Chairman's Report

Welcome to our Spring 2009 Newsletter, and my sincere thanks to all our contributors.

The recent news about the Western Weald’s inclusion in the South Downs National Park is very welcome – although it has taken sixty years for the Park to become a reality

The weather has been kind to us over the winter period and allowed most of our work parties to proceed unhindered by the elements. More details of the work we have carried out are given elsewhere in this newsletter.

We have purchased a brushcutter, funded by a grant from the Town Council, which Andrew Williams has been using to good effect on the barrows and margins.

Our AGM will be on Tuesday 5th May at 7.30 pm in the Town Hall Rose Room and I invite all our members and their friends to attend. We are fortunate in having two managers from the South Downs Joint Committee, Nick Heasman and Bruce Middleton, coming to speak at the AGM. It will be interesting to hear their views on the new National Park. Our third speaker will be committee member and archaeologist Peter Price, who will talk about and answer questions on the archaeology of the Heath.

John Pike


Around the Heath - Autumn 2008 / Spring 2009

In October, with another less than satisfactory summer behind us, I was hopeful that the autumn would be a little more inspiring, but highlights were few and far between. I had still not seen any evidence of fish in the pond and this was borne out by the few anglers that fished the pond having no luck at all As in previous years a few Cormorants appeared this month and if more successful than the anglers, they were not letting on. A single Little Grebe was present at this time, which is unusual. No doubt the clarity of the pond water aided its ability to feed here and encouraged it to stay for a while. Apart from the resident wildfowl the only other visitors were a few Tufted Duck. On the last day of October I noted 14 Herring Gulls on the pond, a species that only appears very occasionally now. When the rubbish tip was open at Buriton much greater numbers could be seen. A record from November 1981 shows over 300 being present.

As in 2007 the insects died off quickly despite the generally mild conditions, which probably reflects how awful the summer had been. The four migrant Hawker dragonfly in the penultimate week of October was my last record.

November produced a greater variety of wildfowl but as usual the more interesting species stayed for a day or less. You need to visit the pond regularly to increase your chances of seeing these rarities. The Little Grebe was still present in the first week. On its last day here there was a small fall of wildfowl, which included a pair of Gadwall, two Shoveler, four Pochard and a male Goldeneye. Sadly, all these had left when I visited the pond later that day. More Cormorant sightings only confirmed that there could only be few if any fish in the pond, as they spent little time here. A single Great Crested Grebe was present for a couple of days before departing, probably more hungry than when it arrived. A male Teal which to the naked eye was virtually invisible in the centre of the pond was another visitor making a brief visit and this plus a few more Tufted Duck and Pochard rounded off November.

The weather now turned quite wintry with overnight frost and low daytime temperatures raising my hopes of seeing something more unusual, but a single Lesser Black-backed Gull out on the ice was not what I had in mind. A Little Egret on the island a few days later was a step up and during my walk round the pond I recognised a couple of birders who I wouldn’t expect to see in this neck of the woods. On enquiring the reason for their visit they very kindly told me of the Waxwing on nearby Herne Farm. A quick dash through the estate enabled me to locate and view my first ever Waxwing. In the last week of December it turned bitterly cold and within a day or two the pond had frozen leaving a small strip of free water. This confined the wildfowl very near to the bank which proved ideal for a closer view of the Pochard and Tufted Duck. Gadwall and Wigeon were also attracted to this free water but probably used it under the cover of darkness. On the last day of December a small flock of nine Teal and a pair of Wigeon became the last entry in my 2008 records. My tally of species for the year at the Heath numbered 70 which is one less than the long term average.


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