With only two weeks remaining until the Society returns to its traditional home at Bradwell Abbey, we made a premature visit for the start of our latest summer walk, meeting at the upper car park. There was a distinctly autumnal feel to this walk – both sun and rain flirted with us but most of the walk took place under heavy cloud. However, there was still plenty of flora and fauna to enjoy.
Walking south from the car park, we took our time at the edge of the Loughton Brook. The water here is very clear in places allowing good views of the gravel beds. For once we were able to concentrate on fish, with large shoals impressing us with their speed and coordination. We saw Minnows, 3-Spined Stickleback, Rudd, Perch and Common Dace – and probably several other species which we couldn’t identify! But it was a good indication of just how much life small watercourses like this can support.
Few birds were seen (the stretch is particularly good for kingfishers) but a Little Egret flew overhead and large parties of Long Tailed Tits delighted us as they moved along the hedgerows. We heard, but did not see, a small party of Bullfinches.
Among the plants growing along the brook were Knotgrass, Purple Loosestrife, Marsh Woundwort, Himalayan Balsam and Meadow Cranesbill. We crossed the brook and walked through an area of old ridge and furrow grassland where we added Agrimony and Lady’s Bedstraw to our list.
The return leg took us along the course of the railway, through some flower rich areas and scrubby woodland. Roy pointed out some attractive ferns on the railway bridge. As the skies darkened, we began to find Mother-of-Pearl moths in good numbers and then, as dusk closed in, the bats appeared. Both Common and Soprano Pipistrelles were flying around us on the edge of Bradwell Village and were easily identified with bat detectors.
The finale was a walk through the somewhat atmospheric railway tunnel over the brook. Here we saw lots of Spiders on the walls (which, illuminated by the tunnel lights, looked superb) and a good number of impressive Old Lady moths clustered on the brick work. We arrived back at the car park just as it began to rain but before we left there was one more highlight, as a pair of Brown Long-eared Bats started hunting along the fence line of the pony paddock.
It was nice to see some new faces among the 28 people who attended this meeting. Everyone agreed that it had been a different sort of evening and we had seen an interesting variety of habitats and wildlife.
Text by Martin Kincaid
Photographs by Peter Hassett
Click on any of the pictures for a larger image.