Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bumblebees On Mullien

The bumblebees are having a great time on the mullien which have seeded themselves on the patio. Being biennials these grew last year and only this year has a tall grey spike appeared with yellow flowers up the stem.

The flowers come out one at a time providing a steady supply of pollen and presumably nectar for the bees over quite a long period of time. Some of them (the bees) are so large and heavy that they pull off the flower and fall to the ground before bumbling back up to have another go.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More Fledglings

Visited this morning by a family of great tits. Several young birds flitting about from shrubs to feeders to just perching and occasionally being fed by their parents. There were about four or perhaps five - difficult to tell as they were flying about. The young don't have the bold black stripe of the parents.

After a few minutes I also noticed three blue tits around the feeders, I think one of those is also a young one but there was so much flitting going on that I couldn't tell or see if it was being fed or perhaps it's old enough to fend for itself.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Blackbird Fledgling

There's a baby blackbird in the pyracantha outside my sitting window. It's a little bundle of brown, speckled feathers with the yellow gape and downy feathers of a recently fledged bird and not much tail that I can see. I don't want to get too close and scare it away.

I've been watching the parents feeding or rather flying into the buddliea and sumac with a beak-full of something for several days now and hoped to see them fledge at some point but didn't expect to have one sitting so close. It's in a good place as there's no way the cats can get to it. I just hope it stays there until it can fly properly. Far too many cats around for my liking.

I've seen mum appear a few times and have also seen her across the way - so perhaps they have more than one or one's still in the nest.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Outdoor Tai Chi

It gets a little distracting practising Tai Chi outdoors. The weekly Monday lessons have moved to the Grange in Lewes, now that it's Summer and while trying to do the warm-up and the form, I can't help but get distracted by:

- the swifts screeching about overhead
- or the two herons that cronked past, followed by several crows
- or the male blackbird that came to have a look, when it wasn't singing from the mulberry tree
- or the collared dove with only one tail feather that flew down
- or the beautiful copper beech that stands in one corner
- or the other people lying in the sun or sitting on benches
- or the magnolia tree which has some massive blooms this year

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cracking day out in Pulborough

As Gromit would say but very windy.

Having thought it was going to rain or at least be showery, I went prepared to spend a day huddled in the hides, not expecting to see much. After an initial morning shower I arrived in sunshine with a few clouds and plenty of wind.

First stop Westmead Hide which is usually good for snipe but only a few crows, swifts and woodpigeon around. There was a young fox up on the hillside by the woods - just sitting in the sunshine not doing much except looking around and watching a crow that got a bit close, until it sauntered off.

Doing the usual circuit - going clockwise from hide to hide, not much in the way of waders but I did spot a black-tailed godwit in one of the larger pools. All on it's own, in it's rust coloured summer plummage, feeding busily away, close to a small flock of canada geese. Two pairs of shelduck with young - one brood much older and the other with still relatively small, black and white chicks. It took a while to even spot one heron - let alone two and finally picked out two little egrets. Two redshanks were feeding near the lapwings, which I didn't see until I got round to the viewpoint by Nettley hide. At least it wasn't raining this time, so the viewpoints were the best places to see the birds.

Several deer kept popping their heads up on the brooks where they were feeding and a mother and young fawn were pretty close below the Hanger which turned out to be the best spotting site on this visit. I discovered that the dark deer, that are all around the reserve, are in fact fallow deer but a melanistic variety, not a different species. That's why they were mixed in with more regular light brown fallow deer. Watching the mother and fawn you could just make out dark spots on her back.

After a break for tea and cake in the cafe - I took a second circuit in the hopes of seeing the hobby, which had been spotted near Winpenny but no luck or the pair of buzzards which someone had spotted earlier. I did however, see the sand martins this time, having missed them the first time round, flying to and fro over one of the pools with several house martins and swifts.

Despite not seeing either the buzzards or hobby, I managed to notch up a good count of forty-nine different species on this visit, the highest so far and that was without seeing some the regulars like dunnocks and sparrows and something that I couldn't identify skulking about in the bushes - something brown! Highlight was the godwit along with a yellow-hammer singing from the dead trees between Winpenny and Little Hanger.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Sparrow Fledgling

For a few brief moments I had a young sparrow sitting on the pergola being fed by both parents who were getting seed from the feeder. By the time I'd grabbed my binoculars to have a closer look, next door's cat had appeared and they'd disappeared!

I've heard tweets coming from around the garden but haven't managed to spot any baby birds. The robin has been making a regular appearance at the feeder but didn't take up either of the nest sites they started in my garden and now heads off towards the park. Will look forward to seeing

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Survey of the Tye

Today's task - surveying the Tye. Part of the working being done on the Tye is to preserve and improve the conditions for fauna and flora on this part of the Downs. Grazing by sheep and cattle keeps down the more vigorous species and allows more of the chalk-downland species to establish themselves.

The main Tye is grazed by sheep and cattle, mowed once a year and home to skylarks, although visited by hundreds of local dog walkers every day so wildlife is limited to the less busy areas.

Only three of us turned up for the survey and decided to work our way up from the bottom of the Tye and just see how far we got. Our first quadrat was right down at the end, near the coast road and having picked out spot - roughly where the previous survey was done, out came the books as we attempted to work out what it was we were looking at in our two metre square. Not having an expert with us - it took time, trying to work out what particular species of hawkweed or buttercup we were looking at and the subtle differences don't make it easy. Obvious plants like clover, plantain dandelion were easy to spot but it took us a while to work out black medick - a small, yellow, clover-like plant and smooth sow thistle.

The second quadrat further up the west side of the Tye took slightly less time as we'd now got our eye in for some of the species. Slightly more variety in this one but nothing exotic like an orchid. They are around, someone we'd spoke to earlier had seen one but as the grass is pretty long they're either well hidden or at risk of being trampled by dogs and dog walkers. They might be further up the Tye were there's less disturbance

Plants found: white clover, buckshorn plantain, dovesfoot cranesbill, black medick, mouse-ear hawkweed, smooth sow thistle, bulbous buttercup, dandelion, ground ivy, greater plantain, creeping buttercup, common mouse-ear, black medick, creeping thistle, wild carrot, moon carrot