on Wednesday morning. This nicely marked maiden's blush with the pinky patch on each wing, was one of the moths seen.

This muslin moth was one of the others found in the trap in the morning, along with a couple of brimstone moths and a hebrew character.

Two cockchafers have been attracted to the bright light of the moth trap at the Firs Chase garden on a couple of occasions in this last week.

Monday, 11 May 2015

LONE ORCHIDS

Had an evening stroll around the Willoughby car park in West Mersea on Monday 11th and was pleasantly surprised to find this small clump of green-winged orchids with three short flowering spikes.
This orchid was seen in this spot last summer, so it's nice it's reappeared for passers-by to enjoy.

Up until thirty years ago a small plot of grassland along the Esplanade used to have 15,000 green-winged orchids in it - a fantastic sight when you walked across it.

Just hanging on amongst the grasslands in the same car park is this common spotted orchid with the distinctive spotty leaves. This one should hopefully flower early next month sometime.

There was no sign this evening of the two turtle doves in the Willoughby car park which Steve Entwistle had seen the previous night. A handful of swallows and a sparrowhawk were seen.

A late morning walk alongside the fields between Meeting Lane and Shop Lane on Monday 11th provided views of a calling cuckoo, common buzzard, marsh harrier, Mediterranean gull, kestrel as well as the songs of 3 blackcaps, 5 whitethroats, 2 chiffchaffs and a lesser whitethroat.

Insects of note included a passing swarm of 10,000+ bees, hornet, brimstone butterfly and also holly blue, orange-tip, peacock, speckled wood, large white, small white and green-veined white.

On Sunday at the country park, this oystercatcher was seen in the grazing fields along with three avocets, 30 black-tailed godwits and a brent goose.The cuckoo was singing from the copse at the back of the pond.
The day before a reed warbler singing by the park pond was the first one at the park this year.

A broad-bodied chaser at the park on Sunday was the first dragonfly sighting of the year here.

Birds seen recently by Steve Entwistle included a cuckoo, 45 stock doves and a pair of yellow wagtails by the Strood on Sunday 10th, while at Maydays Farm willow warbler, common buzzard, pair of yellow wagtails and 20+ house martins by the farmhouse.

BACKYARD BUTTERFLIES

The warmer weather has brought a bit more life into the Firs Chase garden in West Mersea and it's been great watching a nice variety of butterflies either nectaring or passing through.
Two or three orange-tip butterflies have mainly been passing through but this one above rested on a geranium.

The red admiral was enjoying the colourful spikes of the lilac bush.

The green hairstreak is the most notable resident butterfly in the garden, now showing for its fourth year and surprisingly they all seem to like resting close to the back wall of the house. Here it's nice and sunny and out of the breeze.
Other butterflies noted during the day in the garden were holly blue, speckled wood, large white and small white.

The pied blackbird appeared on the garage roof to survey the garden lawn below. It's spending most of its time in a neighbour's garden.

Other birds noted in the last couple of days were a chiffchaff bathing in the bird-bath, blackcap singing near the front door, cuckoo calling from the neighbours tree, a family of recently-fledged long-tailed tits foraging quickly through the trees, 3 whimbrel flying over calling on Sunday.

Had a feeling it might be worth having a peek under our covered compost heap and wasn't too surprised to find this slow-worm hiding in the warmth.

The moth trap has been run a couple of nights recently and this big lime hawk-moth was resting inside the trap late on Monday night.
Other than a few shuttle-shaped darts, the only other moths were a grey dagger, white-point, brimstone, oak-tree pug and also a couple of big cockchafers.
A couple of evenings earlier a pipistrelle bat was hawking back and forwards low over the garden.

The pebble prominent is a nicely marked moth with the big circular pebble-type pattern on the wings. This one turned up on Friday night.

A tatty lunar marbled brown moth was also caught that same night. A widespread moth, its caterpillars feed on oak.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

SINGING IN THE SUNSHINE

Walked along the Strood seawall a couple of times in recent days, where one of the birds on show on Friday 8th was this common whitethroat. Perched on a bramble bush it was singing its scratchy-type song loudly and then flying up into the air as it continued to sing before dropping back down to another bush.
One lesser whitethroat was also heard singing its rattle-type song near the caravan site.

No sign of any sedge warbler on the Friday walk but this one pictured above did show briefly on Sunday 10th. Another pair of sedge warblers was seen further along the Strood dyke going into a bush as if nest-building.
At least four reed warblers were singing from the reeds and three male reed buntings were singing from bushes alongside the dyke too.

Two cuckoos were watched on Friday as one followed the other back onto the Island, having crossed the Strood Channel and then heading towards Strood Hill. One of the birds may've been one heard calling a short while earlier from tree-tops near Strood Hill and then flown to the Channel to meet up with this other bird.
Later on Sunday a cuckoo was also seen by Steve Entwistle flying along the Strood dyke.

At least fifteen swifts were flying high above the houses near the water tower on Friday while down by the Dabchicks half a dozen swallows were flying around.
One male yellow wagtail and a grey heron were seen beside the pond at the back of the Strood fields on Friday.

Also on Friday a marsh harrier could be seen flying west high over the West Mersea houses, a sparrowhawk flew over Ray Island, a kestrel hovered near Strood Hill and two common buzzards were seen in the distance over Copt Hall Grove.

A pair of common terns was hawking up and down the Channel on both Friday and Sunday mornings, this one here perching on top of a marker post out on the mud. A second pair of common terns was also noted amongst the moorings on Sunday.

At least three Mediterranean gulls flew along the Strood Channel, calling out as they headed to and from the Pyefleet Channel on Friday. On the mud and on the nearby saltmarsh were six whimbrel on Friday with three being seen on Sunday. Most of the mudflats were devoid of any other waders other than a grey plover, one or two redshank and a few oystercatchers.

Two turtle doves were seen perched up in a tree in Willoughby car park on Sunday early evening by Steve Entwistle. They have only just recently been seen back at their usual garden by the Walls family. Great news to know they've made it back, they've become much scarcer elsewhere in the county this spring.

The morning sunshine on Friday 8th brought a few butterflies out, such as this holly blue near the Feldy View field. Also orange-tip, peacock, speckled wood, large white and small white were seen too, on or near the walk to the Strood seawall.

Not all the sections of seawall have been colonised by the pernicious Alexanders plants. Here a patch of the original hoary cress is holding on, however no doubt soon to be swallowed up by the relentless spread of the bigger Alexanders, already growing in the background here.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

ANXIOUS AVOCETS

A pair of avocets was on the pools in the park's grazing fields on Thursday 7th and when a third bird dropped in, a lot of squabbling took place. Even the 15 black-tailed godwits were being chased off by one of the avocets. Three pairs were seen on the saltmarsh pools by the Golfhouse on Sunday 3rd.

At least two of the week-old lapwing chicks were still present in the fields with the parents watching over close-by. Other birds in the fields were one brent goose, 2 greylag geese, ten teal, pair of shoveler, yellow wagtail flying over, a handful of redshank while on the pond a pochard and 8 tufted duck.

Around the park 3 swifts passed over, 2 singing lesser whitethroats, sparrowhawk to the north of the park and a Mediterranean gull calling in flight.

In the early evening a barn owl was hunting the grass field to the north of the park while a little owl perched over Bromans Lane as night fell.

On a windy Wednesday 6th two little terns and a common tern was seen flying out of the Colne by Andy Field.

Perching beside a path at the country park was this colourful goldfinch on Monday 4th. Also in this area was a spotted flycatcher, an unexpected find by Andy Field which was only on view for about half an hour at the most before disappearing. The other notable migrant found that day was a willow warbler singing from trees near the overflow car park.

Also at the park that day a female cuckoo was watched as it uttered its bubbling call in the car park, two swifts flew north-west, thirteen brent geese flew along the shoreline, while two common terns flew out of the river.

Several swifts were seen flying over the houses on Sunday 3rd with two over Upland Road and three over Queen Ann Road seen by David Nicholls. At least six swifts were also seen the next day over the houses, while a house martin was seen at Queens Corner prospecting the eaves of a house.

 This green hairstreak appeared in view along the park path while Andy and I were watching the spotted flycatcher, here's Andy's nice picture.

This big pale-brown female adder was basking in the sun at the park on Thursday. It seemed to spend most of the morning in the same area, puffing out its body to get the most sun on it. A common lizard was also basking nearby.
An adder was also seen on the seawall at Maydays farm on Monday 4th by Martin Cock.

Tucked into some of the shaded corners of the park are a few patches of bluebells at their peak, like this patch under an oak tree near the car park.

Only a handful of plants of the cuckoo flower have shown this spring in the little pasture near the pond.
The cuckoo was heard calling at the beginning of the day to the north of the park.

Resting on this bramble stalk was this caterpillar of the oak eggar, which should emerge as a large adult moth later in the summer.

Recent nights at the park have not been good for moth activity although this V-pug was one of just half a dozen moths that were noted in the trap in the morning of Monday 4th.