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Chichester Natural History Society 2012 Spring Lecture Programme

January 13, 2012 Natural History No Comments

18th January,   Butterflies and Moths of Sussex,   Michael Blencowe

1st February,   Guyana, the Last True Wilderness,   Mike Russell

15th February,   Wildlife and Plants of Chichester Harbour,   Judi Darley

29th February,   Birding in Far Eastern Siberia,   John Hobson

14th March,   Trees,   John Blamire

28th March,   Gales, Greenhouses and Global Warming,   Ian Currie

All lectures are held in Committee Room 3, County Hall, West Street, Chichester. Doors open 7.00pm for 7.15pm start. Members free, visitors £1.00

Further information: 01243 575345

Recent Sightings

January 1, 2011 Natural History No Comments

Just before the snow came two deer were disturbed from the centre of the maize field and disappeared into the Copse.
On another sunny day the corner of the north west corner of the maize field (with the cathedral view) had a flock of chaffinches on the field, a wren in the bushes and a nuthatch in the sun on the trees.

Wild Flowers in Spring

Judi Darley


Bluebells in the Copse

Committee member Judi Darley asked ecology enthusiast Dr Mike Perry of the Chichester Natural History Society for his top 6 spring flowers to be seen in Brandy Hole Copse. Mike said “it’s a bit like selecting records for Desert Island Discs”! After some careful thought Mike came up with the following 6 wild flowers to look for in the Copse this spring:

Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) voted Britain’s most popular wild flower in a recent Plantlife poll. The Natural History Society recently made a count of about 250,000 flowering stems in the main body of the Copse. Mike is concerned that these native bluebells are protected from the Spanish Bluebell, a species often planted in gardens and now seen along Brandy Hole Lane and by the west end entrances. Mike said “it appears to hybridise freely with the native bluebell … I’d like to see the Spanish Bluebell removed from the Copse”.

Wood Anemone (Anemone nemorosa) low growing, with white flowers sometimes flushed with pink. It does very well in the sweet chestnut coppiced area, where the trees have been cut down to let the light in before they grow to maturity again.

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) a stunning display of shiny bright yellow flowers, found around the edges of the ponds and in the damp area between Brandy Hole Pond and Centurion Way.

Common Dog Violet (Viola riviniana) low growing with violet flowers, like the sweet violet but it has no scent. This plant is important because it is the food plant for the caterpillars of the uncommon Silver-washed Fritillary butterfly.

Wild Arum (Arum maculatum) also known as Cuckoo Pint and Lords and Ladies. The large fleshy leaves appear in December and January and tiny flowers appear, surrounded by a green ‘hood’, in April-May time.

Germander Speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys) Bright blue flowers with a pure white ‘eye’, they are small but spectacular in large numbers. Mike said “I’ve included this one because it is one of my all time favourite flowers”.

Do you agree with Mike’s list? Do let us know which are your favourite spring flowers in the Copse!

Queen of Spain Fritillary seen in the copse

September 15, 2008 Friends, Natural History No Comments

Report by Mike Perry

Wandered through Brandy Hole Copse today – hoping to see some butterfles. Only saw one – but what a butterfly! A Queen of Spain Fritillary resting on a fleabane flower. A migrant, the QoS is a real rarity – a preliminary check of Sussex records suggests it was last seen here in 1969 so it’s a bit special.

One up to Brandy Hole – knocks all those Silver-washed Fritillaries into a cocked hat!

Images of Brandy Hole’s very own Queen of Spain Fritillary.

Queen of Spain Fritillary Queen of Spain Fritillary

The Copse never ceases to amaze me!

The County Lepidopterist Colin Pratt has now confirmed the identification. He also says that no Queen of Spain was found in Sussex from 1969 to 2007 when one was found in Storrington and there were two unconfirmed reports from Kingley Vale. If numbers are increasing we may not have to wait 50 years to see the next one!

See the UK Butterflies website for more details and pictures of this butterfly.

Goldcrest to heron – the Copse is home to 35 species of birds

The birds are perhaps the most obvious natural inhabitants of Brandy Hole – apart from the trees, of course. So far 35 different bird species have been identified in the Copse, and any walk there will bring you into contact with some of them. The most easily recognised are familiar garden birds – blackbird, dunnock, robin and wren.

Song thrushes and mistle thrushes are seen regularly. Blue tits, great tits and long-tailed tits can be heard calling amongst the trees. The rarer willow tit can sometimes be seen in the Copse along Brandy Hole Lane and has nested there. The tiny goldcrest may mix with the tits, and can be seen occasionally where there are pine trees.

The noisiest birds in the Copse must be the rooks, in early spring, and the woodpeckers. Great spotted woodpeckers and green woodpeckers, easily recognised by their “yaffle” call, are common. The sparrow-sized lesser spotted woodpecker is much rarer and has not been recorded from the Copse. However, it may be worth looking for it in the tree-tops early in the year before the trees are in leaf. Of the corvids, rooks, crows, jays and magpies are regulars.

Greenfinches and chaffinches are common, but the goldfinch favours the edges of the Copse were its main food, small seeds, can be found. The soft, sibilant whistle of the bullfinch can be heard very occasionally in the trees around Willow Pond. See the striking male bullfinch with his black head, white rump, grey back and rose-red breast, and the much drabber female is sure to be nearby.

Sit quietly on the seat behind the oak at Willow Pond for a while, and you may be lucky enough to see a tree creeper. A quiet little bird, it has a brown back, white underside, and a distinctive downward-curved beak. It runs up the trunk of a tree, probing in the bark for the tiny insects and spiders on which it feeds. The much brighter, brasher nuthatch is also present.

Raptors seen in or around the Copse include sparrowhawks which can often hunt smaller birds over Willow and Cops Ponds. Kestrels, easily identified by their ability to hover on the wind, hunt for small mammals in the fields around, and buzzards, which scavenge for food, occur increasingly in the Triangle. Although Chichester’s most famous avian inhabitants, the Cathedral peregrines, may occasionally be seen from the Copse, they do not hunt there.

Finally, the ponds are used by many birds for drinking, but true water-birds are limited to mallards and the occasional moorhen on Cops Pond. However, if you visit Willow Pond very early in the morning you may be lucky enough to see a heron. Just as they take fish from garden ponds so they will take fish and frogs from Willow Pond – especially when the water level is low.

Occasionally also, a grey wagtail will be seen on the mud surrounding the ponds. It has the distinctive tail-flicking habit of the wagtails and is identified by its grey back and yellow underside.

Mike Perry

Clicks, pops and raspberries!

Judi Darley reports on a nocturnal sortie

Nearly 40 people turned out on a lovely evening on August 9 to listen for bats and look for moths in Brandy Hole Copse. Our leaders were Peter Etheridge and Mike Perry from the local Natural History Society.

Being such a lovely clear evening it took a while to get dark enough for bats to begin flying and so Peter entertained us with interesting and amusing stories about our local wildlife. We began our walk by listening out on the bat detectors for the “click” noises emitted by crickets. These detectors are little portable black boxes with listening devices that are designed to pick up the very high pitched noises emitted by bats using echo location to search and find their food. The boxes change the sound down into a frequency heard by us, usually in the form of clicks, pops and even raspberries!

We learnt that the raspberry noise is made as the bat closes in on its prey to eat it. We heard the “wet slap” popping sound of the country’s smallest bat the pipistrelle and the drier sound of perhaps a serotine. We learnt that the bat is our best friend as it can eat up to 3,000 insects such as mosquitoes every night.

During the walk we heard reports that bats were busy near the moth trap set up in the woods for the evening and made our way to see what was going on there.

The trap had been set up by Mike Perry and friends by the big oak tree at the top of the main ride. It was easy to find by its very bright light, which we learnt was at least four times brighter than our 100w bulbs at home. The moths were attracted to the bulb and then settled on a cloth placed around it or in special collecting chambers nearby. Each moth was collected in a bug pot, identified and recorded and then put in a special chamber to be released at the end of the recording session. We learnt that this was to avoid recording the same moth more than once. Usual woodland species were found including the maiden’s blush, oak hook-tip and the rosy footman.

We did make note that during this time the occasional bat was detected flying overhead and the raspberry noises emitted indicated that some moths never did make it to the trap for their moment of glory.

We had an enjoyable and informative evening and thanks to Peter and Mike and their Natural History colleagues for giving their time to lead us on this event.

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