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The wildlife of Canvey Wick nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 16:00 20 June 2016 | UPDATED: 16:00 20 June 2016

Ammophila sabulosa

Ammophila sabulosa

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Find out more about the county's bird life from RSPB every month. This month: the creatures of Canvey Wick

Summer is the perfect time to take a stroll and investigate the unique and beautiful Canvey Wick nature reserve. The Land Trust, Buglife and the RSPB have been working together to restore and maintain this special place, ensuring that it remains a safe haven for important Thames Terrace insects. The site has had a quite fascinating recent history. In 2003, Buglife led a campaign to save Canvey Wick from development and in 2005 it was designated the UK’s first brownfield Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) specifically for its invertebrate interest. The Land Trust took ownership of Canvey Wick in 2012 and today the RSPB and Buglife work in partnership to manage Canvey Wick for the benefit of the local community. More than 1,400 species of invertebrates have been recorded at Canvey Wick and it has been described as ‘a brownfield rainforest’ by Natural England officer Dr Chris Gibson.

Canvey Wick requires a great deal of management to ensure the habitats remain suitable for the species it is hoped will be attracted to and maintained at the site. The creation of bee banks provides vital nesting and basking sites for a huge range of pollinating insects, such as the five banded weevil wasp. The banks have been placed in particularly sunny spots for warmth and the insects will burrow into the sand. At this time of year you are likely to see an array of different butterflies, from peacocks and common blues to meadow browns and painted ladies. Butterflies feed on nectar, so the huge variety and number of flowering plants at Canvey Wick provides an abundance of food, encouraging these beautiful insects to thrive. Other very rare species of bee, such as the shrill carder bee and brown banded carder bee, can be seen enjoying the habitat too.

While the site is magnificent for invertebrates, you also might be lucky enough to see a common lizard basking in a warm patch of sunlight. There is plenty for them to eat at Canvey Wick as they’ll feast on grasshoppers, spiders, flies and other invertebrates. Several species of birds can be seen and heard on the site too, such as skylarks and yellow wagtails. Overall, Canvey Wick supports an enormous variety of wildlife throughout the year, but it is during the summer when things are truly stunning.

The car park is open from 9am to 5pm, but you can enjoy this site at anytime of the day, as access on foot is available at all times. If you’re not a creepy crawly connoisseur but would like to know more, you can join the knowledgeable RSPB team on a Butterfly and Insect Walk. There are walks planned for Saturday, June 11 from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, and Saturday, July 9 from 9am to 11am. Booking is essential as places are limited, so call 01268 498620 or email southessex@rspb.org.uk to reserve your space. The cost is £3 for RSPB members and £4 for non-members.

Find out more

For more information about the Canvey Wick and the groups working to manage the site, visit www.buglife.org.uk, www.thelandtrust.org.uk or www.rspb.org.uk/canveywick

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