Richard Austin - AONB Manager
The results are in and it's official! The Met Office has reported that December 2015 was a record-breaking month - the wettest and warmest since records began in 1910.
You may have noticed how this unseasonal warmth has disrupted the natural world. Plants have been flowering at bizarre times; possibly thinking that spring is on its way. However, with the frosty weather we had in January, these plants may have suffered and may not flower again when spring officially arrives.
As insects feed on flowers, this could be bad news for them too - and rest of the micro-ecosystem.
We can't be entirely sure why December was a record-breaking month but, it shows that our climate is changing and we may see more weather like this in decades to come. Our understanding of climate change is based on meteorological data collected over a long period and, in this issue of CHIRP, I'll be looking at what the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (or COP 21) means for Chichester Harbour, now and in the future.
National News - National archaeology project nominated for prestigious award
She is working with volunteers to record archaeology around the shoreline of Chichester Harbour as part of this national Heritage Lottery Funded project, and she needs your votes.
Please vote for the project before Monday 8th February - select Rescue Dig of the Year and click MOLA Coast to coast.
We have also contributed £4,000 towards a local CITiZAN archaeology project - ‘Understanding the History of Salt Working in Chichester Harbour' - through our Sustainable Development Fund.
Local News - Defra Minister visits Chichester HarbourThe Rt Hon. Liz Truss MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited Northney Farm, Hayling Island on 22nd January to find out about the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and listen to the views of local people on matters of importance to them.
Alan Mak MP invited the Minister to visit his Havant constituency and included a visit to Northney Farm. She was very impressed with how the farm has diversified from a traditional dairy farm, by adding a successful Tea Rooms and making and selling its own brand of delicious ice-cream! Both use milk from the farm and have helped to make it more sustainable.
A wide range of topics were discussed during the visit, starting with the impact of milk prices on farming and the importance of safeguarding British food. Local people then took the opportunity to share their concerns about the national coastal trail and how businesses and wildlife might be negatively impacted by these plans.
The Minister noted that 1.5 million people already visit Chichester Harbour every year, so plans for a further 10,000 houses in Havant Borough by 2029 may result in increased instances of recreational disturbance, which is one of the biggest threats to the AONB.
She was pleased to hear about our commitment to raise awareness of the special qualities of Chichester Harbour and to encourage everyone to help look after this important natural asset.
Can you help us to spread the word?
Maria Court - Communications Officer
Gillian Edom, Activities Leader, is coordinating the distribution of the Guided Walks and Activities Leaflets and the Chichester Harbour News and Guide around the Harbour. These are generally located in busy places and need restocking now and again.
If you're interested in helping with this, please contact Gillian on email@example.com and she can give you more details. She has volunteers for some places so please don't be disappointed if your area is already covered.
Photo: paul gy/Natural England
Can you help nesting birds this spring?
James Parkin - Farming & Wildlife Officer
For those of you who missed the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch in January, there's another opportunity to help resident birds this spring.
The British Trust for Ornithology's Nest Box Week runs from 14th to 21st February, which is when garden birds will be looking for a place to build their nest.
If you want to help House Sparrows and Starlings, place nest boxes under the eaves or at least 2-4m height. Sparrows nest in loose colonies so place 2 to 3 boxes a metre apart.
We have a bat and bird box making event during half term, see Judi's article below for details.
COP21: Towards A Low Carbon AONB
Richard Austin, AONB Manager
More than 190 countries came together on 12th December, to adopt the most ambitious climate change treaty in history. The ‘Paris Agreement' established a long term, durable, global framework to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
For the first time, all countries are committed to setting ambitious targets and reporting on their progress using a rigorous, standard approach. This new framework will see countries working together to keep global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius, with an ambitious vision to go even further.
Back here in Chichester Harbour, I watched with interest as our family of protected areas, covering 24% of the country, will need to play a major role in helping the UK to achieve and surpass its targets.
In the AONB, we can help in several ways. Experts say that turning unused farmland into woodland can help to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We are committed to our annual tree planting programme and will be on the look-out for suitable sites around the Harbour. We also need to safeguard good public access, so where coastal footpaths erode, we will endeavour to repair the damage and retain the network.
Harbour communities, businesses and sailing clubs can also help by reducing their carbon footprint. Good communication is key in our journey towards a low carbon AONB. If we encourage each other and work together, collectively, we can make a difference. Sustainability continues to be an important principle for Chichester Harbour Conservancy - between now and 2020, and beyond, we will do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint.
For more details about COP21, click here.
Lots to do in February!
Judi Darley - Communities Officer
February is busy here in the Harbour - full of activities, with exciting family events at half term.
It's World Wetlands Day on Tuesday 2nd February, and we're celebrating with a bird watching walk at East Head, led by John Arnott. On Friday 5th February, the Harbour Creekies will join Gillian Edom for a gentle walk along the shoreline and around the ponds at Emsworth. The popular birds and boats appliqué session at Dell Quay on 6th February is already fully booked.
During half-term week, we're running an Egg and Shell Hunt for Families on Monday 15th, building bird and bat boxes on Tuesday 16th, and making art from flotsam and jetsam on Wednesday 17th. We've also got our Winter Wildlife Day for Families at Northney Farm on Thursday 18th, which will include a treasure hunt and tractor trailer rides.
On Friday 26th, Judi Darley, whose family have lived and worked in the Harbour area for generations, will be reflecting on the last 100 years in the Harbour at a special event for the Friends of Chichester Harbour.
Finally, the Harbour Hares for keen walkers will be meeting at Dell Quay on Saturday 27th February. If you wish to join in, click here for more details.
A helping hand for wildlife
Steve Lawrence, Planning Officer
The Solent Recreation Mitigation Partnership, of which the Conservancy is a partner, has recently appointed two Rangers, Karima Englefield and Charlotte Belcher, to help implement the project.
The project was initiated following research by Footprint Ecology to assess the increased impact on birds and other wildlife from recreational disturbance by new residents along the Solent coastline (250km).
Developers are required to pay £174 per new dwelling towards mitigation as part of the planning process. This amount will be reviewed to keep pace with inflation. The money has been used to fund the new Rangers, who will work both on the mainland and the Isle of Wight, to patrol the coast and engage with visitors and residents to encourage positive behaviours - especially among dog walkers - to reduce the impact on birds and other wildlife.
The new Rangers will work alongside our own Harbour Rangers, Georgie and Keith, to help monitor the coastline.
Taking the Harbour into schools
Jane Latawski - Education Officer
In January, we visited Mill Rythe Infant School to give a presentation about the Harbour, its wildlife and why people enjoy visiting.
Some of the audience kindly helped out during the talk and we finished with an action packed sing along and lots of clapping. After the presentation, the children asked some interesting questions - some of which stumped us! This one in particular, "How many fish are there in Chichester Harbour?"
Our aim is to raise awareness of the beautiful landscape and wealth of wildlife that we have on our doorstep and to encourage children to spend some time in the Harbour with their families.
If you would like more information about our new Outreach sessions for schools, please contact me on 01243 789173. The presentations and KS2 workshop are free of charge to local schools.
A new season with the Friends of Chichester Harbour
Nicky Horter - Countryside Officer (job-share)
With the New Year, we start our new programme with the Friends of Chichester Harbour, offering weekly conservation sessions from January through to March.
We look forward to welcoming lots of new members who have made it their New Year resolutions to get active in the Harbour! We have a great variety of tasks and locations this season, with tree planting, scrub clearance and beach cleans, from West Wittering all the way round to Hayling Island.
We're excited to begin work on our new site at Nutbourne Farm, where we will be clearing scrub and planting hedgerows ready for cattle to begin grazing later in the year. So if you've been thinking about getting out and volunteering in the Harbour, now is a great time to join us!
Click here to find out more
Protecting footpaths for the future
Keith Rathbone - Countryside Ranger
Over the past few months, we have been working closely with one of our landowners here in Itchenor regarding some improvements to an area of the land that we lease to provide a coastal path. We made a plan to get volunteers out to the remote site near Rookwood to clear some scrub and plant a new hedgerow.
The landowner kindly cleared a small area of bramble on a section of land that is being eroded by the sea and, with the help of 31 volunteers from the Friends of Chichester Harbour, we planted a new hedgerow there to help strengthen to bank just above the eroded section. As this is a popular footpath, we are committed to keeping accessible now and in the future.
We would like to wish our Planning Officer, Linda Park all the best as she leaves us for a year's maternity leave. Steve Lawrence, who shares the role with her, will continue to deal with planning matters in the Harbour while she's away.