Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year's Day species hunt at Tablehurst Farm

The morning after a mellow-night-before (seeing in the New Year with board games and great mates), it was a splash of water on the face and a savored moment while sliding my feet into pure, unadulterated, virginal cotton socks... You know your 20's are nearly done when the best thing about Christmas holidays are board games and socks.

Beginning the route at Tablehurst Farm

I then dragged the warm wax jacket from the sofa and snatched mum Sue from the peg over the radiator, rushing out the door to the countryside of Forest Row. We were headed over to Tablehurst Farm (about 10 miles from Gatwick as the crow flies) in order to meet the Forest Row Natural History Group.


Led by Brad Scott and Tom Forward (of Gatwick Greenspace Partnership fame), this keen bunch of amateurs and enthusiasts explore and record as much wildlife as is possible around their local patch. Through a combined effort, this determined gang hope to get to 1000 species in this 1km square by the end of 2015. I look forward to watching their progress as the year goes on and joining in with my small contributions where I can!

Violet Bramble Rust (Phragmidium violaceum)

Underside of the same Bramble leaves showing the fruiting body of this rust fungus

Checking along the verges and hedgerows


There were plenty of botanical niceties to be found, and once properly identified the records will be shared with the Botanical Society as part of their 2015 New Year Plant Hunt.

Specimens found in the margin of arable fields


While Tom led on listing bird and tree species, Brad was checking out the beautiful variety of mosses, lichens and ferns found in the woodlands...

The spikey moss in the background is Orthotrichum affine 
growing next to a liverwort (Metzgeria furcata

Fissidens taxifolius - a moss

Soft-shield Fern (Polystichum setiferum), recognised by the pointy-tipped pinnules 
and by the fact that the 'thumb' of the pinnule pretty much covers the pinna midrib. 
(Photo and description by Brad Scott)

I had a quick mooch about in some log piles to see what was lurking within the rotting wood. Quite a lot as it turns out, much which was beyond my identification capabilities, but here are some tentative idents....

Black Snail Beetle (Silpha atrata) along with a Flat-backed Millipede (Polydesmus angustus)

A species of keeled slug, likely Limax maculatus

Common Rough Woodlouse (Porcellio scaber)

Not many mammals are out and about in the day, but they still leave their calling cards...

Likely the jaw bone of a Fallow Deer (Dama dama)

European Badger poop (Meles meles)

Tamworth x Gloucester Old Spot? 
Some lovely looking pigs, but introduced by humans so not counted as a record


In the end Mr Forward got to a respectable 29 bird species with the eventual addition of Moorhen, Mute Swan and Goldcrest (he refused to record the Feral Pigeon resident in a nearby dovecot as they were being sustained by supplementary feeding, therefore are not naturalised). 
   At 4pm the light was pretty much gone, so it was out of pure necessity that we continued our species indentifcations at the local pub.

Flashing our nature guides... Gonna need a bigger table

We got a wee bit told off by the bar staff for spreading out our extensive collection of mosses, ferns, fungi, lichens and live invertebrates. Still, they should be glad we didn't need to further examine that Badger poop...
   Still lots of 'detting' to be done of plants and mosses, but Brad reckons we will easily pass the 200 species mark!