Visit to Warnham Nature Reserve 18th January

Despite sub-zero temperatures 21 keen members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Warnham Nature Reserve for a guided tour of this beautiful and precious resource on the outskirts of Horsham. Their guide for the morning was Clive Hall, a knowledgeable local bird expert and longstanding member of the Group. He was assisted by the Group’s wildlife expert Tricia Hall and her daughter Jackie, who is a volunteer at Warnham. Since the Group’s last visit some years ago there have been many welcome additions by way of a newly built Visitor Centre, including a Café with inside and outside seating, a Discovery Hub and Wildlife Garden plus several new Hides. This 92 acre site boasts a serene 17 acre Millpond, complete with reedbeds and nesting islands and edged with a dominant boundary of lush vegetation including large areas of Great Reed Mace, often known as ‘Bulrush’. This provides ideal camouflage for the vast array of water birds that are attracted to this proven wildlife haven. This valuable oasis will be even more treasured in the years to come now that the countryside surrounding this popular town is under threat of massive development.

As members stood admiring the beauty and tranquillity of the Millpond many Black Headed gulls, and some young Herring Gulls could be seen along with 2 Mute swans, and a pretty Common Pochard duck – this medium sized, plump, diving duck feeds on plant seeds, water weed, snails and other aquatic invertebrates. The male is grey with a chestnut head and a black chest and rear end, while the female is a darker, duller grey-brown. The UK is an important winter destination for the Pochard and although it is a rare nesting bird it can be found in large numbers on lakes, reservoirs, flooded gravel pits and estuaries. Several Cormorants could be seen perched high in trees on the far side of the Millpond, silhouetted against the pale grey clouded sky, while a solitary Tufted duck circled overhead.

A short walk took members to the first of the new hides that overlooks a clearing in a wooded area where numerous bird feeders had been sited that had attracted many species of birds. Several male Chaffinches, Blue Tits, a solitary Reed Bunting, one Goldfinch, an exquisite Nuthatch, one Robin, a Magpie and a native Blackbird were all greedily consuming the abundant provisions. A rather plump Grey Squirrel arrived to tentatively eat up the seed that had fallen to the ground from the over enthusiastic antics of the small birds. It appears to be the perfect ‘no waste’ society, which we could all learn from.

Adjacent to the path leading to the second hide, a small herd of Hebridean sheep were quietly grazing in a field. These short-tailed, black sheep are a small and hardy breed originally from Scotland that are helping to manage the coarse rough grass and are proving effective at scrub control.  A welcome and contrasting attraction at Warnham.

At the second hide members were greeted by the sight of 2 male and 1 female Pheasants busily foraging for any discarded seed – the striking plumage of the males outshining the rather drab colouring of the much larger female. A cheeky Moorhen joined the scene as the familiar sound of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker was first heard and then sighted high in a nearby tree.

As members continued along the boardwalk they came across an eye-catching structure called ‘The Bat Bothy’ – one of two sculptures sited throughout the Reserve. Inspiration for this was taken from the tradition of placing stone structures in the landscape as basic shelters. The version at Warnham has been created as a home for bats with small entrances leading to an internal ‘cave’ where bats can gather and return to as dawn breaks. Jane Hayman from the Group said “these sculptures not only provide a valuable and practical function they are also pleasing to the eye and interesting structures that also aim to educate visitors”.

On the way back to the Visitor Centre a magnificent Grey Heron was finally sighted posing for a pose of keen wildlife photographers that had commandeered the last hide on the trail. They couldn’t believe their luck! Also a keen member spotted 2 Jackdaws huddled together against the bitter weather high up in a tall tree.

After heartfelt thanks were conveyed to the guides and the purchase of a hot drink from the splendid new café, members made their way to the seated area to thaw out with the additional help of an attractive and functional wood burning stove. Once fingers and toes had warmed up members shared the view that Warnham Nature Reserve provided a wonderful place to observe wildlife greatly enhanced by the recent, well designed, improvements.

 

A Tree Walk around Ferring 30th November

On a relatively mild, but damp morning nine members of Ferring Conservation Group met up on the Village Green to admire and learn more about the many beautiful trees in the village. The walk not only coincided with the wonderful display of autumnal colours at this time of year but also with National Tree Week. This is the UK’s largest annual tree celebration when people across the country are encouraged to plant thousands of trees to mark the start of the winter tree planting season.

The Group’s knowledgeable guide for the day was Tricia Hall who handed members a list of trees to identify as part of an ‘Eleven Tree Winter Challenge’. After admiring the vivid red of a nearby Dogwood shrub the group’s first stop was a Horse Chestnut tree recognised by the brown sticky buds and large palmate leaves.

At the next stop there were no acorns to give up a clue, but the distinctive shaped leaves of the Oak quickly gave the game away. When a nut-bearing tree like the Oak produces a high yield of acorns the year is referred to as a ‘mast’ year. The theory is that this behaviour is ‘predator satiation’ as squirrels, jays, mice and badgers feed on the acorns and when smaller crops are produced for a few consecutive years, they are helping to keep the populations of these animals in check. The abundant year will promote the chances of the tree surviving as the glut of acorns will ensure that at least some will survive and grow into new trees.

Moving away from the Village Green and heading down Ferring Street, the Group passed the bright green leaves scattered on the ground under a Common Lime Tree – as for many trees the leaves had been stripped from its branches by Storm Arwen.

As the Group turned into the entrance of Little Twitten they could see ahead of them the striking white bark of two mature Silver Birch with elegant drooping branches – these trees are attractive at all times of the year. By the side of the path a well-shaped young Field Maple could be seen that had been planted several years ago by the Group in memory of its founder member, Joyce Cooper. A well-formed Sweet Chestnut was thriving, more so than others planted along the Rife that suffer competition from other trees. Tricia pointed out the lichen that had grown on many trunks and branches and this is a welcome sign of clean air. A sapling Oak Tree was spotted with a few oak apples hanging from its branches. Tricia explained that although many people believe these are the fruit of the tree they are in fact formed when chemicals are injected by the larva of certain kinds of Gall Wasps. At the eastern end of Little Twitten, in the centre of a copse of trees, a magnificent Monterey Pine stands proud. It is the tallest tree in the area and believed to be around 150 years old. This remarkable tree which can also be spotted from Highdown Hill has distinctive needles in groups of three, unlike the Scots Pine which are in two.  Its bark is very attractive to unusual birds like Tree Creepers who have been seen on the Plantation in Goring.

Retracing their steps the Group had their last stop in Grange Gardens where a striking Sweet Chestnut graced the front lawn in front of Phoenix House. The spiral bark is another interesting feature of this native tree. Jane Hayman from the Group commented that ‘all the trees on Tricia’s list were located on the walk and much had been learned along the way’. Most of the members gratefully partook of a hot drink in Kingsley’s Coffee Shop to warm up after a most enjoyable morning.

Village Green bulb planting update

Earlier this week, we had an excellent turn out at the Village Green on a pleasant morning, and duly planted 250 Narcissi bulbs across the frontage opposite the shops and under the trees. Thank you to all those who helped out and we hope to see a great display each Spring to complement the bulbs already in situ.

To correct something we said before, although the bulbs were supplied by Arun DC, they were actually paid for by our Parish Council as part of the ongoing improvements there, which will also include the bed leading towards the toilet block as well as the area under the trees. In addition, we at FCG have tidied up the boat and put in some Winter plants and more bulbs.

Annual Tidy Up Around Warren Pond

Ferring Conservation Group members were joined recently by a number of Councillors from Ferring Parish Council, including the Chairman Pete Coe, to carry out the annual tidy up of the surrounds of the Warren Pond in South Ferring. It was an unsettled morning and the work party was caught out by one rain shower, but this was made up for by the sight of a double rainbow to the north.

About a dozen or so members carried out the necessary work to cut back the brambles and some of the ivy and other overgrown vegetation which allowed better views of the pond especially from the Florida Road side. It was great to welcome one very young volunteer who was accompanied by his Dad, and he can be seen on the skip in the accompanying photo.

The pond which is in the ownership of the Parish Council is maintained as a nature reserve at present, and the work allows this to continue but with an element of control so that passers-by can view some of the wildlife that passes through or calls it home. This has included recent sightings of a feeding Grey Heron on the central platform.

Anybody is welcome to join our regular work parties which are publicised on the website and in Group e-mails.

Thank you to our members who support these events for the benefit of the village and its ecology.

Winter Waders and Weeds Walk (Thursday 11th December 2014)

P1100066Approximately 25 members of Ferring Conservation Group braved a bright but chilly December morning to take a walk along the beach from Sea Lane, Ferring, towards Goring. To keep us on our toes Tricia Hall set us a 5 star challenge with a list of wading birds and seaweed to find and identify. Jane Hayman, FCG’s Publicity Officer, reports ‘our members rose to the challenge and by the time we reached our destination most had identified at least 4 species of wading birds and 4 types of seaweed’.

Tricia explained that although it resembles a plant, seaweed is actually a type of complex algae. Seaweed algae builds itself into multi-cellular forms that can withstand the deep waters of the ocean. Spiral wrack, Bladder wrack, Serrated wrack and Egg or Knotted wrack were among the seaweeds identified.

With the aid of field glasses and telescopes our group were able to spot 4 types of wading birds in the  form of Dunlins, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers and Sanderlings. The Sanderling is a small, plump, energetic wading bird. It has a short straight black bill and medium length black legs. It is pale grey above and white underneath, and there is a black mark at its shoulder where the folded wing meets the body. It does not breed in the UK, but is a winter visitor and passage migrant in spring and autumn.

Our walk concluded with hot drinks etc. at a sea front café where the hardy bunch chose the outside option to enjoy the winter sunshine.

 

2 Upcoming Guided Walks

We are organising two guided walks in December and January – details are as follows: (Do bring binoculars and wear suitable clothing for the time of year)

1. Winter Weeds and Waders – Thursday 11 December – meet at bottom of Sea Lane, Ferring at 10am for a walk along the beach to see the various coastal birds and identify the seaweeds washed up. Stop off halfway at Sea Lane cafe at Goring for a drink/ refreshments before returning the same way to Ferring.

2. Raptors and Downland Birds at Burpham (nr Arundel) – Tuesday 13 January – meet at 10am at Peppering High Barn, Peppering Lane (just north of Burpham village). This is an excellent location to see various birds of prey and other birds, including red kite, buzzards, peregrine falcons etc. Limited car parking, so car share if possible.

Bulb Planting on the Village Green

As part of our commitment to help improve the Ferring Village Green, we are joining up with Arun District Council for a bulb planting session there at 2pm on Tuesday 21st October.

P1000563

It would be good to see a decent turnout of local people, and the fruits of our labours will be seen next Spring and hopefully every year after that when the flowers bloom. Meet on the Green and please come armed with trowels and/or bulb planters.

Help required at Warren Pond

We are shortly to commence the restoration of this much loved pond in Ferring, which is now owned by Ferring Parish Council. Much work needs to be done in partnership with the Council over the coming months, but this will start with a work day on Saturday October 11th commencing at 10am.

P1000557-001The work on this day will be cutting back some of the undergrowth and brambles around the perimeter to allow better access to make a proper assessment of the site. Please come along to help us on the day for this important work. It will help to start the process of getting the pond back to being a valuable wildlife habitat.

Please wear old clothes and gloves and bring secateurs/ loppers. The pond is situated in South Ferring at the junction of the Warren and Florida Road. We hope to see you there.

Great British Beach Clean

Please help us to carry out the last formal clean up of the year of Ferring Beach on Saturday September 20th – meeting at the east end of the Bluebird Cafe car park at 11am. This is part of the nationwide Great British Beach Clean co-ordinated by the Marine Conservation Society, and it will be our bit to rid the beach and surrounds of unwanted litter. Long handled pickers and bags will be provided. We hope to see you there!