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Bishop’s Stortford Independent Nature Notes columnist Jono Forgham visits Turner’s Spring Nature Reserve





Having completed a successful insect survey a week last Sunday, I was anticipating a good variety of wildlife for my Nature Notes wander the following day.

I certainly found plenty, even if insect numbers were not so high due to a cold northerly breeze and leaden grey skies as I set off from Tye Green. I had parked by the airport runway where the plane spotters and photographers can be found.

A kestrel flew off from a telegraph pole as I approached but my attention was on the other side of the road. A good distance away were six hares, occasionally having their ritualistic boxing matches. Originally, it was thought that these fights were between two competing males but it is now thought it is actually a female letting the male know she is not ready for his attention.

Greylag geese
Greylag geese

Sadly, they were too far off for a photo but great to watch, nevertheless.

I pressed on, turning right into the hamlet of Tye Green. A solitary Yellow woundwort was in flower in the verge here, amongst many parsley species pushing through.

Passing the village pond, I gained access to a green lane, bordered on both sides by blackthorn that was in full blossom. I stopped to check for nectaring insects, but still too chilly for these to be feeding. I hoped it would warm up later for my arrival at Turner’s Spring Reserve as this is where I had planned to go.

Brimstone butterfly
Brimstone butterfly

The track winds its way through to open fields before I came to a bramble and willow scrub area on my left. A narrow path took me into what looked to be a good habitat where at least 4 male chiffchaffs were all in good voice. This site certainly has potential, with small dips presently holding rainwater and a selection of sedges that indicate it may well be a wetland for several months of the year.

At the end of the path there is a large lake and this is where the calls of Canada geese had been emanating from. I had heard them from quite a way off. A Little grebe called as I peered over the vegetation to see what else was present. Just a few moorhens so I carried on, turning left and following a path that runs alongside horsefields.

In the verge, plenty of Allaria petiolata, (Garlic mustard aka Jack in the Hedge) as well as good stands of nettles. I have sung the praises of nettlebeds before, so stopped and got down on all fours to see what I could find skulking within the leaves. Firstly, a 7-spot ladybird, followed shortly after by a colourful sawfly species, Aglaostigma aucupariae showing its white shoulders and orange/red hoop upon the abdomen.

Bombus terrestris bees (Buff tailed bumblebees) commuted up and down the verge. These large insects are the recently emerged queens and as well as nectaring on the white dead nettle, they were searching for holes where they could nest.

Comma butterfly
Comma butterfly

A little further along, a good patch of Common dog-violet and in with this, my first cowslip of the year. Another insect caught my eye, a Lucillia species of fly, one of the greenbottles. Very shiny, metallic green and, again, a first for the year. My day list was increasing rapidly as both magpies and jays flew overhead and into a large ash just before I arrived at Fuller’s End.

I admired a new thatched roof upon a cottage and, in the process, missed another kestrel that was perched on the gable end. As soon as I clocked it, she was off into the garden trees. I waited to see if she would show again and very helpfully, she dropped down on to the lawn just as a few sunrays broke through the clouds. Perfect timing for some photos.

A superb magnolia was in a garden, fully laden with its amazing flowers as I wandered along the lane before picking up a footpath right next to a grey bungalow, The Haven.

Magnolia
Magnolia

I took this path, through a metal gate into a field. Overhead, the inevitable Red kite and Common buzzard before going through a second gate and on to a footpath to the right.

This path leads to the triangle of overgrown willow and hazel woodland that is bordered on one side by the Stansted airport rail link, on a second side by the main line railway and on the final side by the M11. Having walked away from the near constant roar of the airport, I now had to listen for calling birds over the growl of the motorway and the quieter passing of the electric trains.

There are paths and tracks all over this site. Some, I suspect made when the motorway was constructed and others when the airport railway link was built. Very tricky to describe my route here, but it is an area well worth exploring.

Chiffchaffs were now my constant companion. Their zip zap call was almost perpetual from the willows. Several posed for photos whilst others remained hidden in the centre of the trees.

Chiffchaff
Chiffchaff

Under the motorway and then under the airport railway before a left hand turn on to a wide path. After a few hundred yards I came to a large lake, surrounded by mature trees, many of them Alders. I suspect this lake was dug when the railway line to Cambridge was being constructed.

A flock of birds flew up from the ground in front of me and into a hawthorn. Through the binoculars I got glimpses of red on the forehead of several of these birds whilst others were steaked with hints of yellow. A mixed flock of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls, the latter I thought was a new bird for my B S Indie walks list, but upon checking when I got home, I noted I recorded several in the town cemetery some years ago.

These birds were keeping well out of photographic range and even when they did approach to a reasonable distance, it was just too dark. I decided to return the following morning if the light was better and continued up the track until I came to another tunnel under the railway line.

On the other side I immediately found Ground-ivy along the path and a little further on, a Dark edged bee-fly rested upon a dead leaf. I managed to get photos of both before stopping near the stream in Turner’s Spring and perching upon a fallen log for my picnic. Lovely spot.

Nuthatches called as I watched the airport trains glide by. Long tailed tits popped into a snowberry bush and from afar, a Marsh tit called.

I finished my lunch and followed the path to a stile and level crossing that took me over the railway line and along a path that brought me out near Tye Green. Here, in the verge, flowering Barren strawberry whilst on the cultivated fields, 3 pied wagtails picked off insects.

Barren strawberry
Barren strawberry

I arrived back at the car and forgot to check the telegraph pole. Once again, the kestrel flew off before I could ready the camera.

Tuesday dawned bright with a blue, almost cloudless sky so back to find the siskin/redpoll flock. I parked near Stansted Hall and took the permissive path that runs alongside the M11. I passed the Turner’s Spring tunnel, under the railway line once again and was back at the alders by the lake. After about 15 minutes I heard the siskins calling and managed to fire off several photos, now in far better light. A single Lesser redpoll was present but was clearly camera shy and remained in dense cover for the hour I was there.

On the lake: Greylag geese, 5 Canada geese along with 2 cormorants, mallards and a pair of moorhens.

I headed back up the path in good sunshine. A comma butterfly landed in front of me, a Peacock flew by and a male Brimstone landed on nearby brambles. Certainly, testament to the rise in temperature.

There is something about the whole of this area that draws me back on a regular basis. The site has the potential for turning up something unusual, so it was pleasing to see the Lesser redpolls, not a bird I see regularly and, as it is a winter visitor, they are only about in the UK for a few months. Just a shame I couldn’t get a worthwhile photo.

Siskin
Siskin
Kestrel
Kestrel
Seven spot ladybird
Seven spot ladybird
Bombus terrestris
Bombus terrestris

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