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Page last updated at 08:28 GMT, Wednesday, 14 October 2009 09:28 UK
Autumn brings nature into focus

Renee Hockley-Byam
Renee Hockley-Byam
BBC Essex

Renee Hockley-Byam is the nature expert for BBC Essex; she is keeping a weekly diary recording the changing season.

Week two

Saturday, 10 October

Muntjac deer
Britain's smallest deer is spreading across the country

On an early morning walk with my dog we surprised a muntjac deer creeping about in the woodland.

These little deer were introduced into Britain as part of a collection at Woburn in the 1900s.

Escapees have spread and colonised in many parts of the UK, and are now regarded as a pest for the damage they do to our native flora and trees.

They breed prolifically and are now quite common.

In the afternoon I went down to Old Leigh to check out the brent geese arriving here for the winter from Siberia.

The RSPB have set-up a watchpoint, with telescopes, as one of their 'Date with Nature' events.

Around 3,000 birds are currently out in the Thames Estuary, with more arriving every day.

Brent geese at Old Leigh
Thousands of brent geese fly to Essex for the winter

Other good places to see these birds are the Blackwater Estuary and the Crouch/Roach Estuary.

These three sites are recognised as being of international importance to the dark-bellied brent goose.

On the journey back I saw seven kestrels, at various points on the A130 and A12, hovering over the roadside verges keeping an eye out for prey, mainly voles.

And a flock of starlings was swooping and turning over the River Chelmer before coming in to roost for the night.

In the late afternoon I received a call-out via the badger hotline (07751 572 175) to an injured badger at Finchingfield.

The people who had found her had covered her with a blanket while they waited for me to arrive - which was exactly the right thing to do.

It was off to the vet, but sadly there was no happy ending - she was found to have a huge tumour and I agreed that euthanasia was the kindest option.

Sunday, 13 October

We must have received a visit from the local sparrowhawk early this morning as there was a half-plucked collared dove in the garden.

These lovely birds of prey make occasional visits to pick-off birds as they roost.

I once saw one pluck a blue tit off an arch in the garden and whiz off with it without even hesitating on the way.

Out walking I have noticed the recent damp weather has helped the development of fungi which seem to have sprung up in damp ditches and on the woodland floor.

I must go on a course to help me identify them - I am not good on fungi at all.

Stonechat on public footpath sign
Home for the stonechat is usually heathland not farmland

A small bird was perched on a public footpath sign, flicking its tail quite frequently, and at first I thought it was a robin, but through the binoculars I was amazed to see that it appeared to be a stonechat.

I am pretty sure it was, with orange breast, dark head and white patches on the side of the neck.

But if so - what was it doing in a farmland area? They are usually heathland birds and the nearest heath is at Tiptree, around 12 miles away!

Monday ,12 October

Went out early, before work, to a local woodland to collect some conkers - apparently (and this was news to me) a few in the house ward away spiders.

Conker
Experts say we could be in for a bumper conker crop this year

I do not mind them myself, but my other half is not very keen so it will be interesting to see it they work.

Horse chestnut trees are struggling at the moment, with disease quite prevalent.

I do hope it is not like Dutch Elm disease all over again.

There was a beautiful jay collecting acorns, as I was collecting my conkers.

This member of the crow family is so distinctive with its pinky beige plumage and flashes of while and blue.

It plays an important part in the planting of acorns to grow into new oak trees when it forgets where they are buried for storage.

Several times I heard the yaffle (laughter like call and the old English name) of a green woodpecker nearby, just catching a bright yellowy green flash and that red head as it flitted away with its strange undulating flight.

Those two birds must be two of our most exotic species and brightened my start to the day.




SEE ALSO
Celebrating the changing season
09 Oct 09 |  Nature & Outdoors

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