Harry, the warden at Blue House Farm, accompanied us today; he has been at Blue House Farm since August, just three months, but knows the area well. He gave us some background history and was also able to tell us a bit about future plans, what we were likely to see and where, and much more.
It was a cold and breezy day and walking along the seawall made us realise that winter was on its way. With the tide out, and on the flood, waders were taking advantage of the exposed mud on the northern shoreline. Derwent May, a writer in The Times’ column “Feather Report” wrote in a recent piece that “the brent geese are flying back into Britain having spent the last month travelling from the Russian Arctic” and says that he has watched them mostly in the estuary of the River Crouch. He continues to say, “their favourite food is eelgrass, which grows in large quantities beneath the water on many British estuaries. When they are feeding on that, you can often watch them “up-ending” and displaying their white tails like little sails. Wigeon sometimes swim amongst them, picking up the bits of eelgrass they drop” – this is just how we saw them today floating at the water’s edge, a flock of around 100 brent geese and just four wigeons. Occasionally some of the geese rose from the water flew around and landed again and they and others nearby made their joyful, babbling sounds. Another large flock fed on the grass inland a short distance away from an equally large flock of Canada geese.
The most eastern hide looks over an expanse of water where today huge numbers of teal swam. We spent some time in the hide and saw also shoveler, shelduck, mallard, a distant marsh harrier, and a delightful stonechat; typically these birds choose perches in open places and this one sat on a high post close to the hide giving us a perfect view. Follow this link to learn more about the stonechat: http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/s/stonechat/index.aspx
The next two hides yielded nothing although recently a great white egret, numbers of pied wagtails and avocets had been present,
Blue House Farm has a webcam looking into a barn owl’s box and today one of the group’s members reported there was an owl in the box preening itself. Other boxes have been placed around the site with one near a patch of reed beds close to the eastern hide. Here the grass is not grazed and the plan is to expand the reed bed. Elsewhere sheep graze, some with lambs and a field where two rams are enclosed. Harry has plans next year to introduce children to lambs, possibly by bottle-feeding them – the lambs that is, not the children.
If you haven’t been to Blue House farm it is well worth a visit. It is managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust, has a small car park with bird feeders and a sightings and information board.
Birds: Blackbird, House Sparrow, Robin, Wren, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Starling, Stonechat, Reed Bunting, Magpie, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Marsh Harrier, Curlew, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Lapwing, Great-crested Grebe, Brent, Canada & Greylag Geese, Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Gadwall, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Black-headed & Greater-black Backed Gull, Barn Owl (via webcam)
Wild Flowers: Bristly Ox Tongue.
Other: Grey Squirrel
Next Meeting: Hanningfield Reservoir – 13th December meet 10.00 in the Visitor Centre.
Our Patch – Friday 24th November 2.00 pm meet at the marina car park.