At last the long awaited summer holidays, those endless school-free days, are upon us once again! But what do do when the kids start the dreaded "I'm bored'...? Turn off the tv, pull on the sun hat or wellies and get outside of course! Here at Pulborough Brooks reserve we have a summer long program of family events to entertain, enthrall, and educate children, both young and old!
Delve into the mysterious world of our ponds (with the help of a net!), become a bug detective, go wild in the meadow and more!
Sunday 27th (that's this weekend!) get the summer holidays off to a great start by joining us for an ugly bug ball! Our family fun day is running from 11am - 4pm, and will include pond dipping, grass sweeping, crafts, games and face painting.
Later in the week we will be holding Pondemonium (Tuesday 29th) and Wild in the Meadow (Wednesday 30th) events. (If you can't make it on one of those days, don't panic, we will be holding these two events regularly through the holiday period.)
Every day, even when we are not running organised guided events, there is still plenty to do. Follow the Bug Detective trail with questions and challenges, and hire a bug hunting kits! Just ask at the visitor centre for details.
Connecting with nature needs nothing more than a step outside and an open eye, but it is amazing the difference a pair of binoculars can make to the experience. This weekend, Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th there is an optics event at the shop in the visitor centre. The perfect opportunity to test out and choose your new binoculars or telescope, with the help of a friendly expert. Whether a recently interested casual observer looking for their first introductory pair of binoculars, or life long enthusiast looking to upgrade, there should be something in our wide range of optics to suit every customer, and our team will be happy to answer any of your questions.
For information on the events, including timings, costs and activities, please visit the events page on our website: http://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves/guide/p/pulboroughbrooks/events.aspx or pick up an events guide from the visitor centre.
Whilst we may be trying to find some shade from the summer sunshine, for some of our birds it is autumn already - the breeding season is over, and it's time to be on the move again.
The North Brooks is the place to be as far as wading birds are concerned - the perfect blend of water and mud! A variety of waders use the flood meadows and pools at Pulborough Brooks a bit like a service station, stopping off to rest, re-group and re-fuel.
At the moment, your task is to spot 3 different species of sandpiper - common, green and wood. I love the fact that sandpipers reveal their identify by 'bobbing' - you then have to work out which type it is.
The common sandpiper has browner plumage on its back and white on its belly with the white extending upwards to its 'armpits' - not very technical I know but that's how I remember it!
The green sandpiper is a slate-grey on the back and again white on the belly - the two colours sharply contrasted with clean lines.
Green sandpiper on West Mead Pool (Peter Hughes)
The wood sandpiper is the least frequently seen of the trio. Its creamy white stripe which extends from the bill, over the eye and to the back of the neck helps to distinguish it from the green sandpiper, and it has an altogether more elegant look. The margin between the speckled breast and the white underparts is less clean cut.
In addition to the sandpipers, keep a watchful eye open for greenshank, black-tailed godwit, little ringed plover, snipe and dunlin - all have been seen in the last few days.
We're encouraging the meadows on the south brooks to dry out at the moment to allow us to complete some of the essential management work that maintains the habitat for breeding waders and wintering wildfowl - after the wet winter, even after the current heatwave, the ground is still rather soft and tricky to negotiate with the tractor. The fields have to be topped and grazed to get the conditions just right.
Around the hedgerows and fencelines you could be lucky enough to find a spotted flycatcher, darting from fence to air in pursuit of insect prey. The fenceline along adder alley or near redstart corner are often the best places to look.
Juvenile marsh harrier, peregrine and red kite have also been reported.
The fleabane along the zig zag path is just coming into flower and is attracting butterflies in good numbers - gatekeepers, tatty meadow browns and small skippers are the most numerous but also common blue, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, clouded yellow and brimstone.
Clouded yellow butterfly enjoying the fleabane. Pat Brothwell.
Plenty of dragonflies zooming around the hedgerows as well as the ponds - emperors, southern hawkers, lovely bronze-winged brown hawkers. With black and ruddy darters frequenting the heathland pools.
A run of warm weather has seen the wetland areas of the reserve drying and pools shrinking, but even with the heat of high summer, there are still plenty of birds to be seen. Despite the dry conditions, North Brooks has been pretty good for waders over the last week or two. The stars of the show are the sandpipers, with common sandpipers, green sandpipers and a wood sandpiper being seen daily. They are accompanied by a few little ringed plovers and greenshank, whilst a dunlin was reported yesterday and a group of black tailed godwits arrived last week.
Other birds with long legs include grey heron and little egret, both still being seen regularly.
I have had a scan down the list in our sightings book and it would appear that sedge warblers are being reported most days, and I too heard these birds’ scratchy song filling the warm air, whilst using the public footpath from Little Hanger Hide to the Riverbank last week.
Summer is well known as a quiet time for birding, and it is true that in the heat of the day birds often keep to cover, and many species will be skulking in the hedgerows moulting their dusty old plumage at the moment. But fear not! If the birds evade you, there is still plenty to see. Two of the reserve’s reptile species have been reported over the last week; the adder and the grass snake, most likely making the most of the hot sunny weather. Butterflies are enjoying the bramble flowers and other plants coming into bloom, and the buddleia bushes always attract these colourful insects. You may also see a moth or two around – silver-y moths and the red and black cinnabar moth both fly during the day. Look out for the cinnabar moth's caterpillars; munch yellow and black striped armies marching their way through the ragwort plants on the reserve.
Another creature who loves the sun, is the dragonfly. A short walk down the hill on our Woodland and Heathland Trail to Black Pond (ask in the visitor center if you are unsure where this is) is like taking a journey back in time. The peaty-black waters of the ponds reflect the sky and the shadows of zooming dragonflies, like prehistoric dinosaurs hunting over the pond and marshy ground surrounding it. Several species can be seen, including emperor dragonfly, brown hawkers, four-spot chasers, ruddy and common darters, along with emerald damselflies, but it is worth pausing for a moment simply to enjoy the sight of these monsters (well, they are scary if you are a fly!!) zooming back and forth with fantastic speed and agility.
The weather is set to be hot for Sussex this weekend, so why not plan a trip down to the reserve, for a wander under the shade of the trees and perhaps an exciting encounter with nature!