Monday, 31 October 2011

Beddington Sewage Farm

I've added a page to this blog, called 'Beddington birds'. Not surprisingly this is a list of the bird species recorded at the world famous sewage farm, with my own personal list highlighted in red. There are four birders who have seen over 200 species there, which is no mean feat for a London sewage farm. You will find some top class rarities among them - Glaucous-winged Gull and Killdeer being the stand-outs. However, there is still no record of Slavonian Grebe or Nightjar. One or two others, that were easily seen when I first trod the paths, are now gone - Grey Partridge and Willow Tit - maybe to never return.

Patch watching is, of course, more than a list. Blogger pages become too difficult to manipulate if they have too much data loaded onto them, otherwise I would bombard you with further Beddington info.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Bewildered

With a self-imposed target of my pan-species list reaching 3000 by the end of the year, and currently falling a little bit short, I decided to target mosses. I've got the book to help me and a fine book it is to (Atherton, Bosanquet and Lawley). The trouble is, there are so many of the pesky things and a lot of them look the same. With a brave face and after giving myself a good speaking to (to inject enthusiasm and conviction into my doubting self) I entered the field yesterday to give them (another) go.

Well. After time spent at Beddington and Walton Heath, I added the grand total of....none. I tried. I really did. But I couldn't in all honesty confidently name anything. My mosses and liverworts list will remain low for some time to come I'm afraid.

I did add a few fungi to the list (which now stands at 2951). It's touch and go if I get to the magic figure before the year's end.

I've also got the Dobson lichen guide. There are thousands of possibilities there, but make mosses seem like a stroll in the park.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

The public and 'our' reserves

I recently visited Rye Harbour Nature Reserve on the East Sussex coast, within a couple of gull's wing flaps from the Kent border. There have been great things happening at Rye. What used to be Rye Harbour Farm is slowly being turned into saltmarsh, capable of supporting breeding and roosting birds. This is part of a grand 50-year plan called the 'Romney Marshes Living Landscape Partnership'. What is being constructed is an almost unbroken mosaic of wetland habitat stretching from Hastings in the west through to New Romney in the east, taking in Pett, Icklesham, Rye, Walland and Romney Marshes, Dungeness and Lade. Really exciting times.

When I was staying at Sandwich Bay back in June, I was similarly impressed by local plans for turning a large area of Worth Marshes back into exactly that - marshes. This would created a similar run of habitat all the way back westwards along the Stour Valley to Canterbury.

When I was wandering around the newly created paths at Rye, which criss-cross the new habitat, I was taken by the number of people using this facility. It's a big area, so it wasn't overcrowded. I most probably saw 150 people. Of those only 20 weilded optics. Most of them were out for a walk/cycle/jog in the fresh air or were being pulled along by dogs on leads. A few years ago I would have felt aggrieved that non-birders should gain access to 'our' reserves, no doubt scaring off the wildlife and not realising what wonders were before them. But now, I welcome them with open arms. These are the very people who will help maintain and preserve these habitats. As much as we want to bird and botanise over them so they want to spend their leisure time in the unspoilt outdoors. Airports, windfarms and superstores are us unpalatable to them as to us. So I say encourage them. Let us build cafes on our reserves, create shops that sell tea-towels, bird feeders and cheap optics and invite them in without the need for membership or any expectations of them. It doesn't matter if they don't know a Dunnock from a Dunlin, but if they feel they have a stake in the area they will be just as passionate about its protection. Our inclusion of them will create a small number of naturalists and an even larger number of supporters of the environment.

I'm now off to join David Attenborough in his frozen world - from an armchair of course. (Just got back from the ice caps - what a stunning programme. if you missed it you really should watch it)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Entering the Lyon's Den

I couldn't resist it any longer - after having read so much about the delights of Ebernoe Common on Graeme Lyon's excellent blog I decided to go along and take a look for myself. I persuaded my old mate Gordon Hay to come along for the experience.

Neither of us are fungi experts, but on arrival headed straight for the churchyard where I knew an easy to identify species should be present. It was, but just the one...


Pink Waxcap! I was pleased with that. We wandered around for a couple of hours and saw, amongst others, Dead Moll's Fingers, Brown Birch Bolete, Tawny Funnel, Field Blewit, Chanterelle, Powdery Brittlegill and Poisonpie. The more familiar Fly Agaric, Lilac Bonnet and yellow Stagshorn were also on show. A number of fungi photographers were also combing the area, on of whom reckoned that the numbers present were very poor due to the dry weather. We were not disappointed with what we had seen however.

After this we went onto Pulborough Brooks (2 Ruff) and Amberley Wild Brooks (Short-eared Owl). Trudging our way back to the car, which was parked at Greatham Bridge, I glanced down into a ditch and was delighted to see hundreds and thousands of green 'hundreds and thousands' - Rootless Duckweed! A new species for me.

I will revisit Ebernoe Common. There is much to entice me back...

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Why we list. An expert explains...

I am currently reading a book by Eckhart Tolle. He specialises in writing what are best described as 'self-help' manuals. The following passage is from a chapter dealing with the human ego. Read it, and at the same time think 'listing'...

'The ego identifies with having, but its identification in having is a relatively shallow and short-lived one. Concealed within it remains a deep-seated sense of dissatisfaction, of incompleteness, of  "not enough". "I don't have enough yet", by which the ego really means, "I am not enough yet". As we have seen, having - the concept of ownership - is a fiction created by the ego to give itself solidity and permanency and make itself stand out, make itself special. Since you cannot find yourself through having, however, there is another more powerful drive underneath it that pertains to the structure of the ego: the need for more, which we could also call "wanting". No ego can last for long without the need for more. Therefore, wanting keeps the ego alive much more than having. The ego wants to want more than it wants to have. And so the shallow satisfaction of having is always replaced by more wanting. This is the psychological need for more, that is to say, more things to identify with. It is an addictive need, not and authentic one."

So there you go. We cannot help it, this listing, as it is part of the programmed mindset that most of us humans have exhibited for thousands of years. We can replace our need for birds/plants/moths with others obsessions with cars, sex and money. It is a mind-set that the author explains can be by-passed, but it takes time to master. And effort. I suspect that most of us would rather put the effort into seeing a Rufous-tailed Robin rather than trying to dismantle the mind-set that makes us want to do things that impact on our jobs and relationships.

That's enough soul-searching from me. I'm off to count up my pan-species list again. I want more...

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Seawatching in Surrey


The thin slither of silver that you can see in the centre of the picture above is the sea. No big deal to you, maybe, but to me this was one of those golden moments. I was standing in Surrey and I could see the sea! There was something about that which was rather special. Squint as I might, but I couldn't make out any seabird passage, although it was a bit hazy. Also the 30 mile distance may not have helped. I think the gap in the South Downs that allows us Surreyites to get a salty sea view is where the River Adur empties itself into the Channel at Shoreham. But I maybe wrong.

Where was I? Leith Hill.

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Surrey Alps


This is Colley Hill, on the North Downs. We are facing eastwards and that's Reigate nestling down like the sleepy little leafy town that it is. The scarp and bowl look far more dramatic in real life than it does in a photograph - the perspective and vertiginous slopes have the life squeezed out of them.

The North Downs is a different beast to the South Downs. The latter appear wilder, more remote and grander. Both are of similar height, although because the adjacent land is already pretty high, the North Downs does not give the impression of being as lofty as that southern bit of chalk. Having plenty of cloaking woodland also adds a softness to the north.

Back to Colley Hill. I have spent a lot of time here over the years. It is a place of family walks and picnics and also one that I do venture onto for plants (Meadow Clary!), butterflies (good numbers of Silver-spotted Skippers) and birds... well, when I say birds I really mean in expectation of them. To me it looks like a good birdy place. Marvellous vantage point. Plenty of scrub. Must be on a good fly line. But I have failed here. I cannot even muster up a list of half-decent migrants to wow you with. No Shrikes, no raptors, let alone Common Redstarts or Ring Ouzels. Some lucky beggar had a Common Crane drift over in the spring, but apart from that I cannot recall anything better than a Red Kite being seen here (and let's face it, that's hardly unexpected these days, is it?).

On Saturday I sat in the same place for three hours and saw bugger all. But in reality, of course, I saw an awful lot. Just look at the view! It is one place that I don't mind birding and coming home with an empty notebook. Colley Hill is my balm.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

If you're easily offended, look away now...


This is a Stinkhorn, one of the more phallic looking fungi. No doubt this sort of species was covered up by Victorian naturalists to save the honour of any passing women. Mind you, if it does remind you of a penis, and you are a man, I suggest that you make an appointment with your doctor urgently and get yours checked out. They are supposed to smell to such an extent that you can detect their whereabouts with your nostrils before your eyes have a chance to do so. I bent down to sniff the tip of this particular specimen (I did feel a bit perverted doing so) and can reveal that it was sickly sweet.

All this eroticism was taking place at Thundry Meadows, a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve close to Elstead. It is an interesting reserve of Alder Carr, grassland and mixed woodland along a stretch of the River Wey. The picture below is looking across the river away from the reserve. Pretty...


I carried on afterwards to Thursley Common. In glorious weather and with a mere breeze, there were plenty of darters still on the wing. There must have been 30+ Black, 12+ Common and 1 Ruddy on show. The Black Darter below stayed still for a snap shot.


Also seen were 2 Woodlarks, 6 Stonechat and a Crossbill. Oh, and some more fungi - but I've done enough about them recently, so I'll shut up.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

North Downs and Beyond AGM

Thankyou all for coming along to this, the first North Downs and Beyond AGM. It's been just over a year now since the blog was relaunched, and visitor numbers have never been higher. No doubt this is due to the high standard of posting that the readers receive. if I can...

Hold on! Aren't we getting high numbers of hits purely down to a number of 'odd' sites sending traffic this way?

Er, I ...

Sites like Google Correction, Shineads and SendPTP?

Ok, yes. I'll admit it. 400-600 hits a day was quite a shock. The best previous day was 300, but they were genuine.

But it's normally aroung 70-100 isn't it?

Yes. But all's not lost. The blog that sent the largest volume of traffic to this particular blog was always Not Quite Scilly and they've opened again. That should bump the numbers up again, just you wait and see!

But it's not just about numbers is it. And we've got some things to address, haven't we?

Have we?

Yes, like the complaints about pan-listing. Some say it's for sad twats. And there's one particular person who reckons that Beddington Sewage Farm gets mentioned far too frequently. Plus, your current obsession with fungi - what's that all about?

Well, I quite like them.

But other people might not want to see yet another picture of a bloody mushroom.

I was going to show the readers a Common Earthball

I wouldn't advise it!
















You bloody idiot. That's another set of visitors lost to Jonathan Lethbridge's blog.

It's OK, he just blogs about banking now.

But it's still well written. Better than this pile of...

OK, OK. Shall I mention the new tab feature at the top of the page, with lists and stuff?

I'm sure thet're all dying to look at that...

That's it. I'm closing this AGM. I'm off to string a few spiders.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dryad's Saddle


The Dryad's Saddle (above), was found in Nonsuch Park, Cheam, this afternoon. It's a much better specimen than the one I saw yesterday in Banstead Woods. A small child could easily sit on it (although I wouldn't recommend it as they would fall straight through it). I'm getting quite excited by fungiat the moment and seem to spend far more time looking on the ground for them than anything else natural history related at the moment.

Dead wood occupancy


Oyster Mushroom
Dryad's Saddle
Porcelain Fungus
All of the fungi pictured above were found on fallen trees in Banstead Woods. There was only a single Dryad's Saddle, and a small amount of Oyster Mushroom, but the Porcelain Fungus was quite common and varied enormously in shape, from long-stalked bonnets to the flat slippery plates pictured above.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The back garden will provide


Another morning, and another bleary-eyed one courtesy of more Rugby World Cup. The moth trap was a little livelier than yesterday, but the Green-brindled Crescent (above) was the only species that got a brief 'ahhh' from me as I turned the egg boxes over.

In an attempt to get to 3,000 before the year's end (I've left it too late I think), I wandered around the garden and added no fewer than three species (courtesy of slugs and snails). All common, and all overlooked by me as I've basically never looked at them before. My fellow pan-listers must despair of my efforts... I reckon there are quite a few more to be had in my humble plot. As I was doing this, three noisy Crossbills flew over.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Last night's trap contents


No Crimson Speckled, Flame Brocade or Ni Moth... instead just 3 macros on a coldish night. They were Silver Y, Brown-spot Pinion and the ever-welcome Merveille du Jour (above). Pan-listing was not ignored as I was able to string/identify Lepthyphantes minutus, a common spider. What with Redwings flying overhead yesterday and a distinct chilliness in the air, it was without doubt autumnal. But hold on ... apparently it's going to be 70 degrees F tomorrow - get those shorts and suncream out again!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Humble pie


Well, Blogger finally caught up with me. I was taken to a 'correction centre' and made to realise that I could no longer go under the guise of a naturalist if I persisted in my ways. I was made to watch ALL previous episodes of Springwatch and Autumnwatch to re-establish a relationship with British wildlife. I wasn't keen at first, but they had ways of making me (see picture above).

After that I was sent out into the wild and told to write down what I saw and have all sightings verified by a celebrity naturalist who officiates in such ocassions. I felt that Miss Humble was rather harsh in rejecting my claim of an overflying Sandhill Crane. She did, however, allow my Loch Ness Monster - I bet that's one that even Jonty Denton hasn't seen!

I've got the next fortnight off of work, so will hope - in between bouts of watching the Rugby World Cup and decorating - to get out into the field... you never know, I might just blog about it.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Blogger investigates North Downs and beyond


Blogger today stepped in to close down ‘North Downs and beyond’ ahead of an investigation into claims that Steve Gale, the site’s owner, is a complete sham.


For several months now, regular visitors to the blog have been noticing that there is little original content. ‘We rarely read about what he has actually seen’, claims Graham James from Merstham, ‘all we get is stream of half-baked ideas and lists that a five-year old could have put together.’ 


Somebody from in the north-east, but who wishes to remain anonymous, was quoted as saying that he’d ‘given up visiting the site ages ago’ and that this had freed up his time to ‘give Bunty more regular walks’.
Mark Telfer,  holder of the key to the kingdom of Panlistia and patron saint to White Prominents was relieved that an investigation was under way, as he had harboured doubts as to Steve’s suitability as a pan-lister. ‘He never seems to go out, and suspiciously adds exactly the same species to his list just after a certain dreadlocked naturalist from Sussex. I think he just visits other people’s blogs and ticks what he sees on them!’ 

The whereabouts of Mr. Gale is unknown at present. Enquiries were made at his local patches, but were met with incredulity. At Beddington, Johnny Allan said that he had ‘never heard of him’, Canons Farm’s very own David Campbell thought that he’d given up birding ‘several years ago’ and the Holmethorpe birders were convinced that he now collected stamps.

The long suffering Mrs. Gale welcomes the investigation. 'He might actually look at me rather than a bloody computer screen. With any luck, there won't be so many potted moths in the fridge. It's about time someone made him grow up...'

If you do come across him, Blogger will be keen to hear from you. He is described as 'a sad-looking man with a permanent air of disillusion and failure' about him. They suggest that you do not approach him.