The Wigeon Story

In May 2016 there was a photo competition at Canvey Island and my photos were through to the last round.  Mike Dilger from The One Show was the judge, he was also supervising the guided walks.  We decided to go on one of them before the judging of the photos began.

On the walk I pointed out a Skylark and Reed Warbler by recognising their bird song and Mike was impressed.  As we walked along my dad suddenly stopped  because there was an Adder resting under his foot.  He had noticed it just in time before stepping on it.  As we continued on towards the hide Mike warned us to be quiet as there was a Great Tit nest nearby.  In the hide we saw them flying back and forwards from the nest.  After a look around we spotted two Great Crested Grebes dancing and performing to each other.

Finally some ducks flew in and one was a Wigeon.  I thought to tell Mike straight away because it was strange that they were here this time of year.  Wigeon would normally migrate in the summer to places such as Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.  I told Mike but he did not believe me. “There’s a Wigeon over there”, I kept telling Mike.  “They have migrated“, he replied, finally he looked and realised that actually there was a Wigeon, that made him a bit embarrassed, but it also made him more aware of my knowledge.

When we got back it was time for the judging of the photo competition.  After he looked around at the pictures he announced the winners.


I managed to get first and second prizes which was amazing and made me very happy.


My winning photo of a Turnstone on Southend Pier

We all had a good day with other events such as bug hunting, pond dipping, we also played some of the games and climbed a rock wall that they had there.

Couple of days later, we were at Minsmere walking round, whilst looking at a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest we bumped into Mike Dilger, Jason Singh and one of the Springwatch producers.  We said hello and Mike retold the Wigeon story to the other people, after chatting to them all the Producer invited us to be in the audience of Springwatch UnSprung (episode 3 2016).

It was great as I managed to stand behind Chris Packham and Mike in the audience and had a really good view of them both.  My mum said I was also very visible on the screen and she had told all my family to watch.  It was interesting seeing different parts of the set and what they were doing and how it all ran behind the scenes.  At the end of the show Mike introduced me to Chris Packham and I had my photo taken with them.


I also met Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games they all signed my little black nature book. Was a great end to a long day at Minsmere.

Close Encounters of the Adder Kind

I saw my first adder at Chafford Hundred Warren Gorge.  We were participating on one of their events; family fishing and was not catching anything.  So we decided to go bug hunting and there were lots of bugs and I found an unusual fly.  When we investigated it later it turned out to be a Scorpion fly.  Trekking deeper into the nettles a long stick moved … an adder, shocking but amazing to see.

At Minsmere on a hot day, you can get adders on the adder trail, sun bathing heating themselves up as they are cold blooded.  One day about noon we went to check the trail.  We were walking down there and someone was searching already.  They found one!  It was coiled up in a bramble bush; the adder was brown to show it was a female.  This is my first adder at Minsmere.

Adder 2

Female Adder at Minsmere

This is another one we saw at Minsmere recently.  We were at the North wall trying to find the Stone Curlew, but the vegetation was too high.  So we went on and was watching and listening for the ping of Bearded Tits.  On our way we saw some movement in the grass and something black started slithering away.  I then realised it was a snake and took some photos, this confirmed it was an adder because at first I thought it was a grass snake.


Black Adder at Minsmere

My last adder story was at Canvey Island.  We were on a guided walk hosted by Mike Dilger.  On the walk we were all walking on the grass to walk quieter so we could listen easier and not disturb anything.  Whilst I was walking my dad suddenly stopped, SNAKE!   My dad’s foot was above an adder and had noticed it just in time.  This is the closest that we have got to an adder and was one of the highlights of the walk.

Best Bird Watching Experiences (so far)

Here are some of my memorable moments when bird watching. 

We joined the RSPB at Rainham Marshes as a family and have been going to the kid’s bird watching club for many years and made many friends.  This has helped with my knowledge on birds, insects and plants.  One particular day we were on a walk with Howard (who runs the KBC), in spring and heard a distinctive call of a cuckoo. We all examined the area of the call.  Second by second, minute by minute, continuing looking, someone shouted there it is with a hobby and another bird of prey. It moved into view, that’s a sparrow hawk.   So there was a hobby, sparrow hawk and a cuckoo all in the same horse chestnut tree more or less next to each other, which was phenomenal.

Northern Hawker Dragonfly

Here is a photo of a Norfolk Hawker that a hobby may eat.

One weekend we thought to go somewhere new, at Wallasea was there was a guided walk & we decided to go along.  In the car park the guide shouted Marsh Harrier with two Hobbies.  While the Hobbies were soaring around catching insects such as dragonflies the Marsh Harrier flushed up a Hen Harrier.  This was a new bird of prey for me.  The guide had been there a few hours before and there was still three Peregrine Falcons sitting on the ground waiting for a meal.  We was just about to leave the car park when a Sparrow Hawk passed over the meadow grassland.  Finally we left the car park.

There were lots of Brent Geese and also whilst we were looking for waders we saw a Buzzard circling in the distance.  After that we continued to walk down towards where they were collecting soil for the reserve and saw a Kestrel hovering.  Finally we made our way back to the car, it was a spectacular day especially for birds of prey.


Picture of an Avocet

The first time I saw a Barn Owl at Rainham Marshes along with other interesting wildlife was at a late night opening.   We were at the Butts hide just in time to see a Temminck’s stint and was fascinated how small it was.  Then we walked towards where the barn owl box was near the woodland.  Approaching there was a kestrel hovering hunting for food, like voles and mice.  Suddenly a peregrine falcon the fastest animal in the world, dropped from a pylon, accelerated, speeding from one side of the reserve to the other disappearing into the distance in seconds.

Barn Owl.JPG

Picture of a Barn Owl that I held

We waited hoping to see the Barn Owl, but it did not appear and due to time we had to continue walking round the reserve.  In the Cordite store area we heard a strange screeching noise and I recognised it as being the owl.  I darted as fast as I could round the corner and ran up a viewing platform.  When reaching the top, the barn owl elegantly landed on a post in front me and my dad.  It then took off and I chased alongside it running towards the centre.  When I walked in I had the biggest beaming smile and my friends knew that I had seen my first Barn Owl.


Picture of a Peregrine that I was lucky to hold at Chafford

Our nearest Essex Wildlife Trust is the Chafford Hundred Gorges.  I like to visit them and have done many of the events that they run.  On one visit whilst walking into Warren Gorge down the zig zag, a brown plumage bittern flew in and landed.  I was so surprised and was jumping with joy.  We continued to walk round and found many slow worms, which my brother loves.  Whilst walking along one of the banks, I heard a splash and saw a Water Rail burst from the bank crossing to the other side.  When we got back to the centre we were so excited telling the staff and writing what we had found on their board.  Later I explained to my nanny and granddad what we had seen informing them that the bittern is a bird that is very difficult to see and how rare it is.

Slow Worm

Slow Worm at Chafford Warren Gorge