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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ferring Conservation Group’s monthly Working Party met at the Village Green and was attended by 10 members. This month they concentrated on cutting back the Dogwood and Buddleia shrubs. Also the herb bed was dug over ready for planting more herbs later in the spring.
Chairman of the Group, David Bettiss, and Tricia Hall visited the local Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice to present their fund raiser Caroline Roberts-Quigley with a cheque for well over £700 – this being the proceeds for the seventh year running of the sale of Christmas cards produced by the Group. Over these years, thousands of pounds have been raised for this excellent cause.
Members of Ferring Conservation Group have recently been carrying out more practical work in the village in order to improve our local environment and particularly to make it a more welcoming place for our wildlife.
In the first of our regular monthly small work parties, a number of members met at the Glebelands Recreation Ground in the centre of the village to carry out some practical work around the Community Orchard. The main task was to cut back the invasive brambles that had grown up in the small copse of trees that back on to the fruit trees themselves and had threatened to overwhelm them. This was completed quickly and efficiently, and without too many scratches from the enormous thorns! The trees will be very grateful for the removal of some of the competition.
The Group has also arranged the installation of a large Tawny Owl nest box and a slightly smaller bat box in the copses at the Little Twitten Recreation Ground, just off Sea Lane.
The Owl box had been in place at the Warren Pond in the village, but it hadn’t been successful and it was felt better to move it to a location where Tawny Owls have been heard on a regular basis. It was quite a technical task to mount it in a suitable tree, and the services of an excellent local tree surgery company, Mr Tree (based in Worthing), were required to complete the job safely. Proper climbing equipment was deployed the tree surgeon, Shane Jones, and he was able to abseil back down to ground level when he had finished.
The bat box had been donated by two of our committee members, Lindsey and Chris Green, and this was fixed to a suitable large Sycamore tree in another part of the Recreation Ground.
Time will tell, but we hope that the local Tawny Owls and bats approve of what we’ve done for them, especially as their natural nesting sites are reducing in number and suitability. We’ll be keeping an eye on the boxes, which are in addition to the significant number of smaller nest boxes that we’ve already put up around the village (thanks are due to committee member Graham Tuppen for refurbishing many of the boxes this Winter) , and we’ll be reporting on any developments.
The next of the monthly work parties will take place from 10am on Tuesday 6 March, meeting on the Village Green. The task will be to cut back some of the bushes and generally tidy up the area that we look after. Please bring secateurs and loppers if you have them, and wear suitable clothing.
With ideal weather conditions on our side members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Michelgrove Lane on the Angmering Park Estate, in the hope of seeing a variety of bird life. We were not disappointed. This private estate extends to over 6,750 acres and is owned by the Trustees of the late Bernard, 16th Duke of Norfolk with its origins going back to the Norman Conquest.
As we made our way along the lane towards Harrow Hill, pausing to hear the distinctive call of Pheasants, we sighted both male and females foraging in fields along with Jackdaws and Ravens. As a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past we noticed Hazel catkins, Blackthorn berries, commonly known as Sloe, wild Rose-hips, Field Maple, Dogwood and Ash lining the edges of the lane. Walking further up the Downs a Buzzard could be heard calling and then appeared on the horizon pursued by two Crows. A shrill call alerted us to a Skylark perched on telephone wires, a Corn Bunting, several Meadow Pipits, a Chaffinch and a Song Thrush were also seen in the vicinity.
After negotiating two stiles and a particularly slippery footpath, Black Patch Hill came into view and Common Gulls, Partridge, including Red-legged Partridge, Stock Doves and Woodpigeon were seen in distant fields, and silhouetted against the skyline three Buzzards were seen perched in a tree. As we turned to make our way back we were rewarded with the sight of two Red Kite circling high above us pursued by Crows, and a Kestrel hovering over a field searching for prey. Having once again found our way back to the lane a Chiff Chaff and three Goldcrest were spotted in the bushes. As we neared our starting point a Stoat crossed the lane directly in front of us and quickly disappeared into the undergrowth, adding yet another interesting sighting to our morning.
Together with the more common birds we noted some 25 species as well as several Red Admiral butterflies along the way. We thanked our guide, Clive Hope, for an enjoyable and informative walk and we all agreed this was a worthwhile exercise.
Kathryn Stillman kindly sent us a photograph she took of 24 Little Egrets in a tree on the west bank of the Rife opposite the footpath to Clover Lane.