Author: Rachael Murray

The Suffolk coast is famed for its winter wildlife wonderlands. It’s a well trodden route for nature enthusiasts the world over and famed for the part it plays in the protection of so many special species. Chris Packham once famously called Suffolk Coast nature reserve, RSPB Minsmere, the ‘Disneyworld of wildlife’. I can only imagine he meant Disneyworld, Paris, because stroll over the border into Essex and you might be interested to know that progress continues on what could one day be the Disneyworld, Florida of wildlife!

Slowly taking shape on Wallasea, a huge island tucked in the Crouch and Roach Estuary, is a wildlife Mecca, twice the size of the City of London, carefully landscaped using soil from the Crossrail project in London. Whilst the project isn’t due for completion for some time, thanks to the first influx of seawater for 400 years back in July 2015 there are already acres of saltmarsh, mutflats and lagoons slowly bursting into life, and in the colder months this wild isle comes into its own.

Drawn to the food packed mud of this new terrain, tens of thousands of waders and wildfowl are flocking to Wallasea as they arrive from their northern breeding grounds to spend winter in the UK.

Photo credit: Andy Hay

The island is already home to a growing number of birds of prey, with hen harriers and short-eared owls making regular appearances around this time of year. And as smaller birds look for shelter and seed to keep them buoyed throughout winter, we are seeing rare clouds of hundreds of linnet and corn bunting taking up residence in the rough grassland areas found dotted across the island.

As well as birds, people have also started flocking to the island to enjoy the wildlife spectacle. A public footpath runs for 3 km up one side of the island, offering fantastic views of the new wildlife habitat. There is also a special nature trail that takes you on a journey along the new sea wall replete with viewing mounds and a newly build wildlife shelter, from which you might be lucky enough to spot one of the area’s seals. And the fun doesn’t stop there - next month, we’ll be creating two new trails that will circumvent a brand new 40 hectare lagoon, offering unrivalled views of what, in time, might just become the Magic Kingdom of our wild Disneyworld!

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