For those interested in our invertebrate friends (not me, I confess!), Spring is an excellent
time to visit Canvey Wick, “Britain’s Rainforest” and Buglife’s first nature reserve.
Described as "a brownfield rainforest" by Natural England officer Dr. Chris Gibson, survey
results have shown the Wick, which was developed as an oil refinery site in the 1970s,
supports over 1,400 species of invertebrate.
The East Thames corridor is particularly rich in invertebrate species and Canvey Wick is one
of the most diverse and species-rich sites in that area, with nationally significant groupings.
It also has the most important remaining population of the Shrill carder bee in the Thames
region and perhaps in all of the UK.
So far 30 Red Data Book (RDB) endangered species and 3 species previously thought to be
extinct in Britain have been found here. These treasures include:
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
Canvey Island ground beetle (Scybalicus oblongiusculus)
Scarce emerald damselfly (Lestes dryas).
It's not just invertebrate enthusiasts that will be happy, for the rest of us there are some
spectacular orchids, lizards, water voles, and several species of birds including skylarks.
Visitor Information: - Location: Northwick Road, Canvey Island, SS8 0LD. Entry: Free. Opening Hours:
Reserve open at all times; car park gates open from 9.00am until 5.00pm
The Lark Ascending
For centuries, the skylark has inspired the works of our greatest composers, poets and
writers. And in the First World War, the song of the lark reminded those men in the
trenches of home and brought them some small relief.
As this season’s flowers already start to bloom, a familiar sign of spring is the skylark.
For us in Essex, this small bird and its unique, uplifting song can most easily be experienced
at Essex Wildlife Trust’s reserves at Two Tree Island, Abberton Reservoir and Thurrock
Thames Nature Park.
Male larks can be seen hovering at heights of up to 300m, rising vertically to defend
territories (they are ground-nesters) or to attract mates.
In a world that even more so now is constantly changing and always evolving, the skylark
continuously and consistently epitomises the British countryside, our heritage and
culture... Appearing on Channel 4 in the early 90’s and local radio also helped us on our way. Over the past 20 years our reputation for excellence and professionalism has been achieved solely by ‘word of mouth’ and our goal now is to bring our knowledge and experience to a wider audience.
Our aim is to help everyone feel confident in the kitchen whilst learning techniques in a home environment. From sitting round the table with your family and loved ones to entertaining, good food is the one thing that brings us all together. We are passionate about what we do and hopefully that enthusiasm will ignite your interest and encourage you to widen your own knowledge in the kitchen.
Hedgerows criss-cross over our countryside providing vital habitat for our wildlife as well as acting as corridors for species dispersal.
The hedgerows of the UK are invaluable to our wildlife, providing home to many of our native animals and corridors to travel for others. Both of these are important to the maintenance of many species.
Hedgerows are so teeming with life that one study counted 2070 species in one 85 metre stretch. Even this was thought to be an underestimate, as many taxonomic groups were not thoroughly sampled.
We appear to be winning the battle against the outright loss of hedgerows, but evidence points to a worrying decline in hedgerow condition through poor management. If this persists, these hedges too will perish, dealing another blow to the chances of survival for all those that currently call them home.
Although the rates of direct hedge removal have been reduced, we are still seeing the loss of hedges through mismanagement. With many farmland species now marginalised to hedgerows, it’s time to look at the issues that are threatening them.
1. Neglect – under management
Hedgerows do require management in order to stop them developing into a line of trees. A line of trees doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but these become gappy and lose all the low shrubby cover that they need to provide our wildlife with shelter, food and corridors to travel.
The last countryside survey saw a massive 9% increase in the number of hedges that had been lost to this over a decade. Once a hedgerow has become a line of trees, it is very difficult to bring it back to being a hedgerow, and it will have lost many of its wildlife credentials by that point anyway, so it’s essential to prevent this structural decline.
Over half our ‘priority species’ mammals make significant use of hedgerows for food and to travel through the landscapes.
2. Inappropriate Cutting – over management
On the opposite side of the spectrum, over-managing a hedge can also threaten our hedges. Cutting a hedge too often, and at the same height, not only reduces value of the hedge to wildlife, but also threatens the future of the hedge structure. This leads to gaps forming in the hedge which impacts their value as wildlife corridors. Cutting every year will also significantly reduce the number of flowers and fruits for wildlife to enjoy, as many of our native berry bearing species only flower on growth that is two years or older.
The timing of hedge cutting is also of huge importance to wildlife. No hedge should be cut in bird nesting season, and ideally we should wait until January where possible to trim, as this means the hedgerow berries can keep feeding our wildlife through the winter.
84% of our farmland birds rely on hedgerows for food and protection, and for over half of these a hedge is their primary habitat.
Ploughing too near a hedge not only destroys the herbaceous vegetation that usually grows at the base of the hedge, but it can damage the roots of the shrubs and hedgerow trees that make up the structure of the hedge. This can kill the trees and lead to the loss of parts of the hedge as the root systems are no longer able to support them, especially in times of drought.
4. Direct removal
Although the rates of direct removal have slowed in recent years, hedgerows can still be removed, with council permission, for agriculture or development. Any removal reduces how well connected the hedgerow network is.
Birds, bats and butterflies all use hedges as foraging and commuting habitats
Herbicides sprayed too close to the hedge, or in windy conditions can kill off plant diversity, especially at the base.
Over 500 native plant species have been recorded as being supported by hedgerows
Pesticides similarly can cause a decline in the number and diversity of insects available, which can have a knock on effect on the wildlife that they feed.
Over 1,500 different insect species have been found feeding on or living in hedgerows, they provide a huge food resource for our birds bats and other mammals.
Fertilizers can cause a change in the type of plants growing at the hedge base. Many wildflowers do not thrive in enriched soils because enrichment causes the domination of aggressive nutrient loving plants such as nettles and docks at the expense of natural diversity.
Winter can be hard for us human but even harder for wildlife – days are short and for many creatures finding enough food to survive takes up almost every hour of daylight. The winter solstice is on 21 December. This is the shortest day when the sun rises latest and sets earliest.
Everyone knows mistletoe: that familiar pair of leaves with the white berry in the middle. But do you really know the plant? The evergreen mistletoe is a parasite. Growing on the branches of other trees, it taps into the boughs of willow, poplar and apple trees for nutrients. Once a common sight in apple orchards it has declined with the shrinking of this traditional working habitat. To spread from tree to tree, mistletoe cleverly offers up its berries to birds. The seeds within the berries are coated in a sticky goo, so when the bird moves on and wipes its beak on the next tree, a seed or two is often left behind, glued in place.
The mistle thrush is a large songbird, commonly found in parks, gardens, woodland and scrub. It probably gets its common name from its love of Mistletoe. It enjoys the sticky berries and, once it has found a berry-laden tree, will guard it from any would-be thieves. In turn, it helps Mistletoe to thrive by accidentally 'planting' its seeds while wiping its bill on the tree bark to remove the sticky residue; it also disperses the seeds in its droppings.
How to identify
The mistle thrush is pale greyish-brown above, with a white belly covered in round, black spots. It is larger and greyer than the similar-looking Song Thrush.
Urban foxes still hunt live prey on the streets of our towns and cities, including rodents and pigeons, but the majority of their diet comes from food discarded by humans.
Food is plentiful for foxes in urban settings as households, shops and restaurants all provide a source of food waste which can become their meals. In comparison to a 4,000 hectare territory for a fox in Scotland, a city fox only inhabits 25 hectares of land. That smaller area can provide them with more than enough nourishment, according to the Woodland Trust.
Urban foxes are well accustomed to living closer to humans and have become brazen in their efforts to rummage through our bins.
Is it a good idea to attract foxes into your garden?
Due to foxes' opportunistic nature and eating whatever they come across, many people do not want to welcome foxes into their gardens. They might have a go at any outdoor bins you have or a nibble around your vegetable patch – which might not be ideal.
If you keep chickens, hens or rabbits outside, they could be at risk if a fox comes into your garden.
Foxes also leave their droppings in people's gardens which, other than being unsightly, can be toxic if eaten by dogs if the fox carries parasites.
fox cub in woods looks into camera as he comes under a branch
What food should you put out for foxes in your garden?
If you do welcome all and any wildlife into your garden, the best way to feed a fox is to replicate their natural diet. A fox would welcome cooked or raw meat and tinned dog food, as well as snacks like unsalted peanuts, fruit and cheese.
The number of foxes in the UK isn't officially recorded. A 2013 report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that there are around 430,000 foxes in the UK. This equates to roughly one fox for every 150 people.
The Natural History Museum websites states: "The number of foxes living across the UK isn't officially recorded, however a 2013 report by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) estimates that there are around 430,000 - roughly one fox for every 150 people in the UK.
The Autumn and Winter months are the most important for them to find food to put on enough weight before hibernation, so always make sure you put out food at this time of year. When do hedgehogs hibernate? Typically, hedgehogs hibernate from late December / early January until late March time.
Toxic gases can build up in frozen ponds, killing fish or frogs which may be hiding at the bottom. If you have a pond, check it every day for ice.
If the pond does freeze over, carefully place a saucepan of hot water on the surface to melt a hole. Never tip boiling water onto it or break the ice with force, as this can harm fish.
Hibernating hedgehogs, frogs and mice
Before lighting bonfires check carefully any wood or leaf piles for wild animals such as hedgehogs, frogs and mice, who like to hibernate in t hese cosy spots. If you find wild animals in hibernation, be sure to leave them be.
What should we feed garden birds in winter? From nuts and seeds to fruit and suet, here's our handy guide. Most important is our section on fat balls for birds which, although a well-known snack, can be harmful if made incorrectly.
Garden birds treat the festive period as a time for feasting and fattening up to keep themselves warm. It's important they bulk up as much as possible in order to endure the cold winter nights.
Unfortunately, food supply is scarce at this time of year, as insects, berries and other natural food sources are harder to come by. So, offering your garden birds some extra nourishment this Christmas is essential.
Peanuts for birds
Full of fat and proteins – peanuts are perfect for birds. But a word of warning – peanuts can contain aflatoxins so make sure you buy yours from a reputable supplier that are specific for birds. Salted peanuts are not ok.
Rich in unsaturated fats and proteins, sunflower seeds are a healthy snack for birds and humans alike.
Fat balls for birds
Making fat balls from suet and seeds is a well-known way to feed the birds but the RSPB has warned cooks against using excess cooking fat from festive roasts as a binding agent because this greasy mixture can damage the birds' feathers.
Cooled solidified fat, combined with meat juices, can easily smear onto a birds feathers and interfere with their waterproofing and insulation. If they are to survive the cold winter, birds must keep their feathers clean and dry – but if covered with a layer of grease, this is impossible and could lead to death.
Advise on food not to feed wild life
. Anything too salty,Will make them excessively thirsty and cause dehydration.
. Dog or cat biscuits Dry biscuits are a no no as birds could choke on the hard lumps. The food could also attract other animals such as cats.
Milk - Birds' stomachs aren't designed to digest milk and consumption could result in death. Oddly, they can digest fermented dairy products like cheese – in fact, mild grated cheese is a great way to attract robins.
. Mouldy food - throwing away mouldy food fed it to birds is not good as some moulds can cause respiratory infections in birds and should be avoided. Also food if is getting mouldy on your bird table could mean that you're putting out too much. Too much food will attract rats and mice so try to only put out a little bit each day.