On Saturday 19th July 2014 FoBD hosted a walk for Sussex Butterfly Conservation. Despite the wet weather forecast 8 people turned up and had a good butterfly day as the weather improved. The long grass area of the sheep enclosure was full of flowers and butterflies and day flying moths and grasshoppers and crickets. Of the butterflies there were good numbers of marbled whites meadow browns, ringlets, gatekeepers, Small and Essex skippers, common blues, brown argus. The youngest member of the group Joseph found a Roesels Cricket. In the shorter grass areas there were numerous chalkhill blues amongst the round head rampion autumn gentian and other downland flowers. Thanks to Colleen Slater for the photographs.
Undaunted ( well, a bit daunted ) by the rain on our Easter Sunday workday four of us arrived to cut back the hawthorns suckers and seedlings which regrow in the chalk grassland every year. Unfortunately the sheep which graze the area in the winter don’t eat them so it’s up to us to stop the whole area eventually becoming scrub and losing the butterflies which flourish in the open short grassland vegetation conditions. When we arrived the task seemed never ending but we did manage to clear quite a big area of the bristly regrowth which gave us a sense of satisfaction. There is still rather a lot which needs to be done though. We were all very wet by the end of the morning but Brig ( aka the easter bunny ) rewarded us with an easter egg each. It was heartening to see the first signs of plants of the parasitic annual yellow rattle in the short grass and to look forward to it’s yellow flowers later in the season. These plants are good indicators of species rich grasslands.
We had a lovely morning on 16th March in the sunshine on our sunday workday scraping up sheep poo to keep the nutrient levels low for the chalk grassland flowers. Over the last month there have been 150 sheep grazing the slopes and they have done a great job of eating the grass and nibbling around the ant hills. The area called Hogtrough is looking very good because of all their grass eating. The ant hills often have creeping thyme growing on them so when they are in flower later in the year they look like purple cushions and bees like the thyme flowers. On our workday we saw several small tortoiseshell and peacock butterflies and also found some tiny orange and black beetles under the sheep poo which we think are the dung beetle Aphodius fimetarius. Skylarks were singing, there were tiny early violets just showing in the grass and it was great to be out there. At the end of the morning we had a good collection of bags of sheep poo to take down the hill to the Bevendean Community Garden because they want to increase the nutrient levels in the garden for their vegetable growing.
This years AGM will be held in the Church Hal,l Norwich Drive at 7.30 pm Tuesday 25th Feb. Everyone welcome to attend.
Portslade Green Gym volunteers did a splendid job clearing bramble and small hawthorn scrub from a section of the sheep enclosure. We were very lucky to have a gloriously sunny morning.
The sheep will be coming to graze the area in February so there will be less bramble for them to get caught up in, and they will be able to nibble down the coarse grasses to help improve the diversity of the site.
A day which started with damp and mist and a forecast of rain by lunchtime did not seem very promising for our annual celebratory bonfire but after a flurry of phone calls we decided to go ahead. The weather did as promised and rained but we still managed to have a good time. The bonfire roared beautifully despite the soggyness and kept us all warm and cheerful and people had bought lovely food to share and the hiss of the rain in the frying pan with the sausages all added to the atmosphere. We were all pretty wet by the time the food was cooked and eaten but it was a pleasure to spend time with the sixteen or so people who could come out today. We all love this bit of chalk grassland and work in different ways through the seasons to try and ensure that it will stay rich in wildlife, both for it’s own sake and for the pleasure it gives to the many people who spend time in it.