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.

Shoreham Beach Vegetation Walk and June Group Meeting

On a very sunny Friday 17th June, some 20 members of Ferring Conservation Group met at Shoreham Fort mainly to look at plants growing on the vegetated shingle, one of the few places in the country where this eco-system is found.

Led by Graham Tuppen members were able to find 16 of the 18 plants on their list, including Sea Kale, Red Valerian, Common and Tree Mallow, Yellow Horned Poppy, Vipers Bugloss, Kidney Vetch, Silver Ragwort, Purple Toadflax, Thrift, and Starry-headed Clover. Surprisingly, given the sunny weather, the only butterfly seen was a painted lady but several wall and sand lizards were evident.

The speaker at the Group’s June meeting was Kevin Newman, a local historian, tour guide and author of a wide range of books on Sussex. His subject was ‘Scrumptious Sussex’, taking members on a tour of the county East and West, showing images of historic pubs, hotels, restaurants and breweries and telling fascinating stories about Sussex specialities of food and drink, and the people who consumed them.

As in Worthing town’s motto, ‘From the earth fullness, from the sea good health’, Kevin pointed to Sussex agriculture and Sussex fisheries as what sustained the county and its many visitors past and present. Eating and drinking was always important for social occasions and celebrations, as a picture of a VE Day street party showed, and an essential component of the attraction of resorts like Brighton and Worthing.

Seaside fish and chips, he said, was brought to Britain by Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe, and the first curry house in Britain was opened in Brighton, as well as the first fast food establishment and the first rooftop restaurant. And the popular dessert, ‘Banoffee pie’ was invented by Ian Dowding, a chef at a restaurant in Jevington, East Sussex, in 1971.

Brighton, he said, was always an important centre for food and drink – for its fishing as well as its prodigious consumption. Long before its seaside trade, the by the Prince Regent (later George IV).

After the talk, Graham Tuppen showed slides of the vegetated shingle at Shoreham Beach, which a number of Group members had visited the previous day (please see above).

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with an update on the planning issues in and around Ferring: Including the six housing estates that developers propose for the green gaps, the commercial development up McIntyre’s Lane as well as a new application for a house in Grange Park – to be built in three storeys and in a totally unsympathetic modernist design, both overlooking and overbearing on its neighbours.

 

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.