The winners of BBC’s Country File 2013 photographic competition have recently been announced. The theme was ‘Our Living Landscape’ and the overall winner, Bill Robinson, took his photograph of bluebells in one of his favourite spots in this reserve, The Dell at Coombe Wood. He says he was struck by this scene because of the way the bluebells were perfectly framed by the trees. Of course we were not at the reserve in the bluebell season and neither did we visit Coombe Wood but the 2014 calender, sold in aid of the BBC’s Children in Need, that features his photograph can be bought or you can view it on the Country File website:
The Langdon Nature Reserve is the Essex Wildlife Trust’s largest inland reserve covering 460 acres and we saw just small portion of it. It divides into four areas each with its own distinctive character. We stuck to what they call Dunton and The Plotlands, those being the areas closest to the Visitor Centre.
Beside the centre is a small garden with feeders, a pond and Michaelmus Daisies in bloom, Teasels and other plants filled the space. Blue-Tits, Great Tits, Dunnocks, Sparrows and Collared Doves visited here. In spite of an impressive list of bird sightings that day recorded by a previous visitor, including Tawny Owl, Buzzard and Redpoll, we were to have a very lean day.
We started walking north to a lake with rabbits hopping here and there, a Grey Squirrel in the trees, a Wren unseen but heard, Crows flying and Wood Pigeons perched on the nearby electricity cables. Mallards swam on the lake and a few Canada Geese and later in the day when Lynda & I returned there was a flock of at least 100 of them. A bright flash of blue gave the Kingfisher away and we saw Grey Heron, Coots and Moorhens; there was also a lone Black-headed Gull now in its’ winter plumage, lacking its black hood but identifiable by the black spot behind the eye.
It was not the peaceful scene it should have been as a busy road ran close by and the persistent barking of dogs was intrusive. We were lucky though to have a fine, warm, dry day.
Going east from the lake into an area of open space Magpies seemed to dominate but several Jays also showed themselves and a chattering group of Long-tailed Tits flocked in the bushes. Another area of the reserve is home to all three species of British Woodpecker but we only spotted the Green Woodpecker. There was plentiful food for the the birds with ripe blackberries, sloes, rose hips and hawthorn berries and fallen apples and pears from trees of former orchards. These orchards were in The Plotlands which earlier had on it hundreds of bungalows and chalets built in the early to mid 20th century. Only one original bungalow remains and is now maintained as a museum Although the reserve boasts 28 species of butterfly the only one we identified was the Speckled Wood.
At this time of year there should have been many fungi but in fact we found only a few and as a group we are not yet confident of our identification. The Parosol, with its cap of up to 25cm, was easy and the Brown Roll Rim, but the smaller Mycenae were not. What was probably a Candle-snuff Fungus (small, erect, black with white tips, growing on dead wood) almost fitted the description but from the photograph in the book they seem to branch out at the top like antlers and our specimens didn’t – so that remains inconclusive. A surprising number of flowers still bloomed including Agrimony, Buttercup, Thyme-leaved Speedwell and Hawkweed.
The staff, as usual in these centres, made us very welcome and we were able to sit indoors and eat our picnic lunch where we discussed ideas about our contribution to the January U3A general meeting where groups are invited to have a display table. We also talked about a New Year group lunch.
The reserve is hilly and quite strenuous to walk around but it does give extensive views to London, where the prominent high buildings can be identified, and also south to the QE2 bridge and the Thames. With very little wildlife to see and tiredness setting in all but two of the group left shortly after lunch. The remaining two spent another hour there but reported no new sightings.
Birds Identified: Black–headed Gull, Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Mallard, Canada Geese, Coot, Moorhen, Crow, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Robin, Greenfinch, Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tits, Dunnock, Sparrow, (possible Woodcock, Wren heard but not sighted).
Flowers: Buttercup, Hawkweed, Self Heal, Agrimony, Teasel, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Old Man’s Beard, Lesser Knapweed, Pink Campion, Dandelion, Ragwort
Other: Rabbit, Grey Squirrel, Speckled Wood Butterfly, Rosehips, Sloes, Blackberries, Hawthorn Berries, Brown Roll Rim, Candle Snuff Fungus, Parasol