Charlotte Owen from the Sussex Wildlife Trust (SWT) was welcomed to Ferring Conservation Group’s September meeting to tell members and visitors about her role as a Wild Call Officer, which she described as ‘the best job in the world’. Charlotte illustrated her talk with many delightful photographs.
Based at Wood Mills, the headquarters of the SWT, Charlotte mans a helpline for the 1.6 million residents of Sussex answering a huge variety of wildlife related questions. A lot can happen in a year and with between 1500 to 2000 inquiries it is a not only a very busy job but also a very interesting one.
As Sussex is blessed with contrasting landscapes such as the coastline, the South Downs, heathland, woodland and wetlands that attract a diverse range of wildlife there is never a dull moment. The seasons often give a clue to the type of questions posed. In early spring newly emerged hedgehogs, toads, grass snakes, lizards and adders become more active and are easier to spot and can bring forth a variety of questions from the public – such as how to attract hedgehogs into gardens and how to deter squirrels. Also help is requested in solving mysterious footprints in gardens and the appearance of holes in lawns.
Charlotte admits to sometimes using Google to help answer questions and this helped enormously when an email popped into her inbox from a sender asking advice as they had two Black Bears in their garden (unusual for Sussex she thought!). Fortunately the request came from overseas and Charlotte was able to quickly refer the sender to a website dedicated to Black Bears.
After a break for tea and biscuits Graham Tuppen took the floor to deliver the ever popular Nature Notes. Graham advised members that the September working party had tidied the wildflower bed in Little Twitten and the cut grass had been raked up on the verge along Sea Lane with help from volunteers from ‘The Good Gym’. A variety of birds had been spotted including a Kingfisher on the Rife together with a Grey Wagtail. Unfortunately all of the ponds and lagoons next to the Rife had dried up.
Ed Miller concluded the meeting with planning news by advising that the application for the large lit advertising sign proposed by the Peugeot Garage on the A259 had been refused. There were still some undecided applications and also three appeals awaiting decisions by the Planning Inspector.