Warden’s Blog, November 2015

Our work party on the first Sunday of the month was very successful despite the heavy mist in the earlier part of the morning. By coffee break we were able to see parts of the meadow from the heath through the mist. There were some wonderful spiders webs seen on the gorse and other bushes. I also saw some very good examples of the red (with white spots) Fly Agaric mushrooms at the edge of the heath, these were about the size of tea plates. Two of our volunteers managed to rake up most of the remaining mown grass from the meadow. The grass piles are quite large at the moment but these will start to rot down,  heating up to provide central heating for anything which hibernates there (like grass snakes or mice or insects). We were able to use the petrol brushcutter to clear most of the remaining bracken and small birch scrub from the top of the Heath area. This was burnt straight away along with the pile of old holly cuttings so as to leave the Heath clear of debris. One of our young volunteers ably assisted in lighting the bonfire and feeding it (we always have suitable jobs for anyone interested in a bit of outdoor activity).

We also had a small work party on Wednesday (11th November) in Villa Wood. Andy used the brushcutter to clear more of the path beside the brook towards the Sunnymead lane end, this will help it to dry out a bit by letting the light down to the ground. The other three of us tackled the clearing up of the damaged trees from the damaged ‘bluebell’ area. The damaged tree stumps have been cut to a proper ‘coppiced’ level from which they will grow next year. We untangled, sawed to a moveable size and then lifted the branches hacked by the ‘diggers’ onto two nearby log piles. We noticed as we were doing this that already some ladybirds were getting ready to hibernate in the existing log pile which we made a few weeks ago. This should be the last clear up of the area now, we will have to wait until the spring to see how many of the wild flowers regrow. Even today we found some bluebell bulbs still on the surface which we pushed back into the soil to grow.
A nice surprise today was that we found a large frog in this same area, this is the first frog that I have seen on site in the five years or so that I have been involved with Cockaynes Reserve. We are always pleased when we are able to confirm that creatures or plants are actually present but may not have been spotted previously or have been absent for some reason. I’ve added some photos of the ‘cleaned’ area and the frog for interest.
We are still uploading photos to our web site (http://cockaynes.org.uk/)if anyone has any that are suitable and are willing to let us display them.
Roger Robson (Warden).

Posted in Posts

Warden’s blog

‘Went to mow a meadow’. Sunshine & hard work. With the help of Alan from Essex Wildlife Trust driving (being pulled along) the mower, we have managed to mow all the intended area. I did take a turn on the mower…it is a beast to handle! We have left uncut some areas as wildlife refuges / hibernation places. Valerie & I have raked some of the grass into heaps which in turn are being made into larger heaps at the edge of the meadow. These larger heaps will form hibernaculums (places to overwinter) for the grass snakes & other small creatures. I did actually see a fieldmouse heading for one of the refuge places while I was cutting nearby.
The remainder of the raking will be done this Wednesday weather permitting) on our regular work party day. If anyone would like to come along & maybe help for a while or come for a chat, you are most welcome. It is always good to hear what others have to say about this nature reserve
Roger & Valerie R (Wardens)

Posted in Posts

Warden’s blog, September 2015.

A late morning walk around site this morning.

The reserve is very wet after the rain with lots of puddles but most of the paths are still dry. We saw Red Darter dragonflies laying eggs in the puddles, unfortunately these eggs will not survive as they need to be laid in the main ponds. Rabbits were seen running from the Scrape into Villa Wood with Coots, Moorhen, Dabchick, pair of Mallards, female Tufted Duck, and large blue dragonflies, all on view on the water. There was a Speckled Wood butterfly on the path beside the silt ponds. In the meadow area we saw a Small Copper butterfly, an Angle Shades moth and a Small Heath butterfly all basking in the sun. We were also lucky to find a large hairy caterpillar (probably about 75mm long) among the Sweet Rushes, this is the Fox moth caterpillar (see the picture on the ‘moths photo page’). There were also lots of Crane Flies (daddy long legs) among the grasses with the grasshoppers and crickets. We saw a freshly emerged Comma butterfly and a Treble-bar moth basking on the bramble by the railway path with lots of grasshoppers among the short grass. The Green Woodpecker made its presence known by it’s ‘laughing’ call in Cockaynes Wood and a Kestrel was hovering over the edge of the fishing lake.

There are still a number of flowers on show. In the meadow we found pink flowers of Centaury, purple Self Heal, yellow of Greater Trefoil, Hawkbit, Ragwort and Agrimony, white flowers of Clover. The St Johns Wort and Fleabane were in flower nearby.  Reindeer Moss is starting to show its silvery fronds in some of the wetter parts of the meadow. Elsewhere on site there are some good displays of rose hips from the Dog Rose and some of the holly in Cockaynes Wood has produced red berries this year. A pink Campion was still in flower in Villa Wood. There are now lots of different fungi to be seen all over the reserve.

(New uploads to photo page).

Roger and Val R.


Posted in Posts

Moth night (28/8/2015) results summary.

We now have the results from Friday nights survey. 4 moth attracting lamps (125W mercury vapour bulbs) were in use around the weighbridge yard & track entrance with moth experts identifying the moths caught. The moths were collected in small plastic pots & released later after the final count. A total of 54 species were identified, with names such as Latticed Heath, Canary-shouldered Thorn & Angle Shades. This brings our species count this year on the site to 92 from the three survey nights. These results will now be forwarded for inclusion in the national database which monitors changes in populations. The full Friday list is shown below:-

Total Cockaynes Reserve Moth Record for 28/8/15 (the 1st number is the Bradley Identification & the second number on the line is the quantity caught on the night)

0015 Orange Swift                                2
0888 Mompha propinquella              1
0937 Agapeta hamana                         1
0969 Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix  3
0977 Large Fruit-tree Tortrix             1
1092 Apotomis turbidana                   2
1093 omis betuletana                           1
1174 Epiblema cynosbatella                1
1260 Cydia splenda                               2
1292 Calamotropha paludella             1
1302 Crambus perlella                         1
1305 Agriphila tristella                        4
1307 Agriphila latistria                        3
1309 Agriphila geniculea                     1
1361 Pyrausta aurata                             1
1405 Mother of Pearl                            5
1428 Bee Moth                                       2
1452 Phycita roborella                          1
1648 Pebble Hooktip                            1
1680 Maidens Blush                             2
1682 Blood-vein                                    3
1713 Riband Wave                                 1
1742 Yellow Shell                                  1
1865 Treble Bar                                    6
1889 Peacock                                        1
1894 Latticed Heath                            2
1906 Brimstone                                   4
1913 Canary-shouldered Thorn        1
1955 Common White Wave               6
1961 Light Emerald                             7
2033 Black Arches                              3
2044 Dingy Footman                         3
2047 Scarce Footman                        1
2087 Turnip moth                              2
2092 Shuttle Shaped Dart                5
2102 Flame Shoulder                        1
2107 Large Yellow Underwing         2
2111 Lesser Broad Bordered YU      3
2123 Small Square Spot                    3
2126 Setaceous Hebrew Character 5
2134 Square-spot Rustic                   1
2194 White Point                               8
2199 Common Wainscot                  2
2297 Copper Underwing                  2
2303 Straw Underwing                    3
2306 Angle Shades                            1
2318 Dun-bar                                     3
2353 Flounced Rustic                      8
2373 Webbs Wainscot                      1
2384 Vines Rustic                             6
2450 Spectacle                                   1
2474 Straw Dot                                  1
2477 Snout                                          1

(54 moth species & numerous Hornets).

Roger Robson, Site Warden.

Posted in Posts

Open Day, Saturday 28th June 2015

We had a lovely sunny start to our open day over at the Cockaynes Wood reserve last weekend.  The rain did arrive later on in the morning but not before plenty of visitors arrived to see the site and try the activities available.

Refreshments were set up in the old Nissan hut with the assistance of the Tendring group of Essex Wildlife Trust. The Cockaynes Wood Trust marquee provided information about the site and general wildlife information and various activities for children including directions for the family nature trail and colouring pages.

Pole lathe operated by CCRV Photo: CCM Photography

Pole lathe operated by CCRV
Photo: CCM Photography

In the main yard area, there was a craft activity provided by Essex Wildlife Trust and also demonstrating the pole lathe and green woodworking techniques we had both the Colchester Countryside Volunteer Rangers and Mark, one of our regular work party volunteers. The CCRV are based at Highwoods Country Park in Colchester and use locally sourced materials to make a variety of wooden tools, utensils and bird and insect boxes among other items.

Checking the catch in the beating tray Photo: CCM Photography

Checking the catch in the beating tray
Photo: CCM Photography

Guided walks around the site were led by Cockaynes Wood Trust with the assistance of members from the Colchester Natural History Group who were on hand to lend assistance with identifying many of the plants and insects seen on the day. Some of the highlights seen included the very well camoflaged Brimstone butterfly caterpillars on the Alder Buckthorn trees, Oyster Catchers on the scrape and Reed Warblers flying around the ponds.

Pond dipping identification Photo: CCM Photography

Pond dipping identification
Photo: CCM Photography

Our new pond dipping platform on the small pond proved to be a huge success with children and adults alike. The pond proved to be teaming with wildlife and it was great to be able to help everyone identify the creatures they found. These included many juvenile newts (efts), several different species of Dragonfly and Damselfly larvae, snails, freshwater leech, shrimps and a water stick insect.

Pond dipping Photo: CCM Photography

Pond dipping
Photo: CCM Photography


All in all, a lovely day was had by all despite the rain which did keep visitors away in the afternoon. We are looking forward to building on the successes of this event for next year as the site continues to grow and improve.

Lots more pictures of the day can be seen on the Event Photos page here.

Posted in Events, Posts

Warden’s notes 17/6/15

Cockaynes - Brimstone Moth caterpillar on Alder Buckthorn 17-6-15 024

Brimstone Moth caterpillar on Alder Buckthorn

Cockaynes - Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort 17-6-15

Cinnabar Moth caterpillars on Ragwort

Cockaynes - Meadow Brown Butterfly 17-6-15 012

Meadow Brown Butterfly

Cockaynes - Small Skipper Butterfly  17-6-15 017

Small Skipper Butterfly

A walk on site today to put up posters for the Open Day (28th June) & meet people enjoying the Reserve. Unfortunately one of the posters was torn in half by the time we got back to our car, but it was mended for others to read. At the Scrape we spotted two of the Lapwing chicks (one flew across the water as we walked past) with one of the adults, the other adult was on the far side of the Scrape & too far to see any other chicks. There was also a Moorhen with five chicks on the water & a Coot family also. On the Small Pond we saw a Coot with four chicks. Walking through the Meadow area we found more of the Yellow Rattle flowers, a Meadow Brown Butterfly & a Small Skipper butterfly. In the Yard area we found Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars on the Ragwort plants with plenty of the moths flying. We also found some Brimstone Moth Caterpillars on the Alder Buckthorn trees in Cockaynes Wood.

Posted in Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Warden’s Notes 10/6/15

A short walk on site this morning found several Common Blue and some Small Heath butterflies on the meadow area. Also there are a small number of Yellow Rattle flowers, a Dog Rose in flower and the orange Fox And Cubs at the top of the meadow near the old tree stumps. The Gorse on the Heath is showing bright yellow flowers and if you look a bit closer to the ground, some of the older heather is just starting to show signs of flowers. Not so encouraging is the spread of bracken on the Heath which will need some method of control soon by our Work Party Team. Better news is that the Common Cow Wheat (one of the rare species which is found on our site) is spreading / flowering along the path in Cockaynes Wood & along the heath into the bracken. Birds seen today included the Kestrel hovering by the Large Silt Pond & a Hobby Hawk over the Scrape. The Hobby was diving & swooping over the water chasing dragonflies, but was too quick & not close enough for any photo shot. It did, however, get too close to the Lapwing chicks & was chased by the adult lapwing. On the small sand cliff by the metal gates I found a Tawny Mining Bee near it’s nest hole & lots of Digger Wasps visiting their nest pipes nearby (the nest pipes are sometimes sticking out of the sand by up to 20mm of more & 8mm diameter, we will upload some pictures onto the website soon).

Posted in Posts