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.

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.


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.

Autumn Walk to Highdown Tuesday October 7

Join us for a walk from North Ferring up on to the Downs at Highdown to see Autumn Fruits and Berries and some late wild flowers. Meet at 10am at the Ferring Worthing Garden Centre (ex Wyevale) car park on the A259 Littlehampton Road. Walk up Hangleton Lane skirting the quarry, and make a half way refreshment stop at Highdown Tea Rooms. Also make an optional visit to Highdown Gardens while there – no admission charge. Then return to the cars via bridleways and Hangleton Lane. No dogs on the walk please.