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Tiptree Heath

Health Walks 10th anniversary

News Posted on 06 May, 2015 16:09:06

44 health walkers from all stages during the last 10 years celebrated our anniversary today. On display were some original registers showing the history of the walks.

Looking back to 2005 there were 5 leaders trained to lead health walks and, following a publicity campaign, our first walk on 4th May consisted of 4 leaders and 4 walkers.

Numbers rose to the steady teens for a couple of years, then into the twenties and suddenly rocketed up into the low 40s in 2014. The group has always been not just sociable, but also interesting and active, including in its support for the heath. Our warm up exercises were filmed by the
Colchester RecCreate project in 2005 and distributed to other areas in the
borough, but our main claim to fame was an article in 2010 in an international World Wildlife Fund research report on ‘The contribution of protected areas to
human health’.

We now have 8 trained leaders who have been the mainstay of the success of the walks, and are much appreciated. The walks are now administered by The Ramblers and MacMillan and we recently received accreditation from them. If you would like to join us on a Wednesday morning, just turn up at 10.30am and introduce yourself to us. We walk anything up to 2 miles, but it’s possible to do a shorter walk if you’d prefer and, by the way, we do end up at The Ship – for coffee of course.



Dawn Chorus Walk

News Posted on 06 May, 2015 15:50:02

Having heard no nightingales on the heath this year I was getting quite worried and asked John Thorogood to do his best to find us one on the walk. Seventeen of us set off at the later time of 4.30 (a half hour lie in compared with previous years!), and John kept quiet about the two nightingales he’d heard from the car park. We made a beeline for the Keyes Triangle (across the road) and had got quite close to the Braxted Road before we heard a faint snatch of song, competing quietly with all the songthrushes that had woken up. I guess that our nightingale was a young inexperienced one, and we thought we heard another one joining in. It was a big relief, and John created his usual magic for us.

The sightings list was as follows (in order of hearing) –
Nightingale
Mallard
Pheasant
Songthrush
Robin
Tawny Owl
Chiffchaff
Wren
Blackcap
Great tit
Blackbird
Chaffinch
Carrion crow
Rook
Woodpigeon
Cuckoo
Blue tit
Green woodpecker
Whitethroat
Red legged partridge
Lesser whitethroat
Greater spotted woodpecker

A total of 22, but one of our walkers went back to his car and spotted two more species immediately.

All except two of us then sat down to a well earned breakfast at 6.45am.
Thanks go to John for all his knowledge and gentle explanation, and Sue and Di for their help with the breakfast.



Spring has arrived!

Articles Posted on 26 Mar, 2015 18:51:31

I’m really glad to see that the heath has started to dry out, and can announce that most paths are now walkable. The only wet areas now are the far western wood and parts of the bottom area towards Wilkin’s. I’d like to think that the ditch clearing done by the Tuesday work party 3 weeks ago had the effect of ‘pulling out the plug’ and allowing standing water to start draining away.

When the sun shines we are seeing tree creepers, green woodpeckers and the song thrushes are really belting forth with their repetitive songs. If you stop and watch the birds, you see that they are starting to pair off ready for mating and raising their broods. Already there is a clutch of 13 eggs in a mallard’s nest under a gorse bush, and notices will go up tomorrow to warn dog walkers to take care to protect nesting birds.

The winter work parties have finished with a successful year of work leading towards the end of our restoration in two years’ time. The adult volunteers have been brilliant, and we had a really good Duke of Edinburgh group this year who worked very hard and were cheerful and enthusiastic.

Muntjac deer have been seen this week, as well as the first chiffchaff, which tells us that Spring is here.

Another first was a Forest School class run by Laura Todd, a teacher at Tiptree Heath School. It was amazing to see the Year 1 class becoming ‘Tiptree Heath hedgehogs’ and finding all sorts of interesting things on the ground underneath the trees.

I spoke to a walker this week who told me that he’d learned, as a boy, all about the heath history of pony races and fairs from his father. We do have an interesting heritage on the heath.



Exmoor Ponies Move

News Posted on 04 Jan, 2015 11:37:52

Sadly, it’s time to give our remaining four ponies (the ones that we rescued from Cornwall) a change of scenery.

We’ve decided this for a couple of reasons, the first being that they are needing now to search hard for food, and signs of this are when they start to rip off whole branches of gorse, and also nibble at the heather. On its own, hunger is not a major problem, because their constitution requires that they enter the Spring having lost weight so that they are not at risk of laminitis when they gorge the lush new Spring vegetation.

However, with the recent wet weather producing increasingly large areas of mud and puddles to spread across the heath, the ponies’ trampling could cause damage to emerging seedlings in the more sensitive parts, so it’s best to give the heath a rest as well as the ponies.

They will be going to one of the Danbury Reserves near to Little Baddow Heath on Tuesday January 6th. Our original 4 ponies came from Dunwich to that area to be prepared by Liz and Leanne for facing dogs and walkers at Tiptree.

How long the ponies stay at Danbury depends on weather and vegetation, but I expect they will return to us in the Spring.

The original 4 ponies are at Great Holland Pits near Clacton, enjoying a Reserve there which is a mixture of heathy grassland and outcrops of woodland. We expect all the ponies to move sites from time to time, since their grazing capabilities are useful for a number of Reserves.

It’s going to be strange for the heath to be without grazing animals, but we look forward to their return.



Exposing the heather

Articles Posted on 09 Sep, 2014 11:43:44

Each summer there is what we call a ‘management walkabout’ of the agencies involved in either taking part in or advising on our heathland restoration project. The advisors come from Natural England, Essex Wildlife Trust, Colchester and Tiptree Councils and TCV, a conservation charity based in Colchester. Peter Wilkin, who owns the heath, chairs the group and is very supportive of decisions made and actions carried out.

This year our Natural England advisor commented that the progress was good. We were rather concerned at the amount of scrub vegetation that appeared to be smothering the new heather so that we couldn’t see most of it, and he gave us permission to brushcut the open area round the memory tree in August to cut the small birch saplings down to the ground. Normally we would wait until at least the end of September, but the bird nesting season had finished so we should be save to cut.

This prompted swift action. First of all to ask EWT to set up a brushcutter course for 4 of our Tuesday afternoon volunteers, where the practical part would be on our open area, then they could continue the work on Tuesdays afterwards. Secondly to confirm 4 volunteers who agreed to be trained – Josh, Malcolm, Patrick and Jane. We managed to book all for September 2nd, and already they are working on the birch and finding more patches of ling and bell heather.

Watch this space – at least, the space that will be made to allow the heather to flourish (photos to follow)!

Joan
9/9/2014



Bat Evening

News Posted on 09 Sep, 2014 11:27:17

Last Friday a small group of us, led by Neil Bedford, Senior Reserves Manager of Essex Wildlife Trust and a keen bat observer, set off expecting to wait for at least an hour before we registered our first bat on the detectors that we were carrying.

Neil stopped in the open area by the Memory Tree while it was still light and, while he was explaining details to us, first a serotine bat flew around, with its characteristic straight flight punctuated by dives when it was catching a moth, then a noctule bat flew across our patch of sky.

From then on, a bat circus seemed to happen! Common and soprano pipistrelles flew at head height around a bunch of saplings close to us, and the noctule and serotine carried on hunting. It was good to register the different frequencies on our bat detectors and to hear the feeding ‘zips’ when they ate a moth.

We weren’t able to count exactly how many there were of each species, but at a guess at least 10 pips, and possibly 2 of each of the others. What a magic evening, the best yet, and all in low light so that we could see as well as hear them. Thanks to Neil for his enthusiasm and knowledge that helped to identify all that was going on.

We pushed our luck too far, by visiting the race around pond in the hopes of hearing daubenton bats, but I think the vegetation has covered too much of the water to be of interest to them.

Joan
9/9/2014



Roy Cornhill

News Posted on 09 Sep, 2014 11:14:10

We are very sad to report the recent death of Roy Cornhill, a Tiptree Naturalist who, as a member of Colchester Natural History Society, amassed a large amount of knowledge and skill in wildlife and habitat management.

During the last few years he has helped us with identifying some of our rarer species on the heath, such as the Heath Bee (bombus jonellus) which has only been found in two sites in Essex. He also recently walked with John More and me to give advice on management methods to progress our heath restoration.

Roy gained his knowledge over the years by frequent trips around the country in the company of Professor Ted Benton of Essex University, where they both made sightings and picked up information from others, and we were very grateful for his help and friendship in our small neck of the woods. Last year he joined our Tiptree Living Landscape team and planned surveys of the wildlife sites across Tiptree, leading small groups to all of them.

Roy will be sadly missed, his funeral is on September 12th and although he was a quiet unassuming man who tried to avoid the limelight, I’m sure it will be well attended by many naturalists from the Colchester area.
Joan
9/9/2014



Woodpecker fledge in time for the fair

News Posted on 23 Jun, 2014 09:07:39

More magic moments, and they come at unexpected times. While Scott, the parish council officer, was mowing the “fairground” for us, there was a lot of commotion coming from just inside the wood by the stream. Most of the noise was from adult green woodpeckers, but also an undertone of grunts and strange noises. Two ladies had flagged up that there were baby birds in the area and we’d been keeping a covert watch (just like Springwatch!).

Later in the morning, Ron, Sue, Di and Jane came after an emergency callout to help rake away the mown grass nearest to the pony fence (ponies may choke if they swallow fresh mowings which don’t need to be chewed first). Now that the tractor had gone, we could hear the woodpecker noises clearly, and homed in on the large willow stump alongside the stream. After a few muttered sounds, a grey head appeared with a pale pink cap, looked around and quickly disappeared again. We could hear the parents calling from across the stream, apparently encouraging the chick to come out.

The final result was that Sue saw the chick fly from the hole and it seemed to go down into the nettles. We decided to leave it to start its new life. I still hear the woodpeckers around the woods there, and hopefully the chick is doing well.

If you are reading this and have any more related information to share, do get in touch with the website.

Joan



Heath May happenings

News Posted on 04 Jun, 2014 17:49:35

What a brilliant start to May, at 4am, with the Dawn
Chorus Walk on the heath! 30 species of
bird were seen or heard, the highlights being 4 nightingales, a lesser
whitethroat and greylag geese flying over on their way to Tiptree Quarry. The following week at the Evening Walk,
again 30 species were identified, this time the spectacle of a hobby flying
over the treetops was the most exciting experience of a wonderful evening.

The results of those walks were the best in recent
memory on Tiptree Heath, and lists can be seen below.

Magic moments occur frequently, and the visit of
90 Year 5 and 6 pupils from St Luke’s during the same week contained many of
them. They learned about the animals,
plants and history of the heath, and got really interested, some in the glass
bottles and pots rising to the surface in the Quarry, which had been put there
in the early 1900s; some in the holes in the banks, during which activity a boy
watched a bluetit flying into its nest in the trunk of an oak tree; some were
fascinated by the trees and heathers. I
think the teachers and parents enjoyed themselves very much also.

Dawn
Chorus

Evening
Walk

Blackbird

Blackbird

Blackcap

Blackcap

Blue tit

Blue tit

Chaffinch

Chaffinch

Chiffchaff

Chiffchaff

Cormorant

Crow

Crow

Cuckoo

Cuckoo

Dunnock

Dunnock

Great tit

Great
spotted woodpecker

Green
woodpecker

Green
woodpecker

Greylag
goose

Hobby

Herring
gull

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Jay

Jay

Lesser
black backed gull

Lesser
whitethroat

Linnet

Linnet

Little
egret

Long
tailed tit

Mallard

Mallard

Mistle
thrush

Mistle
thrush

Nightingale

Nightingale

Pheasant

Pheasant

Pied
wagtail

Red
legged partridge

Robin

Robin

Skylark

Songthrush

Songthrush

Stock
dove

Swift

Tawny Owl

Whitethroat

Whitethroat

Willow
warbler

Willow
warbler

Wood
pigeon

Wood
pigeon

Wren

Wren



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