Living in South Essex I often look with green eyes at those in places like the highlands with pine martens and crested tit in the wilderness on their doorstep or in Norfolk with swallowtail butterflies and large areas of fen to explore, but looking objectively there are some good things to be found in Essex, particularly if you are looking at invertebrates.
A couple of weeks ago I had a mini tour around some South Essex sites. I started at Wat Tyler CP, an SSSI and country park. It was only just gone 8, but already getting rather hot. This squirrel scampered across the very dry looking cottage meadow.
There were a few butterflies on the wing too, but the lack of water and heat seemed to be having a negative impact on the amount of wildlife to be seen.
After a morning of work I headed down the A13 to Canvey Wick. This brownfield site was the first nature reserve of its kind, its diverse invertebrate fauna thankfully (mostly) saved from development. I was here to meet the natural history author Stephen Moss and have a look for some rare inverts.
One of the target species was a brown banded carder bee. I am no bee expert but a recent excellent course had taught be some ID skills and this bee appears to have some black hairs on the thorax, indicating it is indeed the rarer brown banded carder bee (and not the common carder bee).
It was feeding on a garden escapee plant, a sweet pea, one of the few flowers that were still alive after the long dry spell.
There were loads of labyrinth spider with their large horizontal webs (some over 50cm across!) with a tube at the end where the spider sits and waits for its prey. One ventured out when a grasshopper landed in her web.
We popped into another site on Canvey before we left the island to look for some southern emerald damselflies, but the strong winds made this impossible. I did manage 1 good shot of a southern migrant hawker in the few minutes spent near their ditch.
So South Essex is pretty good after all.