Category Archives: wildlife

You can’t really spend a lot of time outdoors, foraging and walking, etc., without seeing a lot of wildlife. So it follows it’s hard not to be interested in it and care about it.

This category, therefore, is to include all the sightings of birds, foxes, badgers, deer, and so on.

Sanderling Stuck in the Mud

You’re out on a walk near a river and the mud flats, and you come across a Sanderling? (I’ll happily be corrected, bird identification isn’t my strong point) stuck in the mud. So what do you do?

Sanderling stuck in the mud

My first thought was that I need to be sure it is stuck and that it isn’t actually ok where it is. So we left it, knowing that we would be coming back in about 20 minutes. We came back and it was still there. We even tried to scare it in case it got up and flew away, but its legs and wings were stuck now. It looked utterly exhausted.

Warning

Now I really must say, don’t go onto mud flats. It’s so dangerous and could kill you. However, I had my wife with me, with mobile phone, knowing that there were people not far away, and there was a wooden post in the mud and a piece of debris to stand on. We also had spare gear in the rucksack that my wife could use to help pull me out if I got in trouble.

Rescue

Two steps, and one muddy foot later, and we had a small, frightened Sanderling out of the mud. The poor thing was exhausted, but we chose to leave it in the Heather next to the mud. It was perfectly camouflaged, so we were hoping it would have time to gather its strength, then get away. Whether it did get away, or maybe even if a fox got it because it was too tired; Either way would be better than staying stuck in the mud.

I just want to reiterate, do not go out onto mud flats. This was an unusual situation where I was certain I would be OK, but that if anything went wrong I had good backup.

Sanderling Update

Unfortunately, the Sanderling was just too exhausted by the whole experience and it looks like a fox got it. Still a better end than slowly drowning in the mud, and another animal got a meal. Sad, but OK at the same time.

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Foraging the Edges of Epping Forest in Winter

I had a couple of hours spare so I thought I’d go foraging the edges of Epping Forest in Winter (late January to be precise).

Wildlife Seen

Not much to see today, but then it is absolutely freezing. The wildlife clearly has more sense than me! However, I did see a lot of Redwings on the village green, which was quite nice and not a bird that I was familiar with. I also didn’t have my camera handy, so this picture is courtesy of the RSPB website (www.rspb.org.uk).

Redwing

Trees Identified

Now this is something I’ve been trying to work on, identifying trees (especially deciduous trees in the winter). Silver Birch are pretty easy and straight forward any time of year, Elder is also fairly easy for me as I have one in the garden. Oak is quite easy, especially with all the Oak leaf litter around it. New to me was Hornbeam. Similar to Beech, but it has papery, winged fruits called ‘samara’ which contain the nuts/seeds, which in winter, hang down like brown papery decorations. Also plentiful out in Epping Forest is the good old Beech tree. Obviously, there are plenty more, but there’s only so much I can take in in one day.

Foraging for Free Food

Onto the key part of the day’s activities. Well, the sap isn’t up in the Birches yet, so they weren’t much use; the Elder is bare and didn’t even have any Jew’s Ears fungus either, however, the nuts from the Hornbeam Samara are edible, and there were still plenty of Beech nuts around too (although this is probably the last that they’ll be any good for eating).

Hornbeam Samara

The Hornbeam nuts are rock hard and tiny, so probably not much use except in dire circumstances, and with Beech nuts around, why would you bother? The Beech nuts are lovely. Opinions vary, but I think that they taste like Almonds. The Beech cast is the spiky part, inside that are the three-sided nut pods, however, the nut itself is inside that pod, so break them open first (yes, I have tried to eat the whole pod before, and while it still tastes nice, it’s a bit spiky!)

Beech Nuts and their Casts

‘Bare’ Beech nuts, ready to eat

Once prepared, the Beech nuts look a little like pine nuts (in my opinion) which got me to thinking that they could probably make a nice alternative in a wild pesto (using nettles, or wild garlic to replace the basil).

Finally, on my way home I came across some crab apples. They were the last on the tree and well past their best, however, the recent frosts had managed to get rid of some of the bitterness.

Crab Apples

So, in general, the Beech nuts were the only thing worth having on this trip, but I’ve learnt quite a lot too.

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