Reports

Jenny's Bats   7th Oct 2008

We had fascinating talk on her bats by Jenny Clarke. Jenny runs the Sussex Bat Hospital near East Grinstead, and takes in injured bats from Sussex and Surrey. Where possible, she tries to free them back to the wild after intensive rehabilitation. Her house is given over to this task, with the kitchen table covered in incubators for the baby bats, and a duvet spread on the lounge floor when the bats are trying to fly, so that they have a soft landing.

Cats are often the main culprits in injuring bats, as they lie in wait for them near their favourite watering holes or feeding places, and find it easy to put out a paw and catch them by their delicate wings. They can be in a very traumatized state when they arrive, needing careful nursing and feeding. Jenny brought several soft boxes with lids with her, and removed one or two bats at a time, taking them to each one of us in turn to see them, all the time talking and explaining all about them.

She is so enthusiastic, and has devoted the last thirty years of her life to this work. She trains other bat handlers, as it is a skilled task. During the months from May to late September, she gives about seventy talks, mainly to schools and young people, with her demonstration bats, and educating people about bats. We were even able to hear them call on her special "echo" finder, and feel her hands vibrating as some of them "purred" in her hands! What interesting creatures, and what a treat of an afternoon!

Joan Newman

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Reports

Travels in Romania   21st Oct 2008

Audrey Wende went on holiday in 2004 with the Sussex Wildlife Trust to Romania, and gave us a very interesting talk, with slides, on her experiences there. She started with a brief history and description of Romania, and took us on the exciting tour she had done, which included plenty of birds, like pelicans, glossy ibis, black-winged stilts, and rough-legged buzzards. There were good photos of some reptiles, including a very striking fire salamander.

They saw a captured wolf in a reserve; the authorities are trying to educate the people not to shoot the wolves and bears. They also visited the original castle that Bran Stoker based his Count Dracula stories on. Then they went on a boat on the river Danube: the boat had no engine, but was pulled along by several tugs. The area they were in was famous for its reed-beds, which are wonderful for breeding birds.

The tour ended in Bucharest, with a quick trip to the Museum of Agricultural Buildings and Practices. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed to be taken there, but Audrey managed to sneak a quick one of some circular haystacks! It looked a fascinating trip, and apparently Sussex Wildlife Trust go to these interesting and out-of-the-way places every year, something to consider doing, maybe?

Joan Newman

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Reports

Aspects of Seaford Natural History   11th Nov 2008

This afternoon was a little different from our usual meetings, with one speaker, as some of our own members gave us their own demonstrations. To start us off, Len (Tucknott) showed us a very interesting film he had made of a badger digging for insects. There had been a drought, so the earthworms were unavailable, and Len filmed this badger digging away on the surface of the earth, and said he did not hide, but just stood out of scent range. He also had a short clip of two woodmice nibbling corn.

After this, Colin (Pritchard) showed us a selection of his slides, which varied from bluebell woods, to various flowers, butterflies and birds, including a grey phalarope at Cuckmere, damselflies, and a hornet in his garden.

Next, Keith (Blackburn) gave us a short talk on his work as a tree warden in Seaford, explaining how the council allocates certain sum of money each year for trees to be planted in Seaford, and Keith has to decide where to put them. People who are doing community service have then been used to plant them, and also keep them watered as long as necessary. Apparently, Seaford Council is very interested in planting more trees here.

Len showed us a few of his excellent slides, and this was followed by an explanation of our very own 'website' by Chris (Brewer). He demonstrated this to us, and looked up some of our summer walks which could be found on it. It was fun to see our own members pictured on this website, and to know that this was available to anyone who logged on to it. Altogether, an interesting and relaxing afternoon.

Joan Newman

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Reports

Tracks through Time & Dead Common   25th Nov 2008

Graham Kean leads walks for the Wealden District Council, and this afternoon gave us a fascinating history of the origin of our footpaths and roads, from about 6000 B.C. to the present time, illustrated with many intricate maps.

Our early ancestors tended to follow the rivers and floodplains in summer, and in the winter harvested the shellfish and fished in the sea. Following this route formed our early tracks. Then about 2000 B.C. Neolithic man followed the animals to hunt them, and grew crops on the South Downs, as they were well drained. Here they built monuments (long-barrows), and harvested flints to make their tools. Accordingly, the tracks connected the hunting trails with the hills and flint mines.

When the Romans arrived in Britain, they built many of the roads we know today, connecting the towns like London with the ports and trade, and as we progressed through the centuries, so did the thoroughfares reflect the changes, the primary aim being to connect trade and goods with the people. By the 17th and 18th centuries carts had very wide wheels to cope with all the mud, and tolls were introduced to pay for the upkeep of the roads, with toll~gates. Sunday travel, however, was free so that the people could get to church, and this privilege was rather abused!

Graham took us up to the present day with this intricate study of our "Tracks through time," and was obviously extremely enthusiastic and knowledge¬able about his subject.

The second half of the talk was devoted to our "Commons", where every¬one had the right to graze their livestock, and cut down trees or fodder. He explained how these were gradually lost, partly from being taken over for agriculture, with enclosure by force, and sometimes by squatters moving in and building a maKeshift dwelling, which evolved into a more permanent one. Sometimes whole settlements sprang up in this way.

In 1965 an Act was passed to register the commons, and nowdays they tend to be used for leisure, and are useful Nature Reserves. Graham's talk was extremely detailed, and this is only a brief swmmary of it.

 

Joan Newman

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Reports

Bird Migration   9th Dec 2008

Martyn Stenning gave us an enthralling talk on Bird Migration, illustrated with photos of the birds, and maps, and playing us a few of their songs. Martyn works at the University of Sussex, and the talk he gave was a slightly abridged version of the talk he gives at the University to his students.

It was only about 80 years ago that it was realised that birds did migrate, and people used to think that swallows, for instance, hibernated. It was gradually discovered, mainly through ringing, how birds do move around. The primary reasons for this habit are to make the best of the changing seasons for the search for food and good breeding conditions, to escape cold and frozen water, to search for the light, and for safe places to moult. All these factors would increase the survival prospects.

He described the different categories of migrants, as some are 'partial' migrants, like the robin, which moves about occasionally and fairly locally,as opposed to the long-haul migrants coming and going from cold northern climes to our milder winters, or swallows, swifts and martins, for example, who spend the Summer here for breeding, and then fly back to Africa. Birds find their way by an inherited genetic programme in their body, using astral bodies, and an inner magnetic compass for directional orientation.

It was all quite fascinating, and there is only space here to touch on the subject. We look forward to Martyn leading us on a bird walk next year.

 

Joan Newman

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Reports
page updated 30th June 2012