Reports

19th April 2011 – Chiddingly Wild Flowers

It was a fine sunny morning with only birdsong to be heard when we assembled in Chiddingly village car park, at last count 17 members.

We walked through the churchyard where we saw primroses, stitchwort, dog violets, creeping comfrey on a gravestone, and 2 bushes of spurge laurel.

After crossing the cricket pitch and one field we entered a wood via a fairly new bridge. The bluebells weren’t at their best, but we saw lots of marsh marigolds, along with townhall clock, wood sorrel, pignut leaves, wood anemone and wood speedwell. Crossing a broad walk out of the wood were orange tip, speckled wood, brimstone and green veined butterflies.

In the field where we joined the Wealden Way were large patches of dog violets, germander and thyme-leaved speedwells.

In the next wood were three-nerved sandwort and about 30 early purple orchids. Walking across the next field back to the village, with a lovely view of the church spire, someone spotted a baby grass snake on the path. A very enjoyable walk.

Janice Reynolds

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17th May 2011 - Abbots Wood

An epic walk was enjoyed by a total of about 20 folk on a perfect day weather wise, without too much wind.

Originally the purpose of the walk was to see bluebells; however with everything being much more advanced this year they were virtually all finished. Instead we heard 9 nightingales (which I think is something of a record) and a cuckoo. In flower was sweet chestnut with its dangly male flowers, no females they are more discreet, climbing corydalis, wood pimpernel and spurge, wood millet and sweet vernal grasses. The diseased oak is surviving, which is good news for oaks in general. Also saw a sessile oak and a turkey oak, two wild service trees and several small lime trees, silver and hairy birches and wild cherry trees.

The wood ants were conspicuous and also seen were wasp beetle and glow worm larva. A number of butterflies were also seen. Pearl bordered fritillaries, orange tip, brimstone, green hairstreak, green veined white and speckled wood. Also seen was a speckled yellow moth. I heard that the ranger has reported 600 pearl bordered fritillaries this year in Abbots Wood.

Peter Davys

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31st May 2011 - Mount Caburn

Three years ago on this walk at this time of year we saw Burnt Tip Orchids and Fragrant Orchids in Caburn Bottom. This area is being grazed by sheep this year, so no orchids.

Nineteen members and 2 visitors started the ascent of Mount Caburn by walking from Glynde recreation ground car park through the village to Glynde Place. A shower was forecast and sure enough we got it! We were lucky, as we had just reached the start of the permissive path opposite Glynde Place and were able to shelter behind some trees for the five minutes or so which it took to blow through. After this the wind dropped and the sun shone. With fingers crossed we started up the permissive path.

Two buzzards circled lazily in the distance. Several swallows zoomed across the fields. Within a wooded area of the path a solitary red admiral was insisting that the path was his as we approached. After we had negotiated a stile some orchids in an early stage of development were spotted. There was some discussion as to whether they were Fragrant or Pyramidal orchids. Skylarks were singing their hearts out.

On the approach to The Caburn there seemed to be more hounds tongue than I remember from our last visit. We spent some time admiring the views from the very top as it was particularly clear after the rain shower. A painted lady landed beside me, but flew off when an attempt was made to photograph it.

As we prepared to start the steady descent back to Glynde village a visitor who had walked from Lewes to the start point left us and returned to Lewes via Caburn Bottom. After the descent from The Caburn there was a pleasant surprise when we reached the road in Glynde as the steep awkward stile has been replaced by a swing gate. When we reached the car park in Glynde, Val and I had our customary mugs of tea sitting by the water of Glynde Reach at the edge of the car park. A wren was heard singing and then it flew across the water and briefly perched on a tree in full view. Soon after this the rain started again. Lucky timing!

Peter Hammond

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21st June 2011 – Tide Mills

Sixteen members assembled in the car park at Tide Mills to explore the waste land and beach as far as Newhaven.

Passing through the remains of Tide Mills village, we saw the Duke of Argyll’s tea plant. We then walked along the easterly bank of the mill creek and over the footbridge to find lots of flowers. The bramble bushes were purple with broad leaved everlasting pea, a bird sown cotoneaster bush and a hybrid verbascum growing alongside both parents. The whole area was yellow with stonecrops, evening primroses, verbascums and St. John’s wort.

On the beach were the usual sea plants and singing overhead were skylarks and meadow pipits. No signs of the nesting ringed plover, but a wheatear was spotted instead.

Janice Reynolds

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 Reports

19th July 2011 - Berwick Downs

On a sunny Tuesday afternoon 18 members left Berwick church car park to walk to the lower part of the scarp slope of the South Downs through a variety of habitats. This is an out and back walk with gentle ascents and a short loop on the end. We passed through the churchyard, stopping briefly to inspect some ferns planted in a shaded set back area near the north wall of the church. As we moved round to the sunny south side there were several red admirals flying strongly. One settled on a distant headstone.

The first part of the walk is fairly uninteresting, passing sterile arable fields; but I am sure the plant experts found plenty to look at. After the old coach road the route turns into a woodland strip where nettles and umbellifers are rife this year. There were poppies and thistles on disturbed ground.

The speckled woods expected in this habitat did not disappoint and there were several red admirals and one peacock on a burdock plant. A pheasant was heard and one member saw it fly low over an adjacent field. The heads of the umbellifers were alive with insects; mostly soldier beetles (doing what pairs of soldier beetles seem to spend most of their time doing) and various hoverflies.

Soon after we left the wooded strip we heard “a little bit of bread and no cheese”. It took some time to spot the source; a yellowhammer on the top branches of a small tree in the distance. As we continued we saw pyramidal orchids, a skipper on a scabious, a meadow pipit, a burnet moth and a few common blues.

Approaching the point where the walk starts to loop back we saw several dark green fritillaries, autumn gentians just poking through and a few poor examples of round headed rampion. On our return route there were a few swifts wheeling in the sky above us, and on the path ahead of us a meadow pipit which allowed us to get quite close before flying off. The wind seemed to have increased as we neared the end of the walk, but we had been lucky with a fine afternoon during a period of variable British weather.

Peter Hammond

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6th August 2011 – Southease

On a fine sunny morning 20 members turned up for a short walk along the river Ouse. For us I thought it wouldn’t be very interesting because when doing a recce two weeks earlier I couldn’t find many plants, but as it turned out we saw quite a lot.

We crossed the railway line on our way down to the river where the recently refurbished bridge was shining in the sun. Here we saw red admiral, wall, meadow brown, small white, small heath and common blue butterflies and also lesser bulrush and sea wormwood.

Wendy and I managed to fish a few plants out of the ditches with the grapnel, they were soft water milfoil, fan-leaved water crowfoot and frogbit. We also saw a frog which was photographed by members.

On returning to the bridge I found some small hare’s-ear, which is a rare plant, just coming into flower. While we were looking at some small toad flax Chris found some alsike clover by the bridge.

We then all wandered back to the cars.

Janice Reynolds

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23rd August 2011 – Seaford Head

It was a cool windy day, but the rain had stopped as 12 members and one visitor met at South Barn.

It was not long before we started to see various wild flowers – red bartsia, agrimony, hairy violet (a chalk lover) and common birds foot trefoil were the first. As we walked down the valley to Hope Gap the wild parsnip, which lines each side of the footpath, usually shoulder high was mostly barely knee high. I don’t think we decided why this might be – the very cold winter and/or the very dry spring perhaps?

One of the many lovely things of being on a walk with knowledgeable people is getting help to identify plants you don’t know. When I had checked out this walk the day before with a friend we had seen an unrecognised plant which I now discovered was wild mignonette. Hopefully I will remember it next time!

At Hope Gap a group of us went to check on the rare moon carrot (Seseli libanotis). I always plan to count how many flowering plants are there, but perhaps next year! It does seem to be not only surviving but spreading. We spent so long watching the sea birds at Hope Gap, including little egrets, oystercatchers and sandwich terns that we decided to miss out Cuckmere Haven and turn inland at the next path and were pleased to find lots of autumn gentians, mostly still in bud. Our visitor not only saw but photographed a silver spotted skipper butterfly.

It was a lovely walk, thanks as always to Janice, Wendy and Chris for the identification and the stories that went with them.

Diana Swaysland

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13 September 2011 – Birling Gap

I arrived at Birling Gap at 7.00 for my customary pre-walk reconnaissance to find a windy, grey, cool and showery morning. This was scarcely the most encouraging start for any walk designed to find migrants and the prospects appeared particularly depressing given memories of the birdless nightmare the group were forced to endure last year under my leadership. In the event, however, these initial apprehensions were relatively swiftly dispelled and by the end of the walk we had recorded 42 species of bird plus many migrant hawkers and a few butterflies including common blue and brown argus under a blue sky.

An initial examination of the set-aside field across the road from the Birling Gap car park soon raised our collective spirits with excellent views of a hobby swooping over the field immediately in front of us and after some searching we were fortunate enough to find several wheatear and whinchat among the many linnets feeding on the seed heads. A lucky few also had a brief view of a corn bunting sitting on the wires uttering its classic call (reminiscent of a jangling bunch of keys) before it flew off equally characteristically dangling its legs rather curiously below its body.

On towards the Horseshoe Plantation we recorded kestrel and sparrow hawk and in the much calmer conditions just beyond the trees we encountered the first of several willow warbler and chiffchaff. The highlight of this phase of the walk, however, was a relatively obliging common redstart, which although quite mobile, repeatedly flicked its red tail for the benefit of most of the group. As we approached the bottom of the road up towards Belle Tout the greatest surprise of all was provided by a light morph honey buzzard which suddenly appeared from over the bushes relatively close to our position. This rare breeder is a fairly regular migrant through the Beachy Head area and this one was sufficiently close that we could see all the key diagnostic features with the naked eye. In particular, it showed off its long ‘cuckoo-like’ neck, the long barred tail and black trailing edge to the wing. It also displayed perfectly for all present the very distinctive flight profile with its wings smoothly down-curved and very different from the far more regularly seen common buzzard whose wings are usually slightly raised when seen head on.

All in all, quite a good day after an unpromising start and I think many went home more than satisfied with a good mix of species – and for most members of the group an addition to their life-list.

Bob Self

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 Reports

4th October 2011 – Windover Hill

Wendy and I met 16 members in the lumpy car park at Litlington to climb Windover Hill to see the field gentian. Peter Davys was to have led the walk but had a hospital appointment on the day.

The weather was sunny and warm when we met but soon clouded over and a cool wind got up.

On the track up we saw some chalk plants still flowering. At the top we admired the view, which was all round from the sea to Heathfield mast and along to Firle Beacon with Lewes beyond. On the path through the bushes we saw lots of basil and thyme. Arriving at the open grass areas we found lots of field gentians, some that had already flowered, some that had yet to flower and some in flower but were not open due to lack of sunshine. These grass areas are acid soil layers on top of the chalk, so ling and bell heather were also growing.

After lots of photographing and admiring the view we made the return journey.

Janice Reynolds

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18th October 2011 – Markstakes Common

10 members and visitors gathered at Markstakes Common, a new venue for the Society, for the annual fugus foray led again by Rosalie Sinclair-Smith.

Although some 40 species of fungi had been found a few weeks earlier, the recent weather had been very dry and Rosalie indicated that fungi may be hard to find. Only 3 had been seen on the previous Saturday. Rosalie gave us an introductory talk and also as usual had brought some examples to show us what we might expect. She also suggested that we look out for dates and initials on the older trees as Canadian forces had been stationed here during WWII and relatives from Canada were interested in finding evidence of their relatives who lost their lives in action.

We set of more in hope than expectation but we did find a number of fungi, getting into double figures by the end of the walk.

Most obvious were fly agaric, found in association with birch trees although they were rather past their best. Also easily seen were bracket fungi on the birch trees including the aptly named blushing bracket.

We also found some earthballs, looking like greenish stones as they had algae growing on them.

We also came across some fungi which Rosalie could not immediately identify. The first was a milk cap; speculation was that it could be Peppery Milkcap. Rosalie tasted some and was not convinced initially but as we walked on the peppery taste imposed itself.

Later in the walk we came across an oyster mushroom which Rosalie couldn’t identify. Detectives skills applied after the walk eventually led to Rosalie identifying it as Pleutorus dryinus, the Veiled Oyster. This is an uncommon fungus and was first found through a French fungus book, it not being in Roger Phillips book, one of the standard reference books. Rewarding that it was ultimately identified and turned out to be something one would not expect to see.

All-in-all another successful and enjoyable fungus foray, in spite of the dry conditions.

Chris Brewer

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page updated 30th June 2012