I’m ashamed to admit that this is the first Blog of 2018
from Tiptree Heath, so it will try to catch up on all that has happened this
year.

Needless to say it has been another busy year, with a lot of
progress made by the many conservation volunteers who managed to achieve all
the requirements for the site laid down by Natural England.

The winter work parties concentrated on tree thinning and
large scrub clearance, with a focus on gorse which had become quite dense in
what were open areas.

The Tuesday group took on extra tasks requiring some
previously untried skills, with a last minute need to replace nearly 40 fence
posts in April and May so that the Exmoors could return in mid-May. It wasn’t
just the men who used their muscle power and the posts were replaced in time for the ponies’ return on May 17th.

A couple of not-so-successful events, however, were the
bracken bruising which we attempted using a Ford Ranger truck which wasn’t
quite up to the job, and the weed-wiping of birch saplings which was hit by a
rogue rainstorm, undoing most of the effects of the treatment.

The great thing about Tiptree Heath volunteers is that most
of them don’t just make one type of contribution, and some of them joined in
with fundraising to achieve a total of over £1,600 with the Heath Fair, and
also selling such items as mugs, pens and torch keyrings.

The Wednesday morning Health Walks regularly attract between
30 and 40 walkers who are guided by volunteer walk leaders. They’re not put off by extremes of weather
either.

We’ve had some great wildlife walks this year, with lots of visitors joining in from places well beyond Tiptree. At our Bee & Butterfly walk recently the group rushed around with bug jars and came up with an amazing list of bees and grasshoppers, not many butterflies, though, since it was a cloudy day.

We were sad to hear of the death of Bernie Chapman at the
end of last year. Bernie had been a
loyal Health Walk leader since 2006, and his family asked if a bench could be
created on the heath in his memory. The
photo shows the walkers surrounding the bench with Susan, his partner and also
a Health Walk leader, sitting on the bench.

Changes are afoot at Essex Wildlife Trust. We now have a new line manager of the
heathland restoration project, Neil Bedford.
Neil has worked for the Trust for many years and also leads our evening
Bat walk coming up on September 7th. He is keen to maintain the progress that has been made with our
conservation work. We also have a new
officer, Graham Foxall, who will deal with more of the heavier practical needs
that our volunteers aren’t qualified to carry out. He has been to our site over the last two years to carry out deer
surveys for us.

The changes will mean that Alan Brown, our previous Reserves
Officer, will gradually be dealing more exclusively with sites on the other
side of Colchester. Alan has been
invaluable to us in many ways – tree safety checks and felling, forage
harvesting, fence repairs, bridge building, and his recent work, with the help
of a volunteer from south Essex, produced the wonderful bench in memory of
Bernie. I’d like to record here our
thanks to Alan for all that he has done for the heath over the years.

The barn owl boxes have been used by anything except barn
owls, including jackdaws, pigeons, squirrels and finally their hatches are
gradually being covered over by hornets building substantial nests in
them! Other wildlife sightings have
included buzzards, red kites, sparrowhawks and a hobby, together with the rare
Heath Bee and the Heath Mining Bee, both seen at the recent walk. Butterfly numbers have been vastly improved
this year with species including ringlet, speckled wood, red admiral, peacock,
gatekeeper, small skipper, comma. The
moths seen included the speckled yellow and cinnabar day-flying ones and the
star of the Moth Evening was the Poplar hawkmoth. Muntjac are regular visitors and the odd roe deer has been
seen. Lizards and grass snakes were
around, loving the hot weather.

Star visitor of the year was this turkey who came along with
his canine friends for a walk!

It’s now time to look forward to another winter season of
conservation to help the heath on its way to an even better condition as
regards the heathland part, but also to maintain its variety of habitats which
encourage so much wildlife.

Joan
29 August 2018