7 June 2019:
Winter Stalk ball Tulostoma brumale fungus was present throughout the winter and persisted into early spring. This small member of the Puffball family is easily overlooked due to its diminutive size. It is often found at the head of the beach on stable ground but can be found all over most of the southern half of the Reserve.
Dog Sick slime mould Mucilago crustacea was another first for the Reserve last year and worth a mention, if not only to get a reaction to its common name.
Stock netting has been fixed to the fence around the pond to prevent dogs entering through the fence. The chicken wire that had originally prevented dogs entering had become holed or pushed up and wasn't really robust enough for the job. The pond is now gin clear and not the muddy duck pond created by dogs bathing in it. Hopefully with a wetter summer than last year, many species of flies will be able reproduce and spend the necessary time in the pond as larva before emerging to become an adult and then breed themselves and become part of the food chain.
This lovely bit of fossilised whale bone I picked up on the beach is around 10 million years old. Follow the link for more information: www.therockgallery.co.uk/fossilised-bone-of-whale-----about-10-million-years-old-----dovercourt-essex-417-p.asp
This a photo of some of the hundreds of Cormorants that are noticeable through the winter months, heading out to sea from their inland roosts to go fishing.
I made this Kestrel diversionary feeder in an effort to reduce the amount of Ringed Plover chicks predated by locally nesting Kestrels. They have been used in various coastal sites and have been shown to be effective. I made this one in the knowledge that the male Kestrel that had played a part in decimating every Ringed Plover chick produced last year, had died last autumn indirectly from an eye injury. Sods law would probably have told me that having made the feeder that we would be free from Kestrels this year and as yet we have been. Sods law would also have told me that if I hadn't made the feeder we would have an equally proficient Kestrel this year.
Volunteers from the Ports Environmental group were a valuable help in clearing unwanted scrub encroaching on to the rare vegetated shingle habitat. They really got stuck-in and made a big difference and are always very welcome in the future. It is also good to maintain a relationship with the Port in this way so that there is a tangible connection with the Port and visa versa as the two neighbouring worlds are so distinct from each other but are run and worked on by people breathing the same air with the same life aspirations. In short I suppose what I am struggling to say is that it was much more than a tick box exercise. Personally it was great to spend some time with the group.
My mother died in the early spring this year at the grand old age of 94, although well into the rarefied air of the death zone (mountaineering term) it still took me by surprise emotionally and was struck when the status quo of having a living mother had now altered forever.
My cousin dug this photo out and told me that we're all lucky to exist, as if this large WW2 parachute bomb that landed just yards from my mothers family home had detonated, we would most certainly not!
A new flight of steps were installed on the Rifle Butts to help deal with the threat of erosion. This will help visitors to ascend the seaward side without eroding the ground. Mike and Richard with his faithful dogs Flora and Barney from the Footprints conservation volunteers worked hard all day to finish installing them. I wish there was some way of these volunteers receiving recognition of their efforts rather than just me offering profuse thanks on everyone’s behalf.
This great photograph of Sanderling and Dunlin in early spring showed an unusually large flock as far as Landguard goes.
The year before last I found the earliest recorded Ringed Plover nest on the 3 April but this year it was smashed by a nest I found with four eggs on the 20 March. A new nest protecting cage was placed over it and to my delight the eggs were duly hatched. Historically it has been shown that the earliest nests have most frequently been predated.
Unfortunately my jubilation was short lived as all the chicks were predated, most likely by crows or magpies as these have become attuned to the seasonal chick snack. Another pair that had their nest protected by a cage, hatched their chicks also only to be predated a few days later. It seems the Kestrel wasn't the only efficient killer out there and I think some judicial culling of the local corvid population would help the continuity of Ringed Plovers breeding at Landguard. We have achieved so much in the way of limiting disturbance during their nesting season and built nesting pairs up to 6 last year, to see them now disappear due to continual predation would be a crying shame.
Suffolk Outdoor Learning Ltd, a not for profit company, have started up a monthly young persons wildlife group at the Reserve. Caz who runs SOL Ltd gave me the honour of naming the group; Sandhoppers. Just spending a while with Caz on the Sandhoppers sessions showed me that she has got oodles of natural ability in running this kind of group and long experience to back it up. A regular young persons group of this sort has been a missing component of the Reserve for a while and this fills the gap so well.
Harwich Harbour Authority needed to carry out works on the garages to allay health and safety concerns. After the works were completed a shelter was added to the rear of the garage and an area bordered off by a picket fence to establish a small wildlife area for visiting school groups/young people groups to shelter and make use of. It will take a while for appropriate shrubs and planting to establish.
A mini beast hotel, bird boxes, logs to roll over in search of invertebrates will all be added besides others. To establish a childrens wildlife area here has been an aim of mine for a while and thanks to Harwich Harbour Authority this has become a reality by providing the infrastructure for it to happen in. No doubt the 'Sandhoppers' group will be making good use of it in the future!
One of six recycled plastic signs that I put up five years ago was vandalised recently. The signs central message is 'put your dog on its lead past this point'. It is unusual for a sign like this to be vandalised such a long time after it was installed but it did coincide with a group of young people entering on that side of the Reserve late at night. How I would like to gate Viewpoint Road and lock it in the evening. Nobody needs to be on the Reserve at night and through the small hours of the morning. Stopping potential mischief makers driving down View Point Road at night by gating it, in my opinion would be a good thing.
The nationally scarce Divided Sedge responded well to its autumn cut and is the dominant plant now in a good size area next to the pond.
Did you know that limpets located on the upper shore are taller than the ones on the lower shore?
I found an area of Spring Vetch which is like a mini version of Common Vetch but much smaller with other defining characteristics such as only up to four sets of leaflets. Arthur Coping a well known Suffolk botanist asked me to lookout for it as it hadn't been identified on the Reserve for a while, so I was pleased to find it.
The Bungalow garden has been looking more verdant this spring compared to last years dry weather and one evening after evicting some people from climbing the mining station I noticed a bat foraging over it. I quickly got my bat detector and recorded it as 45 Pipistrelle. See the wonky video - https://t.co/gAZzCSpwnV
As I was checking the Ringed Plovers in the beach cordons one evening, it is my tactic to walk a length and then look back through my bins as you can catch new nesters returning to their nests after being disturbed. While doing this I saw a much larger bird on yellow legs walk out of the marram grass and to the edge of the cordon. What an earth was it? I was quite a distance from it, then without getting any closer I noticed its large eyes and the markings around them. Of course! It was a Stone Curlew, one of the UK's rarest breeding birds. I phoned Nigel and stayed watching it until he could come and verify it. He also managed to get these photos from a good deal closer. It was another 'lifer', first for me.
The Mining Station a WW2 installation that was, I believe, used for the detonation of mines strung out across the estuary and blow enemy ships/subs to smithereens. Unfortunately recently it was daubed with graffiti which was the final straw with me and I have now put up a post and rope cordon with signs that lay the law down. A bye law clearly states that no structure on the Nature Reserve is to be climbed and this is now backed up by a Public Space Protection Order. Thank you very much to Harwich Harbour Authority for arranging to have the graffiti removed. A teenager that I asked to get off the building the other evening asked why I thought that a single rope cordon would keep them out. I said that I had hoped that by now he had learnt to read and that would be enough… obviously not.
This poem was on the back of my mothers funeral program;
The Sea by Hugo Williams:
When I am with you, I am a minute behind,
Picking up pieces of coloured glass
And calling you back to me, 'Look…'
You have seen something new up ahead.
You don’t look round. There you go,
Scrambling over the rocks on your way to the sea.