May Sightings

And so the cool, dry spring continues without much prospect of change until towards the end of May…

May 6th and during the evening there was a group of 7 swifts hawking for insects in the cold easterly wind, high over St.Leonards old town.  Still numbers of turnstones along the beach.  May 8th and as I sat down to my breakfast, 6 swallows flew across the street at window height in that purposeful, determined flight behaviour that characterises swallows on migration, heading north-westwards.  I wished them well.

May 8th.  There’s still a reasonable population of english elms in the vicinity of the station at Pevensey.  Also nearby, are a number of trees (poplar?) with thriving plants of mistletoe high in their crowns; nice to see.

May 18th.  In the following pic, scrub-bashing with a difference!  These fellas are removing dense ivy from off the cliff face at Rock-A-nor at Hastings.  They’re working from off ropes using pneumatically powered equipment.

On the same day in the evening, saw this amazing ‘barley-twist’ cloud formation.

May 24th.  There were 10 swifts over St.Leonards old town as I sat having breakfast. Went for a walk in Ham Street Woods National Nature Reserve in Kent, a lovely wood but unfortunately there appears to be not a lot of coppicing now going on – how this wood was traditionally managed.  Saw this tree which many years ago had suffered severe trauma, survived and prospered!

Nearby the entrance to the woods stands a row of four Victorian(?) cottages.  I thought they were very unusual in that the upper storey is clad all around the entire block with butt-jointed slates with strips fixed over the vertical joints.

On this jaunt I travelled by train and spotted just west of Winchelsea good and bad farming practice – the latter almost certainly contravening government/EU regulations by cultivating as close to a watercourse as physically possible.  The adjacent water must be receiving a very unhealthy cocktail of fertilizer and chemicals  First, good practice with 2 metre wide uncultivated headlands on a neighbouring farm and then the bad.  Apologies that the second doesn’t make the point very obvious but the train was going quite fast! Stile and post are on nearside of watercourse.

Livestock Transportation by Sea Still Thriving

The recent news of a shipping collision off the coast of Turkey near the Bosphorus, shows that the despicable trade in transporting of live animals by sea is still flourishing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39734998  (abridged).

A Russian spy ship has sunk off the Turkish coast after being breached in a collision with a freighter; all its crew were rescued, the Turkish coastal authority says.  Russia confirmed earlier that the hull of the Liman, part of its Black Sea Fleet, had sustained a breach, with crew working to keep it afloat.  The cause of the collision is unclear but fog was reported in the area.  All 78[!] crew aboard the Liman were safely evacuated, the Turkish coastal authority said.

Note the big bales of bedding on deck

It collided with the Togo-registered Youzarsif H, a livestock carrier, reportedly 18 miles from the Turkish town of Kilyos on the Black Sea coast just north of the city of Istanbul, and had sunk by 11:48 GMT.  The Youzarsif H was built in 1977, 81 metres in length and with a gross tonnage of 2,282 tonnes.  She was presumably loaded as she was heading south to the Jordanian port of Aqaba where her poor wretched cargo was due to be discharged, probably to a gruesome ending.

Apart from breeding stock, my personal view is that no livestock should be transported by sea; it should be slaughtered in the country of its breeding and then exported as chilled or frozen meat.

The Liman, built in Gdansk, Poland, was launched in 1970 [so being some 47 years old, probably a rust-bucket].  Based at Sevastopol in Crimea, the territory annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, it was a regular visitor to the Syrian port of Tartus for decades, the site notes.  In 1999, the Liman made international headlines when it was deployed to the Mediterranean to monitor NATO operations against Yugoslavia.

 

Bees Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief This Week

Government rejects bee-harming pesticide application

Bees can breathe a sigh of relief this week.

The government has rejected an application to use bee-harming neonicotinoids (neonics) by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

We couldn’t have done this without you.

Thousands of you emailed your MPs to keep bee-harming pesticides out of our fields – thank you.

The NFU failed to convince ministers because they didn’t have enough evidence to show that farmers need banned neonics.

They need to face the facts – there’s now a long list of scientific evidence showing the threat bees face from neonics.

Passing Sailing Ship

While having lunch, I spotted a largish sailing ship on the horizon sailing west down Channel.  On checking my shipping app, it turns out to be the Russian sail training ship, STS Nadezhda, on passage to Port Said in Egypt with an ETA of May 17th.  She was built in 1991, with a length of 109 metres and a gross tonnage of 2,297.

A Russian website states that she is a single-hull, three-mast, three-deckhouse ship with steel masts and yards. The ship is full-rigged, that is of frigate type. The sails amount to the number of 26, of which 14 are square sails, 12 are fore and aft sails and the sails total area is about 3,000 sq.m. The rigging and sails are operated manually.

All her sails were furled so she was presumably ‘sailing’ under her engines.

Dismantling in Eastbourne

Made a brief visit to Eastbourne this morning and took these pics of changes taking place within the town.  The first is the dismantling of a fine Wheatley variety of a street elm along Southfields Road due to a large cavity within it and also that it was dying from Dutch Elm Disease (DED), note the dead twigs at the extremities of its crown.  One of the tree surgeons told me that Eastbourne is fairing reasonably well with DED.

Elm trees seem to this spring have produced a very heavy crop of seed – though very little elm seed is viable, it mainly spreading by root suckers.

The second pic is of major demolition of redundant shops along Terminus Road opposite the railway station to make way for extending the Arndale Centre.  I just hope that when it comes to the interior design, they don’t replicate the boring interior of the present mall!

April Sightings  – All and Sundry

Up until the early part of the month (including the winter), I’ve been surprised just how tolerant of people that the dozens of turnstones that wintered/rested on the beaches of St.Leonards and on the ironwork of Hastings pier are.

Moving on, a couple of days ago, many of the birds in the centre of the town flew-up and seemed uneasy for a few minutes; I scanned the skies and sure enough, a couple hundred yards away and high up, was a circling sparrowhawk.

Went for a lovely walk with a friend in the Iden area on Sunday, April 9th – that really warm day.  We walked through an area of working coppice with a beautiful display of bluebells and lesser celandine.  After refuelling, on the return leg we saw two swallows, one settled on a nearby telephone wire giving out that gorgeous trilling song as if to say, ‘well, I’m glad to be back.’  Walking along part of the banks of the Military Canal, we were treated to a short, announcing blast from a cetti’s warbler emanating from out of the bordering reeds.

Back at home, somewhere not far from the house, there seems to be a pair of goldfinches possibly nesting; lovely to sit on the steps by the front door and watch them frequently pass over with their singing, resembling a bunch of high-pitched jangling keys.

April 26th and on a walk near Matfield in Kent, we came across a small meadow which was stunning!  It had thousands of cuckoo flower in full bloom, a real high-point in the day.

I’m now able from my window, to take an interest in the shipping passing down the Channel – ships being a subject that I’ve been fascinated by since a child.  I’m surprised by the sheer number of container ships passing by with quite a number owned by the MSC shipping company – the second largest container fleet in the world with 490 ships, four of which are the largest in the world.

The ill-fated Crystal Jewel anchored off Newhaven, after its encounter with the tanker British Aviator in fog off Beachy Head back in Sept 1961.

 

 

Return to Blogging


I’ve been rather silent on the blogging front lately –

During mid-February I went down with what I term, the ‘flu bug from hell.’  It took me a month to recover from it, I not having been that ill for probably decades.  Since October I have been in the process of purchasing a new property.  What a long drawn-out, inefficient process!  My own solicitor was brilliant but that can’t be said for the vendor’s solicitor or for a property management company involved.  Finally during March, I handed over a large amout of money and the big day arrived and so I now reside in an urban environment – something I haven’t done for some 15 years, within the metropolis of Hastings and I’m really enjoying it!  Seaside, gardening and when I find the time, new areas of countryside to explore.

The bout of illness brought about prematurely, my retirement, something I was intending to do when I moved.  Having been involved with the ponies for some 17 years, the almost 24/7 responsibility was starting to become more and more a grind and I’m not getting any younger!  I set up the Sussex Pony Grazing & Conservation Trust back in 2005 following my departure from the Sussex Downs Conservation Board.  It’s so great not to have any responsibility for livestock!  That said I am servant to my wonderful 3-legged cat who’s also having to get used to a more urban and, a more restricted life-style.

So returning to blogging…  I’m not sure how it will evolve.  I certainly want to get back to publicising and promoting environmental and wildlife issues but it’s likely there will be items from other fields.  So, watch this space…

Magpies & Crows; Pigeons & Squirrels.

After a lot going on in my life during the past month or so including a bout of ‘flu from hell,’ I am going to try to get back into blogging, with hopefully more posts of an observational nature.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been observing a pair of magpies building their nest in the crown of a fairly large oak about 100m from my house.  But they had a problem.  The local pair of crows also thought what a good spot and hey, somebody has started the nest for us!

The magpies have persevered but with bouts of the crows landing on and around it, hounded by the clacking magpies but due to their differences in size, the magpies being wary of getting too close to the crows.  the crows appear to have now given up and as I look out the window, there is now a sizeable domed nest.

Several evening ago at about dusk, I was watching three wood pigeons foraging below bushes along the side of stream near my house.  What surprised me was that in the same small area was a grey squirrel also foraging.  I would have thought the pigeons would have been most cautious at being so close to a potential predator.

News from ‘British Wildlife,’ January 2017

Flooding.  Two reports have recently been published concerning streamlining and enhancing of the countries response to do with flooding and associated issues: these are by Prof. Dieter Helm, Chairman of the Natural Capital Committee and EFRA’s Future Flood Prevention.  they cover such issues as: natural capital systems, flood defence, remunerating landowners for ‘Payments for Ecosystem Services’ (PES), ending the current dysfunctional organisational structure in favour of a more holistic structure, building on floodplains and insurance of building liable to flooding, protection of soils.  See  http://bit.ly/2exR8kg  and  http://bit.ly/2fghJPD.

Pesticides and Bees.  Recent report written by the Uni of Sussex’s Dave Goulson and available on the Soil Association’s website at  http://bit.ly/2fSepfQ  draws a surprising conclusion.  A majority of the toxic cocktail of chemicals detected in honey and nectar from honey bee and bumblebee nests, seems to be coming via wild flowers such as poppies, hawthorn, buttercup and hogweed even when oilseed rape is in flower.

Weedkillers and Rare Plants.  A study recently completed in western France confirms previous work that herbicides on arable crops are eliminating rare arable flowers and having little bearing on the farm crop yield.  It suggests that current yields could be maintained with an approximate cut of 50% in the use of herbicides.  See  http://go.nature.com/2fSrhCy

Bats and Wind Turbines.  More work is required as to why wind turbines are killing more bats than was previously expected according to the Uni of Exeter.  Better mitigation is required and to discover wht bats are drawn to turbines.  See  http://bit.ly/2fSiwbB

New Threat to Earthworms.  An invasive flatworm which can measure up to 7cm has now been found in the UK and is also spreading on the continent.  It feeds on earthworms and land snails.  It is thought to have arrived on horticultural produce from Brazil.  the Obama worm was first discovered in 2008 on Guernsey.  See http://bit.ly/2fzw9fv

Week Ending Saturday, December 31st

On Thursday, I drove down to Seaford in the afternoon and sat in the car on the seafront for awhile. The memorable item of the day was the passage of about 100 dark-bellied brent geese flying easterly and low over the sea in two separate tight-knit formations at about 2-300m from off the busy promenade.  It was probably just a local movement as it’s far too early for them to be returning north to Siberia.  I found this both deeply symbolic and moving.

Friday, and while having breakfast, I couldn’t fail to be fascinated and enthralled by the capers of up to four grey squirrels in a large oak with an expansive crown to it a few yards beyond the garden. The way they could negotiate about this tree and the speed of their antics was almost incredible!  One came speeding down one of the main stems, actually leaping ahead at one point!  I hasten to add that i’m no great lover of grey squirrels.