June, 2013

South Essex

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

South Essex

  • Five easy things you can do to Give Nature a Home

    1. Grow nectar and pollen-rich flowers as food for bees, butterflies and moths. If you don't have a garden then a window box will be just as good. Leave the dead stems of flowers in the autumn to provide a safe-haven to over-winter in

    Crocus by Richard Stanley

    2. Build a log-pile - Dead wood is incredibly important for all sorts of creepy crawlies including the very special stag beetle, whose larva feed on dead wood before morphing into its spectacular adult self. Log-piles are also fantastic places for some of our much loved mammals, hedgehogs, to hibernate away the winter.

    Hedgehog campsite by Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)

    3. Plant some native shrubs - Native shrub plants such as hawthorn and buckthorn are essential foodplants for caterpillars and other insects. The berries are a fantastic foodsource for birds and they also provide a great place to nest during breeding season.

    4. Grow different lengths of grass - Save yourself some effort and don't mow all of your lawn. Leaving different lenghts of grass provides different habitats for varying insect life as well as being great feeding areas for birds. Take it easy and enjoy the wilder areas of your garden.

    5. Introduce water into your garden - Whether this is as simple as a bird bath or as big as a pond is entierely up to you. Water is a vital source of life for any garden from providing a much needed drink to birds and mammals to providing a home for bugs and amphibians to lay their eggs in.

    Blackbird having a bath by Ray Kennedy (rspb-imaged.com)

    To find some more really easy ways to Give Nature a Home then visit http://homes.rspb.org.uk/ or pop down to the South Essex Wildlife Garden for some wild inspiration.

  • Give Nature a Home in your back garden

    In case you’ve missed it the RSPB are asking everyone to get involved and build nature a home where you live. Here in South Essex we are lucky enough to have an amazing team of wildlife volunteers who have built some fantastic homes for wildlife in the RSPB South Essex Wildlife Garden. We have everything from birdboxes to bug hotels, to ponds for frogs and woodpiles for hibernating reptiles. If you want to find out more about building homes for wildlife in your garden then why not visit us at the RSPB Wildlife Garden and Visitor Centre in South Essex or visit the Giving Nature a Home webpages at http://homes.rspb.org.uk/

    Bug Hotel by Joan Burton

    Watch this space for regular updates from our Wildlife gardening team with some great ideas about how you can give nature a home on your back door. Can you imagine the difference we can make for nature if every single garden made space for wildlife? It’s gonna be amazing!!

    Bee on Catnip plant by Joan Burton

    We’d love to see what you’re up to in your gardens too so make sure you take lots of lovely piccies and post them on our Facebook and Twitter pages using the #homesfornature. See you there!

    Facebook – RSPB Essex

    Twitter - RSPBEssex

  • Guest post - All about Moths 1

    In their wisdom South Essex Marshes RSPB have invited me to write some articles about moths.  Hopefully in the future I will keep you informed (and possibly entertained) by letting you know what is being found in my Southend garden moth trap. However, to stop this being too boring I also hope to include some pretty pictures and other moth related stuff. However so far this year  not  to put  too fine a point on it  moth  trapping  like  nostalgia  -  “ain't what it  used to be” with  numbers well down on last year. Therefore with things hopefully picking up in July and August, the most productive time of year for mothing, I will report on this next issue. Therefore I have taken the opportunity  to  be indulgent in  my first offering by  giving  you some background into how I  became interested in  moths and how things went last year (don’t worry there are some pretty pictures!)

    I first became interested in moths in September 2010 whilst on a golfing holiday in Northumberland. I woke up one morning to find about twenty identical insects on the veranda of our “luxury” lodge. I had never seen such an insect before, purple of eye and yellow of hue but unfortunately didn’t take a photograph. A couple of weeks later during a particularly dull day at work I surfed the internet to try and find this mystical creature. A couple of days and moth forums later I could firmly identify it as a Canary Shouldered Thorn. However so stuck was I by this moth I decided to investigate moths a little more. Therefore I purchased a cheap  Gooden light(a curious £20 purple/green light combination  which looks like an oversized eco friendly light bulb) and spent a few nights with it not catching a lot but still enjoying the “thrill of the hunt”. My best capture during this period was a Large Yellow Underwing. I knew it was “something special when I saw the flash of orange coming to the light but thought initially that I had picked up the wrong moth when I had a dullish brown moth in the specimen tub. Only when the moth deigned to open it’s wings could the spectacular colour be seen. Little did I know that this was going to be one of the mainstays of my trappings during 2012.

    I did make contact with a couple of “mothers” in my area and I did go on a “professional “trap with them on Canvey Island but whilst I was delighted with the beauty of a “Brimstone” or the quaintness of a “Drinker” this didn’t impress them much! They were too busy ticking off their lists ”train collector” style and mumbling something about” there being no prominents. However on a hot summer night we did collect over 125 species of moth and to my utter delight we did trap a single Canary Shouldered Thorn.

    In 2012 I and my Gooden Light joined a group called the Garden Moth Scheme (GMS) after an article I saw in “British Wildlife”. The GMS is, as might be expected, a scheme that records moths in people’s own gardens. Altogether there are about 375 members across the country who record what they find in their traps on weekend nights. By doing so the scheme does provide a very useful gauge on changes in moth populations due the seasonal changes etc but also offer a longer timeline which measures changes in population which may be due to more problematic causes. They also have an active discussion group.

     However after 3 weeks of recording the Gooden went to “moth light heaven” and I had to purchase a better mothtrap and opted for a “Skinner” with a 124V mercury vapour bulb which is particularly high in UV light which helps to attract moths. My main reason for choosing this type of trap was purely economic with the alternative “Robinson” trap being three times more expensive at £365.

    I have been very surprised  by some of  the species that  have passed through my garden  some of them have been the spectacular ones that when I bought my “Concise Guide to Moths”  I thought that I would never see.

    My first five weeks were blank. Things slowly built up however but on 29 June Bingo! I was visited by two elephant hawk moths. I also quickly chalked up a Poplar Hawk moth and a Privet Hawk moth. However, just as satisfying were my trappings of extraordinary moths such as the Buff Tip, Burnished Brass, Brimstone, Pyruasta Aranta, Heath Lattice, Mother of Pearl and common moths such as Angle Shades and Buff Ermines. In fact everything was very exciting and new and I even had my first prominent! In all 86 species of moth graced my garden with their presence for which I feel truly honoured.

    Pyrausta Aurata by Len Britton

    Burnished Brass by Len Britton

    Elephant Hawk Moth by Len Britton

    Buff Ermine by Len Britton

    However, it was on 11 August 2012 I had my best ever find. For in amongst the egg boxes was a yellow insect with purple eyes, a Canary Shouldered Thorn, the  moth that had started me off  on this journey,  in my  back garden! This was too exciting for words and I felt somehow that I had come full circle.

    At the end of 2012 I became the East of England Co-ordinator for the GMS when the previous co-ordinator stepped down. Luckily  the office requires  no actual expertise in  moths -  just a determination to get  results from the 40  or so local recorders which come under  East  of England banner (including several with RSPB addresses)and a little knowledge  of spreadsheets. However in my own  modest way I feel that I have  contributed by designing a system which validates  records as they are  input  by recorders which make  my task  much easier and which I am trialling this year.

    “Mothing” has now become a family interest with my wife and mother and mother in law insisting on seeing the catches on Saturday mornings (however as to date no one has actually volunteered to help me put the trap out in inclement weather!). I also trapped during the winter season   but with meagre results, this is a quiet time for moths in any case but the particularly bad winter made things even worse. Unfortunately as I hinted earlier this poor performance has continued into the summer recording season but I will fill you in about this next time around.


    Len Britton - Garden Moth Scheme Volunteer and RSPB Volunteer