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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 24th January 2011 17:30 by Graham Smith
More stressful tales
Thanks Mary. Most of the trees affected at Fryerning were (or are) situated alongside paths, either tarmaced (as in the old churchyard) or of hard stony ground and the soil around them is further compacted by the trampling of many feet. I seem to recall from one of the 'A Year at Kew' TV programmes that they have a similar problem there and have to regularly loosen the soil around the trees to allow rain to reach the roots. Perhaps that is part of the problem in the churchyard. I will have to get digging!

While we are on the subject of stressed out naturalists, I completed one of my regular BTO 'Bird Track' surveys at Margaretting today and in fifty years of walking the farmland in this area I cannot recall a more dispiriting count. Pigeons, Corvids and Gulls apart, three hours of walking produced 30 birds of 11 species and not a single farmland (as opposed to woodland edge) species among them! I have never spent three hours in the Essex countryside before without seeing a Chaffinch! Then, at the very end of the walk, a Red Kite flew overhead, a bird still scarce enough in Essex to lift my spirits. Alas, how easily we are sidetracked by the rare and the exciting. Even so, it was a relief to get back to suburbia and a garden full of birds.

For the record, since the 1939-45 War (but mostly in the past 25 years) fourteen species have, for various reasons (most often habitat loss or deterioation) been lost as breeding birds from Ingatestone parish, namely, Grey Partridge, Lapwing, Redshank, Snipe, Nightjar, Red-backed Shrike, Tree Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Willow Tit, Nightingale, Hawfinch, Lesser Redpoll. Corn Bunting and Tree Sparrow. A further seven - Barn Owl, Kingfisher, Skylark, Mistle Thrush, Garden Warbler, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting - have declined by 80+% and eleven - Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, House Martin, Marsh Tit, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Linnet, Yellowhammer and House Sparrow - by between 90 and 99 per cent!

Still, it could be worse. I'm sure they're working on it ---------!!! I'm off to have a stiff drink! Graham



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