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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


Mon 5th March 2012 12:30 by Graham Smith
February 26th to March 3rd 2012
Spring progresses. Slowly. The 26th was a beautifully warm and sunny day and was spent doing conservation work at Mill Green with Rob Smith, the butterfly recorder. We raked at least three inches of topsoil off half the large area recently cleared of birches but left the other half untouched. It will be interesting to see whether there are any differences in the plants that colonize the two. In all probability all we've succeeded in doing is creating a seed bed for birch saplings but, more optimistically, the raked area may contain the seeds of a few of the rare and declining species found in the area, just waiting this chance to germinate. Certainly, when part of the area was last cleared around twenty years ago plants such as Pill, Oval and Yellow Sedges, and masses of Heath Bedstraw, were quick to respond, flourishing for a few years before the gorse and birch closed in again.

Cherry Plum Copyright: Graham Smith

Cherry Plum (seen here in Margaretting Churchyard) and Sallow bushes are now coming into flower and providing a steadily increasing source of pollen and nectar for insects emerging from hibernation. On March 1st the temperature at Blue House Farm, North Fambridge reached 17'C and I spent my lunch break sitting in the sunshine next to the reserve's solitary sallow bush. During the half hour I was there the catkins were visited by single Peacock, Small Tortiseshell and Comma, masses of Honey Bees, two Buff-tailed Bumblebees and a Drone Fly, the last named the parent of the so-called Rat-tailed Maggot, a small white grub with a retractable breathing tube, which enables it to dwell in up to a foot of gunge in unsavoury places, such as the outflow from sewage pipes, while still managing to breath fresh air. It must surely need some!

Other plants found in bloom this week have included the first Lesser Celandines, Alder (pictured here in the recently planted Bass Wood, Althorne) and Common Whitlow Grass (Blue House), the last named - despite its diminutive size - attracting a good number of Honey Bees and even the odd bumblebee.

Alder Catkins Copyright: Graham Smith Common Whitlow Grass Copyright: Graham Smith

When the temperature soars to a giddy 17'C at this time of year you tend to get ahead of yourself, looking around for Wheatears and Swallows when they are still a few weeks away. The garden moth trap often helps to keep the spring momentum going, though. Such was the case this week as not only did it produce new moths for the year - Hebrew Character, Small Wainscot, Lead-coloured Drab (an attractive species believe it or not, despite the name) and Small Brindled Beauty (pictured) Small Brindled Beauty 3 Copyright: Graham Smith among them - but also Hawthorn, Birch and Green Shield Bugs, a queen Common Wasp, and a Great Diving Beetle. It's a good start, let's hope the weather doesn't let us down.

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