Pulborough Brooks

Pulborough Brooks

Pulborough Brooks
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Pulborough Brooks

  • Clouded yellows and cuckoo - a sightings update

    Thanks to volunteer Gary for his report and photo.

    Green sandpiper at Winpenny Hide.

    Another hot and sunny day at Pulborough Brooks. First stop was west mead and as I walked into the empty hide something flew very close to the windows and landed out of site to the left. I dashed down to the end and there it was; a juvenile cuckoo sitting on a fence post. It then moved further away but I managed to get someone else onto it before it disappeared. I thought I heard a yellow wagtail and sure enough three gave a nice fly-past, but frustratingly there didn’t seem to be any with the nearby cattle. A couple of stonechat were the only other birds present.

    Near Winpenny two fabulously fresh clouded yellow butterflies gave a good view but were too aware of me to get close enough for a photo.

    As I walked along adder alley, it was nice to hear some bird song again after a few silent weeks as robins and a few chiffchaff got in some practice for next year. The hanger was the next stop and a visitor immediately pointed out a marsh harrier; it appeared to be an adult female complete with ‘landing lights’, not the dark brown juvenile of recent weeks. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around very long. Neither did the peregrine which gave a brief flypast.

    The 700+ canadas and greylag were making plenty of noise, and teal, mallard, shoveler, shelduck and about 50 lapwing made up the rest of the species on the north brooks, apart from a few yellow wagtails that were just visible way out with the cattle. The bushes below the Hanger had an ever changing parade of whitethroat, blackcap, linnet, greenfinch, goldfinch and bullfinch, with the trees above adding goldcrest, nuthatch, long-tailed tit and a solitary great spotted woodpecker.

    On the walk back on adder alley a common lizard scuttled across the path, and at Winpenny a close green sandpiper gave excellent views but in the heat of the afternoon little else was moving apart from grasshoppers that were exploding from ever step, and all this to the constant plaintive calls of young buzzards.

    Visitor Terry Hollands took this stunning photo of a clouded yellow on the reserve, having better luck than Gary at finding one who would settle and pose for a photo!

  • Magical moths and brilliant bats

    A lovely weekend of wildlife watching on the nature reserve. Visitors have been reporting a lovely mixture of birds, butterflies, dragonflies and reptiles around the trails.  

    It seems that autumn is on its way as far as the birds are concerned with wheatear, whinchat and spotted flycatcher all putting in an appearance of the weekend. There's also been a nice selection of waders over the last few days - little stint (Sunday), greenshank, little ringed plover, common and green sandpiper, dunlin and ruff. It's worth checking out the pools from Hail's View as well as on North Brooks. Look too for raptors with buzzards, red kite, marsh harrier, hobby and kestrel putting in regular fly-bys.

    Perhaps the star of our butterfly show is the brown hairstreak and many of our visitors made successful attempts to see one over the weekend. This stunning photo was taken by Ron Packham (Thank you Ron and well done!)

    Also on show are purple hairstreak, small copper, common blue, gatekeepers, painted lady, clouded yellow, small tortoiseshell and silver washed fritillary.

    For me, the highlight is the fleabane on the zig zag path which is positively buzzing with insects - just look at the bright orange pollen baskets on this honey bee.

    I would also recommend a walk on the heathland trail. It is looking at its best now with the heather in flower - there's more heather growing now than I've seen there before which is fantastic news! Keeping on top of the bracken and birch growth is always a bit of a battle, but our Highland cows have been doing a grand job.

    There is plenty of dragonfly activity on the heathland pools - stunning brown hawkers with their bronzed wings, southern hawkers who will come and 'buzz' you as your wander along their patrol route, black, common and ruddy darters perching in the sunny spots and delicate emerald damselflies flitting daintily about the rushes.

    Black darter by Ron Packham.

    Evenings are busy too with barn owls hunting along the river banks and bats hunting over the ponds and around the trees.  Right now on the nature reserve we’re getting pretty excited about bats. Over the summer we’ve been carrying out our first ever proper bat surveys, finding and identifying these fascinating creatures as they fly and feed.

    Now if you need a little nudge to help convince you that bats are brilliant I’ve got a question...when did you last eat chocolate, or a banana, or a mango? Well if you like eating all or any of these then you need to say ‘thank you’ to bats! Over 500 species including cocoa, mango and banana plants rely on bats to pollinate them.

    You might be feeling a little warmer towards them now, or you might be asking what do the bats living in this country do for me? The answer is pest control – they’ll be feeding on the pesky midges who try to bite you whilst you’re out enjoying a stroll on a summer’s evening!

    All of our bats are insect eaters so there are no vampire bats lurking in spooky old castles here. Our smallest bats, the Pipistrelles, which you could fit inside a match box if you folded in their wings, will eat around 3000 midges in just one night. Here at Pulborough Brooks we’ve recorded at least 7 species of bats. I say ‘at least’ as there are a few species that are very tricky to tell apart without looking at their teeth or their nether regions – I’ve not been tempted to do either! The latest addition to our bat species list is the Barbastelle bat – a rare bat that’s said to resemble a pug!

    Our thanks go to Crispin from the National Trust and to Brigitte for helping us to get the bat discoveries underway!

    Despite the saying, bats are not blind, but their sense of hearing is far more important. They use echolocation to find their prey and to manoeuvre around in the dark. The bats shout and then listen for the echo which has bounced back – it could tell them that there is a tree trunk ahead, a group of people below, or that a tasty moth is close. As they get closer to the object they will shout more frequently to give them pinpoint accuracy.

    If bats go around shouting at night-time why don’t we hear them more often? It’s because the sounds they make are too high pitched for our ears. But we can use a bat detector to listen to them and help to identify them. Different bats will shout differently – at a different frequency and with a different rhythm.

    To give a couple of examples, the Serotine – a large furry bat – echolocates around 28 kHz and sounds a bit like a tap dancer – but a tap dancer who can’t quite get the rhythm right. The tiny Pipistrelles echolocate ay 45 or 55 kHz and have a combination of clicks and slaps and something that sounds like blowing a raspberry. This is a feeding buzz, or a feeding fart!

    For some species we have to analyse recordings of the bats producing sonograms of their calls - this one shows the 'hockey-stick' shape calls of both common and soprano pipistrelles.

    We've a couple of night-time safaris coming up where we'll be heading out with bat detectors to see what we can find - to book a place just contact us at the visitor centre on 01798 875851.

    Whilst the bats like eating the moths, I enjoy looking at live ones and we had some lovely ones in our moth trap on Sunday morning.  This female oak eggar moth was the most popular with the families who joined me to play 'Find a moth who....'. This one won the award for looking most like a highland cow!

  • The bees knees!

    I'm delighted to report that I just spotted a very lovely leaf cutter bee (Megachile centuncularis) making very good use of the urban bee nester that we put out earlier in the year in our courtyard garden.

    These bees cut neat semicircles from leaves with their large jaws and use them to make sausage shaped nest cells - in this case using the specially designed bamboo tubes for support. This is the female who has a bright orange pollen brush under her abdomen.

    Solitary bees, like this leaf cutter, are fantastic!  They do a great job of pollinating our plants, don't swarm and aren't aggressive so they are the ideal garden guests. Encourage them to your garden by putting up one of our insect homes and planting some lovely nectar rich flowers. We'd be happy to make some suggestions if you pop into the visitor centre, or you can create your personal plan to give nature a home in your garden on our website.

    Elsewhere on the trail, visitors Chris & Juliet spotted and managed to photograph this beautiful weasel, carrying one of its kits across the trail.

    Other sightings from around the trail include marsh harrier, hobby, green sandpiper and lots of willow warblers - presumably the latter are considering the long journey south to Africa.  At least 3 brown hairstreak butterflies reported today.  These butterflies, being pretty rare and rather elusive are a good challenge for wildlife watchers...they are often seen congregating around the large ash tree on the corner of the trail as you take the turn off to Nettley's hide & Jupp's View, but also look along the blackthorn hedgerows as that will be where the female will be egg-laying.

    Male brown hairstreak - photo by Gareth Hughes

    Female brown hairstreak - photo from Anna.