A list of this year's events is now on the Events section of this website. Please note that the cost of each event is now £4 to non members but free to members. For details of Membership and Events, please contact Jan on 01424 715556
When walking around the Country Park it is always interesting to notice changes in the landscape, whether from seasonal change or management intention. The effects that have stemmed from the introduction of conservation grazing in Warren Glen are becoming well established now that the Exmoor ponies have been resident for two and a half years, accompanied first by White Park cattle and now by Belted Galloways. Not so long ago that area looked like monocultures of either gorse or bracken, but it now has a more patchwork appearance that enriches the Glen. Over the past few months it has been fascinating to look more closely in order to see some other enrichment of this wonderful landscape. Visitors may well notice that the conservation grazing has resulted in a fair bit of dung, but how many visitors see this as new habitat? Where there is dung there ought to be dung beetles but it takes more than a cursory glance to see them. Initial investigations have identified 19 species of dung beetle in the grazed areas thus far, plus an additional 5 species of water scavenger beetles that live in dung yet are not dung beetles. On top of that there have been a lot of Rove beetles that I shall happily leave for someone else to identify! Two of the dung beetle species that have been found are Nationally Scarce. Another two species are very important bat food (and this gives scope for bat surveys in that area). Dung beetles effectively fall into three categories: there are the big Geotrupids (12-26mm), burrowing beetles that can dig a burrow over a metre deep and provision it with dung for the larva (the Dors and Minotaurs), then there are the Onthophagus beetles, native true scarabs (4-11mm) and the Aphodius beetles (3-12mm) that do not burrow deeply but live in dung and their large larvae live in it and on it. So far the Country Park tally has 3 Geotrupids, 2 Onthophagus and 14 Aphodius species. The significance of dung beetles ought not be underestimated. In the UK there are 100 species of Scarabaeoidea, which includes the Dung Beetles, Chafer and Stag Beetles. Over half of these are dependent on dung. As part of the on-going Species Status Assessment Project (conducted by Natural England in collaboration with Buglife) a review of the scarce and threatened Dung Beetles and Chafers has been organised by a team based at the Oxford Museum of Natural History. Preliminary results indicate an alarming decline in our Dung Beetle fauna. Just over 25% of UK Dung Beetles are ‘Nationally Rare’ and four species look to have become extinct in the past 50 years. The Status Assessment Project also highlighted the lack of modern records for many of the rare species and noted that many areas of the UK are severely under recorded. There’s no doubt that Dung Beetles are an important group of insects, particularly for the agricultural environment. Research has estimated that dung beetles save the UK cattle industry £367 million per year. They provide all sorts of ecosystem services, including ‘dung removal’ and others you may not be aware of. For instance, they reduce gastrointestinal parasites of livestock, and nuisance flies, and play a key role in improving soil condition through aeration and nutrient recycling. If you are intrigued by this article and wonder what to look out for when enjoying the Country Park (but don't wish to get your hands dirty) here is a starting point. If you see a burrow hole of around half an inch diameter next to a deposit of dung, whether that dung is from rabbit, sheep, pony, cattle or dog, and if the burrow hole has some friable earth next to it, there is a very high likelihood that it is the burrow of a Dor Beetle or a Minotaur.
Species found thus far:
Article by Country Park Volunteer, Derek Binns
A Sussex Small Mammal Safari
A good turn-out of more than twenty Friends and guests enjoyed Laurie Jackson’s extremely informative talk last Saturday morning. Laurie introduced us to all the key small mammal species to be found in our county with beautiful illustrations of each. Luckily, however, she didn’t test our identification skills too closely at the end of her fascinating talk!
Laurie works for Buglife and she also carries out regular small mammal surveys for the Sussex Mammal Group. Her particular interests are harvest mice and hazel dormice and she was keen to encourage anyone with an interest in helping with both these and other small mammal surveys to contact her via the Sussex Mammal Group website:
There are no more Friends’ events this year but we will start our 2017 season with a talk by Andy Dinsdale on ‘Marine Pollution’ on Saturday 18th February. We look forward to welcoming you to both this and other Friends’ events next year.
BANK VOLE SCOTNEY NT
Join the Friends of HCPNR for a talk by Laurie Jackson of the Sussex Mammal Group to introduce us to a variety of the small creatures which inhabit our local countryside. Laurie conducts regular surveys of harvest mice and dormice throughout Sussex and is an enthusiastic and engaging speaker. This will be our last event of the year so we look forward to welcoming you before our winter break!
Date: Saturday 5th November at 10.30am
Venue: All Saints Church Hall, All Saints Street, Old Town, Hastings, TN34 3BP
Cost: £2, free to Friends of HCPNR
The Autumn Migration Watch Event Oct 8th
This annual event, led by Andrew Grace, is always well attended, this year 21 people joined him at 8 0’ clock for a walk around the Firehills. Despite a few spots of rain early on, the weather gradually improved, and the birds responded.
The highlight of this autumn so far had been the influx of Ring Ouzels all round the SE coast, including 100 or so in the Country Park. Remembering the 2013 event when we saw an amazing 205, we were anxious that participants should see these birds. [They breed in N Britain and Scandinavia, and are on their way to SE Europe and NW Africa].
Eventually we managed to see six, and hear their distinctive calls, together with other migrant thrushes-Song Thrush, Blackbird and Redwing.
A range of small migrants headed east , Swallows, House Martins, Pied Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Siskins and Linnets, amongst these was a real surprise , a Shorelark [or Horned Lark], flying west and seen only by me. This is a rarity in Sussex, and it was very pleasing to hear that Andrew caught up with it the next day at St. Leonards!
Autumn Migration Watch: Saturday 8th October
Join local ornithologist, Andrew Grace, for a gentle walk in the Country Park Nature Reserve to watch the annual spectacle of bird migration through this scenic area. Please bring binoculars if you have them and note the early start!
Meet outside the Country Park Visitor Centre at 8am
Regret no dogs.
Contact Jill Howell for further information on: 01424 815256
21 of us had a wonderful session of Tai Chi Qigong last Saturday 10th September.
It was a privilege to spend a wonderful hour in the beautiful Country Park under the leadership of Catherine Burnett.
Join the Friends for an open-air session of Tai Chi Qigong led by Catherine Burnett. This event is suitable for everyone - from beginners upwards - and will give a gentle taster of this therapeutic form of exercise.
Date: Saturday 10th September 2016
Time: 10.30am - 11.30am
Venue: Meet at the Country Park Visitor Centre
Cost: £2, free to Friends of HCPNR
Please note: Loose clothing and comfortable footwear are recommended; regret no dogs.
Further details from Jan Armour on 01424 715556; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve Bug Hunt - August 13th 2016 by Andy Phillips - Professional Naturalist & Ecologist
The Friends put on another successful event at Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve with its well attended bug hunt led by Jill Howell and Alan Parker on Saturday 13th August. Bug hunts are always good fun for any age and any level of knowledge of insects and spiders and this event was no exception.
It was a sunny but windy morning on Saturday and an enthusiastic group of budding and experienced entomologists searched the Horseshoe Car Park & Quarry for it’s resident invertebrate population. Hastings Country Park Nature Reserve is a very important site both locally and nationally for invertebrates and Horseshoe Quarry is one of the most flower rich areas of the reserve away from the undercliff. A good diversity of wild-flowers, and its nectar and pollen resource, equals a great diversity of invertebrates.
[Roesel’s bush-cricket photo]
If it wasn’t for the wind the soundscape would have been dominated by the many Roesel’s bush-crickets singing amongst the meadow and scrub areas of Horseshoe. Roesel’s bush-cricket was one of two nationally scarce species recorded, the other being a single Larinus planus weevil on creeping thistle.
Only a few years ago both of these species were very rare in Sussex now both species are commonly found amongst rough meadow between Hastings and Camber.
The great majority of the insects found were typical of late summer meadow species including mainly mirid bugs such as common green capsid Lygocoris pabulinus, and hoverflies such as Myathropa florea and Eristalis intricarius nectaring from late summer flowering black knapweed and fleabane. Also lots of mid instar gorse shieldbug nymphs and late instar bishop’s mitre shieldbug nymphs dropped into many of our sweep nets used to find invertebrates amongst the vegetation.
[Common spiny digger-wasp photo]
As well as meadow and scrub habitats Horseshoe Quarry also has probably one of the best patches of free sand nesting habitat for aculeates (bees, ants and wasps with stings) within the reserve and a good population of the common spiny digger-wasp Oxybelus uniglumis was present. This is a very unusual solitary wasp as it transports its prey around attached to its sting rather than holding prey with its legs. This is an adaptation to avoid parasitic attacks on its nest stores and larvae as it has its legs free to open up the nest burrow which it blocks closed when hunting.
[Solitary wasp nesting habitat photo]
The list of identified species during the bug hunt is included below:
Grasshoppers & Bush-crickets
Butterflies & Moths
Solitary Wasp Habitat