Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Present For The Birds

The birds are loving their Christmas present.  The starling was a little bemused to find the fat balls had moved but it didn't take long for the tits to spot the new feeders.  In fact they were on to it in a couple of minutes.  The hanging feeders have also been moved so now they have a variety of feeders to chose from.

They're either hungry - had the family over for Christmas or there are more of them around than usual.  There seem to be about four blue tits, three great tits, a pair of robins, a dunnock and a couple of male blackbirds a small group of chaffinch and sparrows.  I'm certainly not used to seeing so many all at once - let's hope it continues as it's lovely to see them so close.

With the new feeders and hanging arrangement, I don't need to worry about the ground feeding birds as there's enough seed that falls from the feeders to keep the dunnock and blackbirds happy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Hampshire Red Kite

A cold winter's day, ice on the roads and still a little snow around but I was lucky enough to spot a Red Kite as I was driving along the A272 between Petersfield and Meon.  Would loved to have screeched to a halt, grabbed my binoculars and watched it for a while but it's not the sort of road you can do that on.  However, it was a lovely surprise to see it and a good start to the Christmas break.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

RSPB Winter Waterfowl Watch

I'd opted out of yesterday's Winter Waterfowl Watch as the threat of more snow made driving a potential hazard and probably unwise unless absolutely necessary.  As it turned out there wasn't any more snow, so this afternoon I headed over to Pulborough.

It was certainly a Winter Wonderland although not many people were braving the elements to see the waterfowl and they were all concentrated in the few remaining patches of open water or huddled up on the ice.  Plenty of wigeon, pintails, teal, canada geese and a few shelduck and shoveler.

At West Mead and Winpenny there were plenty of snipe out in the open.  I counted 15 at West Mead and around 30 at Winpenny.  It's rare to see so many out in the open as they're usually probing around near the edges or difficult to see in amongst the tussocks.  There were also a few out on the Brooks and I'm sure there were plenty more around.

A fieldfare was feeding in the cows field along with plenty of rabbits and there were several song thrush around the reserve along with masses of robins.  Nearly everywhere you looked there was a robin and it certainly wasn't the same one following me around the reserve.  While watching the waterfowl from the Hanger the peregrine flew past but didn't settle in it's usual perch and we had a lovely view of the kestrel sitting right at the top of a tree in the winter sunlight.  There was also a small group of bullfinch and goldfinch feeding in the bushes below.

The four of us gave up at around 3.30 as a) it was getting cold and b) we were the only ones watching the waterfowl.  We were treated to tea and mince pies back in the warmth of the tea room and then stood out in the carpark hoping to see the woodcock fly over at dusk.  Either we'd just missed them or they'd gone off in a different direction but there was no sign - just plenty of blackbirds and a robin singing near the centre.  A few minutes later - just as I was getting ready to leave, a barn owl flew out of wood and across to the main reserve.  Another first for me as I've never been around at the right time to see them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Snowfall

It's not often that I wake up to a snow covered garden, especially not this early in the season.  There was a good few inches of snow overnight, so I was out before breakfast removing the snow from the feeders and making sure the birds had plenty to eat.

I topped up the seed feeders - put out an extra feeder of seed, filled one with peanuts (which they usually ignore), hung out a few fat balls and put out seed on the bird table, which hasn't been used for a while.  I certainly want to make sure they have plenty to eat and keep them going in this cold weather.

It took a few hours but a blue tit did discovered the peanuts and spent far longer on them than they do on the seed - which they tend to snatch and grab and fly off to a bit of cover to eat, before returning.  Surprisingly a wood pigeon seemed to find the fat balls first - sitting on the arch to get to them.  I'd put these feeders in a new location

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rare Visitor: Song Thrush

For a couple of days now I've seen a song thrush in the garden.  Although they're often seen and heard singing in the park and around the playing fields, they're a rare visitor, who I'm lucky to see once or twice a year in the garden.  There's plenty of potential food for them as unfortunately snails seem to thrive in the chalky soil.  I'm always finding them under plants and clustered in plant pots.

Hopefully it will be tempted to return on a more regular basis and help keep their population down, as long as I can keep the cats out.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

It's Got Colder

It's been so mild recently that the feeders have been relatively quiet but in the last two days with a drop in temperature they're back - great tits, blue tits, a robin and chaffinches.  Even a pair of collared doves perched precariously on the feeder.

Make sure you keep them topped up and don't forget the water.

The blackbirds have been concentrating on stripping the berries off the pyracantha and appear at all times of the day outside the window - lovely to see them so close.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How To Watch Birds - Part 7: Set Up A Feeding Station

Even the smallest space can be set up to feed birds and it's a great way to see birds close at hand.

While it's good to have some natural habitat to compliment feeding and provide a source of natural food, even a window box or feeders attached to windows in a totally urban environment can attract birds.

Feeders come in all shapes and sizes - ornate, purpose built to the simple.  A plastic bottle can be turned into a bird feeder.  Mesh feeders for nuts, enclosed feeders for seeds and a variety to hold fat balls or suet mixes.  Make sure you use feed specifically for birds.  If squirrels are likely to be a problem, pick a feeder that deters them or makes some attempt at stopping them getting to the food.  Don't put out more food on tables and the ground than they can eat in a day - food left overnight is likely to attract unwelcome visitors like rats.

Provide a range of foods to attract the greatest variety of birds.  Many companies provide bags of seed and feed mixes including the RSPB, Wildfowl and Wetlands as well as commercial companies.  Buy from a reputable supplier, so you get the right food that's safe for your birds.  Even cheese rind, 

You can provide food throughout the year but make sure you clean out feeders frequently and scrub down bird tables to avoid the risk of disease.

Move feeders around the garden regularly to prevent a build up of droppings which can harbour bacteria and parasites.  Don't place them close to cover that can be used by cats to creep up on them.

Always provide water for drinking and bathing.  Any shallow dish will do.  While you can invest in a purpose built birdbath, a large terracotta saucer or an upturned dustbin lid can be used just as successfully.  Place the dustbin lid on a couple of bricks and fill with gravel or pebbles to provide a shallow, level base.  Top up regularly in summer and winter.

See how many different species you can attract to your feeders over the course of a year.

Friday, October 23, 2009

RSPB Feed The Birds Day - 24-25th October

This weekend is the Feed The Birds Day ... or Feed The Birds 'Weekend'.

Check out the FTBD Sussex Event at the Pavillion Gardens in Brighton this weekend and find out what you can do in your own patch.

I'll be over at Pulborough out on the RSPB reserve, as part of their Autumn Fair - local crafts and stalls, guided walks (bring waterproofs) and stock up on bird feed.

If you haven't done so already - clean out the feeders, scrub down the bird table, fill them up, put out fresh water and see what you can attract over the next few days.  Keep feeders and birdbath topped up over the winter.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Malling Down: Autumn 09

A fantastic day up on Malling Down, continuing to clear the scrub on the old quarry workings.  I haven't been able to make it up there so far this year, so it was amazing to see that the whole of the valley we were working on last year had now been completely cleared.

Compare it with what it looked like at the beginning of last year when we were still clearing the valley - Malling Down: Autumn 08.  When we started on it, you would hardly have known there was a valley there, it was completely filled with trees and scrub.

Today, we were starting (or continuing) on the area above the valley - more hawthorn, elder and plenty of brambles to be cleared as well as a patch of cotoneaster and a nice flat area to work on - although by the end of the day, we were starting on the next slope.

Over lunch we watched four buzzards circling out over the valley. Tumbling and playing as they moved along the slope.

Working on two main patches either side of the chosen fire site, we cleared most of the flat area by the time we finished and burnt everything that had been cut in a massive bonfire.

The usual array of scratches, bruises and puncture wounds and a few embedded thorns to keep me busy for the rest of the week - until next time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Ivy Flowers and Butterflies

The ivy is in flower and is attracting all manner of butterflies and bees.  It's rich in nectar at a time of year when there's not much around for them.

I've spotted a peacock, four red admiral, two painted ladies, several flies, bees and wasps.  Also a plain brown dragon/damselfly with black spots on all four wings.  Not sure what species this is as I can't tell the difference between them all, unless it's obvious.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Many Birdbaths Can You Get Birds In?

Well once again the pigeons are monopolising the birdbaths.  Two into two.  They discovered the second one and as one had already taken up residence in the top one, the other finally braved the terracota dish on the ground.

The first one sat for a few minutes, occasionally sticking one wing in the air, then the other - as they do when it's raining and they get a shower.  It didn't quite seem to have got the hang of a 'bath'.  Having paddled around for a few minutes and fluffed it's feathers up in the pretty mucky water, there was a tentative splashing or two until it worked out that was the way to get wet.  Perhaps these are both young birds who really are learning the ropes.

They then sat on the edge looking particularly bedraggled before flying off to preen elsewhere.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

How To: Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff

They're both small birds that flit about in trees and branches and depending on the light, distance, amount of time and how good a view you get of them, can be difficult to identify, unless you're an expert who can identify them with the merest, fleeting glance.

Song is the obvious difference but when they're not signing and leg-colour the other one if you get a good view of them.  I found this great summary on the British Garden Birds website.

Key Differences between Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler
  Legs Wing Eyebrow Tail
Chiffchaff Dark Short Short/Dull Wags
Willow Warbler Pale Long Long/Distinct Flicks

When my pair returned.  The dark legs were obvious, as was the short wing length and now I know they wag rather than flick their tail - should be easier and quicker to spot next time.

Return of the Birds

The birds seem to be coming back into the garden. After a few weeks when there have been very few if any about - they're back visiting the feeders. This morning I spotted a great tit, three blue tits a chaffinch and a pair of small warblers - haven't worked out which particular one's they were (willow or chiffchaff?) - they didn't stay long enough and of course had disappeared by the time I'd grabbed my binoculars. A blackbird also flew in - they're starting to enjoy the pyracantha berries up against the fence.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

October Sunshine - Working On The E-Piece

Another day, back from a task and looking as if I've been dragged through a hedge backwards ... or at least a bramble patch - which is pretty much the case. It's scrub clearance up on the E-piece and we continued clearing the area we started on a month ago.

Cutting back the bramble as far back as we could towards the tree line.  After last night's downpour it was a lovely, sunny day for a task but hot work.  A good excuse for plenty of breaks and energy boosters in the form of donuts - over a discussion of cholesterol levels!  Well, the occasional treat doesn't hurt - especially when a few hours of strenuous work tends to burn it off.

Talking of burning - there was no chance of a bonfire today - after all the recent rain, so we have that to look forward to next month.

There were a few butterflies around in the warm sunshine - I spotted a red admiral and a painted lady and a couple too quick to identify.  Early afternoon, three buzzards circled overhead - we often see them when we're out working.  Several small woodland birds flying around and a green woodpecker heard calling.

Even though there were only five of us, we cleared the brambles back on either side.  It's grown up in the three years or so that I've been volunteering with the group.  There's nothing else to keep it down as it's not being grazed, so for the moment it's up to us.

We'll be back there next month, when we'll finish off what's left and open up the view from the bench on the Bridleway.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Late House Martins And Swallows

I think I've just seen a house martin fly by. It was quite far away over the rooftops but that's what it looked like - right shape, white underneath.

... Yes it was, either there's another one or it's just flown by again and more easily identifiable this time.

Blimey - now there's a swallow. Now that's late in the year for both of them. I can actually see the sky today as it's been cloudy and raining for the last two days but clear blue sky and what looks like a north-westerly wind.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How Many Birds Can You Get In A Birdbath?

Well, when it comes to wood pigeons, apparently three. Although I only managed to capture two on film but at one point there were three of them all squished in together - two actually sitting the water and the third perched on the side. They're certainly down most days taking a drink, especially when it's been hot, sometimes just sitting in the water.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Autumnwatch 2009

It's that time of year again. The leaves are turning, the nights are drawing in, the days are getting cooler (although we've had a great Indian summer) and there's a new series of Autumnwatch starting this week. A different format with one hour a week over eight weeks, rather than the daily programmes with Springwatch.

The summer migrants have gone but the winter birds are on their way in.  Not that I've been out to see them yet but I'll certainly be dropping over to Pulborough soon to see the ducks, geese and waders.

Catch Autumnwatch on Friday's at 9.00pm on BBC2, repeated on Saturday 6.15pm also on BBC2.

London Wildlife - St James's Park

I was up in London yesterday and decided to take a walk through St James's Park, as I had plenty of time before my meeting.  A little piece of nature in the centre of the city.  I used to work nearby but didn't often have time to go and sit in the park at lunchtime - shame on me.  I'm sure there's plenty of wildlife there that goes almost unnoticed by the constant stream of workers and commuters going to and from work.

I've never seen so many squirrels in one place.  Now I'm sure this isn't unusual for most London parks but every few feet there was another squirrel and often half a dozen in view at any one time.  Pretty tame of course and used to people.

The plane trees are just starting to turn, with their maple like leaves and lovely patterned bark.There's now an allotment in the park - that certainly wasn't there before but has probably been there a while.

I didn't spot the pelicans but there were several waterbirds on the lake - plenty of coot, morehen, tufted ducks and greylag geese feeding on the grass.  There were also a pair of bar-headed geese.  No mention of them in the exotic bird list for the park but I'm sure they're residents.

Straight back out of the peace and quiet into the mellee of traffic and hustle and bustle of central london.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bunding Removal From The Tye

After months, if not years of debate, delays, objections, financial and no doubt political wranglings, the bunding on the Tye is finally being removed.  Most, if not all of the chalk put on the Tye several years ago is now being taken off.  I guess it had to go and there wasn't a lot that could be done once the enforcement notice was placed on it but it does seem a waste of time, effort and money that could have been avoided.

I have to say they're doing a pretty good job of it.  Thank goodness the weather has been dry for several days as the trucks digging and removing the bunding are leaving little in the way of marks to show where they've been - unlike when it all went on there.

They're not finished yet but gaps have appeared, areas have been smoothed and most of the white chalk mounds have been returned to soil.  I don't have to scramble up over the bunding any more to get onto the Tye and access is certainly much easier for the less-able bodied.  They've left most of the bramble patches, so wildlife has somewhere to feed, hide and live.

However, there's still the issue of traffic.  It was like the M25 up there yesterday with at least ten vehicles of various shapes and sizes using the short-cut through Telscombe Village and now they can get on to the Tye - it will only get worse unless they do something to restrict access.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Totally Amazed

I popped down earlier to take a break from work and there was a positive flurry of activity in the garden. I've never seen so many birds flitting from shrub to shrub, on the feeders and on the bird bath.

Wren, great tit, blue tit (3), long-tailed tit, garden warblers (3), dunnock, robin, chaffinch (where were they all when Garden Birdwatch was happening?).

Now, you may not think this is particularly significant but things have been even quieter than normal in the garden with very few birds visiting the feeders. My garden is only small and it's rare to see more than 2 or 3 birds, never mind different species at any one time - a robin is an exotic occurrence in this part of the world, so this was a real treat, especially to see a family of warblers picking insects from the branches and to have all three species of tit in the garden at once.

Ah simple pleasures ... back to work.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

National Moth Night

Tonight is National Moth Night and you might be pleasantly surprised at the number and variety of moths that are out there. There are an amazing 2500 varieties of moth in the UK and only a few of them actually eat clothes. Many of them fly during the day and they come in all shapes and sizes, patterns and colours.

There are far more species of moth than there are of butterflies but they're often missed due to their nocturnal habits.

However trapping moths is slightly more complicated than sticking a light bulb outside with a white sheet. Moths are attracted to UV light so a specialised bulb is needed (or recommended) along with something to trap them in, so you can inspect them later, unless your planning to stay up all night.

Not that there's time to rustle one up for this evening's Moth Night but there are details on building and attracting moths here:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Autumn Flowers Needed

The garden is a little bereft of flowers at this time of the year and definitely needs some autumn food for the bees, so I'm on a mission to find some late summer/early autumn flowers to plant up in the garden.

It's also been very dry, so what plants there are, have been struggling a bit.  I spotted a catmint (Nepeta) in the garden centre - I was in two minds whether to get it - I have enough of a cat problem without encouraging them but the fact a bumblebee was busily collecting nectar from it made the decision.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

E-piece Path Clearance

Will we, won't we ... yes we did.

It was drizzling early this morning, although the forecast was for sun and 0% precipitation (so, they got that wrong). Being optimistic and trusting that the weather would turn good, we met up to tackle the path down to the E-piece, which although not yet completely overgrown was starting to head that way.

Only a few of us on a Bank Holiday weekend but armed with brush cutters, slashers (they're hard work!), loppers and shears we cleared both gates - although there's not much left of the lower one and the grassy area on the left which is rapidly being invaded by brambles and the occasional hawthorn with time for lunch and an early finish.

Hopefully, now that it's back down to grass level the rabbits will come in and keep the growth down so that some more of the chalk flowers can come in.

I'm sure I saw an Adonis butterfly flitting around where we were clearing. It was definitely small, blue and with white edges to it's wings and a lighter colour underneath, although I didn't get a good enough view for a positive identification and I've only recently managed to identify the common blue. I did uncover two large anthills while clearing the fleabane and thistles and I know there's a link between ants and the blue caterpillars. Wishful thinking maybe but worth taking a second look - especially as the summer broods are now flying.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Window Casualty

A dull thud on the window had us rushing out to see what hapless bird had collided with the window.

The casualty was a young female blackbird - unfortunately dead, as it was totally limp and not just stunned. Then a rustling in the undergrowth under the window and another young blackbird appeared, somewhat dazed and flopping about on the ground with one eye completely closed, although it's wings didn't appear damaged. Unusual to see two at once - maybe they were chasing each other.

A cardboard box was produced which I caught it and tried to see what damage it had done itself. A little blood around it's neck but legs and wings looked OK. Putting it into the box and placing it inside while I searched for the natural first aid treatment - water and lavender oil (antiseptic and antibacterial). Aromatherapy oils can be used on pets, so I don't see why wild birds can't benefit as well.

Having got hold of some T-tree (the lavender couldn't be found) the bird was moving around in the box a lot more. It had been quiet when it was first put in. It was much more active when I got it out and I got a sharp peck for trying to wipe the wounded area down. It didn't look good, there was a nasty looking gash in it's neck but it was lively and eager to get away, so I let it go and it flew off up over the trees.

Fingers crossed that it does survive.

The window now has an old CD dangling in front of it to deter any further birds from crashing into it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Wildlife Break

Thought I'd pop out into the garden for a break to enjoy the sunshine and sit watching the wildlife. First the plaintive call of a young seagull - going on and on and on, getting more persistent when another adult gull landed on the roof close to it. Presumably not it's parent, as it was being ignored.

There are lots of these 'teenage' gulls around at the moment. Practising their flying technique and spending a lot of time on the ground or squawking from the roof-tops. Whether their parents have gone off fishing (or raiding rubbish bags) or just abandoned them to get on with it, I'm not sure.

I watched a common blue butterfly laying eggs on the lawn. Switching between feeding and egg-laying and having studied it carefully, I spotted the tiny, single pale blue egg it laid on the upper side of a black meddick leaf.  No, my lawn isn't a pristine, green sward ... thank goodness.  A speckled wood butterfly also made an appearance but didn't settle, just flew around for a while.

There are plenty of wasps around - mainly attracted to the fennel - along with hoverflies and pleasingly several bumblebees.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Migrant Watch - Painted Ladies

The Butterfly Conservation is conducting a survey of two of our migrants - the Painted Lady and the Hummingbird Hawk Moth (these are amazing creatures if you're lucky enough to see one).

Now I spotted eight Painted Ladies out of my window the other day and have seen several at any one time in the garden over the past few weeks, as this year's batch of caterpillars hatch out, so I've entered those sightings and will be adding more from this year.

If you spot any in your garden or when you're out and about, report your findings on their website.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crop Circle 2009

Spotted my first crop circle of the year on my back from Wiltshire. Not in Sussex but on Chilcombe Down. Don't get to see many around here, as it's not prime crop circle country - strangely enough one appeared near the University a few years ago - no connection there then :). The harvesters are out at the moment, so only the mark on the field was visible from the road but you can see the original version here. Not as impressive as some.

Check out this year's crop of circles on the Crop Connector website.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Buzzard Over The Tye

A first for the Tye today - a buzzard. I know they're in the area but this was the first time I've actually seen one over the main Tye.

Not many dead sheep for it to pick off (joke) so it moved off but it's nice to see one there. They're a more common sight over the E-piece and other parts of the Down's but I always like seeing them and hope they become an even more common sight.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Pulborough - Early August

Trekking off to Pulborough yesterday, I wasn't sure whether I'd see much - it being a bit of an in-between time of year - summer migrants leaving and autumn migrants arriving slowly but it was a great day out with some interesting if not spectacular sightings. One of those days where the longer you look and the more patient you are the more likely you are to see something else. The Brooks have been mown since my last visit and many of the pools and wet areas are drying up fast - although the North Brooks still has plenty of water on it.

One of the more spectacular sightings was a white wagtail. No, not the white race of the pied wagtail but a 'white wagtail' and albino or more accurately a leucistic version of a pied wagtail. A bit like you sometimes see white feathers on a blackbird this was a whiter version of a pied wagtail and easy to spot at a distance as it flitted along the edge of the ponds on the North Brooks. The young pied wagtails are confusing at this time of the year - much greyer than their parents.

Another lovely sight was six buzzards circling over the Visitor's Centre. Parents and four youngsters, circling in the thermals before disappearing out of sight.

A good show of waders - redshank, green sandpiper, common sandpiper, dunlin, black-tailed godwit and a greenshank. It took a while but I finally spotted a little ringed plover out on the Brooks too.

There were still house and sand martins around - along with a few swallows and swifts. A lone male pintail who has been there a while - apparently it's got a broken wing and there were a few teal and a lone cormorant. Several heron appeared at intervals or flew from one part of the Brooks to the other.

Towards the end of the afternoon, a fox trotted along near Netley's Hide looking intently at the rabbits who dashed for cover, as it got closer. It sat in the grass for a while with only the tip of it's ears showing before disappearing from view.

There's a small herd of Highland cattle out on the North Brooks. Always a nice sight to see, these large shaggy creatures out there and there's a large solid bull with them. Visitors are always surprised to see 'highland' cattle out there and got a good view when they all wandered past Netley's.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Freshly Painted Ladies

Plenty of Painted Ladies around again. Must be hatching time for those that flew in earlier this year. Every time I go out into the garden I see at least half a dozen flying around.

I rescued one this afternoon from a spider's web just outside the back door. It was well tangled and I managed with some delicacy to pull it free and carefully pull the sticky threads away from it's wings and legs, so it was able to fly off.

Sorry spider - no large meal for you today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Arlington Reservoir

A quick stop at Arlington Reservoir on my way back from a meeting. Well, I was literally passing by, so it seemed silly not to stop and see what's around, particularly as it was a lovely afternoon. The water level is down and although initially there didn't appear to be much around, I did manage to notch up 33 different species in my walk round the reservoir.

Only a few water birds - plenty of Great Crested Grebe - I counted at least 15 in one area, and a large number of Canada Geese. The highlights being three Common Sandpipers feeding and chasing each other along the shoreline, a Common Tern fishing off one of the central pontoons and just as I was finishing off the walk, a Raven croaked overhead, flying across the reservoir being followed but not mobbed by a few gulls.

It was also good to see a good mixture of house martins, swallows and swifts. Not huge numbers but more than I've seen over my way recently.

Several butterflies around too - including a lovely comma on the path in the wood and several gatekeepers feeding on the fleabane. I wasn't totally sure they were gatekeepers but checked when I got home - yes, the double white dot in their black eyespot is the defining feature.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saltdean Carnival 2009

An extremely windy but sunny day for this year's Saltdean Carnival. Gazebo's were fighting a losing battle against the relentless wind. Ours was the first to be taken down, as otherwise we'd have spent the whole day hanging on to tent poles, rather than talking to people. Other stalls also gave up as poles got bent and even the more robust looking had given up within a few hours. Only the marquees were left standing.

We were close to the refreshment tents so within easy reach of cups of tea and cake - although sadly the cakes ran out early afternoon. We had the dog show right behind us - the Tye is a favourite for dog walkers, so that generated some interest. We also had a prime view of the 'arena' and it was great to see the children's sports like egg and spoon, sack race and the tug of war.

Luckily we had an A-frame display board for our pictures of the group (kindly lent to us by the Sussex Business Bureau) so those weren't getting blown away and were easier for everyone to see some of the things we get up to. We signed up four new members and hope to see some of you on our tasks later in the year.

If you're interested in finding out more about the Friends of Telscombe Tye - take a look at our website -

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sparrow First Aid

My neighbour turned up last night with a bird her cat had caught. It was a poor little female sparrow that she carried round in a plastic box. It didn't look too great although there wasn't much damage and it was moving but curled up and not very receptive.

Not an ideal time to call a vet on a Sunday evening, just for a wild bird, so I did what I could to clean up the wound, gave it a little water and put it in a cardboard box with scrunched up paper and then left it in peace and quiet to see if it would survive the night.

I came down and opened the box to find it standing (a pleasant surprise) and looking much more alert, if a little puzzled. It flapped around when I tried to give it some water, so I decided it was better off outside if it was strong enough to survive rather than put it under more stress by keeping it indoors.

As soon as I opened the box it flew off, so fingers crossed it will survive. I'll be looking out for a sparrow with a damaged cheek in the next few days.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Surveying The E-Piece

Thankfully the rain had cleared up as we headed off up to the E-piece for the annual survey - although looking at the variety of plants maybe we should be surveying it more often - anyone care to join us?

Taking note of the overgrown area at the top of the slope to say nothing of the collapsing kissing gate on the way down. However, it might be best to wait and see what comes out of the recommendations and any new management plan that develops as this might change boundaries, fencing and grazing.

Quadrant 1 was easy to find - part way down the slope but Quadrants 2 and 3 are starting to disappear into the growing scrub at the top of the slope.

Starting with Quadrant 1, which initially looked as if it didn't have much in it but on closer and prolonged inspection we managed to find seven flowering plants - some of them were so small that it took a while to spot the really tiny white flowers of squinancywort (left) and fairy flax.

We then found another tiny plant that wasn't yet in flower and had us completely flummoxed, searching through all the books until I spotted one that was flowering and we finally identified it as a common milkwort.

It doesn't help doing this only once a year, as you've forgotten what it was that you were looking at and managed to identify the year before but it's good fun and amazing how much you can actually find in a 2m square. The top two Quadrants were quicker to do - being mainly regrowth of blackthorn but with lovely patches of eyebright (right) and violets, cowslip and scabious that had flowered earlier in the year.

Perhaps next year we can do the surveys twice a year - to catch the Spring and Summer flowers and the same for the main Tye.

We really could do with someone who knows the difference between one form of thistle and another and can distinguish hawkbit from catsear. Anyone with a bit of botanical knowledge out there?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

House Martin Survey

The British Trust for Ornithology are conducting a house martin survey this year. If you have house martins nesting on or near your house, you can report your sightings on their site.

BTO House Martin Survey

There certainly seem to be less around this year and I haven't had any nest on my house for years. I usually see several pairs flying around the area and they nest on houses further up the road but this year I've seen one pair at the most. A few swifts but no swallows this year.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Telscombe Tye Management Report - 2009

The report on 'The historic issues and management of Telscombe Tye' is now available to download and view on the Telscombe Town Council's website.

It's a good weighty tome at 97 pages and includes 62 pages of Appendices, many of which are pictures and maps of the area. It's interesting to read that some of the existing issues have been going on for decades and many of them are nothing new - including fencing, access rights, grazing etc.

The report makes a number of recommendations - 26 in all, although I haven't read all the detail yet. The Friends of Telscombe Tye will be making comments on the report and recommendations, so if you have anything you'd like to add or comments you'd like to make - let me know.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Path Clearance

We'd had a request for the path alongside the Tye to be cleared as it had become very overgrown. We hadn't managed to get to these earlier in the year so arranged an impromptu task.

At least it wasn't raining but it was pretty warm. Not as hot as it had been previously but hot work all the same. At least this time around we got offers of juice and water from the local residents - most gratefully received - thanks.

We managed to clear the gates along Ashurst Avenue, the steps up on to the Tye and about half of the path along the west side of the Tye.

There was a bit of excitement when one of the brush-cutters hit a wasps nest. They weren't happy and pursued Tim (who'd been unfortunate to find it) out onto the Tye and beyond. Persistent little blighters but luckily he only got a few stings on his hands.

We resumed clearing further up the path before calling it a day. It was to hot to work all day and half a day is enough. It certainly looks a lot better and we'll be back to finish it later.

Walking back across the Tye and the butterflies and wildflowers along the strip of land between fields and houses is quite impressive. Most people probably just see it as 'waste land' but it becomes a haven for wildlife. I counted eight Marbled White butterflies in one small area and several skylarks singing over the Tye and surrounding fields.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cheeky Monkey

I found this hanging off my seed feeder when I came down this morning. Now, I had my suspicions as I'd seen sunflower seed husks scattered below the feeder and thought the birds were being rather enthusiastic in taking the seed and the level was going down pretty quick but was surprised to see this cheeky chappy - well, I think it's actually a chapess as her teats were clearly visible as she walked along the top of the pergola.

She wasn't phased when I went out to chase her off and got within a meter or so of her and was quite unperturbed when I sat watching her later in the day, which is when I got the photo. If I got a bit too close, she'd disappear into the nearby shrub and then come out again, tail twitching until she'd settled back on the feeder.

I put out some nuts to try and distract her from the seeds and let the birds have a chance but she wasn't as interested in those, although they'd all gone when I came out later.

She spent a lot of the time hanging upside down reaching down for the nuts rather than venturing down to sit on the tray. Quite impressive hanging on a vertical surface by her feet and dangling in mid air.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Clouds And Cornfields

Hot and humid all day and it's resulted in these wonderful cumulonimbus clouds bubbling up on the horizon towards evening. A sunny day on the coast but heavy showers and thunderstorms further north - especially over Wimbledon!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Springwatch 2009

Our stand at this year's Springwatch in the Downland zone. Very windy up on the Stanmer site this year and a cold wind blowing through all day but otherwise sunny, until it came time to pack up when it started raining. Our display materials are looking even more weather beaten now and need revamping and reorganising for the next event. We had quite a few visitors to the stand and signed up three new members to the group.

The Springwatch Event seems to get bigger and bigger each year with some amazing displays in the marquees, activities for children to get involved with, plants to buy and an intriguing choice of food to sample and keep you going all day. Along with a steady supply of tea and coffee by the local girl guides group (?) who went round to all the stall holders during the day.

Our stand was right next to the Birds of prey display along with the other volunteer groups. There was an entertaining half hour or so, when one of the peregines took shelter in a couple of the surrounding trees, to escape being mobbed by the seagulls and crows as it did it's display flight. It obviously decided it was safer to stay put and took some coaxing and calling before it eventually come back into the ring.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Summer Migrants - Painted Ladies

I thought there were a few painted ladies around this week and then I find out there's been the largest influx of these summer migrants this century, with thousands of them landing on our coast from North Africa .

It's amazing to think that these delicate creatures actually migrate thousands of miles to come and breed in the UK each year.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Where Have All The Swallows Gone?

I've just spotted two swifts and two house martins flying over the house. It's coming up to the end of May and the hirudines are few and far between. No swallows, no house martins and no swifts until today.

Where have they all gone?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Nightingales at Pulborough - part 2

A fabulous evening over at Pulborough last night. Got there early afternoon so I could take a walk round the reserve and spend some time in the hides rather than the quick whizz round I did yesterday.

Plenty of warblers around including a nightingale heard and seen in the picnic area - out in full sight and a lovely view of a garden warbler. Several lesser whitethroats around and the occasional chiff-chaff and willow warbler.

Wrapped up warm this time for the evening's nightingale watch and down at the Hanger this evening. Pleased with that as it's where the nightingales seemed to be performing best last night.

Early on the evening after listening attentively, we finally heard one singing again in the picnic area and again out in full sight ... if you could work out which part of the tree it was sitting in and pick out the small brown blob. Luckily there was a group of twenty or so people who heard it but as the next group turned up it stopped singing and dropped down into the bushes.

Back to the Hanger which was now getting busy and the occasional phrase from a couple of nightingales every now and then, just to tease us without ever really get going. There was a blackbird up in the trees overhead singing it's head off and they were also competing with robins and song thrush. At least people could get views of the snow geese and the pair of mandarin that were out there. We were also treated to a pair of reed buntings, while scanning the bushes for nightingales.

Two pipestrelle bats came out at dusk and were swooping under the trees over our heads. Just as it started to get dark, they all started up again for a brief final burst before going quiet.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Nightingales at Pulborough - part 1

A lovely hot, sunny day and hopes for a good evening listening to nightingales at Pulborough. I arrived in time to have a quick whizz round the reserve to catch sight of the snow geese which had turned up there earlier. They were out on the back of the brooks - smaller than I'd expected but distinctive, totally white birds with black wing tips. Several gadwall and a pintail out on the pools and plenty of woodland birds around.  I heard a nightingale but didn't see it.

For the evening's Nightingale festival I was with a group near the pools at the bottom of the slope.  Visitors were being given a short talk before being taken on to the reserve to listen and hopefully see the nightingales. It got gradually colder during the course of the evening and we heard radio reports of nightingales calling around the reserve but other than the start of a song we didn't have much luck where we were.  We finished off once it got dark and the birds had gone quiet.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Listening And Watching Nightingales

Fabulous day out at Pulborough. The weather couldn't have been better and certainly better than forecast. Warm and sunny with a few fluffy clouds about but no sign of rain. I'd gone primarily to listen to nightingales in preparation for the Nightingale Festival next weekend and they certainly didn't disappoint.

I heard one almost as soon as I walked on to the reserve and needn't have worried about being able to identify it, from it's warm, rich, liquid song with different phrases sung in loud bursts from cover. A different quality and much richer tone from the other great songsters like the blackbird and song thrush. However, not all of them were skulking around in the bushes and there was a great view of one from the picnic area and one at the pond near Fattingates, with several calling around the reserve all day. No, they don't just sing at night ... fortunately.

The adders were out again along their usual sunny spot - nestled down in the grass and despite their bold markings, difficult to see and many people walked past them. This time it was the males warming themselves in the morning sunshine. Smaller than the females and the more familiar black and white.

Treat them with respect. I was annoyed at the people who were either poking around in the grass with a stick or getting far too close to get their photo - one person literally lying on the ground, within a couple of feet of one.

They need to warm up in order to activate their metabolism, so they can go off and feed - especially if they've just emerged from hibernation. If you come across one out in the open - don't disturb it or get too close - not for your protection but for it's. They won't attack and are more likely to have moved off having felt your footsteps as you approached.

There were plenty of butterflies around too - Painted Ladies, an Orange-Tip and a lovely Green Veined White on the edge of the brooks by Jupps View, Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies on the paths and around the hedgerows.

The British Whites who have now had their calves and were both in the fields and out on the brooks. Lovely white cows with black noses and ears. There's a wonderful bull in with them in the centre of the reserve and several bright, clean, white calves. They've got sweet, Jersey-like faces and markings like a Siamese but they're an ancient, traditional British breed, developed from the indigenous wild cattle.

I was also there to indulge in a slice of bread pudding. I must have mentioned it before but it has to be tasted to be believed. Wonderfully moist, packed with fruit and especially delicious when it's still warm from the oven. You have to time it right though. Too early and it's not yet ready, too late and it's all gone. Grab a slice at lunchtime and then snack on it when you get hungry out in the hide or end up staying late.

There were a few ducks still out on the brooks - plenty of teal and shelduck with pintail, gadwall out on the brooks and a few wigeon seen from Winpenny, where there was also a greenshank in the distance. It was feeding in with two redshank, so making it easier to spot the difference between the two, even though they were way off in the distance. Yes, I know redshanks have got red shanks and aren't that difficult to spot but it's the comparison with the greenshank that's useful.

There were sand martins flying over both Winpenny and the North brooks and a few swifts, house martins and swallows but not yet in great numbers. The warblers had arrived and there were willow warblers, chiffchaffs, whitethroats and lesser whitethroats singing from trees and hedgerows - mainly along the path between Jupps and the Hanger. A pair of nuthatches were creeping along branches on the corner by Fattingates, pointed out by a couple who weren't sure what they were.

I stayed late, just as the herons were cronking off to roost further up river and on the way back, heard both a cuckoo, calling from the tall trees on the edge of the reserve near Wiggonholt church and a tawny owl from about the same area.

And a lovely sunset to finish off the day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Urban Foxes

Unusual to see two foxes out wandering the streets but coming back from yoga I saw two in about half a mile stretch. Late evening but not yet totally dark. There's either a busy den or there are several families in the area.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

RSPB Birdwatch Results

It's official- there's a new bird on the block and it's the long-tailed tit. The results of the RSPB Garden Birdwatch are out and for the first time this little lollipop of white, pink and black has appeared in the top ten.

If they're appearing in my garden then, given the scarcity of species that I see, they must be becoming more widespread. They don't visit my garden very often, I've spotted them a few times this winter and will keep an eye out over the summer - especially when young fledge.

Over half a million people took part this year - sadly my results of zero this year didn't help much.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Early Summer Arrivals

A lovely Spring day and over to Pulborough to see what's left of the winter visitors and who's arrived for the Summer. The meadows were pretty flooded but not as flooded as they had been a few weeks earlier. Apparently the Adur flooded it's banks and the whole area was under water.

Started at the West Mead hide. Several lapwings displaying and a good, although distant view of the two Ruff that have been around for a few days. Starting to change into their summer plumage and close to a couple of dunlin and three or four redshanks, making it easier to compare sizes and markings. There was an even better view of them from the Winpenny hide, which is usually pretty quiet with very little around but with the water levels higher, there were plenty of birds feeding and even a snipe close to the hide, which someone else had spotted just as I was about to move on, so of course I had to stay. It was sitting in a clump of grass and difficult to see even with the scope right on it, until it moved slightly or turned it's head.

The adders are emerging from their winter sleep and as the sun came out they were warming themselves along the path between Winpenny and Little Hanger. Three spotted in total with two particularly large, fat, black adders. These are the females which emerge before the males and look more brown and black but with the distinctive diamond pattern down their backs.

Over on the North Brooks there was a male wheatear in the distance. A summer visitor who had only just arrived and fueling up after his long journey from Africa. A couple of chiff-chaffs were also around - heard more often than spotted.

Plenty of wigeon and teal around, along with shelduck, shoveler and a few pintail. I even spotted a lone gadwall, which was being elusive but finally confirmed when it came out into the open. There was another snipe also being elusive and only spotted briefly and a little-ringed plover feeding on the edge of the water.

Back along the hedgerow between Winpenny and Westmead and a lovely stonechat in the late evening sun and bullfinches on the zig-zags on the way back to the centre.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Pigeon Post

Final update: The vet called a few minutes ago. Percy made it through the night but had suffered nerve damage down one side, so would not survive in the wild. They've put him to sleep. Ah well, I tried and it's not as if pigeon's are in short supply around here. There are a couple of hundred flying around at any one time. I'm sure his/her mate will have already moved on ... I did see a lone pigeon in the garden yesterday.

And just as I write this, three goldfinches have flown into the buddleia opposite, feeding on the old seedheads. Oh, now you see them, now you don't they've flown off already.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Bloody Cats!

I found a woodpigeon in a sorry state when I went out to go to the Post Office a few minutes ago. It was flapping about on the patio with a nasty hole in it's back - presumably where it had been pounced on. I heard the guilty culprit scrabbling over the fence, so that's why the cat's in the frame rather than the sparrowhawk, who I think would have made a proper job of it.

It took some catching, as it still had plenty of strength and obviously nothing wrong with it's wings. Incredible thumping in it's chest when I picked it up. I've put it in the shed, wrapped in a bit of fleece, as I couldn't bear to put it out of it's misery and besides, you never know it might be a superficial wound ... it might last the night! More likely, it'll expire quietly but at least it's out of the way of the cats.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nest Box Challenge

Each year the BTO run a Nest Box Challenge. If you've got a nest box in your garden, then why not register it and report any activity through the year, whether it's just visiting, nesting and fledging chicks or even if it's not used at all.

Register your nest boxes today and keep an eye out for blue tits, great tits robins or even sparrows around the boxes.

Blue tits are now looking for potential nesting sites and will be checking out your boxes. It's too late to clear them out in case you disturb a new nest. Under bird protection law nests can't be cleaned out between 1st February to 31st July.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A Charming Surprise

A lovely treat this afternoon when I took a break for lunch. Four goldfinches in the garden. Three on the niger feeder and one loitering on the seed feeder before joining the others as all four squeezed onto the same feeder.

Friday, January 23, 2009

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 24-25th January

Top up your feeders, fill up the bird bath, put out the fat treats - this weekend it's the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. You don't have to be a member in order to take part. Just pick an hour in the day on either Saturday and Sunday and make a note of the total number of birds of each species that visit your garden. Not the one's flying overhead - they don't count.

Get the family involved. If you don't have a garden - go to your local park. Wrap up warm, grab your binoculars and see how many different species you can spot in one hour.

I wonder if the long-taileds will put in an appearance?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Flurry of Pink, White and Black

I came in through the back gate this morning to be greeted by a flurry of long-tailed tits. There must have been at least half a dozen of them as they flew off from the feeders and then one by one flew off over what's left of the fence. At least I know there are several in the area and they seem to be one of the 'early birds' as I'm more likely to see them early in the morning rather than the blue tits which seem to turn up later, around mid-morning.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Natural World: Cuckoo

If you missed it when it first aired last week you can catch up on this fascinating insight into the world and wiles of the Cuckoo on BBC iPlayer.

You can forgive their somewhat lazy and selfish behaviour - get someone else to take on the nest building and chick raising activity and the cruel way the young cuckoo chick ejects it's hosts own eggs and chicks from the nest - when you realise that their numbers have halved in the last century. Aren't newly hatched birds the most prehistoric and ugly thing you've seen?

Red Kites In Sussex

Woohoo!! My first red kite sighting in Sussex. I was driving over to my parents today and having stopped briefly at Pulborough (where red kites have been spotted before), I was on the road past Petworth and saw the distinct forked tail of a kite being mobbed by two crows. I wasn't able to stop but it was a great to see it finally as it's a very hit and miss affair as they're only seen a few times a year at Pulborough.

Has anyone else seen it around the area and are there one or perhaps more, so there's a chance of a breeding pair in the area?

Closer to home I saw a buzzard - again over the road and a more usual sight but still good to see two raptors in one day.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can Birds Smell Water?

That might sound strange but within minutes of putting out fresh water today (the bird bath was frozen solid and there'd been a very heavy frost overnight) a wood pigeon, dunnock and blackbird flew in for a drink. It shows just how important drinking water is to them at this time of year. The starlings, sparrows and blue tits are in for their afternoon feed before going off to find somewhere warm for the night.

Keep those feeders topped up - better to have a few, well fed birds than cold, starving birds turning up to find nothing to eat.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Tame Blackbird

I've got a very tame female blackbird in the garden at the moment. She doesn't seem too alarmed when I open the back door the other day and she was on the patio or when I walk in through the back gate and she's eating berries on the ivy. As long as I appear to ignore her and move quietly, she just carries on.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Provide Water Even In The Cold Weather

Brrrr - it's really cold out there today. I was out and about early this morning and it was -5C. A little later in the morning and it's not much warmer. Anything with water in is frozen solid and I've just topped up the bird bath and no sooner was I back in doors than a collared dove came down for a drink.

I've also put out another feeder just in case there's a rush of hungry birds out there. I also think the smaller birds prefer the open feeder rather the one with a cage round it, which I was using to stop the pigeons and starlings taking all the food. Now they have a choice.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Late Night Snack

It must have been around midnight last night when I heard the unmistakeable clucking of a blackbird outside the window. One had obviously arrived for a late night snack on the pyracantha. Whether it was the cold that means they're feeding at night or the fact that the street lights means they can be up and about at all hours, I'm not sure. I'm used to seeing or hearing them during the day but not that late at night.