13 members of the Group met in the car park of Tiptree Heath on an overcast morning and were welcomed by Joan Pinch. Joan has been the Warden there for 11 years and had agreed to give us a guided walk around the Heath.
Joan told us that the Heath is owned by the Wilkin family (Wilkin Preserves) and is managed jointly by Essex Wildlife Trust and The Friends of Tiptree Heath, and gave us a brief history of the Heath.
The Heath is the largest area of lowland heathland remaining in Essex. This 61-acre site is the only place in Essex where all of the three Heather species grow together. It is common land, first recorded in 1401, and over the centuries has seen the grazing of cows, sheep and ponies. The Exmoor ponies were away at the moment but were due back in the next day or so. The Heath has two ponds, a stream and stretches of woodland.
In the car park a rabbit, Blackbird and Goldfinch were spotted, and as we started our walk
we saw a number of St. Mark’s flies which Joan informed us were supposed to appear on St. Mark’s day (25 April).
As we continued Great Tit, Wood Pigeon, Jay, Blackcap, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker and a number of Jackdaws were spotted and a Chiffchaff was heard; also European Gorse, Elder, Bramble, Ground Ivy. Joan told us that Yellowhammers were once very prevalent on the Heath but the last one she had seen was around 5 years ago.
Joan pointed out a number of heathland flowers and took us to where the three Heather species were growing – Bell, Cross-leaved and Common Ling. She showed us the difference between them and how to tell them apart. (Picture of Heather taken by Elaine Spicer).
The bird song was continuous and those among us who were able to identify birds by their song were able to inform the rest of us what birds we were hearing but could not see.
As we were walking around the Heath Joan told us what was happening in the present day to various parts of the Heath, and how it had changed over the years.
Joan showed us some Badger setts, which were now unused, as for the past two years the setts had been flooded and the young had died; the Badgers had now moved further around the Heath, and Rabbits had taken them over. She also showed us a broken off part of a tree trunk which contained an old Great Spotted Woodpecker’s nest.
By this time it had started raining so we made our way back to the Car Park via the 2 ponds, and spotted a number of Linnets darting between the trees.
We had a really enjoyable, interesting and informative morning and thanked Joan for giving up her time for us, which was most appreciated.
The plan was to go on to Shut Heath Wood to see the Bluebells (and hopefully Treecreeper and Nuthatch) but it was now steadily raining and most members went home. A few of us decided to go the Wood but the road to it was closed and as we didn’t know another way to get there we came back to the Tiptree Heath Car Park to eat our lunch. While eating our lunch we watched a number of Whitethroats.
Birds seen (or heard) : Linnet, Chiffchaff, Gt. Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Wren, Sparrow, Starling, Robin, Blue Tit, Wood Pigeon, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Crow, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Jay, Song Thrush, Green Woodpecker
Wild Flowers: White Deadnettle, Dandelion, Gorse (European), Bluebell, Heath Milkwort, Jack-by-the-Hedge, Elder, Pine Campion, Green Alkanet, Ground Ivy, Forget-me-not, Tormentil, Wood Sage, Bell Heather, Cross-Leaved Heather, Ling Heather, Marsh Pennywort, Speedwell, Red Campion, Primrose, Willowherb, Wood Sage, Heathrush, Bramble.
Other: Rabbit, St. Mark’s Fly
Next Meeting: Abbotts Hall Farm – 8 June 2016 – Meet in Car Park at 10 a.m.