The Noak Bridge
Nature Reserve Society
Newsletter - Summer 2016
Around the Reserve with the ChairmanWelcome to your Newsletter. After a bit of a false start Spring is now well and truly with us as we head at full speed towards Summer. The trees are full of blossom, the wildlife is now in abundance, and the Reserve is well and truly alive once more.
After all the upgrading work within the Reserve on our new steps, boardwalk and resurfaced walkways, we are now able to get back to our usual duties on the work parties. New volunteers are always welcome to join us on the third Tuesday of each month, 1pm to 3pm.
Our Ranger Mark Williams led an enthusiastic group of 21 people on a Bird Walk around the reserve on Sunday 24th April. It was dry and mostly cool weather with some sun. There were about 20 different species of birds identified including a Sparrowhawk, and there were many birdsongs and calls heard.
On Sunday July 31st we will be holding our Annual General Meeting in the Village Hall, Coppice Lane, starting at 3.30pm. It is then that you have the chance to decide who is going to run the Society for the next twelve months. It would be great to see you all there. The details will also be on the notice boards in the reserve. The Agenda for the meeting will include reports from the Chairman, Treasurer and the Basildon Council Ranger, questions from the floor which we will endeavour to answer, and of course the all-important election of officers and committee members. Refreshments will follow, with a chance to have an informal chat with members of the committee, old and new.
On the Work Party with the TreasurerSome small areas of paths have had gravel added to avoid puddles forming due to heavy rain.
Some parts of the High Ridge have had silt removed to reduce the mud, and also have had gravel added to avoid puddles. More is planned to be done in later work parties.
There has been some trimming of branches of various sizes around the Reserve and litter picked up from all around the site.
The brushcutter has been used to trim the grass and scrub at the entrance, by the notice boards, alongside paths, by both sets of steps and around the benches.
At Puckles Pond more damaged chicken wire has been replaced and some damaged old wood has been replaced at the edge of the dipping platform.
The large blocks of concrete in the area of Thorny Wood that was cleared of bushes have been broken up and either removed if they were small, or buried if they were too heavy to take away.
Recently there have been two sightings of a Sparrowhawk in the Reserve. Here are some facts about this beautiful bird.
The Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)The sparrowhawk is the bird of prey most likely to be seen in the garden, but is less familiar to many than the Buzzard or the Kestrel.
Sparrowhawks are sometimes spotted as they try to catch small birds from the bird table, but their secretive behaviour means that they are not well known. They are usually seen in flight, flying fast with several wing beats followed by a glide, often close to the ground, especially when hunting.
It has broad rounded wings and a longish banded tail for manoeuvrability. The smaller male is blue-grey to slate above with reddish barring on body and wing coverts. The female is grey-brown above with brown barring below. She has a pale stripe above the eye, which is less obvious in the male. Young birds are browner than the adults. When adult, their length is 28-38cm and their wingspan is 55-70cm.
The population in the UK
The population is said to be stable at 40,000 residents. Despite being heavily persecuted throughout the 19th century, its resilience and elusive nature has allowed it to remain widely distributed, though its numbers in the Southeast and East Anglia were depressed. In these areas its populations increased in the first half of the 20th century. However its numbers then crashed in the 1950s and 60s when it was seriously affected by the use of organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, which causes a thinning of the egg shell so that it cannot take the weight of the incubating female. Once the use of these chemicals was banned the Sparrowhawk population was able to recover, with numbers remaining stable since the early 1990s, suggesting most areas have now reached capacity.
Typically a woodland bird, as its numbers increased it has colonised farmland with trees, copses and shelter belts, and even suburban gardens. It is found throughout the UK except in the high Scottish mountains, along treeless coastlines, and in the Outer Hebrides and Shetland Islands.
The nest is made of loose twigs with a deep cup, built in the fork of a tree often against the trunk, and 6-12m from the ground. They prefer conifers if they are available. New nests are built each year, sometimes on an old nest of a wood pigeon or other bird and often close to the previous year's nest. The eggs are about 40mm by 32mm, smooth and non-glossy, bluish-white with dark brown markings, and are only incubated by the female. Both adults feed the babies though when newly-hatched the young are fed by the female with the male hunting the food.
Sparrowhawks feed almost entirely on small birds, the species reflecting availability. Males take the smaller birds (sparrows, finches, tits etc), and females the larger (thrushes, starlings etc). Sometimes a pigeon, small mammals, nestlings and carrion are taken. The hunting technique relies on stealth, watching for prey from a perch under cover, then flying fast and low using any available cover to take the prey by surprise.