Updated: Nov 28, 2022
By Louise Barnetson
We invited volunteers to help survey some of our local sites over the summer, and into the autumn, to find out what wildlife is living there. We were very lucky to have Pip, Angela, Bridget, Cathy, Chris, Valerie and Dan step up to help out at sites across East and West Wittering, Birdham, Almodington, and West Itchenor. We also put out some camera traps to see what turned up when we weren't looking. Here is what we found ...
This Tawny Owl shown in the photo above, and video below, was found to be a regular visitor to the West Itchenor pond. Tawny Owls are responsible for the 'twit twoo' call often associated with owls. The call is actually two birds calling to each other with the female making the 'twit' sound and the male answering 'twoo'. The best time to hear them is in the autumn when they establish territories, so keep an ear out now!
Other Birds of Prey commonly spotted across the Peninsula, included Sparrowhawks and Buzzards. The Sparrowhawk below was captured on camera at the West Wittering site. Sparrowhawks are adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland, so this one wouldn't have had any trouble flying through this narrow area.
A whole range of other bird species were spotted by our volunteers or caught on camera. As the sites were all wetlands or pond sites, familiar waterfowl such as Moorhen, Coots, and Mallards were spotted, often with fluffy youngsters in tow. Grey Herons and Little Egrets were also spotted. Other birds spotted include Wrens, Blackbirds, Robins, Grey Wagtails, Yellow Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches, Blue Tits, Swifts, Swallows, Crows, Magpies, and Wood Pigeons,
This Grey Heron was captured stalking through the pond at Almodington on a beautiful summer's day. This heron will be looking for food such as fish, amphibians, small birds or ducklings, and small mammals (including Water Voles!).
Various species of butterfly and moth were spotted at all the sites, including this Red Admiral (Cathy at W. Wittering), Speckled Wood (Valerie at Birdham), Mint Moth and Green-veined White (Pip at West Itchenor). Other butterfly and moth species spotted by the volunteers included the Dingy Footman, Large White, Meadow Brown, Comma and Gatekeeper. Invertebrates can be infuriatingly difficult to identify but we also had sightings of various dragonflies, damselflies, hoverflies, bees, wasps, ladybirds, spiders, beetles, pond-skaters, and ants.
This Crab Spider was found by Pip at West Itchenor. Crab spiders are able to change their body colour to match their background so this lovely green one is more easily seen again Pip's hand!
Roe Deer are very common in the area and Angela was able to snap these curious individuals at West Itchenor. Only Roe Deer and Red Deer are thought to be truly native to the UK and Roe deer have also been spotted at all the other sites surveyed this year.
Other mammals spotted during the surveys or caught on camera traps include Badger, Fox, Water Shrew, Wood Mouse, Squirrel, Bank Vole and Field Vole. Signs of Water Voles and Moles were also found.
This beautiful night-time visitor to one of the sites was caught on video. Badgers are the Uk's largest land predator, feeding on small mammals, birds’ eggs, worms, fruit and plants.
The same site was home to a number of Foxes, including this rather sleepy individual, probably just waking up in the evening after a busy day sleeping! Predators such as these foxes and badgers play a key role in maintaining the natural balance of ecosystems.
A HUGE thank you to all the volunteers who took part. All the records have been, or will be, uploaded to iRecord and so will be checked by experts and made available to support research and decision-making. A big thank you to Pip Wright for helping with the camera traps and putting out survey equipment with me. Thanks also to Pip and Dan Borland for helping go through some of the camera trap footage - there are some real wildlife treasures amongst the endless photos of an annoying twig moving in the breeze!