Adur Levels & Estuary 2011
Adur Valley Reports 2012
I arrived late morning at Beeding Brooks which is not normally the best time to see owls, but I had great views of a pair of Short-eared Owls quartering the fields. One was chasing Crows; it surprised me as it's more common to see Crows mobbing owls! There was also a large flock of Fieldfares with a few Redwings among them.
14 December 2011
After the gales of two days previously, the wind had receded to a steady Force 4 (Moderate Breeze) but there was still an appreciable wind-chill and I did not stay to observe for long a very plump and noisy Meadow Pipit foraging on the edge of the Sea Purslane as the high tide lapped against the shore in the late afternoon (approaching sunset) on the Adur riverbank on the opposite side to Shoreham Airport. The Meadow Pipit, Anthus pratensis, was identified from the other pipits but its distinctive brown speckled breast which was almost complete without a white expanse. Because the conditions were far from ideal, it is conceivable that this was a Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus, or Scandinavian Rock Pipit, Anthus petrosus littoralis? It was difficult to spot their legs through my binoculars as they were lost amongst the vegetation. In the fading light a Cormorant rested duck-like bobbing about on the surface of the nearly choppy estuary.
Identification of Rock Pipits
Photograph:Willow Trees below Old Erringham.
As the deciduous trees had now lost almost all of there leaves, the small birds were now more noticeable at Cuckoo's Corner: a small chirm of Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Chaffinches and Pied Wagtails.
An Agaricus mushroom was seen amongst the grass next on the towpath a few metres north of the Toll Bridge, Old Shoreham. If the specimen was in good condition (it was not) and not in a dog fouling zone, it could have been one of the edible species, perhaps a Field Mushroom, Agaricus campestris.
Fungi of Shoreham
I was surprised to see a Kingfisher arrow its flight north to south across the River Adur on a lowish tide (the mud flats were showing) by the the Riverside Business Centre (east of the Surry Boatyard). It quickly disappeared behind the boats moored against the pontoons on the south side of the estuary around midday.
Three crimson-brown medium-large moths flew distinctly in three different locations, the first by the hedgerow bordering the railway line in Dolphin Road, Shoreham, the second on the cyclepath south of the Toll Bridge, Old Shoreham. and the the third on on the Adur Levels beneath Mill Hill, in the pasture used as a car book sale location on summer Sundays. I have identified these moths as most probably the day-flying male Vapourer Moth, Orgyia antiqua, based on past experience, but I have never been able to look at one of these moths settled.
Adur Moths (Vapourer Report)
There frequent Greater Black-backed Gulls on the estuary mud opposite Shoreham Airport with other gulls. Three Turnstones probed the mud at low tide by Ropetackle.
Late in the afternoon 50+ Lapwings were seen on the mud flats north of the Toll Bridge, Old Shoreham. They were accompanied by Starlings.
portulacoides, is a small greyish-green
shrub abundantly found on the mud flats of the
Adur that are even covered twice daily
by the neap tides, but also nearer the high tide
margins. It is a halophyte,
with leaves with a silvery sheen, filled with air (not sap) and the leaves
are dead when the plant reaches maturity.
Halimione = Daughter of the Sea (Greek)
On the high spring tide the flooded River Adur looked blue in the afternoon sunshine (19.0 °C). At least eighty House Martins flew low over the river, a few times their beaks appeared to touch the water surface as if taking a drink. It looked like it was a prelude to emigration south to Africa.
A emerald green Southern Hawker (dragonfly) hawked to and fro long the Buddleia-lined Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath at Upper Beeding. It was an impressive insect which I watched for a few minutes. It did seem inclined to settle in the late afternoon. Later, a small flock of forty Lapwings graced the sky over the River Adur at Old Shoreham as the neap tide receded. On the steps of the Butterfly Copse (near Frampton's Field) in Old Shoreham, a Hornet Robber Fly was seen briefly as the shadows lengthened.
We saw a scary caterpillar (Val spotted it first): it puffed itself up and showed us a couple of threatening "eyes". We think it was a Small Elephant Hawkmoth, putting its life at risk by crossing the Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath, just north of the A27 Flyover. In the overcast conditions, there were few butterflies out despite it being warm the most interesting was a Common Blue deep in Shoreham at the very start of the Downslink path.
My first Grey Heron seen for several months (perhaps longer) flew over the Sea Purslane at a mid to low tide on the River Adur north of the A27 Flyover.
As the sun shined intermittently through the clouds, I spotted my first Gatekeeper of the year on the cyclepath at Old Shoreham, followed by my first Small Skipper (possibly an Essex Skipper?) on the River Adur eastern towpath at the same latitude as Mill Hill (south of the upper car park), and my first Blue-tailed Damselfly of the year nearby.
Marbled White Butterflies were very frequent in the long grass by the towpath with at least 24 counted and there were probably over 60 present. Others on the towpath was another Gatekeeper, at least three Meadow Browns, at least three Large Whites, one worn Peacock Butterfly, an old Small Tortoiseshell, a Burnet Moth and a Carpet Moth.
& Moth Report
Adur Butterflies: First Dates
Adur Wild Flowers
On an overcast day, the sun shone briefly and the breeze was still a Force 5. The Adur Levels produced a Comma Butterfly on the road to Old Erringham. The Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath added two confirmed Green-Veined Whites, a Red Admiral, two Small Tortoiseshells and at least 13 Meadow Browns. Lesser Burdock was beginning to flower by the River Adur at Upper Beeding. Pyramidal Orchids was frequently seen on the verges of the cyclepath near the Cement Works.
were squabbling on the branches of a large Hawthorn on the side of the
Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath south of the Flyover.
As soon as I got my camera out they disappeared inside the bush. As I watched
I was surprised to see a female Sparrowhawk
fly and glide out of the same bush and then the noise died down. Later
the young Magpies
flew out of the Hawthorn one by one on to the nearby corrugated agricultural
shed. On the cyclepath verge a few metres north of the Toll
Bridge, I noted the tall parasitic plant known as Broomrape.
Musk Thistle was seen flowering on the verges of the Steyning Road, north of the large roundabout. A pristine Red Admiral was seen on an Elderflower on the side of the Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath north of the Toll Bridge. It was the only butterfly on an overcast day before the rain started. New flowers observed for the first time this year included Mugwort, Wild Carrot, the prostrate Creeping Cinquefoil, Fool's Watercress and the diminutive Scarlet Pimpernel. There was a Stickleback darting into cover in the pool about half-way along towards the Cement Works. There were 25 Mute Swans, seen on the narrow band of mud at high neap tide on the River Adur as it flows past Shoreham Airport.
The stretch of soil next to the gravel path by the Riverside Industrial Estate now had Common Poppies and Opium Poppies in flower with the previous selection of opportunist wild, arable and garden plants.
A large bright blue dragonfly cruised over the Ladywell's Stream by the Scout Hut, and although it was prominent as it flew to and fro, it never got close enough for a positive identification. I think it was probably a male Broad-bodied Chaser, Libellula depressa, although it looked longer. One pair of Azure Damselflies, Coenagrion puella, flew in a mating tandem over the stream and there were singles seen.
There were 23 Mute Swans, seen on a middle neap tide, near Cuckoo's Corner, four of them in the muddy inlet.
Overcast, breezy (Force 5 gusting to Force 7) and cool (14 °C) and not conditions where any butterflies at all were expected to be seen, but I was surprised by a very dark Speckled Wood that landed on the sandy-coloured cyclepath by the layby south of the Cement Works.
The wind died down and the blue sky was streaked with Cirrocumulus clouds, making it practical to notice plants in passing. Next to the Adur towpath north of Ropetackle in Shoreham there was frequent Fumitory and the alien Lacy Scorpion Weed, Phacelia tanacetifolia (identified by Colin Knight).
Just I was about to make a mention of the scarcity of butterflies a surprise Wall Brown Butterfly visited an Ox-eye Daisy on the Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath south of the Toll Bridge where I do not think one has been recorded before. The only other butterfly in the same area was a Large White.
A quick detour along the Coombes Road in the weak sunshine saw a single male Orange-tip flirting or sparring with a male Large White and Green-veined Whites, but no female Orange-tips. All these three whites visited Red Campion. A Red Admiral was quickly seen at Cuckoo's Corner.
NB: Both the Orange-tip and the Green-veined White use Garlic Mustard as a larval food plant.
Adur Butterfly List 2011
My first teneral Azure Damselfly, Coenagrion puella, of the year, was seen on the Green Alkanet and other vegetation on the verges of the Waterworks Road, Old Shoreham. Later a bright blue Azure Damselfly was seen over the Ladywell's Stream, near Cuckoo's Corner on the Coombes Road. And it was on the small sea inlet at Cuckoo' Corner that 24 Mute Swans congregated with a further three on the River Adur nearby. I thought this was an exceptional number of swans in a small area. Nine species of butterfly were seen around Shoreham and the outskirts. The small red beetle Rhagonycha fulva (a Soldier Beetle, Cantharidae) of the year, was seen on Stinging Nettles on the opposite side of the road to the Ladywell's House.
Full Butterfly Report
On cool, breezy and clear middle of the day, a visit to the Waterworks Road and then a trip up the western towpath to Cuckoo's Corner produced frequent butterflies, 15+ Green-veined Whites, 12+ male Orange-tips, one Large White, occasional Speckled Woods, two Peacocks, occasional Holly Blues, and one Red Admiral. The streamside (east) stretch of the road between Ladywells and Cuckoo's Corner was covered in Garlic Mustard (main larval food plant of the Orange-tip) but all the white-coloured butterflies were Green-veined Whites.
Coombes Road, by the Ladywell's Stream
was a Large Red Damselfly
on the Garlic Mustard
and Red Campion
was now in flower in small patches.
A small shoal of Sticklebacks darted hither and zither in the Ladywell's
Stream by the Coombes Road (downstream of
Adur Butterfly List 2011
Under a clear blue sky with only a whisper of cumulus clouds in the east, eight of the usual butterfly species were seen in Old Shoreham. But these included the immediate appearance of two sparring female Orange-tips over the Waterworks Road, Old Shoreham. These females are only seen occasionally on a few days each year. Common Vetch was abundant on the edges of the Downs-Coastal Link Cyclepath in Old Shoreham with the first Ox-eye Daisies appearing in flower. The predatory small Dance Fly, Empis tessellata was seen with its prey of a smaller fly.
Full Butterfly Report
Two Buzzards courted over Old Erringham in the sunshine. At ground level, the distinctive hoverfly Rhingia campestris was seen visiting Green Alkanet on the Waterworks Road for the first time this year.
At Annington Sewer, the water was disturbed by the gyrations of Whirligig Beetles and the lightweight Water Skaters skimming across the surface. My first damselfly of the year was spotted over the road entrance to Old Erringham from the Steyning Road. It was almost certainly a dark teneral Large Red Damselfly. The local streams and drainage ditches were running clear enough for me to see a Stickleback dart into cover. Swathes of flowering Cow Parsley were noted for the first time between Botolphs and the South Downs Way Bridge across the River Adur. Two House Martins chased each over in low level flights over the fields north-west of the Cement Works. A Peacock Butterfly, Orange-tips, a Comma, Green-veined Whites and a single Holly Butterfly were all seen on the Adur Levels.
The first butterfly of the afternoon was a Peacock flying over the River Adur seen from the western towpath north of the A27 Flyover, followed by three Small Tortoiseshells over the nettle patch south of Cuckoo's Corner. A new Speckled Wood was seen at Cuckoo's Corner. My first male Orange-tip Butterfly of the year flew by Ladywell's Stream as it runs parallel with the Coombes Road north of Cuckoo's Corner. On my second return visit to Cuckoo's Corner there was another male Orange-tip and a Green-veined White. There was a few plants of Garlic Mustard (the larval food plant of the Orange-tip) at Cuckoo's Corner on the verges of the Coombes Road, but they were not so prevalent as I have known in previous years. There were still at least a hundred Common Gulls on the river mud flats at low tide with a few Greater Black-backed Gulls.
Adur Butterfly List 2011
Just a single Oystercatcher and two immature Herring Gulls graced the expanse of mud flats north of the Toll Bridge on a low neap tide.
On the low spring tide north of the Toll Bridge in Old Shoreham, a single Herring Gull perched on the large expanse of mud. This means that the Lapwings must have flown to their inland breeding areas*. On the mud bank on the opposite side of the Airport, there were a hundred plus gulls, mostly Herring Gulls and a lesser number of Greater Black-backed Gulls, but no Common Gulls were seen in a quick binocular scan.
* Sussex Birds (the book) says that the numbers drop rapidly from mid-February on the winter wetlands to breed on the downs including amongst the spring cereal crops.
It was my second butterfly sighting of the year but I suspect that the Peacock Butterfly at the footpath entrance to the Waterworks Road by the Steyning Road was the same one seen two days ago. A minute later a Comma Butterfly was seen at rest on the verge of the Waterworks Road.
Adur Butterfly List 2011
Adur Butterfly Flight Times
A spell of brief sunshine brought a hibernation Peacock Butterfly, flighty and in good condition, my first butterfly of the year visiting Sweet Violets on the verges of the Waterworks Road, Old Shoreham.
Adur Butterflies: First Dates
17 March 2011
A Common Seal, Phoca vitulina, ventured up the River Adur as far as just north of Cuckoo's Corner and rested on a sandbank. This unusual sighting occurred in 2009 (in October) as well.
Hundreds of the smaller gulls (Black-headed and Common Gulls) rose in unison from the mud of the River Adur at low tide on the first bend of the river north of the Toll Bridge in Old Shoreham. This usually means they have been spooked by a hawk. To the north a Kestrel was mobbed by a juvenile Herring Gull.
Five Redshanks were seen squabbling and not so quick to sound their raucous alarm as solitary birds.
On the low-lying pasture to the west (below) Mill Hill, two hundred or more Common Gulls were resting. The Adur Levels were as sodden as I had ever seen them with pools of water underneath the hedgerows each side of the Downs Link Cyclepath north of Old Shoreham. Mole hills were frequently seen on the edge of pastoral fields. Robin Redbreasts and Blue Tits were also frequent amongst the bare branches as I cycled along. The cyclepath was so muddy that I returned by the country road by Botolphs where I noted my first clumps of Snowdrops in the churchyard. They were also in flower by the road at Coombes.
In the early afternoon, a spell of weak sunshine for two hours was easily the most so far this year. North of the Toll Bridge in Old Shoreham, a thousand plus Common Gulls (with green legs) mixed with hundreds of Lapwings and frequent Black-backed Gulls. A single Redshank probed the tideline. South of the Toll Bridge, a few Black-headed Gulls (with red legs) waded over the mud on the airport side of the River Adur. Underneath the Railway Viaduct the first yellow flowers of a Coltsfoot plant were seen on the eastern side. Looking over the exposed mussel beds from Ropetackle, two Oystercatchers waded through the shallow water exposed by the receding tide.
Just the first glimpse of sunshine, but the only wildlife of note were the common hedgerow birds, gulls and waders. At least one Redshank probed the mud at the tide line.
The steady flight of a Kestrel towards the west parallel to Old Shoreham Toll Bridge was my first bird of prey seen in 2011. A small flock of twenty Dunlins took flight from the small amount of mud north of the Railway Viaduct. A couple of Little Grebes were seen diving under a mid-tide River Adur just south of the inlet by Cuckoo's Corner. At least one Redshank probed the mud at the tide line and two couples of Turnstones flew rapidly low over the river squawking an alarm.
Levels and Estuary 2010