Pitsea seems an unlikely place to find wildlife but Wat Tyler Country Park offers a diversity of habitats (lakes, ponds, a tidal estuary, marsh, woodland and open fields) and so has the potential for sighting a wide variety of wildlife.
We arrived on a summer’s day, but a north wind chilled the air, so we were pleased to start our visit in one of the two bird hides provided by the RSPB. This particular one overlooks reed beds and a small pond, and further away, a large lake with several small islands. We had been told earlier in the year that the lake’s water level was too high so during the spring pumps were used to try and lower it in the hope of exposing more islands on which avocets normally come to breed. There were a few water birds, many with young and an egret on one of the islands.
The main interest for us was much closer and our patience was rewarded with the sighting of Bearded Tits and Reed Warblers in the reeds nearby. Bearded Tits don’t sit still for long and their ‘pinging’ call usually gives their location away. A brief view is often all that you get as one flits through the gaps in the reeds, but we were lucky with one male who obliged us by remaining still on a reed and we got a good, long sighting of it. Bearded Tits are one of Europe’s most restricted birds in terms of habitat being almost entirely dependent on reed beds
The next hide overlooked the same section of water but at its southern end. There was not much of interest here so we continued on to Vange Creek. Being half-tide there was plenty of exposed mud but apart from Black-headed gulls and Oystercatchers there was little else. It was a lovely spot with a few boats moored near a small wharf and there were extensive views across Fobbing Marshes – even the oil refinery looked quite pleasant! Plenty of butterflies fluttered around the flower heads but we didn’t have a knowledgeable person with us so were unable to positively identify some of them. The flowers we saw were mostly identified except one which Linda took home and reported later that it was Euphrasia Scottica, which I believe comes from the group of Eyebrights.
A track through a small wood took us back to the wildlife garden managed by the RSPB. We ate our picnic lunch here and had the added pleasure of enjoying strawberry cakes supplied by Jill to celebrate her birthday – a perfect end to our visit.
Birds Identified: House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Whitethroat, Coot, Mallard, Great-crested & Little Grebe, Bearded & Long-tailed Tits, Reed Warbler, Wren, Magpie, Jay, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Starling, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, Oystercatcher & Egret, (heard- Blackcap & Blackbird).
Wild Flowers Identified: Eyebright, Goat’s Rue, Great Bindweed, Teasel, Cinquefoil, Dandelion, Creeping Thistle, Meadow Buttercup, Red & White Clover, Great Hairy Willowherb, Bramble, Common Birdsfoot Trefoil, Field Bindweed, Rough Hawksbeard, Mallow, Autumn Hawkbit, Self Heal, Ragwort, Lady’s Bedstraw, Common St John’s Wort, Ribwort Plantain, Red Sorrel, Bristly Ox-Tongue, Common Fleabane, Traveller’s Joy (Old Man’s Beard)
Butterflies Identified: Peacock, Meadow Brown
Other: Rabbit, Grasshopper
Member’s Activities: Lynda’s visit to Bempton Cliffs Thurs 15th May – The previous day we had been to Whitby on the train, lovely blue sky and sun but quite a chilly wind, so we took all our layers expecting the same. However there was much more cloud and hardly any wind, so layers were soon removed. Although there were several people there, we had very good views of the seabirds on extremely narrow ledges and flying in close proximity to us. Gannets performing their bonding rituals and gathering nesting materials, kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and the highlight. 5 puffins!! Other birds seen: jackdaws, tree sparrows, corn bunting, linnet. Bempton is well worth a visit if you want to see sea birds but have not got your sea legs!!
Joy and Chris recently spent a week in Weymouth. They had a very enjoyable day at Abbotsbury Swannery, which is the world’s only managed colony of nesting mute swans. Apart from the hundreds of swans and cygnets there was a lot of other bird life in a really beautiful setting, including a Bar-headed Goose (see photo). They also visited the Dorset Wildlife Trust Centre on Chesil Beach to see the only Little Tern colony in South West England – the area in which they were nesting was fenced off and guarded by RSPB volunteers.
Off Portland Bill among the seabirds they spotted were Razorbills and Guillemots. There are two RSPB reserves in Weymouth and the highlight in one of those was seeing a male and female Redstart. Altogether they had a really good week – wildlife and otherwise – and the weather was beautiful – no rain at all.