Today was a wonderful day. Up early, the sky looked like it might let a bit of blue through. The air had dried a bit, as had the ground. We met at 9 am in the dark dungeon that they call "under podia" for a field trip--my first with the bio sci crew. We loaded into a very long passenger van and drove out to Abbotts Hall Farm (http://www.essexwt.org.uk/visitor_centres__nature_reserves/abbotts_hall_farm/). It's an Essex Wildlife Trust site situated on the Blackwater estuary and the Salcott Channel. It consists of farm land, reclaimed marsh land, wildlife area, and grazing land. It's a beautiful place, and I bet even more beautiful in spring and summer when things are in bloom. It's an easy escape to say that in winter everything is brown and grey. The colors are actually quite a bit more complex than that. In the reeds, for example, there are purples and golds. You can see Mersea from there, and Salcott and Maldon. Our group was lead around the site by the warden who was a fantastic guide. He showed us where they were farming, explained why they're practicing conservation grade rather than organic farming (couldn't control the weeds otherwise), and what type of other wildlife encouraging practices they perform, such as beetle banks and patches of open space for starlings to land in. He took us down to the new wetland area and pointed out a few of the sea wall breeches and identified some of the salt marsh plants that were thriving in the area. We passed a bird hide, two owl boxes, a field with big piles of wet London clay, a yard with sheep in it (and tons of adorable lambs), a fresh water pond, a worn down bit of salt marsh, some coppiced hedge rows, and plenty of water fowl. The highlights for me were the puddles and the barn owl that we saw. The puddles were awesome in my wellies. I splashed about, walked through mud, walked through a few inches of water to clean the mud off again. It's so much fun to walk through puddles and have dry feet. The barn owl was an amazing sight. What beautiful bird. It's big white wings flapping gently in the air. It hovered and dropped and a few moments later, rose again. It was my first barn owl sighting and a real treat.
Abbotts Hall Farm is a place I'd like to spend more time, put in some volunteer hours, accomplishing something, contributing to something, and doing it in a beautiful setting.