Spring has come, the birds are singing, the spring flowers are blooming and butterflies have appeared. To make the most of this the group visited two locations both of which were new to the group. An important indicator of ancient woodland is the presence of Wild Service Trees (sorbus torminalis), sometimes mistaken for a Maple, and Belfairs is one such ancient woodland. Combined with the Belfairs Nature Reserve and other nearby woodlands it forms an important Living Landscape in an otherwise urban environment. Arriving simultaneously nine members of the group (and one very keen granddaughter) walked from the car park along a woodland path towards the newly constructed Essex Wildlife Trust visitor centre where we were all to meet, but progress was slow, there being so much to see. On this path eleven species of birds were identified, including both Mistle and Song Thrush. At the visitor centre we were joined by a further four group members and set off through the woods where Bluebells and Wood Anemones flourished in patches.
It was a beautiful, warm and sunny morning and as we had hoped the woods were full of birdsong. The Chiffchaff’s song is one of the harbingers of spring and their repetitive ‘chiffchaff’’ could be heard clearly, one calling and another answering it: The Chiffchaff is an elusive bird as is the Wren, which we also heard but failed to see. A bird of prey flew above and it took several sightings before we agreed it was a Common Buzzard.
Many local residents and visitors enjoy the woods walking, cycling and horse riding and being school holidays and a fine day there were many people and dogs. There was also the hazard of a golf course, the fairways and greens of which we occasionally had to cross. Venturing further from the centre the numbers of other visitors reduced. Our path followed part of a sculpture trail where carvings on tree trunks or benches could be found: a green man, a dormouse, badgers and a woodcutter, where we left the trail, crossed a small brook with clear, flowing water and Lesser Celandines growing on the banks, and entered the Nature Reserve. Here we were rewarded with seeing several varieties of butterfly – Brimstone, a striking bright yellow butterfly and Peacock, Painted Lady and Small Tortoiseshell.
After a picnic in the centre seven members continued on to the nature reserve on nearby Two Tree Island. This reserve is split into two sections and we chose the western half where there was a long walk to the first of two hides. It should have been a peaceful place but there was a disturbance by the noise of model aircraft being flown not too far away, a model helicopter being particularly alarming to the birds. The helicopter fascinated the men of our group as it could fly upside down! The hide by the lagoon was more peaceful. With the tide out and many small islands visible the place was abundant with pairs of Black-headed Gulls, several waders and a few other water birds. The other hide looked south but with a low tide many birds were too far away to identify. It is a location we should revisit.
Birds Identified: Great, Blue & Long-tailed Tits, Mistle & Song Thrushes, Blackbird, Robin, Blackcap, Dunnock, Magpie, Jay, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Common Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Godwit, Canada Geese, Moorhen and Mallard
Heard: Chiffchaff, Wren, Chaffinch
Wild Flowers Identified: Bluebell, Bramble, Dandelion, Wood Anemone, Lesser Celandine, Stitchwort, Daisy, Speedwell, White & Red dead-nettle, Black Mustard, Ragwort, Alexander, Gorse, Blackthorn and Wild Cherry.
Butterflies Identified: Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, and Small Tortoiseshell
Other: Grey Squirrel
14th May Fingringhoe – Meet 10.00 in Visitors Centre
11th June Heybridge and Chigborough Lakes. Meet in Daisy Meadow Car Park at 10.00
9th July Wat Tyler Country Park. Meet 10.00 in Visitor Centre