Wednesday, 13 August 2014

My First Visit to Vange Marsh

29th July 2014

Vange Marsh often features on the Essex reports, sometimes with a good selection of waders. It is obviously not what you may term a full-blown reserve as there are no hides, just two viewing mounds and a viewing screen. However, as it is relatively local well worth a visit to see what it holds.

We had quite a problem finding the entrance. As the marsh is south of the railway we had rather assumed that the entrance would also be south of the railway, although it is fact north of the railway opposite Pitsea railway station car park. Also it didn't help that the rather inconspicuous brown RSPB sign was one-sided and could only be seen when returning from Wat Tyler Country Park, not the expected direction of arrival. Anyway, having parked the car, we made our way down the gravel track past some industrial units and the first sign of wildlife was a Holly Blue which uncharacteristically perched on a stone. That wasn't expected but a nice start to the day.

At the end of the gravel track you cross the railway and enter a superb flower meadow before you even reach the entrance to the reserve. This was absolutely alive with just about every type of insect imaginable and not surprisingly Common Blues, Gatekeepers and Small Skippers were well represented.

There were also a couple of moths, the first being the easily recognisable Silver Y. However, the second insect had me totally stumped and when I got home and looked through my moth book I still couldn't find it despite it being rather conspicuous. It turns out the reason I couldn't find it was that, despite it being at least an inch across it is in fact the micro moth Sitochroa palealis. This is a scarce local resident of the south-eastern coastal areas and sometimes a migrant, and the food plant is Wild Carrot of which there was an abundant supply here.

Also present in this large area of grassland were hundreds of grasshoppers and a few Ruddy Darters. There is also supposed to be a colony of the rare Scarce Emerald Damselflies here, but during our visit I didn't see any suitable habitat let alone any of these rare insects.

Hoverflies were much in evidence, although often difficult to track down as they were very active on such a stifling hot day. I managed to find three species which are Episyrphus balteatus, Eristalis pertinax and Myathropa florea in order of appearance.

We then entered the reserve and walked along the bank to the viewing platform. The habitat was superb with plenty of open water, islands and muddy margins and a group of waders were roosting on one of the islands. These were mainly Redshank, but there were two Spotted Redshank (extreme left) and a Greenshank (6th from left in the water). Also present on the lagoon was an Avocet and a Black-tailed Godwit.

So overall a very enjoyable day, particularly the flower meadow. The lagoons are very distant from the viewing mounds and even from the viewing screen, too far away for bird photography. However, the habitat is good and the site will inevitably turn up some good birds over the year.

Now on to Two Tree this space.

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