Wonders of Canvey Wick


EXG MAY 15 RSPB - Credit: Archant

LAST September the Land Trust, the RSPB and Buglife opened a very special nature reserve to the public. Canvey Wick, on Canvey Island, is a landmark reserve thanks to its incredibly rare inhabitants and its unusual past. Once set to be an oil refinery, it was never commissioned and nature saw fit to recover the land with some of our rarest insects finding themselves the perfect new home there. Since its opening in September it has already seen a huge array of visitors, from cyclists to horse riders and from dog walkers to botanists, and now we are in the full swing of spring the reserve is truly showing off its spectacular array of micro life.

Canvey Wick’s unique past has created space for swathes of nectar-rich wild flowers and a mosaic of bare ground, perfect for insects such as the weevil-hunting wasp and green tiger beetles who make their burrows in and hunt over patches of bare ground. The ditches support an array of dragonflies and damselflies including the scarce emerald.

During May some of the best early-flowering, insect-friendly plant species to spot on site include colt’s foot, hawkweeds, speedwells, common spotted orchids as well as sallow (pussy willow) and the scattered plum and apple trees. All of these provide a wonderful splash of spring colour and important sustenance for the insect life that will be emerging after a long winter.

On warm days you may see emerging queens or worker bees, such as the rare brown-banded carder bee and the shrill carder bee, searching for food among these pretty plants and butterflies will be flittering about basking in the sunshine and feeding on their nectar.

Butterflies to watch out for are the meadow brown, green hair-streak and speckled wood — distinctive species easy to see prancing from plant to plant. There are also many birds that enjoy this little oasis and they will sing a beautiful dawn chorus for anyone willing to be up during the early hours of the morning. Listen out for whitethroat and lesser whitethroat singing from the bushes and spot the reed warbler and reed buntings flitting in and out of the reeds along the ditches.

While the site remains primarily a safe haven for nature, we encourage people to get out and enjoy this incredibly diverse jewel of a nature reserve. With its unique wildlife and industrial setting, it really is a joy to visit.

Towards the end of May the RSPB and Canvey Town Council will be holding the annual Canvey Island Wildlife Day over on Canvey Wick’s neighbour reserve, West Canvey Marsh. During the day we will be running a special guided walk over on Canvey Wick with Buglife’s Dr Sarah Henshall, which will be a fantastic opportunity to find out more about this incredible site and its unique inhabitants.

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To find out more about the event visit www.canveyisland-tc.gov.uk/events and for more details about Canvey Wick, visit www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/canveywick