Group Meeting – 31st January 2020

For the first meeting of 2020 Ferring Conservation Group, with a near record attendance, welcomed back Lee Morgan from Lutra Wildlife, a British Columbia based travel and Ecotourism Company offering guided natural history and wildlife holidays. On Lee’s second visit to the Group he gave a fascinating presentation entitled ‘The Natural History of the Canadian Rockies (Beyond the Roads and Rails).

Lee explained that to optimize your chances of spotting the iconic wildlife of the Canadian Rocky Mountains a lot has to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time given the vastness of the area. There are certain places where animals are known to frequent, but part of the magic is that you never know when you are going to see something. Many tourists to the region make the mistake of trying to cover a large area to see as much as possible not realising that this would entail hour upon hour of driving with little time to take in the spectacular scenery, let alone get close to any wildlife. Lee advised the audience that the best time of the year to witness wildlife in their natural habitat is during the slower tourist seasons of spring, autumn and winter. This is when many of the animals move to lower elevations and near towns for mating rituals and food. As an example he informed the audience that during the elk rutting season from mid-September through October the bulls concentrate in the lower elevation meadows to fight over females. The bulls are extremely aggressive at this time so it is advisable to keep your distance.

Autumn is also the time when bears are actively foraging as they need to put on as much fat as possible before going into hibernation. Bighorn sheep are visible all year round but autumn and winter are the best times to spot the males as they are actively searching for mates.

In the spring as the snow begins to thaw in the lower valleys, the wildlife can be seen foraging for grass along the road sides. You may see female elk grouped together in meadows with their new calves. Bighorn sheep and deer start to bring their young to the grassy areas as well. The odd bear can sometimes be seen as early as mid-March but most will start to come out of hibernation in late April.

As summer approaches the temperatures rise and this causes wildlife to head higher up the alpine terrain. Lee commented that, surprisingly, the lesser visited Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay National parks can offer some of the best opportunities to see wildlife. These parks have a lower level of tourist traffic and a more varied habitat than the area of Banff.

Lee illustrated his presentation with a series of stunning photographs.

Ed Miller took to the floor to give an update on planning issues by advising the Group that the application for an additional property in the grounds of Elm Lodge, Tamarisk Way had been refused by Arun DC. There are two new applications: at 40, Little Paddocks to demolish the existing property and build 2 x 3 bed detached chalet bungalows and a 3 bed residence has been proposed at the Equestrian centre alongside Littlehampton Road. The office block at McIntyre’s Lane and the extended delivery times at Quercus Nursery have not yet been decided.

Tricia Hall concluded the meeting with her popular Nature Notes saying that it had been reported on the television news that a byelaw is to be introduced to prevent trawlers from entering the kelp bed areas along the Sussex coast .This will hopefully result in these vitally important regions recovering over time. Tricia also reported that the National Big Bird Watch revealed that sparrows were the most plentiful bird seen followed by bluetits in second place.

Bird News January 2020

January sightings are recorded on the nature notes page. A highlight just before Christmas were 6 Brent Geese on Goring Gap.There have been poor numbers of birds this winter with fewer waders.  The weather has been mild but terribly wet which has not encouraged bird watching but the general concensus is that there have not been so many birds on the Sussex coast this winter.