Spring Wildlife - On the lookout for...

edited April 2013 in Wivenhoe Wildlife

Hi All. The WWW team (well, Greg actually) came up with the idea of posting little hints as to what to look out for as the spring progresses.

Here is - ahem - your starter for ten (with some pics below if help is needed with some):-

  1. Passage of Whimbrels has just begun (one seen off the jetty last weekend). Like a small curlew with stripey head and straight bill kinked over at the end - look for them on the mud down on the river and listen out for a seven (or eleven) - syllable whistling "pipipipipipipi" call.
  2. House Martins will be returning any day now. Please let us know if you have them on your/a neighbour's house.
  3. Bee-flies are out. Look in the garden for a small bee-like insect with a long snout hovering at the flowers of lungwort.
  4. If digging in the garden look out for the big fat white grubs of stag beetles. Just re-bury them near a fence post (wooden of course) or wood pile.
  5. Look out too for the first butterflies of the year. Peacocks and Small Tortoiseshells are coming out of hibernation and Holly Blues and yellow Brimstones (the original butter-coloured butterfly) are emerging from hibernation. How do they manage to look so pristine when the same cannot be said of garden tools...?!
  6. Frog spawn -----> tadpoles. Reports are that spawning was late this year and eggs were laid in some odd places... Anything to report?
  7. Cuckoo. The first ones are being reported in.  
  8. Fox cubs usually start to appear above ground in April.
  9. Emperor moths emerge early in the spring. The males fly by day and we know they occur down by the Wivenhoe trail on the marshes. Look out for the orange underwing which can fool you into thinking it might be a tortoiseshell butterfly... I am intending to take the light trap down one evening to see if I can catch a female...
  10. You never know your luck, but you may just catch a Hoopoe. These birds occur annually in small numbers in the UK and are unmistakeable if you see them. If you do, post it on the forum ASAP with full directions and watch the grapevine buzzing...!


  • Have managed to see a swallow, plus tortoiseshell, peacock & comma butterflies, the latter two around our pond. Some gorgeous celandines and coltsfoot around just now as well...
  • Thanks for this top ten Glyn. So much to see at this time of year, but I often don't know what I am looking at, so your posts are always helpful. Shame I can't see pictures when I read the forum on my iPhone though.
  • I have remedied that. Post now edited with pictures inline :-)
  • There is some frog spawn in the new wildlife garden pond.  Admittedly I put it there from someone elses pond! ;-)
  • Perfect now. Thanks Glyn!
  • Encountered this juvenile snake crossing the trail this afternoon, in the wooded section just before the bog on the left. Tried to get a good picture on my phone but they're not great, I'm hoping someone can enlighten me on this meandering soul. 
  • Those pics look better on my phone, have I uploaded them in the wrong format ?
  • Not a snake but a slow worm Rich. It's actually a legless lizard.

  • You are very lucky to see one of these beautiful creatures.
  • Thanks Roger, I said to my friend at first it was a slow worm and he said snake, when we looked closer I could see a tongue out like a reptile and the way it moved I was then convinced it was a snake. I've never got that close to a slow worm before, it looked a greener colour than in the pictures it really was difficult to work out what it was, now I know thanks. I'll research my slow worms to tell the difference haha
  • I did find it incredible to watch, I was very lucky to get that close and for it to be on the track ahead of us
  • Hi All. Debs and I hit the (Wiv trail just after dusk with the portable moth trap to try to catch us a female Emperor moth (see above). Alas, in the cool moonlit evening there were very few moths around but as the light faded the cacophony of wader calls was fantastic. They were mainly Redshank but there were at least a couple of Common Sandpipers tweeting and several Whimbrels echoing around the estuary. Dunlins were squealing as they whizzed past us heading north.

    Magical. It was a bit cool for Nightingales but we did hear one at 11.15 as we got home from the pub which was singing down by the trail.

    I'll post this morning's stuff under the Birds of Wiv section...

  • Was the nightingale also heading home from the pub perhaps (they get SO noisy when they've had a few...)
  • Surprised and delighted to see this young Blackbird this morning; obviously a few weeks old as it flew across the garden. Blackbirds and thrushes often nest quite early in the spring and then get caught out with colder weather, with young often perishing... Not sure where the warm start to the spring happened here but great to see this toddler in good order!

    Also a male Linnet in cracking spring plumage at Ferry Marsh yesterday as I was waiting for help with my stricken vehicle.

  • edited April 2013
    Second Spring update
    Although a little on the cool side still, Spring is definitely springing!
    Things to look out for now include:
    1. Whimbrels are still moving through as per the last posting, more often seen than heard and usually flying over. Over the past few days, and probably for the next couple of weeks, Greenshanks are with us on the river, regularly on the stretch fronting Wivenhoe Wood. Like a large, pale, elegant redshank, and with a more active feeding action, you may well see them in small groups of up to three or four. Listen especially for their loud, ringing 'teu-teu-teu' calls, contrasting with the more varied piping of the local redshanks, now setting up breeding territories on the salt marshes.
    2. Swifts are the epitome of summer, especially screaming groups hurtling around the town in the evening - the Churchyard is a great place to see them as they nest in holes under the roof. The first few came in late last week and by Sunday there was a screaming group of 6 birds; more will be coming in over the next few weeks, and enjoy them while you can - the latest regular summer bird to arrive here is also the first to leave, most having headed south by early August.
    3. Take the time to wander out into Wivenhoe Wood, especially the older part to the west. The ground flora is just coming into its own: Dog's mercury, with green bobbly flowers; carpets of wood anemones, mostly white but with some clones showing a strong pinkish flush; pure white greater stitchwort, each flower with five petals which are deeply split into two lobes; and just starting to come into flower, bluebells. They should be at their best in a week or so. A multicoloured carpet of delights, one that depends for its variety on the coppicing and other management work which helps to create temporary openings in the woodland canopy and allow light in to trigger the blooming of the ground flora.
    4. St Mark's Day was on 25 April. Traditionally this is the day we see an emergence of large, hairy flies, called St Mark's flies. This year being a late season, the flies are late, but they should be out and about in the next week or so. With long dangling legs, they may look fearsome, but they are harmless, interested only in nectar sources for food, and each other for breeding! The sap is rising....


  • Lovely photos Chris, and you're right: wood anemones, stitchwort, looking lovely just now, while blackthorn is covered in a white shawl of flowers, and bluebells getting more spectacular by the day...
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