Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Telscombe Tye Dewpond - SDNPA case study.

Thanks to generous funding from the South Downs Sustainable Communities Fund and supported by Telscombe Town Council, the Friends of Telscombe Tye were finally able to completely refurbish the dewpond which had slowly dried out as the liner became more damaged.

The project has now been written up as a case study and is on the South Downs website.  You can read about the project here.

I post regularly about it in this blog with photos and updates on the flowers and returning wildlife.

Read about project and see the photos -
Telscombe Tye dewpond refurbishment

Saturday, November 23, 2013

RSPB Futurescapes

At the recent AGM of the Friends of the Tye, we invited Rachel Whitfield to come and do a talk for us about the RSPB Futurescapes.

The idea of Futurescape is to bring together various groups, organisations, authorities and communities involved with land management, conservation and the environment to expand wildlife habitats from the existing fragmented areas to larger areas that will support a greater diversity and link up or provide 'corridors' between them.

Chalk grassland is now one of the rarest habitats we have and 80% of it has already disappeared.  Projects such as the RSPB Futurescapes and Natural England's South Downs Way Ahead - Nature Improvement Areas (NIA) will help to increase and improve the existing chalk grassland.

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

November sunshine on Telscombe Tye - Day 2

And a few days later, back on the Tye - same area and much the same but getting more done.  The bonfire site from Wednesday was warm enough to get going without having to start from scratch.

The area looks a lot better and pushing back and clearing more scrub, much of which is hawthorn, blackthorn and elder along with plenty of bramble.  The tree in the picture was originally surrounded by scrub.

We've cleared a large area since the beginning of the year and it's a potentially great for chalk grassland wildflowers.  There were quite a large variety of species over the Summer and once the scrub is under control even more species will arrive along with other wildlife.

There was a shooting party on the nearby land and with the guns firing off, pheasant and partridge were taking shelter along the edges of the Tye and flying over the nearby fields out of range.

We also spotted a pair of buzzards and a kestrel as well as a robin around the area being cut and goldfinch flying over.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

November Sunshine on the Tye - Day 1

A joint task with the FoTT and South Downs Volunteer Rangers and the first mid-week task we've run.

Volunteers scrub clearing on Telscombe Tye

Working on the area we started clearing at the beginning of the year.  Cutting back some of the regrowth and working on expanding and clearing yet more scrub.

I just popped down around lunchtime to see how they were getting on and to get some fresh air and sunshine.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Autumn sunshine at Pulborough Brooks

A lovely sunny and not too cold a day for a visit to Pulborough Brooks.  Despite the fact it's November there are plenty of leaves on the trees and even a few butterflies around.

Plenty of duck around but few waders.  We did manage to see the delightful Snipe in front of Nettley's hide - well hidden the reeds but no sign of the Jack Snipe that had been spotted earlier in the week.

Great view of a young Marsh Harrier over the ditches on the North Brooks which did get pretty close and the peregrine was up in her usual perch, which is always a delight.

Finished off at the South Brooks viewpoint with distant sightings of what was finally decided to be a green sandpiper.  I spot it and then leave the 'experts' to decide what it is.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Homemade birdfeed scoop

A cheap, easy and effective bird scoop made by recycling an old milk carton.

Saw the bottom off a 1ltr plastic milk bottle - a serrated bread knife will do the job.  A 500ml bottle works just as well for a smaller scoop.  Keep the lid in place.  Smooth off the edges if they're a little rough.

Remove any label - et voila! A scoop with handle and one plastic bottle recycled into something useful.

Can easily be replaced if it gets lost or damaged.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Telscombe Tye dewpond and fungi - October

With the recent rain the dewpond has filled up nicely.  Not quite up to it's limit but certainly a lot fuller than it was a few weeks ago.  The flowers have died back, making it much easier to see what's there and the regrowth from the hawthorn and rose around the edge.

Telscombe Tye dewpond - October 2013
A solitary southern hawker dragonfly was around briefly but no sign of much else.  I haven't seen the newts for a while now and there are signs of disturbance from dogs around the edge of the pond.  The pond weed has become submerged with the increase in water level.

Parrot waxcaps
I spotted a few yellow-green, waxy mushrooms or toadstools on the grass around the outside of the dewpond.  They're about an inch or so across and shiny.

Photographed as they were in situ - probably disturbed and damaged by sheep, dogs or walkers.

The closest match I can find is parrot waxcaps on a local fungi website.

On the way back there was a small flock of goldfinch and greenfinch along the cross-dyke, a kestrel along the hedgerow and three buzzards up high above the horse field.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Telscombe Tye flock 2013

Telscombe Tye has a new flock.  Alongside the existing grazing flock.  This year's Telscombe flock has been replaced by black faced Suffolk cross sheep.

Suffolk sheep on Telscombe Tye
A mix of young ewes who will hopefully have a more successful breeding season than this year.  I haven't seen the numbers yet but there was quite a high mortality rate for both lambs and sheep this year.

They have distinctive black faces and legs which makes them easier to identify which now belong to the Telscombe flock, rather than having to try and identify them from the coloured spots or their ear tags which weren't always visible.

Black-faced Suffolk sheep
Eight Herdwick sheep have also been bought and will be put out to graze on the e-Piece.  These are a hardier, rare breed sheep and will be able to tackle the brambles, nettles and regrowth.  They're not out there yet but will be as soon as the fencing has been agreed and put in place.

Dog owners - please be aware that if you're around livestock - sheep, cattle or horses - your dog needs to be under close control.  That does not mean running around free or on a long lead.
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Sunday, October 06, 2013

Telscombe Tye dewpond - October

Lovely sunny day for a walk up to the dewpond and to sit on the bench and watch the swallows dipping in for a drink before heading southwards.

Water level is quite low and dogs have been getting in - despite the signs.  Haven't seen the newts for a while - hope they're still in there somewhere and haven't been disturbed by swimming dogs!

Also spotted a red/brown dragonfly.  Too quick for me to identify or photo and I'm not that good at spotting and identifying dragonflies at twenty paces ... yet.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wildflower Plant Survey part 2 - e-Piece

We don't usually get a chance to carry out a plant survey twice on the same site in the same year but now that Telscombe Tye is part of the HLS Scheme, I wanted a return visit to the e-Piece to see what else we could find a little later in the year.

Plant survey on Telscombe Tye e-Piece

Imagine our delight when we found a few round headed rampion just outside one of the quadrats we regularly survey.

Round-headed rampion

The patch we cleared earlier in the year was covered in wildflowers.

Chalk grassland wildflowers

Also a large number of thistles but actually far more species than at our usual survey sites - including more round headed rampion on the grassy slope.  Plenty of knapweed and scabious buzzing with bees and butterflies.

Chalk grassland wildflowers

Some (but not all) of the plants found: yellowwort, squinancywort, century, selfheal, wild thyme, common milkwort, pink clover, bedstraw, fairy flax, salad burnet, cowslip, devil's bit scabious, stemless thistle, round-headed rampion, meadowsweet?, dog violet, agrimony, common vetch, bryony, greater knapweedragwort, bladderwort, spiny thistle, field convolvulus, wild carrot, rosebay willowherb, oxeye daisy, chamomile, eyebright, common knapweed, bird's foot trefoil, field scabious, mullion, wild marjoram, white mustard?, ribbed melilot.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Big Butterfly Count 2013

Peacock Butterfly
If you're out and about this weekend - whether in your garden, your local park or out in the countryside  spare a few minutes and take part in the Big Butterfly Count.

Anytime between now and the 11th August.

It's easy to do - there's a description and picture of the main species you're likely to see on the site, on the downloadable Butterfly ID chart and on the App.

It takes just 15 minutes.  Identify what you see, then submit your sightings.

Download the app and it's easy to identify what you've seen and submit them right away, while you're out and about.

They're also offering half-price membership for new members until the end of August.

Find out which plants are best for attracting butterflies to your garden with their list of the 100 best plants for nectar.

Last year was a tough one for butterflies with the cold, wet summer meaning that already declining butterfly numbers are at an all time low.

Get out, get involved and see how many you can see.
Peacock Butterfly (Photo credit: Chris@184)
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Monday, May 27, 2013

Wildflower plant survey - Telscombe Tye E-piece

At least once a year we like to carry out a plant survey on Telscombe Tye.

Today we were over on the e-Piece.  In the past this area has usually been surveyed in June/July.  We missed it completely last year because of the wet weather and decided this year to do a survey earlier in the year to catch the earlier flowering plants.

Wildflower plant survey
There are three quadrats we survey on a regular basis down a grassy slope, although the higher two quadrats are pretty overgrown, the lower one usually has more of the indicative chalk grassland flowers.

It never looks much when we start but once you start to look there are more and more plant species.  It's not easy to pick out the ones that only have leaves and no flowers, but hopefully if we come back in June and July, we'll be able to add a few more to the list.

Common twayblade
Excited to see a few orchids - including Common Twayblade - same family just not as striking as some of it's relatives but not one I'd seen before.

There were a few different species outside of our quadrate but in the general area.

We also did a quick sight survey of the area we cleared earlier this year on the Mega Scrub Bash.  Needless to say - plenty of nettles growing in the cleared area but a few wildflowers coming through.

The most distinctive and again not something I'd seen before was the silver leafed, deep maroon flowered Hounds Tongue.

Total plants seen - 39 species.  Confirmation of some species will need to wait until the plants flower (we're not that good, even referring to books).
Cowslip, common milkwort, salad burnet, bramble, scabious sp(?), hawthorn, thistle sp(?) , hairy violet, wild thyme, ribwort plantain, hawkweed sp(?) , creeping buttercup, ladies bedstraw, squinancywort, violet sp(?) , early purple orchid, selfheal, common twayblade, speedwell sp(?) , thyme-leaved speedwell, blackthorn, wild privet, goosegrass, bryony, hawkbit sp(?), vetch sp(?) , agrimony, ragwort, rosebay willow herb, elder, sycamore, cuckoo pint, foxglove(?), nettle, forget-me-not, ground ivy, hounds tongue, hart's tongue fern, mullein.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Tadpoles - Arms and legs

Day 77:

One of the tadpoles now has arms as well as legs.  Another has gone skinny now their legs have developed.  Legs are also starting to appear on a couple of the others.
Tadpoles - arms and legs
 Tadpoles get big and fat before their limbs appear and then as the legs develop they slim down.
Tadpole - three different stages
The ones in the pond seem fatter than the indoor tadpoles and today I spotted one with legs, so they're catching up with the indoor ones.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Frogs legs!

Day 71 since they were first laid.

Yes, my little tadpoles are growing up.  They've finally sprouted legs, so it won't be long before they get moved outdoors or I'm likely to go into the spare room one day and find they're hopping around the place.
Tadpoles with legs
This one has the longest legs, a couple of others have leg buds but if their speed of growth is as before, there will be several with visible legs by tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tadpoles - day 65

Not much has been happening over the last few days - they're growing up - filling out and getting larger and longer - not quite on a daily basis.  Although the last few days, they seem to be getting more rounded and around the belly and longer in the body.

Looking a little brutish and starting to get more frog-like.  They get cleaned out and topped up every few days and I've added a couple of snails to keep the tank cleaner.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Litter picking on Telscombe Tye

A small group of us set out for a litter pick on a fairly blustery but sunny day.

I took the perimeter while the others headed for the funeral track and to start from the coast road end.

Not much around as despite the sunshine it was still pretty chilly.  I did hear skylarks singing up the Tye in three places. 

Using a garden pop-up bag to hold the bin bags, which made it easier to collect in the wind. Awkward once a bag is full.

We collected a good two bags each, plus a couple of larger pieces. Usual mix of food wrappers, cans and bottles, carrier bags and a more obvious increase in poo bags as I walked back down the Tye.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

New posters for the pond

A very chilly day - headed up to the Tye to replace the posters around dewpond, which have got damaged by wind and weather over the last few months.
Telscombe Tye dewpond
There were a few swallow drinking from the pond and skylark singing.  No sign of newts or tadpoles as yet.  Lovely daffodils in the wooded strip going down into Telscombe village.

Daffodils - Telscombe village
Around on the e-piece and there were a few chiffchaff singing, a whitethroat and a blackcap alarm call - heard but not seen.

The area we cleared earlier this year has lots of violet and cowslips coming up in the patches with more grass and cuckoo pint in the areas that were under the thicker areas of scrub.  Unsurprisingly, there are also a lot of nettles coming up.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Nightingales, blackcaps and whitethroat

RSPB Pulborough Reserve - Spring sunshine
A glorious day out on the reserve at RSPB Pulborough.  The promise of sunshine was definitely fulfilled, although it took a while to warm up.

Nightingales were singing everywhere around the reserve for most of the day and singing from trees and bushes, so most people were treated to a good view of them too.  At least eight in various places - around Fattingates and along 'adder alley' and from the Hanger.

Also plenty of whitethroat around - along with chiffchaff and willow warblers.  Very little out on the brooks except for lapwing and a few duck.  A couple of redshank were spotted in the distance but I didn't manage to pick them out.

Willow just outside Winpenny
We took a break out in the sunshine to warm up after the chill at the Hanger.  Two pairs of buzzard were high overhead displaying above the North and South Brooks.

After lunch we popped in to Winpenny where a sedge warbler was feeding up along the edge of the ditch.  We spotted another just off the path, heading back to the North Brooks.  Several brimstone around by Winpenny and the picnic area - or it was the same one going round in circles!

It's a Sedge Warbler
After a tea break, when the Dawn Chorus shift headed off, I took another walk around the reserve.  Yet again I missed a red kite which was spotted low over the reserve just as I was heading back round the loop.  A few sand martin appeared over the North Brooks.  More joined them along with a few swallow.  There was a pair (possibly more) of tufted duck out on one of the far pools.

The nightingales seemed to be taking a break from singing and only heard snatches later in the afternoon.  Walking back via the picnic area - there was a comma basking on the ground a brief glimpse of a small tortoiseshell.  There were more swallow at the West Mead pond along with a pair of gadwall, which I just about managed to pick out against the evening light.

Just as I came up to the reserve I spotted a wheatear sitting on a post - my first in Sussex this year.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Frogspawn - update

Not sure what happened but having been out all day, I returned home to find the tadpoles in the crate had died.  They haven't been growing much since I put them out, although I've been topping the water up and feeding them as before.

Perhaps the warmer outdoor temperature was just too much for them, even though they were in partial shade.

The one's in the trough are fine, occasionally spot a few along the edge.  I put 60 out there a couple of weeks ago.  The same number went into the pond but I can't see any of those at all.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Frogspawn release

With the recent change in temperature - things were warming up a little too much for the indoor tadpoles, so two batches of them have been released back out in the garden.  They weren't quite gasping for air but not far from it.

Some are now in the fishpond - where they started out, although the fish probably think dinner has been served (not too sure how long they'll survive).  More are in a trough which was already filled with water and the rest still in their crate, which is now outside too.

Still have some in the tank - although I've reduced the number down considerably.  They're larger than the others at the moment.  Might be something to do with the water temperature being warmer in a smaller tank and fewer numbers.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blackcap dewpond fencing

A sunny start to the day and a new volunteer out with us.  As it's the end of the scrub clearing season,  we're out on Blackcap finish off the fencing around the dewpond, which is tucked away on the corner of a wood, close to the South Downs Way.
Dewpond on Blackcap
Across a muddy field or two - particularly muddy and slippery with all the recent rain which resulted in the land rover doing much of the journey sideways.

We began by digging a post hole - always fun (i.e. hard work) on chalk.  Layers of chalk, flint and soil.  It started raining just as we were finishing off the hole.  Unfortunately the fence post was split, so we couldn't fix it in place.
Having finished the post hole we all got stuck in, unwinding, straining and attaching the barbed wire and just about got it finished as the rain really set in and we abandoned lunch - slip sliding our way back across the field and back down the hill.

Sometimes there's only so much you can do and it's not much fun to be out in cold, damp, drizzly weather.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Frogspawn - Day 25

Returned from the Easter break to find them in much the same state as when I left - still all alive at least.  Topped up the 'tank' and moved some of them back out to the smaller tank for their daily photo session.
Frogspawn Day 25
They're looking a little more pointed at the front end and moving around a lot more, so getting more difficult to photograph.  Also slightly bigger overall - roughly 2.5cms - about 0.5 cm longer then last week.

They're now being fed a diet of spinach leaves, crumpled up and then laid on top. As they're plant eating at this stage that should keep them going.

Monday, April 01, 2013

April traditions and nature notes

English: Common cuckoo Deutsch: Kuckuck
Did you know: April - thought to be named after the Latin and Greek for opening - the season when trees and flowers opened.

Nature: Spotted flycatchers arrive this month along with more of our Spring migrants.  Swallows and house martins start to arrive and swifts will appear later in the month.

As the days get longer and things warm up (unless we get more snow) flowers and trees start to bloom and butterflies and bees come out of hibernation.

You can already see the sap starting to rise and green spikes showing through the soil.

Look out for:

Cuckoo's and nightingales towards the end of the month.

Keep an eye out for the first signs of Spring and record your sightings on


1st April Fool's Day - the tradition of playing pranks which has become an art form with media competing to see who can come up with the most obscure and convincing April Fool joke as well as reporting on the day's pranksters.  Just get it in before midday.

Also Hop Monday - when hop poles were traditionally erected when hops appeared above ground.

21st The Queen's actual birthday, rather than her official birthday in June.

23rd St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday.

Common cuckoo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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Saturday, March 30, 2013

First orange-tip butterfly

A surprise visitor found indoors one afternoon.  It may have come in on the wood for the fire as it was found sitting indoors on the windowsill.

Lovely markings and a fresh, bright colour - the first orange tip of the year and a bit of a surprise this far north.

It was very chilly outside but it was still there the following morning and got moved to a more south facing, sunny spot.

Hope it survives.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Walk around Kildwick and Farnhill, Yorkshire

Headed up north for Easter and staying near Skipton on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.  There's still snow around, mainly up on the tops of the hills and around the edges of the fields and it's VERY cold.

Farnhill Moor, Yorkshire
Started our walk just above Kildwick village and a track up through the woods and onto Farnhill Moor crunching through the snow on the ground in the 'Spring' sunshine although feeling more like Winter in the Alps.  Great views across the Aire valley, if you ignore the industrial estates at the bottom of the valley.
buzzard flew up across the moor but there wasn't much else about - a few blue and great tits in the woods.  A slight scramble down the hill through the silver birch trees and on to the road to Low Bradley where we joined up with the Leeds Liverpool canal for a flat but muddy walk back along the two path to Kildwick and a lunch stop at the White Lion pub.
Leeds Liverpool Canal at Kildwick

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Frogspawn - Day 19

Gills have totally disappeared today and they're now air breathing - coming up to the surface to breathe.

Frogspawn Day 19
Their body shape is becoming more oblong and they're pretty active most of the time and now in their new home.
Frogspawn Day 19

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March - Telscombe Tye dewpond

VERY cold today although at least all the snow has now gone from up on the Tye.  Almost sunny but a cold wind.
Telscombe Tye dewpond
Good to see how clear the water is in the pond now that it's settled.  No sign of any frogspawn or newts but a few small creatures and beetles swimming around the edge.  Hopefully more will re-appear when it finally warms up.
Telscombe Tye dewpond
Rather a lot of algae growing in the pond, which might need removing if it starts taking over.

Telscombe Tye dewpond - March

Frogspawn - Day 18

Great activity today.  They're all in motion and swimming all around the tank - top to bottom, side to side.  Probably helped by the water being warmed up in the sun.
Frogspawn Day 18
You can see that their gills have all but disappeared - they were there yesterday and today they've gone!  Except for a small stump.
Frogspawn Day 18 - gills disappearing
As they're rapidly outgrowing their little tank, I've transferred them all to a larger storage crate where it looks like there are far more than the 400+ I originally estimated.  Probably nearer the 1000 that are the average 'cluster'.
Frogspawn Day 18 - very active
Not so easy to see them now, as it's a coloured plastic crate, so I'll transfer a few back to the smaller clear tank for observation purposes.  It will be interesting to see if these then develop at a different rate.