Sunday, July 27, 2008

Dead Pigeon And A Frog

I've found the remainder of the wood pigeon. Not much left of it except a pile of feathers under the buddleia. Perhaps it wasn't the sparrowhawk after all and next door's cat.

Better news, I discovered a frog in the pond. It's been very low as it's been so dry and I topped it up the other day having not seen one in there all year but peering in today and there it was. Not the large one but a medium sized one. Will keep an eye out and see if the others reappear.

I spotted a speckled wood butterfly. First, yesterday on the pyracantha outside the front window and today on the ivy by the back door. No chance of a photo, as it didn't stay still long enough but it's another variety I've not seen before in the garden and good to see another butterfly around.

A pair of small whites were also flitting around the garden for most of the afternoon but as the buddleia flowers have almost finished now they're not attracting much apart from a few bees every now and then.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Learning In The Wild

Another day out at Pulborough - two in less than a week. Different things to see and many of the usual. Taking another friend round this time and introducing her to 'nature'. She loves being outside but doesn't know much about it, so is keen to learn from me. An opportunity for me to brush up on my flowers and butterflies too.

The bar-headed goose was still around and this time I managed to correctly identify the greenshank, green sandpiper and a common sandpiper. It's so much easier when you see them all together it makes it easier to compare size, markings and distinguishing features. Not that Chrissie was impressed - they all looked the same to her. I remember feeling that and sometimes I still feel like that! I spotted a little ringed plover in the far distance, so tiny and so well camouflaged against the shoreline. We've not got the 'black' birds ticked off as is the call of the green woodpecker, we saw three on the path just down from Winpenny, where we'd found a robin inside the hide but not much else.

Taking a break for lunch, there were several woodland birds on the feeders outside the cafe including a nuthatch or two and we watched a green woodpecker over on the slope by the woodland, digging in the ground and then silhouetted on a tree before heading back out for a second circuit and adding a few more species to the list. However, I missed out on seeing any snipe, according to the log there were four around - mmmm, unlike me to miss a snipe. I could have stayed there longer but tea and cake were calling and the student was tiring after so much input. I was still getting excited but LBJs and as we got back to the centre saw a spotted flycatcher on the dead trees at the top of the slope.

How To Watch Birds - Part 1: Getting Started

Many people are oblivious to the wildlife around them. Even in the middle of a city you can still see birds. Birds have happily adapted to live alongside human beings and even take advantage of the additional opportunities provided.

Many people now have feeders in their garden, which attracts a variety of garden and woodland birds. You may think your little patch of suburbia won’t attract much but over the course of a year you might be surprised.

When I first moved here – a robin was exotic, now I’ve been watching for a while the list is always growing and even the regulars are interesting to see.

All you need to get started is a pair of eyes, a pair of binoculars a bird book and a desire to learn.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blackbird Sunbathing

Walking back through the park today and I noticed a black mound on the ground which as I got closer turned out to be a blackbird with it's wings and tail spread out, sitting out in the sunshine.

I've seen them do this occasionally and they're either sunbathing or 'anting'. Allowing ants to crawl over it's feathers and using the formic acid that the ants spray onto them, to kill off any parasites or just allowing the sun to do the same.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ant Flying Day

Just when I decide to take a break from work and sit in the garden for half an hour, the ants are taking to the air. Queen ants with their large, brown bodies and long wings and the smaller drones, only slightly larger than the worker ants and with wings that stick out at more of an angle. Both crawl up grass stems before launching themselves into the air and usually not getting very far and crashing back down to earth only to start again. It obviously takes a bit of practice and I don't suppose there's a lot of room below ground, so it takes a few attempts before they launch themselves successfully and take off for pastures new.

As I was watching, one female landed with two males attached to her abdomen, hanging on for dear life as she appeared to be trying to get rid of them as she stumbled around on the ground. Presumably, having coupled up with a male the queen then goes off to lay her eggs and start a new colony.

Ants are one of the many insect species where having mated the males then die - their role in life completed. No wonder they were fighting over the queen.

Urban Wildlife

I doubt many people noticed the peregrine chasing pigeons over the Marina this morning. I only caught a glimpse of its dark shape, as it flew past while I was sitting having a coffee, watching the world and wildlife go by.

It could have been one of two pairs (or maybe more) - either the one's currently residing in Brighton or is it Hove, on Bedford towers who have been there for a few years, or a pair nesting along the cliff towards Saltdean, or perhaps the marina has it's own resident pair.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Butterflies At Last

Finally had a peacock butterfly in the garden yesterday, a red admiral today and a few blue butterflies across the way. There have been a few cabbage whites flying around but the buddleia has been bereft of butterflies. Now that the wind has dropped and the sun has come out they've reappeared.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

July Day Out At Pulborough

Another day out at Pulborough to check out a friend's new spotting scope. First spot of the day was three buzzards circling over the woods by the Visitor's Centre - pleased to see them as I missed them last time. We (well, not me), did have a shopping spree in the centre as Stephen wanted to buy a new pair of binoculars and of course had to test them out.

Meanwhile, I checked out the birdlog to see what had been spotted that day and was delighted to see that the black-tailed godwits were still around and a snipe had been spotted. One snipe, somewhere on the reserve was going to be a bit of a challenge but they are one of my favourites, so I was hopeful. Stephen might have a long wait!

We started off with Jupp's View - the best view of the meadows and to see waders. It didn't take long to spot the common sandpipers, there were a few of them around and a few more minutes and over in the far distance the snipe - on it's own but still distinctive with it's brown and yellow striped head and exceeding long bill. We also spotted the bar-headed goose which appeared in plain view for a few minutes and was feeding with the canada geese. Somehow I don't think it's either a resident or a 'summer'? visitor but an escapee from the Arundel Wildfowl Trust down stream. Lovely to see it though.

There are eight black-tailed godwits out there - still looking gorgeous in their summer plummage. I was a bit bemused by the sandpiper which was a green sandpiper but also looked like a wood sandpiper until one of the volunteers pointed out the distinguishing features. Always good to get an expert opinion, as depending on light, plumage and time of year some of the waders can be hard to identify - especially when they're far away and even with a spotting scope.

Still a few young moorhens around and it took a second circuit to see any herons and a solitary little egret which flew across from the far side of the brooks to land on the edge of the water just below the Little Hanger hide. A few butterflies around which have been few and far between so far this year and a grass snake spotted swimming up the ditch by Nettley Hide. There are also plenty of cinnabar moths on the ragwort - we could do with some of those on the Tye where the ragwort has taken over.

The scope proved a hit as it really does make such a great difference to the pleasure of bird watching and how much you can see.

[Photos - Courtesy of Stephen Cotterell]

Saltdean Carnival

Slightly better weather today, definitely a lot more blue sky around than when we were at the Peacehaven Carnival although almost as windy. A few more stands, a dog show with a variety of prizes for the assortment of dogs, acrobatics display and a classic car show with some amazingly beautiful cars, highly polished chrome and metal.

This time, the FoTT were sharing a stand with the Saltdean Residents Association which was handy as there was a shared interest. We signed up 11 new members, a great result and has helped to swell the numbers of the group.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pigeon Feathers

Missed all the action this afternoon.

I came down to find that either a cat actually managed to catch a pigeon or the sparrowhawk has been active in the garden again. There's a scattering of pigeon coloured feathers across the garden - under the feeders, by the bird table and bird bath and then by the buddleia - so either it swooped in an arc round the garden, grabbing the pigeon by the bird table or the feeders, they're all pretty close to each other or the pigeon put up a good fight. There aren't enough feathers for it to have sat plucking the bird, so it must have flown off with it or it got away.

There are usually two or three around the garden, either sitting on the pergola where the feeders are, by the bird bath or on the neighbouring roofs. Easy picking for a passing predator.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Leaf Cutter Bee

Just decided to plant up my cucumber plants and there was a buzzing sound as I divided up the three plants and pieces of bright leaf appeared. One small rolled up tube had the back end of a bee. Apparently I'd chosen that very moment to disturb a nesting bee. Having stopped buzzing, there seemed to be a certain amount of housework going on and after a few minutes she buzzed off. Peering inside the carefully rolled tube there is one tiny egg a few millimeters long on top of a wax cap above what presumably is honey or pollen. Who knows. Do solitary bees work in the same way as honey bees?

Anyway, as apparently the females go off and now die, I've created a tunnel and popped the tube into it, covered with soil. I have no idea if it will work but if it does, it's worth a try. There was also what looked like a pupa case. Have done the same with that - I'm probably preserving a pest.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Peacehaven Carnival

Not the best day for a carnival - although a few hardy folks made it along to the Joff Field and braved the wind and then rain. The FoTT had a stand there, so I went along to lend a hand which mainly consisted of holding down the stand, chasing after bits of paper that flew past and hanging on to the tarpaulin to protect things from the rain. It got colder and wetter and having handed out several leaflets, eaten a bacon roll and drunk a cup of tea (courtesy of the local scout group) and signed up three new members, I headed back home to thaw and dry out.

Well done to everyone who did turn up and to those taking part in the carnival - certainly a case of the band playing on.