It is now passable, but paths on both banks are still very muddy and slippery (22/2/2020)
In addition to the scheduled September working party, members of Ferring Conservation Group were joined by a group of 15 enthusiastic members from ‘The Good Gym’. This Group of volunteers from the Worthing area like to keep fit by running together to help older people with one-off tasks; to visit isolated older people and also to help with community projects. From the South Downs to the sea they run with the intention of helping those most in need.
The task in hand was to improve the growth of wild flowers for next year after the recent grass cutting on the stretch of verge along Sea Lane in Ferring. This band of happy workers came suitably equipped with rakes as they had arranged for a car to deliver the equipment to the site ready for them to utilise in removing the grass cuttings.
Ferring Conservation Group would like to take this opportunity to thank the Good Gym for their valuable contribution in making this laborious task much easier to complete and also much more fun with such cheerful company.
They are always looking for new runners to join them and further information can be found at: www.goodgym.org
This magnificent Wasp Spider was discovered near the Rife during the ‘Big Butterfly Count’ on 1st August. The photograph shows the female in her orb web which has a decoration called a stabilimentum which may attract insect prey.
Please see ‘Nature Notes’ to find out more about this fascinating spider.
Meeting in the Bluebird Café car park at the southern end of the Rife, 11 enthusiastic members of Ferring Conservation Group split themselves into two groups and set off along the west bank to endeavour to count as many butterflies and moths as they could find. Tricia Hall gave out lists for members to cross off together with sheets of photographs to help with identification. The two Groups were hoping to see the sun come out to warm the air as this encourages butterflies to immerge from their resting places.
Jointly the two groups found nine different species with a total of 54 individuals in the south lagoon and 43 in the north lagoon. There were 58 Gatekeepers, over half the total found. There were only 3 Common Blues but this included a fresh female. Only one Red Admiral was seen and no Peacocks or Small Tortoiseshells. A limited number of Large and Small Whites and Speckled Wood butterflies were counted and the commonest day-flying moth was a Shaded Broad-Bar.
The results of all the butterflies and moths found have been added to the Butterfly Conservation ‘Big Butterfly Count’ survey. This nationwide survey is helping to assess the health of our environment as butterflies react very quickly to change which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world’s largest survey of butterflies with over 100,000 people taking part in 2018.
Tricia commented that “more species may have been seen if the sun had come out”, as the lagoons are a mass of flowers at present, possibly benefitting from recent rain which should have provided ideal conditions. The only dragonflies seen were the reddish Common Darter, a bright blue Emperor male and an extremely tatty old female Emperor with terribly torn wings.
The highlight for one group was an uncommon Wasp Spider in a damp area of the north lagoon found by Graham Tuppen, one of the Group’s ultra-alert participants. This introduced species has a bright yellow and black abdomen to mimic wasps and thus avoid predators.
On a sunny, but breezy day, the village of Ferring held their 2019 Summer Village Fair where this popular annual event provided a vibrant and friendly environment for villagers to come together and remind themselves of the many groups and organisations represented that the village has to offer.
Ferring Conservation Group were fortunate enough to have their stall in the marquee which provided welcome shelter from the wind and prevented the stallholders having to chase any display items across the village green. With an excellent number of visitors to their stall, 20 new members were signed up with many people looking forward to attending the Group’s monthly meetings and joining the Group’s walks and visits.
On a stormy looking morning a group of us made our way to Brighton Marina hoping that weather conditions would allow the planned boat trip to the Rampion Wind Farm to take place. Fortunately the wind remained low, with only a small sea swell, and the skipper welcomed us on-board Defiance.
It took about an hour to steam to the site and the skipper cruised slowly through the farm allowing us close views of the turbines and offshore substation. He then hove-to and spoke about construction, commissioning and maintenance of the farm and answered our questions. We were all very impressed with his knowledge, including details of the actions taken by the constructors to protect fauna and flora, such as suspending piling operation during the breeding season of Black Bream. Although we experienced only a small sea swell, while we were hove-to the boat started to roll rather wildly and the skipper had to reposition it, much to our relief. We also had tea and biscuits, which was very welcome, although challenging!
The Rampion project has 116 wind turbines, with the closest about 13km from the shore. Each turbine tower is 80m high with total height to blade tip of 140m. Cables from each turbine are gathered at an offshore substation, requiring 144km of buried cable in total, before coming ashore to the east of Worthing at Brooklands Pleasure Park. Cables run North across the South Downs about 28km to Bolney Wood, where a new substation connects the project to the National Grid. Cables were laid in ducts and buried throughout the route.
Construction of the project started in 2015 with completion in 2018. The installation now provides sufficient electricity for 347,000 homes and is operational for about 30% of the year. The overall operation of the turbines and offshore substation is entirely automatic, including turbine direction and feathering of the turbine blades to achieve maximum power output. Nonetheless, maintenance crews visit the site every day from their operations base in Shoreham.
As we returned to shore, the rain that had threatened all morning finally started to fall, but we enjoyed views of the Brighton seafront buildings, including the burnt out Western Pier and the new i360 tower. We all thought it had been a very enjoyable trip made particularly memorable by the skipper Paul.
by Michael Brown
A perfect summer day greeted 16 enthusiastic members of Ferring Conservation Group when they met in the car park at Highdown Hill for a morning walk to enjoy the colourful blooms of summer and see birds and butterflies on the wing that frequent this stunning area of the South Downs. Even whilst waiting for the Group to assemble, members were treated to the sight of a solitary Buzzard testing the thermals who was soon joined at a distance by three Red Kites whose strikingly marked wings made them easy to identify. Also a Sparrowhawk carrying its prey put in an appearance in the clear blue sky.
With Tricia Hall leading the Group with help from several other knowledgeable members they set off up the hill along a path edged with long grasses that proved an ideal habitat for many species of wildlife. A Large Emperor Dragonfly was the first to be spotted and as a noisy Wren called out from a nearby tree, and Crickets clicked away in the long grass, the first of many Meadow Brown butterflies was seen along with a Brown Skipper and an unidentified day-flying moth. Amongst the pretty long grasses the yellow Meadow Vetchling was evident along with a few Pyramidal orchids, purple Tufted Vetch and the pinkish white flowers of the Yarrow. A Thick-kneed beetle and a Common Soldier beetle were spotted in the vicinity and a Cinnabar moth.
On reaching the top of Highdown Hill Tricia led the Group down along the north side of a meadow where Red and White Clover and Goat’s Beard (also known as ‘Jack goes to bed at noon’ so named as its flowers always close by midday) were interspersed with many more Pyramidal orchids which had attracted many Bees. Wild Thyme could be seen in a hollow at the side of the meadow and also nearby were the yellow spikes of the Wild Mignonette, while the creamy white flowers with fluffy underlying sepals of Old Man’s Beard were plentiful in the Hawthorn bushes that edged the meadow.
As the Group headed back to the top of Highdown Hill once again, Clive Hall pointed out a Yellow Hammer perched on a nearby bush which gave keen photographers an excellent opportunity for a close up photograph. The long grassland in this area is the perfect nesting site for the Skylark and the Group were soon rewarded when Graham Tuppen came across an intricately made nest containing three brownish coloured eggs laid by this pretty bird. This was duly photographed taking great care not to disturb the area where it was discovered. As several Swallows flew overhead the Group were left in no doubt that summer had indeed arrived.
Altogether 11 butterfly species were identified and Tricia commented that “it was wonderful to see hundreds of Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns and also good to see a Ringlet, the first seen in the Ferring area for a while”.
As Tricia led the Group through the meadow below Highdown Gardens, beautiful Meadow Cranesbill, pink Musk Mallow, Field Scabious and Chicory were in full bloom also the frothy yellow flowers of Lady’s Bedstraw scented the air with honey and when dried these flowers have the scent of new mown-hay. Its name is probably derived for the tradition of stuffing straw mattresses with it, particularly those of women about to give birth.
At the end of the walk as they neared Highdown Tea Rooms, looking forward to welcome refreshments, a magnificent male Stag Beetle was found displaying its impressive mandibles (these appear as large pincers used to crush prey).
The walkers thanked Tricia for imparting her considerable knowledge and opening their eyes to all the amazing wildlife that this wonderful area has to offer, and all agreed that ‘it was rather a good morning’.
Over forty willing volunteers met at the Bluebird Café car park to carry out Ferring Conservation Group’s first beach clean of the year with help from the youngest volunteer to date, Sophia, at almost three years old. The group spread along the beach as far as Sea Lane with some volunteers working along the shoreline while others concentrated on the foreshore area. The usual items were collected, mainly small pieces of plastic, fishing line, nylon rope etc., plus a small number of larger items. The small items collected are just as important to remove as these can easily be ingested by marine life as well as wading birds. The strangest item found was an arrow head in the beach hut area and it is hoped that no living thing was used as target practice. Unusually there were many cartilaginous shark skulls found entangled in seaweed along the shoreline – the skeleton of these sharks are made entirely from cartilage.
On a morning that was bright and clear, but a bit chilly, members of Ferring Conservation Group recently travelled the short distance to Clapham Woods (just off the Long Furlong road) for a woodland bluebell walk ably led by Group committee member, Graham Tuppen.
Setting off across the fields by the village church, the group was soon in the woods, where the display of bluebells and particularly wood anemones could be seen in all their glory. The bluebells were probably a week or so from their best, but the anemones were undoubtedly at their peak and formed a dense carpet. Plenty of other woodland plants were identified, including the delicate greater stitchwort, dog’s mercury, wild strawberries, lords-and-ladies, dog-violets and even the first flower spikes of early-purple orchids. It was a most enjoyable guided walk, and in addition to the plants some magnificent tree examples were seen including a massive beech tree, which it was estimated must be hundreds of years old.
The group was also lucky enough to hear and see a variety of woodland birds. Many of these were the usual suspects, such as blue tits, robins and pheasants, but a number of nuthatch were heard calling throughout the walk and eventually seen in the oak tree in the car park. The prize for the best sounding bird though must have been the mellifluous song of the mistle thrush.
A visit to these woods, especially at this time of year, is fully recommended as a welcome escape into our local natural environment.
Ferring Conservation Group’s annual clean-up of the banks of the Rife took place on Saturday 23rd March. Around twenty five members, including two keen junior members, met in the Bluebird Café car park and as in previous years once the usual litter pickers, hi-vis jackets and black bags had been issued the group formed two teams with each team working in parallel along the east and west banks.
Owing to the exceptionally early warm weather this year, the nettles along the banks had already grown making it more of a challenge to spot litter in the foliage but this didn’t pose a problem for Eoin Kearns, the youngest member of the Group, as his keen eyes found many items and he soon completely filled his sack. Around twenty bags of litter were collected in all, with the majority of items found on the east bank in the bushes and down the footpaths. Along with the usual types of litter a child’s cushion and a pair of shorts (probably discarded by a playful fox) were collected and signs of spring were seen along the way including a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a Bumblebee.
The Rife in Ferring is a haven for wildlife including Little Egrets, Moorhens and Water Voles, also many wildflowers can be found along the banks making this area an important wildlife sanctuary. Therefore it is important that all visitors respect this and take their litter home with them or place it in the bins provided in the Bluebird Café car park or at Ferring Country Centre.