|Watching Wildlife||Hillhouse Wood|
April brings the first great wildflower spectacular when bluebells and wood anemones carpet several woods in North Essex. One of the best of these displays is at Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt, where there has been careful management on behalf of the Woodland Trust by volunteer work parties organised by the Friends of Hillhouse Wood. Invasive brambles, blackthorn and bracken have been kept at bay and allowed a profusion of bluebells, wood anemones, campions, primroses, foxgloves and colonies of early purple orchids to flourish and expand.
Visit the wood from mid April onwards to enjoy this marvellous natural show and you may care to note in your diaries that the Friends of Hillhouse Wood will be holding an open afternoon on Saturday, April 28 at 2pm. Meet at the entrance to the wood. I will be one of the leaders of nature walks to see the wild flowers as well as spring butterflies and birds. By that time the nightingales should be back there, pairs breeding every year. As the males sing by day as well as night in April and May you should hear the incredibly vibrant notes of this champion songster fresh back from winter quarters in Africa. Other birds you can see (and hear) are chiffchaffs, willow warblers, blackcaps and whitethroats.
April not only brings hibernated butterflies such as small tortoiseshells, peacocks, brimstones and commas, but also some newly emerged including orange tip, green-veined white, small white and speckled wood. The latter species continues to increase in two broods in Essex and can be seen in spring and late summer not only in woods but also in country lanes and gardens.
The lesser-spotted woodpecker is not only uncommon but elusive. Its tiny size – about that of a sparrow – may have something to do with the paucity of records but there’s no doubt it is one of Britain’s decreasing birds. Friday Wood, south of Colchester, is one of the few places where there are regular sightings. So I was pleased to hear from Trevor Thorogood of Crabbe’s Farm, Great Horkesley that he has seen a lesser-spotted woodpecker in the wood on his farm. I would be pleased to receive other sightings of this charming little woodpecker.
My wife Linda and I will be anxiously scanning the sky above our West Bergholt home from the third week of April for our first sightings of house martins which nest under the eaves of our house. We usually have half a dozen mud cup nests and we can expect the first of the returning birds about April 23rd or 24th. They spend the winter in Central Africa and it’s one of the miracles of nature that they return unerringly to their ancestral spring and summer homes. At Abberton Reservoir in April look out not only for sand and house martins but also for swallows back from their wintering places in South Africa. You should also see yellow wagtails along the edge of the reservoir and in neighbouring grass fields. Sometimes among these are examples of the blue-headed race which is the dominant one in Europe.
There was excitement at Mistley mid-March when a long billed dowitcher, a vagrant wading bird from North America, attracted many birdwatchers. It’s a snipe-sized bird with very long bill and plumage suggesting a cross between a snipe and a bar-tailed godwit.
Another date for your diary is Colchester Natural History Society’s nature walk around Essex Wildlife Trust’s Roman River Valley reserve, Layer-de-la-Haye on Easter Monday, April 9th (10am until 12 noon). Lots of spring wild flowers, birds and early butterflies. A damp habitat so come well-shod for squelchy conditions. Park in the “New Cut” or near the gate which is entrance to the reserve. Map ref. TL970207.
Note also that Maria Fremlin, CNHS member who is studying minotaur beetles and other invertebrates at Hilly Fields Spinney, Colchester will be leading a field meeting there on Wednesday, April 4th 7pm to 8pm. Meet at Sussex Road entrance to Hilly Fields.
Reports came in mid to late March of hibernated butterflies; small tortoiseshell; peacock; comma and red admiral. Two male brimstone butterflies were seen by Philip Smith in Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt on March 26. The long-billed dowitcher was still being seen at Mistley and Manningtree in the last week on March.
The splendid carpet of bluebells at Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt. Join the open afternoon there on April 28th (2pm onwards) Photo: Linda Firmin
Nightingales should be back in their North Essex strongholds before the end of April. Best places to hear them, Fingringhoe Wick EWT reserve; Roman River Valley woodlands; Hillhouse Wood, West Bergholt.
Male orange tip butterfly. Look for it in April and early May.
Speckled wood butterflies are on the wingin April (first brood). A species spreading in Essex.
The lesser-spotted woodpecker is increasingly scarce in Essex. One was seen in a wood at Great Hokesley in late February, early March.
[About us] [News] [Watching Wildlife] [Watching Wildlife Archive] [Events] [Membership] [Publications] [Recording] [Recorders List] [Contact] [Hillhouse Wood]
© 2005-2010 Colchester Natural History Society ¦ Website design by Ecotrack