Christmas came early for a couple of birdwatchers on the Wild Coast, two days before santa was expected,when two common cranes were spotted flying over the island.Like so many so-called 'common' species these birds are a rare sight, especially at this time of year. Once common, and giving their name to many places with 'cran' in the title, these magnificent birds became extinct in the 17th century,due to disturbance, shooting and land drainage, but have now regained a small breeding population, circa 6 pairs, in Eastern England.For those hoping to spot a crane, there is a better chance of spotting them passing through in Spring or Autumn. They are larger than a Grey Heron, eat seeds, crops, insects, snails and worms and are more likely to be seen on the east Anglian fens, but can be found as far north as our reserves in the East of Scotland.
For those of us content to be wowed by the more regular visitors to Wallasea, the sheer number of birds to be seen at the moment is quite breath-taking. They seem to favour the far eastern end of the new marsh but it is worth rhe walk! The recent cold weather on the continent has driven many here for respite and brent geese appear to have had a good breeding season and are present in record numbers; up to 6,000 being counted over Christmas. Other birds present in large numbers are wigeon, a very attractive bird with an unusual whistling call,and teal. These small dabbling ducks have a lovely 'teal' green wing patch noticeable in flight and the males also have the same colour eye patch.( check out the main rspb web site for a great video of a male teal walking on ice! Just 'search' teal)
If you would like to join our staff and volunteers for 'Something Wild and Wonderfowl' on Sunday 30th there are still some spaces - take a look at our events section for details. Happy New Year!
We've had a lot of welcome visitors over the last year, including local MPs and councillors,various local press and radio stations, environmentalists, researchers,local businesses, students and school pupils and representatives from various parts of the tourist trade to name but a few. However, possibly the most exciting visitors for many of us are the huge flocks of Brent geese that are filling the vast skies and marshland round Wallasea at the moment. On a calm, wintery morning, with snow gently thawing and watery sun trying to break through the clouds, that unmistakeable croaking sound of geese flying overhead never fails to stir the emotions.The dark-bellied brent goose is a small, very dark goose,roughly the same size as mallards.There is little contrast between black breast and muddy brown belly, but the adults can be distinguished by their white 'collars'. Amazingly, they travel to our shores all the way from Arctic Siberia - 2,500 miles away!Of course, at this time of year the mudflats are full of life, with the visiting water fowl and over-wintering waders. On a walk along the seawall at low tide not all of these will be obvious to the naked eye, but if santa has brought you binoculars, or even better a telescope, a mass of well camouflaged little bodies can be spotted busy taking advantage of the wealthy store of food in what is often thought of as 'just mud'! The forecast cold snap may well see even more of these visitors arriving soon from colder parts of the globe.On land sightings of predators, birds of prey taking advantage of the larder laid out for them on the island, includes marsh and hen harriers, short eared owls, peregrines, and merlins. Barn owls are also often spotted hunting the dykes and land to the west of the island in late afternoon.If you would like to join a guided trip to see the winter wonderland on Wallasea, check out the details of our event on Sunday January 30th. Something Wild and Wonderfowl, will include an RSPB display and film show in Canewdon Community Hall, followed by a minibus trip along the road to Wallasea Island with our experts to guide you. Spaces are sure to be booked up quickly so make sure you don't miss out - Book Now!!May I wish all our community and readers a very happy christmas and a healthy New year. See you again in 2011.
Christmas came early for a local photography student this week. Oliver Creamer, from Southend, was recently selected as our young champion for the 2020 Vision project and this week it was announced that he will be working with Terry Whittaker, an environmental photographer with a background in zoos, wildlife conservation and research. http://www.terrywhittaker.com .
2020VISION is not a conservation project; In a nutshell, it is a multimedia project that communicates the link between people's well being and the restoration of natural systems. By bringing top flight visual media specialists - photographers, videographers, sound recordists - together with the scientific and conservation community they hope to create an unprecedented set of communication resources to inspire and inform a massive audience.As you all know by now, (well I do go on a bit!) Wallasea is an inspirational place to capture images and sounds, so it will be thrilling to be one of the projects involved in this scheme. Oliver and Terry will be collaborating to capture the essence of Wallasea Island over 20 months and we look forward to seeing the results of their efforts eventually. Watch this space for updates in the New Year.For more information on 2020 Vision click on http://www.2020v.org/index.asp
We are looking for writers who go wild over nature. If you love our wild coast and can write a short story or poem inspired by Wallasea Island we want to read it. Wild and windswept places have always inspired great writers and Essex has its fair share of poetry and prose to capture its remoter aspects. Now it’s time for local nature writers to explore Wallasea Island as their muse, and win themselves a prize.This week we have launched our first creative writing contest to find Wild Writers for the Wallasea project. Entries are invited from adults, primary school pupils or secondary school age students and may take the form of short stories (up to 3,000) words or poems. In the cold weeks ahead, over Christmas break and into the New Year why not wax lyrical and express your love of the wild coast. If the weather is kind, take an inspirational visit to the island, be inspired, and then retreat to the warmth to pen the winning entry. Entries should reach us by Monday January 10. For more details see our main Wallasea Island web page.
Bird ringing in Britain and Ireland is organised and co-ordinated by the BTO. A network of over 2,500 trained and licensed volunteers currently ring over 900,000 birds every year. In our postings last week, sightings of ringed birds seen on Wallasea were referred to. These birds had been ringed across the river by Burnham farmer Martin Smith.
Aims of ringing on the farm are mixed, Martin has been attempting to ring the majority of swallow pulli (chicks still in the nest), which might produce information on longevity and how many fledged juveniles return to the farm. Barn Owl chicks were also ringed and might be re-trapped at some stage in the future elsewhere. Corn Buntings have received special attention and are the focus of a colour ringing project, part of the aim being to track Corn Bunting movements. Martin has managed to ring about a third of the singing territorial males on the farm and has some data on holding territories. As well as target species, he rings migrants and residents, which gives some indication of species on the farm and those
using his farm’s stewardship features - plenty of Dunnocks, Whitethroat and Reed Bunting use the area planted with wild bird seed mix. This area also held good numbers of wintering thrushes and blackbirds with a control from Sweden in 2008. Away from the farm, Martin’s trainer Chris Harris rings birds on Foulness and we have had some movement from Foulness to Burnham with a pied wagtail born on Foulness, breeding within the farm yard the following year.
Placing a lightweight, uniquely numbered, metal ring around a bird’s leg provides a reliable and harmless method of identifying birds as individuals. Each ring also has an address so that anyone finding a ringed bird can help by reporting where and when it was found and what happened to it. Some ringing projects also use colour rings to allow individual birds to be identified without being caught.
On average only one in every 50 birds ringed are subsequently found and reported, so every report of a ringed bird is of value. More information on bird ringing can be found on the BTO website.