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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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The weblog below is for naturalists to use to report interesting sightings, ask questions, report on field meetings and generally post pictures and any information or questions generally relevant in some way to the wildlife and geology of Essex. You will need to register and be logged-on to post to the forum, and you need to upload pictures first, for use in posts. Find out more


Thu 22nd July 2010 16:13 by Graham Smith
A Little Bit of Luck
Sunday July 18th : Some birds are notoriously difficult to see. You can visit the Bittern Watch Point in the Lee Valley on a month of Sundays and not catch a glimpse; or you can pop in on the offchance and see three! The Corncrake is another skulker, taunting would-be observers with its harsh, monotonous "crex crex" call from deep in the hayfields; a sound that can apparently cause sleepless nights and have you reaching murderously for your shotgun in the few places where it is still common. Sadly, it is over a century since that was the case in Essex. A third recluse is the Quail, like the Corncrake a summer visitor in small numbers to Britain. If you are lucky you might hear its distinctively jerky "wet my lips" call from the cornfields; Elmdon and Chrishall being one of its favoured haunts in the days of my youth. Blissfully quiet it was there then, before the advent of the M11 and expansion of Stanstead, the call of the Quail often forming a prelude to that of the Stone Curlew, another lost Essex bird. As for seeing them - in your dreams! After fifty years of walking the farmland around Ingatestone (since I was first given permission to go freelance at the age of twelve) without even hearing one call my luck finally changed today. I was sitting under a tree on the edge of a cornfield at Mill Green, enjoying my elevenses, when four tennis ball sized gamebirds came creeping along the edge of the field towards me accompanied by a slightly larger ball - their mother. I had been expecting to focus my binoculars on a brood of Pheasants - which have precociously feathered young -and it took some moments before the striped faces and stripe-flecked backs registered. The female was the first to cotton on to my presence and she dived into the corn but the youngsters panicked and sprang into the air, flying a few yards on furiously beating wings before plopping back into the wheat. To say I was chuffed to bits or - to use an alternative cliche - over the moon, is a slight understatement! The record will be entered in the relevant tetrad on the BTO's Bird Atlas - a rare case of proved breeding for this species - but context and meaning has nothing to do with tetrads but resides in long cherished areas, such as parishes, and as the same walk produced not only a Quail but a Marbled White - another new parish record - it was truly a red letter day for this tribal East Saxon ploughboy!
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