The approach and onset of Autumn brings with it great splashes of colour as the leaves change from greens to a blaze of reds, oranges, yellows and so many mixtures of shades in-between. Along with this change of colour come changes in wildlife as it needs to prepare itself for winter.
What a rich area of activity this could provide for children’s events around the half-term break. So, with Essex Library Service looking for speakers and subjects to interest young readers and their families and the RSPB looking for ways to get families involved in helping nature, this developed into three ‘Autumn Explorer’ events held in Shenfield, Wickford and Rayleigh Libraries. What then to explore? Well as layers of leaves drop to the ground it provides both a blanket as well as a blaze of colour, beneath which nature quietly carries on with its own renewal. But, does nature need to do this alone?
Rayleigh Library Tree
Nature, of course, can benefit from being given a helping hand just the same as we all can at times. involving the youngsters and family members in this question took the simple step of finding out about different shapes of leaves through a treasure hunt to discover not just the names of the trees but discover the different areas of the library at the same time. This led on to making leaf rubbings then cutting out colouring and decorating them for display onto a silhouette of a tree ... with great results! I hope you’ll agree. Beneath each tree sits the sign from the RSPB inviting all who see it to “Give Nature a Home” which was what the stories that were read with the groups sought to help us to think of and to go on to be inspired to do
Shenfield Library Tree
These are not tricky or complicated things and can range from creating little green patches on a balcony, planting a wildlife friendly tree or shrub in your garden through to creating hedges or nature corridors. No matter how small a commitment each person made at these events they will all add up to make a big difference and thinking about this led to lots of fantastic ideas coming up ... far too many to list here. So will you give nature a helping hand this winter too? When you’ve chosen how to help or come up with an idea of your own then pop on over to our website http://homes.rspb.org.uk/ and tell us about it or share it with your friends and, most importantly, have fun doing it. We'd love to hear from you!
Here’s to Happy Helping.
Wickford Library Tree
*With special thanks to the staff, volunteers of, and visitors to, the libraries listed.
Dennis – Community Engagement Assistant
The opening of Bowers Marsh was celebrated with the arrival of four spoonbill, giving great views on the edge of the main freshwater lagoon. A juvenile glossy ibis has also been popping in and out of Bowers Marsh and has also been seen flying over Vange Marsh. The ibis has been quite mobile, although is still being seen occasionally on Bowers Marsh, so keep your eyes peeled!
Spoonbill by Dave Gonning
Winter wader and wildfowl numbers are now on the increase, with nearly 1000 lapwing across the sites, as well as large numbers of teal and wigeon. The reservoir at West Canvey has been attracting excellent numbers of duck, with up to 170 shoveler seen in front of the roadside hide. Smaller numbers of diving duck such as tufted duck and pochard are also regular, recently joined by a female scaup.
Teal by David Lee
We’ve recently had some work done at Vange Marsh where the front edge of the lagoon has been cut and rotovated. This should help reduce the encroachment of reed and clubrush in to the lagoon, as well as provide better views for visitors. This work has meant water levels have had to be kept low and all the exposed mud has been attracting lots of waders, this week has seen peaks of 68 redshank, 66 snipe, six green sandpiper, as well as a single ruff.
Passerines are starting to flock up for the winter too, Bowers Marsh is a great place to see flocks of corn bunting and finch flocks. A large flock of around 80 linnet have regularly been seen, and recently a few twite have been reported amongst them. Also starting to make an appearance are the first thrush flocks of the winter, look out for redwings and fieldfares along hedgerows feasting on berries.
Michael Poole - Assistant Warden
Reasonable weather for much of this period kept some of our summer visitors hanging around and we still had Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the garden well into October. Goldfinches have started feeding on the Teasel heads in front of the Visitor Centre window giving good views.
Butterflies were also active with Speckled Wood, Red Admiral and Gatekeeper seen. At the end of October we found a Peacock butterfly hibernating in a flower pot in our tool shed.
Gatekeeper by David Lee
On warm days a common lizard was seen warming itself on the wooden framework of one of our raised flower beds.
Field grasshoppers were plentiful but we also had a Roesel’s Bush Cricket which although quite rare is having a rapid expansion of its range in recent years. This is one of ten different species of cricket that we get in the UK.
Rabbit, Red Fox and Grey Squirrel were pretty regular and our compost bays again proved to be a draw when a family of Field Mice were found to have moved in to one of them.
Our Pyracantha is laden with berries and we are hoping that our winter thrushes, Fieldfare and Redwing will sample them. Last winter 80+ Starlings descended on the shrub and gorged their way through the lot in 2 days! No table manners at all.
Last weekend’s high winds have brought on premature leaf fall but is a reminder that summer is behind us now and autumn well underway.
How is your wildlife garden looking?
Clive Woodward - Head South Essex Wildlife Gardener