Sunday, 26 May 2013

Scooter gathering, Bulldog Charity Run

This afternoon I took a stroll to our local pub, the Royal Oak. This was the venue for a gathering of scooters, following a charity run from coastal Bognor Regis to our town of Midhurst. The distinctive smell of two-stroke oil and petrol fumes filled the air and the chorus of engines rose and fell as groups of scooters arrived and left, rolling around the car park and cruising the roads. Gatherings of riders swapped jokes and passed spanners and oiled rags, tinkering and fixing the more temperamental machines. Sunshine glinted on chrome, fur-edged Parkers were rolled and stuffed onto seats and paintwork polished. 

Lazing on a sunny afternoon

I met my Brother and Mum in Chichester for lunch yesterday. There can be few things in this busy world, as pleasant (or as strikingly traditional and British), than taking time out to lounge on short mown turf beneath the dappled shade of a chestnut or a plane tree, squinting at a game of cricket, whilst nearby children chase seagulls that get to close to their sandwiches and an old gent taps his foot in time to the busker's tunes, whilst all around people enjoy the sunshine like a rare treat, many declaring the day a holiday, solely for pleasure and enjoying the simple things.

 Fantastic folk band 'Threepenny Bit' (highly recommended!!)

Friday, 17 May 2013

A good hobby – in more ways than one

It is always nice when you can spend at least some of your day at work doing what you love best, even better when it means you can leave the computer and the office behind and head out into glorious sunshine and count butterflies!

Yesterday I did just that. We are doing a butterfly transect on the nature reserve where I work (RSPB Pulborough Brooks) this summer; a type of survey which runs along a set route and involves recording species and number of butterflies seen along designated sections of the route, at regular intervals such as once a week. Records on the survey yesterday included brimstone and peacock, green veined white and a good number of small white, along with additional sightings of orange tip, many more small whites and a speckled wood, all of which were unfortunately off the transect route!

All the tree species are well into leaf now, the oak being the slowest to burst its buds. Below them, flowers are blossoming; carpets of hazy bluebells, splashes of bright pink campion and constellations of white starry stitchwort.

I was serenaded all around the trails by bird song; blackbirds' flute-like notes, song thrushs' repetitive phrases, blackcaps' warbling and whitethroats' scratchy song. The nightingales were the loudest however, the best two spots for these that I encountered were the entrance to Fattengates Courtyard and along the Pig Run by Little Hanger Hide. (Just ask at the visitor centre if you are unsure where these places are on the reserve). It was a nightingale infact that lead me to my favourite species of the day – a Hobby. 
This small falcon is a migratory bird of prey and usually arrives here in Southern England in spring, after the swallows, martins and swifts have arrives. These agile expert aerial hunters often add the nimble swift to their menu, but will also catch smaller prey such as dragonflies. This individual was perched in the top of a dead tree at Jupps Viewpoint, near to Nettleys Hide, causing a nearby nightingale and other small birds to shout their high-pitched alarm calls, which attracted our attention. This was my first Hobby for the year, they have only been around for the last week or two!

My final sighting as I left work at the end of the day was and other first for 2013; a small copper butterfly! A beautiful dainty little creature. 

The reserve I work at is an RSPB reserve called Pulborough Brooks. a beautiful place with fantastic facilities, just inside the South Downs National Park in West Sussex.
 Take a look at the website for full details and directions:

If you visit the reserve this summer, don’t forget to look up to the sky. You might be lucky enough to spot a Hobby, performing its aerobatics high up against the clouds on sharply angled wings, over the wetland or the heathland. farmland and hedgerow birds such as bullfinch and warblers can bee seen here too, and out on the wetlands and pools lapwings mingle with ducks and geese.
If birds aren’t your thing and the smaller beauties of life catch your eye, look out for the shimmering dragonflies and damselflies that are emerging from our ponds to zoom over the water, the dainty butterflies that flutter along the flowers and hedgerows, or the lizards that rustle in the undergrowth and bask in the sunshine. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

A Sense of Place

There were two mountains, one looming high into the blue sky, cloudless today, the other rippling out across the mirror-lake to my feet in the gravely shallows. The water, clear as a diamond, dances and sparkles with skimming-stones that bounce across its surface before sinking below into the dark mysterious depths. Tall tales, and half-whispered stories, of of lake monsters, dark shadowy ravens bringing messages from far off lands, wheeling hawks loose from the hand of an armoured knight; white stallion prancing on the mountain ridge,  and dancing lights of faeries, unbidden, sprang to mind, almost as if emanating from the very stone and moss clad, fern-nurturing trees of the lake's edge, or half remembered in the breeze. Long after I drove away, I was left with an sense of place. Of water and stone. 

I have returned this weekend from a training course in North Wales. I was lucky enough to have chance between study sessions to explore a sample of this beautiful and dramatic landscape of mountains and mysterious lakes, which possibly more than its fair share of sheep and slate.