June, 2011

South Essex

South Essex
A landscape of wetlands and marshes nestled along the Thames Estuary.

South Essex

  • Butcher bird found on Vange Marsh

    Late evening Friday, two spoonbills were found on the freshmarsh at Vange Marsh.This tempted a couple of local birders to visit the reserve early on Saturday morning and they soon found an adult female red-backed shrike.

    The red-backed shrike is a summer migrant that was formerly widespread in farmland, scrub and heathland over much of England and Wales. Following a dramatic decline, it is no longer a regular breeder in the UK. As late as the first breeding atlas (1968-72) there was confirmed breeding in 65 ten km squares. However, by 1980 the population was almost confined to heathland in East Anglia and, in 1989, there was no confirmed breeding for the first time. Since then, nesting in England has been sporadic. They eat large insects, small birds, frogs, rodents and lizards. Like other shrikes it hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a larder, hence the name 'butcher bird'.

    Vange Marsh has become the hotspot in south Essex for spoonbill and both birds were still present Saturday morning. One flew off high south early and the other remained throughout the day. Also present were two drake garganey favouring the north-east corner of the marsh.

    Thanks to local photographer Steve Arlow for the two images, you can see more here

  • Nestcams, cake and froglets

    It’s time for a cup of tea here at the South Essex Marshes as we take a quick brake from a brilliant week of events, activities and surprises.

    The Saturday before last we hosted our second Canvey Wildlife Fair on our newest reserve, West Canvey Marsh. A rugged, wild marshland West Canvey lived up to its untamed nature, greeting us with a cold wind whipping up the long grass and dark clouds rolling across its big skies. Luckily the rain held off and hundreds of families joined us for bug walks, pond dipping, nature trails, face painting and lovely pieces of cake, made by our very own Wildlife Explorers club. Yum!

    We were also all really excited to meet Mr. Mike Dilger, from the BBC’s One Show, who is a lovely bloke and spent the day helping us spot birds, bugs, bees, reptiles and the odd splash of a water vole. The wildlife also turned out to enjoy the day, with a special visit from two black necked grebes who spent the afternoon trying out our saline lagoon.

    And if that wasn’t enough Sunday saw the start of Springwatch with the RSPB. A week spent dissecting owl pellets, building nature crafts and hunting for minibeasts in our wildlife garden (where we were lucky enough to find the black and white bees again - formally known as Melecta Albifrons.)

    To top it all off our Visitor Centre is also alive with wildlife activity. Our nestcam, which is currently peeking into the home of a great tit, revealed the hatching of four chicks. It’s a late broad for the pair so were really excited to see this little-great tits appear. While over in our aquarium more frogs are appearing daily as the tadpoles make the final stage in transformation. We spotted 30 at last count and are having to make daily trips to the outside pond to help these tiny hoppers on their way.

    If you fancy a visit to any of our South Essex nature reserves or a chat about the activities and events we have happening this June get in touch on 01268 498627 or email southessexproject@rspb.org.uk.