The Heath after dark by Joan Pinch
Things happen on the heath after dark, many of which over the centuries best forgotten. From the animal world we see evidence of night time activity of foxes, mice and voles, but there are one or two that we haven’t noticed for some time. One is the badger, and a survey by the North East Essex Badger Group carried out recently found no signs of them spending time to feed here, and all holes of their old sett had either closed up or fallen out of use. There was therefore no point in holding our planned Badger Walk on April 12th expert could explain the Group’s plan to vaccinate badgers in this area to prevent any sort of cull being necessary in the future.
The Barn Owl has not been seen around the heath since the middle of last year, and there is something we can do to encourage it to return. One of our volunteers, Rod Pennick, is a very skilled craftsman and he was asked if he could make a barn owl box to give shelter and for breeding. Rod in fact made two boxes from a design recommended by Norfolk Wildlife Trust. Rod and his brother Mike spent a Tuesday afternoon work party putting up the boxes on the edges of the two large open areas. Their locations were chosen by Malcolm Easton who is a trained surveyor for Essex Wildlife Trust. He will check the boxes from time to time and keep records of their use.
From the human point of view, it’s good to report the Tiptree Scouts on a recent Orienteering event after dark. Their leader Mark Carter commented that they had a great evening, found all the markers that they could, and even managed to do some stargazing as well. They are pictured at the start, working out their route.
There was a bit of a crisis this week, with a pair of bluetits trying to build a nest in the box on the path from the car park, which is a very busy route. The box was actually a robin nest box, used originally for accessing free poo bags when we could get them, and the large hole had been covered with a notice. The bluetits had managed to get behind the notice and had laid down the basis of a nest. Reluctantly I removed the notice to discourage them from completing the nest, since it’s better for them to start again now somewhere else, than desert the nest due to too much disturbance when there are eggs in it. If they do continue with the box, then they’ll be brave enough to stand a good chance of succeeding. Watch this space.
Talking of bluetits, my nest box camera is showing that the mother has finished building her nest and she spent last night sleeping in it, but I haven’t seen any eggs yet. I think she may be covering them with feathers after she’s laid them, one at a time.