Tiptree Heath

Tiptree Heath

Duke of Edinburgh work parties on the heath

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 17 Feb, 2016 15:23:20

Tiptree Heath has a long term ongoing link with Thurstable School through its Duke of Edinburgh volunteer groups attending work parties. The link was set up by Science teacher Peter Wilson over 30 years ago.

This year was no exception and a hard working group of nine Year 10 students, and their parents, joined us at four 3-hour work parties over the last two months. We were not lucky with the weather on two of those occasions, but decided it all helped to add to the character building!

Projects worked on included reducing the invasion of gorse across the heath by cutting and burning large stands; clearing the stream by removing the undergrowth which was growing into it and would pollute it when the leaves drop. One of the nastiest jobs was to break into a dense thicket of blackthorn on the triangle across the Maldon Road and cut out the worst ready for burning. Blackthorn can be very painful if you don’t handle it with respect, and I’m pleased to say there were no injuries.

All in all an excellent job was done by the youngsters, and they were a friendly, thoughtful group. Each work party was attended by 4 or 5 of our heath volunteers to advise on techniques and to keep everyone safe. The Mums and Dads were also a major asset to the groups and I’d like to thank everyone for taking part in what was a very worthwhile effort to help us maintain our heathland restoration progress towards ‘favourable condition’.

Below are a few pictures of the action. The first one is taken at the end of the first week, and the second shows the blackthorn before cutting. The last picture sums it all up - exhausting!



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New Year

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 07 Jan, 2016 07:37:49
First of all a wish to everyone for a happy and healthy new year. Although good progress was made with the conservation project, 2015 wasn't the best of years for people associated with the heath, and we hope that 2016 will be much better.

One of the exciting things to look forward to is the aerial photography coming up during the Spring months. We have been watching with interest for over a year the training and qualifying of two owners of a film company to fly drones safely and accurately photograph, and they are now ready to get going. We are awaiting final permissions from Essex Wildlife Trust, then will wait for some decent weather opportunities before the leaves on the trees sprout.

The state of the paths is deteriorating following the regular recent bouts of rainfall. We experimented on December 15th with the remains of the material used to re-surface the path from the car park, by using what was left over to fill in the well of the nearest kissing gate. That well is still firm and dry, so we will continue very soon with other kissing gate wells, especially the one near the middle bridge over the stream.

The Exmoors will move to Tollesbury on January 12th to prevent too much trampling, although there is still food available for them from the gorse and birch shoots. Believe it or not the grass is still growing also. My plan is that all 8 ponies will then return together to the heath at the end of April.

There are plenty of raptors around hunting for food - buzzards regularly call while soaring above the treetops, a kestrel was perched on top of the Memory tree this week watching for prey, and we see and hear evidence of sparrowhawks which have preyed on small birds. The gorse is flowering well, and should continue until May. In between the dark, damp mornings there have been some lovely sunrises which are magnificent when seen through the trees at the back of the heath. The photo below shows one of them.

The first work party of the year will be on Sunday January 17th from 9.30am until 12.30. It's a good chance to enjoy the fresh air and work off those extra pounds put on over the holiday. If you'd like to join us, just bring yourself, with a mid-morning snack and suitably clothed and shod, and we'll provide tools and safety equipment.
Hope to see you there.
Joan Pinch
7th January 2016


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Pony update

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 07 Dec, 2015 17:00:45
We have decided to make the Exmoors work harder for their keep!

There is a large area just inside the first fence from the car park which has been dense undergrowth for many years. It consists of tall gorse, blackthorn and bracken, with patches of bramble spread across it, all of which have prevented the ponies doing no more than nibbling some of the gorse on the outside edges.

So, that amazing Tuesday group (see the last blog) set to and brushcut plugs of bramble, thus providing corridors into the scrub, and the ponies set to even before the work party had finished. We gain the benefit from them trampling as well as eating, and hope to see a further area of heathland reclaimed there in the next year or so. The photos show them hard at work.

Our other 4 ponies which left Tiptree in July went on to Little Baddow, then to Great Holland Pits near Clacton and now have come back to Tollesbury Wick for the rest of the winter. We hope there will be enough food on the heath for these 4 to stay until after Christmas, after they changed compartments this morning. Their next move will be to join the others at Tollesbury.




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Tuesday Group's county award

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 07 Oct, 2015 12:19:43
Last Saturday's Essex Wildlife Trust AGM held an exciting event for Tiptree Heath volunteers. The efforts of the hard working Tuesday work party group during the last 18 months were recognised with a Living Landscapes Award, and the presentation was to be made at the end of the business part of the AGM, attended by about 3,000 people.

Diana Childs and Jane Casement arranged to attend the AGM to receive the award and were supported by Sue More, chairman of FoTH. The presentation was made by none other than Iolo Williams, of Springwatch fame, who showed a passionate interest in the conservation carried out by all volunteers in the efforts to help wildlife in this country.

There are more photos to come, but the one below was taken by Daniel Bridge, until recently employed by EWT and now a freelance photographer and course leader.
The citation for the award gained by our volunteers was for their work in a wide range of fields, including

Conservation towards the restoration of Tiptree Heath including brushcutting scrub, maintaining open paths and felling trees using hand tools.

Ditch clearance to enable groundwater to flow away from flooded areas on the site, including creation of a deep trench to ease flooding on a well used path.

Carrying out car park repairs for the busy common.

Helping with preparation and running of successful Heath Fairs

Installation of barn owl boxes and placement of reptile survey mats

Assistance with dormouse checks

Clearance and planting round a school pond.

Surveying of hedgerows and butterfly transects

Assistance with water vole translocation at Fingringhoe

Well done to the Tuesday Group, and many thanks for all their involvement and hard work!

Joan

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Exmoor pony delay

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 06 May, 2015 18:05:49
Due to the extreme wind today, Wednesday, it was decided not to try to move the ponies from Tollesbury to the heath. A journey followed by a change of scene could make them slightly unsettled and high winds at the same time could add a great deal of anxiety for them.

We hope to move them on Monday May 11th instead.

The photos below were taken recently at Tollesbury Wick. The ponies are starting to moult, but looking very healthy.






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Health Walks 10th anniversary

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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.

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Dawn Chorus Walk

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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.

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Exmoor Ponies Move

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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.


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Bat Evening

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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

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Roy Cornhill

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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





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Woodpecker fledge in time for the fair

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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





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2014 Heath Fair

NewsPosted by duncan 22 Jun, 2014 09:50:25

After a couple of years off, the Heath Fair returned and it was a great day, if a bit overcast.

The bouncy castle and fun slide was enjoyed by the younger children, as was the Punch and Judy show ( and I think the adults enjoyed that too) - thanks also to Marcel to MC-ing the event so well.

The Fair helps to fund the costs of the upkeep of the heath, through the entry donations and some of the stalls - the coconut shy was a great hit!

The other stalls come and make the day what it is, raising awareness of their own causes, and make some funds for themselves, but add colour and fun to a little corner of the Heath.

The ponies came and had a look to see what was happening too!

Thanks to
...everyone who helped with the setup and take down of the fair, and helped in the car park, on the gates
...to Liz and Di on the refreshments
...to the stall holder who we had to move twice for a couple of reasons (sorry!), but always had a smile
...and everyone who came!

Special Thanks
To the Heath Fair committee, without their hard work and meetings over the months it could not have happened - Joan, Claire, Di C, Di W, Jane and Jean.

See you next time!

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Heath May happenings

NewsPosted by Joan Pinch 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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Migrants

NewsPosted by duncan 23 Apr, 2014 21:07:59

Even if the winter and spring merged, we have had some migrants on the heath - chiffchaffs, willow warbler, blackcap, garden warbler and cuckoos have been spotted and heard, which is great to hear these anywhere, but even better on the heath.

The nightingale may well have arrived – Malcolm Brown thinks he heard a short burst of its song yesterday – but the whitethroats and linnets are singing beautifully and can be heard and seen all over the heath. With the recent warm weather grass snakes and common lizards have been seen all over the place. We may also have some red-legged partridges nesting.





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