Bluebell Walks

On a warm Saturday 13th April, 12 members of the group met in Clapham Church car park. Led by Graham Tuppen,  we walked through the woods, admiring the bluebells, wood anemones, celandines, greater stitchwort and primroses. Despite searching, no early purple orchids were spotted.

A diversion from the main path took us to a magnificent beech tree, which apparently has a somewhat questionable history, and then to a delightful spot at the woods’ edge overlooking Long Furlong and Blackpatch Hill.

A lot of coppicing has been carried out recently, partially with the aim of encouraging silver-washed fritillary butterflies by improving the habitat for their caterpillars’ food plants. We finished with a look around Clapham Church.

A small group of members met on a delightfully sunny Monday 29th April morning, for a walk to see the bluebells and early purple orchids in Patching woods and part of the Norfolk Estate, again guided by Graham.

The bluebells were still lovely, and the early purple orchids were putting on a great show.

Other flowers spotted in the woods and near the village were greater stitchwort, a few late wood anemones, celandines, wood spurge, red campion, yellow archangel, herb robert, alkanet, some Californian poppies, and speedwell.

Jackie Seymour led the butterfly spotting, with large whites, brimstones, speckled wood, red admiral, peacock and orange tips. An interesting black and red froghopper insect was also spotted.

Birds included a red kite and buzzards. (Photos by Peter Dale and Lynda Monger)

Late April and May events

In addition to the main meeting this coming Friday (26th) at Ferring Village Hall at 2.30pm on the Broadwater and Worthing Cemetery, we have the following events coming up:

1. An extra Bluebell Walk – this time in Patching Woods next Monday 29th April, meeting at the usual place in France Lane just south of the main village at 1030am. We should be seeing some early Orchids there in addition to the Bluebells. Please note there are a number of stiles to cross, and it may still be muddy in places.

2. Monthly Community Project morning Thursday 2nd May – an hour’s work, meeting at the Sea Lane boat at the sea end of the road at 10am. The plan is to dig out and replant the boat with fresh soil etc, plus if time, some work at the Raised Shingle Beds further along Patterson’s Walk. Please bring a spade and trowel etc if you have them.

3. Annual Memorial Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve near Horsham (just off A24 and signposted) to remember our good friends Tricia and Mike Hall – Friday 10th May, meeting there at the opening time of 10am. Please note there is a small entrance fee (cards only) and a coffee shop plus facilities. Please lift share if at all possible.

4. A small impromptu repeat of the above Warnham visit to anybody who can’t make it on that date. This one will be the following week on Thursday 16th May, also meeting at 10am.

5. First Beach Clean of the year – Sunday 19th May, meeting at the east end of the Bluebird Cafe car park as usual at 11am. All equipment will be provided.

A lot going on for your interest then, and if weather might be an issue on the day, please check the website for any updates.

 

Butterfly Count at Cissbury Ring

On Tuesday 18th July members of Ferring Conservation Group, led by Clive Hope,Graham Tuppen and Jackie Hall, met at Cissbury Ring to take part in the Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count.

Gatekeeper Butterfly

It was a lovely sunny day, with only a gentle breeze, so the conditions were favourable and in all 19 varieties of butterflies, 3 of moths, with numbers of some species well into the 20s. The Group saw Large, Small and Marbled White, Brimstone, Small Copper, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Common and Chalkhill Blue, Brown Argus, Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Wall Brown, Dark Green Fritillary, and Small and Essex Skipper Butterflies, and 6-Spot Burnet, Silver Y and Common Crimson and Gold Moths.

The wildflowers were many and varied, and birds spotted included Goldfinches, a Kestrel, Red Kite and a young Redstart.

The Group also saw the New Forest ponies that grazing freely playing an important part in restoring the iconic features of the landscape. The ponies eat away at dead grass and overgrowing shrubs which help to make space for wild flowers and allows wildlife to bloom.

Everyone agreed that the event was a delightful 2 hours of gentle exercise in a lovely setting with great company.

(Photographs courtesy of Peter Dale)

 

Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve 25th May

In fond memory of their good friend and knowledgeable Committee member Tricia Hall, members of Ferring Conservation Group met up at Warnham Nature Reserve in Horsham. The Reserve was a special place for Tricia and her late husband Mike, and it was good to have their two daughters, Jackie and Amanda join the Group – it is planned to make this an annual event during the month of May.

Members headed towards the impressive Discovery Hub where Chairman David Bettiss spoke about Tricia’s outstanding contribution to the Group and how much members had learnt from her over the years. It was agreed by everyone that she is sorely missed and it will be a struggle to keep up her high standards.

Led by Clive Hope members entered the first hide to view the numerous bird feeders where a greedy male pheasant alongside a Stock Dove were foraging for loose seed on the ground, Great and Blue Tits, Greenfinches, and a Goldcrest were happily consuming seed from the feeders while Clive alerted the Group to the sound of a nearby Blackcap.

A pair of Great Crested Grebe with two young ‘grebelings’, a Greylag Goose, 4 Heron, a Moorhen, Coots, Mallards, Herring Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, and a pair of Common Terns were all spotted as the Group passed by the millpond.

In the Shelley Wildlife Garden and alongside the boardwalks the Cow Parsley was particularly evident together with Yellow Archangel, Red Campion, Ragged Robin, Greater and Lesser Stitchwort, Bugle and Meadow Cranes Bill. Also Marsh Marigolds, Germander Speedwell, Cuckoo Flower, Yellow Rattle, Hemlock Water Dropwort, Flag Iris and Ladies Bedstraw (these frothy, yellow flowers have sweet, honey-like scent and have many medicinal uses).

At a further hide the Group were greeted by the sight of Reed Warblers, Chiffchaffs, a Song Thrush, a pair of Blackbirds, a Wren, a Robin and a male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker were busy at the feeders together with a Marsh Tit, a Woodpigeon, a Magpie, a Crow and a few Starlings.

As the Group headed back they could hear a loud commotion coming from the direction of the millpond. As their curiosity got the better of them they headed towards it and were rewarded by the fascinating display from a group of Marsh Frogs noisily proclaiming their places in the millpond (to make this noise they inflate two vocal sacs making them look like they are blowing bubble-gum out of their ears).

Members took advantage of the Heron’s Rest Café to enjoy refreshments, and all agreed that Warnham Nature Reserve is indeed a special place and a fitting and peaceful environment in which to remember such a talented couple.

A Walk in Patching Woods to view the Bluebells

On Thursday 4th May 9 members of Ferring Conservation Group, with their trusted guide Graham Tuppen, set off from France Lane into Patching woods to view particularly the bluebells and other springtime flowers. They were delighted to find the native bluebells at their best, forming a delightfully scented blue carpet. There were also Wood Anemones, Primroses, Wild Garlic, Red Campion, Violets, Wood Spurge, Celandines, Yellow Archangel, Dogs Mercury, Lords and Ladies (also known as Cuckoo-pint), and Ground Ivy. They were also delighted to find a good colony of Early Purple Orchids just coming to their best.

Whilst the weather was not sunny enough for butterflies, the Group were fortunate to see several birds including a Red Kite being mobbed by Crows, a Buzzard, numerous Tits and Robins in full song, a Goldfinch and a Whitethroat. A Woodpecker and Blackcap were heard but not seen. A deer was spied in the woods, but only the head was visible above the undergrowth, so the Group were unable to see whether it was a Roe or Fallow deer.

Graham’s plan to extend the walk west and north of the woods was foiled by the path being too muddy to be safely negotiated, but members were grateful that the weather remained dry during the visit.

 

Nature Walk around Burpham 20th February

An excellent turnout of 22 members from Ferring Conservation Group set out from the beautiful village of Burpham led by their knowledgeable guide, Clive Hope. Their aim was to observe the diverse and plentiful wildlife this relatively remote area of south-east England has on its doorstep.

This village is built on the side of Perry Hill just out of reach from the flood plain. Therefore wonderful views are apparent for the eye to see with Arundel Castle in the distance to the south west, and views towards the gap in the Downs where the river Arun carves its way to the sea to the north west.

The Group made their way to the large Saxon Burgh on which part of the village stands and this fortification was an ideal place to view farmland birds as well as a range of raptors. As the Group set off several Red Kites and a solitary Sparrow hawk were circling high above joined by a large Buzzard, all greatly defined against the dark grey clouds. A small flock of noisy Guinea fowl were spotted in a farmer’s field with a few Sparrows and Wood Pigeons for company. Two Grey partridge were seen foraging for food in a nearby field, a welcome sight, with their numbers greatly increased by a breeding programme started back in 2003 on the Duke of Norfolk Estate. Further along the track a single Green Finch sat perched on the top of a small tree while several Stock Doves were foraging for food nearby. Unlike most pigeons and doves the Stock Dove nests in holes, usually in trees, but often in old stone barns or similar buildings. Unlike the Woodpigeon it has no white feathers in its plumage and is smaller and shorter-tailed.

As the Group progressed along the route more Red Kites gathered above and were joined by Common Gulls, a small number of Black-headed Gulls and some Starlings. A keen eyed member of the Group spied two Brown Hares ‘boxing’ in the middle of a field. These displays are an exhibit of mating behaviour – although a little early as this usually starts in March. It is surprisingly the females who instigate ‘boxing’ as a way to fend off the mating urges of the males!

The countryside views were enhanced with the sighting of a quaint shepherd’s hut in the corner of a field and a couple of dew ponds suitably located for use by livestock, also, the group witnessed strategically placed winter supplementary feeding stations for seed-eating farmland birds.

As Members made their way back to their starting point 20 or so Corn Buntings were seen perched along the top of a row of saplings. Encouraging signs of spring were apparent with the sound of Sky larks in the distance, hawthorns just coming into leaf and Lords-and-Ladies plants peering out along the edges of the hedgerows. All welcome reminders of warmer days to come and a chance to explore the countryside further.

 

 

Dates for your Diary

*Update as of Mon 14 Nov – due to the poor weather forecast for this Weds of rain and strong winds, and the exposed location of the walk on the Downs, we have postponed this walk. We hope to re-schedule it soon*

Birdwatching visit to the Burgh, near Burpham village on Weds 16 November, and will be led by our local expert, Clive Hope. This area is very good for seeing raptors and game birds hopefully, with the chance of seeing a Short Eared Owl. Lifts can possibly be arranged (please make contact via the contact button on the website if required), and the meeting point will be at 1.30pm at the triangle just north of the village, where there is some parking. Binoculars would be very useful. It is expected that the visit will last 2 hours or so, but as always is weather dependent.

Butterfly Count on Highdown Hill – 25th July

Ferring Conservation Group regularly takes part in the annual nationwide Butterfly Conservation’s ‘Big Butterfly Count’, and 2022 was no exception. This important survey is aimed at helping conservationists establish the health of our environment by counting the amount and type of butterflies (and some day-flying moths) sighted throughout the UK.

Unfortunately the balmy, sunny day that encourages butterflies to take to the wing was not to be. Instead a dull and windy day greeted an enthusiastic group as they met in the carpark at Highdown Hill, although consequently their expectations were limited. As the group, led by Graham Tuppen ably assisted by Clive Hall and Peter and Ruth Dale, proceeded to the top of the hill following a path that was edged with large hawthorn and elder bushes, they were rewarded with the sight of a few Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers. It was reassuring to note a healthy Ash tree standing proud in the vicinity and as the group ventured further along the brow of the hill some Common Blues were seen plus a solitary Painted Lady and a Small Skipper. Heading eastwards a beautiful Silver-washed fritillary was spied by Clive Hall which rested just long enough for the rest of the party to also be enthralled by its beauty and was definitely a highlight of the morning.

Other welcome sightings were many wildflowers including a Round-headed Rampion, as well as Knapweed, Red Bartsia, Yellow Rattle, Agrimony (this plant is also known as ‘Church Steeple’ because of the shape of its spikes – all aerial parts of Agrimony emit sweet scent when they are crushed and due to the pleasant, apricot-like smell of the flowers it is often used for the preparation of potpourris). Along with Wild Carrot and Parsnip, the frothy yellow flowers of Ladies Bedstraw were evident and on a warm day these flowers fill the air with a sweet, honey-like scent.

As a firm reminder that many species of wildlife also share the wonderful habitat that the Southdown National Park provides, Swifts and a lone Skylark flew high above Highdown Hill while the familiar drilling sound of a Woodpecker could be distinctly heard. Heading through a partially wooded area on the lower slopes, a charm of striking Goldfinches flashed past (a ‘charm’ is the collective name for this particular bird). The climax to this interesting day came when Graham Tuppen observed, what he first thought was a small bird, but was in fact a Hummingbird Hawk Moth hovering around a Buddleia bush near to Highdown Tea Rooms (this day-flying moth has a wingspan of about two inches and uses its long proboscis to feed on the

nectar of tube-shaped flowers and is named for its similarity to Hummingbirds). This was a first sighting in the wild for Graham and he was suitably impressed.

To celebrate this unexpectedly successful morning several members of the Group partook in refreshments at the popular Tea Rooms before heading home to submit their sightings into the Butterfly Conservation’s national database.

A Walk to see the Bluebells in Patching Woods

A group of enthusiastic members from Ferring Conservation Group enjoyed a recent walk through Patching woods, principally to see the bluebells, which were wonderful. The wood anemones were slightly past their best, but still good, and there was a very good show of early purple orchids. Patches of wild garlic and yellow archangel, plus native primroses, lesser celandine and greater stitchwort were in flower, and also garlic mustard, perhaps better known as ‘jack by the hedge’.

The butterflies were apparently grounded by the lack of sun, but plenty of birds were seen and heard, including a raven, red kite, buzzard, sparrow hawk, kestrel, greater spotted woodpecker, tree creeper, blackcap, chiffchaff, skylarks and a swallow.

 

Report by Graham Tuppen, and photos by Peter Dale

FCG visit to Pagham Harbour

A dozen Ferring Conservation Group members recently made their way to Pagham Harbour for their annual Spring birdwatching visit. The party, which included a couple of members making their first such visit to the harbour, was led by one of the Group’s bird experts, Clive Hope.

Weather wise, on what was forecast to be a windy day, it turned out to be pretty good, especially when there was shelter from the elements and the sun decided to shine. On the bird count, a total of 38 different species were recorded, which was thought to be quite impressive.

The highlight was probably the sheer number of Brent Geese seen, with a good estimate of approximately 1000 in total, and many of these were probably preparing to make their migratory trip back to their breeding grounds in Europe. They made a spectacular sight, especially when some of them took to the air, probably spooked by an unseen raptor.

Some of the other birds seen included Great Crested Grebe, about 20 Pintail, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and even a Green Woodpecker.

A couple of enjoyable hours was considered a suitable time period, before the party repaired to the local café for a spot of lunch before returning home to Ferring. This really is a worthwhile and informative way to get out into the Sussex countryside in good company and with expert guides to learn more about our local wildlife. If you haven’t been out for a trip with the Group before, then it’s definitely worth considering in the future.