Chidham and Hambrook Village - everyday

Chidham and Hambrook - Our Environment - A Country Diary

The Chidham and Hambrook Country Diary:

An occasional record of the changing seasons, farming activities, and wildlife sightings

February 2014
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Redwing

The rain and storms seem set to continue throughout the month, which really hampers our efforts to keep track on our feathered friends. While the rain is not doing the birds any favours, the mild weather will certainly be helping them build up fat reserves for their forthcoming migrations.
Mild weather generally means that we do not get large numbers of some bird species, as they are not forced south and east by the cold weather. For some species including Shelduck this seems to the case, but early results are indicating this might be a bumper year for Brent Geese.

Winter visitors such as Redwings (photo) and Fieldfares are here in reasonable numbers and some Snow Buntings have been seen at East Head. However there have been no local sightings of Waxwings as we have seen in the last few years.

Mammals

Brown Hare



The Harbour Seals will be not be greatly affected by the rain or temperature, a thick layer of blubber insulates them from the cold. The increasing trait of Roe Deer to live in open fields is particularly visible at this time of year. Three or four groups are now present in the harbour area living in this manner.
I was lucky enough to see three Brown Hares (photo) in two separate locations last week. If you see any brown lumps in arable fields they are well worth a closer look with binoculars as it could be a hare.

Insects

Common Quaker Moth



Some early butterflies such as Brimstone will appear towards the end of the month. Moths such as Spring Usher, Common Quaker (photo) and Satellite will be flying throughout February.

Plants
Wood Anemone (photo Mark Robinson)

Spring’s imminent arrival can also be seen in woodland and hedge banks. Bulbs are pushing their first leaves to the surface getting ready to bloom in the Spring. Woodlands are greening up with Bluebell and Wood Anemone (photo Mark Robinson) shoots. Lords and Ladies is also pushing its dark green leaves to the surface where they will unfurl. Lesser Celandine is also well developed in some locations, with the first flowers (resembling an open buttercup flower) starting to show. Things are also progressing with our trees and shrubs. Look for catkins developing on Hazel and Willow.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

January 2014
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Photo: Wigeon by Tony Hisgett



It is good weather for ducks!! The end of 2013 and the start of 2014 has seen some fairly wet and wild weather across the UK. It is probably debateable if wet weather is really good for ducks, but it has opened up a lot of opportunities for them to feed. Look for packs of Teal, Wigeon and Mallard using splashes in grasslands and arable fields created by the waterlogged ground conditions.

It is probably the peak time for Brent Geese feeding on inland fields. They favour grassland and arable crops particularly winter wheat and oil seed rape. Since the 1970s we have been monitoring the fields they use outside of the harbour area. So we have a fairly good understanding of how these birds use the hinterland of the AONB. But it is important that we keep this information up to date, which is where you can help, visit www.conservancy.co.uk and go to the Goose Watch pages to find out more. The wet conditions have also had the effect of reducing opportunities for birders to get out and find interesting birds. However, a pair of Snow Buntings have been spotted at East Head, these pretty little birds often have very little fear of humans and will carry on feeding as you walk past.

Mammals

Photo: Hedgehog by Evelyn Simak



The heavy rain and high water levels can be problematic for our mammals species as hibernating species such as Hedgehogs sometimes get flooded out. Species active in the winter can be displaced from their burrows and other winter quarters, this can be particularly disruptive for species such as Wood Mouse and Water Vole which carefully cache food supplies to last the winter.

Insects
Winter Moth



It is not a completely blank time of year for insects. The odd butterfly can still seen in warm periods or if disturbed from hibernation, a Small Tortoiseshell was flying around my bedroom just last week. On night-time car journeys you may notice insects attracted toward your car lights, these are most likely Winter Moths. The caterpillars of the Winter Moth are one of the key food sources for Blue Tits feeding chicks in the Spring.

Plants

Photo: Bluebell shoots by Chris Reynolds

The bare, dark skeletal trees of December are already starting to show signs of life and colour, with buds slowly developing on many species. Look for golden hue developing on some species of Willow and a red tinge to Oak. It won’t be long before the first green spikes of Bluebell and other bulbs start emerging.

 

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

December 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Avocets

While we have had a few days of sharp weather, it is still fairly mild which makes life easier for our resident garden birds. But it does generally mean that the over-wintering birds can be later arriving. With the exception of Avocet (photo by T Carpenter), with a reported 55 birds present at Nutbourne at the end of November, it does seem as if, so far this year, we are a bit light on waders. But we have had good numbers and variety of duck species including Gadwall, Pintail and Wigeon.

Some less common visitors include Goosander, Long-tailed Duck and Common Scoter, the later two are more commonly seen on the open sea at this time of year.
Birds of prey are also fairly well represented with two different Marsh Harriers sighted at Eames Farm. There have also been regular sightings of Short-eared and Barn Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Kestrel, Sparrow Hawk and Buzzard.

Mammals


Water Vole

Water voles (photo by Paul Thomas) are much less active in the winter months. They do not hibernate but spend more time in their burrows feeding on grasses and other vegetation that they stored up during the Autumn. Look for the small ‘lawns' of close cropped grass they create by the burrow entrance

Invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians
Earth Worm

Earthworms (photo by S Shepherd) are busy pulling down leaves from the surface of woodlands and grassland. So don't be too quick raking up those leaves, the worms are doing a great job using them to enrich your lawn. While we are thinking about jobs in the garden this winter, it is now best to leave compost heaps and piles of garden rubbish until the spring in case they are harbouring hibernating reptiles, toads or hedgehogs.

Plants

Mistletoe

Leaf fall is only just happening in earnest with lots of our car parks and rural lanes carpeted with a layer of yellow, red and orange leaves. The berry bearing trees are providing some bright colour and of course great food for hungry birds. This helps the trees and shrubs to spread their seeds which are found inside the tasty berry treat.

The white berries and the ball-like growths of mistletoe (photo by Juliet Walker) are now looking their best. They are more visible now the majority of leaves are off the trees. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant and is most often found on cultivated apple, but Poplar and Hawthorn are also common hosts. It is spread by birds, including Mistle Thrush but especially Blackcap , eating the seeds and spreading them either in their droppings or in the case of Blackcap by separating the seed and wiping it off on to a tree branch.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

November 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Brent Goose

As mentioned last month it looks like Dark-bellied Brent Geese (photo by George Sprggs) have had a good breeding year. ‘Baby' brents can be identified by white stripes on their wing feathers. They are already venturing onto inland fields to graze, which is where you can make a real contribution to their conservation. Through the Goosewatch Scheme you can help us monitor which fields are in use. Enter your sightings and get further information at www.conservancy.co.uk/page/goose-watch/380/ 

All the expected birds are back in good numbers including huge numbers of Wigeon and Black-tailed Godwit . Some less expected species included a juvenile Osprey after the October storm and a Semipalmated Plover, a North American species similar in appearance to a Ringed Plover.
Mammals

Harbour seal


It is still very mild for the time of year and we are still awaiting the first frosts. Bats will only be active now on warmer evenings, and will be spending more time in torpor as they slow their systems down to conserve energy. They will go into full hibernation by the end of the month at the latest.
The Harbour Seal (photo by Meryl Mead-Briggs) population are completely unphased by the approaching winter. Their thick layer of fat will protect them from pretty much anything the British winter can throw at them! The maximum count of seals has increased again to 26 individuals seen at the main haul-out site.

Insects

Peacock Butterfly


Small tortoiseshell, Peacock (photo by Nadia Prigoda) and other butterflies that over-winter as adults will still be out on sunny days feeding on late nectar from species like ivy. They will shortly be finding a safe location to over-winter, thick scrub is often used but nowadays garden sheds are a favoured location.
With the mild conditions some hardy insects are still on the wing during sunny periods, but frosts will soon diminish most insect activity. The exceptions are some species of moth. The variety and number of moths do decrease in the winter months but species continuing to emerge include the aptly named November and Autumnal Moths

Plants

Field Maple


Apart from Ivy, not much is now flowering. Colour is provided by berries and the changing of leaf colour prior to shedding by deciduous trees. The Oaks are just starting to turn golden brown, Field Maple (photo) bright yellow and Guelder Rose, red. Despite the storm at the end of October there is still a lot of leaf on trees, but soon enough they will drop leaving just the skeletal branches.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

October 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Brent Goose

Around 3,000 dark-bellied Brent Geese (photo by Peter Arnold) have already arrived in the harbour, which is earlier than normal. This number will build to around 10,000 in December which represents 5% of the world population. The early arrival might suggest a poor breeding season, but early indications are that there are good numbers of juvenile birds. The geese initially graze on the sea grass and algae but soon venture out onto farmland and playing fields. Find out more about how you can help with counting the geese this winter.

Onward migrants such as Wheatears, Spotted Flycatchers and Black Redstarts are moving through the area. Large flocks of swallows and martins present a few weeks ago have now departed. A special visitor has been a juvenile Spoonbill which has been spotted a number of times near West Wittering.

Mammals

Grey Squirrel


As the nights start to get colder many mammal species are preparing for winter. Fox, Stoat and Roe Deer grow a thicker winter coat. Deer change from a russet red summer pelage into a grey winter coat. Others such as Water Voles and Grey Squirrels (photo by Peter Arnold) will be stocking up on food to get them through the winter.

Bats and Hedgehogs start preparing to go into hibernation, finding a suitable balance between maintaining fat reserves and the length of hibernation.

Invertebrates

Setaceous Hebrew Character

The sunny weather we have been experiencing in early October has meant that good numbers of insects are still flying including Speckled Wood, Small White and Peacock butterflies. The succession of moth species is continuing with Feathered Gothic, Setaceous Hebrew Character (photo by Olaf Lellinger) and Feathered Thorn flying over the last few days.

There are also lots of dragonflies still flying with large numbers of Migrant Hawker and Common Darter seen over the last week.


Plants

Sea Aster


Look out for plants that are still flowering. The pale, snapdragon type, yellow plant on road verges is Toadflax and in the saltmarsh is the lilac, Sea Aster (photo).
Autumn colour will be slowly developing over the next month. Various deciduous trees take on their characteristic colours, resulting in a riot of colours; the yellow of Field Maple, red of Guelder Rose and bronze of Oak.
Other colours are formed by the fruits and berries, including the red berries of Hawthorn and Guelder Rose, the dusty blue sloes on Blackthorn and the inedible shocking pink fruits containing orange arils of Spindle. And it seems like it is a bumper year for fruits with Hawthorn and Blackthorn laden down with haws and sloes.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

Sept 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Black headed Gull chick

Excellent numbers of wading birds such as Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank and Curlew are now present in the harbour. Many of these early arrivals will continue their migration further south, but increasingly some of these species, particularly Greenshank, are staying to overwinter. We are currently undertaking a study with Farlington Ringing Group to learn more about this behaviour, by using miniature trackers called geolocators. The first of the returning Brent Geese will arrive towards the end of the month, initially grazing on the sea grass beds within the harbour.
Migrant song birds, including Wheatear, Swallows and House Martins (photo), are congregating in coastal areas including the harbour. They feed up and wait for an opportunity to continue their onward migration. Rarer migrants such as Wryneck and Red-back Shrike have also been sighted. A number of Osprey have been regularly sighted. The Deeps at Thorney is probably your best bet for seeing one (or more).

Mammals

Common seals


Common Seal (photo by Mark Heighes) numbers have recently peaked at 26 animals seen hauled out within the harbour. This species is declining elsewhere in the country so it is good to see they are doing well here.
It is thought to have been another poor breeding year for bats. This is probably due to the cold Spring which extended their hibernation period and reducing insect numbers post emergence. This is one of the most active months for bats. When they are not busily feeding to build up fat reserves for a long winter of hibernation, they will also be attempting to attract mates.

Invertebrates

Square-spot Rustic moth

It has on the face of it been a better year for butterflies. Early species may have been affected by the cold Spring, but the settled Summer will have helped other species. Lots of species are still on the wing including Speckled Wood, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral.
Dragonfly seem to have had a fairly good year, with Common Darter, Emperor and Migrant Hawker seen in the last few days.
Moths currently flying include Square-spot Rustic (photo), Common Rustic and Centre-barred Sallow.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Common Lizard


The shorter days and cooler conditions as we go through September should make reptiles more visible as they spend time basking in open areas. In the case of Common Lizards (photo) they will climb vegetation, tree stumps and even benches to get access to the sun’s warmth.
Baby grass snakes and slow worms have been spotted on a few sites. Grass snakes hatch from eggs as mini replicas of the adults, slow worms are live-born direct from their mother with stripy camouflage to blend in with dead grass.

Plants

Blackberries


Lots of the later flowering species are still in full bloom, including the deep pink flowers of Black Knapweed and yellow Fleabane. The last of the orchid species, Autumn Ladies Tresses, is now in flower, you will be very lucky to find it though, as it is only found in a few locations around the harbour.
Fruit is starting to develop on a number of trees and shrubs. Bramble is covered in juicy blackberries, but as with all wild food only eat things you can positively identify.


Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

August 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Black headed Gull chick

August is normally the peak month for numbers of some waders including Redshank, Curlew and Greenshank. In our most recent count there were 1,200 Curlew in the harbour. These are probably birds from breeding populations in the North of England and Scotland. We are still awaiting significant numbers of Dunlin and Sanderling to arrive. Most of these birds will continue to migrate onwards once they have replenished their fat reserves.

Apart from a few Black-headed Gull chicks (photo) there was no successful breeding by any of the tern or gull species. Given the stable weather and benign tides in the breeding season it is unclear why this has occurred.

We are expecting Ospreys to start coming through the harbour shortly and hope for one to show interest in one of our artificial nest platforms..

Mammals

Seal cub and mother



Two seal pups (photo left) have been sighted within the harbour. Pups are able to swim within hours of being born and will take milk for the first 3-6 weeks of life when they make huge weight gains. If you see seals please observe our Seal Code of Conduct, give them space and minimise your disturbance.

Bats are now very active with this year’s young now out hunting for themselves. Bats only have a single pup making it difficult to build their population numbers so we are hoping this has been a better breeding season than last year. The bat mating season will shortly commence.

Invertebrates

Flame shoulder moth

 

On the face of it, it seems to be a fairly good year for butterflies. We have spotted clouds of Meadow Brown on grassland, and numerous Speckled Wood, Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Red Admiral, Comma, Large White and even a few sightings of Small Tortoiseshell. If you are out and about the Big Butterfly Count runs until the 11th August, all contributions are welcome.

Now is a good time for moths. Lots of species are attracted to lighted windows and find their way into houses. I have recently seen Pale Prominent, Brimstone, Swallowtail, Flame Shoulder (photo) and Drinker moths.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Slow worm


Slow worm will be producing young sometime in August, the 5-10cm young have a striking colouration of straw coloured upper with black underside.

 


Plants

Wild Marjoram

The heat wave in July parched many habitats, however, the recent rain has certainly freshened them up. Species such as the deep red thistle-like flowers of Black Knapweed and Purple Loosestrife and the two tone pink and purple of Marjoram (photo, the wild predecessor of cultivated Oregano ) are now in flower.
We have recently undertaken some seagrass surveys. This group of plants are the only truly marine flowering plants, they occur on some areas of mudland around the harbour. The survey showed a fairly healthy population of three species, Dwarf and Narrow-leaved Eelgrass and Beaked Tasselweed . As well as being important in its own right as a fairly rare and special habitat, these grasses are a valuable food source for Brent Geese and Wigeon in the winter.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

July 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Mallard

July can be fairly quiet time for birds around the harbour, but with the delayed Spring there is still plenty of breeding activity going on. Common, Sandwich and Little Terns are still nesting, hopefully by the time of my next survey they will have chicks, and then we can only hope for a run of reasonable weather to enable them to fledge.

Quite a lot of Curlew are back already which may be a sign of a poor breeding year in their northern breeding grounds. You may also be wondering where all the drake Mallards (photo) have gone. They have moulted into what is known as eclipse plumage. They have lost their bright green head colour and look similar to the females, but can be separated by the males olive bill.

Mammals

Pipistrelle bat



Conditions last summer made life very difficult for bats, with reports of high breeding mortality and low body weight. An impromptu survey last night, driving slowly along country lanes with my son holding a bat detector out of the car window, resulted in almost continuous detections of Common Pipistrelle bats, so fingers crossed it will be a better year for breeding bats. Bat pups are born in June in. Most species have a single pup which is born in a communal maternity roost. Toward the end of July young bats start to fly, which is when the roosts will be most evident.

Invertebrates

Four spot chaser dragonfly

 

Following the theme of last year, ‘the summer that didn't happen', 2012 has now been assessed to be one of the worst years on record for butterfly populations. Hopefully the more settled weather so far this year will enable them to bounce back. Recent sightings include Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Common Blue which will be seeking out Bird's-foot Trefoil upon which its caterpillars feed. Small numbers of the migrants; Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow have also been observed.

It also seems to be a better year for dragon and damsel flies. Good numbers of Common Darter, Four-spot chaser (photo) and Large Red Damselfly have been sighted. After a slow start, moth numbers appear to be building with Snout, Willow Beauty and the day-flying Six-spot Burnet , with its bright red spotted forewing and red underwing all seen recently.


Reptiles and Amphibians
Grass snake eggs


Grass Snakes will have or are in the process of laying eggs (photo). They lay their eggs in rotting vegetation including compost heaps, the heat produced by the compost incubates the egg, which will hatch in September. Breeding female Slow-worms will still be carrying their young, the gravid females will be showing a pronounced bulge.


Plants

Bird's foot trefoil

The warm, but not too dry conditions have resulted in luxuriant growth of lots of vegetation, particularly Bird's-foot Trefoil (photo) with shocks of yellow, mixed with smaller red flowers hence their colloquial name ‘eggs and bacon'. It has been a good year for orchids so far with record numbers of Southern Marsh Orchids at Fishbourne Meadows, lots of Pyramidal Orchids in various locations and fair numbers of bee orchids.

As yet we haven't seen any signs of the Ash dieback in the harbour area, but we are remaining vigilant.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

June 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Swan and Cygnet

There is lots of breeding activity going on with broods of Black-headed Gulls, Mute Swans (photo by Peter Arnold), Mallards and Coot chicks on a number of sites. Other birds such as Mistle Thrush, Robin and Starling have already fledged chicks (their juvenile plumage can make identification troublesome!). Still other species are still nesting or even still displaying, some of which are very late arriving and starting compared to average. The seabird colonies are fairly busy with good numbers of Sandwich Terns, Common Terns and Black-headed Gulls apparently nesting. But very few Little Terns and no Mediterranean Gulls observed.

There are small numbers of summering waders in the harbour including Dunlin and a small group of Bar-tailed Godwits some of which are resplendent in their summer plumage.

Mammals

Serotine bat

The young of many of our mammal species will also now be well grown and some starting to venture out. Look out for fox and badger cubs, weasel and stoat kits and Roe kids. Roe does will have recently given birth, usually to two spotty kids, which they leave laying separately in grass and other vegetation, and return to suckle them.
Bats are making best use of the short nights but with high numbers of insects. You will have to stay out quite late (or get up very early!!) to see bats this time of year. A recent survey at Maybush Copse using a bat detector identified three or four species, including Common Pipistrelle and probably Serotine (photo) and Brown Long-eared.

Invertebrates

Small Heath butterfly

After the slow start, the warm weather we have been experiencing has encouraged our insect life to emerge. Orange Tip, Brimstone, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Heath (photo), Large White, Small White and Speckled Wood Butterflies have all been seen recently. Common Blue and Large Red damselflies were found in good numbers during a lunchtime wander around a pond.
After a very slow start more moths seem to be active with White Ermine, the sulphur yellow Brimstone Moth and the black and shocking pink Cinnabar have all been flying in the last few days.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Sand Lizard


Reptiles are becoming more difficult to spot. The warmer temperature reduces their reliance on basking to regulate their body heat so they will be more active in denser vegetation. However, early mornings and later in the evening when the temperature starts dropping are good times to spot them.
Tadpoles now resemble miniatures of their parents, and some froglets and toadlets will be venturing out of the pond.

Plants

Southern Marsh Orchid

As with lots of things this year things are happening a bit slowly in the plant world. Southern Marsh Orchids (photo) are starting to flower and will be putting on quite a show at sites such as Fishbourne Meadows. The pale lilac of Common Spotted Orchid are forming dense beds in some areas. But Bee and Pyramidal Orchids do not seem to have started to emerge yet.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

May 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

The Cathedral Peregrines have hatched three out of four eggs. The local pigeon population had better keep their heads down with so many hungry mouths to feed! Other birds well into breeding include Starlings, Moorhens and Mallard . All of these have been seen or heard with chicks. Hopefully the settled weather will continue and we will have a better breeding season, because they really need it.

The seabirds are also busy breeding. Gull species are mostly already nesting and the terns have now arrived, with Little Tern , and lots of Common and Sandwich Terns sighted within the Chichester Harbour nesting colonies.

After a very slow start migrant birds such as Swifts, House Martins and Swallows have arrived in numbers. Cuckoos have been heard in a few locations around the harbour. Other migrants that have recently passed through the harbour include; Osprey (photo), Whimbrel and a male Marsh Harrier that hung around Thorney for about a week.
Mammals

Polecat

Most mammals will be now busy breeding. Foxes, Badgers and Stoats are feeding young whilst Brown Hare, Rabbits and Weasels will be on their first of multiple litters of the year. Most of the young mammals will be tucked away safely in burrows, but young fox cubs will soon be venturing out to explore their surroundings.
The use of camera traps (as popularised by various BBC nature programmes) has led to an interesting discovery of a Polecat (photo) at Chidham. This species was lost from much of the UK, but is now recolonising its former range. 
All the bat species will now be active. Keep a look out at dusk for bats emerging, the smaller bats like the Pipistrelle will be doing a great job eating biting insects in your gardens.

Invertebrates

Silver Y Moth

Another group of species that would really benefit from a more settled spring and summer are our invertebrates. Declines have been noted in sightings of many butterfly and moth species. As with a lot of things the cold March has delayed emergence, but I have seen, Brimstone, Orange Tip, Small White, Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell in various locations.

It has also been very slow for moths, however, I did see my first Silver Y (photo) last week which is a migrant species.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Tadpoles


All reptile species are now all active. They can be found in most areas of suitable habitat, which for the commoner reptiles (Grass Snake, Slow-worm and Viviparous Lizard) are rough grassland, light scrub and hedge-banks. Walk very slowly in areas of suitable habitat and check open patches or raised areas for basking reptiles.

Ponds are now full of masses of tadpoles, as they get bigger it is easier to identify if they are frogs or toads, frog tadpoles are speckled, while toads are uniformly black (or dark brown).

Plants

Green Winged Orchid
Plants are now bursting into flower. Bluebells are at their peak along with Cuckoo Flower, Lesser Stitchwort (Batchelors Buttons) and Garlic Mustard.

In grasslands, and in some lucky peoples gardens, the early flowering (but quite rare) Green Winged Orchid (photo) is now flowering. As the spring and early summer continues a succession of orchid species will come into bloom.

Blackthorn is still in flower, but other trees such as Hawthorn (the May Tree) and Horse Chestnut are now only just starting to flower.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

April 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Spotted Redshank

This time last year I was commenting on the warm weather, but we have just had the coldest March since 1962. It is thought that birds use different cues to time their migrations. These include increasing day length and also the weather plays a role in the exact timing of departures. The Spotted Redshank that frequents Nore Barn to the West of Emsworth recorded the latest leaving date since it first used the site in 2004.

But the harbour is certainly quieter with the bulk of the winter visitors now departed. Included in those departed birds are three Greenshank that have been fitted with geolocators. This is a tiny device that will record the whereabouts of the birds, so we can learn more about this species.


Away from the harbour it is a different story, with singing and other courtship behaviour occurring in every corner. Male birds will be singing to attract mates and defend territories. The distinctive ‘teacher, teacher' call of the Great Tit and the calls of other resident breeding birds are a backdrop to countryside walks and a useful reminder that Spring is on the way.

 
Mammals

Fox Cubs

Foxes will have given birth to their cubs and as the cubs grow so does their appetite. Vixens increasingly have to hunt in the day to get enough food, and are also more likely to target domestic fowl, so make sure your chickens are secure!!
Bats emerging from hibernation will have been delayed by the cold weather, but will start to be active over the coming weeks.

Invertebrates

Brimstone Butterfly


Not surprisingly given the weather I haven't seen any butterflies and only tiny numbers of moths.
The species that over-winter as adults such as Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone (photo), will be the first, but Orange Tip a species that over-winters as a pupa and emerges in the Spring shouldn't be far behind.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Common Lizard


The cold conditions will have delayed reptiles emerging from hibernation. There are no reports of Slow-Worms, Viviparous (common) Lizards (photo) or Grass snake as of yet but I would expect to see some in the next week or so.
Frog spawn should now be present in ponds and some recent surveys have located some good populations of smooth newts around the harbour.

Plants

Common Dog Violet

Our road verges, hedges and woods are starting to show some colour, including the gold flowers and heart shaped leaves of Lesser Celandine, the pale yellow flowers of primrose and the purple of Early Dog Violet.
You may also have noticed a small white flower growing in dense mats on the very edge of many of the larger roads, this is Danish Scurvy Grass. This salt loving plant has escaped its normal coastal range by exploiting the conditions created by gritting our road with rock salt in the winter. .

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

March 2013
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Gadwall


Recently I have seen Lapwings, having staked a claim for a suitable territory, undertaking their wheeling aerial display to attract a mate. I also saw Skylarks as they were engaging in their spectacular song-flight, ascending high into the sky singing as they go, before ‘parachuting’ back to earth.

Gadwall (photo) numbers seem to be on a meteoric rise. This attractive grey and chestnut duck has recently increased its breeding range and actually bred successfully on Fishbourne Millpond last year. Over-winter numbers have hugely increased over the last few years.

Lots of birds are now changing into there summer breeding plumage. Black-tailed Godwits are starting to show some red colouration on their heads and neck and barring on their breast. Knot will live up to their international name Red Knot as they turn ruddy red, while Dunlin will be trading its rather dull uniform grey winter plumage for a dashing black belly and brown wing feathers.
Mammals

Brown Hares



This should be the time when Brown Hares are most visible. The ‘Mad March Hares’, chasing and boxing is actually females fending off the unwanted attention of males. But I haven’t seen any yet this year, which is a worry.

Water Vole activity is stepping up as the new Spring growth increases their available food supply. They will soon be spreading out from their communal winter colony to establish breeding territories.

Invertebrates

Orange Tip Butterfly


There have been sightings of butterflies include Red Admiral and the vibrant sulphur yellow Brimstone, both of which hibernate as adults over the winter.
The first ‘new’ butterflies of the year will be Orange Tips (photo), which may start emerging towards the ends of the month. Moths flying will include Clouded Drab and Dotted Border.


Reptiles and Amphibians
Common Toad

Amphibians have come out of hibernation, and are moving to breeding ponds and lakes. Toads in particular will migrate on particular routes often crossing roads, where they can come into conflict with motor vehicles.
As the days get longer and the temperature rises reptiles will also be emerging from hibernation.

Plants

Celandine

Individuals of some species are already in full flower including Lesser Celandine and Early Dog Violet. Others such as Wild Garlic and Bluebell are fully emerged but not yet.

The yellow catkins of Hazel and the white of Goat Willow are now very visible. Buds are swelling on number of other species of tree and shrub, in fact the first signs of new green leaves are appearing on Hawthorn.


Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

December 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Jack Snipe


The cold weather we have been experiencing seems to have brought the birds in. Hopefully it will not get too extreme though as frozen conditions can make life hard, especially waders that have to probe into mud for their food.
We will are now at peak numbers for many species. Currently we have around 10-15,000 Dunlin, this species is the most common small wader you will see in Chichester Harbour. Look for them busily feeding on the mudflats, often closely following the receding tide, or wheeling about in huge flocks flashing white as they turn in unison.

They haven’t arrived in the numbers seen last year, but Short-eared owls can now be spotted in various locations. The best time to see them is late afternoon when they will be hunting, flying low across rough grassland. Jack Snipe (above) have also arrived, this tiny wader feeds in marshy areas they are generally quite hard to see and will remain concealed, only flushing when you virtually tread on them. There are also lots of Gadwall (a medium sized duck) in the harbour. Numbers have built up over the last few years and they are now a fairly common sight throughout the harbour.
Mammals

Water Vole

Water Voles are much less active in the winter months. They do not hibernate but spend more time in their burrows feeding on grasses and other vegetation that they stored in Autumn. You may however, see the small ‘lawns’ of close cropped grass they create outside of the burrow.

Insects
Painted Lady Butterfly


While not entirely topical, new research has solved the enigma of what happens to Painted Lady butterflies that migrate to the UK. 2009 was a bumper year when 11 million arrived in the UK. It was assumed that the butterflies would attempt to over-winter or perish in the first frosts, as there was no visible reverse migration. It has now been shown that 26 million Painted Ladies made the reverse migration to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco flying at 3,000 feet at speeds up to 30 mph.

Plants

Mistletoe


Very few trees are still retaining leaves, with just a few Oaks, steadfastly holding onto their now golden brown leaves. The berry bearing trees are providing some bright colour and of course great food for hungry birds. In turn birds help the trees and shrubs to spread the seeds, found inside the tasty berry treat.

The red berries and striking prickly foliage of holly, the white berries on the ball like clumps of mistletoe (left) and the flowers and foliage of ivy - the traditional yuletime plants are all looking their best.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

November 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Greenshank


It appears as if Dark-bellied Brent Geese have had a very poor breeding year. The flocks that have already arrived in Chichester Harbour have very few young with them. ‘Baby' brents can be identified by white stripes on the wing feathers, these are absent in adult birds. Counting the percentage of juvenile birds enables us to build a picture of what is happening in the remote and inaccessible breeding grounds on the Taimyr Peninsula in arctic Russia.

Most of the other winter visitors including Dunlin, Golden Plover and Wigeon are now here in significant numbers. These will continue to build with peak numbers occurring in December for most species. The Spotted Redshank that has become a regular attraction at Nore Barn has returned for another year, as has the Nutbourne Greenshank (which is colour ringed green/yellow and green/yellow (photo)) for the 10th year running.
There are still a few swallows around, you wonder if they might have left it a bit late to start their migration.

Mammals

Harbour Seal

Mammals that hibernate will either be in hibernation or will shortly be entering it. Bats will only be active now on warmer evenings. Now they spend more time in torpor, slowing their systems down to conserve energy, until they go into full hibernation by the end of the month at the latest. Other mammals such as Water Voles and Wood Mice will be busy storing food in caches for the long winter ahead.
A record 23 Harbour Seals (photo) were counted recently, the approaching cold weather will not phase these hardy animals.

Invertebrates
Common Darter


A few hardy insects are still on the wing in sunny periods. Look for Red Admirals and Common Darter Dragonflies (photo). Further frosts soon diminish most insect activity. The exception are some species of moth, the variety and number of moths do decrease in the winter months, but a succession of species occur throughout most of the year. Species now appearing include the aptly named November and Autumnal Moths.

Plants

Autumn colour


Autumn in terms of spectacular colour seems to be a bit late. Most trees are still retaining their leaves. Some trees such as shoreline Oaks are still resolutely green, whilst others including Horse Chestnut are now skeletal forms having shed all of their leaves.

Ivy is about the only plant still or about to flower. The un-opened heads looking more like a molecular model then a flower. Some flowering ivy near the Harbour Office is teeming with bees and other insects exploiting this late nectar source. The berries that will develop are a vital late winter food source for thrushes, including Song Thrush and Blackbird.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

October 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Ringed Plover

The first of the dark-bellied Brent Geese will soon arrive back in the harbour. They have been sighted in small numbers coming down the English Channel. The numbers will build to around 10,000 by December, which represents about 5% of the world population.

Onward migrants such as Wheatears, Spotted Flycatchers and Black Redstarts are still moving through the area. Large flocks of Swallows and Martins are waiting for suitable conditions to migrate.

Around 70 of the 90 Ringed Plover (photo) which were equipped with coloured rings have been resighted. The rings enable the individual birds to be identified in the field as part of a project investigating the causes behind their recent decline. Most of the resightings have been local, but records from Rye in East Sussex, Holland and Germany have been received.

 

Mammals

Roe Deer in winter coat

As the nights start to get colder many mammal species will be preparing for winter. Fox and Stoats will be growing a thicker winter coat and Roe Deer (photo) will change from their russet red summer pelage into a grey winter coat. Others such as Water Vole and Grey Squirrel will be stocking up on food to get them through the winter. Bats and Hedgehogs will start preparing to go into hibernation. They have to find a suitable balance between maintaining fat reserves and the length of their hibernation.

Invertebrates
Peacock Butterfly

While the weather is still fairly warm butterflies such as Speckled Wood, Small White and Peacock (photo) are still flying. Some migrant butterflies are still arriving including Red Admiral and Clouded Yellow. The succession of moth species is continuing with Feather Gothic, Setaceous Hebrew Character and second brood Heart and Dart flying over the last few days.
There also seems to be lots of dragonflies still flying with large numbers of Migrant Hawker and Common Darter seen over the last week.

Plants

Spindle Tree

The strange weather conditions seem to have messed up nature’s clock a bit, with lots of plants still flowering. The pale snapdragon type yellow plant on road verges is Toadflax. A few plants such as Sea Aster are still flowering. Over the next month various deciduous trees take on their characteristic colours prior to shedding their leaves. Expect a riot of colours, the yellow of Field Maple, red of Guelder Rose and bronze of Oak.

Other colours are formed by the fruits and berries, including the red berries of Hawthorn and Guelder Rose, the dusty blue sloes on Blackthorn and the shocking pink fruit and orange seeds of the Spindle tree (photo).

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

August 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Black headed Gull

Good numbers of wading birds are now arriving in the Harbour. August is normally the peak month for Redshank, Curlew and Greenshank. These species breed in the North of England and Scotland. Researchers in the Pennines have informed us that conditions were fairly good during the breeding season. Significant numbers of Dunlin and Sanderling, and a Little Stint have also been sighted. Most of these birds will continue to migrate onwards once they have replenished their fat reserves.

Despite the disastrous start with most nests being washed out, chicks of Black-headed Gull (photo), Mediteranean Gull and Common Tern have been sighted.
A number of Ospreys have been sighted around the harbour, including a pair that have been seen repeatedly. Let’s hope they come back and attempt to breed next year.

Mammals

Harbour Seal

There have been lots of sightings of seals (probably Harbour Seals), from East Head and Selsey. I’m not sure if it is the seals or the people that are being more active, must be the influence of the Olympics! Bats are very active with this year’s young now out hunting for themselves. It has not been a good year for bats with the poor weather earlier in the year restricting their feeding ability and food supply. The mating season will shortly commence.

Invertebrates
Gatekeeper Butterfly

Still slow for butterflies, but large numbers of Gatekeeper (photo) are now present especially along grassy hedges, they have emerged significantly later than in previous years. The migrant species such as Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow are also quite poorly represented.

Moth species seen include Riband Wave, Garden Carpet, Flame Shoulder and Drinker.


Reptiles and Amphibians


The variable weather will be having an effect on our reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles rely on the energy of the sun to remain active, so the periods of rain and little sun will not have been good for them. However, the wet conditions will reduce the need for amphibians to hide from the sun to avoid dehydration. The wet conditions are also ideal for slugs (photo), which are a major prey item for both Common Toad and Slow-worm, which is a definite plus.

Plants

Purple Loosestrife

The funny year for flowering plants has continued. Some of the later flowering species are now out. You may have spotted the pastel yellow of Toadflax flowers, a relative of the snapdragon, along road verges. Also look for the deep-red thistle like flowers of Black Knapweed and Purple Loosestrife (photo) and the two tone pink and purple of Marjoram (the wild predecessor of cultivated Oregano).

Fruiting may also be variable this year. Some trees are starting to get a good crop but others are bare. I think the blackberry harvest might be particularly poor this autumn. If you do plan to harvest some wild berries beware the poisonous species including the bright red berries of Black Bryony and the shiny black berries of Deadly Nightshade.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

June 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Mallard Ducklings

Lots of species are now well into their breeding. There are good sized Mute swan cygnets, Mallard ducklings (photo) and Moorhen chicks on a number of sites. Also look out for fledged juvenile birds such as House Sparrow and Starling.
House Martins are again nesting at the Harbour Office. It seems that the harbour mud is not an ideal building material. After seeing nests collapse last year, the Workshop team installed some artificial nests, which are all in use.

The seabird colonies appear to be quite busy this year with Sandwich, Common and Little Tern all apparently nesting. Good numbers of Black-headed Gulls and a few Mediterranean Gulls are sitting on nests.

Mammals

Stoat

The young of many of our mammal species are starting to venture out. These include Fox and Badger cubs, Weasel and Stoat (photo) kits and Roe kids. Roe does will have recently given birth to two spotty kids, they leave them laying separately in grass and other vegetation, and return to suckle them. Bats are making best use of the short nights but high numbers of insects. Keep an eye out at dusk for emerging bats, hunting insects around trees and buildings.

Invertebrates
White Ermine Moth

It has been a slow Spring for butterflies. Very small numbers of Holly and Common Blue have been seen. Other species spotted include: Small Heath, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and the White’s (Small, Large and Green Veined).
I haven’t seen a great deal of dragon or damsel flies yet this year, just the odd Large Red and Emperor dragonflies.
Moths have just got really active. On the wing are White Ermine (photo), Oak Hook Tip and lots of species of Carpet (Green, Twin-spot Red etc). Also flying are the black and shocking pink Cinnabar Moths which will fly by day. Their yellow and black striped caterpillars feed on ragwort.

Reptiles and Amphibians


As the warmer temperature reduces their reliance on basking to regulate their body heat, reptiles will be more difficult to spot. They are more active in dense vegetation. Early morning and late in the evening when the temperature starts dropping are good times to see them.
Tadpoles now resemble miniatures of their parents. Some froglets (photo) and toadlets will be venturing out of the pond.

Froglet
Plants

Pyramid orchid

Things are happening slowly in the plant world this year. Southern Marsh Orchids are starting to flower, a couple of weeks later than last year, but are putting on quite a show at sites such as Fishbourne Meadows. Also look out for Bee Orchid, its distinctive unusual flowers resembling a bee. The bright pink Pyramidal Orchid (photo) and the pale lilac of Common Spotted Orchid are forming dense beds in some areas.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

May 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Mute Swan Cygnets

The Cathedral Peregrines have hatched all four eggs, the parents are now busy feeding the chicks. And what parents! they are successfully rearing chicks year on year! Other birds well into breeding include Starlings, Mute Swans (photo) and Mallard, all of which have chicks. The recent heavy rain has caused problems for ground nesting birds especially Lapwing, who are suffering flooded nests.
Terns have now arrived, with good numbers of Little Tern, lots of Common Terns, but no Sandwich Terns yet sighted within the nesting colonies.

After a slow start migrant birds such as Swifts, House Martins and Swallows have arrived in numbers. Cuckoo’s have been heard and Osprey, Whimbrel and Curlew Sandpiper have all passed through the harbour.

Mammals

Fox Cub

Baby rabbits seem to have been around for ages now, no doubt helped by the mild winter. However, breeding activity of most of our other mammal species is less visible with the youngsters tucked away in setts, earths and other burrows. Mothers and assisting family, in the case of foxes (photo) often a female from a preceding litter, will be busy feeding hungry mouths.
The persistent rain will be a problem for all of the bat species. It increases the energy costs of flying and reduces the insect life that will be in flight.
There has been an unusual recent sighting of two Atlantic Grey seals, alongside the more regular Harbour Seals.

Invertebrates
Clouded Drab moth

The wet weather has limited the butterflies on the wing. I have seen Orange Tip, Small White (photo), Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell. The rain seems to have slowed the moths as well, with individuals of Muslin Moth and Brimstone the only species I have noted.

All reptile species are now active. Grass Snake, Slow-worm and Viviparous Lizard can be seen in rough grassland, light scrub and hedge-banks. Walk very slowly in suitable and check open patches or raised areas for basking reptiles.

Ponds are now full of masses of tadpoles. As they get bigger it is easier to identify if they are frogs or toads. Frog tadpoles are speckled, while toads are uniformly black (or dark brown).

Viviparous Lizard
Plants

Green winged Orchid

 

In our woodlands Bluebells and Primroses are still looking great. Along hedge banks and road verges things are happening a bit slower than normal with the white flowers of Lesser Stitchwort and Garlic Mustard (Jack-by-the-hedge), and the blue of Green Alkanet in bloom. In grasslands the early flowering (but quite rare) Green Winged Orchid (photo) is now flowering.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

April 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Yellowhammer

The harbour now seems eerily quiet as the bulk of the winter visitors have departed for their breeding grounds. The background cronking of Brent Geese and whistling of Wigeon, has yet to be replaced by the shrill call of Terns feeding in the harbour.

Away from the water it is a different story, listen for male birds are singing to attract mates and defend territories. Yellowhammers - see photo (now sadly a much rarer sight) will be singing from hedgerows with their ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’ call.

Some migrants such as Chiffchaffs have arrived in numbers, but others such as Wheatears seem to be late, particularly given the unseasonably warm weather.

Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls are now in full breeding plumage. In one of those odd paradoxes Black-headed Gulls actually have dark brown heads, while Mediterranean Gulls have a full black hood.
Mammals

Fox Cub

Foxes will have given birth to their cubs (photo) and as the cubs grow so does their appetite. Vixens will have to hunt in the day to get enough food for their families.

Water Voles become increasingly active as they start their breeding cycle. Bats are also emerging from hibernation. This week I saw my first bats of the year, two Pipistrelles zooming around at roof height in the garden.

Invertebrates
Clouded Drab moth

Despite the warm weather I haven't seen many butterflies, (other observers are having more luck!!). However, I have recorded Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Brimstone , all of which over-winter as adults. There have also been reports of Orange Tip , a species that over-winters as a pupa and emerges in the Spring. Moths recently sighted include Small Quaker, Clouded Drab (photo) and Hebrew Character.

The warm conditions have been ideal for reptiles emerging from hibernation, with records of Slow-worms and Viviparous (common) Lizards on a number of sites, I will be keeping an eye out for Grass Snakes which should also be active. Frogspawn should now be present in ponds. Recent surveys have located good populations of Smooth Newts around the harbour.
smooth newt
Plants

Danish Scurvy Grass

Our road verges, hedges and woods are starting to show some colour. Look for the gold flowers and heart-shaped leaves of Lesser Celandine, the pale yellow flowers of Primrose and in some locations the pale pink of Cuckoo Flower also known as Lady’s Smock.
You may also have noticed a small white flower growing in dense mats at the very edge of larger roads, this is Danish Scurvy Grass. (photo) This salt loving plant has escaped its normal coastal range and is now exploiting the conditions created by gritting our road with rock salt in the winter.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

February 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Red Breasted Merganser


Winter has finally caught up with us, with the first consistent periods of sub zero temperatures. Birds should be fine as they will have taken advantage of the mild weather to build up fat reserves.
Despite the weather, signs of Spring are evident, especially amongst the duck species. Ducks tend to pair up on the wintering grounds where courtship rituals can be seen as they make or reinforce a relationship. Look out for Red-breasted Mergansers (photo), their courtship involves lots of rigorous head bobbing and drakes swimming in circles around females.

A few people have contacted me to ask where all the Brent Geese have gone, as there seem to be very few around the harbour. They haven’t gone, I would estimate we currently have 10,000 geese in the harbour. However, they don’t just feed by the water but also graze on agricultural crops and in sports fields. For some reason this year they have been feeding in large flocks in just a few locations, in some cases 2km inland. They then return to the harbour at night to roost.
Mammals

Woodmouse

The Harbour Seals will be not be greatly affected by the drop in temperature, their thick layer of blubber insulates them from the cold. Wood Mice are making good use of the plentiful crop of acorns. Our Rangers found a huge stash hidden under a sheet of tin in Salterns Copse.

Invertebrates
Common Quaker

Some early butterflies such as Brimstone will appear towards the end of the month. Moths such as Spring Usher, Common Quaker (photo) and Satellite will be flying throughout February.



Plants

Oak


The imminent arrival of Spring can also be seen in woodland and hedge banks. Bulbs are pushing their first leaves to the surface as they get ready to bloom. Woodlands are greening up with Bluebell and Wood Anemone shoots. Lords and Ladies is also pushing its dark green leaves to the surface where they will unfurl. Lesser Celandine (photo) is also well developed in some locations, with the first flowers showing (resembling an open buttercup flower).
Things are also progressing with our trees and shrubs, with catkins developing on Hazel and Willow.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

January 2012
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Red Breasted Merganser

Looking back to my notes from last year, the weather couldn't be more different. Last January we were gripped in some of the coldest conditions for decades. The current weather we are told by meteorologists is near to the average for the time of year, but it does seem incredibly mild.

The mild weather has possibly resulted in some species such as Red-breasted Merganser (left) and Shelduck arriving in smaller numbers. But it has meant that other species may stay on here rather than escape frozen conditions as they did last year.

It was seemingly a good year for acorns and other tree mast. Large flocks of Wood Pigeons and Finches are congregating in woodland and feeding on the bounty. A group of Snow Buntings are still present on East Head and an immature male Eider duck near Pilsey.
Mammals

Hedgehog


The mild weather should also made life easier for our non-hibernating mammals such as Water Vole and Roe Deer. However, it could be problematic for hibernating species. Mild spells can cause bat species and hedgehogs (left) to emerge from hibernation. With limited food available they can quickly use up valuable fat reserves.

 

Insects
Winter Moth

It is not a completely blank time of year for insects. Look for the Winter Moth (left) which can often be seen on night-time car journeys, attracted toward you car lights. The caterpillars of the Winter Moth are one of the key food sources for Blue Tits feeding chicks in the Spring.


Plants

Oak


The bare, dark, skeletal trees of December are already starting to show signs of life and colour. Buds are slowly developing on many species, giving a golden hue to some species of Willow and a developing red tinge to Oak.


Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

December 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Dunlin



The mild spell experienced in November is now giving way to colder weather. This is good for birders as there will potentially be more bird movements from Scandinavia and the Baltic. That said, there are already plenty of birds to see for less demanding observers. Many of our winter visitors are already at their peak numbers including 10-15,000 Dunlin. This species is the most common small wader you will see in Chichester Harbour. They can be spotted busily feeding on the mudflats often closely following the receding tide, or wheeling about in huge flocks, flashing white as they turn in unison.
There has been an influx of Short-eared Owls, with sightings across Sussex, including five at Thorney Island and one at Chidham. These owls are unusual in that they can be seen hunting during the day. Rarer species that have been sighted around the harbour include five Snow Buntings at East Head and the Little Stint has returned to Fishbourne for another winter.

 

Mammals

Water Vole burrow

Water voles are much less active in the winter months. They don't hibernate but do spend more time in their burrows feeding on grasses and other vegetation they have stored during the Autumn. You may however, see the small ‘lawns' of close cropped grass they create outside their river bank burrows.

 

Amphibians

Toad

Some frogs and toads seem to have been fooled by the warm weather in November and have still been active. The colder weather will encourage them to find a hibernation site, under piles of leaves, log piles or in other animal burrows.
Insects
mottled umber moth

A few hardy butterflies are still on the wing, including three Red Admirals in my garden at the weekend. Common Darter Dragonflies are also still around, but the first frosts will soon diminish most insect activity.
The exceptions are some species of moth. The variety and number of moths do decrease in the winter months, but a succession of species occur throughout most of the year. Species now appearing in my garden include the aptly named November and Autumnal Moths.

Plants

Mistletoe

Many trees have held onto their leaves but the strong winds at the end of November have stripped many of the last of their leaves. However, many of the shoreline oaks still have golden green leaves, that will probably drop after a few hard frosts. The berry bearing trees are providing some bright colour and of course great food for hungry birds. This in turn helps the trees and shrubs to spread their seeds which are found inside the tasty berry treat.
The traditional Yule time plants are all looking their best with the red berries and striking prickly foliage of holly, white berries on the ball-like clumps of mistletoe and the flowers and foliage of ivy..

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

November 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Dartford Warbler

First impressions are that Dark-bellied Brent Geese have had a good breeding year, as they are accompanied by lots of juvenile birds. ‘Baby’ Brents can be identified by white stripes on the wing feathers, these are absent in adult birds. Counting the percentage of juvenile birds enables us to build a picture of what is happening in the remote and inaccessible breeding grounds on the Taimyr Peninsula in arctic Russia.
Other less usual winter visitors include a female (red head) Goosander, Dartford Warbler and Marsh Harrier. A Ruddy Shelduck has also been sighted feeding with a Brent Geese, it is likely that this bird is feral, rather then a truly wild bird.

 

Mammals

soprano pipistrelle

Bats will only be active now on warmer evenings, and will be spending more time in torpor slowing their systems down to conserve energy. They will go into full hibernation by the end of the month at the latest.

Insects
Red Admiral

A few hardy butterflies are still on the wing, including three Red Admirals in my garden at the weekend. Common Darter Dragonflies are also still around, but the first frosts will soon diminish most insect activity.
The exceptions are some species of moth. The variety and number of moths do decrease in the winter months, but a succession of species occur throughout most of the year. Species now appearing in my garden include the aptly named November and Autumnal Moths.

Plants

Ivy flower

The Autumn colour is really quite spectacular. Most trees are still retaining their leaves as they turn bright yellow, orange and red. However, some trees such as the shoreline Oaks are still resolutely green, whilst others including Horse Chestnut are now skeletal forms having shed all of their leaves.
Apart from some hardy individuals only ivy is still flowering, or about to flower. The un-opened heads look more like a molecular model then a flower. Ivy flowers are great for late insects collecting nectar and the berries that will develop are a vital late winter food source for Thrushes, including Song Thrush and Blackbird.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

October 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Spoonbill - a rarity

The first of the Dark-bellied Brent Geese have arrived back in the harbour. Currently there are just a few hundred, but this should build to nearly 10,000 by December. Around 5% of the world population come here, making Chichester Harbour internationally important for the species.
It has been an exciting Autumn for birders with rarities such as Wryneck, Spoonbill, Sabine’s Gull and Grey Phalarope, all sighted around the harbour. In response to apparent declines in some wader species in the Solent, bird researchers have commenced projects to better understand how these birds use this area. Ornithologist from the Farlington Ringing Group undertook successful catches of two of the target species.

92 Ringed Plover and 103 Sanderling were colour ringed. These birds can now be individually indentified so we can increase our knowledge of their movements.

Mammals

Stoat
As the nights start to get colder many mammal species will be preparing for winter. Some, such as Fox, Stoat and Roe Deer do this by growing a thicker winter coat. Deer also change colour from a russet red summer pelage into a grey winter coat. Others like Water Vole and Grey Squirrel will be stocking up on food to get them through the winter. Bats and Hedgehogs will start preparing to go into hibernation. They need to find a suitable balance of fat reserves in relation to the length of hibernation
Insects
BrindledGreen Moth


The un-seasonally warm weather has enabled many butterfly species to extend their flying season. A walk will generally result in sighting Speckled Wood, Small White, Red Admiral, Peacock and perhaps Small Copper. There were also a few migrant Clouded Yellow butterflies seen in the last week. The succession of moth species is continuing with Flounced Rustic, Lunar Underwing and Brindled Green all making an appearance in my garden over the last few days.
Dragonflies are still flying with Migrant Hawker, Common Darter and Emporer seen over the last week.

Plants

Spindle tree

A few plants such as Sea Aster are still flowering. However, Autumn colours are starting to take over as the various deciduous trees take on their characteristic colours prior to shedding their leaves. Look for the resulting riot of colours - the yellow of Field Maple, red of Guelder Rose and bronze of Oak.
Other colours are formed by the fruits and berries. These include the red berries of Hawthorn and Guelder Rose, the dusty blue sloes on Blackthorn and the shocking pink fruit of the Spindle.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

Sept 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds

Cattle Egret

I walked through Salterns Copse first thing this morning and it was alive with birds. There was a mixed group of tits ( Great, Blue and Long-tailed ) and warblers ( Chiffchaff and Willow ) picking their way through and along a pile of brash. The warblers are probably migrants waiting for a break in the weather to move south. Other migrants such as Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails are also congregating in coastal areas, feeding up and awaiting the chance to continue their onward journey. 

Migrating waders such as Black-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Redshank and small numbers of Spotted Redshank , are also present in the harbour. Some will over-winter in the harbour, but many more will continue further south. The first of the returning Brent Geese are expected towards the end of the month.  
Osprey have been regularly sighted around the harbour and a Cattle Egret has been feeding alongside cattle at Eames Farm (a first for the site).

Mammals

Roe Deer

Fox and Badger cubs, will be fending for themselves, while Roe kids will remain at their mothers side sometimes right until the following Spring. Female Hedgehogs will still have their family in tow. Later in the Autumn, the mother will find an area with plenty of food and then essentially abandon the young to feed up and find a suitable hibernation site on their own.
This is one of the most active months for bats. They are busily feeding to build up fat reserves for a long winter of hibernation and also attempting to attract mates.

Invertebrates
Speckled Wood Butterfly


The stormy conditions that we have seen at the start of September, have significantly affected our efforts at insect watching. In sheltered spots you can still find Common Blue, Comma, Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies. But on a walk around a nice woodland site, I only saw a single, rather battered looking Speckled Wood. On a less windy day I spotted a single Clouded Yellow, my first of the year. This species is a migrant, originating in North Africa and Southern Europe.

Reptiles and Amphibians
Grass Snake
Throughout September reptiles will be more visible as they spend time basking in open areas. In the case of Common Lizards they will climb vegetation, tree stumps and even onto benches to get access to the sun’s warmth.

Grass snake eggs will be hatching out now. The females often lay eggs in compost and dung heaps as the generated heat helps incubate the eggs.
Plants

Mists and mellow fruitfulness

This year a lot of species seemed to flower early and then rapidly advanced to seeding or fruiting. For example Sloes, the fruit of Blackthorn, are already ripe, traditionally they are not picked until after the first frost. It does seem like it is going to be a good ‘mast’ year (when trees fruit heavily). Beech are heavily laden with mast and Oaks have a large crop of acorns.

As the flowering plants are dying back, fungi become more visible. Mycology is certainly not my strongpoint, but I identified a few on my walk around Salterns Copse. These included Shaggy Parasol, Earth Ball, Fly Agaric and Charcoal Burner.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

July 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds



It is a quiet time of year for birds. A few migrant birds are passing through. Other species have finished breeding and keep their heads down while they moult. Juvenile birds of many species can be seen around the harbour, including Lapwing (photo ), Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher . Some species such as the terns; Common, Sandwich and Little seem to still be sitting on eggs. Terns usually only attempt to produce one brood per year. However, if a nest is lost early in the season they may try again. Other species such as Robin and Skylark raise multiple broods.

Mammals
Roe kids have now all but lost their spotty coat and are venturing out with their mothers. Fox and Badger (photo) cubs are becoming self sufficient. This increases the chances of seeing them but also increases the number of road casualties.
Toward the end of July look out for young bats as they start fly. The majority of bats only have a single pup. For most species these are born in June in a communal maternity roost.
Invertebrates

The short spells of rain have freshened up the grassy vegetation. This benefits grassland butterflies such as Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Ringlet, Marbled White and Large, Small and Essex Skippers (photo), all of which are on the wing now. With the warmer nights most of us are leaving windows open and you may find moths attracted to your lights. Contrary to their reputation of being drab and brown some are so colourful they put our butterflies to shame.

Reptiles and Amphibians
With higher daytime temperature reptiles spend more of their time under cover and on the move. They can still be seen basking in the open in the early morning or as the light starts to fade in the evening. Common Lizards are a fairly regular sight on seawalls as they scurry out of the way of approaching walkers. Juvenile newts known as efts are active in many ponds. They will shortly be leaving their pond and unlike frogs, will now spend most of their life on land. All three native species of newt are present in the local area, Smooth (photo), Palmate and the rarer, protected, Great Crested Newt.
Plants

The succession of different species of plant coming into flower is continuing. Some species are already setting seed, others are in full flower. Look for the white flowers of Yarrow and Meadowsweet, the pink of Sea Thrift (photo) and Pyramidal Orchid and the purple of Tufted Vetch.
Arable flora are plants that have evolved to grow alongside farmers crops. They depend on annual ploughing to complete their lifecycle. Changes in farming practices, particularly the introduction of weedkillers, has caused dramatic declines in some species. Other more adaptable species have become a problem as weeds.

Three particularly rare arable species have populations around the harbour on single sites managed especially for them. Spreading Hedge Parsley is thriving in one location, while Shepherds Needle is just hanging on with only four plants located this summer. The critically endangered Grass Poly is doing well with twenty plants located, and a possible second location found.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

June 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds


Many species of birds are well advanced with their breeding. The young can be difficult to identify until they get their adult plumage, for example young Starlings (photo) have brown rather than the iridescent black with white spots of the adults. The Cathedral Peregrine's are having another amazing year with all four chicks surviving and just about to fledge. Other species are still sitting on nests, we have our Swallow's back nesting on the Harbour Office and I've got a House Martin at home which will be incubating eggs for just 16 days. Common Terns appear to be nesting in small numbers and surveys over the next few weeks will tell us if they and the rarer Little Tern are having a successful year in the harbour.
Mammals

Roe deer are now in there rust red summer pelage (coat). The doe will usually give birth to two spotty kids which they leave laying separately in grass (photo) and other vegetation, and return regularly to suckle them. If you happen to find an ‘abandoned' kid leave it be, the doe will not be far away and will return once you have gone.
Young animals including Fox and Badger cubs will start to venture away from their birth place and if you are very lucky you may see a family group of weasels being taught how to hunt by their mother.

Bats are making the best of the high numbers of insects at this time of year. If your fascination with these illusive species grows, invest in a bat detector to discover the incredible ultrasonic world of our bat species.
Invertebrates

It has been a good Spring so far for our butterfly species. Recently I have sighted Small Heath, Meadow Brown, Common Blue, Speckled Wood (photo), Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White . I haven't seen a great deal of dragon or damsel flies yet this year, just the odd Large Red and Emperor dragonflies.

.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles are becoming more difficult to spot. The warmer temperature reduces their reliance on basking to regulate their body heat, they are now becoming more active in denser vegetation.
Tadpoles will now resemble miniatures of their parents, and some froglets and toadlets (photo) will be venturing out of the pond, so take care when mowing your lawn!


Plants

It’s all about orchids at the moment. The deep red of Southern Marsh Orchid (photo) has appeared in good numbers, with 650 flower heads counted at Fishbourne Meadows. The Bee Orchid is also flowering, its distinctive flowers resemble a bee. The bright pink Pyramidal Orchid is also starting to emerge and the pale lilac of Common Spotted Orchid are forming dense beds in some areas.
Many of these species are responding well to the sympathetic management of designated Road Verge Nature Reserves (RVNR) by West Sussex County Council and through the Emsworth Wayside Project.

The only site around the harbour for Spiked Star of Bethlehem with its large heads of small white flower is on a RVNR.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

May 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds
This month look out for Blue Tits (photo) busily collecting materials such as feather and wool to line their nests. House Sparrows can be seen carrying grass and straw whereas House Martins will have beakfuls of mud for constructing nests.

Some birds have already had their chicks. These include the Peregrines at Chichester Cathedral which have hatched all four eggs. Based on the insistent calling and dutiful provisioning of food that is occurring in my garden, the Starlings are also busy feeding their young.
Three species of tern have now arrived, they can be identified by (amongst other things) their bill colour, red for Common Tern, black for Sandwich Tern and yellow for Little Tern.
Migrants currently passing through the harbour include; Osprey, Hen Harrier and Whimbrel.
Mammals
Baby Rabbits, called kits, are the most obvious sign that mammals are also busy breeding. Fox and Badger cubs will still be safely tucked away in their earths and setts. The young of Brown Hares, known as leverets, are not so safe. They are born out in the open, so are very vulnerable to predators.
Bats are now very active, the best time to see them is just as the light begins to fade. There are 18 species of bat in the UK, with at least nine being found around Chichester Harbour. The most frequently seen is the Common Pipistrelle (photo), this tiny bat weighs in at just 3-8g and often roosts under roof tiles.
Invertebrates
The hot weather we have been enjoying is also suiting some of our butterfly species. Orange Tip (photo), Speckled Wood, Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and the three ‘Whites’ (Green-veined, Small and Large) can be seen on most walks.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Reptiles are now fully active with sightings of Grass Snake, Common Lizard and Slow Worm (photo) being reported at various sites around the harbour. Your best chance for seeing reptiles is to walk slowly along suitable habitat such as rough grassland and look for lizards or even snakes basking in the sun or on logs and tree stumps.

Ponds are now full of masses of tadpoles. As they get bigger you can distinguish the frog tadpoles which are speckled, while toads are uniformly black (or dark brown).

Plants
Along hedge banks and road verges Red Campion, and the white flowers of Lesser Stitchwort, Cow Parsley and Garlic Mustard, and the blue of Green Alkanet and the various species of Speedwell and Forget-me-not are in full bloom. In grasslands the early flowering (but quite rare) Green Winged Orchid is now flowering. On the saltmarshes things are moving as well with Marsh Samphire starting to grow and the white flowers of Scurvy Grass blanketing some areas.

All trees and shrubs now appear to be fully out in leaf. The pale new leaves of beech trees are perfect just now if you intend to make a batch of noyau (Beech Leaf Gin). Hawthorn also known as May Bush is in full bloom, with its white flowers. Also, the large ‘candles’ of flowers of the Horse Chestnut (photo) are easy to spot.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

April 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds
The harbour now seems somewhat empty as the bulk of the winter visitors have departed to their breeding areas. Brent geese colour-ringed on Hayling Island this winter, were recorded doing the jump from Chichester Harbour to Holland overnight.

The resident species such as Lapwing and Blue-tits are now busily courting and breeding. Summer visitors such as Swallows and Martins are now arriving along with migrant birds such as Wheatear, Greenshank and Whimbrel. Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls are now in full breeding plumage, in one of those odd paradoxes Black-headed Gulls actually have dark brown heads, while Mediterranean Gulls (photo) have a full black hood.
Cetti’s Warbler can be heard singing around the harbour, generally in areas with scrub and reedbeds, their explosive song is quite unmistakable.
Mammals
Lots of mammal species will become more visible over the month (and before they are hidden by dense vegetation). As the young fox cubs grow so does their appetite, hence you may see vixens hunting during the day to get enough food.

Water Voles will be becoming more active as they also start their breeding cycle.

Bats are starting to emerge from hibernation, several of the 18 species of bat found in the country can be seen around the harbour. I saw my first Pipistrelle bat zooming around at roof height in the garden this week.
Invertebrates
More and more insects are now active including a few species of bumble bee and several species of butterflies including Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Peacock and Comma. I sighted a Holly Blue (photo) at the end of March which is uncommonly early.
Reptiles and Amphibians
I have still not seen any reptiles yet, but we will be out surveying for Slow-worms, Common Lizards and Grass Snakes over the coming weeks. We have recorded Common Toads (photo) on a number of sites, and frog spawn can be seen in ponds.

Plants
Our road verges, hedges and woods are starting to show some colour, including the gold flowers and heart shaped leaves of Lesser Celandine, the pale yellow flowers of Primrose and in some locations the pale pink of Cuckoo Flower also known as Lady’s Smock is already present. You may also have noticed a small white flower growing in dense mats on the very edge of many of the larger roads, this is Danish Scurvy Grass (photo). This salt-loving plant has escaped its normal coastal range by exploiting the conditions created by gritting our road with rock salt in the winter.

Cherry and Blackthorn is now blossoming, and leaves are appearing on Hawthorn, Willow and Horse Chestnut. Going by the trees around the harbour and if you believe in traditional sayings, then we may be in for a dry summer, ‘Oak before ash we are in for a splash…’ These old measures of weather prediction are very unreliable, however, phenology the study of when seasonal events such as budburst in oak trees or first flowering in primrose, is a fascinating and increasingly important activity for monitoring the effects of climate change.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

March 2011
Welcome to the Monthly Nature Notes from Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Birds are continuing to provide us with clues of the rapidly approaching Spring. Resident birds are starting preparations for nesting, for others it's the start of return migration and plumage changes. Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office .

Birds
Most of the resident garden birds like Blue and Great Tits, Robins and Wrens are busy looking for places to nest. Many of them will use nest boxes if you have installed one in your garden. If you are quick there is still a chance to put one up, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t use it in the first year. I have recently seen Rooks carrying nesting material back to nests and a Black Swan (a pair of these introduced Australasian species reside around the harbour) has reportedly already started laying eggs.

The numbers of some species are starting to reduce as they begin their return migration. Brent Geese (photo by Ken Stanhope) have been reported heading east along the coast and the numbers of other wildfowl such as Wigeon, Gadwall and Red-breasted Merganser are also much reduced. Over the next few weeks the numbers of these species will reduce to a mere handful.
Lots of birds are now changing into there summer breeding plumage. Knot will live up to their international name Red Knot as they turn a ruddy red, also turning red will be Bar-tailed Godwit. Grey Plovers will be trading their rather dull, uniform grey, winter plumage for a dashing black belly and face and silver grey back and wings.

Of the rarer species the Short-eared Owls roosting on Thorney Deeps built up to a peak of five birds. These can be easily seen from the seawall and the Little Stint is still present in the Fishbourne Channel.
Mammals

The Conservancy Rangers spotted some mad march Hares boxing on farmland at Bosham. Brown Hare boxing is actually females fending off unwanted males, rather than the males fighting as had been previously thought.

Water vole activity is stepping up with some sightings at Brook Meadow and ample signs of their presence located at Fishbourne Meadows.

Invertebrates
I saw my first Brimstone butterfly in the garden at the weekend, the sulphur-yellow coloration signifying a male. This species overwinters as an adult, with males often emerging earlier then females. As the month progresses, greater numbers and variety of species should occur, including Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma.
Reptiles and Amphibians
Frogs and toads have emerged and will be making the sometimes hazardous journey to breeding ponds, spawn will start to appear in ponds over the coming weeks.

Plants
Some species of violet such as early Dog Violet are out in full flower. A colony of Butterbur at Birdham has made an appearance with its distinctive and rather bizarre flowers.

The yellow catkins of Hazel and white of Goat Willow are now very visible. Buds are swelling on number of other species and it won't be long before the first leaves burst forth.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

February 2011
Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a great place to get close to nature. Each month Ed Rowsell, Conservation Officer for Chichester Harbour Conservancy, gives a brief update on what you should be looking for as you explore the harbour by land or boat.

Birds
With the warming weather, spells of sunshine and lengthening days, we are all thinking ahead to the Spring. For our bird life this is especially true, with evidence of birds getting on with the breeding cycle everywhere you look.

Courtship rituals amongst ducks can now be seen as birds are making or reinforcing a pair bond. Look out for Red-breasted Mergansers (photo) undertaking lots of rigorous head bobbing and the drakes swimming in circles around females. Male Brent geese are also getting quite fractious, heads are down as they chase each other, defending their mate (with whom they pair for life), from the advances of unpaired males. On the subject of Brent geese, I located a goose with coloured leg-rings recently at West Wittering. Records show it was ringed as a chick in Siberia in 1991 - it will be marking its 20th birthday this summer.
Lapwings which breed around the harbour are also starting to display. Now they will be setting up territories, mostly in wet grassland fields, but also in cereal crops. In your gardens resident song birds are also getting on with breeding, with Blue Tits checking out possible nesting sites.
Some of the rarer species that have been sighted around the harbour include Scaup, both male and females of the duck have been seen. Another duck that is rarely seen is the Smew, with a female present for a few weeks in Thorney Deeps. Birds of prey sightings include three Short-eared Owls and a Marsh Harrier, both on Thorney Island. There have been regular sightings of Peregrine elsewhere in the Harbour.
Mammals
There is a good chance of seeing Brown Hares now before the crops gets too high. Look for them laying in cereal fields. The Hares will soon start their mating season and you may be lucky enough to see mad march hares boxing. This behaviour is actually females fending off unwanted males, rather than the males fighting as had been previously thought.
Plants
Signs of Spring can also be seen amongst the plants. Bulbs are pushing their first leaves up to the surface, ready to bloom in the Spring. Woodlands are greening up with Bluebell and Wood Anemone shoots. Look out for the Cuckoo Pint (photo), also known as Lords and Ladies, pushing its dark green leaves to the surface where they will unfurl. Lesser celandine is also well developed, with the first flowers showing (they resembe an open buttercup flower).
Things are also progressing with our trees and shrubs, look for catkins on Hazel and Willow.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

January 2011
Chichester Harbour Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a great place to get close to nature. Each month Ed Rowsell, Conservation Officer for Chichester Harbour Conservancy, gives a brief update on what you should be looking for as you explore the harbour by land or boat.

Birds
The cold weather marking the end of 2010 had an effect on the bird life around the harbour. The frozen conditions make life hard for most bird species particularly those that feed on soft mud or in shallow water. This results in birds either staying put and relying on depleting fat reserves (which if the weather continues may lead to death) or attempting to move to an area where they can feed, typically further south. This movement resulted in some species such as the Lttle Egret all but abandoning the harbour, but also in some interesting new arrivals in the area. With the milder weather that we are now experiencing we can now enjoy them with a clearer conscience.

The biggest increases have been with ducks and geese. Species that are normally present in quite small numbers such as Gadwall and Pintail are now here in force. The diving ducks, Pochard and Tufted Duck, have also built up considerably in some locations such as Thorney Deeps and the Mill Ponds at Emsworth. Brent Goose numbers took a dip in the worst of the weather, but seem to have returned now to more normal levels. More unusual is a small group of White-fronted Geese and a single Pink-footed Goose, which is particularly far outside its normal range.
Other birds that have built up in the cold weather include Redwings and Fieldfares, relatives of our Blackbirds and thrushes that breed in Scandinavia. Other birds to look out for include Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Raven. Rarer species recorded include a flock of waxwings at Havant and a pair of Snow Buntings at Prinsted.
Mammals
The milder weather has also made life easier for our non-hibernating mammals such as Water-vole and Roe Deer. But the cold had seemingly no effect on the Harbour Seal population which are well insulated underneath a layer of fat.
Plants
The bare dark skeletal trees of December are already starting to show signs of life and colour, with buds slowly developing on many species, giving a golden hue to some species of Willow and a developing red tinge to Oak.

Please report any interesting sightings to the Harbour Office, particularly of breeding birds and water voles. Tel: 01243 512301
harbourmaster@conservancy.co.uk

April '09 ....... Spring Lambs at Cobnor
Photos: Thanks to Jane Young

COBNER BUZZARDS TAKING FLIGHT.

LONGMERE September 2008

A Thoughtful Moment in late Summer.
Mieeooow!! Come ON!!!
What an inspiring command! - I would have plunged into battle! But just looked up into the sky from whence the angel-like voice came. And there they were!
Since this time last year, when walking up Harbour Way on a windy sunny day, I had seen the four small eagles floating leaf-like up and up on invisible currents to gain height and then float away north to the downs and new worlds, the image has lingered on; and now that image was overlaid by this new similar sight.

Up above, the majestic parents leading by example [Oh, that is an example for many earth-bound folk], showing where, finding the way through streams of air, higher and higher, were followed by the two brave young devoted children, never wavering on and up, exulting maybe in the newly found glory of freedom, before away, away to new life. Bred, reared and fledged - another success.

This force of nature lifted me too, my spirit soared after days of dismal drip and howling windy rain. I smiled, laughed and had to share the precious moment,

“ Penny! Come and see!”,
“I am seeing, there are three.”
“ No four.”
“ Oh yes, four!”

Four spirits ascending - is this an illusion? If so does that matter?

 

The great poet wrote of the ‘Blythe Spirit' singing with joy; in reality territorial rage and outcry. So this is just internal impressionistic folly, but from such a misperception, such an outcome! Words immortal, and illusions that inspire us on through our imperfect knowledge - through a glass darkly- maybe to heroic deeds, protected from grim reality.

Do avian creatures have special effect upon us earthbound humans? Yes, I think they do.
Has this always been so? Well, there is not much evidence in the cave paintings, but then those artefacts were, we think, all about essential hunting for food, for life and life was desperate, on the edge. Maybe our ancestors had no time for indulgences and luxuries of leisure or contemplation, much like the majority of society through the ages. Did they stop to think about the Why of existence? Evidence indicates they were no less intelligent than modern man, but just lacked the accumulated experience from whence some of us derive wisdom. Sometime, somewhere they found their Gods and they probably had customs, superstitions and beliefs. Maybe today's spectacle would have had great significance. It certainly stirred atavistic feelings in me which energised and made me feel restless.

What should I do? Have another drink - having opened a particularly good bottle of red wine. Better, probably, than going out to hunt and kill something, or be killed. Was this then a siren call? Are such calls bad or just a challenge for us to make a decision?

Is that not what we are here for - to make decisions?


Apologies from the Country Diary team for going into extra-long hibernation this year and somehow missing out on most of the Spring!  Anyway, we are gradually waking up and rubbing our eyes and taking an interest again in the wonders of the local landscape and wildlife ... and we are actively recruiting people like you who love the village and its nature and seasons and who can pen a line or take the odd snap with a digi camera .... so let us know if you'd like to do an entry for Country Diary, however short!
My nephew, Jamie, launches "the new series" with his high-flying treetop report (a contrast to his last report for the website, which featured the trip last year to the Rolls Royce factory).

The View From Upon High

Somewhat predictably, the first thing most people comment upon in my presence is my height. I am, especially to those of mature years, considered a “tall” fellow, standing at approximately six feet and four inches high. But, this is midget-esque when compared to the real giants of our environment, the majestic beauties of coniferous and deciduous varieties, the leafed wonders of monstrous fortitude and charisma, the Trees.

Some of these titans scar the sky at heights of 370 or so feet, though these are not to be seen in West Sussex for fear of being converted into a magnificent carved hull. Instead, I had to make do with local varieties of notable height. Standing at somewhere around the 60-80 foot mark (I couldn't be entirely sure without a theodylite), I was confident I could climb the mightiest trees without fear of Instant Death Syndrome affecting me on my journey down. Climbing barefoot with only a pair of shorts and a tee shirt with no safety equipment or helmets, my safety was less than assured. My biggest worry was that the past two years of partial muscle atrophy had not had too significant an impact on my previous rugby physique, otherwise the task would have been nigh-on impossible. Luckily (if luck had anything to do with it), I had enough reserve in my fibres to scale the trees with relative ease, my elongated limbs proving more than sufficient to grapple, shimmy, leap and grasp at passing branches as I progressed up the trees.

The first tree climbed was a colossal oak at the edge of the caravan fields adjacent to Cobnor House – an ideal starting point as it provided many challenges and beautiful vistas. Rather like Italy , I suppose. The beginning was easy, the next bit ridiculously bloody difficult and rest of it, like a jungle gym at a playground: far too easy. But the views at the top were simply magnificent; the undulating downs in the far distance, the young sailors out on the water in their distinct yellow sails and a view of the entire peninsula only obscured by other, also beautiful, trees. A view of the House never before seen was presented to me. The smells of fresh, pure oak was rich in the air, undimmed by the usual air of decaying leaves we encounter at the base of such a tree. My hair, arms and even my pockets were catchment areas for the debris of climbing. My shorts, a dull khaki, were stained a deep, forest green from the gnarled bark I rubbed against on my journey up. Several small birds circled nearby, flittering with themselves between my tree and the one opposite, their territory marked with their black and white omelettes on the trees branches. As I sat in a three-pronged fork near the very peak, I muttered to myself, “…Et In Arcadia Ego,” for this was, to us Great Apes, a most natural and desirable habitat, and one of true serenity.

Unlike most things in wildlife, it is the dead who truly provide the worst enemy. Relying on them at the wrong moment, or even at all, could put one up against the Forces of Gravity for a very quick, one sided battle with a clear winner at the end. Agility and stability are one's greatest allies as even the strongest of people could fail miserably if they cannot balance themselves on the higher branches, with one hand trying to take photos and the other holding on to a flimsy branch. Vertigo and other natural mechanisms to prevent such potentially fatal acts as tree-climbing must be suppressed in favour of ballsy acts of reckless courage to reach the tree's zenith. All of these things only helped to make the experience more enjoyable.

The shorefront oaks were the next targets in my Dicotyledon Crusade.

At the intersection of Sea Wall and Wood, these may not be very tall, in fact they are positively miniature, but they have true character. Resembling craggy old men wizened and battered by the coarse, salty sea breeze and hunched against the elements in their perennial struggle, they do say a considerable amount about the nobility of trees. Exposed and assaulted from a multitude of directions, only helped out by their bigger, muscled brothers in the rear, they stand resolute and dignified as they make a powerful case for their right to exist. Where human efforts to plant around them have more often failed, these fellows have twisted and grotesque shapes as they dare to defy their merciless enemies. The Kingdom they hold is a just one, and with no shortage of exceptional vistas, they shade and comfort many who pass and pause to absorb the sights from beneath their boughs. As one views the world from their tops, a panorama taking in all from Ichenor to the Isle of Wight to Hayling Island is framed by their dense, opaque leaves. The climb is an easy one: they are tightly packed, mostly horizontal limbs and have been nudged to the east by years of opposing forces so as to provide a rough, tentacle-like incline in the trunk and its extensions. Recently, little saplings have sprung up in the grass behind them. Whether they'll do as well as their forebears lies with whoever governs the merciless elements who will surely start their campaign soon.

In real terms, the horizon (or visible distance available) and one's height from the ground are intricately and quantifiably linked. At the average human eye level, roughly 5ft 7in, the horizon appears at about 2.9 miles on flat ground. This puts me at a slight advantage over other people in general and was one of the reasons I undertook this endeavour. At over 6ft 4inches, I could see, theoretically, to a distance of around three miles and bit. However, this is usually not the case as I am hindered by mild myopia and thus cannot utilise this trait to its full potential. By climbing the tallest structures of Cobnor, I can. I can peek above the canopy and stretch to limbs beyond the reach of the average human and attempt to squint at objects in the distance and try to compute just what those blurry blobs really are. How I love being short-sighted. But, at 100ft, a height I was close to on occasion but didn't quite reach on my quest, one's horizon travels a full eight miles to around 12.25 miles, opening up the majesty of the surroundings and slapping one with a sense of the intricacies of nature and its complex, wild and fascinating flora and fauna. Nature truly is the magnum opus of evolution.

The final tree of my brief journey was a towering Monterey Pine, the tallest of the trees I climbed and also the most physically demanding. Not because of its height, or its girth or even its nexus of needles and short, sharp failed branches poking into my pink flesh. No, this was the most the most challenging because of the swirling tempest the Gods had thrown my way. In the early stages, its effects were negligible to the climb (but wonderfully audible through the rustling leaves), but in the latter parts of the climb, the true benevolent fury of the wind become very clear. With each gust, as I was literally and figuratively out on a limb, the tree would sway with considerable distance, causing me to obey those exhortations within and hold on to the trunk screaming for divine intervention. Fearing for my own mortality in a most basic sense, I bravely ploughed on up the Pine, managing to pause and inhale enough intoxicating fresh pine scents and catch my breath at the same time. The exhilarating climb getting my pulse up, the loud wailing of the wind and ominous creaking of the branches playing into all my primal instincts of “this is a bad idea, me, what in the name of all that is rational are you doing?” thoughts of which were quickly suppressed by the thrill-seeking part of my mind. It paid itself in visual profits at the very end as I could gander and peruse the distant lands, thanking air for its transparency as I shook off ideas of it being visible (it was quite at the forefront of mind, you see). Here, in the midst of three of the four elements as it began to drizzle (Earth being the element I was second most worried about, as I hoped I would get to see it later at my chosen velocity), I was being annexed on all sides by the elements and felt fundamentally elemental myself – earth, bark and green stained my arms, legs, feet and shorts; the wind moved me and my host tree like we were hairs on a head; droplets of water plummeting thousands of feet just to dampen my temperament in this awesome moment.

I have always had a great affinity for trees. Our house in Ireland is named “Na Fuinseoga,” Irish for “The Ash Trees,” due to the many of them that surround our dwelling. Climbing and playing in trees formed a large chunk of my childhood, making me nostalgic for those halcyon days of yesteryear. To top it all off, due to a combination of my height, long limbs, trunk-like legs and fresh crop of unkempt facial hair in my late teens, my team-mates, in good sporting nicknaming tradition, often referred to me as “Treebeard,” or simply, “Tree.”

A moniker I was actually quite proud to hold.


Also see the Country Diary archive


Back to top

| About this site | Terms of service | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Contact Us |