Tuesday 30 June 2009

Swanbourne Lake, a sea of tranquillity

Roger arrived yesterday morning, fresh from Canterbury and North America. I last saw him in Cape Town two years ago. We visited the 18thC fort and walked by the dunes and along East beach. Roger was impressed by the tide racing in. Today Jackie joined us for fish pie lunch and we walked round Swanbourne Lake which yielded Red Admirals on the path. After visiting some antique shops in Arundel I came out of Kim’s second hand bookshop with ‘Waterside Walks in Sussex’ and ‘Downland Wildlife, a Naturalists Year in the North and South Downs’. These should lead to some great walks and more appreciation for what we are seeing.

Monday 29 June 2009

Chris Barber, 60 years a band leader

Jackie joined us to see the Chris Barber Big Band at Chichester last night. Over two hours of fabulous trad jazz and other music. Amazing guy, at eighty he talks fast, recounting who joined and left the band and when. And still plays a mean trombone, borrowing the bass, his first instrument, for one number. A couple in front of us saw him once before, in 1952 at Manchester Uni where they met! Never knew that Lonnie Donegan and Monty Sunshine were in his original band. This is the start of a tour covering the UK and Europe. July 2 they appear at the O2 with Acker Bilk and Kenny Ball who we saw twice in Dhahran in the 80s.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Purple Haze

This morning at the start of a hot day I headed off to Botany Bay (Oaken Wood, on the Sussex-Surrey border). The target of Neil Hulme’s Butterfly Conservation walk was the Purple Emperor Butterfly. I walked from the car to the meeting point and found people photographing a White Admiral on the road, a good start. A few minutes later Neil called us over to his PE bait (smelly Shrimp Paste) to see the first of five Purple Emperors before noon. The most prolific species today was the Ringlet, follwed by Large Skippers, Meadow Browns, Commas, Marbled whites, a female Brimstone, Common blue, Silver Washed fritillary, Small tortoiseshell, Speckled Woods & Meadow Browns. A large slow worm was a welcome change on the path. The highlight was a Purple Hairstreak, freshly hatched this morning. Neil declared the day his best walk this year.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Coot mum success story

The foxes visited again last night. Today our evening walk took us along the sea front then round Mewsbrook Park. One of the nesting coots was sitting on a young’un. There was a lovely light on the mudflats as the tide continued to go out. The flowers on the beach plants have been replaced by seed pods.

Friday 26 June 2009

Gatekeepers on duty at Mill Hill, looking for meteoric descent

At 4pm I headed east to Mill Hill and spent a fruitful two hours wandering all over and was rewarded with photos of two Gatekeepers, Small Heaths, a Comma, a Tortoiseshell, and Speckled Woods. A very pleasant evening, the sun was still hot, and I found a lovely group of Pyramidal Orchids by the path of a meadow with cattle grazing below. Dog walkers were out in force after I arrived. Will look for the Bootids meteor shower again tonight, we saw one three days ago. Two foxes trotted gracefully round the garages last night and rustled in the shrubs.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Glad and Sad

Glad because we spent the morning at Warnham Nature Reserve. We arrived just after it opened and just in front of a school party. At the Heron Hide we watched a Great Crested Grebe swallow a huge fish after several attempts. There were two adults and a youngster in grey plumage. Found a Meadow Brown with its wings open, maybe due to the lower temperatures early in the day. The jewels today were Brilliant Emerald dragonflies. Several of them were settling on reeds by a bridge and one soon became part of a mating pair.

Sad because we attended Don’s funeral this afternoon. He and Maggie have been good friends of Sue’s in her congregation for many years and Don kept her in touch with things by email when we were in Saudi. The service was well done, we learnt a lot about Don, who had been in ill health for a long time and passed away peacefully last week aged 82 years. He was a kind and gentle man and will be missed by all who knew him.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Portrait of a Young Lady

A day in London to see the BP Portrait Awards at the National Portrait Gallery. It was a sunny day so we walked through St James Park where we ate our sandwiches and were entertained by the water fowl and squirrels. The mounted Guard at the entrance to Horse Guards Parade attracted many tourists with their cameras - the horse had great patience. First Prize in the exhibition was Changeling 2 (above), one of a series of his daughter by Peter Monkman. The other awards were also well deserved. The exhibition consisted of a very interesting selection of 51 portraits. We voted for People’s Choice: Sue - White Linen, me - Agnes. I couldn't understand why the creator of Imagine hung the hair of his subject from a clothes line as I thought this spoilt the most arresting painting in the exhibition. My Honourable Mentions are: Christina, One in Two, Madeleine, My song, John Anthony Portsmouth Football Club Westwood, Philip and Joe (Grandfather and Grandson) and Angela from Sri Lanka.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Ringlets at Kithurst Hill

Returned to Kithurst Hill as it has been a few weeks since the last visit. Sunshine into the later afternoon, so plenty of fliers around. Many Meadow Browns & Painted Ladies, possible Brimstones flying high, Large Skippers, Tortoise Shells, and my first Ringlet photos. The roadside bank is a blaze of orchids, and there are patches of a lovely yellow flower in the meadows.

Monday 22 June 2009

Ducklings, Cootlings & Henlings

Swanbourne Lake provided a surprising walk. We went for an afternoon feeding the water fowl and ended by walking round the lake. It was an interesting woodland walk, with chalk slopes carpeted in Hart’s Tongue Ferns. The far end of the lake is covered by lilies, and the whole lake is rich in wildfowl. I have never seen so many coots, which are very aggressive towards the ducks, but the fiercest was a Sheld-duck who took off in hot pursuit of a gull. Young coots squawked for food, ducklings tucked into the bird feed, and moorhen chicks followed their mum around.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Iron Age Fort is a butterfly haven

After Sammy & Nute left, I headed off to Cissbury Hill as it is a noted local butterfly hotspot. The views were truly amazing on this particularly clear day. To the west the Isle of Wight and to the east Beachy Head can both be clearly seen. The one mile ditch around the fort is butterfly rich. I saw one Marbled White (but no photo), around 100 Meadow Browns, 50 Painted Ladies, Small Coppers, Small Blues, Common Blues, Large Skippers, a White, Cinnabar moth and a Yellow Shell moth.

Treasure hunting, kite flying & channel swimmers

Yesterday Sammy tried her luck at finding treasure on the beach. A few bottle tops, a washer and aluminium foil were dug up. Nute & Sammy went off for an hour with the mini kite, and apparently it was very successful on the beach, flying vertically with no effort. This morning Sammy marched us to the sea for a dip, this time both Aunty and Granny joined us in the cool waters. We are now watching the regatta, multi coloured sailboats are going every which way, each flotilla keeping to its assigned area. The 12:14 train will hopefully start them on their return journey to The North. A fun trip for all, we hope they return.

Saturday 20 June 2009

Sammy the Butterfly, Queen Boo

Sammy’s early morning swim woke us up then we headed off to Warnham Nature Reserve for lunch and a walk round the nature trail. She had several Springwatch moments, the cygnets getting top marks. We saw nuthatches at a feeding station, and watched three terns on two nesting platforms in the lake, plus three herons the other side of the lake. Woodpigeons received a lot of attention, with some butterfly shouts in the meadows – Meadow Browns, some skippers, a Speckled Wood and a Painted Lady on some bramble flowers. No dragonflies today on the ponds, too overcast perhaps. Another blog may be needed to cover the metal detecting on the beach and a swim later.

Friday 19 June 2009

Invaders from the North

We received the dreaded call “we’re on the way”. Sammy,10, and grandma Nute, arrived late afternoon and Sammy led us to the sea at the first opportunity and plunged in for a paddle. This soon became a full swim. The gentle beach slope meant this was quite safe, and we paced the shore wondering how soon the novelty would wear off. The answer was “not too soon”! Oh the joys of youth. More beach fun tomorrow apparently!

Thursday 18 June 2009

Privet, Ladies, a Spitfire and an Admiral

Lovely summer’s day, so off to Mill Hill for a walk after lunch. The whole hillside was white with wild privet flower which was especially thick on the lower slopes. Plenty of Painted Ladies, Meadow Browns, a Red Admiral, a Large Skipper, a Small Blue, possible Marbled White. Magnificent Pyramid orchids were seen all over the hill. A group of model glider pilots picnicked at the top and up to three gliders were in the air at one time. A superb Spitfire was among the models.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Warnham, Swans & Large Skippers

After lunch and a morning of photo editing, we drove to Warnham Nature Reserve near Horsham for a stroll in this perfect summer’s day. Sue enjoyed the beauty it. We watched the tern family attacking the gulls that came too near their floating nest. This are the furthest inland that common terns have been recorded nesting apparently. Sam, the warden, created a floating platform with the right substrate and they turned up soon after. A swan family with four cygnets were near the path, and the male eyed us suspiciously, but allowed us to pass. Two Large Skippers gave me a photo op.

Monday 15 June 2009

Kite surfers, beach huts & Valerian

Day spent finding best car insurance deal & editing yesterday’s dragonfly photos. Evening walk along the beach to the kite surfers some of whom had difficulty taking off. Some scudded along & performed aerial leaps. Red and white valerian (Centranthus ruber) grew by some beach huts. We collected oyster shells to cover the new balcony pot which has ivy geraniums. Perfect evening walking weather, warm with a light breeze.

Sunday 14 June 2009

Dragonflies, Kingfisher, Slow worms and a Comma

A very enjoyable dragonfly walk was held at Warnham Nature Reserve, Horsham. Excellent reserve, well organized and we were rewarded with plenty of dragonflies, Demoiselles and butterflies and a vole. The dipping ponds (above) were very productive. A Kingfisher on the far side of the lake plunged in, caught a fish then perched on a branch. We went on to Southwater Country Park and saw slow worms and a fresh comma butterfly. Beautiful weather.

Friday 12 June 2009

Ancestors & Geraniums

A lovely summer day spent scanning Sue’s ancestor photo album. Later in the afternoon we visited the garden centre and bought a couple of Geranium Ivy Leaf (Decora Lilac) for £3 for the new blue plant tub on wheels we bought from Lidls for the western sheltered corner of the balcony. Admired the planting over a glass (or 2) of the new Chardonnay I bottled recently.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Treasure hunters, wine and onions

Bea’s last morning with us was spent metal detecting on the beach followed by tea on the balcony. A lovely sunny day with a light breeze – perfect conditions. We managed an hour on the beach while a high low tide started to make its way in, but found nothing. Bea caught the 10:20 bus to Brighton. The rest of the day will be spent bottling wine and making pickled onions and chutney.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Arresting portraits of an artist

John Constable was an incredible portrait artist, we never realized until we saw today’s exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. My favourite was Mary Freer, aged 13. A damp day, but only drizzle. The Tube strike had no effect on our bus from Victoria to Trafalgar Square. Left at 9:15am, arrived back 5:45, a satisfying cheap day out in London (group daysave rail £20, entry with Art Fund membership £4 each, sad sandwiches on bench)

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Ratty, goslings, chicks & feeding time at Arundel

Off to Arundel to explore the Antique shops. Kim’s Bookshop produced some holiday reads for Sue and Bea and a Collins Caterpillar guide for me. Great lunch in Butlers, as usual great food and service. Walked by the castle, passing three moorhen chicks, four goslings then loads of wildfowl at Swanbourne Lake. 50p bags of wildfowl food from the cafĂ© provided entertainment. The prize was waiting for the walk back – a Water Vole, the first I’ve seen in perhaps forty years. It sat on the bank eating its veggies quite unfazed by our presence then clambered down the bank and swam over the stream.

Monday 8 June 2009

Van Dyck at Petworth

We took Bea to Petworth House after lunch to see the art collection, which is the jewel in the National Trust’s crown. And what a collection, major artists including twenty Van Dyck & Turners commissioned by Petworth’s owners. Managed half the collection before weariness set in. One room covered by Grinling Gibbons carvings including the ceiling. My favourite painting was Van Dyck’s “Algernon Percy, 10th Earl of Northumberland, Lady Anne Cecil and their daughter, Lady Katherine Percy”. The 10th Earl held high office under Charles I, opposed him during the Civil War and founded the Petworth art collection by patronising Van Dyck and buying Old Masters. This was a good day to visit, not too many people, weather cool.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Springwatch – Butterflies and all things natural

Bea and I attended the Springwatch Festival at Stanmer Park, Brighton. We assisted at the Butterfly Conservation stand, handing out leaflets to passing families and inviting them to join the butterfly walks at noon and 2:30. After my shift ended at 1:30 we had wraps at the Claras Caribbean foodstall, excellent. The birds of prey demonstration was a big crowd puller, a baby owl brought many ahhs. The number of Natural History stands was amazing. The weather was perfect, light breeze dry and sunny until near the end. A great family event. Will explore Stanmer Park further, it is huge and easy to access being next to the A27. On the way home we called in at Mill Hill near Shoreham hoping to see butterflies. The weather changed though, cloudy, just one painted lady and a moth. Great views though.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Pallant Gallery, palette for the eye

We took Bea to Chichester, her first visit to the Pallant Gallery. She was most impressed. A lovely mix of mostly twentieth century art tastefully laid out, a restaurant with a beautiful courtyard area where we had tea and coffee. Always some new thought provoking works whenever we visit. Chichester Cathedral above was painted by John Piper for the cover of a centenary catalogue. There was a queue for Peter Blake’s book signing. We had soup at the Six Bells, Lyminster on the way back, highly recommended.

Friday 5 June 2009

Kayaks and Crass People

Strolled along the beach and round Mewsbrook Park with Bea. A couple of kayakers were enjoying themselves offshore. A tour round Mewsbrook Park lake resulted in mixed emotions. The coots were still guarding their nests but a family allowed their dog to run along the lakeshore and chase ducks into the water. Is this crass or am I from Mars?

East Beach Cafe

This photo was taken a few days ago, weather cooler today. Hope the Cafe put on some Sunday afternoon supper concerts this year - we went to one last year with Gwyneth Herbert - wonderful singer. Bea arriving shortly from Eastbourne for a week of fun. Sue found this amazing animal story yesterday

Thursday 4 June 2009

Sailing off Poppy beach

The hot, humid spell of the past few days has given way to a light breeze. An evening Regatta took place off the beach, the top of which is now a carpet of Yellow Horned-poppies and white Sea Kale. A few days indoors scanning, editing and uploading family photos to a gallery has kept me busy and out of the sun. Had my first puncture in the Ford Focus on the way to a metal detecting club meeting, so missed that. New identical tyre costs £120, ouch!

Monday 1 June 2009

Spring is in the air

The hot spell continues. Linda visited from Chichester, had a beach walk, looked for the Plovers and strolled round Meersbrook Park. A Mallard female had eight chicks, other females attacked when they came close. Two coots are nesting, a male gave the nesting female some leaves which she placed then a swan came along. The male coot hissed and eventually attacked the swan’s rear end, the swan retaliated half heartedly then appeared to vent its frustration by pecking the woodwork at the lakeside. Linda reintroduced us to a favourite singer Judie Tzuke.

Wandering on the Weald

Attended a Weekend Wanderers metal detecting rally near Crockham Hill, Kent. Hottest day of the year. I found cartridge cases, plenty of junk and a penny sized button, 18/19th C, made of tombac, a copper-zinc alloy. Few finds considering the 50-100 detectorists on site, but included a Roman silver coin of the emperor Gallienus, half a hammered medieval silver, three post medieval hammered, some buckles, a crotal bell and an 1885 silver threepence. Penny treated us to dinner at The Silk Road, excellent food and service again.