Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Robin, wren and gold crest

As winter sets in more birds are liklely to turn up in your garden. Those that do are also more easily visible wth the reduced foliage. A wren and a robin have been visting the far corner of our front garden where bushes give some shelter and anincrased chance of finding food.

Today, a goldcrest was in our front garden.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Foredown Tower Environment and Conservation Courses

This month I started running Environment and Conservation Courses for Portslade Adult Education. (East Sussex). These FE courses are based at their Foredown Tower site, a once disused water tower for an isolation hospital.

The tower was turned into a countryside centre, as it is on the edge of the South Downs and also houses a camera obscura. The first course focused on habitats and food chains.
We used the main classroom for the main parts of the lesson but also had access to the surrounding area for some practical activities.

We looked at a variety of food food chains and in this activity, the learners created a food chain selecting from a variety of animals and explained what was happening in their food chain.

 Investigating invertebrates outside the tower.
A black lipped snail climbing over a garden snail.

We also visited the dew ponds, a short distance from Foredown Tower.
These artificial ponds where built to contain drinking water for live stock on the downs where no standing water exists.
The bottom of the ponds are lined with straw and clay. While they have not been built for wildlife, local wildlife is attracted to the pond as water is such a valuable resource.

In the middle of the course we went on a field trip to Lewes Railwayland Nature Reserve. This piece of land was once part of the railway sidings and surrounding area, hence its name. It is a great site for students to experience a range of habitats and use this first hand study back in the classroom. I have worked on several projects and event at this fascinating site. To find out more you can visit their website http://www.railwaylandproject.org/

The Linklater Centre uses various sustainable methods in the running of the centre, e.g. green roof, ground source heating etc. The design of the centre also blends in with the surroundings. Inside is a live honey bee colony and we saw them entering from the outside.
Some settled on us as we watched.
Many birds visited the hanging bird feeders situated around the centre.

The main reason for the field trip was for the learners to explore the site and make field notes of the main habitats (woodland, grassland and freshwater habitats). Here are a selection of pictures.



water meadows

Freshwater habitats

                                                                   Leighside pond
                                                                     Another pond
                                                                Chilly Brooks

                                                                        Marsh frog
                                                     Southern hawker dragonfly

                                            Winterbourne Stream

This level one course will be repeated in January 2013. There will also be a level 2 course starting end of February 2013 for students who wish to progress. The level 2 course will focus on plant biology and marine habitats and coastal protection.

You can find out more about these courses on http://moodle.portslade.org/ and click on brochure.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Eyed hawk Moth caterpillar

As I sat and read a book on out sun lounger in the front garden I heard a loud munching sound. I looked closely at the twisted hazel tree nearby and noticed a large hawk moth caterpillar munching on the leaves.

After a close examonation and checking on a refernce book (some hawk moth caterpillars are similar) I decided it was am Eyed hawk Moth Smerinthus ocellatus

Wednesday, 25 July 2012


We are luck to have a lot of goldfinch activity around my garden. One or more pairs always best nearby each year as I witness a lot of territorial behaviour and also observe juvenile goldfinches.

Yesterday I was out in the back garden and was attracted to look up at the houses behind due to a commotion.
Up on the roof were several baby goldfinches calling to the adults.
The juveniles have the coloured cars in their wings but no colourful facial markings.

Today I managed to photgraph a goldfinch on the bird bath in the front garden.

Goldfinches visit the bird bath quite frequently but they are easily disturbed so I was pleased to get these pictures. The pictures were taken through the net curtains which is wht they are a bit foggy looking.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Ant nuptial flight

Black ant mating flight from green house, many did not make it.

In the evening the three main black ants nest had a nuptial flight.
The larger queens leave first and the much smaller males have to fly to catch up. This should mean the fittest male ants catch up with the queens and mate.

The mating flight for the yellow meadow ant nest in the centre of our front garden also took place at the same time.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Male red tailed bumble bees

Several male red tailed bumble bee visiting the mallow just outside our house
The males have the yellow collar, the workers have just the black bodies and red abdomen.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

After many attempts of urgent flapping the largest of the herring gull chicks manages several lift off and landing on the chimney where the nest is situated.

One of the adults returns

The constant screeching and flapping has attacted the attention of other nearby herring gulls and a noisy ariel combat takes place.

Eventually all quitens down and gulls retire to their respective roof tops