Reports

The Wildlife of Arlington Reservoir   11th January 2011

Tracey Younghusband explained that she works for South East Water, who began designing a reservoir at Arlington in the 1960s and completed the project in 1971. This was formed out of former agricultural farmland and made by cutting off a meander in the River Cuckmere, and covers about 120 acres. S.E. Water was keen not just to build a reservoir but to make Arlington one of the first examples of giving something back to the environment. 30,000 native trees and 2 ½ miles of hedgerows were planted in order to screen the reservoir from most areas of sight. Since the 1980s the area has been designated an SSSI and also an RSPB area of regional importance.

S.E. Water has created a large area for various kinds of recreation – trout fishing, walking, horse riding and cycling. There is fairly free public access, the only proviso being that some paths are just for anglers because of health and safety reasons. Over the years biodiversity has greatly increased. There are now more than 180 bird species and 37 butterfly species; and also other various protected species. There are 6 ponds, reed beds, and areas for wild flowers. The hedging comes from coppicing which has been carried out for about 13 years now, with a great deal of help from volunteers. The hazel is coppiced on a 7 year cycle. As indicators of good management, dormice have extended their area, probably moving in from Abbots Wood and the brown long eared bat is present. Willow sculptures have been created and 5 barn owl boxes have been erected which have had, unfortunately, to be fenced in for the protection of the birds. Kestrels often share the barn owls’ nesting boxes.

S.E. Water owns a huge area (not just in Sussex) in which there are national parks, areas of outstanding beauty and SSSIs. Much of this land is leased out, which means that they are able to protect water resources and have control over what happens on the land. It also makes it challenging when having to carry out engineering works.

One of these areas is Friston Forest where there is a small herd of British White cattle of a non-breeding type. One has been fitted with a collar which sends signals back, enabling movements to be monitored. Another is Deep Dene where S.E. Water has introduced some Herdwick sheep. This is a hardy breed, bought by S.E. Water but looked after by a tenant, who owns any offspring.

There is also a tiny site in Piddinghoe Reservoir which has been left as natural as possible. In fact following complaints about untidiness, S.E. Water now mow in certain areas – paths etc – to show that the area is being managed. Here green vein orchids are now flourishing.

All in all a fascinating talk, giving an insight into how it is possible to turn a demand for a basic necessity into an opportunity to work with nature rather than against it.

Susan Painter

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 Reports

Wildflowers of Sussex   8th February 2011

Alan Malpass started his talk by saying that we were lucky to have such a wide variety of habitats in our county. We have heathland, woodland, marshland, hay meadows and, of course, our downland.

Common wild flowers were then presented in order of the colours of the rainbow, medicinal properties were described and these were often shown by the plants name. Starting with white, a non-rainbow colour, we were told that there are no albino plants, but naturally white flowers include eyebright, which is still used in some eye lotions, white dead-nettle and wood-sorrel, known in Sussex as “granny’s nightcap”.

Moving to rainbow colours, violet or purple can be seen in teasel and violets. Hedge woundwort was used to staunch the flow of blood and self-heal had a reputation as a “cure all” for both external and internal injuries. An old name for common comfrey was “knit bone”, because the root was grated to a sludge and packed around a broken bone, where it set like plaster of Paris.

Indigo is a dark blue, like the rampion, known as “the Pride of Sussex”, also the bugle, which can be found in woodland areas.

There are many blue flowers, such as periwinkle, forget-me-not, harebell and our bluebell, which is native only in Northern Europe.

Surprisingly, maybe, there are a number of green flowers. All plantains are green, also stinging nettles, moschatel, a sign of ancient woodland, and the prehistoric-looking horsetails.

Plenty of yellow flowers, many of them a sign of spring, as with daffodils, and primroses, which are associated with Mother’s Day, as when servant girls were given the day off they would pick a posy on their way home, to give to their mother. Also in this colour are goatsbeard or “Jack-go-to-bed-at-Noon”, dandelion and gorse, of which we have so much, partly because the grazing rights on commons are not always used nowadays. The name of the bright lesser celandine comes from the Greek word for swallow, because as the weather warmed the swallows would arrive and the lesser celandine would flower, but now, with climate change, the two do not always coincide.

Orange is maybe a more difficult colour to connect with true wild flowers. Some St. John’s wort are tinged with orange, also the carline thistle and birdsfoot trefoil. The lovely bog asphodel turns orange as it seeds.

As to the last colour, red, the one that comes to mind is poppy which, liking disturbed ground, sprang up over the battlefields in WW1. We also have foxgloves, of which all its parts are poisonous, it yields the drug Digitalis, and it is said that if you just hold a leaf, your heart rate will increase! It is worth looking on the hazel bush for the tiny, red female flowers.

Alan Malpass answered some interesting questions, one on why harebells were declining, which could be because they need closely grazed turf. He thinks that as agricultural support payments may not be increased, farmers won’t be paid to be environmentally friendly. Also the worry about native bluebells hybridizing with the “Spanish” bluebell. This is mostly near urban areas, due to garden throwouts. Finally we were encouraged to keep records of everything, year after year, to help build up this much needed data.

Wendy Meadway

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 Reports

Marine Conservation   22nd February 2011

Emma Heywood is the coastal marine officer for East Sussex County Council. She began by giving an overview of the various types of habitats, starting with hard rock. Chalk is quite rare nationally, as are chalk cliffs. Because chalk extends into the sea it creates an interesting habitat; bivalves burrow into the rock and algae settle in the protected areas, also invertebrates like small crabs and small fish. Then there is a mixed sediment habitat made up of pebbles and sand mixture. Hybroids, small worms, crabs, lobsters, sponges, and anemones exist here. Thirdly, there is the sands and muds habitat which is more mobile. For this reason there are burrowing fish like plaice, and scallops (both queen and king), also marsh crabs. Since the habitat is more mobile there are fewer plants. Lastly there are artificial structures like boat or plane wrecks, sea walls, and groins. Algae and hybroids are found here, together with Devonshire coral and Jewel anemones which are not common.

Marine diversity contains around half of our biodiversity. Unfortunately, there is a continuing decline in marine biodiversity diversity owing to factors such as pollution and climate change. There has been very little protection in the past – only an incredibly low figure of about 2 per cent nationally is protected.

Effective management is needed to improve conservation because a voluntary code of conduct is not sufficient and can be difficult to enforce. Various measures are being introduced. The common fisheries policy has implemented quotas. The size of trawlers’ nets is limited so that no juveniles are caught. Also there are no take zones, but these tend to be more effective for species like lobsters rather than say herring or tuna which are more mobile. There are areas which are partially or completely closed to fishing at certain times of the year, perhaps of certain species, limit to size, gear based measures. A cut off zone is effective. There are some European protected sites – these make up the 2 per cent – but none in Sussex.

This is, however, a very exciting time because the Marine and Coastal Access Act - a huge piece of legislation - was passed in 2009. This new legislation will hopefully bring about great change. Four marine conservation zones (MCZs) have been created, the one in the south east covering an area from Felixstowe to the Hampshire/Dorset border. Within these zones marine sites of national conservation importance (mSNCIs) are being identified. The MCZ process will be finalised in 2011 and designations in 2012.

Close to the Sovereign Shoals there is a sandstone/chalk reef system which is highly diverse. There are blue mussel beds, protected wrecks, and herring which are heavily fished with static gear. There is a need to balance coastal protection with dredging in Sovereign Harbour. Near Brighton there are chalk platforms in shallow water.

Near the Seven Sisters there is a voluntary conservation area. This runs from the Martello Tower at Seaford to the Wish Tower at Eastbourne, and out to sea for about 2 km. The Sussex Sea Fisheries Committee byelaw prohibits the use of mobile gear. Again there are heavily fished/coastal protection issues.

There is also a commitment to use renewable energy, for example a proposal to construct a wind farm 26 kilometres off shore at Newhaven. There is always a balance to be maintained between marine conservation and the needs of people.

Although we know very little about our marine environment, her fascinating talk gave us an insight into this extremely diverse subject.

Susan Painter

 Reports

AGM and 2010 Highlights   8th March 2011

Keith Blackburn welcomed the 35 members who were present. Four apologies for absence were received. He reported that 2010 had been a very successful year, with a growing membership.

Chris Brewer was thanked for his work on setting up and managing the website which was not only a great asset to members but was providing particularly effective publicity in attracting new members.

Diana Swaysland presented her statement of accounts for 2010 and thanked Mike Staples for examining them. Although expenditure generally is up, the reduction in printing costs for the magazine in 2010 and the introduction of refreshments meant that she was pleased to report that the society’s finances were now much healthier. She announced that, after being eight years in the post, she would be standing down at next year’s AGM.

Ruth Young gave an outline of the plans so far for 2011/12 indoor meetings. After this she was presented with a book token as a thank you for all her hard work as indoor programme organiser and secretary as she was standing down from this role. Anne Fletcher was elected on to the committee as secretary and Colin Whiteman also was elected to the committee as the future organiser of the indoor programme.

Under any other business Keith Blackburn explained that the Society is not a pressure group but occasionally members may wish to know more about controversial issues and he obtained their agreement to contact them via e-mail if and when necessary.

Also under any other business Ruth Greenslade gave an update on the position of the Seaford Head Local Nature Reserve. She explained that after 1 April there will not be a designated warden for this area and therefore the maintenance of the reserve will depend more on volunteers than at present.

After the AGM two of our members showed us their highlights of 2010 that they had caught on camera. First of all Len Tucknott whose photos included dragonflies, butterflies and some Exmoor ponies at Ashdown Forest in the summer, and a common seal in the Cuckmere Estuary in early November . He was followed by Peter Hammond who showed some close ups of butterflies, moths and beetles in locations from as far afield as Madeira where he photographed a water frog , to a wasp spider in Sussex.

In between these presentations Keith Blackburn gave us an update on how the Environment Agency is continuing to protect Seaford beach from erosion. After much consultation it has been decided that the present approach of moving the shingle from one end of the beach to the other is currently the most viable option.

Chris Brewer then gave an outline of the planned monthly visits to High and Over, the first of which was due to take place the following Tuesday. He explained that the purpose of the visits was to observe and note what was to be seen on a monthly basis in the period from March to September at one particular location.

Susan Painter

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 Reports

Ecology of the Sussex Ouse   22nd March 2011

2.15 came and went. A gentle hum of consternation rustled round the room. Keith did some swift lateral thinking and turned the meeting back to front. Reports were followed by refreshments while our delayed speaker sorted out his presentation. As Anne Fletcher later remarked, ‘it was well worth waiting for’.

Given that a) the mouth of the Ouse had once reached the sea at Seaford, b) the Ouse catchment is the second largest in Sussex (1500km2), and c) its variety of wetland ecosystems ecology is complex, the Ouse wildlife corridor, made a worthy subject for the last indoor meeting of 2010-11. Top of its food chain is the common seal, recently photographed in Lewes, while bottom position is occupied by bacteria. Many key species appeared as insets on many slides. The Ouse has a long pedigree, possibly dating from the rise of the Wealden Dome some 37 million years ago. Normal erosion, accelerated by the harsh periglacial conditions of Pleistocene Ice Ages, exposed different strata with pH ranging from the more acidic sandstones of the interior to the alkaline soils on the Chalk nearer the coast.

Superimposed on this geological foundation is a wide variety of natural habitats and ecological highlights – springs, ghyll valleys (ferns, bats and amphibians), streams (sticklebacks and stoneflies), floodplains (rich grazing), fens (hard rush), ditches (biodiversity refuges, some of SSSI status), riparian woods (acidic Alder Carr at Uckfield and alkaline Willow Carr at Lewes), reed beds (bearded tits to the Ouse Project near Newhaven and hopefully bittern), the tidal estuary (waders, eels and crabs) and the river mouth. All these habitats and their myriad organisms constitute the food web, an inter-connecting maze of links from diatoms and algae up to herons and kingfishers.

Martyn then reviewed, and strongly commended, his favourite Ouse site, the riparian Woodland Trust Lake Wood near Uckfield. Henry Ogg’s 1820 engraving suggests little has changed since. However, there are problems in the Ouse, including invasive Himalayan Balsam requiring an annual cull. Flooding is another Ouse hazard, illustrated by Dr Alan Thompson’s photographs taken during the exceptional Uckfield floods of October 2000. While floods can enhance floodplain fertility, adverse effects arise from human occupation, a self-inflicted problem. Ideally humans should relocate but, with infrastructure in place, cost would be prohibitive. A longer perspective shows more, higher floods in recent years possibly related to climate warming. The Gulf Stream, a component of that great global marine circulation system, the Thermohaline Circulation, is responsible for Britain’s position in the Western Palaearctic zoogeographical region, one of eight such global divisions. These conditions explain the diversity of life in the Ouse with no fewer than five biological kingdoms. To the obvious ones, animals and plants, can be added Prokaryotes (bacteria), Protoclists (protozoa and algae), and fungi. It was amusing to discover that RINGMER distinguishes animals from other kingdoms - Reproduction, Irritability, Nutrition, Growth, Movement, Excretion and Respiration.

The Sussex Ouse Conservation Society (SOCS) was commended by Martyn for its work in improving the status of the Ouse. Its monthly Biological Monitoring Working Party (BMWP) assesses water quality through the presence/absence of indicator species such as the stonefly (very intolerant of pollution), and worms (happy to exist in polluted water). The process is simple. Disturb the river bed by shuffling, holding a net in the water for three minutes, empty contents into an inspection tray and identify the species. According to the River Invertebrate Prediction and Classification System, the River Uck at Uckfield warrants a ‘b’ score, so, more to do in terms of sewage treatment and agricultural and industrial run-off perhaps, but a promising level of quality has already been achieved. Otter, Greater Tussock Sedge at Hempstead Meadows L.N.R., Reed, Water Starwort, Water Crowfoot and Strapweed are further highlights of the Ouse. Conscious of the clock ticking, Martyn just had time to include products of the riverine environment (for instance, herbs, cricket bats, baskets and Asprin), and to answer a few final questions, before Anne Fletcher proposed the vote of thanks for this wide-ranging and beautifully illustrated presentation. With the sun still making its presence felt outside, members dispersed with thoughts of a long summer fieldtrip season and productive survey sessions at High and Over.

Colin Whiteman

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 Reports

The Life of Bats   11th October 2011

Amanda Millar runs a bat hospital in Hurstpierpoint. She told us that this has been a pretty bad year for bat injuries and the number of bats in her care this year has varied from 42 at the moment to 64, including 45 orphans, back in the summer. Many are long term residents and the most common cause of injury is caused by cats; because bats have thin bones this makes them vulnerable and they often suffer from broken fingers and wings. About half have been satisfactorily rehabilitated and released.

She explained that bats are the only true flying mammals which belong to 2 groups – mega and micro. In all there are over 1000 species of bats, about one fifth of all mammals. There are around 200 species of megabats (also known as fruit bats) which live outside the UK. They are related to lemurs and therefore to us. They have an extra claw and fairly big eyes and are able to see in colour. Some species can have a 5 foot wing span.

There are around 800 species of microbats, 18 of which are found in this country. They are agile insect eaters and smaller than megabats. They originate from a shrew like mammal, can only see in black and white and tend to be nocturnal. They have poor eyesight, but excellent hearing. They are also able to echo locate while fruit bats rarely do so. Echo location is usually through the mouth (although sometimes through the nose). This is why they have reduced teeth in the front, so as not to interfere with echo location. They can even detect human hair through echo location. Bats are also an important part of the eco system because they are seed dispersers and pollinators.

Bats are very sociable and very vocal, using different calls according to environment, tending to live in fairly large groups. They are not aggressive and there is no great fighting between species. They exhibit true altruism and will help others not so fortunate by, for example, regurgitating food.

Bats are clean mammals but do carry mites etc. They can carry rabies (a different strain to dog rabies) but the risk is negligible to humans.

Bats usually have one live pup, about one third of their bodyweight, but not necessarily every year. They produce milk. They are very good mothers and use scent and sound of their pups to identify them. The pups have no fear of humans, and have poorly developed wings. Bats like warm places for maternity roosts such as lofts or under tiles. The males usually live separately at this time but they all come together during hibernation. Bats prefer cold roosts in winter when they hibernate and will return to the same roost year after year. During hibernation they tuck themselves into a small space and sometimes stop breathing. From this state they need up to half an hour to be in a condition to fly.

Most species of bats are in decline for various reasons e.g. loss of roosts, changing agricultural practices, use of insecticides and extreme weather. After hibernation they can be in poor condition and a shortage of insects can lead to starvation. Daubenton’s and the lesser horseshoe are doing all right, but all others less so. Sussex is one of the best counties for bats with all 18 species recorded. We can do our bit to help by creating compost heaps and log piles and by planting native trees and shrubs.

After the tea break Amanda brought round a noctule, a pipistrelle and a long eared horseshoe bat – a – a real treat to round off a really enjoyable and informative afternoon.

Susan Painter

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 Reports

The Seven Sisters Country Park   1st November 2011

Alan Grey was a teacher for 40 years until his retirement and he spent most of his teaching life at Varndean Sixth Form College in Brighton where he taught geography and geology. He said he has always had a great interest in the Seven Sisters Country Park (SSCP) and over the years has accumulated a great deal of knowledge about it which he is more than happy to share.

Shortly after his retirement, he was offered what for him was an ideal position as the Secondary School Leader for School Groups at the Seven Sisters Country Park for the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Alan told us that his talk would not only cover the SSCP but would also include the area from Seaford Head to the Cuckmere Valley but that he would not be mentioning the recent public consultation on the future of the Cuckmere Valley.

Alan told us that The Seven Sisters Country Park covers an area of 280 hectares of floodplain, downland and coast and then went on to give us a general overview of the various types of habitats in this area. He then showed us a number of photographs and maps of the Valley and the coastline with the Coastguard Cottages (including some old ones and some aerial shots) from which the changes over the years were very evident. The maps also clearly showed, in the area to the west of the meanders, old field boundaries, ditches, creeks and salt marshes. Alan also mentioned that the shingle bank was only put in during the 1970’s when gravel extraction ceased.

Alan then moved on to Seaford Head with photographs looking west and from the south west showing the ‘Great Sussex Stack’ both before and after 1986 – he mentioned that some of the Stack had now gone and that two boys had found a geode there.

Another picture showed how exposed Seaford Bay is to storms and big waves in the Channel and pointed out that the cliffs at this point dip slightly inland but further east they are vertical. It is this variation in the angle of the cliffs that makes it suitable for the breeding kittiwake colony here.

Moving eastwards, Alan included a number of pictures showing the cliff falls including one in 2009 near the Coastguard Cottages. He explained that when looking at the cliffs you can see what are called “dissolution pipes” where the brown soil from the cliff top has fallen to fill gaps left by falling chalk.

The entire area of these cliffs is very vulnerable to falls and the photographs illustrated this very well and also showed the ‘buttresses’ in the chalk cliffs.

The Coastguard Cottages, which are part of our heritage, have been the subject of various protective measures over the years and a photograph taken around 1908 showed just how far away from the cliff edge they were 100 years ago.

Alan then gave us a number of figures relating to the rate of coastal erosion and calculated that the cliffs have receded 40 metres in the last 100 years and that at the time of the Battle of Hastings in 1066 they would have been approximately 400 metres further out to sea than they are now.

He then moved on to the area from Cuckmere Haven to Haven Brow and said that the shape of the beach changes with every tide according to the size of the waves. Long shore drift is very evident and the pebble beach absorbs much of the wave energy. The river mouth was dredged in October 2009 but severe storms lashed the area shortly afterwards in December 2009 re-distributing the dredged material and highlighting the vulnerability of the Coastguard Cottages.

Alan then showed us copies/extracts from a number of historical documents/maps including one from 1698 and ‘Yeakell & Gardners Sussex 1773 -1783’ showing the shape of the meanders and the variations in the mouth of the river over time. We also saw photographs showing how the digging of the Victorian Cut and the creation of the embankment affected the landscape. He also mentioned the ‘Big Storm’ in the autumn of 1999 when one of the dredgers working on the river mouth was lost to the sea.

The Seven Sisters Country Park benefits from several different designations all affording it varying degrees of protection:

1. A Country Park (1971)
2. Part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest (1953)
3. Within an area of outstanding natural beauty
4. Shingle Conservation Area (2008)
5. Voluntary Marine Conservation Area (1980)
6. Heritage Coastline (1973)
7. War Defence Bill (Grade II listed buildings)
8. National Park Status (2011)

The Park is used for recreational activities including canoeing, as an educational resource and for farming and includes a number of important natural habitats as follows: Chalk downland with a high number of plant species, floodplain, salt marsh, marine plants and marine shingle.

The rare and important plants, butterflies, dragonflies and birds found here include: Bee orchid (near the Visitor Centre), red starred thistle, sea lavender, yellow horned poppy, glasswort (on the border between salt water and fresh water as shown on a photograph), birds- foot-trefoil (important food plant for blue butterflies), adonis blue butterfly, various damselflies, ruddy darter and emperor dragonflies, greenfinch, goldfinch, wheatear, grey heron, little egret, great crested grebe, little stint, redshank, dunlin, black tailed godwit, bar tailed godwit, spoonbill and avocet.

Alan concluded his talk with a ‘straw poll’ asking the members of our Natural History Society how we would best like to see the future of the Cuckmere Estuary - the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of letting nature take its course and increasing the area of salt marsh.

Although this area is well known to all of us, Alan’s presentation enhanced by his knowledge of geology and of the Seven Sisters Country Park together with his excellent photographs and historical records gave us all a deeper understanding and appreciation of this wonderful area.

John East

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 Reports

Wetland Restoration   15th November 2011

We have done bad things to our wetlands over the years admitted Fran as she opened her talk. But the SWT is working to remedy the situation, particularly by protecting the water vole, black poplar tree, and the otter, all endangered species. It’s not easy or simple as otters predate on water voles! Otters, which are entering Sussex from Kent and Hampshire, are bio-accumulators and indicate the health of our environment.

Wetlands (any contained water from a puddle to a salt marsh) serve humans as well as wildlife through provision of flood storage and drinking water, and shape the landscape. They are teeming with wildlife. Frogs have inhabited them for 200 million years; dragonflies for 285 million years. Reed-beds are particularly important for nationally rare birds, especially the bittern.

Worryingly, after recent droughts, our wetlands are very dry. We have lost around 60% of our wetlands in the last 20 years and they now cover only 5% of Sussex. Our water stress in the overcrowded South-east is equivalent to Morocco’s.

What can we do? We can learn from the past and protect our landscapes, restore and re-wild rivers, restore floodplain meadows and develop living landscapes through connectivity. Our individual water footprint is 150 litres a day. If each of us used just one litre less a day, that would make a significant difference. Garden ponds, by storing CO2, are vital for wildlife and the environment.

In response to a question, Fran finished by saying that the iconic, but artificial, Cuckmere Valley has the potential to be the only natural estuary in the SE, and a valuable store of flood-water. Its future is in the hands of us, the local population.

Jenny Wistreich

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Adventures in the Outdoor World   6th December 2011

Michael Blencowe is the community wildlife officer for the Sussex Wildlife Trust, a job he greatly enjoys, but said that he was giving his talk in a personal capacity. He began 2011 with the realisation that this was going to be an important year for him – he was going to turn 40, was getting married and was possibly going to lose his job. It was in January that he discovered a book called “The Outdoor World” written by William Furneaux in the 19th century. Michael noticed that many of the common species referred to in this book are quite rare nowadays and he decided to make a list of some of them that he would like to see during 2011.

What followed was an amusing account of working through the list, beginning by trying to track down the female mottled umber moth which he has never seen. He took a torch to shine on the base of trees, hoping to spot males and follow their path. Unfortunately, he had no luck. A friend discovered a female but she had gone before Michael arrived and so he is still looking.

Next on his list was the death watch beetle. He thought this would be easy as there were bound to be some in his house. Unfortunately, they were all wiped out by pest controllers before he saw them, but he has now seen one elsewhere.

While on honeymoon north of the border in April he went looking for the pine marten. Apparently they love jam sandwiches so he put some on a bird table and waited at dusk. Nothing. He even tried putting a haggis on the bird table. Nothing. One morning there were signs of pine marten poo but no pine marten. He also hoped to see the ptarmigan, but again found only the poo.

Michael then tried to see the quail which he has never seen despite being quite widespread. They migrate from Africa to Britain. Although he heard one in the High and Over area he did not see it. Next on the list was the field cricket which is very rare. In May/June he heard it, and found holes but no sign of a field cricket. It must have heard vibrations from his footsteps and had disappeared.

Michael then tried unsuccessfully to track down the caterpillar of the goat moth. This was common when the book was written but is now rare as there are few goat moth trees around now. However he did succeed in seeing a puss moth caterpillar.

Next was the stag beetle, once common but now confined to localised areas such as Henfield and Ringmer. As apparently they love ginger he made an avocado mayo salad with ginger and was rewarded by finding one in Henfield.

Michael then wanted to see the purple emperor, the biggest moth in Sussex and one of the hardest to see as it tends to frequent the tops of trees. He was hoping to see one on the ground and, as suggested in Furneaux’s book, he used ox liver which had matured for three weeks as bait (the revolting smell apparently attracts them). After no success he attached a fake purple emperor to a helium balloon and walked around, but although a purple emperor flew close by it did not land.

Another failure was to see the death’s head hawk moth. Next Michael explained that despite having had a fear of spiders since he was four years’ old he had put the fen raft spider, the largest in Britain, on his list. He had never seen one before but was successful in seeing one at close quarters inside the reeds at Pevensey Levels.

So ended a highly entertaining and informative talk. We look forward to the next part of Michael’s adventures in tracking down the rest of the subjects on his list.

Susan Painter

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page updated 25th January 2012