Friday, 30 December 2016

My 2016 in Uckfield Nature Photos

I've been away a lot - in Birmingham and Leatherhead - this year so haven't paid as much attention to our local wildlife as usual. However, I've still managed to find interesting plants and creatures in and around our local area.


My wildlife year started with the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt.  In spite of a frosty start I managed to find 30 wild species flowering and 4 naturalised garden escapees in bloom.  This was up on the 19 wild and 3 naturalised I saw in 2015.

At the start of my flower hunt I was concerned about the frost.
Bush vetch in Belmont Lane on New Year's Day.
January ends with the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch. This year I saw only 12 species, which is my lowest count since I started in 2011. This was probably due to the unusually mild weather, which enabled the birds to find food in local farmland and wild places rather than our garden.

Notes from my birdwatch.

In February, Lime Aid did the usual trimming and tidying in Lime Tree Avenue assisted by an awesome lady, who came to Clean for the Queen.  We saw birds and emerging plants - and a frog.

Martyn found a frog - Lime Tree Avenue
In our own pond, the frogs spawned on the 14th of February.


At the end of March, I took a few minutes to do a bug hunt in the garden. I found bumble bees, a Peacock butterfly and an Angle Shades moth.

Angle Shades moth - the first I have ever seen

In April, different types of bees were beginning to emerge in our garden. One of my favourites was this Tawny Mining Bee, which looks like a mini punk rocker.

Tawny Mining Bee in our garden.

Our visiting Fallow buck, visited during May. Since his previous visit on April the 12th, he had lost his antlers. On May 17th, when he visited us to give our flowers their 'Chelsea chop', he stayed in the garden for most of the morning.  The shots show that he had no antlers at all. As you can see from the photo below, they had already started to regrow by the end of the month.

Fallow Buck in our garden - 30th May.

June is the month of my two favourite wildlife events, the Garden Bioblitz and the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild. In the Bioblitz, I recorded every wild plant and creature in my garden.  I found 144 species, which contributed to a total of 152 recorded in East Sussex.  One of the sweetest moments was seeing young Blue Tits, which may well have come from our own nest box.

Young Blue Tit in our Silver Birch - 5th June
I also detected a Common Pipistrelle bat with my bat detector and found some beetles in my hastily improvised beetle traps.

Just dig a hole, put a coffee cup in and cover with leaves.
For the Wildlife Trusts' #30DaysWild challenge, the aim is to make time for one wildlife encounter each day. I find that it encourages me to take more notice of the wildlife all around me.  One of my favourite moments was watching a Wool Carder Bee gathering hairs from a Lambs Ears plant.  This is another species that I saw for the first time this year.

Wool Carder bee collecting "wool" from plant leaves into a ball.

Another favourite was the sight of a row of Field Poppies, which had invaded the top of a wall, against a blue sky.  There were not many days like this, it was one of the wettest June's I've known.

Poppies on a wall in Uckfield High Street.

In July we had some serious badger action.  Not only did the trail camera catch 3 badgers together but they dug out a wasp nest. 

Badgers in our garden - 23 July

A rumour blew round social media that Glowworms (actually a type of beetle) had been found in a local lane. As I had never seen one before I was delighted when I found some.  The females glow to attract a mate.

Glowworm - 21 July
While visiting the West Park Nature Reserve I found a flower that I had never seen before. Red Bartsia is a parasite on grass much like Yellow Rattle, which is used to weaken grass enabling wild flowers to grow better.

Red Bartsia - 30 July

In July and August I took part in the Big Butterfly Count. I, and other recorders across the country, got fewer butterflies than in previous years. The butterfly people were a bit baffled as we had had a warm summer, which is usually good for these insects. Possible reasons for the low count included this year's cold spring.  I wonder if it also is down to grass competing out wild flowers as it has grown particularly thickly in this years strange weather. 

Large White - my most numerous butterfly this year.
For a couple of weeks in August, a young Green Woodpecker was haunting our garden.

Juvenile Green Woodpecker

September started hot and dry. While gardening I found myself intrigued by my tiny helpers, which eat slugs eggs and other pests.

Black Clock beetle - from our garden

This is when Uckfield Local Nature Reserve Supporters Group really got going.  On the 22nd we went for a walk in West Park where the sharp-eyed youngsters in the group helped us find rabbits, lady birds and so much more. If you are interested in Uckfield's Nature Reserves, there is a Facebook Group.

Members of the Uckfield Local Nature Reserve Supporters Group
The week after, the Ranger guided us through Hempstead Meadow Nature Reserve and explained the work that had been done there.  I was pleasantly surprised to see some flowers still blooming - including Bramble, Hogweed and Water Chickweed. The latter is another first for my species list.

Water Chickweed at Hempstead Meadow Local Nature Reserve

On the 12th of November, David led the Uckfield's Nature Reserve Supporters Group on an evening bird song walk.  We managed to see and hear 16 species in under an hour in spite of the rather murky weather. 

I saw Bluetits and a Nuthatch in this tree
On the 26th, I went back and tried to apply what I had learnt on our walk.  This was mostly about listening for the birds and then watching the place where the sound came from until they revealed themselves. Hearing the little calls of a group of Bluetits in the big Oak shown above, I spent a little time looking at them with my binoculars. I was delighted to find a Nuthatch clinging to the craggy old bark.


As the year winds to a close, the number of pollinators visiting our flowers has diminished.  One of our most conspicuous visitors is a Buff-tailed Bumblebee queen.  In the photo below, you can see the pollen that she has collected to take back to her nest.  The days have already started lengthening and  nature is preparing itself for spring.

Buff-trailed Bumblebee queen - 28 December

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