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Exciting times for our Saline lagoon as work has started on the sluice structures. Visitors will have seen a large crane has appeared to get the 20m+ piling into the ground. This will be to hold the inlet sluice which will be under enormous pressure from the incoming tide. The piling for the outlet structures will be much reduced as the pressure of water on an outgoing tide is much smaller.
Also, contractors are restarting the creation of our smaller second saline lagoon not far from the car park. This will be fed by an existing sluice, which visitors pass on the sea wall. The foot drains will be linked to the existing farm ditches and so this winter we should have some lovely wet grassland for wintering birds to feed on.
The weather is lovely at the moment and you should see lots of lovely yellow wagtails around feeding on insects and flitting around the sea walls and car park edge.
We are hoping that the weather stays sunny for our family event, One Wild Day at Wallasea on 20th July. Please come along– the event is open from 11am – 5pm and is free! A whole range of activities and stalls are in place for everyone to join in.
Posted by Leila
Some days you really need an aaahhh moment - and my thanks go to the Wallasea Birder for providing just that yesterday afternoon. This lovely picture of Pochard ducklings with their mum, happily smiling for the camera on the Wild Coast yesterday, are one of several broods enjoying the peace , tranquillity and sunshine in the borrow dyke which runs along the inside of the seawalls.
Another picture provided a talking point and a bit of a puzzler. A tufted duck with what looked like imposter Mallard ducklings in the Tufted brood!
Our intrepid researcher found the answer for us: to be so obviously the same age and evidently associated it is likely they were from eggs laid in the Tufted Duck nest and therefore all incubated together (so they hatch out at the same time - important when your youngsters are so independent from day one). Mallard broods previously spotted on the island were already well grown a week ago. It is not that unusual for more than one female Tufted Duck to use the same nest when you can get apparently huge broods of 14 to 19 or more, but we're not sure how common it is to have imposters from another species! The 8 true ducklings are a pretty standard brood size for Tufted Duck. The ducklings are probably not more than a couple of days old, but all busy feeding themselves on little shrimp and insect larvae on the surface water with mum just riding shotgun. Dad meanwhile takes the easy option and leaves home once incubation has started to go off and start his moult. The female incubates for about 23 days and then shepherds the youngsters for 2 or 3 weeks before leaving them to go and moult herself. Incidentally, the Pochard similarly has about 8 young in a clutch, so our 6 is modest. Sadly, for both ducks, only about half will make it to fledging post successful hatching - what with Marsh Harriers, Grey Herons, Stoats, Foxes etc as well as risk of bad weather when they can get chilled. Fortunately on our borrowdykes they don't have to worry about large Pike nor Mink!
Posted by Hilary Hunter
Some days you really need an aaahhh moment - and my thanks go to the Wallasea Birder for providing just that yesterday afternoon. This lovely picture of pochard ducklings with their mum, happily smiling for the camera on the Wild Coast yesterday, are one of several broods enjoying the peace , tranquillity and sunshine in the borrow dyke which runs along the inside of the seawalls.
Another picture provided a talking point and a bit of a puzzler. A tufted duck with what looked like imposter Mallard ducklings in the Tufted brood! Our intrepid researcher found the answer for us: to be so obviously the same age and evidently associated it is likely they were from eggs laid in the Tufted Duck nest and therefore all incubated together (so they hatch out at the same time - important when your youngsters are so independent from day one). Mallard broods previously spotted on the island were already well grown a week ago. It is not that unusual for more than one female Tufted Duck to use the same nest when you can get apparently huge broods of 14 to 19 or more, but we're not sure how common it is to have imposters from another species! The 8 true ducklings are a pretty standard brood size for Tufted Duck. The ducklings are probably not more than a couple of days old, but all busy feeding themselves on little shrimp and insect larvae on the surface water with mum just riding shotgun. Dad meanwhile takes the easy option and leaves home once incubation has started to go off and start his moult. The female incubates for about 23 days and then shepherds the youngsters for 2 or 3 weeks before leaving them to go and moult herself. Incidentally, the Pochard similarly has about 8 young in a clutch, so our 6 is modest. Sadly, for both ducks, only about half will make it to fledging post successful hatching - what with Marsh Harriers, Grey Herons, Stoats, Foxes etc as well as risk of bad weather when they can get chilled. Fortunately on our borrowdykes they don't have to worry about large Pike nor Mink!
If you are looking out the window at the wind and rain and want to know what is happening on Wallasea Island, or you are separated from us by land or sea ( hello Burnham and Banbridge!), there is a nice dry, comfortable way to see the what is happening on the island.Regular visitors may have noticed our webcam mast, standing tall about half way ( 1 mile) along the public footpath on the Northern side of the island.This was erected for the original 'Wallasea Wetlands' project a few years ago, when Defra created 115ha of new saltmarsh which RSPB have since managed for them. It originally showed the slowly developing saltmarsh stretching west and east - which lets face it,while interesting to a specialist audience, is not dynamic footage! Recently the camera has been under repair,due to the elements on the Wild Coast being at times not very friendly to small turbines that power the camera. Now that it is once again fully functional, it is perfectly placed to show the whole island as we turn back the years and recreate the saltmarsh islands of old.Live images are now available from this camera, thanks to the work of Carnyx TV. The webpages show images in 7 different directions and also show the material handling area and berm upon which the conveyor belt will run from the new jetty. So as construction continues this Spring, and when ships eventually commence delivery of Crossrail material from July, armchair viewers may explore the island and watch progress from the warmth of their own laptops! There is also animations linked from this page, showing a speeded up footage of the construction done last autumn and another of the tide ebbing and flowing ( for those who think the tide always seem to be out!)To see the images click on http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/casework/details.aspx?id=tcm:9-235089 and then follow the 'useful ink' to the webcam on the bottom right hand side.Once you have explored this page the time lapse animations may be found on the top right hand corner of this page. Hope this will encourage you to come and see for yourselves once the rain stops...
Many of you may have noticed the rapid spread of Little Egrets through the country in past years. I remember well, dashing off to a WWT site in Northern Ireland where the first few of these tropical-looking birds visited Strangford Lough a few years ago, and now they are to be found throughout much of the North. This, it seems is an indication of climate change, global warming and what the compilers of the Bird Atlas show as a general shift of species from south east moving north west. This is great news for birds and their watchers in the south east, where increasing numbers of rare species are turning up, but not so good for north-western birds with nowhere left to go.
Here on Wallasea Island, Little Egrets are a common sight as they lift on approach from their feeding along our ditches and creeks, or wade around the mud of the Allfleet's Marsh. But this week, keen eyed birders spotted a bigger brother - a great white egret. As the name suggests, a large, white heron. Great white egrets can look similar to little egrets, but they are a more impressive size - the same size as the familiar grey heron, of which we have several families about the island. Other identification features to look out for include black feet (not yellow), yellow beak (in juvenile and non-breeding plumage), and a different fishing technique like that of the grey heron.
Expanding populations in Europe mean that this species is now seen more frequently in the UK - it can turn up in almost any part of the country, with most in south-east England and East Anglia. Great white egrets favour all kinds of wetland habitats - even farmland ditches can attract them - and they are most likely to be seen during spring and winter.Like the herons, they eat fish, insects and frogs, caught by spearing with its long, sharp beak. Like the heron family, this bird breeds in extensive areas of reeds, usually by large shallow lakes or fishponds. As they are partially migratory and dispersive,most european birds migrate to North Africa and the Middle East (especially Israel) but they are also wintering in increasing numbers around the Adriatic and even in Holland.
If you are heading to Wallasea for a spot of birdwatching, it is not just the wetlands worth watching at the moment. Hundreds of corn buntings are among the farmland birds who usually winter elsewhere, but have decided our Wild Bird Cover area ( near the farm) is a good spot to stay in. Birds of prey including short-eared owls, barn owls,harriers,and yesterday a buzzard, have also been seen hunting close by. So don't just drive by on your way to the seawall - pause and take in this excellent addition to the project and see what you can spot!
Many thanks to Jeff Delve for providing this great image of the great white being escorted by his little egret cousins!
This week the Wild Coast project has cranked into action, with the arrival of Crossrail's appointed contractors Bam Nuttall.Bam Nuttall were awarded the contract to construct an unloading facility on Wallasea Island so that excavated material from the Crossrail tunnels in central London will be transported to the island site, where it will be used to create part of the RSPB’s Wild Coast Project. Our normally tranquil office area has been the scene of much activity as cranes winch temporary offices into the works compound which will be the contractors' base for the coming months.
The works will be carried out in two phases. A works compound will be set up in Grapnells Farmyard and earthmoving machinery will be brought in to prepare the ground along the berm for piling equipment, which will be used for the installation of the temporary jetty.This first phase will be completed by the end of September 2011, while works on the sensitive ecological areas of the Wallasea Island foreshore will cease between October 2011 and April 2012 to minimise any impacts on the wintering wildfowl and wading birds’ natural season.After the winter break the second phase of the works involves installing the jetty on the River Crouch, building a conveyor system, footbridge and a radial stacker (for distributing the material). The jetty pontoons, which have been constructed in Poland, will soon be arriving on the Essex coast and will be taken to Tilbury docks. There they will be fitted out with on-deck equipment before being towed to Wallasea Island in April 2012. This work will take approximately three months to complete and the facility will be ready to start receiving excavated material, delivered by ship from the Crossrail tunnels, in June 2012.Anyone with a liking for large construction machinery will enjoy the scene over the coming years as the development of our immense new reserve gets underway. However, as the island is so big, those preferring the tranquillity of the seawalls and the call of the sea birds will still be able to wander along the public footpath, which will remain open throughout construction.As the Autumn migration continues into our winter season of Brent geese and waterfowl, we can look forward to wallasea offering an even bigger welcome to all kinds of visitors over the coming years.
This week I'm very grateful to guest blogger Jeff Delve, aka The Wallasea Birder, for this informative blog:
It is Autumn again!
I know, you are thinking that we haven’t really got into summer yet but for birdwatchers it is autumn. You see in spring our wintering birds migrate north to breed in the permanent daylight of the arctic and in autumn they return south to milder climes, feeding up before the rigours of winter.
By that definition a birdwatcher’s spring ends in mid June with the last arriving breeding birds and a few stragglers that have missed the boat this year and Autumn starts in early July as the first returning wading birds start to turn up in wetland areas.
These early birds are probably the ones that did not breed successfully, maybe first year birds just going through the motions, or failed breeders, perhaps their nests or young being victims of predators. With no reason to hang around the breeding areas they start to drift back south.
Whilst around the countryside generally and in our gardens there are family parties of finches and legions of juvenile tits and warblers, all locally bred, our wetlands have a mix of local breeding birds and drop in migrants.
By mid July those first few birds have started to become a flood. Green Sandpipers, Greenshanks and Whimbrel are already here on Wallasea, most likely birds from breeding areas in Northern Europe and Scandinavia rather than the far Siberian arctic. They have less distance to travel to our shores but before long they will be joined by longer distance migrants.
Along All Fleet’s Marsh, Whimbrels, seen heading north in May, are now back and numbers are growing. Over the weekend at least 18 were to be found, their trilling calls making identification easy as small groups fly up from the saltmarsh, especially near the webcam tower. Those with good ears may also identify the occasional Greenshank calling as it flies by, far easier to pick up by ear than finding them amongst the local Redshank tribe. Small groups of Dunlin, still sporting their black-bellied, chestnut-backed summer plumage, can be found hurriedly feeding on the mudflats as the tide falls and numbers of Ringed Plover will soon start to build up, picking their way across the muddy islands.
We are also seeing parties of Godwits, both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed, all sporting bright chestnut hued breeding plumage although their flight feathers have already started to moult out and they can look ragged on the wing. All these birds are adults or at least yearlings from last year.
As we move into August the numbers and variety of waders will increase and with luck we may get a few scarcer migrants to spice up the mix. The flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover may sometimes include the odd adult Curlew Sandpiper or Little Stint for example although these can be a challenge to pick out of the growing throng on high tide roosts.
By the middle of August the wader numbers will be swelled by the first juvenile birds, introducing a new range of plumages to the mix and providing another identification challenge. The young birds will all be sporting pristine new plumage whilst the adults will be looking a bit tatty as they start to moult out of their rather worn summer dress. By the end of our summer holidays migration will be reaching a peak and new birds will be coming through every day – so never mind the missing summer get out there and grab some early autumn migration!
This lovely hymn always reminds me of my time giving community talks to WI groups, back in rural areas of Northern Ireland. The warm welcome given by these lovely ladies always seemed to be followed by a rendition of the hymn, deemed most suiting to start an evening in the company of the RSPB!
If you are a fan of flowers, butterflies and all things colourful,as I am, get yourself down to Wallasea on a nice sunny day and you'll be delighted with the wild flowers on display, colouring up the vast expanses of saltmarsh. The most obvious and impressive at the moment is the salsify, or tragopogon species, of which there are yellow and purple varieties. These flowers open until mid-day, which leads to their local name of 'jack goes to bed at noon', but what my inner child loves is the huge dandelion-clock-type seedheads scattered all over the seawalls at the moment. They are immmense!
Less conspicuous, but equally pretty are the little pink-striped bindweed and tiny sea thrift flowerheads. Later in the summer the marsh will be ablaze with the colour of sea lavendars, which resembles the everlasting statice blooms, and later still the sea asters, which may look just like Michaelmas daisies, to the gardeners amongst you.
I'm still getting to know my saltmarsh plants, as I discover them on our weekend wanders - so if you find something I haven't mentioned, please get in touch, post a picture or drop in and tell me all about it. Happy Wandering!
Have you noticed how many butterflies are about at the moment? The good weather may be bad news for the local farmers , but our butterfly and moth population seems to be relishing the sunshine Every weekend we seem to come back from our stroll round the island edges to look up yet another creature, or flower, we cannot identify!So our most recent find then turned into a bit of one-upmanship, between my boss Chris and I. Having found a large clump of tiny caterpillars intertwined on the seawall grass, which necessitated a bit of homework, we discovered we had found Ground Lackeys ( malacosoma castrensis) a Red data book moth (i.e. occurs in less them 15 UK 10km squares.) which happens to like saltmarsh. My excited report on Monday morning resulted in my find being trumped by Chris's report of seeing over 200 'larval tents' on the saltmarsh - something we just had to then go and see for ourselves and to photograph for you to see as well - I'm sure you'll agree it was quite a sight, almost an invasion!
The Ground Lackey is a very local species of moth in the British Isles, restricted to parts of the south-eastern coastal counties.The moths fly in July and August, but are only infrequently encountered, usually by light-trapping. The colourful larvae are more showy, sometimes basking in the sunshine. They feed on a range of saltmarsh plants such as sea wormwood (Artemisia maritima) and sea-lavender (Limonium vulgare).They are fascinating creatures living in silken tents and can survive inundation by the occassional high tide – just the sort of species that will benefit from the Wild Coast Project.
If little brown moths and caterpillars aren't enough to lure you down to the wild isle this week - how about some more colourful species? Recent RSPB visitors, big enough and old enough to know better, have morphed into laddish butterfly-chasers in their attempts to capture great photos to take back to the office. For the records these have included green-veined White, Orange-tip, lots of Common Blue ,Brown Argus, Peacock, lots of Small Heath plus my favourite, the spectacular, cream-spotted tiger moth which even laid its eggs on one visitor's trouser leg! Can you beat that for a Love Nature moment?
Grid reference: TQ9494 (+2km)
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