Walk to identify Ferring Village trees in winter on 4th December

A cloudless blue sky greeted 14 members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met up with Tricia Hall, their guide for the morning, on the Village Green. Tricia set a challenge and distributed a list of eleven trees which she asked the group to identify during the walk. On the Village Green itself an impressive Oak was the first point of interest. These large deciduous trees grow between 20-40m tall and their smooth and silvery brown bark becomes rugged and deeply fissured with age. On the eastern edge of the Green a pretty Silver Birch tree was admired by the Group. This tree looks attractive in all seasons but its wood is of little commercial value in Britain because the trees do not grow as large as they do in other parts of Europe. A Lime tree was noted on the corner of Rife Way and the flowers of this tree are hermaphrodite, meaning both the male and female reproductive elements are contained within one flower.

As the Group walked through Little Twitten recreation ground they stopped at a small Field Maple that was recently planted in memory of Joyce Cooper, a founder member of Ferring Conservation Group. Tricia explained that these trees can grow to around 20m and live for up to 350 years. Before leaving the recreation ground the Group marvelled at a majestic Monterey Pine tree situated near to the eastern boundary. This tree is found naturally in the coastal area around Monterey in California but can be found in milder parts of the UK (where it grows faster than in its native habitat). This is the tallest tree in Ferring and can be easily spotted from Highdown Hill. Within the same copse of trees several bird and bat boxes were sighted and Tricia was pleased to inform the Group that these had been occupied during this year’s nesting season.

The group progressed south along Sea Lane where an Ash tree stood proud on the grass verge parading its many conspicuous winged fruit or keys, which fall to the ground in winter. Another feature of this common tree at this time of year are the smooth twigs that have distinctively black, velvety leaf buds arranged to face each other.  Looking eastwards from Sea Lane a Sparrow Hawk could be seen circling above the field looking for prey and as the Group proceeded southwards a Horse Chestnut and an attractive Maple stood out amongst other trees along the route. A chirpy Robin and several Magpies were making their voices heard at the edge of the field as the route continued into Beehive Lane where a large Scots Pine tree stood next to the bus stop and a row of Poplars stood erect outside of Scotch Dyke Residential Home.

Taking a short cut through to Little Paddocks the Group savoured the tranquility of this oasis in the heart of Ferring and took pleasure viewing the duck pond and surrounding area where Mallards, Moorhens, Squirrels, and a Woodpecker could all be seen in the vicinity. An elegant Weeping Willow at the water’s edge completed the picture. A resplendent Sweet Chestnut tree greeted the Group at their final destination in Ferring Grange. The bark of this tree in winter is particularly attractive as the older trees have fissures which spiral round the trunk. Chestnut blight has unfortunately arrived in the UK recently which causes cankers and can lead to die-back and death.

Thanking Tricia for a very enjoyable and informative walk, the Group made their way to Kingsley’s Coffee Shop for some well earned refreshment.

 

 

Goring Gap Bird Walk – 28th October 2018

On a cold and breezy October Sunday morning, a healthy turn out of Ferring Conservation Group members met at the sea end of Sea Lane, Ferring for a guided birdwatching walk around Goring Gap with new member and local bird expert, David Campbell.

The morning started with a scan of the beach at a number of vantage points on the Greensward, and a good variety of sea and wading birds were seen and identified. There were Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Little Egret and even a number of Knot all on the beach. Off shore, Brent Geese, Cormorant and Wigeon were seen either flying past or on the sea, and flocks of Goldfinches and Starlings were flying inland probably from the Continent, as well as some Siskin and Linnet.

The group then sought sanctuary from the breeze for a while amongst the trees of the Plantation, and a number of woodland birds were either seen or heard there – Robin, Chaffinch and a very obliging Stock Dove, amongst others.

For the final part of the walk, the group moved back out into the open farmland of the Gap, which is such an important roost for many birds, especially at high tides. A number of gulls were seen, including the impressively large Great Black Backed Gull, and at least one Mediterranean Gull, as well as some Skylarks.

However, the highlight of the morning was right at the very end, when in the distance and at some height, our guide spotted, managed to identify and even photographed a rare Hen Harrier bird of prey roughly above the point where we had started the walk. We then watched it fly northwest across Ferring before disappearing out of sight towards the Rife. This was an unusual sighting for our area and capped off an enjoyable morning, which wouldn’t have been possible without the skill and knowledge of David Campbell. The Group is extremely grateful to him.

Autumn Fruits Walk at Highdown Hill on 15th October

Taking advantage of a glorious sunny and warm afternoon 18 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Highdown Hill car park. With Tricia Hall as their knowledgeable guide they were led along the upper path and asked to consider the different ways in which seeds disperse throughout the countryside. Tricia explained the various ways that trees and plants attempt to distribute their seeds to maximise their chances of survival. Noting the kaleidoscope of colours, red, russet and yellow as the leaves of Ash, Sycamore, and Holm Oak were changing colour.

As the Group progressed along their route they spotted the long, silky hairs which form the grey tufted balls that are known as Old Man’s Beard that are so conspicuous in hedgerows in autumn. These silky hairs assist in seed dispersal and interestingly the French name for this plant is ‘herbe aux gueux’ – the beggar’s herb. Beggars were said to use its acrid sap to irritate the skin to give it a sore and ulcerated look in order to induce sympathy and encourage a donation from passers-by.

Among the hedgerows the vivid pink fruits of the Spindle, the blue-black fruit of the Sloes and the red Rosehips could all be seen to add to the colourful autumn display. A nearby Robin was in good voice as the Group came across several Red Admiral butterflies resting on a bush enjoying the heat from the sun. Bracket fungus could be seen attached to the trunk of a large Holm Oak tree and Tricia explained that autumn is the time when the fruit of this important group of living organisms releases thousands of billions of microscopic spores into the air to distribute and reproduce. As two Buzzards were spotted circling high above, Magpies and Woodpigeon were seen on the ground foraging for food. The small green catkins of a Hazel tree made an interesting contrast as well as the black clusters of Privet fruit.

Jane Hayman from the Group said ‘we were fortunate indeed to have such a glorious sunny day for our walk and thanks to Tricia we came away with more knowledge of how to identify trees and plants and an understanding of the ways in which they reproduce themselves’.

 

FCG Beach Clean September 2018

Around 30 members of Ferring Conservation Group met by the beach huts to take part in the last beach clean of 2018. Jenny Gritxi, the event organiser, gathered the Group together and explained that the results would count towards, and be submitted to, the Marine Conservation Society’s annual nationwide beach clean. After the necessary health and safety talk hi-vis jackets, black bags and litter pickers were distributed and Jenny directed the helpers to spread out between the stretch of beach between the Bluebird Café and Sea Lane.

Nine year old Lewis Yates was participating as part of his work towards a Blue Peter Badge in Conservation to add to his collection in other categories.

Although few large items of rubbish were found there was still much evidence of small plastic items, many of which were tucked under foliage, pebbles and rocks. The plastic bag charge seems to have had a significant impact from the evidence of this beach clean. Better wet wipe labelling and an awareness of ‘single use’ plastic items will hopefully improve the situation also going forward.

Jenny remarked that a small toy elephant she had found by the shore was similar to others from a consignment of soft toys that were lost at sea when four shipping containers went overboard in rough seas in 2004.

FCG Visit to the Black Rocks at West Kingston

On 13th August, a sunny but windy evening, around 30 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at the Bluebird Café car park for an early evening walk to the Black Rocks at West Kingston. These rocks lay several hundred metres out from the beach and consist of lumps of conglomerate and are only exposed at an exceptionally low tide. They appear black because they are covered by Serrated Wrack (a dark brown seaweed).

Tricia Hall, the Group’s guide for the evening, made stops along the way to search for as many sea creatures and seaweeds as possible to cross off the list she had provided. Around the Rife outfall area and with the help of two eagle-eyed and very keen children, Tricia soon found some Common Limpets, an Edible Periwinkle, Common Mussels and Dog Whelks. As the Group moved to the middle shore, examples of Sea Lettuce, Gutweed, Spiral Wrack and Cladophora were found along with Irish Moss (sometimes referred to as Carragheen). Many of the three groups of seaweed, green, brown and red are edible and have been eaten in Asian countries for centuries. Seaweed is also used in cosmetics, paint, fertiliser, adhesives, dyes and explosives.

As the Group navigated their way over slippery rocks and pebbles and arrived at the Black Rocks Tricia carefully lifted a small rock from a rock pool, and to the delight of the children found a Broad-Clawed Porcelain Crab, a Squat Lobster and an Orange Jelly Sea Squirt. Graham Tuppen, another keen member of the Group found a delicate Dahlia Anemone, a Beadlet Anemone and Star Ascidian, a jelly-like mass of various colours with tiny star shapes spread over the surface of a small rock.

As the sun went down the Group slowly made their way back to Ferring noting evidence of Sand Mason Worms, Spirobis and Keel Worms in the sand and a Sea Squirt that had washed up on the beach. As around ninety per cent of the list had been ticked off members of the Group thanked Tricia and felt that the walk had been an interesting and enjoyable evening.

FCG’s Butterfly Count and Work Party Report

Anybody driving or walking in Sea Lane, Ferring on the last day of July might have wondered why about 20 people were armed with rakes and working hard on the grass verge at the sea end of the road. Well – these were volunteers from Ferring Conservation Group on one of their monthly work parties around the village.

The task this day was to rake up the cut grass and vegetation after the WSCC grass cutters had been there the previous week and had cut down the Summer’s growth in the lower section of the road. The Group in conjunction with Ferring Parish Council are developing this area as a wildflower refuge, and to assist in the process, the cuttings need to be removed to allow the wildflowers to drop seed and hopefully germinate in the next year. If this work isn’t carried out, the seeds can suffocate under a mat of rotting vegetation, which has occurred in previous years, and has led to a reduction in the number and variety of wildflowers including the attractive Salsify.

The proof of the pudding will be next Spring when we hope there will be an improved display in the raked area, and the efforts of our volunteers will have been worth it. We will have to do it all again next year though!

On the following day, a similar sized group of members met on the Ferring Rife to carry out a survey of butterflies around the lagoon area on the west side of the river as part of the national Big Butterfly Count. Although this hot Summer hasn’t been ideal for much of our wildlife, it does seem that butterflies have generally had a good time. The result of our count was a total of 69 butterflies (with 10 different species) in the South Lagoon, and 79 (again with 10 different species) in the North Lagoon.

There were good numbers of the Common Blue, Gatekeeper and Small White, as well as 3 Painted Ladies, and even a rather tatty Silver-Washed Fritillary, which isn’t a common sight away from woodlands. Sadly, there were no Small Tortoiseshells seen, where in the past the Rife area has been a noted stronghold for them. The results were duly forwarded on to the Butterfly Conservation organisation who collate the count nationally.

FCG Bluebell Walk 22nd May

Members of Ferring Conservation Group met in French Lane, Patching, to look for Bluebells and other wildlife on the beautiful Angmering Park Estate in the heart of the South Downs National Park. Led by Tricia Hall, the Group’s wildlife expert, we headed off across a public footpath in the direction of the woods. As our walk was later in the year than usual we were not expecting to see vast carpets of Bluebells but were delighted to find small shady areas where they still stood proud. As we stopped to admire a large Horse Chestnut in bloom Tricia pointed out the pinnate leaves of a young Ash Tree and we also noticed Hazel and Sweet Chestnut trees and several white butterflies. Our walk was made even more enjoyable by a background chorus of bird song which we could identify as Blackbirds, Robins, Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs.

As we headed towards Long Furlong, Red Campion, related to Sea Campion, made an attractive covering along the edge of the footpaths. Woodland Sedge, Ferns, Yellow Archangel nettles and the delicate white flowers of the Sanicle (a member of the carrot family) were also evident. Two Goldilocks Buttercups were found along with White Dead Nettles and the Oxide Daisies were almost in bloom. We were pleased to see Swallows, Skylarks, two Blackcaps, a Green Woodpecker, several Kestrels and also a Buzzard testing the thermals, this time undisturbed by Crows.

Walking alongside a field of Oilseed Rape a Red Kite could be seen high above us and as we took in the view, a glimpse of the sea could be seen in the distance. The pretty, delicate, white flowers of the Hawthorn were at their best; this deciduous tree is native in the UK and made an attractive contrast against the vivid blue sky. Near a patch of the delicate white flowers and fern-like foliage of Cow Parsley we were pleased to see a Holly Blue butterfly and further along the path a Speckled Wood butterfly.

Approaching the end of the path we were brought back to reality as we once again heard the traffic from the main road through Long Furlong, but we were grateful for the opportunity to remind ourselves how fortunate we are to have such glorious countryside on our doorstep.

FCG Beach Clean

Clear skies and warm sunshine greeted over forty members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met at Ferring Beach for the second beach clean of the year. Once kitted out with hi-vis jackets, black sacks and litter pickers the group was addressed by Thomas Kearns, at nine years old one of the youngest members of the Group. As this was Thomas’ first beach clean he asked members if they would be willing to fill in questionnaires at the end of the session as he wanted to conduct his own small survey to better understand the degree of the problem we face in tackling litter on the beach.

As the members worked across the beach from the Bluebird Café to Sea Lane, including Patterson’s Walk and the area around the beach huts, they were thanked for their efforts by some of the beach users.

The conclusion was that generally the amount of litter collected was less than in previous years but revealed that single-use plastic is still a big problem. After studying the survey questionnaires Thomas said ‘I was surprised at the variety of items found and I will make sure that when my friends visit the beach they take their litter home with them’. The common cause of seabird deaths is marine plastic and leatherback turtles have been found in UK waters with throats tangled with plastic bags that they mistook for jellyfish.

 Unfortunately discarded bagged dog faeces were still evident and people seem not to appreciate that this is still regarded in law as litter. In April this year the Government introduced Fixed Penalty Notices for all forms of littering in the UK.

Latest News From FCG

Members of Ferring Conservation Group have been busy recently with more practical work carried out in the village, as well as taking part in a local guided bird walk.

A group of volunteers descended on the Village Green, as part of their series of regular monthly work parties, to re-plant the existing herb bed near to the children’s’ playground. This was planted with a variety of herbs including Borage, Hyssop and Chives among others, which were specifically chosen as being beneficial to pollinators. Following this, the group moved on to the nearby Little Twitten recreation ground, where in agreement with Ferring Cricket Club and Arun District Council, they planted a number of mainly native trees including Silver Birch and Sweet Chestnut near to the path that leads through the park.

Wheatear

Two days later, a decent sized group of members met on the Goring Greensward for guided walk by local bird expert and member, Clive Hope around the Goring Gap. Although the sea and beach were strangely quiet for birds, it wasn’t long before up to four Wheatears were seen on or around fence posts surrounding part of the Gap itself, while four or five recently arrived Swallows were seen swooping low over the crops feeding on the insects there. It reminded us just how important the Gap is for all sorts of wildlife, and that any possible development of even part of it must be strongly resisted.

The walk continued into the woodland of The Plantation where a wide variety of woodland birds were seen and heard. These included Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrush, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Great Tit and Blue Tit among others.

FCG’s Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve

With a fine day on our side members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Warnham Nature Reserve to take advantage of the chance to explore this gem of a wildlife haven tucked away near the town of Horsham. This 92 acres of land was designated as a nature reserve in 1988 and includes a 17 acre millpond, marshes, grassland, reed beds, hedges and woodland. This creates the perfect environment for 400 species of plants, over 100 species of bird, a heronry, wildfowl and the three species of Woodpecker have also been identified here along with 21 species of dragonfly.

Jacob Everitt, Ecology and Reserve Manager, welcomed us and as he led us towards the millpond we were treated to the sight of a solitary Buzzard testing the thermals high above us. As we settled ourselves into the hide we could see Tufted Ducks, Pochard Ducks, Teal, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Mandarin Ducks, numerous Herring Gulls, Blackheaded Gulls, one Common Gull and a large Heron. Whilst admiring five Cormorants sitting in a distant tree on the far side we were delighted to catch a glimpse of a resident Kingfisher as it flashed past us.

As we left the millpond we spotted a Green Woodpecker and noticed the dipping pond, a purpose built pond with a wooden platform on one side used by visiting children for pond dipping sessions. Making our way to the second hide we were surprised to see a male and a female Siskin feeding from the bird feeders along with Coal Tits, and a Nuthatch. A Wren and Blackbird were seen on nearby shrubs and a Moorhen and male Pheasant came foraging for dropped seed on the ground.

Jacob then suggested we make our way along the boardwalk and as we walked along we remarked on the catkins and primroses and were surprised to see a Bee fly past us; all signs that Spring is on its way. To make a very enjoyable visit even more memorable one of our keen eyed members noticed a Tree Creeper on the trunk of a tall tree. These birds are difficult to spot as their plumage is the perfect camouflage against a tree trunk. At first sight these small birds look very much like mice as they hop up tree trunks but unlike the similar Nuthatch, Tree Creepers cannot climb down again, instead they must leap off and fly to the base of the next tree to continue their endless search for beetles, earwigs and woodlice to pull out of the bark.

As we made our way back to the car park we agreed that this wonderful reserve is definitely worth a second visit.