Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A tiny little goldcrest across the way flitted briefly by for a moment. Just about had time to get the binoculars on it before it flew off.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Slash and Burn part 2

- although less of the slashing and more of the burning this time round. In fact once the fire got going we had a veritable furnace that was in danger of consuming the whole valley as it grew in width.

Back in the deep valley next to the old quarry workings and deciding just how much of the slope we were going to clear. There was plenty of scrub already cut from the previous month and we set about the old elders on the north facing slope and tackling the remaining hawthorn and bramble on the south(ish) facing slope. Not as lethal as the blackthorn but capable of scratches and punctures. Lucky yet again with the weather, cloudy for most of the day but we finished about half an hour before the showers arrived.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Slash and Burn

Spotted a little egret flying slowly across the sheep field at the top of the E-piece as a small group of us were heading down to clear the regrowth on the southernmost prong of the E. There was a lot of horse-traffic throughout the day - obviously a popular route for the local stables and they weren't too keen on the brush cutter or the fluorescent jackets.

I opted to take charge of the bonfire today, while Tim went off with the brush cutter - having cleared a way through to the old bonfire site in the second of the two cleared areas. It took a bit of coaxing but the fire eventually got going, slowly, with some blackthorn which burns well but mostly regrowth of elder and cutting back the grass, thistles and other plants that had grown up over the summer. The plan is to cut back the regrowth and link the two areas, while widening them out and keeping a flatter area of grass available. It would be great to get some sheep in there to keep the regrowth down and there's some good grazing in there for them now.

While we were having lunch, one of the team, a new member Malcolm, spotted a buzzard, hovering lazily over the edge of the E, being mobbed by crows before landing on the grass where it sat being teased by three magpies until they got bored and moved on. There was a large flock of wood pigeons feeding in the field below and occasionally a pheasant would be startled out of the scrub. Loads of them around just waiting to be shot at.

Back for another hour or so, carrying on with the clearing while I managed to get completely kippered as the smoke from bonfire was swirling around and there was no easy place to avoid it. Dump a load of scrub on and run away to avoid the worst of it. Even after a shower I could still detect aroma of bonfire.

There's more to clear next time, cutting back some of the larger scrub and opening up the area through to the cowslip bank.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Unidentified Flying Avian

My first thought was fruit bat!


Flying over the coast road by Roedean? I think not.

Large, brown, curved wings ... then I saw a down-curved bill. Curlew or whimbrel? They are migrating, so could be either. Will have to check the SOS site and see what's been spotted along the coast and what's more likely. At least I know I'm not going totally mad when I see something curlew-like in an unlikely place, to know that they have been spotted around here before.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Nature Notes Is Tweeting

I'm now on Twitter, at least Sussex Nature Notes is now on Twitter. If you're into these things and want to keep up to date on this blog - you can either subscribe to the RSS feeds or follow me on

You'll then get a brief 'tweet' when I update my blog and can then click through to read the full blog.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Soaked to the Skin

Soaked to the skin and chilled to the bone. Rain trickling down the back of my neck, off my jacket onto my trousers and as the afternoon progressed, ended up with squelching socks in my boots. They may be waterproof on the outside but not much help when the water's got in! It was about this time that we all decided enough was enough and called it a day, especially as we didn't have a fire to warm up and steam off by.

Working up at Benfield LNR, scrub clearing and what started out as four of us, doubled in number as more hardy types joined us over the course of the morning from the local Benfield group of volunteers to supplement the SDJC group. Jan, one of the new rangers, tried valiantly to get the fire going but with so much rain, despite a few flickering flames and repeated attempts to coax it into life, and no dry wood to build up any heat, eventually gave up. Today was most definitely NOT going to be a fire day! In fact she had now declared 'fire' to be a four-letter word.

Despite finishing early, the group managed to clear two overgrown paths through the scrub, cleared one small patch of privet, ivy and bramble and made inroads into a much larger patch of privet and brambles, which at least six of us were working on after a wet and steamy lunch break in the landrover, eating our sandwiches, drinking tea and warming up before another stint out in the rain. Actually for a brief period, it looked as if the rain might actually abate but after about half an hour and it was coming down consistently and more heavily - hence the steady soaking.

The sheep currently grazing on the other side of the golf course road are going to be moved into this area fairly soon, although there's a lot more scrub to clear but every little helps and at least it's going to be grazed. There was and interesting discussion while we were huddled round the dying embers of the fire about sheep's propensity for death. Rather than doing anything about the fact that they find themselves caught in brambles or barbed wire, or on their back or side and unable to free themselves or get up, they just think "Ah well, no point living then" and die! Yep, apparently so. Bit like the fire really. However, much you try to coax it into life, it's just not interested.

Back at home and everything is dripping quietly over radiators and on doors, having already left puddles in the car where I got rid of as much wet outer clothing as possible.

Note - when working in wet, winter conditions - it's useful to have a) a towel in the car b) a change of clothes or at least a spare carrier bag or two in the car so that you can at least sit on them and save soaking into the seat as you drive home!