Hanningfield is one of the group’s favourite meeting places especially in winter when the Visitor Centre is warmed by their wood-burning stove. The reserve covers a 100-acre woodland managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust on lease from Essex & Suffolk Water. Adjoining the 870-acre Hanningfield Reservoir, a Site of Scientific Interest for its nationally important populations of wildfowl, it is amongst the top places in the county to watch both woodland and wetland birds and its year-round Coot numbers are nationally important. As if to prove that a large flotilla of them swam in the water before us at the Centre. Near the entrance of the Visitor Centre is a themed wildlife garden showing how we can attract and preserve wildlife in our gardens (an insect hotel, a hedgehog house, nettle patches and so on).
On this chilly and bright December morning a dozen of us met at the Visitor Centre. After the usual cheery chatter we watched the birds on the feeders for a while and then walked through the woods to the furthest bird hide, Oak Hide. There were few birds in the woodland but the grazing meadow had attracted many ducks, gulls and pheasants. Grey squirrels were abundant and lively.
Oak Hide looks northeast across Lodge Bay and there were plenty of birds to observe. This is a small hide so part of the group went to the nearby Point Hide where sightings were not as numerous but we all had an opportunity to observe from all four Hanningfield’s hides. There were many Grey Herons that stood dejectedly facing into the wind, groups of Teal and Wigeon and several Grey Wagtails ran along the water’s edge. Cormorants stood on the rafts placed for breeding terns and there were diving ducks and dabblers. We failed to see the Goosanders and Ruff that others had sighted that day.
Back at the centre we ate our lunch and were entertained by the Squirrels hanging upside down and doing acrobatics on the bird feeders. We were pleased to see Stock Doves and also a Great Spotted Woodpecker that remained on a feeder for sometime.
It was another rewarding outing for the group.
Birds Identified: Magpie, Chaffinch, Blue & Great Tits, Robin, Blackbird, Starling, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker. Crow, Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing, Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, Goldeneye, Shelduck, Teal, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Shoveler, Wigeon, Great Crested & Little Grebes, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Black-headed & Great Black-backed Gulls.
Other: Rabbit and Grey Squirrel