Wild Side of Gate Street Barn2019-07-26T18:38:45+00:00

“Live life on the wild side”

The Wild Side of Gate Street Barn

July 2019
Midsummer Silence

Merely weeks after the dawn chorus would loudly cheer on the start of a new day for hours and hours, a midsummer silence has fallen upon the countryside. Most birds have raised young, and both adults and chicks are roaming around quietly. Others are rearing second or even third broods – again, this is done with little noise, and only a few species are heard during the long summer days.

Skylark

One of these is Skylark, a species that will often attempt several nesting attempts, thus meaning males sing late into the summer. One bird has taken up residence in the large meadow opposite Gate Street and can be heard delivering his ‘silver chain of sound’, as George Meredith famously put it in his 1909 poem The Lark Ascending. It remains to be seen whether this bird will pair up and nest, but with the grass kept long and the forecast dry, the outlook is positive.

Owls are particularly active at this time of year. The resident Little Owl pair have been seen with frequency around the buildings at Gate Street, doubtless with some youngsters tucked away in a tree crevice nearby, waiting to be fed. Plenty of Tawny Owls are vocal at night, too, often noisy youngsters. Recently, a Barn Owl was heard nearby as well.

Painted Lady

There are plenty of butterflies on the wing during July. A few weeks ago, a small invasion of Painted Ladies occurred, during which time pretty much every butterfly seen during a walk of the area was one. This remarkable insect migrates all the way from Africa, and such influxes take place once a decade at best.

Enchanters Nightshade

The three skipper species are on the wing at the moment, too, as well as excellent numbers of Gatekeeper and Marbled White – the latter is particularly distinctive. A few wildflowers currently in bloom are also easy on the eye. In the shadier, damper parts of the nearby woods and copses, the delicate Enchanter’s Nightshade can be found in small numbers.

April 2019
Cuckoo Update!

Did you hear BBC Security Correspondent Frank Gardner talking about Cuckoos on BBC Radio 4 this morning? He is a keen birdwatcher and was invited on after sharing an image on social media of a Cuckoo newly-arrived in Surrey. The number of people reporting Cuckoos through BirdTrack is also now increasing so the early birds are just getting to the UK and the main arrival will happen over the next 3-4 weeks. With this in mind, it is encouraging to see that 7 of our tagged birds have now successfully crossed the Sahara Desert and are well on their way back.

An update received from Thetford Cuckoo Thomas’ tag at 08:45 this morning showed that he has successfully completed his crossing of the desert  and is in northern Morocco. He is now just 17 Km (10.5 miles) south east of Tangier, close to the Barrage Ibn Battouta reservoir. Over the last few days he has flown 3,350 Km (2,081 miles) from Ivory Coast, via Algeria to his current location in Morocco. He is now well placed to leapfrog Selborne who is just 345 Km (214 miles) north of him, in southern Spain.

Also making tracks is Sussex Cuckoo Knepp. An update received from Knepp at 22:42 last night showed that he had also successfully crossed the Sahara and was on the outskirts of Ain Bni Mathar, a town in eastern Morocco, close to the border with Algeria. On the 10th April he was in Ivory Coast and since then he has covered 2,880 Km (1,790 miles) to reach his new location. How long will he stay before proceeding north?

Sherwood Forest Cuckoo Robinson clearly decided he wanted a bit more of a challenge so he crossed the desert diagonally from Ivory Coast to Tunisia, covering around 3,770 Km (2,343, miles) in the process! By early yesterday morning Robinson was near the town of Kasra in northern Tunisia, approximately 162 Km (100 miles) from the north coast.

It looks as if Suffolk Cuckoo Victor has pressed on from his last location near the Algerian oasis town of Mansourah and is now 305 Km (190 miles) north, in northern Algeria. We should receive another update from Victor today that will tell us if he has continued his journey north.

New Forest Cuckoo Bowie has made it across the desert too and is just 26 km (16 miles) from the coast in northern Algeria, between the towns of Ain Benian and Hammam Righa. 52 Km (32 miles) south west of him is Lancashire Cuckoo Larry.

It looks as if Suffolk Cuckoo PJ may be the next bird to cross the Sahara. By 17:34 last night, he had traveled 538 Km (335 miles) north and reached southern Mali. The next update from PJ may well show him either on his way across the desert or on the other side.

If you’d like to help you can make a donation to the Cuckoo project online or by phone.
Email Ieuan Evans if you’d like to discuss making a larger donation to the project.

For more information click here.

April 2019
Selborne in the Sahara – Our Sponsored Cuckoo!

Selborne’s tag transmitted again last night, confirming our suspicions that he was on migration over the Sahara Desert.
Selborne was still in Guinea at 22:24 on 31st March and we next heard from him at 17:48 on 1st April by which time he had flown 1,440 Km (895 miles) north to Mali. Another update arrived at 19:50 last night showing he had pressed on to Algeria, making the total distance traveled 1,718 Km (1,067 miles) at an average speed of 49.8 mph over 21 hours and 26 minutes.

The latest update shows Selborne in the Erg Chech Desert in western Algeria. This is an inhospitable, broad, flat area of desert covered with wind-swept sand and with little or no vegetative cover, so we think that Selborne is probably still on the move north, heading for northern Algeria or Morocco.
Whilst migrating over the desert the Cuckoos fly at an altitude of up to 2 Km, where the air is much cooler. When the next update arrives we will hopefully see that Selborne has successfully navigated the Sahara. If Selborne makes it back to the UK this year then we will have followed him over three complete migrations from England to Gabon and back, during which time he will have racked up at least 43,452 Km (27,000 miles) – more than the circumference of the Earth!

We are still working toward raising the funds we need to cover the costs of tagging new birds this coming season and to pay for the data processing and analysis for the whole project.

If you’d like to help you can make a donation to the Cuckoo project online or by phone.
Email Ieuan Evans if you’d like to discuss making a larger donation to the project.

For more information click here.

February 2019
Signs of Spring

Snowdrops

With unusually mild temperatures during the last couple of weeks plenty of first signs of spring have sprung at Gatestreet Barn. Perhaps most eye-catching is the emergence of flowers. One doesn’t have to wander far to see a gleaming white carpet of Snowdrops – always one of the first flower. Primroses too are now in evidence, and even the daffodils have started to emerge. It won’t be long until myriad colours and smells will be in full bloom.

Red Admiral

With flowers come insects and a very early Red Admiral butterfly was on the wing last weekend, enjoying the blue sky and warm temperatures. Traditionally both this species and Brimstone – s striking, almost fluorescent yellow butterfly – are the first to appear in sync with the maiden mild days of the year. Even a few bumblebees have been seen pottering about in recent days.

Also up in the air on such days are a selection of birds, eager to pair up and find a mate. Perhaps most notable are Buzzards – on a fine day this species can be seen thermalling high into the sky, before stooping down rapidly in a display flight. Stock Doves and Woodpigeons too perform aerial acrobatics, though less impressive, as they rise and fall above copses and woods to try and catch the eye of a prospective partner.

Some species have even begun building nests – Robins and Wrens can be seen carrying small pieces of material. Grey Herons are in face already on the nest; this species is one of the earliest breeders. Across Gatestreet there is much activity and suggestion that spring is nearly ready to go. Hopefully another cold snap, like the Beast From the East last year, won’t occur and disrupt the activity.

December 2018
It’s Cold Outside!

The last few days have been bitterly cold, with the mercury dropping to a low as minus six a few nights ago. A biting easterly wind has swept through too, and it’s hard to escape the fact we’re in the depths of winter now. A walk around Gate Street Barn and Wintershall may seem quiet at this time of year, but that’s because most animals are less spread out as they team together.

In the area a number of winter cover crops are left standing during these testing months and they become a vital lifeline for small, seed-eating birds such as finches and buntings. As a rare source of food, large flocks group together and spend the short days feasting away. At the moment, more than 100 Linnets (known as a ‘trembling) is around, a very noteworthy count for this declining species.

Other birds with them include ‘charms’ of Goldfinches, and smaller numbers of Brambling, Chaffinch, Redpoll, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. Such gatherings naturally attract predators. A Peregrine – the world’s fastest animal with stoop speeds of 243 miles per hour – has been spotted a few times recently.

Last week the cold weather from the east pushed a much rarer finch to one of the Wintershall crops. A Twite, a bird from the north and Scandinavia, spent one day tucked in among its Linnet cousins. They are very rare away from the north and east coasts during winter and this was the first in this part of Surrey for many decades.

These winter flocks are the birthplace of many traditional collective nouns for British birds. Elsewhere around Gate Street at the moment you may see a bellowing of Bullfinches, a dole of doves, paddlings of ducks, a screech of gulls, a quarrel of sparrows or a carol of Robins! And, on a crispy night, you may be fortunate to hear a parliament of owls debate with one another.

As for mammals, insects and plants, winter is time to hunker down. There is little to forage, either, though incredible as it may seem, coniferous trees can be collected. The needles of evergreen conifers are probably the easiest and most widespread thing to forage in winter and most are edible, with the exception of Yew, which is toxic. The needles of Pine, Spruce and Fir, however, can make a lovely tea, or even be used in cookies or homemade gin.

June 2018
An Unfortunate Turn for Ash – Our Sponsored Cuckoo!

Four more Cuckoos have made it to Africa with the latest arrivals being Larry, Coo, Derek and Peckham who have joined Vigilamus, Hennah, Dudley and Stanley.

We now think Viator’s failure to complete the desert crossing is linked to conditions in the area of the Po Valley in Italy, which normally provides a good refuelling stop before the journey to Africa and over the desert. This year, however, the Po watershed and surrounding areas used by our Cuckoos on their migration are experiencing severe drought. Both Viator and Ash left the Po area and headed further east to Croatia which is unusual and likely down to the poor conditions in Italy. However, it’s extremely likely that the part of Croatia, just across the Adriatic (55 miles from the Po Delta) is also suffering from this regional drought. We fear that Ash, and also Cookie, whose tag last transmitted from the Po area, have both been affected by these conditions and it’s unlikely that we will receive further signals.

Previously we’ve only ever lost two southeasterly migrating birds before completion of the Sahara crossing, both in 2012 when very wet conditions were experienced in the UK. So far it looks like we’ve lost three this year, probably linked to the cold wet spring in the UK combined with very dry conditions further south.

We hope that Ash will appear soon, and if not, we hope he enjoys his holiday in Croatia and found his true love!

June 2018
Gate Street Barn have sponsored a Cuckoo!

Selborne

Our Cuckoos name is Ash and we are able to track his location on the BTO website using their brilliant tracking devices.

Ash has been funded by the Sussex Ornithological Society and named by children at Nutley Primary School. At present, Ash has headed south out of Slovenia, and is currently in Croatia west of Zagore.

Please visit the BTO blog for more amazing updates and see how the other Cuckoos are getting on this summer!

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