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Do all come to the AGM

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

The 17th AGM of our group will be held on Tuesday 24 April 2007 at 7.30 pm at Chichester Baptist Church, Sherborne Road, (doors open from 7 pm) and will be followed by a talk from the Selsey Wildlife (Project) Group. Please note the change of venue from last year when more than 50 members came along – a great encouragement.

Your committee do their best to manage the Copse on your behalf during the year and we really appreciate the feedback, ideas and suggestions we get from you along the way – well, most of them!

We recognise that we won’t all agree on everything but hopefully we can get a consensus on the big issues such as the proposed housing development which threatens our Copse and its biodiversity. It is therefore particularly important that at least once a year we get as many members as possible together to ensure we are on the right track. So please do come if you can.

Footnote: At the AGM, only those who have paid the subscription (£2 per household) for the year ending 31 March 2007 are technically members and entitled to vote. So if you haven’t got around to it yet, now would be a good time to settle up! Subscriptions for next year are due on 1 April 2007. Subscriptions for both years can be paid on the night. They can also now be paid by standing order (which helps considerably with reducing administration). For convenience, a renewal form and standing order mandate are provided with this newsletter.

From the secretary, Tom Snow

Cold Wet Copse

With all the rain in February and early March, the Copse is very wet, with high water levels in all the ponds. What a difference from last summer! For another view, see below. Both photos by Jean Sagues

With many tasks completed, now it’s time for change

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

From Jim Ayling, task leader

Having been associated with the BHCCG since it started in 1989 following the great storm of 1987 it is with some sadness that I find I must resign from being the Copse task leader.

I have enjoyed being part of an enthusiastic team of volunteers who have turned out regularly, rain or shine, to maintain the Copse for all to enjoy. My only regrets are that the missing part of the footpath at the eastern end of Brandy Hole Lane has not been completed and that the WSCC has not been persuaded to reduce the 60mph speed limit alongside the parking area at the western end of the lane.

Some members of the public have complained that we are destroying the wood by cutting down the trees. It should be remembered that the Copse is a coppiced woodland and has been for 200 years, requiring the felling of the chestnuts every 10 to 15 years. We now have a rolling plan to fell the trees in four areas over 20 years.

The site is only leased and any work has to be done with the landowners’ approval. Advice from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Chichester District Council is strictly followed and we work closely with the Chichester Natural History Society to a master plan.

A continual complaint is of the inconsiderate dog owners who do not remove the dog mess from the footpaths. The whole area is covered by the Dog Fouling Act with a maximum penalty of £1,000 which could be enforced by the Dog Warden.

To continue the work of maintaining the Local Nature Reserve for the enjoyment of visitors the group is looking for someone with some knowledge of woodland and ponds, preferable living locally, to organise and direct the team. So if you feel you could help us and at the same time enjoy the outdoors please contact the chairman or any committee member.

Quacking and quaking

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

Judi Darley wonders whether the mallards will stay and raise a family this year

Everyone loves seeing the ducks on the ponds and two or three have been seen back on Brandy Hole Pond for some weeks now. There is great interest in them and a hope that ducklings will appear again in the spring.

The task group have worked on the southern bank of the pond to ensure that dogs and people can’t get along there very easily so that the ducks can have a chance to nest and breed. Last year a large clutch of ducklings appeared only to disappear within a few days and we didn’t hear what happened to them. Did you see anything that might explain their disappearance?

Did you know that mallards start to pair up in October and November and start to nest in March? The female looks for a site that is well covered in vegetation and builds the nest with leaves and grasses and lines it with down plucked from her breast. Eggs are laid between mid-March and July and a normal clutch is about 12 eggs, laid at one- to two-day intervals.

During the laying period the male has an important role protecting the female and their feeding areas but once the clutch is laid he gradually loses interest and joins up with other males. After breeding the ducks moult and lose all their flight feathers; this phenomenon is called the “eclipse”. The males also lose all their bright body feathers during this time which is why, in mid-summer, it seems that all the drakes have gone. The full colours are regained by October.

Mallards are dabbling ducks and get much of their food from close to the water’s surface. Adults often upend to reach morsels further down but rarely dive for their food, however youngsters of 4-7 weeks can be seen regularly diving for their food. Ducklings rely mainly on invertebrates to start with but eat more plant matter as they grow. Mallards are tolerant of people and are very adaptable which is why they can quickly learn to use food sources provided by people.

Feeding ducks is popular but can cause problems particularly on ponds that aren’t flushed by rivers. A regular supply of extra food can lead to supporting artificially high numbers of ducks and encourage large numbers of unattached males to stay. This can lead to the unattached males forcibly mating with the incubating females which are already weak from egg production and putting their lives at risk.

An increase in the duck population will mean a build-up of droppings in the pond which will favour the growth of algae, leading to a loss of oxygen and aquatic plants and the risk of botulism, a fatal form of food poisoning for them. In addition, extra food that is left by the pond and is not eaten by the ducks can be taken by rats and can inadvertently support and increase the rat population nearby.

Mallards and their nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981. It is good to know that there is a lot of local interest in the welfare of the ducks that come to live on Brandy Hole Pond. Let’s hope that this season the newly resident pair will be able to nest successfully and see a clutch of new ducklings survive to maturity.

Information adapted from www.rspb.org.uk

The year in the copse, following the 2006 AGM on May 4

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

May: Donated hedging planted along bridge abutment (wire fence removed). Volunteer from Workability joined Wednesday work group. Both BHCCG site notice boards remade waterproof . Site walk for Havant Wildlife Trust. Leaflet box post which had been thrown into Brandy Hole Pond replaced with a more substantial metal post.

June: Tagging of all mature trees in the Copse in progress. Location map of all mature trees prepared for survey work . Site walk with Emma Livett, CDC Environment Officer. Request for leasing triangular field to BHCCG via CDC . “You are here” label added to information boards, which unfortunately were deteriorating. Beetle trapping event by Chichester Natural History Society.

July: Site visit by Chichester in Bloom judges. BHCCG talk at St. Wilfrid’s Hall for Chichester Festivities. Guided walk with Society for Chichester Festivities. Vandalised stile E12 repaired. Small seat installed in glade area. Pond dipping platform installed at Cops Pond. Ten ducklings disappeared from Brandy Hole Pond after two days.

August: Butterfly Conservation Society visit to LNR. Moth and bat evening event, Chichester Natural History Societ . CDC replaced damaged Centurion Way dog waste bin. Damaged Brandy Hole Pond platform repaired. Water level in ponds lowest ever. Damaged glade seat remade more substantially. Rotary Club talk.

September: Entrance E7closed off (to be replaced by a hedge). Entrance E8 repaired. Strimming along Brandy Hole Pond bank by CDC. Volunteers joined from Breakdown Support Employment Services and Workability Agency

November: Vandalised traffic sign at access E3 replaced. Pedestrian entrance E10 rebuilt as a stile. Damaged litter bin replaced by CDC at Brandy Hole Pond. Repairs to E1 access stile. Invasive weed and debris removed from ponds.

December: Installation of seven bird boxes produced by the Wrenford Centre. Damaged info panel at Willow Pond replaced by spare panel. Buckthorn alder whips planted with Chichester Natural History Society. Need for roadside hedging replacements assessed with Crumblies. CDC urged to replace stolen Brandy Hole Lane road sign.

January 2007: Work on providing additional footpath on eastern part on Brandy Hole Lane cancelled indefinitely by WSCC. E7 access permanently closed with banked soil and hedging planted.

February: Ducks’ nesting area at Brandy Hole Pond protected. Dangerous hides removed. Brandy Hole hedging replaced as required by Crumblies. Stakes cut for Chichester Tree Wardens project. Patches of invasive brambles strimmed. Woodcrete nesting boxes secured to numbered trees.

View to Willow Pond

This view southwards through the Copse to Willow Pond was created by the Crumblies when they opened up one of several glades – which are providing valuable new habitat for insects and plants.

From the Chairman

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

Graham Ault

I would like to be writing in this issue about the joys of Spring in the Copse. Unfortunately our attentions have all been diverted by the news that one of the two preferred sites for major housing development includes the fields immediately to the South of the Copse.

You should all have received a separate letter from me on this issue recently encouraging you to write to protest against these proposals. I know that many of you have written and I am most grateful to you. I suspect this is the first round of a series of consultations in which this group needs to prove its strength and determination to protect the local environment.

At the same time, we are including in our response to these proposals the suggestion that the fields should be formally incorporated into the Nature Reserve for their longer-term protection. This would give us a great positive outcome from what looks at the moment to be a major threat.

I have also addressed the Chichester Natural History Society, who support our position on this, and the Summersdale Residents’ Association, who have also written in support.

I am also in discussion with the Consultants who are advising on the Western development proposal to explore the possibility of designating the fields as a nature reserve as part of the overall development plan, should this become the preferred location for development. I have also been approached by consultants proposing a North-East development.

We will discuss this further at the AGM and I can then update you on how these discussions and representations are progressing. In the meantime, members are asked to take all opportunities to express your views about the threat to our environmentally important fields which are, in practice, an integral part of the biodiversity of the Copse.

The Fields and the Copse

April 3, 2007 2007 Spring No Comments

Graham Ault

Have you ever thought how small and vulnerable the Nature Reserve is? Indeed it is so small that you could question whether it is viable for nature conservation purposes.

The Copse is a small area of managed woodland. In places you can walk from one side to the other in about ten seconds! At its broadest it takes a few minutes. It contains archaeological remains which limit the activities that can take place to promote biodiversity.

Birds, insects, plants and animals do not recognise artificial human boundaries. If it suits a butterfly to fly into the fields to survive, that is what it will do. If there is water in the pond in the fields, that may be preferred by some creatures to the more enclosed ponds in the Copse. We cannot artificially say that the edge of the Copse is where nature conservation starts and finishes.

We have some plants, insects, animals that rely totally on the woodland areas but there are many also that rely mainly on the fields. Butterflies are a good example. We have some 24 recorded in the Natural History Society survey data. Only a very small number of those are essentially woodland butterflies (such as White Admiral and Speckled Wood), but the majority rely also on open glades and open fields. Those who walk in the meadows in the summer will see the huge numbers of butterflies everywhere (until the field is cut!).

One of my favourite features of the Reserve is the number of Green Woodpeckers. They sit in the trees at the edge of the Copse, they nest in trees in the Copse but they feed mainly in the fields. Take away the fields and these wonderful birds will leave. Their habitat is the combination of the fields and the woodland.

Informal management of the fields in recent years has demonstrated their potential for new plants to appear or return. Who would have thought we would have records of Common Spotted Orchids at a woodland reserve, but we now have them in both of the fields.

A Reserve that combined both the fields and the Copse would confirm what has in effect developed naturally and would provide for Chichester a Reserve that maximises biodiversity in an area that would then become viable and linked up with the characteristics of the environment to the North and West of Chichester. Surely this is something worth fighting for!

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