Seize the day

Author Amanda Solomon
Communications Manager

Woods Mill / Neil Fletcher

Woods Mill / Neil Fletcher

Mixed emotions when a member of staff leaves to move on to bigger and better things. Sadness in missing the skills and support of a respected colleague – happiness that they are following their desired path in life.

And so it was with the leaving of Charles Roper who has worked in the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre (SBRC) for the past eleven years. SBRC is housed within the Sussex Wildlife Trust offices at Woods Mill, Henfield within a beautiful 33 acre nature reserve.

Charles accepted his leaving card and gift from the staff and then made a short, speech from the heart. He reminded us all never to take things for granted. For him, the thought that his working day would no longer included the opportunity to step outside and enjoy the wonderful experience of Woods Mill nature reserve was something he would miss.

So Charles, if you are reading this, know that today I took your advice to heart and spent 15 minutes of my lunch break outside in the sunshine walking around the reserve listening to the sound of birdsong, enjoying the mallards swimming on the pond, and discovering the spring flowers pushing through.

I haven’t done that for at least a year. Thank you.

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Helping Nature’s Recovery: Our call for a Nature and Wellbeing Act

Author Jess Price
Conservation Officer

The Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB are spearheading a coalition calling for a Nature and Wellbeing Act for England, which will put nature at the heart of how our country is run so everyone can enjoy the benefits it provides in our everyday lives. Please sign our e-action calling for all parties to include a Nature and Wellbeing Act in their election manifestos

Matthew Roberts

We need nature / Matthew Roberts

Nature is our life support system. It underpins our health, wellbeing and economy in many ways.  It provides us with the food we eat and the water we drink, our building materials and natural medicines. The natural world regulates our climate and captures and stores carbon; it generates the oxygen that we need and the soils and nutrients necessary to enable life to grow on earth. It also provides us with an array of non-material benefits such as cultural, spiritual, recreational and aesthetic pleasure in natural areas.  Yet despite this, over the years, society and successive governments have let special wildlife-rich places and much-loved species disappear.

As most of you will know, on May 7th this year there will be a General Election in the UK. This is an important opportunity for all of us to influence the priorities of the next Government and ensure that the environment is high on the agenda and in the minds of our politicians. Small policy changes won’t be enough to halt the losses and start the wildlife recovery; it’s time for us all to use this vital opportunity to act for nature.

Why do we need to Act for Nature? 

At least 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their lives, however access to natural green spaces can reduce this (Natural Thinking, RSPB). Wellbeing in the Wild is a collaboration between the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which delivers outdoor sessions for people with experiences of mental illness, offering an opportunity to benefit from the soothing powers of nature and gain confidence and self-esteem in a safe woodland environment. The Nature and Wellbeing Act would help make projects like this commonplace around the country.

If every household in England were provided with good access to quality green space it could save an estimated £2.1 billion in health care costs (Our Natural Health Service – ‘The role of the natural environment in maintaining healthy lives’, Natural England). A Nature and Wellbeing Act would set a standard for access to nature that would guide local planning and spending decisions to help place nature at the centre of how we plan our communities.

The current protection isn’t good enough. For example the proposed Hastings Development Management Plan allocated five sites for development which are currently designated for their biodiversity value and recently Rother District Council granted permission for the development of industrial units on a Site of Special Scientific Interest near Rye Harbour.

The time has come for new legislation to build on what we have to protect nature. We need to ensure that we leave the natural environment in a better state for our children then we received it.

Please sign our e-action calling for all parties to include a Nature and Wellbeing Act in their election manifestos

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Easebourne School Orchard

orchard1Author Petra Billings
West Weald Landscape Project Officer

Everyone loves orchards! They have so many associations. Fruit trees provide a rich and valuable food source for wildlife, from the nectar of apple blossom to the fallen apples which support winter birds like fieldfares and redwings; from the bats which roost in old tree trunks to beetles such as the splendid noble chafer which lives in old pruned wood or woodpecker holes. The lovely names of old apple varieties such as Sussex Mother and Golden Pippin tell their own tales and winter festivities such as wassailing to bless the old trees for a good cider apple harvest bring communities together.

Interest in conserving our heritage apple varieties is reviving as shown by the number of community orchards growing up around Sussex. One such project is a new orchard at Easebourne Primary School. New Head Johnny Culley and parent Melanie Moss have been working with Petra Billings from the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Angela Ward the local South Downs National Park ranger, to plant a very special orchard at the school. A wide mix of heritage fruit trees were selected, including twelve different apple varieties, three crab apples and Victoria plum, which is of Sussex origin. The trees were planted by the children of Year 5 and their families who turned out on a cold February morning armed with gloves and spades and a great deal of enthusiasm. The project was funded jointly by the West Weald Landscape Project, a conservation project led by Sussex Wildlife Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority.

Apart from the fun of the planting day, there is a serious side to the project. The children are learning not only about the importance of fruit-growing but of the value of orchards for wildlife and their role in local history, for example Golden Pippin is one of the earliest English apples available and goes back to the early seventeenth century. As the trees grow, the orchard will provide a first-class learning resource with all sorts of opportunities for comparing the growth of different varieties and the fruit they bear.
Traditional orchards are a priority wildlife habitat for conservation. It was wonderful to see just how much the children enjoyed planting the trees and their interest in them.

Johnny Culley said

‘The children were very excited to be involved at the start of this tremendous project. I am told that we can hope to have the first fruit in three years and the children will enjoy matching the shapes, colours and tastes to the various exotic names attached to the young trees that they have planted. We are very grateful to the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the South Downs National Park Authority for funding this wonderful initiative and I would also like to thank one of our parents, Melanie Moss, who has been working on the orchard project for over a year and without whom the orchard would certainly not have happened.’

 

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Fantastic Mrs ferox

Andrena ferox / Graeme Lyons

Andrena ferox / Graeme Lyons

Author Graeme Lyons
Senior Ecologist

Ten months ago during an invertebrate survey at Flatropers Wood, we (Alice Parfitt, Chris Bentley and I) collected a specimen of a female Andrena (mining bees) that remained unidentified, until now. Bear in mind that last year was the year I first attempted keying out solitary bees, so it was with some trepidation that I keyed this particular bee out to Andrena ferox, an Red Data Book category 1 Biodiversity Action Plan species with one record in Sussex 70 years ago!!! Basically the rarest Andrena in the country.

I keyed it out again after sleeping on it and it came out to the same species (thanks to Dave Gibbs for his help). Then I keyed it out with James Power, Head of Nature Reserves at the Sussex Wildlife Trust and we got it to the same species. Finally today, county recorder and bee wizard Mike Edwards took a look at it and confirmed it as this species. This is by far my best find of 2014. It’s the jewel in the crown of the invertebrate fauna of Flatropers Wood, a site that I should add is not even an SNCI. If you want to read more about Andrena ferox, have a look at the BWARS page and Steven Falk’s excellent flickr stream. It looks like many other bees but it has bright orange hind femora, which are themselves covered in orange hairs. Other bees do share this feature though, so again it comes down to microscopic features.

We have so far recorded 610 species of invertebrate from Flatropers during the survey, 297 of which were recorded from the Pylon Ride where Andrena ferox was recorded on the 24th April 2014. We’ve recorded 32 species of aculeate (bees, ants and wasps) and 27 of these are from this ride. The ride really is where much of the interest of the site is but it was particularly good in the spring and the autumn, showing how important early and late visits are to these kind of surveys. It’s produced some really great finds, have a look through some of the highlights here.

So what next for this bee? Well we will go and have another look if we can find more individuals and perhaps find the nesting aggregations in April but I hear this bee is incredibly hard to find (apparently, or am I just really lucky?!) and we may never record another one. We can however take a good look at the site and knowing the bee’s requirements, see if there is any management we can put in place, if any, to improve its chances there. It’s a very welcome return to our invertebrate fauna and just goes to show how you can make significant finds with relatively limited experience if you adopt the right approach!

Visit Graeme’s blog here

HLF_logoThe Heritage Lottery Fund helped to fund a project in 2009 at Flatropers Wood to purchase woodland and undertake conservation work to improve the habitat.

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Oliver Rackham

The Mens / Nigel Symington

The Mens / Nigel Symington

Author Tony Whitbread
Chief Executive
The sad loss of Oliver Rackham – one of the greatest contributors to the study of trees, woodlands and the landscape.

Oliver Rackham was one of my greatest inspirations.  Before his great work “Trees and Woodland in the British Landscape”, few of us had any idea about ancient woodland; we didn’t understand how special they were, few realized that woods were managed and very few understood the great historical and cultural value of woodland.  Oliver Rackham opened a whole library of rich new meaning to generations of people with an interest in woodland and landscape. His books were just becoming well known as I was developing my own interest in woodlands and his sudden death after collapsing at a dinner in Leckhampton leaves a great hole were there once was the leading authority on trees and woodlands.

Some great tributes have been payed to Oliver; see, for example posts by Keith Kirby and Ian Rotherham.

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What Nature Does for Britain

Author Tony Whitbread
Chief Executive

A new book by Tony Juniper, What Nature Does for Britain, takes a fascinating journey through Britain and powerfully illustrates how we all need nature – for our health, wealth and security. He explores how nature makes us happy, helps us to feel better and is good for business too. The book also looks at how the protection of natural habitats can also provide a cleaner, cheaper water supply; how healthy soils help purify water, reduce flooding and store carbon, thus combating climate change; and how food production in the UK remains fundamentally dependent on a thriving natural world.

In the book Tony visits people and places across Britain to illustrate the social and economic benefits of landscape and habitat restoration. The book includes many examples of The Wildlife Trusts’ work such as:

  • Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Pumlumon Project where landscape restoration upstream seeks to reap flood defence benefits downstream
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s Potteric Carr – a beautiful urban wildlife retreat on the edge of Doncaster, designed to store quantities of water and prevent local flooding
  • Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust’s awe-inspiring ospreys, eco-tourism and habitat creation with Anglian Water at Rutland Water
  • Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s peatland restoration near Manchester to create fabulous habitats and store carbon at Chat Moss and other bogs
  • Ulster Wildlife’s expertise in maintaining wildlife-rich farmland and the benefits of reserves like Slievenacloy
  • Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s work to improve community greenspace, making it wilder and bringing social benefits to deprived and run-down housing estates

Stephanie Hilborne OBE, Chief Executive of The Wildlife Trusts, says:

“What Nature Does for Britain is a fact-packed challenge to any preconceptions that greens spend their lives complaining. There are positive alternatives and this book makes these very clear. What Nature Does for Britain provides great material for politicians, town planners, health workers and even the Treasury to justify taking into account the true value of wildlife and natural ecosystems. Tony Juniper illustrates the folly of short-term gain strategies which damage the natural world. The tax payer is being landed with unnecessary bills now but it is the next generation that it will cost most dearly. I’m delighted that the author has chosen examples of The Wildlife Trusts’ work to illustrate the benefits of restoring our ecosystem for people’s happiness, health and for their purses.”

The book demonstrates we need nature – so let’s put it back in our lives, where it belongs. Join our The Wildlife Trusts and RSPB campaign for a Nature and Wellbeing Act. Write to your MP today.

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My Patch

kestrel / Jon Hawkins

kestrel / Jon Hawkins

Author Ronnie Reed
People and Wildlife Officer Seven Sisters Country Park

As the owner of a bouncy border collie who requires oodles of exercise I get lots of walks and, because time is always short, I tend to walk the same area day after day. Tedious? Boring? Maybe but it does mean I get to know one small patch of Sussex really well. I know where the local territorial robin sits high up in an elder bush blasting out his warrior song; I am ready for the tiny brown wren that flits from the shelter of a large rambling blackberry bush across a narrow ditch to disappear into tufts of long grass close to the path I walk. I always stop to listen for the thrush whose song cuts through the cold morning air from the top of a splendid horse chestnut tree. My morning comes alive when I see the tell-tale bobbing flight of the green woodpecker that patrols the field we always walk across. I know where to look for the first snowdrops and the clumps of pale yellow primroses sunning themselves on a sheltered bank. I bake with blackberries and turn gin into something special with sloes in the autumn because I know where to find the fruit.

Take last Sunday for example. Late afternoon, the wind blowing from the east carrying a pocket of rain, grey, dank and finger tip cold, we walked down to the nearby river. The water was dark, the fields empty, and the hills bleak as we turned our collars up against the cold wishing we were beside the fire not out walking a dog. But then something happened; one of those special moments that turn the world around.

Just up ahead along the river bank path a kestrel lifted into the air and for a few seconds we watched entranced as it hovered, wings beating against the wind, then stilled, as it hung above the tall turfs of tangled grass growing along the edge of the path. We were close enough to see the grey plumage on the head and I fancied I saw the dark black beady eye ringed with gold searching for its food in the bank. Suddenly it dropped. One straight precise movement into the long grass and then up and a low level flight across the field to a fence where it came to rest to consume what it had
caught.

And then this morning I saw my kestrel again; this time perched on a telegraph pole and as it sat there hunched against the cold, grey sky I suddenly realised I had come to think of it as my kestrel. Ridiculous of course; I have no ownership rights over this bird; it is just that it has entered my world in the same way as all the other things I see on my walk have entered my world. And because they are part of me now, if anything happened to them I would be very upset.

I also realised that this sense of ownership is important because it carries a responsibility with it, a responsibility to ensure that nothing does happen to these things, that they are protected, not just for my enjoyment but because they are important in their own right. They make up our world. We need them for the future, for our future.

This is why I believe our ‘People and Wildlife’ work at the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s is important. We are constantly finding ways to open people’s eyes to how amazing the world around us is, leading them through a door which opens onto the enjoyment and then understanding of how our natural world works. We show children dragonfly larvae in a pond and take adults on bat walks, we get families rock pooling and offer fungi courses, run Nature Tots and flower identification sessions in the hope that once people start to enjoy the wildlife around them and learn about it, nature will become part of their lives engendering a sense of ownership and ultimately responsibility for the incredible world around us.

Education volunteers / Miles Davis

Education volunteers / Miles Davis

Education Volunteers Wanted at Seven Sisters Country Park
We are holding an Introductory Morning for new volunteers on Friday 20 February. Please click here to find out more.

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A Day in Wild Worthing

Author Tom Simpson
People and Wildlife Officer

Worthing shoreline / Tom Simpson

Worthing shoreline / Tom Simpson

During my first week as People and Wildlife Officer for the Wild about Worthing Project, I have spent a bit of time getting to know the people and places of this urban landscape and, most importantly, getting a glimpse of some of the wonderful wildlife there is to be seen around the town.

First stop was Whitebeam Woods, a tiny remnant of ancient woodland in west Worthing which certainly lives up to its designation as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. A huge feral honey bee hive hanging from the limb of a mighty oak grabbed my attention and as I stared up trying to get a decent photo a noisy flock of long-tailed and great tits rushed past on the hunt for food, closely followed by the distinctive yaffle of a green woodpecker.

The "legs" of an old oak tree in Kings Wood, a potential haunt of stag beetle larvae / Tom Simpson

The “legs” of an old oak tree in Kings Wood, a potential haunt of stag beetle larvae / Tom Simpson

Next stop was the beach at Sea Lane, where a swift search of the strandline revealed an abundance of “mermaid’s purse”. These tough, leathery egg cases of skates, rays and sharks wash ashore after the eggs inside had hatched and serve as a great indicator of what’s going on beneath our seas. A pair of grey wagtails joined in the search, bouncing along the strandline.

undulate ray and cat shark egg cases / Tom Simpson

undulate ray and cat shark egg cases / Tom Simpson

I continued my whistle-stop tour with a visit to Cortis Avenue Community Wildlife Garden, where the hard working volunteers had been digging a new pond. As I left, I was very excited to see a buff-tailed bumblebee buzzing around looking to find flowering plants.

buff-tailed bumblebee / Anna Guthrie

buff-tailed bumblebee / Anna Guthrie

A bumblebee in early February? Even on a warm day that’s an unusual sight but not as unusual as you might think. According to the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society (BWARS), over the last dozen years or so Bombus terrestris workers have been seen foraging at a wide range of winter-flowering plants as mated queens establish nests in the autumn, and the colonies exploit the increasing amount of forage resources available throughout the winter in our gardens, parks and amenity areas. You can record your sightings of winter active bumblebees here.

This brief taste of Worthing’s urban landscape has really got me Wild About Worthing and I’m looking forward to working with the many conservation and community groups around the town and seeing the seasons progress. A summer of swifts and stag beetles awaits, perhaps?

Our wWildlife Rangers and Youth Rangers programmes will be up and running soon. If you’re interested in gaining practical skills and work experience, learning more about your local environment and helping to make it a better place then why not get in touch?

Tom Simpson is the People and Wildlife Officer for the Sussex Wildlife Trust’s Heritage Lottery funded project – Wild About Worthing.

Find the Wild About Worthing project on Facebook and @WildWorthing on twitter

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Sussex Wildlife Trust Clothing Range Launched

Author Richard Cobden
Digital Media Officer

Tee_shop

The Sussex Wildlife Trust is very excited to have teamed-up with Rapanui, the award-winning eco-fashion brand, to create a new clothing range. All the designs take their inspiration from our love of Sussex, its landscape and wildlife.

All of the products are made from 100% organic cotton produced in a wind-powered factory and are hand-printed in the UK. With proceeds from each sale going towards the amazing work of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Visit our online clothing store here: www.sussexwildlifetrust.teemill.co.uk

Free Postage!!

We can also offer free postage on all orders made from now until midnight on Sunday 8 February 2015. Just use the code ‘mywildlife’ in the voucher code area.

We’d love to see photos of you modelling our new t-shirts and other clothing, please share your photos to our Facebook page here.

Click image to see our full range of designs

Click image to see our full range of designs

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Finding Birds off to flying start

Author Mike Russell
Senior Conservation Advisor

kingfisher / Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography

kingfisher / Jon Hawkins Surrey Hills Photography

Finding Birds in East Sussex got off to a brilliant start, with lovely weather paving the way for an excellent morning at West Rise Marsh and Shinewater Lakes, just north of Eastbourne. This was a new venue for me and for most of the people on the course, and it didn’t disappoint.

Not long into the walk on West Mead Rise and the first big wow of the morning, a really good close up view of a kingfisher. As we got near to the edge of the reeds, a few snipe shot up in front of us with its characteristic zig-zag flight and its amazingly long beak prominent.

Not long afterwards we were enjoying wonderful views of a female marsh harrier, her golden head glowing in the sun, quartering the lakes and reedbeds, causing panic amongst the plentiful wigeon and teal. Heading back a female bearded tit perched on top of a reed right in front of us and those of at the front saw a sparrowhawk fly low across the marsh to harass the birds on a table in a nearby garden.

Onto Shinewater Lakes and a good variety of ducks including gadwall, shoveler, tufted duck and pochard as well as a lone great crested grebe. Lovely close views of a chiffchaff brought the morning to a close….well nearly as four of us then went on to Jevington to hopefully catch up with the rough-legged buzzard that has taken up residence there since the beginning of November. A big ‘wow’ here as this beautiful bird hovered virtually over our heads, its white head and rump gleaming in the sun and treating us to a wonderful display during the 30 minutes or so we were there.

Pretty good start to the course I’d say!

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