This month the Bird and Wildlife Group should have been visiting Fingrinhoe Wick Nature Reserve. Fingrinhoe is one of the places in England that you can be certain of seeing and/or hearing Nightingales during April and May. Sadly this year all Essex Wildlife Trust Reserves are closed due to the Coronavirus but I am sure the Nightingales will be there singing at Fingrinhoe Wick.
Again this month some members of the Group have been reporting their sightings on their daily walks as below:
Report from Sue and Tony from Southminster
It’s a month since we wrote a report and, in that time, we’ve noticed some changes. When we started walking around the village and across the fields, we often saw water voles – they have now disappeared and a moorhen and chicks have taken their place. The fields in March were mostly bare of crops, then in April a haze of green appeared and now in May the crops are well established. We have consistently been greeted by the chattering of sparrows as we began our field walk, followed by the twittering of skylarks. Initially, in the hedgerows, there were many yellowhammers. They are still around but in fewer numbers but they have now been joined by yellow wagtails and corn buntings. Well, it is mainly one corn bunting that is singing away from the top of the same oak tree! In the last week we have heard cuckoos several times plus have seen swallows and house martins over the fields and swifts screaming across our garden. There still are plenty of great tits, blue tits, robins, blackbirds and wrens in the hedges and through the woods. Back along the road from Old Heath we invariably see a pair of buzzards. As we come back from our walk, we take a path through the orchards towards the main road which we now call “chiffchaff wood” as we can always hear them and occasionally see one. As well as birds we have noted changes in the butterflies we see – initially, masses of peacocks and some brimstones but more recently orange tips, large and small whites, speckled woods and the occasional holly blue.
On our occasional bike rides to Middlewick Farm we have heard a range of different bird songs and seen them briefly as we fly (!) past – I think labour past is more accurate! We have wandered over the footpath towards the wind turbines where we have been fortunate to see more corn buntings and yellow wagtails plus several whitethroats. There was a bush full of yellow wagtails on one occasion where a sparrow hawk swooped in for a quick meal – the cruelty of nature. More recently we have heard and in some cases glimpsed sedge and reed warblers and seen reed buntings clearly.
The fields and hedgerows are carpeted with a range of wildflowers. It would be a mammoth task to try and identify them from books – autumn would have arrived by then! So sorry, we’ll leave those to the experts.
Lockdown has some compensations as we wouldn’t have got to know our patch in Southminster so well. We see changes as Spring progresses but also witness the consistencies in what we see and hear. I think it’s been the same for most of the wildlife group who have been taking their daily exercise with binoculars around their necks. We hope when this surreal situation ends, we will be able to a share with each other the knowledge of our areas. We would be delighted if anyone not already in the Wildlife group would also like to join us.
Sue and Tony Bridgman.
Report from Steve and Elaine from St. Lawrence
Saturday, April 11th 11.00-12.45
Walk beyond fields at back to Ramsey Marsh, St Lawrence
House sparrow, wren, robin, many skylarks, stunning male yellowhammer,
corn bunting, greylag geese, canada geese, 2 heron, 3 mute swans on nests +several others, mallards, shelduck-several pairs, 3 teal, little grebe, moorhen, 4 cetti`s warbler, 1st whitethroat, linnet, several reed bunting, 2 buzzard, kestrel, male marsh harrier, crow, wood pigeon, magpie, black-headed and herring gull, blue and great tit, blackbird, 2 swallow, likely water rail calling.
Very productive, No reed or sedge warbler yet!!!!!
Thursday 23rd April
A walk up the road to Beacon Hill Holiday Park which is closed but we could stroll around the trees and bushes on the perimeter,
Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, House Sparrow, Whitethroat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat ( just arrived), 2 Blackcap, Wood pigeon, 3 Swallow, Buzzard, Goldfinch (several), 2 Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Long-Tiled Tit, Great Tit, several Wren. Pheasant
NO willow warbler-we always used to hear one here but no longer?
Friday 24th April
Ramsey Marsh (Back of house)
House Sparrow (lots), Chaffinch (several), Skylark (lots), 4 Swallow, House Martin,
2 Yellowhammer, 3 Lesser Whitethroat, Reed warbler, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Linnet, Greenfinch, 2 Cettis Warbler, 2 Buzzard, Kestrel, Magpie, Reed Bunting, Cuckoo (just arrived), Tufted Duck, Several Shelduck. Little Grebe, Swan.
12 May: We saw a slow worm in our garden today (the cat spotted it first!)
Stephen and Elaine Spicer
Report from Jill from Burnham
16 April: Just a quick note to report that today during my daily exercise I heard my first whitethroat and reed warbler of the year. I was walking down Marsh Road. The whitethroat was by the railway line and the reed warbler was in the ditch at Muscle Bridge, where I also startled a pair of mallard. There were also the usual robin, wren, great tit, pheasant and lots of chaffinches.
23 April was my lucky day down Marsh Road. The wind had died down, the skylarks were out in force and I counted several first-of-this-years. There were, of course, the usual blackbird, robins, wrens, great tit, blue tits and chaffinches. In Pannel’s Brook there were mallards, a moorhen, the reed warbler and a water vole. Last year, when I was doing a breeding bird survey, there seemed to be very few whitethroats and I wondered where they had gone, but this year they are everywhere. Reed warblers too are populating every ditch, and I heard a cuckoo, no doubt waiting to parasitise the reed warblers. As I approached Twizzlefoot Bridge a cheeky sedge warbler did a song flight routine especially for my entertainment, and from the hedge, a whitethroat had the same idea and did several performances. Last time I walked this way, I thought I heard a yellow wagtail, but I could not see him. This time, he was flaunting himself, sitting on top of a plant, his yellow breast glowing in the sunshine. His wife was pottering about nearby, pretending not to know him, embarrassed by his showing off. And finally, on my way home, three swans flew overhead.
1 May – Went for my daily walk today down Burnham High Street (hardly anybody about as it was raining) and back along the quay (one or two dog walkers). Saw my first swallows of the year, flying in and out of the capsized boat! Good choice – I doubt it will be salvaged before the babies fledge.
6 May – I have a few more sightings to report. My daughter phoned the other night after 9 o’clock with a theory about which coloured flowers show up best in the twilight, so I went outside to test the theory. Her theory didn’t work in my garden, but I was really glad she sent me outside, because I saw a bat criss-crossing the garden, hopefully mopping up mosquitoes. Another first from the garden, three days ago, the first swifts I have seen and heard this year, screaming overhead.
On my walk down Marsh Road yesterday I added kestrel and house martins to my list as well as swallows and more yellow wagtails.
12 May – Just a short walk today because I left a cake in the oven and I wanted to be back before it burnt. So I went down to the river via the country park and the reed bed. I didn’t take my binoculars or my flower book, but I saw and heard lots of birds:
Several whitethroats; a lesser whitethroat; at least 2, maybe 3 reed warblers; reed bunting; blue tit; blackbird; robin; chaffinch; pied wagtail; great tit; and a blackcap. I love this time of year, when everything is singing. I have a blackbird who sings all day long from my rooftop and my TV aerial.
Report from Frances – Burnham Wick Farm walk
We might not have seen the adder or pair of harriers seen by a bird watcher we encountered – at a safe distance – but we did see yellowhammers, skylarks, swallows, our first common tern this year and a hare. We also heard a cuckoo, again a first this year.
Linda (Everitt) reports that the Swallows have found their way into the chicken run and eyeing up the old nest. Will they use the old nest or build a new one?
Thanks again to all the above who have contributed to this Report. It is good that, even though we cannot meet, Bird and Wildlife Group members can still keep in touch and share sightings of birds and other wildlife they see on their daily walks.