Steve and Elaine had invited us to visit ‘their patch’ at Saint Lawrence. They hadn’t bargained on Storm Aileen passing through overnight and strong winds remaining into the day of our meeting.
Leaving their garden via a back gate (passing Steve’s beetroot patch on the way, the significance of which we come to later), we found ourselves in a cornfield; the crop had been harvested but the field remained unploughed and still had the stubble in the ground. As was expected with the fierce wind blowing, there were few birds to be seen here although swallows had been present, nesting in a nearby barn, and occasionally kites have been seen. A short way on a thicket to the side of the track was fenced and delightful pigs grunted and scratched in the dirt. Here too, dancing in the sun and sheltered from the wind were numerous speckled wood butterflies. The speckled wood is the butterfly of dappled woodland glades and has a greater tolerance of shade than most butterflies. Uniquely amongst butterflies the speckled wood can overwinter either as a chrysalis or a caterpillar resulting in three overlapping broods that extend from March to October.
For better or worse we made our way up on to the seawall and pushed west against the wind. The tide was perfect for sighting waders and with clear, bright light we saw many – ringed plover, curlew, redshank etc; it was difficult to focus our binoculars at times and Steve’s telescope jittered in the wind but we did identify all that we saw. The marsh area yielded little and in this wind any birds that were in the reeds were keeping well hidden. It was a glorious day to be out and returning along the seawall with the wind behind us was far easier than battling against it.
A lone devil’s coach horse was spotted on the seawall. Although not uncommon, this member of the rove beetle family is mainly nocturnal normally hiding under stones or logs, but on fine days does venture out to feed.
I previously mentioned Steve’s beetroot patch and on our return we were treated to freshly baked beetroot and chocolate cake – delicious, and enjoyed by all.
Birds: Blackbird, Robin, House Sparrow, Starling, Goldfinch, Pied Wagtail, Wood Pigeon, Magpie, Crow, Gadwall, Curlew, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Turnstone, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Little Egret, Coot, Gadwall, Cormorant, Black-headed, Herring & Lesser-black Backed Gulls.
Wild Flowers: Bristly Ox Tongue, Broad-leaved Plantain, Smooth & Prickly Sowthistle, Black Horehound, Groundsel, Marsh Thistle, Ragwort, Sea Aster, Dandelion, Daisy. Shepherd’s Purse, Black Nightshade, Red & White Clover, Smooth Hawksbeard, Common Fleabane, Cat’s Ear, Yarrow, Wall Lettuce, Spurge, Bittersweet, Broom, Fennel
Other: Devil’s Coach Horse, 7-spot Ladybird, Large White Butterfly, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Hips, Haws, Blackberries, Sloes
Next Meeting: Heybridge Basin – 11th October meet in Daisy Meadow Car Park at 10 a.m..