Sunday, October 29, 2006

Cuckmere - Little Egrets

The clocks have just changed and now it's definitely turned into a different season. Although it's still mild and the sun still has a warmth, there was a definite chill as the afternoon progressed and by the time I drove home with a setting sun, it was a lot cooler.

I took a walk along the Cuckmere river to the seashore just to make the most of the day's sunshine and to see what was around - apart from the usual hordes of Sunday walkers - some totally inappropriately dressed in their Sunday best, high heels and clutching their handbags. But then, it is an easy flat walk and if you stick to the concrete road, you're not likely to get your shoes dirty. The river is part of the Seven Sisters Country Park. I walked alongside the edge of the meanders and then on to the raised footpath down to the beach.

I remember seeing my first Little Egret here many, many years ago. Today there were several around. Three up on the meanders and five down in the lagoon by the shingle ridge. I hadn't heard them before but each time one got too close to another they made a sound like a cross between a crown and the hissing of a swan. As I walked back along the main river I spotted ten standing across the other side of the river in a field with a herd of cows - together with three herons. There must be at least twenty along this stretch of river - although there was often one or two flying up and down the river from one place to the next. I watched one feeding in the shallows which would have made a beautiful photo - reflected in the water with it's dark bill, brilliant white plumage and plumes on it's chest. It's yellow feet clearly visible as it picked it's way through the water searching for small fish and then took off as I came too close. There may be more around here at this time of year as they congregate over the winter.

The usual cormorants were around - three drying their wings up on the meanders and another three down in the lagoon. I also spotted a male Reed Bunting in it's more subdued winter plumage but still with it's black beard which was joined by a small flock of greenfinches in the brambles. A flock of eight Redshanks had moved from the meanders to the edge of the estuary as I walked back. The tide was almost fully in but the extend of the highest tide was evident all along the saltmarsh where rubbish and debris was piled up at the side of the footpath - well above the current level of the river.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stonechat back on the Tye

Out for a run this morning on a grey day after last night's torrential downpour. A few skylarks around on the Tye and a few small puffballs coming up through the grass which I left, I think I've had enough mushrooms for this year - although I'd like to find some Ceps but I'm not going to find them up on the Downs.

I spotted a male Stonechat up on the track today. Lovely colourful birds, easy to recognise when you do see one with their dark heads, white collar and orange-red breast I haven't seen one in a long time and hopefully this one will be here over the winter, so I'll see it sitting on the fence wires along the fields and perhaps even see a pair.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Torrential Downpour!

Well after a dry summer of drought orders and hosepipe bans, we're certainly getting some rain now to make up for it. I got caught in a torrential downpour this evening on my way back from Lewes, complete with thunder and lightening.

I haven't seen rain like it for a long time. The wipers couldn't keep up with it and water was streaming down the road like a river as my poor little car drove through it. Large puddles of water on the sides of the road which at one point totally swamped my car as a car went past in the other direction. There was just so much rain that it was pouring off down the side roads in torrents and the drains just couldn't cope with the downpour. Instant flooding all round the lanes and streets.

If only all that water could have been saved, instead of running off into the drainage system and probably straight into the sea. I could have filled up enough water butts to water my garden all year. Water levels in local reservoirs Arlington and Ardingly are still well below capacity at 48% and 65%. It will take a few more downpours to get them back up to 100%.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Three Red Admirals

There were three Red Admirals flitting about in the garden today. Very distinctive with the red bands and white spots on the wings.

I don't remember seeing butterflies around quite so late in the year but I now know that they will be this year's batch of eggs and maybe even a second batch. They're likely to be around into November so I'll keep an eye out.

They were on the ivy outside the backdoor which is always a good source of food for both the blackbirds and wasp, bees and butterflies over the year.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

October sunshine

A lovely sunny day - out in the garden doing some pruning and visited by a small flock of goldfinches - twittering away in the jasmine which has now been cut back. The lawn got mowed - possibly not the last one of the year as it seems to be growing healthily with all the recent rain. Having had such a dry summer I guess nature has to balance things out at some time.

Butterflies are still around brought out by the warmth and sunshine - I spotted a red admiral on my brief walk up to the shops this morning and there was a painted lady sitting on the steps in the garden. New and fresh looking so not the tired older butterflies that were around a month or so ago.

By 4 o'clock there was very little sun left in which to sit out and have my cup of afternoon tea. The change in the angle of the sun and how much reaches the garden now in the afternoon is quite marked from a couple of months ago but then at this time of year I don't suppose we normally expect to be sitting out there.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More Mushrooms and Swallows

It's still unseasonally warm at the moment - not that I'm complaining. Almost hot over the weekend as I sat out basking in the sunshine.

A gathered a handful of mushrooms out on my run this morning - never wanting to miss the opportunity of fresh, natural produce and you never know when they'll be gone. This added to the legwork exercise as I had to carry them carefully in one hand all the way back as I didn't have anything to put them in this time. However, apart from the aching arm, they probably survived a lot better than the last lot which kept getting caught in the gust of wind, wrapped in my windproof top.

I spotted four swallows flying over the top of the Tye. I expect these will be the last few that I get to see this year although I'll keep an eye out for any stragglers, especially with the wind which is still pretty strong and from the south-west.

The dewpond is finally filling up again - more than just a muddy puddle this time but because of the damaged lining it's not going to get very full.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Swallows along the seashore

I cycled in to Brighton today for a meeting and there were a large flock of swallows (twenty or so) skimming along the shoreline chasing the sandflies. Heading westwards or appearing to but perhaps they'll turn round and go the other way.

The wind is still onshore and pretty strong so they may be refuelling and waiting for it to drop before they head southwards. I'll keep an eye out but these must be the last few remaining swallows of the year.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Mushrooms and swallows

A bumper mushroom crop this morning - again unintentional as I'd gone out for a run, which was longer than usual and not just due to the wind which was pretty blustery. As I came across some wonderfully large field mushrooms, I just couldn't resist, even though I didn't have anything to carry them properly. I picked them and then left them in a heap by one of the cattlegrids, carefully concealed, so that I could pick them up on the way back. They were a bit battered by the time I got back home but as they're going to be turned into soup - not a problem.

There are a few swallows still around - battling against the wind, which can't be helping their migration as it's been pretty strong and south-westerly for a few days now. Skimming low over the fields looking for a few insects before they head off across the channel and southwards to Africa.

Most of the house-martins disappeared a couple of weeks ago. There was a large flock of about twenty of them flying around over the park a couple of weeks ago and then they all just disappeared, but I have seen the odd swallow around over the last week, so they haven't all gone yet or perhaps these are the one's that have come down from further north.