Thursday, December 27, 2012

A very flooded Pulborough Brooks

Pulborough Brooks are totally under water after the river burst it's banks last week and is currently home to plentiful ducks and geese rather than waders.  (You can just about make out West Mead hide in the middle of the picture on the edge of the water.)

While there and after a leisurely lunch, I took a walk around the heathland area which is now looking completely different having had a large number of the plantation trees removed.

It's opened up the whole area, although there are still a few clumps of trees and the occasional solitary tree standing in the now bare heathland.  Much easier to see the spotted woodpecker flying across.

The black pond swollen by all the recent rain has also expanded and there's a plan to create more pools up the valley to encourage the dragonflies.

Out at the new viewpoint there's now a view across the Pulborough 'Lake'.  A completely different view from just a few weeks ago as the water is now up to the edge of the slope.

View through the trees across to Winpenny hide in the distance.

I didn't have time or the gear to take walk down to the hides.  Will be back in the new year - especially as I've still not managed to see 'Wally'.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Litter Pick on the Tye

Just two of us to start with but joined by a third.

Interesting fungus on the Tye
Starting with a walk down the funeral track towards the coast road where the usual array of dog poo bags abound, although the smell of dog poo is equally unpleasant.  There's obviously someone who goes out for a dog walk with their can of larger judging by the number of cans picked up along the track.

Just for a change we headed out to the small piece of the Tye which is south of the coast road, below the Smuggler's Rest - a thin strip that runs along the clifftop.  Quite a lot of litter there - mainly discarded by the pub - beer cans, bottles and crisp packets.  The litter along the path down by the side of the pub was full of litter, which although outside of the Tye, we picked up anyway.  Maybe the pub will take the hint and clear up their land too.

The final haul

We then worked our way back up along the coast road, picking up the discarded litter mainly consisting of fast food wrappers, cans and drinks bottles and intriguingly discarded packets of pills.  Getting more difficult as the wind picked up.

We ended up with about 10 bags in all.  Not bad for just the three of us in three hours, although it would actually be better if people didn't just chuck it out of their cars in the first place.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Christmas Scrub Bash - Glynde Estate

A lovely crisp, sunny winter day and our Christmas Social involves clearing a length of track that runs up from Glynde village to Mount Caburn.
This is an old drover's track which has now been covered over in scrub but a few decades ago used to be covered in wildflowers.

One of the villagers, who remembered it as it once was, suggested it would be good project to clear the track and restore it to grass and wildflowers.

With the support of Glynde Estate the South Downs volunteers have set about clearing a few hundred metres of overgrown track.  It might take a while but hopefully the seed bank is still there and in a few years time it will be full of wildflowers once again.

The work had been started a few days earlier and about two thirds of the track had already been cleared.

Our morning's task was to carry on clearing the hawthorn and bramble and occasional larger tree.

We didn't have to burn it - as that was being done by the estate manager, who was also going to clear out the scrub and logs from the track itself.  Just as well as we only had a couple of hours in which to get it done.

It being a Christmas task it was combined with the Christmas social.  So after a couple of hours work and handing out of new gear to some of the volunteers, we walked down the hill to the Trevor Arms in the village and tucked in to a great Christmas meal.

Turkey with all the trimmings if you wanted it or there were alternate choices - beef, fish and veggie, followed by optional pudding and mince pies.  The pub is definitely worth a visit as the food was great - even though they were catering a large group of hungry volunteers.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Barn owl and the new viewpoint at Pulborough

A great treat today out at Pulborough - in fact quite a few.  Not only was the peregrine in her usual spot but the barn owl was out hunting on the far side of the North Brooks - quartering up and down one of the ditches, not far from the houses.

Also saw buzzard, sparrowhawk and a kestrel but missed the harrier and the lesser spotted woodpecker which had been seen in Fattingates shortly before I got there.

View across the South Brooks at RSPB Pulborough from the recently completed viewpoint, now with the fencing finished.

Still very distant views of the birds, so scopes will be needed but a chance to get fractionally closer to and a chance of spotting waders.  Although easy to mistake them for lumps of mud.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Community Flock - Telscombe Tye

Yes, the residents of Telscombe Cliffs are now the proud owners of a flock of sheep brought on their behalf by Telscombe Town Council, although they may not actually realise it.

The idea is that not only will the sheep graze the Tye but it will generate income for the Council towards the running costs of the Tye when the lambs are sold next year.

The community flock can be identified from the other flock grazing the Tye by their blue marking and ear tags.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Repairing a gate on the Tye

A very crisp, cold, Autumnal morning and two task groups out on the Tye.  One group repairing a gate on the Tye and the other out for a litter pick.

Someone thought it would be a good idea to roll a hay bale down the hill and managed to damage the gate posts, demolish the fence but luckily avoided both cars, pedestrians and ended up against a wall that stopped it doing any more damage.

It didn't take too long to dig out the damaged posts and replace them.  Of course it always helps to have the right tools.

Then dig out and replace the fence posts and re-attach the wire and sheep netting.  By which time the litter pickers had returned with sparse pickings - I'm pleased to say.  Although the dog mess around the gate was less pleasant and carefully avoided as we repaired the gate.

By the time we finished the nice, new, shiny gate - it was much warmer and there were several swallows and house martins around - slightly surprising - given that it's the middle of October but these must be the last few.

While it might seem like fun - the large round bales can weigh up to a ton and can do serious damage and even cause death if anyone or anything is in the way!

I stopped off at the dewpond on the way back up the Tye.  Very full after all the recent rain 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Flint walling in Stanmer Park

Another great opportunity offered by the South Downs Volunteer Ranger service and a chance to try our  hand at flint-walling.  Or rather an opportunity for them to gain a group of 'skilled' workers to help repair the miles of flint wall around Stanmer park.

Over the course of a weekend we were introduced to the basics of flint walling, the mortar mix used to hold the flints in place, selecting and laying the right shapes and sizes of flints and how to build up the wall, while taking into account existing layers.

The tricky bit is making it look neat, matching it up with existing layers of flint on either side, when filling a whole and the restriction of only being able to build up a couple of layers at a time.

While waiting for the layers to set, we got a chance to fill-in where flints had fallen out of the wall and just needed setting back in and replacing patches of missing mortar.

The wall was originally laid by Napoleonic prisoners of war over 200 years ago and is falling into disrepair where it's been blown over, knocked over or just crumbling away.

It's been patched up and repaired over the years by different groups of workers, not just in more recent times but any time since it was built.  Different mixes have been used and some more successfully than others.

Day two was continuing with much the same - although we could now work on another two layers.

There was meant to be a Day three but it was cancelled due to the weather, so we missed out on the final part - which would have involved placing the capping stones.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Busman's Holiday in South Harting

Over at my parents for the weekend and I'm invited to join the churchyard working party in South Harting.  Slightly more comfortable surroundings and not quite as hard work as my usual scrub clearance activities but an equally enthusiastic band of volunteers who meet up once a month to keep the churchyard tidy.

We were only there for a couple of hours but I tackled a large patch of snowberry, bramble and elder that had completely overgrown several gravestones alongside the wall.


Just shows how much a small group of volunteers can achieve in a few hours.  We even had a break for coffee and delicious homemade ginger cake break before finishing off the last bit.

Others were mowing the grass, clearing other areas and getting the bonfire going.Just shows how much a small group of volunteers can achieve in a few hours.
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Sunday, September 09, 2012

Telscombe Tye Heritage Fest 2012

Yes all the planning and preparation is done and now it's all over - no not the Paralympics but the Telscombe Tye Heritage Fest.

The weather couldn't have been better - although too hot for some but a glorious day of sunshine and light winds.  Very different from most of the summer.

People turned out to see the Tye at it's best and all the organisations that turned up to support the event. We had the working horses from the Working Horse Trust, the Saltdean and Rottingdean Lions laid on a great BBQ throughout the day, we had a very busy and popular children's activity area, rescued owls, the local RSPB group, Green Gym, St John's and the Cuckoo's Nest Morris dancers performed on the Tye and in Telscombe Village.

Many people made the trip up the Tye to not only enjoy the view from the dewpond but to have a go with Stoolball England, see the vintage tractors, photos of the refurbishment of the dewpond, more owls and hawks and then a trip down the hill into the village where they had a busy day with the arts and craft fair, band and refreshments in the village club which was so busy they sold out.

The day was rounded off with a fireworks display in the evening given by Telscombe Town Council - both events were free for the whole community and beyond and by all accounts very much enjoyed.

Thanks to everyone who turned out to support us and all the volunteers who gave up their time to help organise the day.

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Rutland Birdfair 2012

Another first this year, as I took a trip up to Rutland Water for the annual Birdfair.  It's somewhere I've been planning to visit for a while but only recently made the effort and what a treat it was!

 Several large marquees packed with anything and everything associated with birds and wildlife as well as a wealth of lectures and events to keep you busily occupied for the whole of the three days or as long as you decide to spend there.

Arrived on Saturday morning and spent most of the day wandering around the various stalls while playing celebrity bingo - spotting all the well known wildlife experts who were either doing book signings or giving lectures.

Great to also see the guys (and gal) from our Serbia trip earlier this year had their own stand and were also the topic of one of David Lindo's lectures.  Fantastic place and a shame the talk was so short - there is so much to see in Serbia that it really was just a quick picture tour or the trip.

David Lindo & Bill Oddie signing books.
So many lectures ... so little time.  I'd marked up quite a few and only managed to get to about half of them.  Anything including David Lindo and others that were of interest to some of the things I've been working on recently with my local conservation groups.

There were also events and talks at other stands around the site, including the Anglian Birdwatching Centre, so often a brisk walk required from one side of the site to another, passing through a marquee on the way to check out another stand I'd seen on the list of exhibitors.

Plenty of shopping opportunities too - bird related or otherwise, although I came away with just a dragonfly book, butterfly conservation membership and resisted the more expensive temptations in the Optics marquee.

There's also a good selection of food on site - simple but straight forward - burger and coffee options in various places, ice creams doing well as the weather was great and a food tent with self service and BBQ choices.  They were even open for an evening meal on the Saturday as I stayed late and gave Milan (Birdwatching Serbia) a lift back to his pub B&B and then headed to the YHA where I'd booked in for the night.  Fine if it hadn't been for a loudly snoring room mate (I forgot the earplugs).

David Lindo - Urban birding
Arrived back at Birdfair early on Sunday for round two and spent an hour in the nearby hide before the event even opened - looking out for passing migrants and waders.

An osprey put in an appearance, as did a few dunlin and greenshank.  A black tern or possibly two were in amongst the common terns on the sand banks.

Did the same at the end of the day and it was standing room only in the hide as everyone had the same idea to avoid the traffic rush.  Saw the osprey again - three this time, black tailed godwit, two little stint in with the dunlin and a distant whimbrel.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Telscombe Tye Dewpond Survey

Our first dewpond survey - it's only five months old but the South Downs National Park Authority are regularly surveying dewponds and we had the opportunity for a few volunteers to come and survey our dewpond.

They were already there when I finally made it up and just starting the survey by measuring the size and checking the water temperature and pH.

I wanted to know what the plants in the pond were in case there were any invasive species.  As it turned out, we've got a number of plants that have 'appeared' - several pondweed species, hornwort forming the large clumps and a couple of rush - spike and jointed.  Nothing to worry about.

There are a good number of pond skaters, diving beetles and larvae - no dragonfly larvae yet but it is early days and they were only able to catch what was around the edge of the ponds.  The clay around the edge is incredibly sticky.

They did manage to catch a couple of immature newts (which do look like small fish) - no newt experts to identify which ones they were, a froglet and plenty of small frogs around and just outside the pond.

They also surveyed all the plants around the pond.  Plenty of corncockle and field marigold are now out and there were a few field pansies hiding away.  There's also a stray sunflower.  Either in the seed mix or carried in by a pigeon.

We were treated to two emperor dragonflies making an appearance, a few bright blue damselflies - as yet un-identified, a lovely fresh tortoiseshell and wall butterflies.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

August - wildflowers around the dewpond

A succession of wildflowers continue to bloom - this time they're appearing on the west side of the pond too, which was a little sparse earlier in the year.

More marigolds and corn cockles starting to take over from the daisies.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Big Butterfly Count 2012

Buddleia and friends - 9
Red Admiral on Buddleia
Starting this weekend - the Big Butterfly Count is running from the 14th July - 5th August, so you still have plenty of time to get out and about and spot butterflies (in between the rain).

This year it will be even more interesting and more important to make a count of butterflies as they will have been affected by the cold, wet and unseasonal weather this year.

My buddliea is just starting to flower, so a big attraction for butterflies and great timing for the count.

To take part visit - download the id chart, pick 15 minutes - hopefully on a sunny day and then submit your count online.  You can pick different sites and different dates during the survey time.

(Photo credit: Crowcombe Al)
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A new bench for the Tye

With such great views across to the coast, Beachy Head and the Downs it wasn't long before there was a request for a bench up by the dewpond - not only to admire the views but somewhere to have a welcome rest after either walking up the Tye or up the steep hill out of the village.

 We were lucky to have some timber donated by a local tree-surgeon and something that was in keeping with the area - a good old rustic bench - basically two stumps and a rough plank.

Something that blends in to the surrounding

One sunny Sunday morning three of us met up on the Tye and without too much effort, it didn't take too long to dig out two holes, posts inserted and the plank screwed in and professionally finished off.

With Mr Carden in charge - it was never going to be anything but professional and properly done!

And, of course with all that hard work, it had to be tested out.

Yes, it's on a slope, so one side is higher off the ground than the other but I can assure you it's level!

The wildflowers are also looking wonderful with a good array of field chamomile, a few cornflowers, field marigold and poppies.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

July - wildflowers around the dewpond

Lovely mix of wildflowers and grasses out around the dewpond.

Mainly ox-eye daisies and field marigolds but with a few cornflowers and corn cockles mixed in with grasses.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wildlife Returns To The Dewpond

A lovely sunny day today, so I headed up to the dewpond during my lunch break.

Imagine my delight as I walked around the pond, to see a newt swimming away from the surface.  It's only been two months since the dewpond was filled but already the wildlife has found it's way there.

Two broad-bodied chasers had mated and were flying around the sedge we planted which was flowering and there was one constantly circling the pond, along with a few bright blue damselflies and dozens of tadpoles as well as many other creatures in the pond.  So exciting to see how quickly the wildlife has returned to the pond.

A male Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa...
A male Broad-bodied Chaser (Libellula depressa), picture taken by Tim Bekaert (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Out in the sunshine the house martins and swallows were swooping down to drink from the pond and a kestrel flew by.  Wildflowers are appearing around the edges - there's quite a mixture, if you look closely.  The obvious yellow wild mustard but a few other species in there too.

We'll need to carry out a proper survey of the area, so we can see what's appearing, how varied it is and how it changes over time.

The hawthorn hedging has taken a bit of a battering with the recent wet and windy weather but most of it is still growing and there's a lovely grassy area inside the sheep fencing.

If you are visiting - please don't climb over the fence and tempting as it is, please don't allow your dog into the area.  We don't want to disturb the wildlife or trample all the new growth as it gets established.

If you'd like to join the Friends of the Tye - you can pick up a leaflet from Telscombe Town Council, Peacehaven Town Council or Saltdean Library or visit our website for more information.

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