FCG Outing to Patching Hill on Thursday, 27th August led by Clive Hope.

Seventeen members in three bubbles assembled at the small parking area at the north end of Patching at 10am and made their way up the footpath onto the Hill. The weather remained dry but grey and cool. We took our time checking the bushes and grassland for any interesting birds, insects and plants and slowly made our way up to the woodland briefly entering the Angmering Park Estate before retracing our steps via the small reservoir on the lower path and so back to the cars.

Few birds were seen on the outward leg, the highlights being Greenfinches, Kestrel, Buzzard, distant Red Kite and, rather strangely, a Little Egret flying over. The hoped for migrants had largely moved on with just a Willow Warbler and Whitethroat glimpsed. Overhead 2 House Martins and 3 or 4 Swallows appeared, a Raven croaked and there were Jackdaws calling.

On the return, we saw a party of 12 to 15 Yellowhammers along the hedgerow bordering the path, together with a single Linnet and an obliging Whitethroat. Other common birds were Goldfinches, Robins, Blue Tits, Wood Pigeons, Herring Gulls, Blackbird, Magpies and Crows.

In spite of the lack of sunshine we found a number of butterflies, many roosting but this gave us a chance to examine their undersides which often show good camouflage: Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Small Copper, Common Blue, Speckled Wood and Small White.

Plants included Small Scabious, Eyebright, Red Bartsia, many beautiful Harebells and a single Round-headed Rampion after which the offshore wind farm is named.

We also admired the enormous mature trees at the entrance to the Angmering Estate, especially the Beeches, Oaks and Ashes and we found a few fungi including Southern Bracket on Beech and Oyster mushrooms on a fallen log.

Afterwards, seven of us went to the Highdown cafe for a snack. It was a very enjoyable outing with a lively and interested group. It is lovely for the Conservation Group to be out and about again.

A Walk along the Ferring Rife to look at Wildlife – 20th August 2020

Despite a gloomy start to the morning, members of Ferring Conservation Group met at the Bluebird Café car park to take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the Rife. Tricia Hall, their guide for the morning, set a challenge to find ten listed butterflies along the way, as well as looking for wild flowers, trees and birds. Fortunately the sun showed its face as members split into two socially distanced groups and followed Tricia along the west bank heading north towards Ferring Country Centre. They were soon surprised by the abundance of wild flowers that adorned the bank, including Meadowsweet, Great Willow Herb, Yarrow and Yellow Loosestrife and the familiar Michaelmas Daisies were also evident.

As the Group approached the Lagoons members were dismayed to witness they had all dried out. Some members commented that these are a valuable water source for many wildlife species and would therefore need to be dug out to a greater depth to prevent total evaporation. Although the lagoons failed to present any interesting sightings a male Common Darter Dragon Fly was spotted resting on a stone nearby.

Set against a backdrop of Elders, Sliver Birch, Field Maple, Willow, Mountain Ash and a few Black Poplars, several Gelder Rose bushes were already laden with bright red berries. In the hedgerows wild blackberries were ripening off and it was noticed that Sloes were also plentiful this year. Tricia pointed out four Little Egrets and two Herons perched together on the same large tree; a regular resting place for these related birds.

Along the way members reported the following butterfly sightings; a Green Veined White, a Small White, four Speckled Wood, a Gatekeeper and many Red Admiral.

Welcome refreshments were taken at Ferring Country Centre where members thanked Tricia for a very enjoyable morning and agreed it was good to experience a Group activity once again.

Ferring Conservation Group has had to postpone all forthcoming Group meetings until further notice. Please visit:  ferringconservationgroup.co.uk  –  for the latest news.

 

 

Nature Notes – 16th June

A few Small Tortoiseshell butterflies have been seen on the Rife. Once exceedingly common, they are now only seen in very small numbers. Their eggs are laid on nettles and there are plenty of these on the Rife so it is unclear why they are in steep decline. If you see any in your garden please report them to me to my email address: pat@pathallpics.co.uk. If you walk up onto Highdown, the Marbled Whites have just emerged. Look out also for the Large and Small Skippers.

If you have an opportunity to travel up to the Knepp Estate on the A24 (only 20 minutes by car from Ferring) you will just catch the young storks before they leave their nest. This is the first time ever for 400 years that storks have bred in this country and right on our doorstep. A unique and wonderful experience which you may have seen on Springwatch.

If you are confined to your garden, look out for all the small ‘bugs’ that are visiting our plants. If you have a herb bed, you may see the delightful little Mint Moth. You could make a list of all the insects that you see in your garden: Ladybirds, Greenflies, Dragonflies, Damselflies, Bees, Wasps, Flies, Hover flies and Beetles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature Notes – 5th June

Yesterday, a Spoonbill was spotted by Ron and Jan Tutheridge flying over Goring Gap.

A Cuckoo was also seen and many people have reported hearing a Cuckoo in the second half of May, especially over the Rife and further west. Yesterday, also, Clive Hope saw 4 Bottlenose Dolphins following a trawler off Ferring beach and David Campbell saw 6. So keep looking! Peter Dale has reported a few Bee Orchids in the North Lagoon together with Early Marsh Orchids. In the ‘Yurt’ field up McIntyre’s Lane Graham Tuppen has found 18 Bee Orchids.

On the reservoir there are small numbers of Pyramidal Orchids amongst the dry grasses, back after being mown to death for several years. It is very dry on the reservoir but I don’t think it has been mown. Highdown Hill is looking very dry but there are lots of Skylarks and a few Yellowhammers. Although the vegetation is parched, there are extraordinary numbers of Yellow Rattle flowers and the purple Lesser Knapweeds (Hardheads) are coming into flower.

The meadow below Highdown Gardens is covered in an astonishing number of Ox-eye Daisies. There are also many Common Broomrapes, a curious parasitic plant that produces no chlorophyll. It has pale yellow/fawn flowers and stems and no leaves.

The only butterflies of note are many Small Heaths on Highdown and some bright-blue newly-emerged Common Blues. In woodland, Speckled Woods are flitting about. At Patching there are Grizzled Skippers and Dingy Skippers and a few bright red and black Cinnabar Moths.

Finally, on June 1st on Cissbury, I saw a male Northern Wheatear, a very striking black and white bird. This is a very late record for a bird that may be making its way back to Greenland to breed.

Bee Orchid in a field near Highdown

Pyramidal Orchids on Highdown

Lesser Knapweed

Ox-eye Daisies in meadow below Highdown

Common Blue on Highdown

Speckled Wood at Patching

Wheatear on Cissbury

Salsify on Sea Lane – Monday 11th May

Good news! Salsify is flourishing again on Sea Lane. The flowers are purple/pink and the plant is tall with greyish, long, thin leaves. It belongs to the daisy family, the

Salsify

Compositae, and is closely related to Goatsbeard which has yellow flowers. Goatsbeard is also known as ‘Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon’ because the flowers usually only open in the morning. So, if you want to see the flowers, look towards the bottom of Sea Lane on a sunny morning.

Salsify also grows in my front garden in Clover Lane probably because I took photos and carried the seeds home.

Salsify on Sea Lane

The seeds form a conspicuous brown coloured ‘clock’. Salsify roots are edible and it is probable that its appearance in the countryside is as a result of escapes from garden vegetable plots.

Nature Notes – 3rd May

Now that the weather is not so good, you could try these ideas from the comfort of your house:

If you are still feeding birds, open your windows and try taking photos of birds on your feeders. You can even try through the glass. Even better if you can get a picture of a bird in a tree.

If you have a nest box or you know where a robin or blackbird, say, has made a nest, try keeping a record of activities: taking in nesting materials, feeding young and fledglings. Keep a note of key dates and you can even record your findings on the website of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO): www.bto.org.

 

A walk up the Rife is a must in May. The white Cow Parsley is in full bloom all along the banks and the Yellow Flags (Yellow Iris) are just coming out. Soon, the Early Marsh Orchids will be in bloom.

 

Two birds to look out for on the Rife which like the reeds. Reed Buntings sing from the tops of reeds or from bushes. Their song is a dull few notes but they are a lovely bird. Reed Warblers sing from lower down in the reeds and have an interesting chatty, jittery song which seems to go round in circles. They make their nests in the reeds whereas Reed Buntings usually nest in scrubby vegetation nearby.

 

 

 

 

 

Local Wildlife Sightings – 20th April

Butterflies: the early blues are Holly Blue and there are now Comma,
Peacock and Red Admiral, Green-veined Whites as well as Small White, Brimstones and lots of Orange Tips.

Look out for Bee Flies – they have a characteristic long pointed proboscis which is not only used for gathering nectar but also as an ovipositor into a host mining bee which it parasitises. Also keep an eye out for bright red Lilly Beetles.
If you want to help bees, why not make a home-made Bee Hotel (see
photo) and this is the perfect time to leave part of your lawn unmown to
make a mini-meadow.

There is a litter of 6 fox cubs nearby from a den under a shed is a nearby garden. The father helps feed the cubs while the mother keeps mainly in the den.

Clive Hall has reported a few mornings of passage migration over the
sea: Sandwich and Commic Terns, Common Scoter, Med. Gulls, Brent Geese,
Whimbrel, Arctic Skua, Kittiwake, Bar-tailed Godwit.
Common Whitethroat are back on the Rife but only a few Willow Warblers
heard. On Highdown,and especially up McIntyre’s Lane there are pairs of
Linnets, Common Whitethroat. Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff
and lots of Skylarks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Woodland Spring Flowers – 13th April

If you are lucky enough to be near woodland or can walk along hedgerows, April is the perfect time to identify woodland flowers. Most flower early before they are shaded by the tree canopy above. The following is a list of 20 found in Patching Woods. See how many you can find, some may even be in your garden:-

Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) white/pink flowers

Primrose (Primula vulgaris) pale yellow flowers, large crinkly leaves

Bluebell (Endymion non-scriptus) blue, with cream anthers, long thin leaves

Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) tiny, inconspicuous flowers

Violet (Viola species) blue/purple flowers, heart-shaped leaves

White Dead-nettle (Lamium album) white flowers, nettle-like leaves

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata) white flowers, other name Jack-by-the-Hedge

Ladies Smock (Cardamine pratensis) pale pink flowers, other name Cuckoo Flower

Greater Stitchwort (Stellaria holostea) white flowers, quite tall

Red Campion (Silene dioica) red flowers, tall

Lords-and-Ladies (Arum maculatum) purple or yellow spadix with green spathe (hood)

Wild Garlic (Allium ursinum) white flowers, strong-smelling, edible

Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) violet/blue flowers, leaves kidney-shaped

Red Dead-nettle (Lamium purpureum) pink/purple flowers, square stems

Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides) tall, tiny flowers in yellow/green, cup-like  bracts

Wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) white flowers, trefoil leaves, in ancient woods

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) glossy yellow flowers, heart-shaped leaves

Goldilocks Buttercup  (Ranunculus auricomus) small yellow variable petals, divided leaves

Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) purple flowers in spike, black spots on leaves

Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) very tall with purple flowers, large soft leaves

To help you identify the flowers, you can take photos on your phone or camera and then use the internet or an identification book to help you.  I can recommend The Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Blamey, Fitter and Fitter, second edition, 2013. Please do not pick the flowers. If you make your own list in a note book, record when and where you find the flowers and then you will build up a useful plant list.

A collage of 12 of these woodland flowers may help your identification.

Butterfly Observations – 7th April

The warm weather is beginning to bring out the butterflies. Look out for the following in your garden or on your daily walk. These are common April butterflies:

Peacock, often a pair doing a dance, spiralling into the air.

Small Tortoiseshell, often sunning itself on the ground.

Orange Tip, small, the female has grey rather than orange tips.

Small White, the first of the ‘cabbage whites’ to emerge.

Green-veined White, like Small White but underside has grey/green veins.

Brimstone, yellow, distinctive shape, female very pale yellow.

These 6 butterflies are shown on the collage to help you. See if you can tick off all 6 by the end of the month. Have you started your plant list yet? Now you can make a list of butterflies as well! Let me know if you record all six. There are other species as well which you may see. You could try and photograph them if they settle.

Look out for other insects in your garden. Have you seen a Bee Fly? They are very common this year.

The 10 Wild Flower Challenge – 3rd April

Being confined to Ferring, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know your local wild flowers. Your challenge is to go and identify the 10 flowers I have listed below. Many are what you may call weeds but some can look lovely in a wild place in your garden. I have suggested where you may find them:

Little Paddocks Ground Ivy, blue flowers, Lungwort, pink/purple flowers, Borage, blue flowers, lots on wild flower bed, Little Twitten White Dead-nettle, white flowers, everywhere

Red Dead-nettle, in your garden?

Violets, blue, Highdown in chalk pit, Little Paddocks

Cowslips, yellow, in meadow below Highdown Gardens

Ivy-leaved Toadflax, purple, on walls

Shepherd’s Purse, tiny white flowers, in your garden?

Groundsel, tiny yellow flowers, in your garden?

My suggestion is that you make a list of these plants in a note book. See if you can find each one, then make columns for the date, where found and notes on identity. You can then build up your own plant list. Let me know if you do this!

The pictures are to help you but I have not named them!

This weekend it will get warmer and the winds are coming round to the south so look out for migrant birds arriving. There may be more butterflies too. Another list?