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the.southend.communitynews@gmail.com   - editor David Wilson  07714772707 -   Journalist, melaniejanette@gmail.com   07917730238

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Food                                              

&

Drink

Britain’s Rainforest

For those interested in our invertebrate friends (not me, I confess!), Spring is an excellent

time to visit Canvey Wick, “Britain’s Rainforest” and Buglife’s first nature reserve.

Described as "a brownfield rainforest" by Natural England officer Dr. Chris Gibson, survey

results have shown the Wick, which was developed as an oil refinery site in the 1970s,

supports over 1,400 species of invertebrate.

The East Thames corridor is particularly rich in invertebrate species and Canvey Wick is one

of the most diverse and species-rich sites in that area, with nationally significant groupings.

It also has the most important remaining population of the Shrill carder bee in the Thames

region and perhaps in all of the UK.

So far 30 Red Data Book (RDB) endangered species and 3 species previously thought to be

extinct in Britain have been found here. These treasures include:

Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)

Canvey Island ground beetle (Scybalicus oblongiusculus)

Scarce emerald damselfly (Lestes dryas).

It's not just invertebrate enthusiasts that will be happy, for the rest of us there are some

spectacular orchids, lizards, water voles, and several species of birds including skylarks.

Visitor Information: - Location: Northwick Road, Canvey Island, SS8 0LD. Entry: Free. Opening Hours:

Reserve open at all times; car park gates open from 9.00am until 5.00pm

 

The Lark Ascending

For centuries, the skylark has inspired the works of our greatest composers, poets and

writers. And in the First World War, the song of the lark reminded those men in the

trenches of home and brought them some small relief.

As this season’s flowers already start to bloom, a familiar sign of spring is the skylark.

For us in Essex, this small bird and its unique, uplifting song can most easily be experienced

at Essex Wildlife Trust’s reserves at Two Tree Island, Abberton Reservoir and Thurrock

Thames Nature Park.

 

Male larks can be seen hovering at heights of up to 300m, rising vertically to defend

territories (they are ground-nesters) or to attract mates.

In a world that even more so now is constantly changing and always evolving, the skylark

continuously and consistently epitomises the British countryside, our heritage and

culture...  Appearing on Channel 4 in the early 90’s and local radio also helped us on our way. Over the past 20 years our reputation for excellence and professionalism has been achieved solely by ‘word of mouth’ and our goal now is to bring our knowledge and experience to a wider audience.

Our aim is to help everyone feel confident in the kitchen whilst learning techniques in a home environment. From sitting round the table with your family and loved ones to entertaining, good food is the one thing that brings us all together. We are passionate about what we do and hopefully that enthusiasm will ignite your interest and encourage you to widen your own knowledge in the kitchen.

 

 

wildgeese (3)

Wild File

Save our bugs

(Photo: Paul Glendell)

 by  Melanie Tyler-Thomas                        

The gentle turtle dove is a bird usually at the edge of our consciousness. We give it a

vague thought at Christmas when we sing carols, or see one (Two!) on a card or advent calendar. Its calming “purr” is an evocative background to long summer days. But it never makes it into our Top Ten of UK birds and wasn’t mentioned at all when the nation voted for its favourite species.

 However, this ecologically unique bird (being Europe’s only long distance migratory dove) is

becoming increasingly rare. Mainly a bird of southern and eastern England, a rapid and sustained population decline has occurred, thought in a large part to be due to the lack of seed and grain during the breeding season. Numbers have fallen 94% since 1995. The species is now included on the Red List of conservation concern.

Last summer, working with farmers in East Anglia, the RSPB provided supplementary food at key locations – dropping over two tonnes in Essex alone.

 The UK’s Operation Turtle Dove, which has been set up to save this bird from the brink of

extinction, is now asking the public to record and report on any sightings through its BirdTrack system. These will be monitored and will assist the Operation and its partners (such as the RSPB) to target conservation activities.

  More information on how to help save these dainty creatures can be found at

www.operationturtledove.org.uk

Turtle Dove (Woodland Trust)

Love the Dove and Help Save It

click on images to enlarge

insects are going to suffer a catastrophic decline in numbers unless climate change is controlled, according to new research from the University of East Anglia. This is on top of the alarming collapse reported in Germany, where 75% of the flying insect biomass has vanished from protected areas in less than 30 years.

Insects are the backbone of a healthy ecosystem and the consequences of their absence will be global. Is there anything we can do other than despair? Insects will need stepping stones to move around the country as the climate changes. Here are some ways you can help.

If you have a garden, make it part of the solution. Insects need food and we have destroyed 97% of our wildlflower meadows. The charity Buglife has a great guide that shows which plants help which insects: winter flowers such as hellebore, erica and mahonia for pollinators such as bees; evergreen shrubs and climbers for bugs such as woodlice and spiders.

Insects need water – make sure you have some in your garden. Watching bees drink at the bird bath is fun; better still is watching dragonflies emerge from your wildlife pond.

 Look beyond your own patch and lobby your council to turn verges into highways for insects. Plants help insects, which help mammals, bats, amphibians, reptiles and birds to thrive. We need to fix the system, not just an isolated component.

 B-Lines, a series of insect pathways running through the countryside, are the best way to help on a national scale. You can help by writing to your MP and asking them to support Ben Bradley’s Protection for Pollinators bill. The “B-Line bill” will make the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs take this innovative landscape ecological solution seriously. It passed the first stage of the process through parliament unopposed.

insects are going to suffer a catastrophic decline in numbers unless climate change is controlled,

The newest addition to Essex Wildlife Trust’s Living Landscapes Project is Cowbridge Woods in Billericay.

Studies had revealed that this area, owned by the National Grid, was extremely rich in wildlife - 60 species of bird, 20 of butterfly, 100 of plant as well as badgers, bats, hares and grass snakes.

Just before Christmas, not only did the owners give permission to plant new woods but the adjacent landowner decided to turn the area around his property bordering the National

Grid land into a new 25,000 native tree woodland.

EWT took advantage of the Woodland Trust’s annual “tree giveaway” and decided upon the 500-sapling wild wood mix which consists of Hazel, Crab Apple, Blackthorn, Hawthorn and

Holly.

 According to EWT, “These new woods will act as an absolute mecca for wildlife for many decades to come beyond our lifetime and will soak up tons of carbon dioxide from the

surrounding areas”.

 EWT would like to thank all volunteers - local woods groups, town councilors, river wardens,

 Billericay tree wardens, the EWT special verges group and Chris Plester the National Grid’s sustainability specialist.

 

 

Wildlife charity RSPB and the RSPCA are warning bird lovers to resist the impulse to intervene when finding” abandoned” baby chicks.

RSPB Wildlife advisor Charlotte Ambrose said, “Every year we get inundated with calls from

people worried about an abandoned chick in their garden. It’s extremely unlikely they have been deserted and in many cases there is a parent nearby keeping a beady eye on their

chick’s progress or collecting food.   Although it’s natural to want to protect fluffy and fragile creatures hopping around all alone, the most helpful thing you can do is keep your distance”.

 An RSPCA spokesperson adds, “During the annual baby bird boom the RSPCA’s wildlife

centres care for over a thousand 'orphaned' fledglings each year, picked up by well-meaning people.

But many of these birds are not orphans and often would have been better off if they had been left in the wild”.

The RSPB has a Southend – based group which supports the National RSPB in carrying out the Society's objectives in the Thames Estuary area.

They are always looking to recruit new members and welcome visitors to their many events which include indoor lectures, field walks and coach trips, seal-spotting trips.

 They can also provide speakers for local clubs, societies and social groups.

So support your local wildlife and find out more at www.southendrspb.co.uk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elephant Hawk Moth (Butterfly Conservation)

Elephant moth

Whatever our age, whether we have read “Wind in the Willows” or not, most of us know

that Kenneth Grahame’s charming, courageous, boat-loving character “Ratty” is, in fact, not

a rat but a water vole.

 When “Wind in the Willows” was published in 1908, the water vole was common along UK

rivers and streams, but exactly 100 years later, in February 2008, the population had declined

so dramatically that the Government announced full legal protection for the species making it an

offence to “disturb, damage or obstruct their breeding places”.

 Although they are often mistaken for a rat, they are generally smaller (14-22 centimetres) and have short hairy tails, chubby faces and shorter ears.

 Water voles live in burrows excavated within the banks of rivers, ditches, ponds, and streams,

usually adjacent to slow moving water with wide strips of dense vegetation which provides food and also cover from their predators.

Unfortunately, their main predator is the aggressive North American mink, but unsympathetic farming methods and poor watercourse management , which have destroyed parts of the water vole's habitat, have contributed to the species’ decline. Colonies can also be vulnerable to flooding caused by higher water levels and although adults can escape from rising water, it may be impossible for mothers to remove the young voles to safety.

However, thanks to stringent efforts by the Essex Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency, Water Companies and other local partners water vole colonies are continuing to stay strong in south Essex.

They have been reintroduced to the River Colne and RSPB statistics show that the species is

stabilising on West Canvey Marshes and Vange Wick.

 

Moth Matters

Apparently, the people at Butterfly Conservation think that moths are “fascinating, important and worth protecting”.

Unfortunately, a recent YouGov poll for the charity discovered that 74 per cent of people had negative feelings towards moths, linking them with eating clothes and a third associated

them with being pests.

For the next 12 months, Butterfly Conservation will be running a ‘Moths Matter’ campaign, seeking to educate the public about moths, overturn the classic “moth myths” (apparently only two of the UK’s 2,500 moth species feed on fabrics) and showcase these insects, some of which are as beautiful as butterflies.

 Like butterflies, they play an important role in pollination and are a key part of the food chain. And like butterflies, the UK’s moths are in trouble with many oncecommon

species struggling in the face of habitat loss and climate change.

To participate in Moth Matters visit www.butterfly-conservation.org and to get involved at a

local level visit The Essex Moth Group via the Essex Field Club (www.essexfieldclub.org.uk).

Water Vole (People's Trust for Endangered Species)

Species in the Spotlight

The Water Vole

Help the Dove -

Little Terns

Water Vole

Bugs

Along the Prittle Brook, water voles are regular visitors and I have been lucky enough to spot one myself!

But unfortunately, along rivers such as the Mardyke, which is susceptible to rising water levels and is also inhabited by the North American mink, the water vole has not yet returned.

EWT will continue to drive forward conservation efforts across the county and a spokesman for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Through our 25-year environment plan

we will provide opportunities for species recovery as we develop our Nature Recovery Network, creating or restoring 500,000 hectares of wildlife-rich habitat to provide benefits for species such as

the water vole”.

The Water Vole

Even those of us that can’t tell a sparrow from a sparrowhawk can probably identify the brightly-hued goldfinch as it flitters and bounces its way around our parks and green spaces.

Over the last two years, the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch has recorded increased sightings in Essex of this small and sociable bird whose bright red, yellow and black plumage has been spotted in around 30% of the county’s gardens. There are believed to be around 1.2million breeding pairs across the UK.

 The Goldfinch is smaller and brighter than its closest cousin – the Greenfinch – with a length of around 12cm and a wingspan of up to 25cms. Unusually, there is no difference in colour or pattern between the male and female of the species which can sometimes be seen in the winter travelling in flocks of up to 100 birds called a “charm”.

Their specially adapted tweezer-like bills enable them to extract small seeds from plants such as Ragwort, Thistles, Dandelions and Teasels – look out for them around the wasteland area at Fossett’s Farm where teasels are plentiful and highly visible from the road/pavement.

Their seed-based diet makes them relatively easy birds to attract into your garden or greenspace

where they are becoming increasingly frequent visitors.

Essex Wildlife Trust recommends: -

 Leaving teasels and thistles in the garden even after flowering  Not removing dandelions  Filling birdfeeders with items that will provide the finch with plenty of energy – sunflower hearts and Niger seeds – and providing a clean, accessible source of water.

(Retailers of specially mixed birdseed for finches/goldfinches range from the RSPB online to

branches of Wilkos.) During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period, Goldfinches were frequently used in paintings including Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch in the Uffizi gallery at Florence. It came to be seen as a good luck charm, a symbol of endurance and representation of hope over sickness and disease.

Poets including John Clare, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ted Hughes and Thomas Hardy have written verse

upon verse about this sublime creature and its sweet song, The latter wrote: _

“Who thinketh no evil, but sings?

Who is divine? This bird!”

But most importantly, it became recognised as a representation of Salvation – a fact that never ceases to lift my heart whenever I have the fortune to catch a glimpse of those heavenly colours.

1-Goldfinch on a Teasel (The Wildlife Trusts)

Worth its weight in gold

-  The Goldfinch

” as voted for by Southend, Castle Point and Rochford Dementia Action Alliance.

Managed by Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), and working in partnership with Southend Borough Council and Dementia Friends, the Centre has been running events to help people living with dementia to experience wildlife in their daily lives and the award particularly recognises the guided walks and flower arranging classes that are on offer.

EWT volunteers were trained as Dementia Friends to support those taking part in the events along with their carers and family members. The Trust is now looking into rolling out the

guided walks to more of its visitor centres which will mean that more people across the county who are living with dementia can reap the benefits of exercising and socialising at

one of its beautiful reserves.

Last autumn, Southend Community News reported that the Bittern – one of Britain’s rarest breeding birds – had been seen at the EWT Blue House Farm nature reserve in North Fambridge.

Now we learn that the RSPB is celebrating the bittern’s best year since records began, with over 100 male booming bitterns recorded on the charity’s reserves for the first time

and almost 200 across the UK.

The bittern, which is Britain’s loudest bird, has battled extinction not once but twice, completely disappeared from Britain in the 1870s and was back at the brink of extinction

again by 1997 when numbers dropped to just 11 males. Two EU-funded projects have helped revive the species numbers.

Highly secretive, bitterns are well camouflaged with pale, buffy-brown plumage and spend most of their time hiding in dense stands of reed. They are so elusive scientists count them by listening for the males’ distinctive “booming” call.

Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “Bitterns are one of our most charismatic birds. Their astonishing recovery from the brink of extinction is a real

conservation success story and example of what is possible through targeted efforts to restore wildlife habitat such as wetlands”.

The RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper added: “The recovery of the bittern is a great success story. We know that dedicated funding from the EU has been instrumental in

driving positive action. That is why it is essential that governments across the UK pass new environment laws to drive nature’s recovery and replace the funding that will be lost if and when the UK leaves the European Union“.

Belfairs Woodland Centre has been awarded “Dementia Leisure Service of the Year” as voted for by Southend, Castle Point and Rochford Dementia Action Alliance.

Managed by Essex Wildlife Trust (EWT), and working in partnership with Southend Borough Council and Dementia Friends, the Centre has been running events to help people living with dementia to experience wildlife in their daily lives and the award particularly recognises the guided walks and flower arranging classes that are on offer.

EWT volunteers were trained as Dementia Friends to support those taking part in the events along with their carers and family members. The Trust is now looking into rolling out the guided walks to more of its visitor centres which will mean that more people across the county who are living with dementia can reap the benefits of exercising and socialising at

one of its beautiful reserves.

Last autumn, Southend Community News reported that the Bittern – one of Britain’s

rarest breeding birds – had been seen at the EWT Blue House Farm nature reserve in North Fambridge.

Now we learn that the RSPB is celebrating the bittern’s best year since records began,

with over 100 male booming bitterns recorded on the charity’s reserves for the first time and almost 200 across the UK.

The bittern, which is Britain’s loudest bird, has battled extinction not once but twice,

completely disappeared from Britain in the 1870s and was back at the brink of extinction again by 1997 when numbers dropped to just 11 males. Two EU-funded projects have helped revive the species numbers.

Highly secretive, bitterns are well camouflaged with pale, buffy-brown plumage and spend most of their time hiding in dense stands of reed. They are so elusive scientists count them by listening for the males’ distinctive “booming” call.

Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, said: “Bitterns are one of our most charismatic birds. Their astonishing recovery from the brink of extinction is a real

conservation success story and example of what is possible through targeted efforts to restore wildlife habitat such as wetlands”.

The RSPB’s conservation director Martin Harper added: “The recovery of the bittern is a great success story. We know that dedicated funding from the EU has been instrumental in driving positive action. That is why it is essential that governments across the UK pass new

environment laws to drive nature’s recovery and replace the funding that will be lost if and when the UK leaves the European Union“.

 

No Insectinction!

When a site is under threat from development, or wildlife is in the firing line from a new government policy, your voice can make a difference - politicians and other decision makers are more likely to listen when they learn that this is an issue the public is passionate about. Buglife, the only organisation in Europe devoted to the conservation of all invertebrates, is asking the public to get behind its latest “No Insectinction” campaign.

Popular support has already helped to ensure the future of sites such as Canvey Wick, a

brownfield site originally earmarked for development and now a designated Site of Special

Scientific Interest and dubbed ‘England’s rainforest’ on account of its incredible variety of

bugs, including a bumblebee which has almost disappeared from the rest of the UK.

The charity is asking UK residents to telling them about threatened brownfield sites in their

area and write to their local MP about it.

Buglife President, writer, intellectual and Essex resident Germaine Greer says “Pollinators

are the good guys, and we should welcome them into our gardens – more than that, we

should learn to take pleasure from them and the ecosystems we can create”.

Of course, we can’t all plant a one-acre wood on our properties as she has at her North

Essex home, but we can support this new initiative through these simple measures.

Find out more at www.buglife.org.uk.

Voting has now closed in the Woodland Trust’s “tree of the Year 2019” competition.

Fingers crossed for Colchester Castle’s beautiful sycamore which has been growing from the

top of the south east tower since 1815, when the Mayor’s daughter planted it to

commemorate the Battle of Waterloo.

Watch this space!

mern

Belfairs Woodland Centre has been awarded “Dementia Leisure Service of the Year