HC Deb 18 May 2004 vol 421 cc832-3W
Bob Spink

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which species of wildlife(a) inhabit and (b) visit Two Tree Island in the Thames during a typical year. [171871]

Mr. Bradshaw

Two Tree Island is split into two areas, eastern and western. The eastern part of Two Tree Island consists of a small tidal island with the adjoining saltmarsh (86 acres) and a large area of inter-tidal mudflats (271 acres). It is part of Leigh National Nature Reserve.

The mudflats are noted for their dense, vigorous growth of eel grass species, which, together with a large resource of invertebrates, support nationally and internationally important numbers of dark-bellied Brent geese and waders, such as grey plover and knot. Waders such as curlew, dunlin, and redshank, occur in significant numbers outside the breeding season. The nearby Leigh cockle sheds bring winter flocks of turnstone close inshore and attract some of the rarer gull species.

The saltmarshes are the most important on the north side of the Thames Estuary. They are of considerable botanical interest being noted for the five glasswort species that occur there. Sea aster, with small cord-grass, common cord-grass and glasswort species are found on the lower marshes, while sea purslane dominates the upper marshes. In addition the area also supports other saltmarsh plants such as golden samphire, sea wormwood, common and lax-flowered sea lavenders.

At its western tip a range of birds can be seen such as redshank and heron. The island itself consists mainly of grassland and scrub, with the former rubbish tip supporting a number of interesting alien plants and 'escapes'. A wide variety of birds can be seen at its western tip, including kestrels aid short-eared owls during the winter, hunting for field voles. Grass snakes and lizards are seen. Insects of note include the marbled white butterfly, Roesel's bush cricket, the house cricket and the lesser marsh grasshopper.

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