Adult Porpoise washed up on shore NE Essex, 24th August 2020
Within yards location of the juvenile Porpoise that was washed up at the end of July last year, this time an adult was washed up dead at the end of August at Brightlingsea. BNA president Roger Tabor found it was an adult female 1m 60cm long with a girth of 0.75m. Her weight was found to be 26kg which is underweight for for a female adult porpoise of her length. The wound on her back with regular cut marks suggested possibly the injury was from a propeller of a small boat rather than grey seal attack. The findings were recorded with Seawatch Strandings/NHM/IOZ. The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was also notified.
Juliet Heppell of Brightlingsea Beach School had noted a pod of 4-5 porpoises in early mornings the area around the creek mouth before the stranding. Thanks to Terry Hamilton of Brightlingsea Parish Council for helping Roger in weighing the porpoise.
Moth Trapping in Essex during Lockdown 2020
Fiona Hutchings MBNA, an Essex BNA Branch member, normally traps weekly in her garden using her 15W actinic Skinner trap. So this was an ideal activity to continue during the Covid lockdown, & started her 2020 notebook in March just ahead of lockdown, & March as usual was a “slow start” with a handful of individuals & species. However, the first night of April kicked up to 17 moths (8sp.) & one the dotted chestnut, an Essex red data book species. In her article in BNA’s “British Naturalist” (Autumn-Winter 2020 issue) she noted that in April she was “assisted” by her teenager kitten who took to catching some moths in mid-air which did not help. Quaker sp. were followed by Hebrew characters, treble lines then pugs.
Her best night she noted was on 21st May with 116 moths (38sp.) including a spruce carpet. In June she was delighted with a lime hawkmoth, toadflax brocade (also an Essex red data book sp.) & a lobster moth. She even had unexpected intruders of 8 carrion beetles on one occasion. As she noted: “Whilst the implications of lockdown have been difficult & stressful for many, I thoroughly enjoyed being able to trap more frequently at home”.
Fiona in her MBNA robes at the British Naturalists’ Association’s conference at Forest School in 2019.
Tree Planting New Hedgerow at Brightlingsea, Essex, 6th March 2020
Suzie Jenkins, BNA member & organiser of Brightlingsea Nature Network asked BNA president Roger Tabor to help start the planting of a new hedgerow at Brightlingsea. Suzie & members of the Nature Network planted hundreds of young whips. The hedgerow will help shield an industrial building from the field & woodland view as well as enhance the natural history potential of the site.
Roger then surveyed the field & adjacent small historic wood of Barkers Grove. The eastern boundary hedge of the field is an attractive existing feature. Although the woodland’s dominant tree cover has largely yielded to sycamore, nonetheless the amount of bluebells suggests old origins as does the boundary banking & location alongside the historic farmhouse & pond. An active rookery stood out against the still bare branches in early March.
BNA Essex Coastal Birding Event at Brightlingsea, Essex, 22nd February 2020
This was due to have been a boating trip from Brightlingsea Harbour like the successful one last year, but the day turned out too be too blustery & the water far too choppy for a comfortable trip. (Our thanks to Brightlingsea Harbour for allowing us to postpone it, but unfortunately since then the covid pandemic emerged & government restrictions has not yet allowed our return). So on the day our band of hardy naturalists went for a coastal walk & looked at the birdlife at the boating lake (brackish water) plus a walk along the very blowy seawall to view over the SSSI coastal grazing marsh led by Roger Tabor & Gerry Johnson MBNA (chairman of Essex Birdwatching Society). Roger then showed us a dead Common Seal that had been recently washed up on the saltmarsh.
BNA Essex Display as part of Oral Natural Histories at Brightlingsea at Railway Tavern, Brightlingsea, Essex, 8 February 2020
We were delighted to be asked to mount a display of Essex wildlife with an emphasis on that seen in & around Brightlingsea, held at the congenial atmosphere of the town’s Railway Tavern. It was part of an Oral Natural Histories event organised by Suzie Jenkins, BNA member (& part of Cob-nuts, an art & wildlife group affiliated to BNA, & organiser of Brightlingsea Nature Network)) with Catherine Herbert. Catherine was recording memories of local wildlife in days past from locals as a component of her Masters degree & which will become available at Brightlingsea Museum. Our president Roger Tabor was present to discuss wildlife sightings & memories. Local wildlife photographer Ant Niles also put on a display of his excellent photographs as part of the event.
It was a fascinating event which stimulated a great deal of discussion & reminiscences of memories of changing wildlife.
BNA Essex’ Annual Christmas “Tree” at All Saints’ Christmas Tree Festival. Brightlingsea, Essex, 14 – 15th December 2019
Our theme for 2019 was a”Green Man” remembering BNA’s past President David Bellamy who had recently died. David had been in the church in 2014 as part of the “Bellamy at Brightlingsea” weekend. A number of people kindly expressed their condolences, remembering meeting or seeing him at the church event or during that BNA natural history weekend or how watching him on TV started their interest in wildlife.
BNA Essex stand at Essex Field Club Exhibition event at Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea, Essex Sat 7th December 2019
On Sat 7th Dec 2019 BNA Essex had a big L shaped stand at Wat Tyler Country Park’s Green Centre as part of Essex Field Club’s Exhibition & Social, which was a great day for meeting & talking with other naturalists from other Essex natural history/conservation organisations, & catching up with old friends/colleagues. Ken Biggins MBNA & our President Roger Tabor in BNA logo tops manned the stand, with some appreciated occasional support from Gerry Johnson MBNA, a branch member, but who was primarily there to man the Essex Birdwatching Society stand as its Chairman. That mix of people being in not only one organisation was an excellent common feature of the day showing the overlapping interests of Essex naturalists, & the support individuals bring to wildlife in the county. Other BNA Essex members who came to see the stand & whom it was great to see included Professor Ted Benton HonFBNA, Fiona Hutchings MBNA, Tony Boniface FBNA & John Dobson FBNA.
On the stand there were sections about BNA Essex fieldwork such as river sampling at Chelmsford & early Spring event at Alresford, plus there were displays on the Brightlingsea coastal study area of the Branch including seine net sampling, winter wader & wildfowl estuary boat trips, amphibians, reptiles found, & a particular emphasis on saltmarsh studies, a section showed the BNA’s 2014 “Bellamy at Brightlingsea” weekend event in which nearly 20 specialist naturalists including our past President David Bellamy & our present President, led a number of events in different habitats around the area. There were also display panels on the BNA’s role as a Naturalist Recognition body, & how naturalists can seek to gain recognition especially for their fieldwork as FBNA’s (Fellows), MBNA’s (Registered Members) & ABNA’s (Associates).
Enjoyable event to take part in with opportunities to discuss matters of common interest with other naturalists, – plus excellent refreshments!
BNA Essex Displays & Oral Natural History Memories at Brightlingsea Museum, Brightlingsea, Essex 16th November 2019
We were pleased to be asked to put on an exhibition of local wildlife at the new Brightlingsea Museum building to stimulate & support the recording of memories of local natural history. (The event was held before the permanent exhibits moved in to Dove House, the new Museum building, which would have been officially opened in May 2020 but for the Covid pandemic which has delayed that until September, & although free entry, due to current health restrictions you will need to book a ticketed time slot).
The event was organised by Suzie Jenkins, (BNA member, & part of Cobnuts which is a natural history & art group affiliated to BNA, & organiser of Brightlingsea Nature Network) together with Catherine Herbert. Catherine is gathering the recorded memories as a component towards her Masters degree, the finished material will be put on display at the museum. Margaret Stone, the Curator of the museum encouraged the event to take place.
The event was well attended & it did stimulate a lot of discussion about the wildlife of the area. The Town Mayor Graham Steady recorded his memories at the event. Also present in his chain of office was Peter Ball, the Deputy of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea, the historic chain of silver oysters & sprats, itself is a record of local marine wildlife from when these were regularly fished from the port. Our President Roger Tabor was present to discuss wildlife sightings & memories.
Also on display was a hand written report made many years ago of a study of the ecology of the saltmarsh bordering the Colne Estuary at Brightlingsea, including some pressed saltmarsh plants, made by Michael Woods when at Westminster College, Oxford.
Sowing & Planting New Wildflower Meadow by Lozenge Nature Area, Brightlingsea 2nd & 3rd November 2019
Suzie Jenkins, BNA member & key member of the art & wildlife group Cob-nuts that are affiliated to BNA has instigated the Brightlingsea Nature Network, & with the backing of Brightlingsea Town Council organised a planting & sowing of native wildflowers into a new small meadow. On the 2nd November our President Roger Tabor put in the first plant, a small selfheal plant into the turf, aided by Suzie, Cllr Graham Steady the Mayor of Brightlingsea & others. A few native bluebells were put in the planted edge wood, but no seed was sown as the wind was far to strong! On the following day another planting group of keen volunteers were able to finish the job.
Tree Planting at Lozenge Nature Area as part of BIOLOGY WEEK 2019, Brightlingsea 11th October 2019
Our President Roger Tabor gave a short introductory talk at the Lozenge about the wildlife importance of the coastal Brightlingsea area with its many layers of legal protection inherent in its SSSI, SPA, SAC, RAMSAR, MCZ & other designations & the value of the Lozenge, & the value of tree planting, & of the significance of the trees to be planted. As a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology he said he was delighted that Brightlingsea Council who own & manage the Lozenge were co-operating with the BNA to draw attention for the need of appropriate locally sourced & locally grown trees for planting, within the RSB’s Biology Week. Then he & the Mayor of Brightlingsea Cllr Graham Steady planted a tree together. Then others present including Councillors, Terry Hamilton, the Council’s Estates’ Manager, Brightlingsea’s vicar Rev Caroline Beckett, & BNA member Suzie Jenkins also took part in the plantings.
Nature Spotting for Families at the Lozenge Nature Area, Brightlingsea, Essex 26th August 2019
Our annual event at the Lozenge, Brightlingsea, to encourage youngsters with their families to find a number of species of wild flowers, trees, insects & other specie. They work from sheets with photographs of the species to find, them put them on the map of where they found them in the reserve. BNA Essex has been running this for many years in conjunction with the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea who kindly provide volunteers to man the event alongside BNA members. The Cinque Port Deputy in his chain of office kindly met many of the families.
We are grateful for the use of the reserve to Brightlingsea Town Council. The event is part of the Brightlingsea Town Show which takes place each August Bank Holiday. In addition to age group prizes, this year every youngster taking part received a small prize on the day. Top spotter was Oliver Pentney, with Ezri Marsh winning the younger age group, with a number of runners up with scores not far behind the top prize-winners. Excellent naturalists of the future!
BNA Essex Coastal Marine Event at Brightlingsea Boating Lake 10th August 2019
This event was led by Roger Tabor, BNA President. It started at 10am & we were delighted that Brightlingsea Beach School youngsters took part with their organiser Juliette Heppell. Branch members & local members of the public also took part despite the very blustery wind, – but it was bright at times!
Nets were used, & the youngsters made excellent use of their sample pots with magnifiers. Using lenses it was possible to determine the marine Isopods found were Idotea baltica from their telson shape. Roger pointed out that female guarding amoung the Isopods which were very abundant. 3-spined Sticklebacks & brown shrimps Crangon crangon were also found. The Boating lake is brackish with an inlet from the estuary. Roger also showed the location of nermertine ribbon worms Lineus ruber he had found recently at the edge of the lake. He then showed the group some invasive Japanese Wireweed from the beach.
Investigating Porpoise Death Brightlingsea Creek 21st July 2019
Our President Roger Tabor was called in to investigate the death of a Porpoise in Brightlingsea Creek. The porpoise was found by Brian Roberts washed up on a beach in the Creek. Roger identified it as a young calf which he measured at 0.79m long. There were a series of parallel deep cuts near the head that could have been fropm the propeller of a small boat. There was also a chunk out of the abdomen (possibly from a grey seal or scavengers). It appeared that it had been otherwise in good health. A live adult porpoise was subsequently spotted off the town jetty.
Moth Trapping at Saffron Walden 19th July 2019
The 19th July was a busy day for BNA Essex with 3 events taking place across it. Many thanks to newly recognised MBNA Fiona Hutchings for kindly inviting other BNA Essex members to join her for her evening moth trapping at Bridge End Gardens on this the third Friday in July, & for the third Friday of each month in the season this year. This kindness is much appreciated.
Official Opening of New Permanent Natural History Display at Chelmsford Museum, Essex 19th July 2019
The afternoon of 19th July 2019 saw the official opening by Chelmsford Museum Director Nick Wickenden & the mayor of the city of Chelmsford of the new galleries at the Museum’s Oaklands Park site. Our BNA President Roger Tabor was one of those officially invited as he had been involved in the design of the new permanent Natural History display. This shows a range of animals & birds that could be encountered in a garden in Chelmsford, both by day & night (the lighting changes to feature nocturnal or daytime species). An electronic interactive selection board gives information within the display.
BNA ESSEX at Sandford Millstream 19th July 2019, Freshwater Wildlife
This event was led Ken Biggins MBNA with support from our President Roger Tabor FBNAhc, & we were delighted to be joined by Twitter’s own @PondManUK Neil Phillips who brought along his mobile photo-aqaria to take “underwater” pictures. It was a great pleasure to meet up with him & to see him in action. The millstream below Sandford Mill, near Chelmsford, is a great location to sample species at, but not the easiest of places to find! However well worth the trip, & hot day. The stars of the dipping were Miller’s Thumbs, fish with broad heads otherwise known as bullheads. The name Miller’s Thumb comes from how millers tested the flour to see if it had been ground fine enough by the stones by rubbingsome in the palm of one hand with the thumb of another. A lifetime of doing that broadens the end of the thumb, like the broad heads of the fish. The link with millers is that this species is commonly found in milltail streams & splash pools below watermills as due to the tumbling of the water at the wheel & gate it is higher in oxygen than upstream of the mill, oxygenated conditions the fish prefer. Neil found some small fish leaches.
Moth Trapping at Carver Barracks Airfield, Wimbish, Essex 5th July 2019
Many thanks to newly recognised MBNA Fiona Hutchings for kindly inviting other BNA Essex members to join her for her evening moth trapping at Wimbish on the first Friday in July, & for the first Friday of each month in the season this year. Her kindness is much appreciated.
BNA ESSEX at National BNA Conference 11th May 2019, at Forest School, Snaresbrook
BNA Essex was well represented at this year’s National BNA Conference which had the brilliant theme of “Protecting Our Marine Wildlife”. We welcome new members of the Branch Dr Tom Cameron who became recognised at the event as an Hon Fellow, & Alice Lown who became a Fellow, both of the University of Essex & both working in marine biology. We also welcome Fiona Hutchings to the Branch, she is also an active member of Essex Field Club. We congratulate existing member of the Branch Tricia Moxey who became recognised as a Fellow. Other BNA Essex members who can be see in the pictures below are Tony Boniface FBNA examining leaves, Ken Biggins MBNA who led the pond dipping, Alan Purdy taking part in owl pellet analysis, Gerry Johnson MBNA who put on a display for the Essex Birdwatching Soc, Dr Chris Gibson FBNA (bottom right) who led the botanising in the Forest. Branch member Sara Biggins ABNA led the gowned procession in the afternoon.
Dr Tom Cameron HonFBNA can be seen giving one of the Marine lectures, in part discussing restorative work that he & Alice are involved in that may save our Native Oyster. Alice has mapped the distribution of the Native Oyster in the Colne, Blackwater, Roach & Crouch Essex Esturies MCZ, so further congratulations, for shortly after the conference she became Dr Alice Lown. Alice & Tom (top left) are standing by Alice’s display presentation alongside the display mounted by Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authority (based in Brightlingsea) who have assisted Tom & Alice’s work. One picture shows Fiona receiving her certificate from our new BNA President, Roger Tabor HonFBNA (Roger is also our Branch President). Also taking part from Essex were a number of Essex Countryside & Wildlife Adult Education course members (based in Chelmsford), which is affiliated to the BNA, plus some WREN Conservation Group members who are active naturalists in the area around Forest School. Our thanks as a Branch to Forest School for all the help & support it gives BNA in holding its conferences there.
BNA Essex: Spring in Cockaynes Wood, Alresford, Essex
Visit to the fantastic Cockaynes Wood led 13th April 2019 by Dr Chris Gibson. The location is a mosaic of ancient woodland, stream, lakes plus sandy areas as part was a former sand extraction site. An exposed mounded slope of sand descending from woodland has become colonised by the colonial solitary bee the Vernal Colletes (or Spring Mining Bee) Colletes cunicularius. This species in the UK was purely on the West coast (Wales to Cumbria) on old dunes, but here the former extraction site suits it perfectly. The wetter areas of the site provide willows whose flowers power the early flight period of the bee (March-May), our April visit was perfect timing to see the bees.
In the woodland by the stream Chris pointed out the remarkable flowered Moschatel, otherwise known as Town Hall Clock due to its flowers on each side of the flower head (plus one on top!)
Coastal Birding Boat Trip, Over-wintering Wildfowl & Waders 23rd February 2019
Fabulous boat trip lots of birds on the Essex Sunshine Coast at Brightlingsea in brilliant sunny weather, – for February, but everyone dressed properly! Combined event by BNA Essex with Essex Countryside & Wildlife course (based in Chelmsford & affiliated to the BNA). It was led by Gerry Johnson MBNA (above) & Roger Tabor HonFBNA (below). Gerry is a Branch member & a course member of EC&W, plus he is chairman of Essex Birdwatching Society, Roger is our President. The boat was skippered along Brightlingsea Creek by Nigel Taylor, who is a BNA Essex Branch member as well as a trustee of Brightlingsea’s Harbour Commissioners (it was a Brightlingsea Harbour boat).
We had a full boat (numbers limited for this one!) & saw around 1,000 Brent geese, some hundreds of oystercatchers, a flock of grey plovers (can identify from black armpits in flight!), some 50 curlew, godwit, turnstone, avocets, redshank, lapwing, herring gull, shellduck, lesser black backed gull, a couple of cormorant, wigeon, little egret, teal, mallard, crow, overhead 3 buzzard, kestrel, rook, wood pigeon. Very enjoyable trip, rounded off by a cafe lunch at the “Coach House”.
Forest School Talk -“Forest!”
On Thursday 4th October 2018, Roger Tabor, BNA national chairman & BNA Essex president gave a talk at Forest School, Snaresbrook, in Epping Forest, to pupils & staff of the school plus some pupils from a nearby school titled “Forest!”. He talked about the arrival of Royal Forests & forest law with William the Conqueror & the changes affecting the original Essex Forest & its subsequent fragments, Writtle Forest, Hatfield Forest, Waltham Forest then Hainault Forest & particularly Epping Forest. He talked of coppicing & pollarding, & commoner’s rights of pannage, grazing & lopwood, & the survival of Epping Forest.
Nature Spotting for Families at the Lozenge Nature Area 2o18
Bank Holiday Monday 27th August 2018: Once again numbers of youngsters & their families were able to take part in this annual event held by the BNA Essex Branch with the active help of members of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea, as part of the Brightlingsea Town Show at the Lozenge Nature Area with the agreement of the Brightlingsea Town Council. We have run this for a number of years & youngsters & families that are both local & from further afield take part in finding the plant species & some insect species that they have as photos on the sheets given to them in the Lozenge, & then marking on the map where they found them. Its a great way for youngsters (& mums, dads & grandparents!) to be able to begin to become familiar with identifying plants & insects. (BNA naturalists gave help when needed). The most successful youngsters (in different age catagories can win natural history prizes too!).
Seine Netting Essex Coast
On 11th August 2018, BNA Essex Branch Marine Event was led by BNA’s Roger Tabor with Dr Tom Cameron of Essex University Marine Dept. & Rob Dyer & Colm O’Laoi of Kent & Essex Inshore Fisheries & Conservation Authorities. Members could see seine net sampling in action on the estuary foreshore at Brightlingsea Creek, & have the great opportunity for hands on identification of the gathered marine species. Young seabass Dicentrarchus labrax featured, bass spawn offshore, then the young fish move close inshore in estuaries for a couple of years or migrate back & forth until adult at 3 years. Members could see how well armed even the young seabass are, spines raise in the 1st dorsal fin plus there are more spines on the lower edge of the gill covers. (There are very strict restrictions on catching seabass, but this was legal population sampling with Kent & Essex IFCA & Essex University. Once caught for their welfare they were put straight into an oxygenating tank, then examined & returned live straight back to the sea).
Sand Smelt Atherina boyeri alt. presbyter were also caught, which are small, slender, silver fish that have a silver stripe ao their sides. They like inshore warm waters of southern Britain’s etuaries & saltmarshes in the summer (but move offshore in the winter).
Moon Jellyfish Aurelia aureta with distinctive 4 ‘C’ shaped gonads viewed from above, plus dangling oral arms armed with stinging cells for very small prey. Roger spotted the less recorded Crystal Jellyfish Aequorea vitrina.
Roger then sampled with a hand net the faboulous marine isopod Idotea linearis at the top of high tide over a sandy beach. Its a sublittoral species but has been noted as occasionally cast up & swimming near the water’s edge over sand.
The BNA Essex Branch is grateful for the great support by Tom, Rob & Colm & the University of Essex & Kent & Essex IFCA.
BNA AGM & Nature Day, Perivale Wood, Perivale
21st July 2018: Some BNA Essex members travelled from various parts of the county over to west London (mainly by Tube) to take part with other BNA members in the AGM & Nature Day at the fascinating ancient wood plus grassland habitat surrounded by suburbia. The wood is owned by the Selbourne Society who were excellent hosts & kindly provided food. BNA Essex Branch’s Dr Chris Gibson led one of the walks (see pictures). Our branch President Roger Tabor as the then BNA Chairman, chaired the AGM meeting. There were also talks in the Selborne Society’s excellent new straw constructed Bluebell Centre. The weather was glorious, as was much of the summer 2018.
BNA Essex Branch visited by BNA South Yorkshire Branch 27-30th June 2018
This was a glorious series of summertime coastal events at Mersea Island & Brightlingsea by the Colne Estuary. The rich wildlife opportunities of this area attracted the BNA South Yorkshire Branch to visit & stay over in Essex in joint events with the BNA Essex Branch.
On 27th June Roger Tabor joined our visitors at the Lozenge Nature Area at Brightlingsea, the on the following morning of 28th BNA Essex’s Dr Tim Gardiner, of the Environment Agency with his colleague Kimberley Fargeaud, led our visitors along the seawalls & foldings searching for crickets & bees. In the afternoon Roger Tabor took the group out onto the East Marsh saltmarsh & oyster pits beside Brightlingsea Creek looking at saltmarsh plants & oysters. A Great Green Bush Cricket was found in the seawall foldings.
On 29th June the group went across the Colne to East Mersea shore & Cudmore Grove Country Park, finding Bee Wolves on the shore & in the cliffs, & using nets & bat detectors to locate crickets in the grasslands.
In the evening BNA Essex & BNA South Yorkshire jointly hosted with Friends of All Saints a Batwatch (& Creatures of the Night!) open event, at which over 60 people took part at the fantastic medieval All Saints Church, Brightligsea. While there was still light Roger Tabor showed people the rare Lesser Calamint which the church has been protecting. Then he with BNA S Yorkshire chairman Steve Rutherford & BNA Essex’s Dr Chris Gibson talked in the church about the local species of bats & moths (followed by refreshments from Friends of All Saints). Then as it was dark enough & the bats became active, a fantastic spectacle took place as bats streamed out wheeling about in & around the south porch so they could be both seen & heard by the numerous bat detectors. Mainly Soprano Pipistrelles, some Pipistrelles, some Brown Long-eared plus a single Noctule delighted everyone. By the base of the tower Chris ran a moth trap & then to cap it all a peregrine falcon circled the chuch & settled on the roof!
A fantastic series of events enjoyed by all, with excellent natural history!
Springfield Lock, Chelmsford, Invertebrate Sampling Chelmer Canal
28th April 2018 Ken Biggins led a ‘pond-dipping’ event of the Chelmer & Blackwater Canal below the Springfield Basin beside the historic Springfield Lock bridge from the towpath staging. We were joined by distinguished naturalist & BNA member Tricia Moxey. Although not far from the confluence with the R Chelmer it is a watercourse with little flow, but remarkable it had a good diversity of species. Pictures show caddis fly larva with case, damselfly nymph, water snails & identification .