Another month has gone and Bird and Wildlife Group members have once again shared their wildlife sightings and experiences during this very uncertain time:
Update from Sheila Nutt: some sightings in a Burnham garden
The herons are still visiting, but not as often as before, no doubt because they have already captured about half our fish – the less cautious ones – and because at this time of year we let the pond get a bit overgrown. It does not look very tidy, but protects baby fish, etc. because spotting potential prey is not so easy!
The mallards have not visited for a few weeks. After laying eggs in various unviable spots they came for a few more days, then did not return. Hopefully, they have a successful nest elsewhere.
Butterflies: earlier in the year there were a number of peacock, brimstone and orange tip butterflies with a few blue ones as well. At the moment there are some red admiral and whites, plus tortoiseshell, comma, some blues (probably holly blue) and fresher looking peacock. They all enjoy the food plants round the garden, especially the buddleia.
The early peacock butterflies sometimes looked a bit scruffy, so possibly had been hibernating over the winter. The butterflies, especially peacocks, like to sunbathe on our patio near the kitchen – it is a cosy spot and they often park there with wings fully open soaking up the heat.
Birds: the birds are a bit less visible recently, although the blue and great tits are still about, plus greenfinches, chaffinches, goldfinches and especially robins and blackbirds. Many of the birds use the waterfall, but robins and blackbirds have a great time splashing about and seem to collect small creepy crawlies from the edges of the water. Yesterday two male blackbirds had a battle for the waterfall space. The loser went and “queued” under a nearby conifer out of sight of the victor and hopped out for his turn as soon as the coast was clear.
We occasionally have a visit from green woodpecker, probing the grass, especially after such rain as we have had. I hope he will dispose of some of the leather jackets etc!
Pondlife: we have a lot of wildlife in the pond, including various newts. The other day a “pond stick” of fish food was left floating for long enough for it to get soft and two female smooth newts were nibbling at it. There was one on each side, and they were gently waving their tails to keep in position. Luckily, they were not far from the edge of the pond, so I had a good view.
We need to move about carefully in the garden at this time of year as there are a number of small frogs about and they tend to “freeze” rather than getting out of the way if they are e.g. on the grass and are therefore in danger of getting squashed!
Having said that, I almost fell in the pond a couple of days ago when weeding near the waterfall, balancing on the edge – a frog hopped out and just missed me as it leapt towards the water.
There are usually several water boatmen in the water. I saw one take a baby fish, of probably 1cm long. The boatman scooted out from under a leaf, grabbed the baby fish, then scooted back again. It moved extremely quickly. There are baby fish of various sizes so we are hoping a number will survive and replace those the herons have taken.
Dragon Flies: at least five dragonfly nymph cases were in the pond near the reeds. There were three smaller ones – perhaps from darters, and two larger, maybe the common hawker, as both of these types have been in the garden.
Bats: finally, last evening there were at least two bats swooping around near the house. It was about 10pm, nearly dark, but there was sufficient “glow” in the sky to show them clearly. They are very welcome to the mosquitos!
Sheila Nutt, 6th July 2020
Southminster Report from Sue and Tony Bridgman
We still walk the fields around Southminster but as the vegetation increases we are actually seeing fewer birds. We are seeing quite a few skylarks, house martins and swallows but linnets, corn bunting, yellow wagtails and yellowhammers are still around but in smaller numbers. We are hearing a lot of birdsong but struggle to identify much of it!
In our own garden we are enjoying screaming swifts overhead plus regular sightings of goldfinch, greenfinch and occasional chaffinch plus the usual sparrows, blackbirds, collared doves and wood pigeons.
So, we have changed our focus to butterflies. We have discovered the Essex Wildlife Trust site of Maldon Wick. For those not familiar with it, you will find it across the new pedestrian traffic lights opposite Morrisons. It is reputed to have 28 different species of butterfly. We haven’t seen that many! But, we have seen meadow browns, small heath, essex skipper, speckled wood, small tortoiseshell, large and small whites, ringlet plus a latticed heath day moth.
In our own garden we have spotted red admirals , peacocks, small tortoiseshell, commas and a gatekeeper plus a couple of interesting moths.
Another interesting area for butterflies is Creeksea, near the Parlour Café, where there are masses of Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns.
As with some of the bird species identifying butterflies and moths has been quite a learning experience but an enjoyable one.
Sue and Tony Bridgman
Jill and Phil Bevan report that they haven’t seen anything of great interest in the last few weeks, although their garden is still busy. They walked along Clements Creek (South Woodham) last week and reported that birds were very thin on the ground, apart from 2 swans guarding a single cygnet. However, walking through their wildlife meadow they report that it was alive with butterflies – small copper, skippers, meadow browns, a ringlet, small whites, a speckled wood, also a song thrush singing non-stop (but not seen).
Report from Jill Taylor
Bill and I had quite a productive walk around Wick Farm yesterday (7 July). Bill took some photos and we identified 40 flowers between us (there are 41 on my list, but the salsify wasn’t actually in flower). There were also lots of butterflies but I didn’t keep a proper list of them. We certainly saw meadow brown, gatekeeper, peacock, large white, small white and\or orange tip and some sort of skippers. The skylarks and whitethroats were singing but we didn’t see many birds except for grey geese, mallards and swans on the reservoir and the ubiquitous wood pigeons.
Wild Flowers: Yellow White Red/Pink Mauve/Blue Green
cinquefoil white dead nettle knotgrass marsh thistle broad-
pineapple weed scentless mayweed mallow spear thistle leaved
bristly ox tongue hedge bindweed field bindweed lucerne dock
smooth hawksbeard yarrow common sorrel common stinging
groundsel bramble poppy knapweed nettle
hedge mustard white clover red clover black horehound ribwort
ragwort buckthorn scarlet pimpernel viper’s bugloss plantain
smooth sow thistle willow herb teasel fat hen
dandelion sainfoin salsify
lady’s bedstraw lesser burdock
bird’s foot trefoil
Last week I made an attempt at identifying some of the grasses down Marsh Road, but only managed this list: perrenial rye grass, wall barley, wild oat, false oat, common reed, cock’s foot grass.
I will make another attempt some time but I think the best of the grass flowering season is coming to an end.
PS – 8 July: I went upstairs to play my piano. Outside the window is a berberis darwinii shrub which at this time of year is loaded with blue/black berries. I have had as many as 6 blackbirds at once, stuffing themselves on what seems to their favourite fruit. A movement caught my eye, I played a lot of wrong notes, reached for the binoculars, and there was a blackcap with his beak stretched around a big fat berry! What a treat – for him and for me! Now back to Bach – unless I get distracted again.
PPS – 9 July: My birthday treat, today was that the blackcap came back to feast on the berberis berries and brought his wife with him, so I saw them both! I think it is interesting that they eat berries. I looked it up, and I think they are the only warblers that do. I was surprised, because they are normally insect eaters.
Once again thank you to all who have contributed. Let’s hope it won’t be long now before we can meet again as a group.