Sunday, January 28, 2007

Crack Willow and local sightings

A while ago at Sawbridgeworth Marsh one of the working party was telling me about Crack Willow (apt Latin name Salix Fragilis). It grows by streams, and bits of it regularly fall off, get carried down-stream, wedge themselves in the bank and start growing again.

I was reminded of this when driving into Harlow the other day from the north and noticing that just about all of the trees by the Stort here seem to be Crack Willow. Quite a lot are, well, cracked (see the usual crumby photo). I found myself wondering if all the Crack Willow by the river are the same genetic tree; one enormous ancient tree stretching for miles down the river constantly spreading and regenerating itself.

Anyway, on this same road last weekend a pair of buzzards slowly flapped over, and today at Gilston a couple of small waders in the boggy corner of a field demonstrated classic Green Sandpiper behaviour, i.e. as soon as I got out of my car some distance away on the other side of the road they called and shot off north. And I got my annual winter Blackcap in Sawbridgeworth yesterday – a male in the garden.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Fleet Fossils I

We spent some time rooting round the pebbles in Pirate’s cove (bottom of Camp Road) before we twigged that quite a few of them were fossil shells. The key bit was finding the indent on the side which is the hinge of the bivalve. Once spotted, all the other features fell into place. Even the markings of prehistoric worms on the shell seemed to be there. I think its Pleuroma uniformis which my book tells me is found in the exposed band of Osmington Oolite here. But I could well be wrong.

Here’s a picture, taken by D#1, cunningly avoiding showing the key hinge area.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Bad Weather on the way

Bad weather is on the way. I know this with certainty not because of the weather forecasts, satellite images, berries on trees or aching joints, but because this weekend is Mrs Dipper's birthday, and the three weeks following are always the worst in the year.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Last weekend was our work annual onsite. Colleagues from various parts of the globe came over to London to spend Saturday discussing work issues, then go to a local bar and restaurant for the evening. By the time we set off to our hotel it was 1 a.m. and I was heavily under the influence. As we went back a bird started singing. In my befuddled state I was sure it was one of the legendary Black Redstarts of Canary Wharf and was setting off to stagger round a local building site when the back of my mind dredged up the verdict "Wren".


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Fossil Graveyard

Dorset, as many have observed, is one huge fossil graveyard. Last Xmas (2005) we went on an excellent organised fossil hunt from the centre at Ferrybridge. We were led off to the north side of the Fleet and rooted round in the mud for an hour. We found plenty of prehistoric bric-a-brac, but the find of the trip was an Ichthyosaurus vertebra. When challenged, the leader denied that it had been in her pocket all along and explained that she knew there was an Ichthyosaurus down there somewhere as bits appear regularly, so she was looking for just this.

Like birdwatching or any similar activity, there appear to be two keys to successful fossil hunting; firstly learn from someone who knows their stuff (achieved in the trip), and secondly get a good guide book. After the trip I got “British Mesozoic Fossils” (Nat. History Museum, ISBN 1-898298-73-4) which is excellent.

Anyway, we have been hunting along the Fleet on a couple of occasions since. In future posts I’ll show some of what we’ve found. Don’t go getting all excited now – no Ichthyosaurus skeletons coming up.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Rainham Marsh

Some business in Canary Wharf on Sunday meant I could pop in to Rainham Marsh RSPB for a couple of hours in the afternoon. I got to walk the full circuit round the RSPB bit but didn’t get further west to the Tip/Barges/Tilda Rice area. I managed some Pintail – a while since I’ve seen them – and c10 Golden Plover. Otherwise lots of Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal, Gadwall, Lapwing, Black-Tailed Godwit and various Gulls. It would have been nice if the Penduline Tit that popped up this morning had miraculously appeared in front of me at some point, but the God Of Birdwatching gives such treats as rewards for persistence and patience. Not possessing these qualities I had to make do with the above.

The reserve is still work in progress, and there are some remains of the former use as a firing range. It would be nice if they kept them around.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

December Update

Regular readers (humour me) have noticed a lack of updates, so here goes.

A couple of Scaup were at the local airport lagoons, in mid December. I eventually succumbed to the lure of a local rarity so dashed off early one Saturday morning to see … nothing.

Then on the weekend before Xmas I returned to Hatfield Forest, this time with the senior Dipper children in tow. We saw Nuthatches, Redwings, Chaffinches, blah blah, and on the lake there were 5 Gadwall, a few Pochard, lots of BH Gulls and a Common Gull. Meanwhile apparently the Scaup have returned to the airport lagoons to taunt me.

Commonly Spotted Orchids

We are fortunate in the UK in that the commonest orchids are also amongst the most beautiful. I spent a morning photographing some on the lo...