Harbour CHIRP - April 2016

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Welcome and introduction

Richard Austin - AONB Manager

Welcome to the April edition of Harbour CHIRP! We're delighted to launch our new look Activities & Boat Trips programme this month. It's packed with things to do between now and September.

There's lots to do in April - our second annual Duck Race is on Tuesday 5th April, followed by Little Cockles on Thursday 7th. On Friday 8th, we're running an Introduction to Fishing and on Saturday 9th, there's a talk on Boating in Chichester Harbour, followed by a Boatyard Photography course on Sunday 10th.

Our guided walks start on Friday 1st April with Harbour Creekies (a gentle stroll from Dell Quay to Fishbourne) and on Saturday 23rd, the Harbour Hares (more experienced walkers) will view the Harbour from Kingley Vale. Finally, for all the early risers out there, we'll be out listening to the Morning Bird Song at North Common from 7.30am on Saturday 30th.

We hope that Solar Heritage will be back in action soon, after some recent maintenance work.

Full details of all our events can be found here or you can always give us a call on 01243 512301.

Photo: Jacob Spinks/ Natural England

National News - RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2016: The Results

The results of this year's Big Garden Bird Watch are hot off the press - a whopping 8,262,642 birds were counted nationally! The Blackbird was the most widespread, appearing in 88% of gardens. However, their numbers have declined since the first Bird Watch in 1979.

Chichester Harbour straddles West Sussex and Hampshire and, in these two counties, the Top 10 birds (Blackbird, Blue Tit, Collared Dove, Dunnock, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Magpie, Robin, Starling and Woodpigeon) were the same - but not in the same order.

More, smaller birds, such as Long-Tailed Tits, Coal Tits and Goldcrests were counted and this may be due to a mild January, helping them to survive this winter. Mild weather also meant that natural food sources were plentiful, but it's clear these birds still rely on the food we put out in our gardens so the RSPB have asked everyone to keep up the good work!

Click here to find out more about how to adapt your garden to benefit wildlife.


Local News - Clearing up after Storm Katie

Storm Katie left a trail of destruction across the south coast earlier this week and we were called out after a tree fell onto the Salterns Way at Itchenor. The large oak tree had broken in two places and part of it had also fallen across the footpath, along with another oak, near Itchenor Memorial Hall. Two contractors helped our Ranger, Georgie to remove the trees and make the footpath and cycle path safe.

In Cobnor, the sea washed across our new footpath, taking the top layer off in some places and parts of the sea defences were strewn across the shore. The footpath is safe but it's such a shame as it was only updated in November.

Nutbourne Waters in 19th century

Photo supplied by Malcolm Macdonald

Cattle set to return to Nutbourne Waters after two decades

James Parkin - Farming & Wildlife Officer

We are working with Natural England, the Friends of Chichester Harbour and our tenant farmer, Simon Sprackling, to reintroduce cattle on eight hectares of grassland in Nutbourne.

Over 2.5 km of fencing is being installed by the farmer to contain the cattle and there will be no public access. The fence will also prevent dogs from disturbing roosting and nesting birds - dog walkers can still use the public footpath.

The grassland is within the Chichester Harbour Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Protection Area (SPA) and has not been grazed for two decades so it is very long and only consists of coarse grasses. Roosting waders and wildfowl prefer a shorter sward so grazing this area will help them too.

The hedgerow along the border also had some large gaps, so volunteers from the Friends of Chichester Harbour have planted 150 metres of native species, with more planting planned this winter.

Watch this space for further updates!


Local News - Grants for Rural Development

LEADER is a Europe-wide mechanism for encouraging sustainable development through local communities and businesses. It delivers part of the Rural Development Programme for England and focuses on providing financial support and advice for micro-enterprise development, sustainable farming, woodland management, tourism and sustainable communities.

Between 2015 and 2020, £1.5 million is available to allocate to projects in the Sussex Downs and Coastal Plain LEADER area, which includes Chichester Harbour AONB.

Applications must be for at least £2,500 and no more than £50,000. The average grant will typically be around £18,000. Grants will usually be limited to a maximum of 40% of the project's eligible costs and the remaining funds will need to be from other sources, for example, a different grant distributor or from your own savings.

Please get in touch with the LEADER delivery team at West Sussex County Council to find out more.


Win tickets to sail on ‘Terror' for her 125th anniversary

Judi Darley - Communities Officer

Victorian oyster boat, Terror, will celebrate two anniversaries this year. She was first launched in Emsworth 125 years ago and it is 10 years since she was re-launched after a two year restoration.

Terror belongs to the Conservancy but her care and daily operation was handed over to a dedicated group of volunteers (a sub-group of the Friends of Chichester Harbour) last autumn. Her first year in their hands was a great success as they covered her costs for the first time.

Emsworth Museum asked the volunteers if they would like a temporary exhibition for Terror when they opened in April and this is a really lovely way to start her anniversary celebrations. The exhibition is open every weekend until Sunday 17th April so do find time to visit and enter the draw to win two free tickets for a trip on Terror this summer!

Why not support her and book a trip this summer? She is based at Emsworth Yacht Harbour and can take six passengers. Tickets are £20 for two hours (£16 for members of the Friends of Chichester Harbour). Phone 01243 377727 to book.


A busy March...

Jane Latawski - Education Officer

March has been a busy month for the Education Centre. We've hosted lots of field trips in the Harbour and outreach sessions in local schools. We've also welcomed groups of A level Biology and Geography students.

Students from Godalming College spent a week with us, looking at sand dune formation, followed by Freman College, who worked with us for four days to complete their Biology practical exams and an intensive programme of Ecology field studies.

We're very pleased to announce that Sarah Chatfield has been appointed as Education Assistant to help with the planning and delivery of our Education Service.

Sarah is an experienced and talented field studies teacher who, alongside this new role, will also continue as a team teacher at the Centre during the busy spring and summer months.

Click here to find out more.


New lease of life for wheelchair path at North Common

Nicky Horter - Countryside Officer

Works to improve the wheelchair path at North Common on Hayling Island have now finished.This popular path was built 10 years ago with Heritage Lottery funding and had become narrow and uneven in places.

We hope the lovely new path will be enjoyed by walkers, wheelchair users and families with pushchairs, who can stop and admire the beautiful view at the two benches provided by Havant Borough Council.

Why not join us for one of our guided walks around the Harbour?


Trustees visit the Harbour to discuss water quality

Judith Meagher - Countryside Officer

Richard Craven and I hosted a visit for the trustees of the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust last month. This was the first time they had visited the Harbour and we spent time discussing water quality and how it is affected by the rivers and streams feeding into it.

I accompanied them to the River Ems in the morning, where I saw the work that has been carried out to restore this lovely chalk river by changing its shape, increasing flows and improving fish passage. A cattle crossing was also installed to minimise damage from cattle grazing.

The Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water funded the work and the Sussex Wildlife Trust and Natural England supported the project.

After lunch, the trustees enjoyed a trip on Solar Heritage and they will now bear the Harbour in mind when planning future projects.


Do you know what this is?

Last month, we asked if anyone knew what this strange object was. Did you guess what it is and what it is used for?

Well, it's called a Sky Quality Meter and it's used by astronomers to measure sky brightness! It measures the night sky in magnitudes per square arcsecond and, over the past few months, we've been using the meter to find out the best places to go star gazing in Chichester Harbour.

It's not just about finding somewhere pitch black though. A good place to see the night sky also needs to be relatively accessible and with good lines of sight.

We hope to designate the first Dark Sky Discovery Sites in Chichester Harbour later this year, after which, we'll add Star Gazing events to our regular activities programme.

Protecting our night skies is important for nocturnal animals, for our understanding of science and astronomy, for limiting light pollution, and for astro-tourism. Looking after them also supports the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation, strengthening the message that Chichester Harbour is well worth looking after.