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Essex Field Club
Essex Field Club
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Tue 18th September 2012 00:00 by Michael Daniels
My September ramble
Past mid month and things are getting pretty dry here in this north-east of the county.  It is a noted dry region anyway. Sometimes we watch hopefully as dark storm clouds assemble to the south-west, then see them loose their vitality as they approach or brush by the Tendring peninsular. We see black cumulo-nimbus Colchester way, someone is getting a drenching, and then we receive just a sprinkle.  Once I was out birdwatching with a friend on the Naze marshes.  Could see a storm approaching with frequent shafts of lightning. At that time there was a small corrugated shack that passed for a hide and that is where we took refuge. Out there this hut represented the highest elevation so, oh dear we thought, we're pretty vulnerable.  Our fate 'Two birdwatchers found burnt to a cinder' spread across the local; but sure the heavy rain arrived, but the lightning and thunder dissipated maybe somewhere Bentley way. Thus I look at the increasing patches of brown rather than green lawn and wonder should I mow the grass to tidy up this part of garden, or put up with the dishevelled sward and hope for at least a freshening shower. 

I try and keep daily weather records, usually taken mid morning.  I have various, if rather basic, instruments to provide the data. Looking at the August details, find that the temperature at that time of day averaged around 65 Fahrenheit for the month and it was very dry overall. So far now just over halfway through September despite the pleasant Indian Summer we've been experiencing, the morning average has only registered about 61 degrees and all these figures are shade readings.  So no great shakes for late summer into autumn.  Yes, we had some rain, but it hardly made any impression on the aridity, witness the lawn.  The problem for us in this elevated spot along our Holland-on-Sea stretch of coast. is the immediate sub-strata which we encounter close to surface. Any precipitation, be it from natural rainfall or applied by hose or watering can, the immediate effect is for the surface to pan or cake. Thus as our flower boarders are banked, most of any deluge, immediately runs off onto the lowest surface, paths and lawn. When the local authority plants saplings along our roads here, provision has to be made for moisture to penetrate the ground by inserting a plastic pipe close to the plant stem. Surely geologist Peter Allan could tell us something about this impervious deposit and how and where- from did it originate.

No shortage of the commoner birds in our garden, obviously the ever available supply of food here an important factor. House Sparrows, Dunnocks, Robins and Blackbirds are always present in goodly numbers visiting our ex refrigerator wire drawers on the lawn, see photo June Forum. These feeders have proved a great success, importantly deterring both the Wood Pigeons and Doves from hogging the food.  Also the two latter species seem to have largely moved elsewhere and not sitting up on our TV aerials dispensing their droppings all over the balcony and conservatory roof.  Sorry Graham, but still inclined to think that birds are not high on the intelligent stakes, but there may be exceptions, I'll give you that.  Nevertheless, we get considerable pleasure and sometimes amusement watching the various bird's antics. Sure, it is certainly the Blackbirds that provide the most interest, to see them dancing around with frustration as they fail get at the food, all because as far as I can see, their basic ability to learn seems wanting.  They may be great songsters, but their aggression with their own and with other birds, does not make them one of our favourite creatures.  Apart from the very short list detailed above, birds we had around here twenty or so years ago, are either gone or seriously diminished.  Then Starlings were abundant, and now in no great numbers, likewise Swifts, seen very few this year and once they were a common sight in central Clacton nesting on the buildings. House Martins, may have seen no more than one or two.  Kestrels very scarce and especially along the sea front here where the heavily vegetated cliffs once seemed to provide a popular hunting ground for this bird of prey. See more Sparrowhawks!  But then I have only to take a trip to our Haven Country Park and the well positioned hide overlooking the shallow artificially formed lake known as the Scrape and I can usually see birds aplenty. It has proved an admirable facility for birdwatching and very popular with the countrywide twitcher fraternity The local birding team even produce an excellent updated website including day to day sightings (plus local weather) - just Google Holland Haven Birding.

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