Monday, May 31, 2010

A27 Unidentified Crane(?) and Arlington

I nearly drove off the road on my way to Arlington reservoir, when I spotted a crane flying east high above the A27.  I pulled over (safely), grabbed my binoculars out of the car but it was already too far away for me to pick it out.  I wonder if it was the common crane that's been spotted around the county recently.

Onward to Arlington on a grey day which kept promising to clear up but never quite did.  There was very little out on the water.  The usual assortment of great crested grebe, canada geese and mallard.  A few coots, moorhen, cormorant and gulls.  Perhaps the fishing boats were putting some of them off.

Several woodland warblers along the trail and a couple of swallows and swifts but that was it.  A quiet visit.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Soggy Birds and Birders

After the heat of last weekend, a complete contrast today and back to what we can normally expect of a British Summer - cold, grey ... and wet!

All the volunteers seemed to have congregated in Nettley's Hide out of the rain.  We had wonderful views of a sedge warbler singing from a nearby bush.  Masses of sand martins flying around and flying along the stream below the hide so very close views.  Usually they're flying over the brooks and harder to pick out.  They were also sitting on the barbed wire on the fences in the centre of the pools, so with a scope you could see them being fed by the adults.  All of the hirudines were out today despite the rain.

There were a few mallard ducklings - not many.  I spotted two females with two and four chicks respectively, although being wet, many birds were probably keeping a low profile.  The only wader I saw was a redshank.  Plenty of the woodland summer visitors have appeared - chiffchaff, willow warblers and of course the nightingales.  I heard one briefly between Winpenny and Little Hanger.

The rain did come in mid-morning.  Not a downpour but enough to get pretty soggy, as I walked back up to the centre, after seeing what was out on the North Brooks.  Pointing out the sedge warbler to the few visitors brave enough to venture out and enthralling a family group with close-up views of the deer.

A short break to dry out with a cup of tea and a slab of bread pudding and I was back out for a short wander round, as the weather hadn't really improved.  There were two Egyptian Geese out on the brooks, I've often seen one but not two at once, also over forty mute swan feeding along with shaggy and very cute highland cattle - several adults and their young.  Over forty species spotted today, which considering the rain wasn't bad.

Well worth visiting the centre at the moment - especially for their Springwatch weekend next weekend.  They've got webcams set up on a couple of nest boxes and you can watch the big screen in the centre with the cutest clutch of bluetits packed into one of the next boxes.  I counted eight heads and they're getting pretty big, so they won't be there long.  Get along soon so you don't miss them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Drinking and Bathing

Don't forget to put out plenty of water for the birds.  They're hard at work looking after young in the nest or fledglings and need water to drink and bathe.  I've had a pair of blackbirds visiting my garden regularly in this hot weather to come and drink and have a bath.  Presumably taking it in turns to look after the youngsters - while the other one goes off to take a break.

The wood pigeons are the most regular visitors to the bird bath but the magpies are also getting the hang of taking a bath and the smaller birds tend to pop in towards the end of the afternoon.

If you're feeling hot and thirsty in the heat, think how the birds must be feeling.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 2: South Downs Way - Exceat to Southease

SDW Day 2: Cuckmere Meanders
Even early morning it was hot, so I knew today was going to be a hot one.  A slightly longer walk than Day 1 but less hilly.  Four of us this time - sunhats, sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of water.

We park up at Exceat, Seven Sisters Country Park and set off up the hill overlooking the Cuckmere valley and it's meanders into Friston Forest and a direct up and down route through the trees to West Dean.

SDW Day 2: White Horse, Cuckmere ValleyOn through the forest, past fields of buttercups and across farmland to Litlington and a view of the white horse across the valley, together with dozens of paragliders setting up alongside it.

From Litlington we headed down to the river and walked along the river bank with several reed warblers singing from the reeds and house martins skimming over the river, to Alfriston where we just had to stop at Badgers tea rooms for tea and cake.  The garden was packed (unsurprisingly) so we sat inside in their newly refurbished tea rooms with very pretty floral pink table cloths.

SDW Day 2: Alfriston, Morris dancersYummy cake and tea - served from silver pots and jugs - unusual.  Back out into the heat and another English tradition - morris dancing in the village square.  A brief photo stop and then we headed out through Alfriston, up the hill and back onto the Downs where I heard a nightingale singing from the trees alongside the wide bridleway.

There were plenty of cyclists out enjoying the SDW and the sunshine and several groups of youngsters walking the downs who judging by their rucksacks, camping mats and sleeping bags had been out camping for the weekend.

SDW Day 2: Bostal Hill paraglidersWe followed the ridge with great views across the Weald to our right and views down to the coast on our left.  Past paragliders on Bostal Hill, sheep and cattle panting in the heat, until our lunch stop on Firle Beacon - overlooking Firle, Mt Caburn and Lewes in the distance with masses of cowslips coming to an end on the slope infront of us.

SDW Day 2: lambsIt was a long stretch in the heat and would have been even hotter if it hadn't been for a slight breeze. The poor sheep were suffering, the lambs a few weeks old now and the poor mums not yet shorn. They were trying to find any scrap of shade they could which is difficult on the mainly chalk grassland on the top of the Downs, where the only cover is the occasional patch of gorse or bramble.

Southease churchIt got hotter as we walked down Itford Hill, across the A26 and the railway line at Southease station, following the path across the River Ouse into Southease village and a water tap!  Hurrah.  A chance to refill our bottles for the final walk back to Telscombe and take a look inside the small and very old village church.

Crossing the road and following the path down to the farm track.  I heard a yellowhammer singing by the road junction up to Telscombe Village and a whitethroat as we walked through the farm, having left the South Downs Way were it heads up to Mill Hill.

We were now on the home stretch, into Telscombe Village up the final hill to Telscombe Tye and back home, stopping off at the shop for an ice-cream and then a well earned rest in the garden.

I was surprised at how few birds of prey we saw - no kestrels or buzzards up on the Downs.  Perhaps too hot or too many paragliders around or I just didn't notice them.

Total walked today: 11 (+3) miles - 7 hrs

TOTAL SO FAR:  18.5 miles (21.5mi) - 81.5 to go

If you'd like to support us on our walk raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support , you can do so by visiting

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Day 1: South Downs Way - Five Do Seven

Earlier this year my friend Chrissie suggested the two of us walk the South Downs Way from Eastbourne to Winchester.  It seemed like a good idea as it's on our respective doorsteps and while walking parts of it and living close to it for years, neither of us have ever walked the whole length.

This isn't going to be an endurance test - we're not going to be completing it in 24hrs or hiking the whole length in one go but rather doing it over several weekends and several days but aiming to complete it in 7 days in total.

Today happened to be Day 1 and a couple of Chrissie's friends and her husband came along for the first walk.

We met up at Exceat, left one car in the Forestry Commission car park and drove to the start of the walk in Eastbourne, where we left the other car.  Grey and overcast with showers likely later in the day.

Great views across Eastbourne and along the coast with much talk of trekking poles, as we hiked up the first steep hill, passing dog walkers, a few crazy runners (up those steep slopes!?) and plenty of cowslips, vipers bugloss and a few dog violets on the grassy slopes.

Following the way markers above the playing fields and around the edge of Whitebread Hole with playing fields at the bottom. Along the headland and paved paths, round to Beachy Head for a breakfast stop at the brick remains of a signal station, which has now been thoughtfully filled with benches.

There are a number of crosses along the clifftop above the lighthouse 160 metres below - a reminder of the other attraction of Beachy Head.

The first real hill, once past Beachy Head is down and up to the Belle Tout lighthouse and around its stone walls following the path down to Birling Gap.  The hotel there is closed and undergoing refurbishment but there's a temporary refreshment kiosk selling tea/coffee and the usual grilled offerings.  As it was starting to spit with rain - actually it had been spitting for a while - we sat inside for a short break, a drink and loo stop.

Heading up the hill towards the Seven Sisters - yes, there are seven of them (well, eight but they don't count Flat Hill), so no getting away from that.  Steep downhills followed by steep uphills or long hard uphill slogs.

Several swallows skimming along the cliff edge and stonechats and whitethroats singing from the scrub along the way.  I heard a peregrine calling from the cliffs as we walked down to Crowlink and there were fulmar flying below - perhaps also nesting on the cliffs.

A short break for lunch at the top of the seventh - overlooking Cuckmere Haven and then downhill all the way back to Exceat and the car - just as the drizzle started to become more persistent.  Good timing!

Total walk: 7.5 miles - 3 1/2 hrs including breaks.
TOTAL SO FAR: 7.5 - 92.5 to go

If you'd like to support us on our walk, you can do so by visiting

Friday, May 07, 2010

Near Miss

A very sorry looking woodpigeon that's been attacked either by a cat or the sparrowhawk.  Bare patch on it's back with skin visible and feathers missing.

It flew in and flew out again this afternoon, so it's mobile and can fly OK.  If not too badly damaged and suffering from shock, it might recover from it's near miss.  I'll keep an eye out for it as it's obviously one of my regular visitors.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Beach Walk In Dorset

A lovely walk along the coast from the Hive Beach Cafe on the Dorset coast in the Spring sunshine.  Too early for lunch so a walk first, skimming stones from the shoreline and then back for lunch at the cafe, which was really busy but worth the wait.

Decided to pop into Lyme Regis for dessert or perhaps a cream tea on the seafront but very disappointed.  No longer a quaint fishing village but very touristy and tourist tat at that!

Made it as far as Cobb harbour but didn't venture out fossil-hunting along the shoreline.  We did however manage to find a cream tea in a cafe in one of the little side roads off the main thoroughfare.