u3a

Burnham on Crouch

Bird & Wildlife

Status:Active, open to new members
Leader:
Lynda Ewers Tel: 01621 741577
Group email: Bird & Wildlife group
When: Monthly on Wednesday mornings
2nd Wednesday of the month at 10:00am
Venue: On Location

We visit many locations with some being run by the Essex Wildlife Trust or the RSPB. Our objective is to encourage an interest in bird watching, wildlife and anything that inhabits a natural surrounding. We are not restricted for numbers by space but more from the size of bird hides, so at times the group has to split into smaller groups.

We have members who can offer lifts to non-drivers.

13th March 2024

Abberton Reservoir

We had nine people for this visit including two new u3a members, I hope they enjoyed it and that they will come again. The weather was fine but cloudy with a very strong wind. Despite that it was a very productive day with several species seen. Of particular interest was a Marsh Harrier with a bright red wing tag, which usually means that it is being tracked to see where and how far it travels as part of the conservation effort.
The next meeting will be 8th May at EWT Fingringhoe Reserve, 10am in the visitors centre.
Sightings were as follows:

Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Tern, Cormorant,
Grey Heron, Little Egret, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Willow Warbler,
Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Wren, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch
- Lynda Ewers

10th April 2024

Hanningfield Reservoir

A dry (!) day, although a little overcast and cooler than we expected. Eleven of us met in the visitor centre and after coffee and loo stop we set off. Luckily we had opted for our waterproof boots as it was quite muddy underfoot, although the pathways are good there.

We sighted a large number of species, of special interest were some male goldeneye displaying; also buzzard and red kite in the distance. It is a lovely centre with large windows so even if you can’t walk far there is always something interesting to watch (we spotted a treecreeper from here). Next meeting will be 10th April at Abberton Resevoir Visitors Centre 10am - postcode is CO2 0EU.

34 species seen, as follows: Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Red-Crested Pochard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Woodpigeon, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Oystercatcher, Black-Headed Gull, Great Black-Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Cormorant, Red Kite, Buzzard, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-Taied Tit, Goldcrest, Wren, Treecreeper, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock.
- Lynda Ewers

14th February 2024

Bluehouse Farm

Seven members met at the River Breeze Cafe in the Yacht Haven, North Fambridge. Although the weather was quite overcast, it was very mild so not that unpleasant. After a cup of coffee we had a look at the water which is now used for paddle boarding, a few birds on there. There was a short burst of fine rain which luckily soon stopped. We then drove round to the Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve at Bluehouse Farm ready for our meeting with the Warden Harry, and Fleur. It was a good job I had brought my walking pole (as had the others) because the ground was very muddy and slippery underfoot.

We learnt about the work that EWT has done in conjunction with the farmers (it is also a working farm) to improve the habitat and safety for wildlife and about their future plans. Aside from the birds, otters have been seen although only on the camera traps at night. Also there are two ponies on the far side of the reserve which came from Tiptree Heath and are being used for grazing.

All in all, a very enjoyable outing, sightings as follows:

Birds: Pochard, Moorhen, Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Curlew, Shelduck, Tufted Duck, Common Buzzard, Greylag Goose, Skylark, Shoveler, Cetti's Warbler (heard), Barnacle Goose Hybrid, Oystercatcher, Pintail Mediterranean Gull, Marsh Harrier, Carrion Crow, Starling, Great Tit.
Others: Brown Hare
Next meeting is Wed 13th March 10am at Hanningfield Reservoir Visitor Centre.
- Lynda Ewers

10th January 2024

Heybridge Basin

At last, some lovely weather! Ten members met in the Jolly Sailor car park at 10am. After a bit of confusion (the pub does not officially open till 12 noon) we were able to enter, registered our vehicles and left our orders. We started with coffee at the Wilkins Cafe before continuing along the river wall towards the Sailing Club. Although the tide was well in, the inlet has some shallow spots where we saw a large number of different species quite close to us. The light was perfect and brought out the colours and markings perfectly.
We did a circuit back to the lock and went to the lake by the canal, but we did not have our Wellies and so could not use the path. We made our way to the pub where we had a lovely meal and good conversation. At first no-one opted for dessert but then it was "I will if you will", so two of us had cheesecake. I must admit it did look delicious. The parking is usually 3 hours but the owner was able to extend it, she just took our reg numbers again.
Species seen as follows:
Birds: Pied Wagtail, Wood Pigeon, Sparrow, Teal, Wigeon, Oyster Catcher, Blackbird, Goldfinch, Redshank, Avocet, Pochard, Collared Dove, Blacktailed Godwit, Starling, Little Grebe, Blue Tit, Robin, Black Headed Gull, Moorhen, Carrion Crow, Mallard, Cormorant, Brent Goose, Magpie, Wren.
Plants: Gorse
The next meeting will be 14th February at Blue House Farm North Fambridge. The plan is to meet at the Sailing Club Cafe at 10am and access the reserve via the river wall.
- Lynda Ewers

8th November 2023

RSPB South Essex Marshes - Stanford Wharf (Essex Wildlife Trust Thameside Nature Park

We had a good number again despite the weather being grey, wet and windy. As happens quite often, the previous two days had been sunny with clear skies! Luckily, there is a lovely visitors centre with great views of the Thames where we could keep warm and refreshed. As the list below shows, we managed to see quite a number of birds:

  • Shelduck
  • Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Avocet
  • Grey Plover
  • Curlew
  • Black-tailed Godwit
  • Dunlin
  • Redshank
  • Black-headed Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Cormorant
  • Little Egret
  • Carrion Crow
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Robin
  • Dunnock
  • Meadow Pipit
  • Greenfinch
  • Linnet

The next meeting will be on Wednesday 13th December at EWT Abberton Reservoir, 10am in the visitor centre.
- Lynda Ewers

11th October 2023

Wick Farm

We had 9 members this month, welcoming one for the first time and hope that they enjoyed the morning which was slightly overcast but still warm. Before starting off we looked at the "little ship" Vanguard which was at Dunkirk and is being stored at the Wick pending restoration. There is an information board there which explains its history, I think this will be a lengthy and possibly expensive project.
Walking to the small reservoir, there were lots of Canada and Greylag Geese, among Greylags were two very pale ones with some light brown back feathers. They were assumed to be juveniles, but my bird books etc. do not confirm this.
We were told of a circular route via the river wall, but found this to be too far, so most went back to the farm where we had parked. The remaining two went along the wall to the Corinthian sailing club - the path was a little rough, with lots of cracks and holes, but we made it to the cafe on the quay where we were amazed to see a common seal really close. A brief but lovely site.

Sightings - Birds:
Robin, Carrion Crow, Partridge, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Cormorant, Mallard, Moorhen.
Sightings - Others:
Mallow, California Poppy, Bladder Campion, Plantain, Common Seal.
- Lynda Ewers

9th August 2023

Maldon
As we entered the Wick reserve there were lots of butterflies, bees and dragon/damsel flies. We identified an unusual flower called "red bartsia" which is apparently semi parasitic on other plants.

We noticed a man in a hi-vis jacket who was clearing armfuls of greenery from the pond. He kindly explained that he has to come every month for the Essex Wildlife Trust and that he greenery was the invasive American "floating pennywort". Even the tiniest piece if left will quickly grow and suffocate the pond. The water voles and moorhens, although lovely to see, don't help as they nibble off tiny pieces which are very difficult to fish out,

Next we found a spider which was a new sighting for us all. It turned out to be a wasp spider, which eats grasshoppers and is harmless to humans.
The next meeting will be Wednesday 13th Sept at Tollesbury, meet in the car park Woodrolfe Road 10am
-Lynda Ewers

12th July 2023

Blue House Farm
Twelve members met in the car park, looking forward to seeing the effects of the work done by Essex Wildlife Trust to improve the habitats. They have put up new fences to try and stop predation by foxes and other creatures. Also some new scrapes (water areas) have been created to encourage more species.

Unfortunately, when we got to the first hide we were very disappointed to see the scrape was completely dry with the ground being deeply cracked. The second hide was a little better but still not much water - and any there was we could not see as it was hidden behind a bank. Despite this we did see several species of birds and other wild things.
After returning to the cars, we drove to the Ferryboat Inn where we had a relaxing drink and/or lunch.

Sightings as follows:
Birds: Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Pheasant, Woodpigeon, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Black-Headed Gull, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Wren, Starling, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

Other wildlife: Common Orache, Broad-Leaved Dock, Buttercup, Hedge Bindweed, Bramble, Common Nettle, Cornflower, Marsh Thistle, Spear Thistle, Common Fleabane, Small- Flowered Cranesbill, Great Willowherb, Marsh Willowherb, Ribwort Plantain, White Clover, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Scented Mayweed, Wild Carrot, Smooth Hawksbeard, Yarrow, Common Reed, Bulrush, Lesser Bulrush, Common Sorrel, Oxford Ragwort, Black Medick, Prickly Lettuce, Hawksbeard, Curled Dock, Creeping Thistle; Red Admiral, Small White, Gatekeeper, Marbled White and Essex Skipper Butterflies; Ruddy Darter Dragonfly, Red Damselfly, Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, Ladybird.
-Lynda Ewers


June 2023

Cudmore Grove Country Park
Nothing is quite like the sea air of the east coast, except perhaps the sea air, with the sun shining and a light breeze blowing – and this is what it was like when we met at Cudmore Grove Country Park.
I had a slight advantage over the other five members of the group, in that, I stayed overnight at a caravan site and enjoyed a stroll along the beach to where we were to meet. It was high tide and the waves lapped gently dragging the pebbles and shells up and down the beach evoking memories of carefree childhood days; but today we were carefree also. On my way I recorded my sightings and amassed quite a list.
Our leader, Lynda, decided that as the tide was high, we would start the morning at the bird hide and so we meandered through the field sighting many butterflies, mostly meadow browns. Although only 10am, it was hot so, having the hide to ourselves, we stayed for a long time enjoying the cool. This hide looks over a pond. On a branch of tree at the far side two egrets preened themselves lazily; their reflections showed clearly in the water and were disturbed occasionally by a passing duck. On the water itself tufted ducks, mallards and little grebes dived and swam. A whitethroat landed on a hawthorn bush nearby and sang to us; we were hoping it would do its parachuting song flight, but it didn’t. Not much else moved until a muntjac deer pranced through the long grass in front of us; then there was a lot of splashing amongst the reeds, but we didn’t sight the deer again. Although bird life was not plentiful, we were kept occupied with our binoculars. On leaving the hide a sudden loud burst of song announced the presence of a Cetti’s warbler, always special. In the dappled shade of a woodland path, we spotted speckled wood butterflies; apparently this butterfly has a greater tolerance of shade than other butterflies. Leaving the shade, we reached the seawall and headed a short way north. To our left lay a narrow stretch of water with reeds at the edge where reed warblers sang continuously. We also found a buttercup that became the subject of much discussion. My wild flower book lists thirteen. Detective Jill picked a specimen and with the aid of her excellent wild flower book, a magnifying glass and several cups of tea, later declared it to be a hairy buttercup.
We found two benches and sat enjoying our lunch whilst looking at the receding tide. Three oystercatchers took advantage of a sandbank that had been exposed and as it got larger others joined them until we counted twenty-two in all. Eating and chatting over, we then went to explore the cliffs where the sand martins have their burrows. We were so disappointed in only seeing about three birds that all seemed to be going back and forth to one hole – what has happened to them? I read that droughts in Africa have affected them – is this another sign of global warming?
With not much else to see we wandered along the front, through a small wood to open grass and then with car park time running out, the other five went home and I wandered back along the beach to the camp site.
Birds: blackbird, robin, goldfinch, chaffinch, blue tit, long-tailed tit, whitethroat, chiffchaff, pied flycatcher, skylark, wood pigeon, crow, swallow, sand martin, house martin, green woodpecker, little grebe, mallard, tufted duck, moorhen, reed warbler, Cetti’s warbler, little egret, oyster catcher, black-headed gull, kestrel, magpie, wren.
Flowers: stinging nettle, sea beet, white campion, broom, cleavers, great reedmace, hawthorn, bryony, honeysuckle, hairy buttercup, meadow buttercup, field bindweed, spear thistle, water-crowfoot, prickly sow-thistle, smooth sow-thistle, dog rose, chamomile, wild poppy, opium poppy, fumitory, daisy, mallow, woody nightshade, bramble, ox-eye daisy, elder, alexanders, dove’s-foot cranesbill, groundsel, salsify, nipplewort, spotted medick, yarrow, ribwort plantain, white clover, dock.
Butterflies: blue (holly?), meadow brown, speckled wood, brimstone.
Other: damsel fly, mosquito, hover fly, buff-tailed bumble bee, muntjac deer.

Next meeting: 12th July at Blue House Farm, meeting in the car park at 10.00.
-Diane Caulket

17th May 2023

Eight members met at Fingringhoe Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve on a lovely dry morning, the main purpose was to hear (if not see) Nightingales and we were lucky to hear them. Also heard and seen were Turtle Doves which are quite rare. Bird species seen or only heard (H) were as follows: Robin; Swallow; Pied Wagtail; Kestrel; Little Grebe; Tufted Duck; Moorhen; Mallard with chicks; Chiffchaff (H); Blackbird (H);
Song Thrush (H); Nightingale (H); Blackcap; Whitethroat; Little Egret; Oystercatcher; Turtle Dove; Cetti’s Warbler (H); Black-headed Gull; Long Tailed Tit; Canada Goose; Coot; Shelduck; Mute Swan; Pheasant; Magpie; Cuckoo; Chaffinch; Ringed Plover; Sedge Warbler (H); House Martin; Linnet; Great Tit.
Plant Species: Wild forget-me-not; Vetch; Purple Dead Nettle; Gorse; Common Field Speedwell.
Others: lots of baby Rabbits,
The next meeting will be on Wednesday 14th June at Cudmore Grove Country Park East Mersea, meeting there at 10am. I would advise bringing some food and drink with you as I don’t know if the café hut will be open.
-Lynda Ewers

12th April 2023

Abberton Resevoir
6 members met at Abberton EWT Visitors Centre. The weather was fine but very windy and quite cold. The forecast was for heavy rain later so after a nice coffee we set off. We saw a lovely lot of bird species and thanks to those with telescopes/long lenses some brilliant close ups.
Species as follows: Canada goose, greylag goose, mute swan, Egyptian goose, shelduck, shoveler, mallard, teal, pochard, wood pigeon, coot, great crested grebe, oystercatcher, redshank, black-headed gull, herring gull, lesser black-backed gull, common tern, cormorant, grey heron, little egret, red kite, buzzard, carrion crow, raven, great tit, skylark, sand martin, swallow, chiffchaff, blackcap, whitethroat, dunnock, yellow wagtail, pied wagtail, red legged partridge, wren, goldfinch, tufted duck, reed bunting.
Plants: Cowslip
Please note the May meeting will be Wednesday, 17th May at Fingringhoe. This is because the previous Wednesday clashes with the u3a trip to Colchester and several of our Bird Group are going.
-Lynda Ewers

March 2023

I had phoned and e-mailed round everyone to cancel today’s meeting - as the weather was cold, wet and starting to snow, it was unfair to expect people to drive in those conditions especially as we were travelling some distance and were unlikely to be walking about in comfort. However, three intrepid members said they were willing to go so thanks to them four of us arrived at Rainham where we met another member who had missed my messages and had braved it, making five in all.
As we drove into the car park we saw two double-decker buses, only to discover they had brought many schoolchildren who would be using the first hide as a school room due to the bad weather and which therefore was closed to us! Still, we had a coffee and saw several species from the warmth of the centre. We did venture a little way but most decided not to stay long as it was so cold and snowy.
We decided to check out Chafford Gorges as we were close, but found the centre had been permanently closed for some time – we could not even walk outside as there were barriers to prevent this.
The outing had not gone too well so far but not to be defeated, decided to end up at Hanningfield Essex Wildlife Trust Visitor Centre, we had some lovely toasties and drinks in lovely warm and dry surroundings. We did see several species after all as follows:
Rainham - Widgeon, House Sparrow, Black Headed Gull, Coot, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Lapwing, Avocet, Shoveler, Robin, Shelduck, Great Tit, Snipe
Others: Brown Rat, Grey Squirrel
Plants: Gorse, Hawthorn
Chafford - Magpie, Mute Swan
Hanningfield - Goosander, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Blackbird, Pheasant
Others: Grey Squirrel

Next meeting: 12th April - Abberton Reservoir. Meet in the Visitor Centre, 10am.
Again, let me know if anyone needs a lift.
-Lynda Ewers

8th February 2023

Despite the horrible weather, 10 members met at Heybridge. The fog was very thick and it was very cold. Sadly it did not lift as it had the previous day. After a warming drink we went along the footpath but could see nothing except a few grey blobs on the mud. However, we
heard the lovely sound of Brent Geese before they took off. Quite eerie but beautiful. After everyone had gone (typical) the fog suddenly cleared along the canal and the sun came out! So a few more sightings along the canal.
Species seen: Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Wood Pigeon, Tree Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Long Tailed tit, Dunnock, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Mallard (pair).
Other: Grey Squirrel.
Next meeting will be 8th March to Rainham Marshes. Meet in Visitors Centre at 10 am.
-Lynda Ewers

11th January 2023

14 members went on the walk with three more meeting us later for the meal, so 17 in all. We were so lucky to have a lovely sunny day as it definitely went downhill the rest of the week. Although there was nothing unusual to see, there were quite a few large groups of birds which is always nice, especially when they all take flight. The species seen were:
Lapwing; Teal; Redshank; Wigeon; Avocet; Dunlin; Curlew; Shelduck; Black-tailed Godwit; Oystercatcher; Starling; Golden Plover; Black Headed Gull; Blackbird; Robin; Little Egret; Sparrow; Starling; and Brent Goose.
Plants seen: Groundsel still in flower.
Please let me know if I have missed anything as there was a lot of background noise on the recording due to the wind.
After the walk we had a lovely meal at the Blackwater Bistro, I would recommend the venue and food. The staff did a great job considering I could not book until the previous Friday. February meeting: Originally South Woodham was mentioned but no facilities as Marsh Farm is only open at weekends, weekdays only on school holidays. There are apparently toilets in the sports park but not certain if they only open when there is a game, also we need somewhere if the weather is inclement. Therefore, I think Heybridge Basin would be better, meet in Daisy Meadow Car Park 10am. Is this ok with everyone?
-Lynda Ewers