January - February 2018

Another month of rain and cold winds. No snow but some cold and frosty nights but not enough to dry out the muddy fields and footpaths, making walking difficult. The Snowdrops, which were out early are past their best and the Primroses are beginning to show on the banks as well as the dark purple Sweet Violets and the Hazel catkins which are all out now. There are a few signs that Spring is just round the corner and as I write this we are enjoying a few days of glorious sunshine. The old saying “A wet January, a wet spring” is a bit worrying as we seem to have had more rain than usual already, although another says “If February brings no rain, ‘Tis neither good for grass nor Grain”.

The birds have been active and our bird-tables are popular. Canon John did the Great Garden Bird Count again this year. He saw two Nuthatches and two Great spotted Woodpeckers, Marsh and Coal-tits as well as Great and Blue Tits and lots of Robins, but the weather was foul and there was no sign of the Wrens that are usually in his garden. A few days later he saw a Goldcrest searching the myrtle in the garden for something to eat and lots of Sparrows and some Greenfinches. Interestingly there were no Long-tailed Tits, which make regular visits to his garden. (Several people have seen groups of them on their bird-tables, they seem to move around visiting various different gardens David saw about ten of them flying past here on their way somewhere.)

John also saw a murmuration of Starlings – quite a rare sight these days. There used to be lots and lots of Starlings around, but now they are quite unusual. He said it was a lovely sight watching them swooping around being blown around by the strong wind.

Tina told me that recently when she went down to their pond to feed the geese she disturbed a flock of some ten or twelve Egrets. They circled the pond two or three times and she hoped they would land again, but they didn’t. She said that they made a lovely sight.

Caroline Taylor from Burton Park tells me that they have lots of Goldfinches which are drawn to the sunflower hearts that they have in their feeders as well as a Marsh Tit and numerous Long-tailed tits which allow them to approach quite close and seem unafraid of them. She has seen a number of Raptors, Kestrels and several Red Kites and a large Barn Owl as she drove through the park one night. She says that there are lots of Tufted Ducks on the lake there and many Moorhens, several pairs of Mallards and a pair of Egyptian Geese who often come off the pond and onto the lawns to root out worms and grubs. They seem to prefer the small Black pond to the larger ponds.

Liz Swann from Coldharbour tells me she heard quite a bang on the window and went outside to discover a Sparrowhawk face down on the ground, wings spread open, dead. She said it was beautiful to be able to look at it closely. She had a lovely view of a Tawny Owl which was sitting in the middle of the lane in the dark. She turned off her headlights – it stared at her for a good minute and then flew off. She also saw the local Barn Owl perched on a fence near Glatting lane and watched it for a few moments before it flew off. She has seen a couple of Bullfinches in the hedgerows alongside the lane also a pair of Ravens flew over the trees towards the downs making their deep croaks. She has an Egret and Grey Heron visiting the stream together with some Mallard Ducks. She has Crocuses, Primroses and Daffodils in her garden. Lisa Bonner from Bignor saw a Barn Owl in broad daylight which swooped down over the road between West Burton and Bignor and then sat on a fence so she had a really had a good view of it. Sam tells me that there is a Barn Owl down at the croft which she hears it most nights. It is good to know that there are a few Owls around these villages.

The Squirrels are very active at the moment and there are lots of Foxes around – one ran straight through our garden the other evening – luckily the chicken were safely shut up in bed! Maria saw two foxes playing in the fields behind the church. The Deer are sheltering up in the hangers out of the wind and rain. Next time I write, spring will be almost with us.

December/January

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud! The last five weeks have been very wet and I have never seen so much mud. As soon as we have a few days of wind and sun and the ground starts to dry out, it rains again and we are back where we started. However it has been mild and there have been Snowdrops out since before Christmas as well as a few Primroses and even some Daffodils and the bulbs are showing in the garden, I even have a few roses still valiantly flowering. There are some Hazel Catkins out which are always a welcome sight and one can start thinking about spring even though the winter is far from over. Many people have reported sighting Deer and I have seen Fallow Deer in the woods on the downs and noticed how they blend into their surroundings – their brown winter coats and white tails with the black stripe down it are the same colour as the tree trunks and their shadows at this time of year.

Mick Pearse of School Lane noted that the Tawny Owls have been very active at their end of the village and he had a good view of one on New Year’s Morning at 7a.m. in their lane, he thought it must be returning to its nest. He followed a Kestrel hunting in a field just west of Barlavington near Springs and got a good view of a lovely grey heron in flight north of the village, possibly on its way to Burton Pond he thought. Joy also saw and heard a Tawny Owl in Barlavington (Tawnies make the familiar Too-wit-too-woo, the Barn Owls, or Screetch Owls make a different more screetching sound – thus the name.) She has a Song Thrush and a Great spotted Woodpecker on her birdfeeders and said she had a visitation from a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. Sam says that she often sees a Barn Owl at the Croft also a Grey Wagtail. Anne Collis also had a pair of Long-tailed Tits and had a visit from a Starling in its winter plumage on her feeder. They look quite different in winter with dull black feathers covered in white spots, whereas its summer plumage is iridescent with a greenish sheen.

Canon John is delighted to report a Nuthatch (though he says that Cath Yates has two) and that they have a strange haunting call. He says the dawn chorus is not just Robins, but he has a Song Thrush singing its heart out as well as a Dunnock, a Wren, and a Bullfinch. He saw two Robins displaying their red breasts to each other craning their necks upward as far as they could to make the red even bigger. His pheasants are displaying as well and he has watched some Blackbirds disputing territory in the middle of the street outside the Eatocks. What is going on! I suspect a quick blast of wintry weather will stop these antics and make them realise that Spring is not just around the corner!

Linda Way from Bigeonor, Shopham Bridge, told me that she had seen two rather exotic Egyptian Geese near the bridge, as well as a Green Sandpiper and saw a pair of Red Kites fly over. There have been lots of Little Egrets in the meadows between the river and the Sutton crossroads, accompanied for a while by a lone Black-backed Gull. She said it looked rather ungainly beside their delicate elegance. She has Blue-tits in force at her bird feeder feeding on peanuts and fat balls. Last year they were surprisingly absent. The RSPB offered up various unlikely explanations – that they prefer their peanuts in shells or get chased off feeders by larger birds so have given up. However they seem to be coping this year just as they always have and it is good to have them back. She says she will never know why they kept away last year.

Neville Farrington from Chingford Pond saw and photographed a large black bird in a tree near the lake. After referring to the internet and various experts, he deduced it was an African Goshawk passing through. Strangely enough a few days later Margaret Mogford told me she was sure she had seen a Goshawk perched on the roof of Bignor Church. Could it have been the same one?

November/December 2017

The last few weeks have seen a mild Autumn turn into Winter. After some wet and windy weather it suddenly turned cold with heavy frost and north winds.

All the berries in the hedgerows disappeared overnight – plundered by the birds. Holly berries which had been abundant and we were hoping to save for Christmas were suddenly no longer! Luckily the Mistletoe is untouched

There have been a lot of bird sightings, as Canon John says, it is much easier to see them when there are no leaves on the trees and of course they come to the gardens for food. He said that he had four Red Admirals bobbing around the flower beds at the end of November and thought that they would be thinking about hibernating. He says that the Marsh Tits in his garden (which he always thought were Coal Tits) have become much bolder and reports hearing the Owls at night.

Caroline Taylor from Burton Park tells me that she also has a Marsh Tit regularly visiting their feeders now the weather has turned colder and notes that these birds are on the conservation Red list, so it is good to know that there are obviously quite a few in our area. They also have a Great Spotted Woodpecker who visits daily, She sadly tells me that it seems to be the only one left of several families which fed at the feeder during the summer whilst raising chicks, but a Sparrow Hawk took them all. She actually witnessed it swooping down and wrestling the final one to the ground before flying away with it in its claws noisily calling as it did so.

They also have Long Tailed Tits which have joined the Great Tits and Robins at the feeders and a lone female Blackbird. She thinks the same sparrow Hawk must have taken all the other ones which were there previously.

There is lots of wildlife around here and it is often easier to see things in winter, so please keep your sightings coming in so I can make this article interesting.

Chris and Sue Dudman have seen a pair of Bullfinches in Folly Lane (Only the male has the lovely pink chest, the female is a rather dull brownish colour), and says that there is a large flock of Blackbirds at Greenfields.

Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

October/ November 2017

 

NATURE NOTES    OCT – NOV

 

It has been a rather strange Autumn. Due to all the ash trees dropping their leaves early, the Downs lacked their usual colour, although the lanes woods and Commons took on their usual gold, orange and Browns. There seem to be a lot of berries in the hedgerows and the Holly trees are well covered.  However it only takes a spell of cold weather for the birds to come and eat the lot.

 

Richard Lockyer reports seeing three Queen Wasps getting drunk on the fallen apples (we have noted the lack of wasps this autumn and late summer) and some late Dragonflies.  In late October they had the last of a long series of Ichneumon Flies (a variety of solitary wasp) which was large and terrifying- looking.  He says they do not sting and do help rid the garden of Sawfly caterpillars and other insect pests.  He  found a late Pigeon squab, which had been blown out of its nest by high winds dead on the ground – the next day the body had disappeared.  The North winds brought out the Buzzards and Kites wheeling overhead.

 

He had an interesting observation regarding some young Elm trees in his garden.  Since Dutch Elm Disease destroyed all the mature Elms, there have been lots of young suckers which have not grown higher than about 14ft before they get struck down, but he has noticed that this year they seem to be growing higher. (We have noticed this too.).  It would wonderful if some young trees are coming resistant to this beetle.  We will wait and see.

 

David thought he saw a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker at the Glatting turning and said he found a little Wren  perched on his Quadbike and there is always a Robin nearby in the garden, field and woods.  They seem to enjoy the company.

 

 

Canon John also remarks that now the birds have all suddenly appeared in his garden after a long absence, probably due to the colder weather and less food in the fields and hedgerows.  Apart from the Blackbirds, Robins and Woodpigeons, he now has Sparrows galore along with Bluetits and a “charm” of Goldfinches, Wrens and little Goldcrests  flitting around the Lelandii catching insects, making their high-pitched pinging sound.

 

There are a few Fieldfares around.  They look similar to Thrushes and enjoy fallen apples.  He also has a Marsh or Willow Tit, which are very difficult to identify unless you can see or hear them together.  Chris Dudman says he has one in his garden, which he thinks is a Marsh Tit due to a small patch of black on its chest.

 

John says his Pheasants are looking very smart and the males are displaying to gain superiority.  The lame Cockbird has returned, looking very smart until it limps off.

 

He is having problems with his bird feeders as then Fallow deer raid the fat balls and destroy the feeders!

 

There are Egrets down by Sutton End and some have ventured nearer the village.

 

I need more of your sightings please.

 

Toni Green        antoniadundas@btinternet.com

 

 

 

September/October 2017

 

The last few weeks have been mild and fairly warm. There are still a few remnants of summer on the downs. There are a some Cats-ear, Hawkbits, Scabious, Bellflower, Thyme and Marjoram, Ragwort and Bellflowers. The Hedgerows have red Hips and Blackberries, Bryony and Spindleberries. The Wayfaring Tree (also known as The Guelder Rose), a large shrub found on chalk soil has lovely coloured berries which ripen unevenly from yellow to green, red and then black. The Whitebeam also a Downland tree, has whitish leaves and is now
showing lovely red berries.

There are Conkers, Chestnuts, Walnuts and Hazelnuts to be found and the Sloes are appearing on the Wild Plum. The leaves are turning now, but I have noticed that the Ash trees seem to have lost their leaves earlier than usual. They came out earlier than usual this year, but looking at the Downs there are large patches of grey amongst the greens, oranges and yellows.

David saw some Swallows over Greenfields at the beginning of
October, having thought they had all left three weeks earlier, and
Annette noticed about 40 Swallows on the telegraph poles at about the same time, congregating ready to fly off to sunnier climes. These may well be the third brood fledglings who were born in September. Canon John reported a flock of Martins flying around the Rectory on the 14th October.

There are a few butterflies around, I have seen some Red Admirals and a Tortoiseshell, Annette and Terry had a Comma and a Peacock in their garden.

Richard Lockyer notes how the Butterflies and Dragonflies seem to emerge unscathed after strong winds and heavy rain. He also tells me that he was surprised to see his Border Collie running round the house followed by a Rabbit !

Liz Swann has seen the Green Sandpiper again and two Grey Wagtails and heard a Fieldfare in her garden.

Kelvin has seen a Mink near the Millpond. These small black
ferret-sized animals are found by streams and ponds and are
predators which will kill all smaller mammals, fish and any young birds it can catch.

Fay found a very small toad in her cat’s water bowl. She rescued it and put it near Joanna’s pond. Annette and Terry also found a small toad inside, in their bathroom!, and took it to a dark, damp place in the garden.

It is the rutting season for the Deer. You can sometimes hear the Stags calling in the hangars – a strange barking sound.
Talking of strange – I was walking yesterday (16th) when the
extraordinary cloud, the tail-end of the big storm Ophelia, which had whipped up dust from the Sahara which came across the South here in the afternoon. It was eerily dark with a yellowy glow and everything became very Quiet. I noticed the birds flying off to roost, as if it was dusk. There was also a slight smell of burning, which I gather was from the forest fires in Spain and Portugal. I wondered what the local wildlife thought of it!

Toni Green Antonia
dundas@btinternet.com

August/September 2017

LOCAL NATURE NOTES August—September
by Toni Green

When I last wrote the weather was dull, wet and miserable. Well nothing much has changed. The last five weeks have been very
autumnal – I was hoping perhaps we might have an Indian summer, but there is no sign yet. Everything was very early, in the first week of September the Swallows started congregating on the telegraph wires, Annette photographed them, saying that she thought there must have been at least two hundred. The following day they had gone. This would be nearly two weeks earlier than usual – the 14th, 15th of September is the date they usually leave. They must have known that the weather was going to be bad. We were worried as the third brood of four in the well-worn nest in the stables, had only been fledged for a week before they started their long journey back to
Africa. However Barlavington is different. Joy tells me that her Swallows left this week (14th – 15th as usual) and so she shut the
stable doors. Two Martins who had stayed behind were seen trying to get in. One good thing is that there have been far more Swallows than usual this year, all seem to have had at least two broods, so if most of them come back next year we should have more than ever to look forward to.

In the hedgerows the Blackberries, which again were early this year, are really past their best although there are plenty to be found
together with the hips and haws (Rose hips and Hawthorn berries), and there are Hazel-nuts, Walnuts, Conkers, Acorns and Chestnuts and the Crows are busy on the Walnut trees helping themselves to the Walnuts – they always seem to know the minute they are ready.

There are not many flowers left, but on the downs, there are a few Harebells, Campanula, Thistles, Ragwort and Knapweed and a few yellow Cat’s Ear and Autumn Hawkbit. The Butterflies seem to have disappeared with the cold weather although we have seen the
occasional Red Admiral, Tortoiseshells, Peacocks and as usual the Large Whites laying their eggs on our vegetables!

Richard Lockyer says that he has had a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and several late butterflies including a Speckled Wood. He has several flocks of Goldfinches feeding on the seeds of the Lesser Knapweed and a very young Green Woodpecker, which was frightened away by some Rabbits and a Pigeon that has learned to catch worms which it seems to prefer to eating grass. He is worried about the Ash Trees, which he thinks are looking sicker and sicker. Lets hope Ash Die Back does not take hold round here.

Sean Cemm told me how he rescued a Robin which had flown into Judy’s barn and was throwing itself against the windows trying to get out. He caught it in his hands and then went to the door and opened his hands – the Robin hesitated and then turned around to look at him for a few seconds as if to thank him, before flying off.

Annette and Terry have peacock, comma and large white butterflies on their sedum.

Canon John says that he has a Bush Cricket which finds its way into the Rectory back bedroom. It is bright green and likes hopping – it is regularly dropped out of the window but finds its way back.
Debby from Greenfields says that there are lots of Sparrows around there, but she has watched a Sparrow Hawk which regularly swoops down and picks off a Sparrow. Although we are told that Sparrows are on the decline, we have a large colony of Sparrows living in and around our barns, which help themselves to the chicken corn.

This has been a strange ‘summer’. Anne Collis has sent me a
picture of a Primrose in her garden – surely an early sign of next year’s Spring!

Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

July/August 2017

Since I wrote last month after our lovely spell of hot dry and sunny weather, we have hardly seen the sun ! We have had gales rain and miserable cloudy days for the last five weeks. Summer has disappeared. The wild flowers have benefited from the rain and the roadside banks are covered in Bellflowers, St John’s Wort. Ox-Eye Daisies, Mallow, large and small Bindweed as well as the tall dusky pink Hemp Agrimony. On the downs you will see Scabious, Harebells, yellow Coltsfoot, Sowthistle Cats-ear and Hawkbits, Toadflax, and various types of Thistles. Look out for the black and yellow Cinnebar Moth caterpillars on the Ragwort – Cinnebar Moths are black and red.

The Blackberries are early this year and the Elderberries are nearly ripe. The Sparrows are busy garnering the remains of the harvested fields and the
Swallows are wheeling and swooping all around. We have Swallows having a third brood, which is unusual. Tina thought that her Swallows had gone, but is pleased to see one back on the nest after several months.

Canon John says that the Swifts have gone early and misses seeing them having their aerial races around the church and rectory. They disappeared before all this bad weather (did they know something?) They do everything on the wing and very rarely land. John tells me that he has heard that their nearest relatives are the humming birds, which seems extraordinary. Has anyone else seen Swifts
recently?

The Swallows, Swifts and Martins will all be leaving before the middle of
September, but it is good to know that with so many broods, many will be back again next spring. John also found three or four Hornets trying to get into the Rectory on his return from the Flower Show – sounding like the bi-planes which came over earlier. They seemed noisy and slow and larger than wasps and less yellow. He had a parent and fledgling Grey Wagtail on the lawn looking for invertebrates the other day. The youngster, like most young birds, was not so colourful land clearly in need of feeding.

Terry and Annette saw a grey Wagtail by their pond the other day and a squadron of four herons has flown over. Also a baby toad by their kitchen door. They also spotted about 30 starlings on the wires in their light autumn plumage, along with 5 mistle thrushes.

Trudy has seen lots of Butterflies around, especially the Meadow Browns, small Coppers, Gatekeepers and small Blues.

Richard Lockyer had some excitement this month. Janet called him to say there was a ‘thing’ in the middle of the bed – a monster insect stretching some three inches from the tips of its long antennae to the ends of its outstretched legs. Its scimitar ovipositor indicated that it was a female Cricket. He bravely gathered it in a handkerchief and tried to put it out of the window. It stuck to the bottom of the window and then walked up the glass, not finding it a least bit slippery.

Once it was gone he tried to find out what it was. As well as being big, it had long wings and golden’horseshoes’ at the side of its head. Nothing like it was shown in list of common Crickets. Eventually he found a matching description – it was a Grey Bush-cricket. (These live close to the sea on the South Coast and are so rarely seen that entomologists mount expeditions to search for it. He
assumed it had hopped into their car when they were at Clymping earlier that day, or was picked up by the strong up-drafts that preceded that evening’s thunderstorm. They have had an Elephant Hawk moth caterpillar on the Purple Loosestrife that grows in their pond, and a Wren that got lost in the middle of their drive and seemed to stand on tip-toe to seek out its destination.

Bridget Reid has a pair of spotted flycatchers nesting in her garden. She ahas also seen a nuthatch in her garden as well as what looked like a juvenile lesser spotted woodpecker.

Keep your sightings coming in please.
Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

 

June/July 2017

Last month has been hot and sunny with very little rain.  There were thunderstorms around but the all seemed to miss us and we only had one really wet day.  The harvest has started two weeks earlier than usual.

There are plenty of flowers around.  On the downs you will see wild Marjoram and Thyme, Ox -eye Daisies, ragwort, vetches, Scabious and Thistles.  By the wayside there are the purple/blue Bellflower ( wild Campanula) and the tall pink Rosebay Willowherb, Giant Hogweed as well as the highly scented Meadowsweet and lots of Honeysuckle in the hedgerows.

On the downs you will find wild Marjoram and Thyme, Ox-Eye Daisies,
Ragwort, Vetches, Scabious and Thistles.  In the Hedgerows there is Honeysuckle and by the roadside there are the purple/blue Bellflower ( wild
Campanula) and the tall pink spires of the Rosebay Willowherb amongst the Giant Hogweed as well as the highly scented Meadowsweet.

July is a month of Butterflies and Moths.  I have seen Marbled Whites in Chalky Lane and some bright golden Fritillaries in Park Lane and a second brood
Brimstone on the downs.

Sean Cemm told me about an Elephant Moth which he rescued.  It came into his kitchen one evening and the following morning he found it in the sitting room.  He managed to catch it and set it free in their courtyard, where it
collapsed exhausted.  Worried it might not recover he took it a basil leaf with a drop of water on it, which it sucked up immediately.  It continued to rest but later he gave it a “restorative concoction” of water syrup which again it supped
eagerly.   After another hour resting it flew off, to live another day!

Trudi tells me she has seen lots of different Butterflies including a Chalk Hill Blue, Common Blue, Argus, Comma, Brimstone, skipper, Gatekeeper, Red
Admiral, Peacock and some Marbled Whites.  She also has a grass Snake in the compost heap and lots of different sized Frogs in the garden.

Bridget Stokes tells me she was pleased to see two Buzzards over her house in Coates. (Presumably  Buzzards are usually found over hilly areas and do not often venture far from the downs.)

Liz Swann spent half an hour watching three Kingfishers in her garden, flying up and down the stream and over the bushes calling loudly all the time – she
wondered if they were young ones or adults fighting over their territory.  She has a Moorhen with a broken wing which started off with four chicks, which have all disappeared, and a Mallard with five ducklings.  She sees Water Voles plopping in and out of their holes into the water under cover of the long grass at the waters edge, barely visible.

Kelvin also has Voles and a Kingfisher – the stream from Liz’s garden goes into the pond at Bignor Mill.  There do not seem to be be Kingfishers on the other streams.  Kelvin also had a Barn Owl in the garden, which he watched for some time.

David Neave has a sad story.  A Blackbird built a nest outside his window which was full of young, ready to fly.  He watched a Kestral swoop down and snatch a fledgling and carry it off.  Later it returned and took the other three one by one.

Canon John has been counting his Butterflies and has spotted two
Gatekeepers, lots of Large Whites, a Red Admiral, a Comma, a Common Blue and a Small tortoiseshell, all enjoying the sunshine.  He surprised a fully grown Fallow Buck in his garden in the middle of the afternoon the other day.  He also has a family of three Rabbits in his garden, which he likes – it is lucky he does not have a vegetable garden!
Toni Green
antoniadundas@btinternet.com

May/June 2017

The last five weeks have seen a mixed bag of weather. May was warm and dry, then came the showers, (which should have come in April) and then a week of very strong winds, and now, as I write, a heatwave. How the wildlife has coped, I don’t know, but everything seems fine.

There are lots of Swallows about all with their fledglings, swooping and diving as they learn how to catch the insects on the wing. Hopefully there will be
another brood before they leave in September. Remembering how few we had a few summers ago, it is amazing how their numbers have grown.

The May wild flowers are past their best but there are still Pink Campion, Vetch, Ox Eye Daisies, Woundwort, Herb Robert, Buttercups in the fields and on the verges. On the downs there are the Trefoils, Vipers Bluegloss, Pyramid and Spotted Orchids – I looked unsuccessfully for the Bee Orchids which used to be found on the old downland turf.

In the hedgerows there are the Elderflowers, Honeysuckle and the lovely pink Dog Roses which are only seen in June.

There are lots of Butterflies enjoying the sunshine and if you look carefully you can see the Small Blues and Chalkhill Blues which are very small and difficult to tell apart.

The fallow deer have had their babies. The Dudmans were lucky enough to see a mother deer followed by its very small baby cross the lane at the bottom of Duncton Hill. It hurried away into the wood whilst the fawn lay cowering in the grass. Deer are very protective of their young and often try and lure predators away from where their babies are lying.

Richard Lockyer says that he has many baby rabbits (and awaits the arrival of the McNicol’s stoat!) His Swallows have built a new clay nest on top of an old
swallow nest after clearing out the debris which might well have been put there by another bird. He managed to rescue a Bluetit fledgling which had crash
landed whilst taking its first flight. He placed it in a mass of ivy near its
nest-box.

A Blackbird fledgling had a similar problem, but was not so lucky and was found by Magpie which pecked it to death. He has seen a Painted Lady and some Speckled Wood butterflies. During the strong winds a lot of small branches and twigs came down and he noted that on one oak twig
carrying about 12 leaves had about twelve currant-sized galls. He
imagines that the emergence of these wasps attract large numbers of House Martins to these trees for a short period each year. He also found a small Ladybird larva, which he assumes belongs to one of the species which live high in the canopy.

Canon John has found a racing Pigeon in his garden. These often find a place to rest on their way home or if they have been blown off course. They are identified by a ring round their leg.

We often get them here as they see all the grain thrown out to the
chicken and perch on the barn roofs. He was told that if he fed it corn and gave it water it would find their way home after a day or two when refreshed.

He has seen pair of Bullfinches in his garden. The Dudmans have also seen a pair in their garden., and so have Annette and Terry. It is nice to know that there are some of these lovely birds around.

Arthur Thompson says that they discovered a Pied Wagtail’s nest with five eggs in a flower tub in their garden. It seems a good year for birds .

Toni Green
antoniadundas@btinternet.com

April/May 2017

The weather at the end of April and beginning of May was very dry, lots of sunny days but cold nights with frost. The old adage “Ne’er cast a clout ‘til May is out” meaning do not throw out your winter woollies until the end of May holds true as the weather can still be cold – (whether it means the month of May or until the May blossom is out I do not know.) Now we are having the much needed April showers we should have had a month ago. The May blossom is out, it is the little white flowery blossom of the Hawthorn bushes, and can be seen in the hedgerows and beside the fields, and the Chestnut trees are covered in their magnificent ‘candles’ and all the trees are looking lovely in their fresh spring leaves, a sure sign that spring is well and truly here.

There are lots of flowers to look for in the fields and verges, Pink Campion, White and Yellow Deadnettle, Dandelions, Buttercups, Stitchwort, Garlic Mustard, Wild Garlic (Ransoms), Cow Parsley, Herb Robert, Speedwell an Early Purple Orchid (in Folly Lane) and Forget-me-not.

The Birds are busy, mating and nesting and some have early fledglings. The Swallows are here in force, swooping and wheeling and building or rebuilding their nests. Anne Collis saw Swifts on the telegraph wires at the beginning of May. They seem to come a couple of weeks after the Swallows. There seem to be a few Cuckoos around too. Joy heard one in the Coates area on April 22nd and Tina heard one at Sutton End on May 2nd,. Anne heard one in Sutton Field on May 8th and since then, David and I have heard one locally.

We have Pied Wagtails nesting under the eaves of the big barn, and I have seen a Dunnock and a Greenfinch in the garden along with the Blackbirds, Robins and Thrushes and some Goldfinches . Two pairs of Mallards come up from the stream to feed with our chicken.

Anne says she has a Green Woodpecker in the orchard and saw a Pied
Woodpecker on the telegraph pole in the field and has Sparrows nesting under their tile-hanging. Canon John tells me that he has had baby Blackbirds being fed by their parents on his lawn and has seen a baby thrush. He has seen a pair of Bullfinches, some Chaffinches, some Goldfinches and has seen some Greenfinches engaged in their vertiginous courting flights and says he has a Red Admiral on his Choisyia.

Richard Lockyer says he has been very perplexed by the Swallows. One
arrived early but just stayed the night, then – a long delay until this week when two arrived and have settled in their barn. He has had a rare visit from a
Jackdaw and regularly sees a Red Kite circling low around his house. On two successive days he had a visit from a Flower Bee which hovered with its long tongue collecting nectar from a flower and a very similar Bee-fly, but is not

sure which is which. He remarked what an amazing year it has been for
Cowslips, which are now over. Sadly he says that the Tadpoles in his pond were attacked by Moorhens, which only come during the Tadpole season. He has only one left. So-far it seems a good year for Bees and Butterflies, with Brimstone, Orange-Tip, Tortoiseshells, and Speckled Wood enjoying the spring sunshine.

Rosemary Elliott has seen a Garden Warbler in Coates (a small brown bird with a pale buff underside which feeds on insects from foliage) and has Pied and Grey Wagtails in their courtyard and David has just seen his first Swift of the year. Debbie from Greenfields was delighted to have three Greenfinches in her garden.

Terry and Annette report that the Great Tits are again nesting in their
letter box. They think that they are about to fledge. They also have a pair of Mallards which have adopted their pond (are they the ones that come to us to feed?) and they have a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap and Pied Wagtails in the garden and saw a Red Kite fly overhead.

Margaret and Duncan McNicol were sitting in their sun lounge when they noticed a stoat on the bank in their garden, dragging a rabbit it had killed.  When it saw them it dropped the rabbit and disappeared.  A few minutes later it reappeared and had another attempt to drag it away.  It eventually disappeared into its nest with its trophy.

There is lots going on out there, so please keep your sightings coming in.
Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

March/April 2017

They say that April Showers bring forth May Flowers. So far this April we have had two short showers! However the spring flowers are thriving – the Bluebells are out in the woods, but although they were earlier than usual this year, do not seem so thick on the ground and the Snakeshead Fritillary were not as prolific as usual and finished very early. Maybe it is the lack of rain and the hard ground. There are Cowslips, late Primroses, Dog Violets, Celandine, yellow and white Deadnettles, Pink Campion, Wood Anemones, Forget-me-not, Stitchwort, the pale purple Milkmaid or Ladies’ Mantle and many Dandelions. The wild Cherry (or Gean) blossom has been a wonderful sight and also the Blackthorn (Sloe) bushes are covered with their little white flowers.

The birds have been very busy, enjoying the early spring and lovely sunny weather. There seem to be lots of Blackbirds in the garden along with the noisy Sparrows, Pied Wagtails (nesting already), Song Thrushes and Blue Tits. We have two pairs of Mallards who come up from to stream to join our, turkeys and chickens for some corn. I was delighted today to see a Wheatear in Greenfields, identified by its black eye streak, brown wings and buff underparts and white back seen when it is in flight. Joy has Nuthatches in her garden. Also there are several Tawny owls around here, heard at night.

The Dudmans were the first to see a Swallow on the very early date of the 2nd of April. Ours arrived on the 14th, about the usual arrival date and Jamie Cameron and Joy Mayes also reported their arrival around that date. They are probably having trouble making their nests or patching up their old ones due to the dryness of the ground so we are pouring water on some dried mud in the farmyard to help them.

Avril tells me that she is getting an alarm call every morning at 7 a.m. which wakes them up, by a Great Spotted Woodpecker which is drilling noisily into the telegraph pole in their garden – all their neighbours admit there is no chance of a lie-in! Anthea has a one-legged Chaffinch in her garden which tries, unsuccessfully to get at the feeder so she has arranged a tray especially so that it can feed from that. in the lovely sunny weather.

Duncan and Margaret McNichol have a Mistle Thrush which comes to their lawn each day (they are larger than the Song Thrushes) and a pair of Greenfinches on their bird feeder along with a pair of Goldfinches which eat the Niger seeds and a cock Pheasant which comes round and eats up any seeds that they drop on the ground. Anne Collis tells me that they have Pied Wagtails, Bluetits and hordes of cheeky Sparrows busily nesting, flying to and fro with bits of material in their beaks and a Robin always nearby when they are gardening,

Canon John remarks how very smart his cock Pheasants look in the breeding season and the posturing way they walk to impress the ladies, and too intent on showing off to notice cars rushing close past them on the road. One of them obviously followed him into the Church on Easter Saturday (shades of St. Francis!) and finding itself amidst the flower arrangers flew into the recess of the small round window high above the altar. There it remained overnight and throughout the Easter Service and, not deterred by the Allelulias from below, stayed until the following day, eventually being enticed down by some corn on Easter Monday!! Joanna’s brother, Hallam took the photograph above.

Many people have mentioned the Butterflies. They have all come out in the lovely sunny weather. Brimstones, Orange-Tips, Peacocks and Tortoiseshells. Summer is on the way!

Bridget Read heard a Cuckoo at the beginning of April in the fields behind the church. Has anyone else heard a Cuckoo.

Please keep your sightings coming in.

Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet

February/March 2017

The last few weeks have seen weather varying from very cold and dry to quite mild.
There are a few signs of spring with a lovely show of Snowdrops on the banks around the lanes and in our Churchyards. The Hazel bushes are showing yellow catkins in the woods and in the gardens the bulbs are appearing above the ground and the occasional early Daffodil and Crocus can be seen. The birds are busy looking for food and the bird-table is popular. There seem to be a lot of Squirrels in the woods and the Fallow Deer are to be seen in large groups on the downs.
Canon John tells me that he did his annual return for the Garden Bird Count at the beginning of the month. He saw nineteen different species over the weekend. He thinks his open garden allows more birds in like Jackdaws, Crows and Magpies as well as Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Tits and Finches and even saw a Goldcrest, as well as a Buzzard flying overhead. Oddly enough there was no sign of a Wren or a Goldfinch and only one Dunnock. After the weekend count he saw a Blackcap and a Songthrush and two Dunnocks ‘wing-waving’ and noticed that the Male Blackbirds’ beaks were getting more yellow – both signs that spring cannot be far away. John arrived back the other day to find two of his birdfeeders on the ground, torn off the trees they were on, and all the lower figs on his fig tree either nibbled on the branches or scattered on the ground. There were the usual Deer droppings all over the place and the ground was dug up. (The Culprits had left evidence)!
Joy Mayes saw eighteen different species of bird during the cold weather including two Thrushes, Long-tailed Tits, Wrens, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Redwings and a Siskin and was delighted to see the Green Sandpiper which lives in the stream below Springs beside the road to Crouch. Liz Swann also saw probably the same bird at the side of the road near Crouch Farm. She watched it as it landed in the ditch and waded around in the water. She recognised it as she had one on her stream in the garden at Glatting.
Richard Lockyer has had several visits from a Goldcrest. He said it looked as if there were at least two in their autumn flowering prunus, but actually it was only one flitting quickly around. After a few minutes two Long-tailed Tits arrived and the Goldcrest departed. They had a visitation from a flock of at least a dozen Fieldfares which perched among the berries of a large shrub, but seemed more interested in enjoying some sunshine rather than feeding. He says he is curious about the nutritional benefits of bark – Rabbits enthusiastically consume any twig or branch left lying on the lawn after pruning, especially if it comes from an Apple, Quince or Crab apple tree.
Jamie Cameron says that the Crows are still pecking at his windows. He also reported seeing a flock of Long-tailed Tits in Glatting Lane.
With Spring just around the corner, I look forward to hearing lots more of your sightings.
Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

December - January 2017

December has been fairly dry and mild but January has arrived with some very cold spells and more rainfall. As I write there are a few snowdrops out and a few early primroses and little Sweet violets if you can see them amongst their leaves. The hazel bushes are
beginning to show catkins, some still small and green but a few a
becoming yellow.

There quite a few deer around in their winter livery, usually keeping to the shelter in the woods and lots of squirrels scurrying around probably still looking for acorns and nuts for winter storage (see later story). The birds are busy looking for food and the bird table is
popular. Remember to leave some water out for them if it gets very frosty.

Chris and Sue Dudman tell me that they saw three Goldcrests in Folly Lane. These are our smallest native bird and are difficult to spot as they move very quickly. They have a high-pitched tinkly call.

Joanna sent me this lovely picture of a young Kestrel at Bignor Park, perched on a fence on Christmas Eve.

Kelvin was delighted to see some rare Eurasian Teal on his pond and Brian Verrall noted an unusual amount of Blackbirds – possibly a dozen or more, gathered on the green at Greenfields.

Canon John is enjoying watching his bird family in his garden. He says that the cock Pheasants are challenging each other. He says it seems to be part of the ritual to drive your opponent into the
shrubbery where you can finally come to blows. Nobody seems to get hurt but presumably the pecking order is being established with spring around the corner! He has watched a Magpie dig up a buried acorn from the middle of his lawn, possibly left by his resident
squirrel. On a different part of the lawn a Green Woodpecker was working hard to find ants.

Richard Lockyer says that it continues to be a very confusing winter. On all but the coldest days they have honey bees on a Mahonia in their garden. He was then stung by a wasp which had been hibernating inside some leather gardening gloves which he had put under the roof of his garden shed so that the mice wouldn’t eat them! A Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been drumming for some time after finding the best spot on his Acacia to resound like a drum. High up on the same tree a bird has been diving into the centre of a large Mistletoe growth and then flying to a nearby branch, it was too far away to see if it was a Mistle Thrush. He has had visits from Long-tailed Tits and a Goldcrest. He thinks that the downland Gorse has more flowers than usual, although fewer than there were last year near Toby Stone, just a Dandelion and a White Dead Nettle and he saw a solitary Daisy on the Roman Road.

This month’s extraordinary story comes from Arthur Thompson and his family at Coldharbour. Apparently before Christmas, Tanya bought a 5 kilo bag of carrots for their pony and left it beside her car in the car-port. The next day she was rather surprised to find an empty bag which had been ripped apart and no sign of any carrots. Mystified she stored the next bag she bought in a bin. Shortly after new year she found
something wrong with the front sensor on her car and took it to a garage who found something had gnawed the wiring. To their amazement when they took the tray from the engine compartment out to inspect the fault, five kilos of carrots fell out! One can only assume it was squirrels, stocking up for hard times!
Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.

 

November 2016

What a beautiful October we had – mild temperatures, lots of sunshine and little wind and rain.

The woods have looked their best with the autumn colours, on the trees and then underfoot. The wild Cherry or Gean, made a
wonderful show with their brilliant red, yellow and orange leaves. There were still a few wild flowers on the downs and the berries of the Whitebeam,Wayfarer and Hawthorn add to the colours. However at the beginning of November signs of winter have begun with stronger winds, rain and cold nights.

The deer are in their winter livery of dark grey and brown and the squirrels are busy gathering nuts for perhaps a hard winter – perhaps they know something.

There are not many sightings this month and these are mostly of raptors. Anne Dennis says she has seen a Buzzard and three kites above Bignor and says one is so dark she wonders if it is a black kite. Trudi says she saw four Buzzards and two kites all at the same time over Greenfields and David witnessed a strange occurrence in our cherry tree in the garden near the road. He heard a commotion and saw two Magpies trying to ward off a large bird, possibly a Buzzard or perhaps a Kite, which was chased off out of the tree by the Magpies, and flew off.

In the gardens, Nicky saw two Grey Wagtails at Whitelocks and Janet has a Blackbird with a white head in their garden. Richard Lockyer has spotted two Owls over Folly Lane.

Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

October 2016

It has been an interesting month. After a hot and sunny September the weather has now become cooler and changeable and more autumnal. There are still some wildflowers to be found on the downs, Scabious, Ragwort, Bindweed, Bellflowers, little yellow Cat’s Ear and
Hawkweed Thistles and wild Marjoram and Thyme.

The berries in the are now abundant. The Blackberries are now past their best but the red Rose Hips, long chains of multicoloured Black Bryon, white Bryony Spindleberry and Old man’s Beard decorate the banks and hedgerows. The Rowan, Wayfarer and wild Vibernum trees are covered in berries but there are not so many Sloes this year. It is a good year for nuts. The Chestnut trees have Conkers, the Sweet Chestnuts and Hazels are dropping their nuts, as are the Beech and Walnuts.

We have three Walnut trees, covered in nuts but we have to be quick as the Rooks and Crows seem to know the minute they are ripe and come in their dozens. Richard Lockyer noted that it is a very good year for Walnuts and tells me that apart from providing good fly-free shade in the summer they exude a chemical called ‘juglone’ that acts as an
insect deterrent and also keeps any weeds away and the ground beneath them is weed free. The casing around the unripe nuts contains the dye used to stain wood which has a strong rather anti-septic smell.

Jamie Cameron told me that the Crows were pecking at his windows making a terrible noise. He was surprised that they hadn’t broken the glass and wondered if it was their reflection they were attacking!

Richard said that he was driving along folly Lane when a bird flew up from the centre of the road and shot off at great speed until nearly out of sight, then it alighted only to take off again when they got closer. They followed it in this manner until a car came in the other direction. It then veered towards Barlavington, never rising more than a foot above the road. They realised then that it was a juvenile Hobby.

John Collis saw a Tawny Owl at the bottom of the downs near Coldharbour Lane and Anne saw a pair of Wrens, and some Red

Admirals in the garden, and a flock of House Martins gathering on telegraph wires ready to take off for the winter. There are still a few Swallows here.

Cannon John says he saw a solitary one flying over the Rectory on the 13th of October. He also notes that there are a lot of Deer around and says we must take care when driving as they rush across the narrow lanes here. It is the Rutting season when the Stags are fighting to claim the Does, so listen out for their calls.

Terry says he had a Tawny Owl nearby calling beautifully and
yesterday he heard an answering call from a Tawny a long way off.

Gina Hazeldene found an enormous Chrysalis about two inches in length and wonders if anyone can think what it can be.

David and I had a fleeting visitation from a large green parakeet. We heard a squawking noise and it flew off from the barn roof and settled in the apple tree before flying off. We wonder if
anyone else has seen it.

Toni Green antoniadundas@btinternet.com

 

September 2016

Since I last wrote we have been having a glorious spell of summer with lots of sunshine and high temperatures – records for September.   It has had quite an impact on the natural life, especially the birds, which seem almost
confused.   We have had a very late brood of Swallows which have only just fledged – we hope they will be strong enough to face the long journey to Africa in the next week.  Richard Lockyer has also had a very late brood and says that he thinks five came from the same nest.

The Pigeons have been noisily building nests in the Wisteria  (grrr) There seem to be a lot of young birds around. Both Anne Collis and Annette and Terry have noted that in the last few days the telegraph lines in the Sutton Field behind their
houses  have been filled with birds.  Anne says that she saw crowds of Swifts gathering on two occasions and Annette counted almost eighty Swallows also on the line, so they were thinking about going.   There are still a few about, but it is extraordinary how they suddenly disappear and it is usually in the second week of September.   We now have to wait until April to see them again.

Canon John has been enjoying a family of Blackbirds on his lawn.   He says that there are two very scruffy parents (the male is almost bald!) and four fully grown youngsters with their first year’s plumage, all dashing around digging up or catching invertebrates, which he assumes are Flying Ants.   Every so often they rush into the bushes, thinking there might be a predator around, then out they come again.   He is amazed how hard the parents seem to work bringing up four youngsters.  He also found a young Grass Snake slithering across the lawn (identifiable by its yellow collar) and wonders whether there are others around.

Richard Lockyer noted that the hot weather brought out the butterflies.  They have had a Comma, Red Admiral and a Painted Lady on their Buddleia and say that two Red Admirals have gone into their woodshed to hibernate.   He has only seen one Speckled Wood.   I have to admit that I have not seen any of these
usually common butterflies in the woods this year. There do seem to be a lot  of Dragonflies around  and he has seen a female Common Hawker on his pond chasing off a rival and a pair of much smaller Rudder Darters. The Hawker came very close to him as if to check if he was a danger.   Recently the morning air was filled with House Martins, presumably they had found a high flying swarm of insects.   He spotted an Adder sunning itself in the middle of Monarch’s Way on the downs and also saw a Grass Snake crossing the lane near Bury School.

I came across a Slow Worm on the footpath by Bignor Mill Cottage pond.   The good weather has  brought out the reptiles as well.   Both Anne and Annette and Terry have seen Brimstone Butterflies, which have a second brood at this time of year and Annette and Terry also saw several Speckled Wood on the top of the Downs. They also have had Common Hawker and Rudder Darters on their pond.

Martin Shepherd said he was walking to Sutton from Bignor Mill the other morning when he heard a commotion in the tree tops alongside the Croft.   Suddenly a very large bird flew out across the road, pursued by what looked like two Mistle Thrushes.   The fleeing bird settled close to The Moll Oak on the turning to Bignor Park so he was able to get a really good look at it and believed it was a very substantial, handsome Tawny Owl standing 15” to 18” high.

Another very unusual and exciting sighting was by Debbie from
Greenfields.   One evening she heard something in grass area at the edge of the field at the back of her house and taking a torch she saw a Nightjar crouching in the grass.   These migratory birds which arrive from Africa in May and leave around now, are usually found on sandy commonland and have been seen on Coates Common.  They make a rather spooky chirring noise and are very
difficult to see hiding in the undergrowth, only flying at night.   I can remember hearing them around here when I was very young but have not heard them for many years.

Do keep your sightings coming in.
Toni Green         antoniadundas@btinternet.com

August 2016

At last we are now enjoying a late summer I don’t think any of us ever thought it would come. After four weeks of strong winds and cloud it is a relief to see some sunshine. There are plenty of late summer flowers on the banks –  Bellflowers, Rosebay Willowherb, Columbines and Mallow by the roadside and wild Thyme, Marjoram, Thistles and Ragwort on the downs and the berries are beginning to ripen in the hedgerows.  After the harvest  there is lots of food for the birds and many can be seen clearing up after the combine harvesters.

The Fallow Deer have moved back to the woods with their young after weeks of hiding in the cornfields in large groups and lately there are more butterflies around.   I have seen Red Admirals, Speckled Wood and a Fritillary along with the Brown Heath and of course the Cabbage Whites.

Some of the Swallows that have stayed here during the bad weather have had another brood and we have a family of five fledglings.  David was amused to see all five trying to squeeze into their nest after a day of flying practice.    He had seen a Red Kite carrying off a fledgling followed by a flock of Swallows trying to mob it.  Tina tells me that she has another brood of Swallows too.   There are four young and they have just  left the nest.  They also have five other swallows flying about their orchard and wonder if these are from the first brood returned. They will all be leaving soon.

Nicky tells me that at Whitelocks they have had a pair of Wagtails which have been trying unsuccessfully for two years to produce young in a nest in the jasmine on their house which is continually raided by Magpies.  After abandoning it this year she thought that was the end of the story, but last week she noticed that two Wagtails were foraging for food  and then later she saw them feeding a baby on the lawn.  They have also had a pair of green Woodpeckers feeding their baby on the lawn. On hearing a racket outside their back door they saw a family of four Wrens going round the trees.   She also notes that there are many Blackbirds and some Thrushes nesting in the garden.

A herd of Fallow Deer have been seen twice in the village.   Terry and Annette ran into ten deer – bucks and stags, at the bottom of Sutton Hollow.   Graham and Bridget from Farrs had a closer and more expensive encounter with a herd of twelve fully grown deer which came suddenly out of School Lane as they were driving past, removing their wing mirror as they careered past!

Canon John has been enjoying his visiting Deer (could they be the same ones?) and says that they are becoming quite bold and come in the daytime.   He has had up to five Fallow bucks  and recently said he had a magical visit from a single doe which sat chewing the cud outside his front door!   However he has paid the price of these visitations and has had no roses all summer!!  He notes that recently he

has seen a lot of butterflies in the garden, mostly Large Whites and Gatekeepers, Red Admirals and Peacocks, but wonders where the Tortoiseshells have gone.  He has filled in his butterfly count for the Butterfly Conservation – a worthwhile charity.

Terry and Annette have had a Grey Wagtail visiting their pond as well as two visits from a pair of Bullfinches, and say that they have seen  some Brimstone Butterflies, which would be from the second brood.

Joy Mayes says that she has a Crow that visits daily and taps on her window.

Richard Lockyer says that a walk along the Roman Road on the top of the downs disturbed two Voles.  He also saw a young Hare in the lane after passing Manor Farm.   His garden is full of Rabbits, one which was becoming rather bold and headed for his vegetable garden so he pointed the hose at it making it move hastily out of reach.  They have another Garden Warbler and remarks that his Swallows are behaving in a strange manner.  There is no sign of a second brood but they go into the barn  now and then and they get a severe twittering if they get in the way.   They have a Bat that makes continuous acrobatic circles around their front garden looking for insects.   He notes that there are lots of Red Admirals around, more than all the others put together, two Commas, a Speckled Wood and Peacock.  He has seen a pair of Long Horn Beetles mating on an old log.   Their four bright red stripes led to their identification as ‘Leptura Quadrifaciata’.  He is pleased to see a few young frogs in the garden, so they know that at least some of the tadpoles have survived.  On a serious note he says that Ask die-back is now really beginning to hit the trees on the downs and thinks that it is the youngest trees that are hit the worst.  Should it really hit hard our wooded downs will be changed for ever.

Please send me your sightings.

Toni Green

antoniadudas|@btinternet.com

Wagtail

July 2016

When I wrote last month’s notes it looked as if the summer had at last arrived – how wrong can one be!   We are still waiting.   We have had endless cloudy skies, heavy downpours and generaly low temperatures nearly every day.   One wonders how the wildlife is adapting to these unseasonal conditions.  Certainly the summer migrant visitors must be feeling the chill.

Our first brood of Swallows had fledged and there is not much sign of a second brood – maybe they have flown home in disgust.   Our own native birds seem to be coping quite well and many are having a second brood.   I found a Pied Wagtail nest in a tub of geraniums outside our front door.   As it was in the porch and sheltered from the rain, I emptied a watering can over it and to my surprise a bedraggled wagtail flew out.   I peered in and saw a neat little nest with four eggs in.   As they are rather shy birds I was relieved that she came back and is still sitting.

The raptors have been busy and David saw a Sparrow Hawk picking off a Swallow.   Liz Swan says that her son, Peter, saw a Sparrow Hawk grab a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, which squawked like mad as it was carried off.   Luckily it was dropped in mid air and had a lucky escape.   Liz has also seen the Kingfisher that frequents the stream in her garden and has two lovely Goldfinches and some Garden Warblers and says that she saw some

Yellowhammers and two Bullfinches in Glatting Lane.   She has a Mallard with nine ducklings, Water Voles and baby Frogs in the stream and says that she saw three Fox cubs playing in a nearby field.  They eyed up a Heron which comes there daily, but thought better of it.

Penny Murray from Burton Hill had a visitation from a big Red Kite circling over her garden.   It flew down over the trees and grabbed something in its talons.   She sadly lost a familiar Crow that had been patrolling her garden for the last three or four years which saw off the Heron, Sparrow hawks, and even took on the foxes, who seemed more scared of him than he was of them.   Since it has died it has changed the whole dynamics of the garden.   They now have a very rowdy family of Jackdaws (she has counted 13 and thinks it must be two sets of parents and their young), a huge flock of Starlings (she has counted 30 babies) which are now learning formation flying.  She feels that they would have all been kept under control by her territorial Crow!  She also says that they are plagued by foxes which come as bold as brass in broad daylight and eat the duck’s food and has taken one of her chickens.

Canon John has lots of young Robins in the garden and thinks he has Crows nesting in one of his conifers.  He has seen them chasing off a Magpie “not quite sibling rivalry, but inter-cousin warfare – a meal is a meal”, he says.   He also notes that he has not had Swallows back in his outhouse this year.

Tina says that she has only had one family this year, so there are not so many around .  Judy Seers keeps seeing her Little Owl which must be resident in or near her garden and Jane Purley says that she has a family of Green Woodpeckers in her garden and notes how the young have brownish feathers and look rather like Thrushes in colour, although not in stance.

Richard Lockyer says that his swallows arrived late but have produced four young fledgelings and  he saw a party of Swifts flying round and about his house at enormous speed  (maybe from Bignor Manor). He has seen a pair of Yellowhammers in the lane between Bignor and Westburton and has a family of Crows visiting their garden with their young.  He has had a Ichneumon Fly with a very long ovipositer, he presumes it is the type that burrows into wood or fruit to lay its egg in a burrowing caterpillar.  He says it is a pity such a useful insect looks so frightening as he is sure many people would kill them on sight.   They have had a Newt in their pond but many of their tadpoles disappeared during a period of heavy rain.   They have had visits from a male Emperor Dragonfly and a Comma butterfly.

 

One rather extraordinary thing I have seen on one of my rides was a Holly tree on the bridle path opposite the Barlavington turning.   I had noticed over the past few months that it still had red berries on it from the winter and thought it strange that the birds had not eaten them or they had not dropped off long ago.  I picked a sprig and found that it was laden with green berries ready to ripen for this autumn but the red berries lower down the sprig looked as good as new.  If you walk up that track you will see it near the wood at the top.   There are also lovely wild flowers in the field (Slipes) alongside with many Pyramid Orchids – worth a look.

Toni Green       antoniadundas@btinternet.com

Comma Butterfly

June 2016

June started off lovely and warm with lots of sunshine and very little rain.   However as I write this it is grey, cool and showery.    However the wildflowers are flourishing.   One of  my favourite sights in June are the Briar or Dog roses which adorn the hedgerows.  These little pink Roses are only seen in from late May until the end of June.   There are the white and yellow Deadnettles, Pink Campion, Cow parsley, Stitchwort, Foxgloves and Buttercups among the many field and wayside  and woodland flowers.

On the Downs  there are many Early Purple and Pyramid Orchids and  you may be lucky enough to see a Bee Orchid – nowadays a rare sight – and in the turfy areas the little yellow Birdsfoot Trefoil, Lady’s Fingers and yellow Crosswort are seen.

The Birds have been busy with their first brood of fledgelings and the wild mammals are out hunting for food for their young.  We have a Pied Wagtail’s nest in a building in the garden and watch the parents bringing in food.   They are very shy and won’t actually approach the nest if they think we are watching, but when our backs are turned they quickly scuttle in beneath the eaves.

Anne Dennis tells me that she has Swifts which come every year and nest in her barns.   They are always on the wing, swooping and wheeling around making their high-pitched cry as they do so. She also says that she saw what she thought was a Black Kite overhead and wonders if anyone else has seen it.

Jane Purley had a female Mallard, which wandered onto her pond with six ducklings in tow.   She went out for a couple of hours and when she came back, much to her horror, there were only two left and a couple of Crows were milling around, having devoured four babies.  She has both Spotted and Green Woodpeckers in the garden and lots of Deer.

Canon John says that he has Deer in his garden too, along with many birds with their young families. Kelvin has a pair of Mandarin Ducks on his pond with seven ducklings and we have a pair of Mallards which come to clean up any grain left by our chickens.   They have no babies with them, I worry that they have met a sticky end down by the stream, preyed on by Badgers and Foxes.

Debbie and Larry saw two Hares down by the Glatting signpost and Judy Seers says she has seen one on the way up Bignor Hill.   She also said that she has had a visitation from a Little Owl, which was sitting on her fence looking very relaxed.  She also has both Spotted and Green Woodpeckers in the garden.

Terry and Annette have a Wren’s nest in their thatch.  The parents are busy going back and forth with food and they can hear the chicks.   They have a Toad living in one of their drains and have also have seen two Roe Deer in their garden enjoying their rosebuds and  young apples! They have seen a Hobby in Sutton Field at the back of their house and have Goldfinches, Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail and Swallows in their garden.   Terry also saw a Little Owl on the telegraph wires at Coates.

Margaret Eatock says that she found a small buff-coloured bird with white underparts which had found its way into her conservatory.   She thought it could be a Nightingale as she has heard one a few weeks ago at the end of her garden. (They only sing in May).

Richard Lockyer saw a young Badger walking down Folly Lane and saw eight Roe Deer jumping through the corn in a nearby field.   He has had a Bullfinch in the garden and some Pied Wagtails.  The daily visits by the Buzzards and Red Kites have stopped to be replaced by a Sparrowhawk.   Several small birds have been killed.   They have had an increasing number of Rabbits but since he has spotted two nearly fully grown Foxes together in the garden the number of Rabbits has decreased.   The first frog of the year has left the pond but there are plenty more tadpoles to follow.   He has a Broadbodied Chaser near the pond which flashes electric blue in the sunlight.   He also reported Small Tortoiseshell butterfly eggs on the sticking nettles, which have since turned into caterpillars.

Sam tells me that Sean has seen the extraordinary sight of a Squirrel with only two legs (on one side) trying to clamber up their bird table with great difficulty!  On the third attempt it managed to grab some nuts and rapidly disappeared.   He was sorry he wasn’t ready with a camera.

Please keep your sightings coming in.

Toni Green    antoniadundas@btinternet.com

July Nature

May 2016

I have been away for ten days, during which time Spring has nearly turned into summer. The May blossom is out, the trees are green with their summer foliage, the grass has been growing and there are flowers everywhere. The Swallows are back in full force and busy with their first broods. There have been a lot of sightings – and in the case of the cuckoo, hearings!

John Green was away for a few days and came back to find that the deer had been in his garden – probably after the roses, which they particularly fancy. These are most likely Roe Deer, the smaller variety which go around in small family groups (the fallow are found in very large groups and are usually on or near the downs. Roe are distinguished by a powder puff like tail whereas the Fallow have a longer tail with a black stripe down the middle and white underneath). May is the time to look for mothers and their fawns, although they are very hard to see as they keep them well hidden.

Trudi has a pair of Long-tailed Tits in her garden, probably nesting, a Mistle Thrush and saw a couple of Goldcrests fighting. They were locked in combat on the ground rolling in the dirt and seemed intent on killing each other. She has Robins feeding their young and thinks her Blackbirds are having a second brood. She also reports Newts and Tadpoles in her pond.

Wendy Hunter was on her way down Bignor Hill near the mill and saw what she thought was a young squirrel in the ditch. On closer inspection she saw it was a Stoat with a black tip to its tail with a dead baby rabbit in its mouth. The Stoat struggled off into the wood carrying its prey, which was larger than itself.

Anne Collis has had some garden visitors, a Coal Tit, a Green Woodpecker and three Goldfinches.

Richard Lockyer witnessed a fight over Bignor between a Buzzard and a Kite. He thought the Buzzard was rather over-confident with its heavier armament but the Kite was more nimble and tried to attack from below, using impressive aerobatic manoeuvres and in a few minutes they headed off in opposite directions. He heard Larks above Tobys Stone on Bignor Down and they have Swallows nesting and a pair of garden Warblers. A cock Pheasant has been parading around followed by three hens. The hens had twice laid some eggs and each time they have been eaten by a Fox. Now they have laid in a well-hidden spot by his kitchen window but a Rabbit has decided it was a perfect place to burrow and has scattered the eggs all over the place. He has seen some Orange Tip butterflies (I have not seen so many this year) and has seen a Blue butterfly which he thought was a Holly Blue.

Joanna Mersey says that she has a family of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers coming to her bird table and is enjoying watching the young ones growing up. She also has two Field Fares and a Tree Creeper in the garden and has seen two Badgers by the footpath.

Terry reported seeing a lot of Swallows on the telegraph wires in Sutton Field at the back of their house and a Grey Wagtail on the lawn and heard a Cuckoo near the village. They have also had sightings of Orange-Tipped butterflies, Brimstone and Peacock butterflies in their garden.

Tina also heard a Cuckoo at Sutton End and with Joy’s “hearing” on Coates Common it is so nice to know there are a few around. In June they change their tune and are not so easy to identify.

Janet wondered if she was seeing things when she saw a Budgerigar whilst cycling past Sutton Hollow. (Has anyone local lost one?)

Judy Seers told me that she has seen a Firecrest in her garden, which may be the same one that Nicky saw in her’s last month.

Thanks for your sightings, I hope I haven’t left anyone out – it is always rather ‘difficult doing it ‘long-range’.
Toni Green
antoniadundasd@btinternet.com

June Nature Matters