Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Small Copper and the Planning Committee

This morning I was out for a longer run than usual and came across a small copper butterfly, sunning itself on the track. I wasn't sure what it was at first, other than an orange and brown butterfly until I got home and was able to look it up in the book. It was certainly living up to it's name of 'copper' as it's wings literally glowed in the sunshine. At least this year I've been able to spot a few more butterfly species

As I headed up to the top of the Tye, there was a group of people walking purposefully up towards the cattle grid by the houses. Not the usual dog walkers or cyclists but people in suits, shirts and clutching clipboards. According to my source at the SDJC, there were probably a planning committee team - out to assess the planning application for a fence along the northern end. It's been there for a while but this is retrospective.

By the time I came back, they were still there but this time taking photos of the group. How that fits into the planning research I'm not sure. A jolly day out of the office - there were at least eight of them!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Where have all the birds gone?

There are very few birds around at this time of year, which considering there were lots of young birds around just a few weeks ago, is a bit surprising.

Its the time of year when birds are moulting after the summer breeding into their new feathers and the young are moulting into their adult plumage. This takes about five to six weeks during which time they hide away to avoid predators, especially when their wing feathers are re-growing.

It's why robins, blackbirds and starlings are looking slightly strange and not quite as they do in the book. It's even more difficult with water birds where the males lose their colourful spring plumage as they grow their new feathers and look dowdy and more like the females.

Wait until October when they're looking a lot less confusing.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rain at last

It's been raining recently so everything has been recovering from the last few weeks of drought. The Tye is starting to go green again after looking very dry for several weeks since it was cut. There are lots of yellow flowers out and of course the blackberries are now ripening everywhere in the hedgerows.

The dewpond is still very dry with just a small, wet mud patch in the middle. The recent heavier showers have not been enough to start to fill it yet. Just enough to soak into the ground and freshen up the grass and revive the wilting plants.

I've noticed the lack of birds around and they're all very quiet. No skylarks at all. The swallows are still around as are the starlings and mixed flocks of finches - green and gold. I did startle a green woodpecker when I came back into the playing fields and it took off with a loud squawk.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Volunteer your time and energy

I was out yesterday volunteering with the local wildlife trust after our meal on Saturday, helping to clear a footpath, which had become overgrown. It's part of the Malling nature reserve that I started helping out on at the beginning of the year. It covers a pretty large area and there were only seven of us out working yesterday.

Much of the English countryside has been farmed for many years and so it isn't necessarily in it's natural state. Grazing of sheep, cattle and ponies has an impact on the variety of plants and animals that inhabit a particular area. Grazing here on the South Downs has resulted in the chalkland fauna and flora that exists today, much of which is rare and would disappear if it wasn't for the grazing and the work of volunteers keeping the scrub down.

Most local councils and wildlife trusts do not have the funding and resources to manage the land, so they rely on the work of volunteers. There is always far too much work to be done and not enough volunteers to do it.

If you'd like to get involved, it only takes up one day a month and most working parties don't work over the summer. You'll get out into the fresh air for a few hours. Work hard, there are always a variety of tasks for different physical strength and abilities. It's very rewarding even if you only feel your scratching the surface of what needs doing.

Most days start at 10.00am and finish around 3.30pm although you don't have to stay all day. If you work for a company - why not organise a day out for your team. Most companies these days get involved in the community as part of Corporate Social Responsibility so why not do something worthwhile and make a difference to your local countryside.

Local Wildlife Trust Volunteering.
British Trust for Conservation Volunteers.
RSPB Volunteers

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Walk in Lewes

Saturday afternoon and a walk up over the back of Lewes by the golf course with the SWT Volunteers. We had a great view of two Peregrine falcons flying past below as we stood at the top of the chalk cliff.

Walking up the valley towards Bible Bottom and I spotted four partridges way off in the distance. There were also a pair of wheatears sitting up on the fence posts at the top of the field. We'd just been discussing that it was the time of year when they come back through. I haven't seen any up on the Tye this year.

There were also seven Kestrels hovering along the ridge or over the fields. Presumably this year's brood out hunting.

We got another great view of one of the Peregrine's as we came back along the road, sitting up on a ledge on the cliff-face. Lots of jackdaws around but it wasn't bothered by them and they didn't bother it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Westhay Nature Reserve

I stopped off at Westhay Nature Reserve on my way back from Street. It's based around old peat cuttings with two main tracks either side and footpaths linking them up. Some flooded areas, reedbeds and wooded areas with several hides.

A pretty good tally of birds over the course of the couple of hours that I was there.

Cormorant - a couple of birds flying over the reserve. Coots and Mallard on the main expanse of water on the far side of the reserve. There were also at least 20 Mute Swans there and another 30-40 on the main North Drain.

Heron - only spotted towards the end of the day, although I saw two birds while driving down the narrow road to get there. One on either side of the road just a few feet from each other.

Kingfisher - I wouldn't have spotted it if I hadn't been scanning the far side of the water through the binoculars. It was fishing from a dead tree on the edge of the water and I watched it for several minutes before moving on.

In the wooded area down from the Tower Hide there were lots of Blue Tits and a few Long Tailed Tits flitting about in the trees with a couple of wood or willow warbers. I didn't see them long enough or close enough to identify properly.

I spotted a Hobby as I was sitting in the hide at the bottom of London Drove, where they were still digging up the dark, almost black peat. It was flying down and skimming over the water over by the trees before flying up to the upper part of the reserve. It was larger than I expected, slightly smaller than a Kestrel but it's pointed wings and red legs very distinctive.

Also heard and saw Reed warblers, whitethroats and what I think was a female Reed Bunting.

On the way back I had to follow a cow that had just walked straight through the edge of a field and then walked slowly down the road ahead of me. So much for cows just needing a painting of a fence to keep them in. This one just walked straight through a piece of orange string that was stretched across by a gate.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Clouded Yellow

Down in Somerset again for a few days. I went out for a run – just before it got too hot. Too late in the day for the early morning wildlife but it’s still possible to see something different down here.

A bright orange yellow butterfly flew past – later identified as a clouded yellow. There were either two of them or the same one was still flying around when I came back up.

A very bright orange, marmalade coloured fox took off into the safety of the hedgerow as I ran down the track past its field. It was noticeable brighter than most this year and looked larger.

I was alerted to a bird cheeping from the ditch. It was a black, fluffy baby moorhen. Moorhen mum’s don’t appear to be the best of mothers as shown by the high mortality rate amongst chicks – at least I’ve only seen single chicks around this year. I’m presuming that mum was around somewhere.

I didn’t spot a buzzard until later in the day. It was circling high up and disappearing slowly into a tiny dot way above the Mendips.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Seashore

Out for another cycle to and from town and stopped off at the Undercliff Cafe for tea and cake. Unfortunately I didn't have my binoculars with me as there were a few birds around.

There were a couple of Common terns diving for fish just offshore and the usual herring gulls. The more delicate black-headed gulls, which are now loosing their summer chocolate brown heads were also flying round in small groups. Three of them were circling round eyeing up some cake someone had left on the sea wall. They were too cautious as there were lots of people around on the beach and walking up and down the stairs, so lost out to a herring gull who flew down and scoffed the lot.

A pied wagtail flew past. I haven't seen any of them around at home this year. They're usually around somewhere on the rooftops but not this year. A small flock of somethings flew by but they were too quick to see without the binos. Next time.

As I cycled back, the rock pipits were around as ever. There are quite a few all along the coast and also the fulmars. Much straighter wings with rapid, shallow wing beats compared to the gulls.