Visitors are very welcome on all meetings.
A donation of £4 per non-member would be appreciated.
Junior members are always welcome but MUST be accompanied by an adult.
If any of the leaders is unable to be present, every effort will be made
to find a substitute.
· Dogs are not permitted.
In exceptionally severe or dangerous weather conditions, please assume that the meeting is cancelled.
The times and heights of high water (as at Chichester Harbour entrance) are given for coastal bird meetings
10:30 Grid Ref:
BOTANY ON OLD WINCHESTER HILL (National Nature Reserve / Natural England)
Leaders: Alan McVittie (Reserve Manager) and Andy Swan (HNHS member)
This flower- rich chalk grassland is a habitat known for many orchid species and butterflies. There are many archaeological features from the Mesolithic period up to WW2, with an Iron Age hill fort and Bronze Age barrows.
Directions: A32 to Warnford. Opposite George & Falcon Pub in Warnford turn into Hayden Lane, continue for 2 miles. Signs for Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve lead to free car park.
**** Although this is principally a morning visit, there will be the option of continuing to investigate the reserve in the afternoon - in which case bring a packed lunch! ****
Saturday 23rd 10:30 Grid Ref: SU852220 GU2 0PB
EXPLORING FLORA & FAUNA ON IPING AND STEDHAM COMMONS
Leader:(morning only) Jane Willmott (Living Landscapes Officer Sussex Wildlife Trust)
In the morning we will explore Iping Common with Jane.
After lunch, weather permitting, we will cross the road to visit Stedham Common.
Directions: From Midhurst to Petersfield on A272 road turn L (signed Lower Elsted) and almost immediately parking is on the right under a barrier. Bring lunch.
Wednesday 27th 14:00 or 15:30 Grid Ref: SU952358 GU8 4QP
A SUB-TROPICAL GARDEN AT CHIDDINGFOLD
Leader: Owner, Jack Salway
An opportunity to visit an amazing private garden as featured on BBC Gardeners' World in 2015. Established in a very deep combe, its special microclimate has enabled Jack to grow an array or stunning tropical plants. The event is for members only, and numbers are limited. To book: By 13 June, either email the Society or apply in writing to Mrs Margaret Hibbard, c/o Haslemere Museum, High St. Haslemere, GU27 2LA, stating your preference for 14:00 or 15:30. Directions: Top of Ridgley Road (near junction with Woodside Road) becomes Combe Lane. Look for Recreation Ground entrance through trees. Park and walk across the Ground, following signs, past allotments to Jack's garden, back entrance. Be aware that there are steep paths which may be slippery. Sticks advisable.
SU748192 GU31 5RJ
CHALK FLOWERS AT COULTERS DEAN (Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)
Leaders: Dianne and Martin Mitchell (Volunteer Reserve Managers)
Dianne and Martin will show us around this small reserve which is a jewel in the South Downs. Amidst the dense chalk flora grow round-headed rampion, clustered bellflower, squinancywort and milkwort.
Directions: Take B2146 from South Harting to Petersfield. From S. Harting, after 1¾ miles turn L for Ditcham Park and follow the road L by Ditcham Farm. After ½ mile sharp bend L up steep slope, then sharp R. At Sunwood Farm follow the road R. After ½ mile, where road forks at drive of Ditcham Park School take the right turning for appx 200 yards. Park under the big beech trees.
Alternatively: Park near Buriton, top of Kiln Lane SU733197 GU31 5SH and walk eastwards along South Downs Way for 30 minutes to reach Coulters Dean.
Bring lunch if attending both venues.
SU605152 SO32 3PW
SUMMER FLOWERS & INSECTS IN ST CLAIR'S MEADOW, SOBERTON (HIWWT)
Leader: Chris Lycett (Reserve Manager)
This new reserve (acquired in autumn 2017) is a 16 hectare meadow within the South Downs National Park and Forest of Bere, with the River Meon running through. It is home to kingfisher, water vole and many species of dragonfly.
Directions: From High Street, Soberton, go south, taking right fork into Selworth Lane. After short distance where the road becomes Horns Hill turn R. into unnamed lane (which leads to crossroad on A32) and park in one of two lay-bys. Waterproof footwear strongly recommended.
Saturday 21st 10:30 Grid Ref: SU510292 SO21 1HE
BUTTERFLIES ON MAGDALEN HILL DOWN, NEAR WINCHESTER
Leader: Margaret Hibbard (HNHS member)
Hampshire Butterfly Conservation manages this flower-rich grassland on chalk downland. Of the 34 butterfly species recorded it is possible over 20 species will be there in July.
Directions: From Farnham to Winchester A31 take B3404 Alresford Road towards Winchester. Take track between Magdalen Hill Cemetery and Stonemasons' premises to gate at top which will be specially opened. Bring lunch.
SU897421 GU8 6EE
DRAGONFLIES AND OTHER INVERTEBRATES ON THURSLEY COMMON (Natural England)
Leader: Jill Fry (HNHS Member)
A morning walk with Jill on some of the finest remaining heathland on Lower Greensand in southern England.
Directions: From Elstead village go south along Thursley Road for one mile, turn right into Woolfords Lane, (north of the Moat) and park opposite the cemetery.
Friday 31st 19:30 Grid Ref: SU925337 GU27 2EX
BATS AT IMBHAMS FARM (courtesy of Margaret Barlow)
Leader: Martyn Phillis (Surrey Bat Group and HNHS Member)
Surrounded by woodland, water and meadows the farm is an ideal habitat for bats with several species recorded. After an introductory talk, we hope to identify different species with the help of the society’s bat detectors. Please bring your own if you have one and bring a torch.
Directions: From Haslemere Town Hall take B2131. Shortly after almshouses on L. Turn L. into Holdfast Lane (signposted Grayswood). After appx. 1/3 of mile turn R. at Public Footpath sign for Imbhams Farm. Park near HNHS sign.
SZ688997 PO11 0DG
FLORA & FAUNA ON DUNES AND SHINGLE, SINAY COMMON, HAYLING ISLAND
Leader: Andy Swan (HNHS Member)
Sinah Common has the only significant sand dune habitat in Hampshire, with interesting coastal vegetation, insects and birds. Directions: After crossing the bridge onto Hayling Island, continue south on the A3023 until it ends at Beachlands; turn R. onto Ferry Road. After 2.5km Ferry Road ends at the ferry and the Ferryboat Inn, but before the pub car park turn L. into public car park and park at the far (south) end. Probably £1.20 per hour. Total walking distance will be approximately 2km (all easy terrain).
SU945333 GU8 4SW
TREE IDENTIFICATION AND FOLK LORE IN KILLINGHURST WOODS
Leader: Jon Taylor (HNHS Member)
Jon will lead us through Killinghurst Woods, helping us identify different tree species, at the same time enthralling us with some folk lore tales and explaining what trees have been used for, past and present.
Directions: From Haslemere take B2131 past Lythe Hill Hotel, turn L into Killinghurst Lane. Proceed for appx. 1 mile. 'June Hill' (Margaret Tomsett’s house) is on the R. Park in drive.
Sunday 21st 14:15 Grid Ref: SU976278 GU28 9JY
FUNGI FORAY AT EBERNOE
Leader: Sara Shepley (HNHS Member)
Sara will once again lead us on a foray into the world of fungi.
Directions: From A283, 1½ miles south of Northchapel, take turning on L. into Streel's Lane, signposted Ebernoe. After 1½ miles just past phone box, look for track on R. leading to Ebernoe Church car park.
SU792035 PO18 8TD
WINTER BIRDS AT COBNOR POINT, CHICHESTER HARBOUR
Leader: John Arnott
Perimeter walk around the peninsular, along the sea wall and shingle beach to the Point. This area attracts a wide variety of geese, ducks and waders.
Directions: From Chichester take A259 signed Fishbourne and Bosham. Just past pub take Chidham Lane on L. After 1.2 miles park at Cobnor Farm Amenity CP. As this is small, car share if possible. Carry lunch.
SU959354 GU8 4SH
Lichens in the Churchyard of St Mary's Chiddingfold
Leader: Andy Swan (HNHS Member)
Lichens are often the first colonisers of bare rock surfaces and churchyards constitute an important habitat for them as they include a variety of different types of stone. The dates on stones allow the rate of growth and sequence of colonisation to be studied.
Park around Chiddingfold green (near church). Meet in the churchyard at the rear of the church (beyond the Church Room. Hand lenses recommended.
REPORTS OF RECENT EVENTS
(Click underlined links for photos taken on the day)
TO VIEW THE TERN RAFTS AT FRENSHAM LITTLE POND (National Trust)
Leader: Bob Beard (National Trust Volunteer)
Nine members attended this meeting in Lowland Heath habitat. Unusual sights were: a beige-coloured slime mould on a rotten Scots pine tree trunk and a pair of mating buff-tip moths.
On the pond 6 greylag geese arrived and a female great crested grebe carried a young one on her back. In the reeds were noisy reed warblers and nearby the descending song of a willow warbler was heard. In flower were: yellow iris, guelder rose, dog rose and ragged-robin.
Encouragingly, two projects the society had funded were showing results: at least five nesting boxes were occupied by great and blue tits and at the two tern rafts was a pair of common tern on each.
REPTILES ON MARLEY COMMON (National Trust)
Leader: Matt Bramich (NT Senior Ranger – South Downs)
BIRDS AT TITCHFIELD HAVEN NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE (Hampshire County Council)
Cliff Road, Hill Head, Fareham
Leaders: Douglas Maughan and Phil Darnley (HNHS Members)
MARINE LIFE ANCIENT AND MODERN, BOGNOR REGIS
Leaders: Dr Gerald Legg (Marine Zoologist) and Dr Andy Swan (HNHS Member)
This trip was sadly cancelled due to a heavy fall of snow.
HIGHCOMBE EDGE, HINDHEAD (National Trust)
Leader: Paul Eden (HNHS Member)
With a frosty morning start 26 members arrived for this winter walk.
After visiting the viewing telescope (purchased by the Society) the walk started high up on the Edge, with wonderful views over the Punch Bowl sparkling in the morning sunshine. Down in the bottom of the Punch Bowl New Forest ponies were grazing; yellow gorse was in flower and smelling of coconut; a deer was seen in the distance; a great spotted woodpecker was heard drumming; and robins and great tits were singing in a shrubbery.
The valley has a stream and many different species of lichens and mosses. Stopping at what was once a warden’s cottage many birds were seen on bird feeders in the garden: nuthatch, blue tit and great tit, with a song thrush singing nearby.
Back at the top of the very steep incline, members recalled other birds that had been heard or sighted: buzzard, wren, stonechat, coal tit, dunnock, long-tailed tit, chaffinch, bullfinch and goldcrest.
WINTER BIRDS AT PULBOROUGH BROOKS (RSPB)
WINTER BIRDS AT FRENSHAM GREAT POND (managed by Waverley Borough Council - owned by National Trust)
Leader: Sue Bradford (HNHS Member)
A total of 28 species of birds and wildfowl were identified by 19 members during the morning walk, skirting the lakeside. These included a charm of goldfinches, great crested grebe, grey heron, little egret, pochard, tufted duck and a skein of Canada geese.
Dead nettle flowers, snowberries and spindle berries were admired.
Reaching the frozen Outfall Pond redwings flew overhead and there were more tufted duck and a pair of mute swans. High in an oak a tree creeper was clearly seen, as was a kingfisher which flew quickly over the pond and could still be seen in the scrub.
BIRDS AT FERRY POOL, SIDLESHAM AND CHURCH NORTON (RSPB)
On a day of continuous sunshine 21 members arrived at The Visitor Centre at Sidlesham, now much improved and run by RSPB.
At Ferry Pool were lapwing, teal, shelduck and wigeon. By a small channel five little egrets were prominent with oystercatchers, shelduck and redshank feeding nearby. Many teal rested on a mudbank.
Small flocks of Brent geese were much in evidence flying to feed in a field of a newly-planted green crop despite the deterrent of wires strung between posts and frequent bird-scaring explosions.
It was exciting to see (through ‘scopes), on the edge of a group of Brent geese a single velvet scoter – an unusual visitor.
In the afternoon, after a packed lunch in the churchyard at Church Norton, turnstones, bar-tailed and black-tailed Godwits were identified, bringing the total species of geese, ducks and waders to 20.
BIRDS ON BLACK DOWN (National Trust)
Leader: Dave Burges
Frequently recording birds on Black Down for the National Trust, Dave also sends his data to our society. He led 14 members to where he had previously seen a ring ouzel and sure enough there was a juvenile feasting on berries in a whitebeam. This was a first exciting sighting for ten members.
In addition to stonechat and Dartford warbler two large hairy caterpillars were seen crossing the tracks; the chocolate brown one of the fox moth and the bright lime green one the pale tussock moth.
FUNGI FORAY ON WITLEY COMMON (National Trust)
On a misty, drizzly day 12 members were consoled that the damp conditions were good for fungi. Sara entertained the group with folklore and anecdotes. The poisonous brown rollrim, stinkhorn, and species of brightly-coloured brittlegills, “milk”-oozing milkcaps, boletes, webcaps and brackets were all found. In heathy clearings vibrant green, yellow, orange and red waxcaps were seen; rarer species were aromatic earthfan and stinking earthfan.
Fungi have an extraordinary range of aromas, including coconut, aniseed and rotting cabbage. A curiosity was ergot infecting the flower heads of purple moor grass. Highly poisonous, in past times present in rye crops made into bread, it caused outbreaks of burning sensations, psychosis and death.
The list of 61 species made this a highly successful and interesting foray.
MAMMAL TRAPS AT IMBHAMS FARM (by courtesy of John and Margaret Barlow)
Leader: Jim Jones (Living Landscape Officer, Surrey Wildlife Trust)
Jim took 8 members to where he had set up 40 Longworth traps on two prior nights in private woodland and in a field. These had been baited with seeds, apple, blow fly larvae and some straw. On the first night traps had been left open in order to gain the confidence of small mammals. Then on the Friday night they had been baited again and set.
In the woodland no mammals were found at first, just large slugs taking advantage of the free food. Then a male bank vole was found, weighing 20g. It remained quite still on Jim’s arm and posed for photos!
In the field one trap contained a juvenile male yellow-necked mouse, weighing 14g. The possible reason that most were empty could have been that the previous nights were moonlit, not a safe environment for mice when tawny owls hunt.
MOTH TRAPPING AT PLAISTOW
Leader: Fiona Haynes
Fiona brought her knowledge of moths to 16 members and said how moths are important pollinators and respond quickly to environmental changes.
Two moth traps were set up and lures made of brown sugar, black treacle and beer or red wine had been attached to branches.
From both traps moths included: large yellow underwing, light emerald, brimstone, six-striped rustic, common marbled carpet, angle shades, setaceous Hebrew character, flame shoulder, snout and dusky thorn.
Not all moths come to a light source; on a lure the fairly large copper underwing could been seen probing the sweet, “gooey” mixture with its proboscis.
BATS AT FRENSHAM LITTLE POND (National Trust)
Leader: Martyn Phillis.(HNHS Member, and Surrey Bat Group Member)
Martyn gave an introductory talk to nine members attending the walk. He said that the bat detectors (five belonging to HNHS and his new device of an i-pod with a tiny red detector the size of a small match box) would be able to pick up the echolocation calls of the local bats, expected to be common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, noctule and Daubenton’s.
Walking to the edge of the pond Martyn pointed out some of the new woodcrete bat and bird boxes that HNHS had paid for. These had been installed high in the fir trees that morning with help from National Trust Wardens with two ladders and Surrey Bat Group.
As dusk fell at 8.30pm, against a pale, clear sky several soprano pipistrelles were seen flying between the tree tops. Then Martyn caught a glimpse, very high up, of a noctule. At the pond edge several Daubenton’s skimmed over the water. When a wooded area was reached Martyn commented: “At last a common pipistrelle!”
Searching by torchlight in the stream by a board walk, no native white-clawed crayfish were seen, although they are known to have lived there in the past.
When the dam was reached at the end of the walk the wind had increased making ripples on the pond and in the torchlight many small fish were jumping, making silvery splashes. Daubenton’s bats find it hard to locate insects when the surface is uneven, but there to everyone’s delight they were hunting, their pale undersides clearly visible.
Later Martyn was able to confirm that his sophisticated detector had picked up and recorded the distant sound of a serotine bat, though we were unable to hear it at the time.
BUTTERFLIES AT GRAFFHAM DOWN (Graffham Down Trust)
Leader: Margaret Hibbard. (HNHS Member)
Unfortunately, the weather conditions were very poor so that during short periods of sunshine nine species only flew briefly. These included common blue, marbled white, a female silver-washed fritillary and possibly a dark green fritillary. However, the flowers in the meadows were stunning, especially the marjoram in full flower and giving out its strong aromatic scent.
A SAFARI TOUR at Knepp Castle Estate Wildland Project, near Shipley, West Sussex
Leader: Penny Green (Knepp Castle Wildlife Project Ecologist)
From a “Pinzgauer” safari vehicle 13 members were shown parts of the 3,500 acres of one of the largest privately-owned rewilding projects in lowland Europe.
After a welcome by Knepp’s Ecologist Penny Green, a video explained the development of the landscape-scale wildland where large herbivores roam freely. The policy of “let nature take over” has had some unexpected results: there are now 31 nightingale territories, 13 bat species, 16 purring turtle doves heard in 2107 and, on one day, 148 male and female purple emperors were counted.
Grazing freely are red, fallow and roe deer, Exmoor ponies and Tamworth pigs. On safari small herds of fallow deer were glimpsed, the “rootlings” made by Tamworth pigs and a beautiful herd of longhorn cattle with calves. On swathes of flowering fleabane and thistle species 11 species of butterflies were seen; a large common frog rested on a hibernaculum tin under which were a male and female slow worm; striped orange and black cinnabar caterpillars were feeding on ragwort: and a little owl perched on a fence post.
Descending from the vehicle members were shown a female purple emperor by Matthew Oates, the distinguished butterfly expert. He then led everyone to a glade where, high above the oak canopy, no less than four male purple emperors were having a dog-fight. “Nowhere in Britain would you see four males together like this,” remarked Matthew.
FLOWER SURVEY AT LYNCHMERE (held jointly with the Lynchmere Society)
Our Committee member Margaret Tomsett had suggested that the society should acknowledge Laura Ponsonby’s botany skills and the work she had done in the past on plant recording at Lynchmere by a special event.
16 members from both societies met at “Barnfield,” the beautiful, unspoilt meadow owned and managed by the Lynchmere Society where eight quadrats (1 metre square) had been marked with canes by Chris Summers. Susie Bower directed groups to these. The task began to follow the Domin Scale to estimate the percentage of flowering plants and grasses in each. The meadow looked beautiful. Meadow brown butterflies were in abundance and there were skippers and many marbled white.
Laura’s sister Cate and brother-in law Ian came along to lend their support.
Later, in thanking our members, Susie wrote: “Every single quadrat was surveyed in one afternoon thanks to such a good turnout. You all worked really hard but with such good humour and willingness. It was a real joy – and I had a lovely afternoon as a result.”
BURTON MILL POND RESERVE (Sussex Wildlife Trust and West Sussex County Council)
Leader: Leader: Jane Willmott (Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserves Manager)
Jane explained to 17 members that the Reserve and Chingford Pond area has SSSI status, is owned by several different landowners and has many varied habitats that need specialist management.
By Burton Pond reed warblers chattered and the rare cow bane grows; in the wet heathland grow mosses, cranberry and cross-leaved heath; and “Snipe Bog” has greater tussock sedge, marsh bedstraw and southern marsh orchid.
At Chingford Pond a project is ongoing to restore the level and edges and to protect the tiny, rare Desmoulin whorl snail. Crossing Black Hole (an acid peat bog) is a newly renovated board walk. Here grow yellow loosestrife, marsh pennywort, bog bean and white sedge.
Welch’s Common is a dry, acid grassland the favours lizards, adders, beetles and the rare field cricket of which 30 have been recorded.
Jane’s intimate knowledge of the area had made this a very interesting field meeting. Click for Species List.
WILDLIFE ON WITLEY COMMON (National Trust)
Leader: Mike Lawn (HNHS Member)
On a beautiful morning 25 members were shown around the common by Mike, a keen entomologist. Among the activities, we examined insect pitfall traps, held insect nets under tree branches and gently shook to dislodge their occupants for closer inspection.
As the sun came out, so did the butterflies, green hairstreak, silver studded blue, grizzled skipper, there were damsel and dragonflies and a beautiful demoiselle.
Few birds were heard, garden warbler, and chiffchaff.
Our morning ended with the find of a old and very smelly Boletus fungi and sweet briar. Click for full species list
HEATHLAND WILDLIFE AT FARNHAM HEATH (RSPB)
Leader: Mike Coates (RSPB Reserve Manager)
Members heard how restoration work has taken place since 2002 to change a commercial conifer plantation to the historic heathland with acid grassland. Many bird species were seen, notably woodlark, tree pipit and hobby.
In an area not open to the public a project was started in 2012 to relocate the rare field cricket. The number counted this spring exceeded all expectations.
CONSERVATION SUCCESSES IN THE OLD BOURNE CHURCHYARD
Leaders: Noel Moss and Martin Angel (The Bourne Conservation Group)
Noel described the history of the site: here once stood the first church of St. Thomas, surrounded by 700 graves, but by 2008 it had become completely overgrown. The Conservation group has restored it to a place of tranquillity and biodiversity.
773 animals, 162 higher plants, 21 mosses and 1 fungus have been recorded. There is now a pond and boxes for birds and bats.
Martin talked of the plants and had brought along in pots moths and a cockchafer. On site a discovery was made of the landhopper Arcitalitrus dorrieni.
Everyone was in awe of all the conservation work that has taken place to provide a beautiful wildlife area.
BOTANY RAMBLE AT BEACON HILL, EXTON
Leader: Alan McVitie (Natural England)
Members were amazed at the variety of chalk flora on this 40 acre site. The count was approximately 50, some of which were flowering. Alan drew attention to two ant hills and helped identify the many plants growing on each. As the temperature increased eight species of butterfly appeared including green hairstreak, 6 bird songs were noted and a red kite was seen.
On the return walk encountered were: a small orange moth (later identified as burnet companion Euclidia glyphica), a bloody-nosed beetle and huge swarms of longhorn moths Adela reaumurella.
BIRD SONG WITH NIGHTINGALES AT TUGLEY WOOD NEAR CHIDDINGFOLD
Leader: John Richardson (HNHS Member)
The early morning start for 7 members was well rewarded as more than 8 bird species were in full voice plus several nightingales. One male sang so loudly that everyone stood still in awe for 10 minutes. There was the unusual sight of a singing nightingale in the open, perched on felled saplings, with his body vibrating.
The walk was repeated in the evening for another 7 members and, as in the morning, for one member to be able to hear and recognise the song of a nightingale was an exciting, new experience.
BIRDS IN SPRINGTIME IN FRILLINGHURST FOREST AND GRAYSWOOD
Leader: Jon Taylor (HNHS Member)
Thirteen members were treated to a spring walk from Grayswood's sheep-grazed pastures , through Frillinghurst Wood and across arable farmland. Jon drew attention to animal tracks and signs and to recognising bird song. 24 bird species were heard or seen, notably song thrush, blackcap, nuthatch, yellowhammer, skylark and woodlark. Click for full list.
Jon’s knowledge of the area and its wildlife and his recognition of bird song were much appreciated.
WILDFOWL NEAR THE RIVER ROTHER, PETWORTH
Leader: Andrew Thompson (Leconfield Estate Warden)
Special permission had been obtained to visit this area which has no public access. The morning’s walk began in meadows that had been under floods just a few days before. Two snipe dropped down into the tussocks and three teal flew out of a wide “carrier ditch”. Later, by a large, wide pool (created about ten years ago), were many other teal which took to the air in small flocks of 20 or so. A heron and mallards were nearby and a single reed bunting perched on a sapling.
A remarkable find in tall, dried grass was the nest of a harvest mouse. This was a first, exciting sighting for most members.
On the other side of the Rother was a small group of Canada geese, a single greylag goose and a much paler goose – possibly a hybrid. Returning alongside the river, goldfinches flew out of a willow; developing alder catkins showed maroon against the blue sky; and a grey wagtail disappeared in the folds of the bank.
SOLAR BOAT TRIP FROM WEST ITCHENOR: BIRDWATCHING (Chichester Harbour Conservancy)
Twenty three members boarded the solar catamaran “Solar Heritage” for a birdwatching morning passing along the Bosham Channel, Chichester Channel and then past Thorney Island to Pilsey Island. In the continuous sunshine it was possible to see distinguishing colours of the birds and even colour of legs (turnstone orange, redshank bright red, common gull greenish-yellow and herring gull pink).
The almost silent boat created little disturbance to the feeding birds and enabled close views, with some members taking photographs. John, a volunteer member of the crew, gave a very full commentary on the wildlife, birds and local history.
WINTER BIRDS AT PULBOROUGH BROOKS (RSPB)
Leader: Sue Bradford (HNHS Member)
After more than two weeks of freezing temperatures, fog and frost a change of weather had arrived. The group of 19 members meandered to the various hides and viewpoints where ducks and waders had returned to the thawing fields and wetlands: lapwing, teal, wigeon shoveler, pintail, moorhen and, for some members, a new find, namely a white-fronted goose feeding on the grass among the Canada geese. There were glimpses of two snipe, preening their wonderfully camouflaged plumage with their seemingly overlong beaks.
Leader: Mark Allery (Woodsman, bodger and scythes-man)
Mark led 22 members on a walk across Lynchmere and Stanley Commons after visiting the hazel coppice that was planted in 2012 with a contribution of funds from the Society.
The 307 acres consist of lowland heath which is a rare habitat in Britain. Constant conservation work takes place to reduce birch and pine seedlings; to provide corridors between open areas; and to make small scrapes of bare soil for invertebrates and reptiles. Sussex cattle (Mark’s “best workers”) trample and eat young bracken together with young birch and pine, bramble and pine needles. They also enjoy licking ash from fires where Mark makes charcoal.
These commons provide great wildlife habitats which Haslemere is so fortunate to have right on the town’s doorstep.
STORIES IN STONE: EXPLORING WEST SUSSEX CHURCH GEOLOGY
Leader: David Bone (geologist)
On a crisp sunny morning fourteen Society members gathered at St Peter’s Church in Westhampnett to learn from David Bone, an eminent geologist, about the history of churches by examining the stones used in their construction.
In the 13th century this church was enlarged with the addition of a nave and tower and the majority of the material used was flint with surrounding galleting. Four different kinds of flint were pointed out. Window frames were made from harder Bath oolitic limestone. Part of the chancel wall dating from around 710 AD contained material such as tiles, bricks and even pieces of hypocaust taken from the ruins of the Roman city of Regnum, much of it laid in typical Saxon herringbone fashion. Other stones present were grey Malm stones – found on outcrops of the north face of the South Downs, strong Quarr stone – from the north coast of the Isle of Wight, hard Mixon rock from an off-shore reef off Selsey Bill, spongy Travertine limestone found at spring heads at Duncton and Steyning, as well as an “exotic” stone, Granite – probably ballast from the Channel Isles or Brittany.
The group then set off the short distance to Boxgrove Priory where Tim Pullen, a local historian, outlined the history of the site. The present Priory Church of St Mary and St Blaise dates from 1105 AD and was constructed by monks from the Abbey of Lessay in Normandy. This remained an influential community until the Reformation dissolution in 1536.
Walking round the mainly flint exterior walls, David Bone pointed out putlogs (holes used for the wooden scaffolding), the strong Caen limestone imported from Normandy contrasting with the soft crumbling Hythe sandstone, and some Chilmark greensand limestone used for recent repairs. Evidence of mediaeval sundials was also found on one of the buttresses.
Next looking at the remaining wall and pillars of the ruined Parish Church, it was shown that they were all constructed of a local hard gritty chalk, now called Lavant Stone, containing many fossils such as sharks teeth, sea urchins and their spines, starfish, belemnite tubes and sponges.
The morning ended inside the impressive Monastic Church with its recently installed new floor, the fossils of ferns, shells and shark’s fin visible in the pale Purbeck stone. The high ceiling roof, with painted decoration by Lambert Bernard (1530) and the ornate limestone chantry chapel built by Lord de la Warr were much admired.
It was agreed that what was learned on this visit will always make visiting churches so much more interesting.
BIRDS AT FISHBOURNE
Leader: Sue Bradford (HNHS member)
Fourteen members were very pleased to have the use of the Society’s new Kowa ’scope and the tripod recently purchased from the Clare Britton Legacy.
From the eastern side of the creek flocks of wigeon were seen and at least six little egrets perched in a tree. Sea-purslane, the strongly aromatic sea wormwood, sea beet and marsh thistle grew by the sea wall. A reed bunting and a stonechat perched on the tops of the reeds. Other species seen were: curlew, Brent geese, meadow pipit, lapwing, redshank (in a flypast) and starling in a group. Common darter dragonflies were mating; three red admirals and a speckled wood were active.
In the afternoon, the walk rounded the head of the creek to the western side where a flock of redshank grazed on the newly-revealed grass and congregating were approximately 80 mute swans. A kingfisher was seen at a saltwater pond; black-tailed godwits, oystercatchers, a great-crested grebe and dunlin fed on the mudflats; a stoat ran across a field; and a female whinchat was identified.
FUNGI FORAY AT OLDER HILL, near FERNHURST (National Trust)
Leader: Sara Shepley (HNHS member)
On a beautiful autumn afternoon some 20 members met for the annual fungus foray. Sara explained that because of the dry weather in July and August, the season had got off to a slow start. However, the recent rain had helped and the fungi were beginning to appear in good numbers.
The banks of the small road that leads up to the car park were very productive and here there was Amanita muscaria (fly agaric) with its white-spotted, red cap; its close relative, Amanita rubescens, (the blusher) and, the star of the show, the very beautiful but deadly, Amanita phalloides (the death cap). Also found here was Boletus luridiformis (scarletina bolete) which has red pores, a red dotted stem and when cut goes an immediate and dramatic dark blue.
Moving to some mixed woodland the group found a wide variety of fungi in different shapes, colours and sizes. Two large bracket fungi were encountered first: Ganoderma australe (southern bracket) which is found on both the living and dead wood of deciduous trees, and Piptoporus betulinus (birch polypore or razor strop fungus) whose second English name refers to the days when strips of the fruit bodies were used instead of leather to strop the old-fashioned cut-throat razors. These amazing organisms are now thought to be effective in supporting cancer treatments.
Other species seen were the purple Laccaria amethystina (amethyst deceiver), the yellow Tricholoma sulphureum (sulphur knight) and the tan coloured Gymnopus dryophilus (russet tough shank).
It was a fascinating afternoon. Cameras were busy recording what was seen and the group was eager to learn. The walk inspired a great admiration for the extraordinary world of fungi.
Click here for list of species found on the day.
PLANTS AT MIDHURST COMMON (local wildlife site)
Leader: Bruce Middleton (Central West Area Manager, South Downs National Park Authority)
On a beautiful early autumn morning nine members were expertly guided to see plants, both native and non-native, on Midhurst Common.
On the walk a number of puffballs were seen. At a newly created scrape were common and hare’s tail cotton grass. By creating such scrapes it is hoped sundews will return. Purple moor grass is a good indicator of mire and is a host to the fungus ergot that appears in late October. This is hallucinatory. In days gone by workers on the land unknowingly would get it on their hands. When they began hallucinating they were liable to be accused of witchcraft!
Bruce pointed out hornbeam-leaved bramble and the often-overlooked downy birch, recognisable by the feel of the soft leaves. Several dragonflies were seen during the morning. Specialist heathland species were: heath rush, bell heather, cross-leaved heath and heath star moss which has tiny white hairs to deflect the sun and keep moisture at its base. Tamarisk moss with its feathery appearance was growing in a shady area and is a woodland indicator.
Searching in Midhurst Cemetery the parasitic common dodder was found and, although not in flower, its long thin red threads were clearly visible. There too was juniper hair moss. Bruce said that the leaves of holly contain irons and minerals and because it is an excellent lightning conductor it was often planted near houses. In a sandy area from where material was taken in the past to make Midhurst White bricks, in flower were common eyebright and autumn hawkbit. On the two ponds alternate-flowered water-milfoil and fennel-leaved pondweed were growing.
It had been a most interesting morning thanks to Bruce’s enthusiasm and knowledge, both botanical and historical.
BATS AT EBERNOE (Sussex Wildlife Trust)
Leader: Martyn Phillis (HNHS Member)
Nineteen members listened to Martyn’s introductory talk: bats only produce one baby a year if the weather conditions are suitable; bats need hedges to provide connectivity between woodlands to help them navigate, provide a food source and give them protection from predators, such as owls.
Ebernoe Common (owned and managed by Sussex Wildlife Trust) has ancient woodland which is home to 14 out 18 British bat species. Both the rare Bechstein’s and barbastelle bats were discovered living and breeding at Ebernoe and so, in past years, a great deal of study took place here. 72 barbastelles were found in two boxes on one occasion some years ago. All bats were ringed. Attaching tiny radio transmitters showed that in order to feed on a certain micro-moth species barbastelle females travelled up to15 miles a night to feed in the Rother River valley, then returning to suckle their young. Martyn pointed out high in the beech trees the special bat boxes designed for barbastelles. These have long slits to replicate splits and gaps under bark favoured by this species.
Following a path with trees on either side, the group reached an open area full of yellow flowering fleabane. The evening was still, clear and very warm – ideal conditions for bats to be active - so bat detectors were switched on and everyone waited for the bright western sky to become dark. Eventually only one or two (probably) pipistrelles were seen briefly. The walk continued through Furnace Meadow and then on to Furnace Pond. Here, at last, were very active bats feeding over the water. The detectors picked up loudly the eco-location signals. Serotine, common pipistrelle and soprano pipistrelle were positively identified.
BARTLEY HEATH (near Hook, Hampshire) AND GREYWELL MOORS NATURE RESERVE (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)
Leader: Peter Vaughan (Volunteer for the above Trust)
Ten members visited for a guided walk in search of the very rare marsh gentian. The 70-acre nature reserve, owned by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT), is an area of wet heath, acid grassland and secondary woodland and the only remaining site in North Hampshire with a colony of marsh gentians. Members were delighted to find them, as well as creeping willow, dwarf gorse, saw-wort and petty whin.
In the afternoon members visited Greywell Moors, jointly owned by the HIWWT and Wessex Water Company. After WWII grazing ceased, allowing wet woodland and scrub to invade the area and reducing the area of open fen meadow. However, it is still very rich in scarce plant species and is also nationally important for its populations of sedges, rushes, mosses and liverworts. During the walk around the site to the millpond and back along the River Whitewater noteworthy species that were seen were a large red damselfly, crack willow, water figwort, gipsywort and purple loosestrife. Members were shown a ‘giant’ tree: a black poplar with a girth of 25ʹ when measured 5ʹ above ground level. This was a truly magnificent giant.
Finally the group visited Greywell Tunnel which, since its collapse in 1932, has remained blocked and today provides an important site for bats. In winter it supports the second largest hibernating population of Natterer’s bat in Europe. Other bat species recorded in the cave are Daubenton’s, Brandt’s, whiskered and brown long-eared.
BUTTERFLIES AT LEVIN DOWN, SINGLETON (Sussex Wildlife Trust)
Leader: Margaret Hibbard (HNHS member)
On one of the hottest days of the summer, 18 members met to look at butterflies. In such high temperatures the 15 species seen were very active. These included marbled white, ringlet, common blue, a comma and a peacock with high numbers of meadow brown, small skipper and large skipper.
The group much appreciated the company of Ann Griffiths who is the Voluntary Reserve Manager there, does a regular transect-count and has known the area since the 1980s. She described the management work organised by Sussex Wildlife Trust. Recently this had included grazing by Herdwick sheep and three Exmoor ponies, contractors dealing with invading sycamore and hawthorn scrub and volunteers pulling ragwort.
The result was the magnificent profusion of chalk-loving wild flowers, for example, deep blue round-headed rampion (the flower of Sussex), bright pink pyramidal orchid and - good nectar sources for butterflies – purple wild marjoram and wild thyme.
NIGHTJARS ON LUDSHOTT COMMON (National Trust)
Leader: Jim Avenall (National Trust Warden)
Six intrepid members of Haslemere Natural History Society gathered in a rainstorm at 8 p.m. Just before Jim arrived a rainbow appeared over the pines, followed by clear skies and an amazingly light evening with a colourful sunset.
Walking round, Jim explained that the common of 705 acres is an SSSI and a Special Protection Area (SPA) for birds and its wildlife. He said that commoners’ rights – to graze cattle and swine, collection of heather, gorse, wood, bracken and grasses for fuel and winter bedding – created the open heathland that exists today.
Around 25% of the common is now mixed woodland. The remaining area has to be managed to provide the heathland for ground nesting birds: nightjar, woodcock, pipits (tree and wood) and Dartford warbler, which likes some gorse cover; plus reptiles such as adders and rare sand lizards, together with low heather favoured by silver studded blue butterflies.
As the sun started to set, members saw a number of woodcock fly over, and listened to the sound of several male nightjars churring all around, with three fleeting sightings. It is thought that there are at least five pairs on the common this year. Whilst walking round the common, there were two sightings of male roe deer (both with antlers) observing the group, one giving its coughing bark. Members heard and saw a melodious song thrush, bullfinch, blackbird, buzzard being mobbed, several crows, some bats (probably pipistrelles), and a tawny owl.
Having returned to the car park around 10.30 by torchlight, Jim was thanked for sharing his practical knowledge, the group was very satisfied with all that had been learnt and seen, and particularly grateful for the change of weather to such a beautiful sunny evening.
ORCHIDS AND OTHER FLORA AT NOAR HILL (Hants and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)
Leaders: Freda Line and Helen Curwen (HNHS members)
On a rather drab day skylarks sang, while 15 members were guided around by two fellow members in search of rare orchids and much more. Noar Hill, once the site of mediaeval chalk workings, is now home to a wide variety of orchids and other chalk loving plants.
The grass parasite yellow rattle and delicate dog roses were among the first flowers spotted. There was a veritable feast of common spotted, fragrant and pyramidal orchids. Lots of wild marjoram was in evidence, waiting to burst into flower and attract butterflies. Other delightful flowers seen were common milkwort, delicate fairy flax, quaking grass, field scabious and majestic parasitic knapweed broomrape standing tall with its host, greater knapweed. Soon the group was led to see some fly orchids. These charming deep russet and blue flowers are so named as they mimic flies. Members were delighted to see the tiny, light green musk orchid. Twayblades were abundant.
And all the while, the birdsong was beautiful, with linnets and yellowhammers flitting about. Someone spotted a magnificent red kite circling overhead, climbing higher and higher.
Much hemp agrimony was found, just coming into bud; wonderful for butterflies in due course. A couple of small heath butterflies were noticed. At the regeneration enclosure members saw lots of kidney vetch buzzing with bees; always a pleasing sight. Many other interesting flowers were seen including dewberry, field bedstraw, yellow-wort, salad burnet and crosswort.
One eagle-eyed member spotted an elephant hawkmoth hiding amongst some brambles. What a great disguise, its colouration perfectly mimicking ruddy-edged bramble leaves.
The weather may have been dull but the flora and fauna definitely were not.
FAUNA & FLORA ON THUNDRY MEADOWS
Leader: Leo Jennings (Surrey Wildlife Trust Ranger)
On an overcast day that warmed gradually, eighteen members gathered to hear that the 12-hectare site is comprised of the Charleshill Site of Special Scientific Interest, together with the water meadows bounded by the River Wey. It is a very diverse area consisting of unimproved wet and dry meadows, wet carr and dry woodlands.
Passing around the rare quaking mire, bog bean, hemlock water dropwort, deep red-purple marsh cinquefoil, yellow flag iris, cuckoo flower, meadowsweet, common fleabane and greater tussock sedge were seen, with banded demoiselles flying around, and a wren heard.
On the grazed meadows along the Wey, mayfly, swifts, grey heron, cormorant and mallard, nuthatch and an orange tip butterfly were seen. Along the river edge were water figwort, red campion, birds foot trefoil, silverweed, dame’s violet (garden escape). Small snails were found on the riverside rushes. Belted Galloway cattle were resting by the river, some by a pond with reed mace and greater spearwort.
A melodious song thrush was heard near a World War II pill box – now a bat hibernaculum – and other bat boxes were spotted in trees. Several bat species have been recorded including brown long eared, Daubenton's, noctule, pipistrelles and whiskered bats.
In the damp alder woodland carr section, water mint, water pepper, brooklime, marsh woundwort and enchanter’s nightshade were seen.
Passing onto drier ground covered with tormentil and lesser stitchwort, there were many spiders and webs, small green grasshoppers and busy ants’ nests. A demonstration was given of how ants defend themselves by squirting acid.
Then amongst gorse and mixed woodland in the glades were climbing corydalis, dyer’s greenweed, mouse-ear hawkweed, heath bedstraw, pignut, herb Bennet, greater stitchwort, spear thistle and germander speedwell.
DUKE OF BURGUNDY AT HEYSHOTT (The Murray Downland Trust)
Leader: Mark Colvin (HNHS member)
Mark (also a member of Sussex Butterfly Conservation) led 20 members over the north-facing slopes and pits of the Heyshott Escarpment which is managed by The Murray Downland Trust. In recent winters much conservation work has been undertaken to eliminate scrub allowing the spread of cowslips, the food requirement of Duke of Burgundy caterpillars (a nationally rare species).
As the morning progressed and periods of sunshine increased many butterflies were seen basking, but the low air temperature reduced their flight activity so members were able to photograph some of the many orange and black Duke of Burgundy, green hairstreak with vivid, emerald green underside and the dull brown dingy skipper. With everyone searching it was Mark who first located the tiny black and white grizzled skipper – a pair which quickly flew off. Singles of red admiral, peacock and small heath were also found and at the end of the morning a green-veined white and an orange-tip appeared.
Botanists in the group were delighted to find twayblade, bugle, yellow archangel, ramsons, salad burnet, adder’s-tongue fern, white helleborine and many spikes of early-purple orchid to name just some of the species in flower.
It has been a most interesting and rewarding morning thanks to Mark’s knowledge and expertise.
BIRDS ON BLACK DOWN (National Trust)
Leader: Dave Burges
The early start of 7.30am was extremely worthwhile as 31 species were seen or heard. Dave’s depth of knowledge and acute hearing enabled 10 members to locate linnets, siskin, willow warbler, marsh tits, common whitethroat, Dartford warblers, redpoll and tree pipit to name a few.
A highlight of the morning’s walk was to be so close to a flock of 12 crossbills that it was possible to see and photograph their chunky crossed bills, the males’ russet colouring and the females’ pale yellow-green plumage.
BIRDS AT MEDMERRY (RSPB)
Leader: Peter Hughes (RSPB Warden)
Eighteen members thoroughly enjoyed a morning’s birdwatching at Medmerry when among the large number of species seen were: skylarks, yellowhammers, avocets, a little owl, a little ringed plover, a little gull, a peregrine falcon and – seldom seen - a white wagtail thought to be on spring passage back to Iceland. The freshwater and tidal pools, saltmarsh, pasture and arable farmland are becoming excellent habitats for land and water birds.
BURITON CHALK PITS (Hampshire District Council)
Leader: Joe Williams, Apprentice Ranger at Queen Elizabeth Country Park
Once it was the scene of industrial activity for 70 years from 1860 when chalk was quarried to be burnt in a series of kilns to produce lime. Now this small reserve has the status of SNCI (Site of Nature Conservation Interest) and LNR (Local Nature Reserve).
The paths that wind up and down the hillsides and the deep pits are excellent habitats for common beech, snails, ferns (much hart’s tongue fern was seen), mosses and liverworts. Long-tailed tits, a kestrel and a calling nuthatch were located. Early spring flowers found were: colt’s-foot, primrose, dog’s mercury and ground ivy.
BIRDS AT THORNEY ISLAND (Ministry of Defence)
Leader: Hugh Searle
Hugh met 15 members and explained that Thorney Island is no longer an island and has 72 hectares of tidal mudflats. The path along the sea wall is part of the Sussex Border Path.
The weather conditions were not conducive to locating birds as there was a strong, biting, east wind. Nevertheless 28 species were counted including the large flocks of lapwing, Brent geese and starlings. Oystercatcher, cormorant, teal, pintail, shelduck and grey plover were also identified.
After a lunch stop at the ancient Church of St Nicholas some of the group continued southwards to Longmere Point, then across Pilsey Sands to Pilsey Island which is now a RSPB Reserve. On the incoming tide were sanderling and dunlin searching for invertebrates.
BIRDS AT CUTT MILL
Leader: Steve Wattridge
Twenty-one members met at the Tarn at Cutt Mill which is situated in Surrey Wildlife Trust’s Reserve called Puttenham Common.
On the lake known as The Tarn were three great crested grebes in bright plumage. Good sightings were had of two kingfishers. In the woodland more birds were found, notably a small flock of long-tailed tits and a treecreeper, followed by coal tits feeding in a Scots pine.
A member remarked how enjoyable it was to be out walking on a “sparkling day” after the damp, dark days of much of January.
BIRDS ON A WINTER WALK AROUND GRAYSWOOD
Leader: Jon Taylor (HNHS member)
For the final meeting of the year, 18 members met at the entrance to Frillinghurst Wood, Grayswood. Jon is a local resident, is very knowledgeable on wildlife subjects and is always a popular leader.
He explained how separate compartments had been managed and how this has, or will, affect the wildlife. He is of the opinion that, ideally, there should be a mosaic of habitats making a woodland tapestry.
Although it was mild for December the wind was very strong, preventing the location of birds. Only a wren, robin and two soaring buzzards were seen. The walk had been muddy, but most instructive!
BIRDS AT PULBOROUGH BROOKS (RSPB)
On a wet and windy morning 14 stalwarts of the Society braved this visit.
Setting off for Netley’s Hide (hides were truly the only place to be in such conditions) the group noted the abundance of berries – large amounts of sloes, hips and haws – surely a great feast for blackbirds, redwings and fieldfares to name but a few. Several individual jays were seen flying by and their distinctive calls could be clearly heard.
The weather did seem to have discouraged many of the birds members would expect to hear and see in the hedgerows and trees along the way but dunnock and blackbird were seen and a green woodpecker flew over.
At Netley’s Hide it was thrilling to see how many birds were out and about: shovelers, shelduck, mallards, wigeon, teal and lapwing. But the highlights were definitely 4 snipe, showing off very nicely in the open – and a good number of pintail.
At Little Hanger hide, there were fewer birds to be seen but there was an excellent view of a small herd of fallow deer with 2 stags, one of which was wearing a ‘wig’ of dead grass.
But – the weather in the end got the better of the group who eventually ended up in the excellent coffee shop for refreshments.
A soggy but happy morning!
BIRDS AT FERRY POOL, SIDLESHAM, AND CHURCH NORTON
Seventeen members thoroughly enjoyed the very successful bird-watching day in warm sunshine. The temperature was over 14°C, bringing out insects, three species of butterfly, bumblebees and many black darter dragonflies. Surprisingly, many plants were still in flower, notably common knapweed, yarrow, ragwort, sea campion, common mallow and honeysuckle. The light was perfect for birdwatching.
Among the many birds at the Ferry Pool were six avocets, redshank, black-tailed godwit, lapwing, teal, snipe and shoveler. With the generous sharing of their ‘scopes two other visitors pin-pointed the position of a single little stint among the dunlin feeding in the mud.
From the path above the shoreline mallard, curlew, oystercatcher, wigeon, reed bunting, kestrel, stonechat, goldfinch and several little egret were identified. Twelve Brent geese, in a skein, wheeled overhead. Three members were fortunate to have a brief glimpse of a kingfisher and a hidden Cetti’s warbler was heard. In newly-ploughed fields a pair of red-legged partridge and grey herons were feeding.
Catching insects on the roof of Church Norton’s little chapel were a pied wagtail and a female black redstart - the latter being an exciting first sighting for most members.
During the return walk around 20 curlew flew from the ploughed field towards the water, ending what was acclaimed “a brilliant day”.
FUNGI FORAY ON MARLEY COMMON (National Trust)
Leader: Sara Shepley (HNHS member)
On a beautiful autumn day twelve members attended this meeting. Quite soon fungi were found in the car park with a cluster of vivid yellow sulphur tuft and some fine specimens of a tough and leathery bracket fungus known as the artist’s bracket.
The walk went through the woods and then out onto the open heath, where there were representatives of several different genera of fungi (including amanitas, boletes, deceivers, milkcaps and bonnets).
Many specimens gave an opportunity for discussion of the different diagnostic tests used in identification; subjects like habitat, structure of the toadstool and spore prints among them. Later, more important points about identifying them were made, such as the gills on the ochre brittlegill and the charcoal burner, the different ways the spores of earthballs and puffballs are spread and interesting characteristics of other fungi that were found, such as Slippery Jack, tawny grisette, amethyst deceiver, glistening ink-cap and candle snuff.
Although the prolonged dry period leading up to this year’s foray had reduced the numbers seen, nearly 40 species were recorded. It was a great privilege to be taught so much about a rich field of study.
IMBHAMS FARM OPEN DAY
Whilst not an HNHS event, members were interested to visit the farm for their open day and nature walks.
SMALL MAMMALS & DORMICE AT IMBHAMS FARM (by courtesy of John and Margaret Barlow)
Leader: Jim Jones (Surrey Wildlife Trust Officer)
Gathered under a very old oak tree, 17 members were shown how Longworth small mammal live traps were assembled. These and the mammals themselves were to be the subject of a morning field trip at Imbhams Farm.
The farm is a special place for wildlife. The leader for the day, Jim Jones (who is the Living Landscapes Officer for Surrey Wildlife Trust), explained that many of the areas of Imbhams are managed for wildlife conservation; for example, some fields are set aside to allow grasses and flowers to flourish for the protection of insects, invertebrates, reptiles, amphibians, which in turn feed small mammals and birds.
Longworth traps are designed with comfort in mind. A small amount of hay is placed at one end to act as an insulated nest. Food is provided as well as a lure comprising small pieces of chocolate digestive biscuit, which apparently the mice love!
The field that was the venue is surrounded by woodland. The traps are never left for more than 12 hours at a time, to lessen the stress on the animal. Any animal found is removed to a clear plastic bag for identification and weighing, then quickly released.
The first trap that Jim found had been sprung: a bank vole, female and weighed-in at 25 grams. The second had two juvenile voles each weighing 9 grams, and so on up and across this small field, a few more voles, then a wood mouse. A grand total of 6 bank voles and 1 wood mouse.
All of this data is collected and used to add more knowledge about these small but very important animals in the food chain.
BATS AT IMBHAMS FARM (by courtesy of John and Margaret Barlow)
Leader: Martyn Phillis (Surrey Bat Group)
“A very special place for bats” was how Martyn described Imbhams Farm, as of the 14 species in Surrey 11 have been recorded there, including the rare Bechstein’s and Alcathoe. Sixteen people listened to Martyn’s introductory talk describing how harp traps are used to temporarily catch the bats to identify, measure, sex and sometimes ring or attach a radio tag. Juveniles which cannot fly far have been caught, indicating that there were maternity roosts nearby.
Martyn had brought along a live common pipistrelle, being one of the rescue bats he is often asked to nurture and care for. This year he has rescued about two dozen, including saving seven of the ten baby bats brought in.
On the walk through the ancient woodland, along a wooded track, past open meadows and by the large pond common and soprano pipistrelles and Daubenton’s bats were located by the aid of bat detectors. For some of the group to see (in powerful torch light) Daubenton’s skimming across the pond was an exciting first experience.
A single distant pass by one of our largest bats, the serotine, was detected over the meadows just before we finished.
DRAGONFLIES & OTHER INVERTEBRATES ON THURSLEY COMMON (Natural England)
Leader: Jill Fry
On a sunny Saturday morning forty members of the Society met to seek dragonflies and damselflies on Thursley Common, a National Nature Reserve important for its heath and bogs. The group split into two, one led by Jill Fry, a very knowledgeable naturalist and botanist, the other being taken by her husband Ray, a previous warden of the Common for over 20 years, ably assisted by member Don Tagg who also has extensive knowledge of dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata).
Members learnt about the geography of the area, how the bogs are kept filled by springs welling up from the base sand beds, and why the Moat pond is thought to be a hydraulic pingo, a depression left after the last ice age.
Both parties saw a good number of dragonflies and damselflies and their life cycle was explained. Dragonflies seen and positively identified were male emperor (patrolling ponds, chasing off other males and waiting for females so that mating and egg laying could take place), common darter, a pair of black darter mating and egg laying, keeled skimmer, four-spotted chaser and black-tailed skimmer. Damselflies included emerald, common blue, large red, small red, large red-eyed, blue-tailed and azure.
There were also opportunities to study butterflies, birds (including a hobby) and plants adapted to the boggy terrain.
BUTTERFLIES ON MAGDALEN HILL DOWN, NEAR WINCHESTER
Leader: Margaret Hibbard (HNHS Member)
Hampshire Butterfly Conservation is celebrating 25 years of careful management at Magdalen Hill Down, creating rich wildflower meadows on the unimproved chalk downland. The flowers were superb: marjoram, greater and black knapweed, small and field scabious, tall melilot, dark mullein and sainfoin.
After a grey start the day progressed with periods of sunshine when chalkhill blue and marbled white butterflies appeared and many bumblebees and six-spot burnet moths were active. A first sighting for most of the eleven members, was the small blue (Britain’s smallest butterfly) seen on the hillside and in a man-made scrape full of small scabious and kidney vetch.
The walk reached the western end of the reserve and returning eastwards small skipper, small tortoiseshell and peacock were seen. Finally a red admiral and a holly blue flew past, bringing the total number of butterfly species seen to 16.
VARIED SUMMER FLORA ON BRAMSHOTT COMMON
Leader: Pamela Lee (HNHS Member)
A visit to Bramshott Common by 18 members of the Society proved to be a revelation of its history and its unusual flora. Pamela led a walk around the network of paths which cross the common to look for summer flowers.
The sward at the side of the path included tormentil, bird’s foot trefoil, lesser stitchwort and agrimony, and patches of musk mallow and marsh thistle were growing in the long grass behind. A purple emperor butterfly arrested progress and photographs were taken as it fed on the ground.
Pamela explained how at the outbreak of World War I the Government had requisitioned the Common, and the British Army had organised transport of timber by horse-drawn cart up the Portsmouth Road for the building of huts. 35,000 troops, mainly Canadian, passed through during the War. Pamela brought it all to life with contemporary photographs.
Further on there was a view over Hammer Vale. Bell heather in flower indicated a more acid soil, in contrast to the area round the camp where soil had been brought in to grow vegetables. Meadow vetchling, tufted vetch and wild yellow loosestrife provided additional colour. Pamela then took the group to a stand of betony and a very special patch of St Dabeoc’s heath, a plant native to Ireland, sadly not in flower.
The group gathered at a memorial stone commemorating those Canadians who fell during the two Wars. When the A3 was widened 200 Canadian Maples were planted either side, donated by the Canadian Government.
Over 50 flowering plants were recorded, some of them courtesy of Army occupation but most of them this country’s precious indigenous heathland flowers. There were welcome bird sounds and butterflies added interest. Pamela had made it such an interesting morning, full of local history and wild flowers.
CHALK DOWNLAND FLOWERS ON PEWLEY DOWN (Managed by Guildford Borough Council and owned by the people of Guildford)
Leader: Vanessa McClure (HNHS and Guildford NHS member)
It was a very warm and beautifully sunny day when twenty members of the Society met Vanessa for a walk on Pewley Down, chalk downland on the North Downs managed by Guildford Borough Council and owned by the people of Guildford. Vanessa is a member of both Haslemere and Guildford Natural History Societies and a volunteer at Pewley Down. The group climbed the gentle slope on to the Down. Peeping through the longer grass were several bright pink pyramidal orchids, in company with spent flowerheads of yellow rattle. Birds sang from the hedgerows, two buzzards circled overhead and marbled white butterflies flew across the grasses while members found countless chalk-loving plants. As the group stood at a stone of dedication from the Friary Brewery, at the same time marvelling at the expansive panoramic views to the south, Vanessa explained that when the Brewery closed in Guildford they gave the Down to the people of Guildford in perpetuity.
Vanessa took the path which quickly crossed to the north-facing slope overlooking Guildford. In the exposed chalk at the side of the path were poppies, Scarlet pimpernel and heart’s-ease. After climbing over a style and entering a field the group was led to some of the Down’s exquisite bee orchids. The party returned to the south-facing down. Numerous marbled whites nectared on greater knapweed. It was a fitting finale to a morning full of the pleasure of identifying over sixty species of our precious flora and benefiting from Vanessa’s intimate knowledge of the Down.
NIGHT MOTHS AND OTHER NIGHT INSECTS ON ROYAL COMMON (Ministry of Defence) AND BAGMOOR COMMON (Surrey Wildlife Trust)
Leader: Fiona Haynes (Surrey Wildlife Trust Ranger and Warden)
Cancelled due to risk of lightning on open common land.
BIRDS AT RIVERSIDE PARK NATURE RESERVE, BURPHAM (Guildford Borough)
Leader: David Knight (RSPB Guildford Group)
After unseasonably cold and wet weather the previous day it was a relief when it dawned clear and bright, if cool, for eighteen members to go birdwatching at Riverside Park Nature Reserve, near Guildford (known locally as Stoke Meadows). David Knight of the RSPB’s Guildford Group introduced the walk.
Sadly the bird song had to compete with the sound of A3 traffic. On reaching the river, the group turned on to a short boardwalk through woodland and into a field where there was a welcome sound of a chiffchaff. The path led to the lake where a great crested grebe was carrying a youngster on her back, later unceremoniously dropping it in the water where it was joined by the male. A pair of common terns was in residence on the tern raft and two Canada geese swam with three goslings.
David then took the group to the extensive and sturdy boardwalk over the marsh. A red kite flew over. A handsome reed bunting obligingly sat on top of a willow, a blackcap and a whitethroat sang and a sedge warbler was clearly visible as it uttered its scratchy little song.
The group reached Stoke Lock. Nearby were two Egyptian geese with goslings. A kestrel was resting on a dead tree and then, at the end of the walk, a party of goldcrests was singing high in a conifer. At least twenty-eight bird species were seen and/or heard.
TO VIEW THE TERN RAFTS AT FRENSHAM LITTLE POND (National Trust)
Leader: Tim Mockridge (NT Ranger)
Five members met to look for activity on the two tern rafts at Frensham Little Pond which had been funded from the legacy given by the late Clare Britton. The rafts were installed in 2013 and 2014.
Tim led the group to the top of the hill overlooking the pond, where a flock of Canada geese was observed flying over in a ‘V’ formation. On the way up the steep steps long-tailed tits flitted around in the Scots pine and silver birch trees. At the top of the hill swifts were soaring around in the sky catching insects.
The group descended to the edge of the pond. The sandy soil is an important habitat for sand lizard, adder and the smooth snake but none was seen. A woodlark parachuted downwards and chaffinches were heard calling. On the pond were two greylag geese and a great crested grebe, and common terns flew nearby. The deep “chuntering” of reed warbler and reed bunting were heard coming from the reed bed.
As the group approached a boggy region of alder carr Tim explained that it was one of the few areas where native white-claw crayfish remain undisturbed, perhaps because of the dam which kept out the American crayfish.
A tern was seen nestling down, hopefully on a clutch of eggs, on one of the tern rafts but there was little activity on the other. A heron hiding in the rushes flew away across the water and a pair of greylag geese escorted their four goslings. On arriving at the new café a redstart was spotted fluttering in the bushes.
BIRD SONG WITH NIGHTINGALES AT TUGLEY WOOD, NEAR CHIDDINGFOLD
Leader: John Richardson
The effort of meeting at 7am was rewarded when so much birdsong, including nightingales, was enjoyed. Songs of blackbird, chiffchaff and wren were soon joined by two nightingales hidden on either side of the track. Leader and member John Richardson said he had heard the first one on 10th April. He drew attention to chaffinch, wood pigeon, blackcap, great tit, robin and goldcrest.
Having learned the different parts to the nightingale’s song a new sound was heard: a quiet croak like a frog.
In the evening John took a different group on the same walk. The nightingales were in fine voice again, three tawny owls called, a willow warbler gave his descending trill and two woodcock passed on their “roding” circuit.
A member who had come especially to hear the nightingales said; ”I was amazed to hear the different, contrasting components of their song and how it dominated the songs of all the other birds.”
FOSSILS ON BRACKLESHAM BEACH
Leader: David Bone
Members’ eyes were directed downwards in the search for fossils on Bracklesham Beach. David, who had given a talk to the Society the previous year, gave an introductory explanation to 20 members as to why this beach is so special for fossils. He showed boxes of previous finds and gave tips as to where to search. He had chosen a particularly low tide so that the fossil beds, not normally uncovered at low tide, would be revealed.
Seeing the linear beds containing thousands of bivalves and others full of gastropods was an amazing experience. The most spectacular finds were: two globe-shaped fossil corals, a small black piece of tooth palate from a sting ray and a large shark’s tooth.
A member remarked: ”It is wonderful to see something so truly ancient.”
CAMELSDALE SCHOOL, School Road, Haslemere GU27 3RN
Leader: Veronica Carter
Toasting marshmallows over a fire, using a bow saw to make a wooden badge and attempting to light a small fire using a fire-steel, thistledown and birch bark shavings were unusual challenges for eleven members during this visit. These activities are just some of the many Forest School educational programme enjoyed by the children.
The visit was arranged to enable members to see various projects to which our Society has contributed financially (from the Clare Britton Bequest): a bird box webcam (linked to the School’s web site); a report drawn up by Sussex Wildlife Trust to suggest further improvements and new plants for the Secret Garden which already has a great variety of habitats; and the large lockable display board set up in the gazebo in which identification charts and pictures can be changed often to reflect the season.
BIRDS AT TITCHFIELD HAVEN NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE (Hampshire C.C.) Cliff Road, Hill Head, Fareham PO14 3JT
Leaders: Wendy and Alan Novelle
It was a bright and breezy day on the south coast when twelve members visited Titchfield Haven. The reserve occupies the Lower Meon Valley where the river meets the Solent.
In the morning the group followed the River Walk, over the boardwalk through the marshland and willow carr, eventually reaching the new and spacious Knights Bank Hide. After lunch members visited the scrapes and hides to the west of the Reserve.
Many species of birds were seen including black-tailed godwit, marsh harrier, golden plover, avocet and snipe. Some of the birds had been forced onto the scrapes by a rising tide.
The dominant species was the back-headed gull and among the raucous colony was one lone Mediterranean gull, which was distinguished by a blacker head, with bright red beak and flashy red legs.
The call of a Cetti’s warbler was heard several times throughout the day but alas not seen.
Coltsfoot, blackthorn and a brimstone butterfly were seen – surely a harbinger of the coming spring.
Wednesday 25th 8.30 a.m.
BIRDS AT BLASHFORD LAKES, N. of Ringwood, Hampshire (Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust)
Leaders: Sue Bradford and Caroline Lemka
13 members of the Society boarded a minibus at 8.45 in the morning at Hindhead National Trust Car Park and set off for a day of bird watching at the fabulous Blashford Reserve, near Ringwood. It was a comparatively mild morning, but by mid-day the sun was shining on us so we were lucky.
We were indeed lucky in all the wildlife that we saw, hightlights of which I think were goldeneye, gadwall, pochard and a water rail on the lakes and lesser redpoll, siskin, reed bunting and a bank vole in the Woodland Hide. Along the path to the Woodland Hide we came across some beautiful scarlet elf cap fungi.
Whilst sitting having our lunch outside the Education Centre we watched a robin adding material to her nest under the eaves of the centre and a group of 8 (almost too many to count!) buzzards circled high above us.
A great day out indeed.
THE GIBBETT, HINDHEAD COMMON (National Trust)
Leader: Matt Cusack (Head Ranger, South West Surrey Hills)
Matt took 20 members along the Hidden Hindhead Trail in order to use the new telescope sited on Gibbet Hill in 2014, funded by the Society from the Clare Britton Bequest.
Stopping at a viewpoint, once the actual location of the A3, Matt pointed out the topography: heathland on the highest and lowest areas with chalk grassland between. He also gave the historical reasons for the Sailor’s Stone (site of a murder), the Celtic Cross (site of where the murderer’s bodies were displayed) and the foundations (the only remains) of a small lodge at the Temple of Four Winds.
The new telescope is on the summit of Gibbet Hill. It can be rotated 360 degrees to take in the spectacular panorama and has a stand to assist children.
A stop was made in a valley where sweet chestnut grows to hear about the traditional methods being used there to coppice and make stakes and lathes.
Birds were few, but it was a most interesting morning to see how Hindhead Common is being reinstated as heathland after the closure of part of the A3 following the opening of the Hindhead Tunnel in 2011.