Beddington Farmlands Bird Group
With its large open spaces, ephemeral grasslands and expansive water bodies, it is not surprising that the Farmlands are an oasis for bugs. The casual visitor in Summer cannot fail to appreciate the wealth of colour and diversity of its denizens. As you walk over the Mile Road bridge at Hackbridge, brightly coloured Holly Blues are a regular sight from as early as April while the Orange Tip is often the first butterfly heralding the onset of warmer days in Spring. The solitary oak supports a small colony of Purple Hairstreaks. On calm and warm mid-Summer evenings, the Purple Hairstreaks can sometimes be seen at eye-level and their true beauty can be appreciated.
On entering the main gate, the sharp-eyed observer may pick up the distinctive outline of the Wasp Spider which is a relatively recent colonist to the farm. Likewise the grassland banks with their clumps of birds foot trefoil attract large numbers of sparkling Common Blue butterflies. Closer examination of the browner females may reveal Brown Argus, while equally scarce are the occasional observations of Small Heath and Small Copper. The Farmlands are fortunate to have significant colonies of Small Tortoiseshell, which benefit no doubt from the extensive patches of nettles lining the banks of the sludge beds. However the clouds of hundreds of Small Tortoiseshell reported in the eighties are now a distant memory. For the visitor in July a feast of colour may await them as Essex Skipper, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Gatekeeper etc dash around engaged in aerial combat. The Farmlands regularly pay host to migrants such as Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady, while counts of the latter can reach many hundreds. Vagrants have included Silver-washed Fritillary, Dark Green Fritillary, Swallowtail and Camberwell Beauty.
For the odonata enthusiast, the main lake and large ditches can provide an interesting spectacle with Broad-bodied Chasers looking distinctly cumbersome, compared to the far more numerous Black-tailed Skimmers. Common Darters are a frequent sight from late Summer through to October. Late Summer is also the time for seeing Southern Hawker patrolling the footpath from Hackbridge to Irrigation Bridge, while the edges of the lake will see frantic battles being played out between Migrant Hawkers. Where there are pools with dense patches of bulrushes, it may be worth looking our for Ruddy Darter which seems to be increasing in recent years. For the keener eyed observer, Azure Damselfly and Common Blue Damselfly will present an identification challenge, as they are often found together on small red-fringed stagnant pools. The Large Red Damselfly will also often be present, but to find the distinctive Banded Demoiselle the gently flowing water courses are the preferred habitat. Over the years, vagrants to the Farmlands have included Red-veined Darter and Small Red-eyed Damselflies.
If this mouth-watering display of bugs is not enough, then over 300 species of beetle await the intrepid bug-hunter. In addition over 150 species of moth have been recorded. Some of the specialities include Bulrush Wainscot, Webb’s Wainscot, Gold Spot, Hornet Moth, The Mallow, Yarrow Pug, Dog’s Tooth, Small Ranunculus etc. Mid-Winter visits to Irrigation Bridge can bring hope of warmer days to come, as you at marvel at the numerous hibernating Herald moths alongside Red Admiral, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell.