Field Reports

Monday 4th July.  Kithurst Hill. A walk to look at Chalk Downland Plants, Birds and Butterflies

Leader David Hart

Fourteen Chi Nats members met in the far end of the car park on top of Kithurst Hill to be greeted by a yellowhammer singing from its territorial perch. This bird provided plenty of opportunities to be observed on top of its small tree. A buzzard was heard calling as we set off towards Kithurst Meadow and goldfinches were singing all around us from the treetops. It was a clear, sunny and beautiful day.

We spent quite some time slowly exploring the adjacent land to the meadow as it was full of wildlife, rich in both plant and insect species.  There was plenty of yellow rattle in this first area on both sides of the pathway. Other plants seen here including lady’s and hedge bedstraw, red clover, quaking grass, greater knapweed and pyramidal orchids. We also observed cinnabar moth caterpillars feeding on the ragwort.

We opened the gate and entered the meadow proper. There was a profusion of plants and butterflies and we walked slowly, noting all the richness within this area. Butterflies seen here included fritillaries (dark green or silver washed), marbled whites, small tortoiseshells, gatekeepers, meadow browns, skippers (small or Essex), ringlets and a possible Chalkhill Blue. At our feet was a glorious carpet of wildflowers such as bellflower, wild marjoram, low growing blackberry, eyebright, self-heal, black medick, red bartsia, scabious, bird’s foot trefoil, salad burnet, milkwort, common spotted orchid, perforated St John’s wort and taller plants including hemp agrimony, white valerian and hogweed.

Reluctantly we left the meadow to begin our walk along the South Downs Way and towards the picnic site. As we walked along, there were clear views of the sea on the South side of the path and a wide vista of valleys and hills to the North. Larks were singing as we entered a small copse and then we continued on the path towards the Bronze Age barrow which was our destination for our picnic. After a short climb we settled down to eat looking out towards the Amberley wetlands and Pulborough. Gliders were being towed into the air from nearby Parham and using the thermals to climb and circle. At our feet, the chalk hill downland provided more common spotted orchids, round headed rampion and rock rose. Other butterflies in this area were commas and red admirals; red tailed bumble bees were gathering pollen and nectar. The raven was calling and flew up and around trees to the South. Greenfinches, chiffchaff and common whitethroats were noted. Down in the valley, in the water meadows, behind a herd of grazing cattle, a small herd of fallow deer was spotted; dark skinned escapees from the main herd in Parham House.

After lunch, we carefully descended the tumuli and returned along the northern route back to the car park, noting one dead shrew at the junction! This pathway provides an alternate loop back before rejoining the South Downs Way. It was hot walking along with the sun on our backs.  Finally we said our ‘goodbyes’ back in the car park and the yellowhammer was still there on its perch.

  Many thanks to David for leading this expedition and for providing such good weather and clear views (one of our previous attempts last year during covid restrictions had been very foggy with very limited visibility).

  Birds seen or heard: yellowhammer, buzzard, goldfinch, linnet, wood pigeon, blackbird, skylark, chaffinch, raven, kestrel, greenfinch, chiffchaff, common whitethroat, female pheasant, dunnock, red kite.

  Other plants observed along the path: red poppies, spear thistle, old man’s beard, cleavers, crosswort, burdock, silver weed, agrimony, crispy dock, nipplewort, wild basil, mallow, toadflax, mayweed, greater plantain, white clover, red campion, speedwell, tufted vetch, rosebay willowherb, scarlet pimpernel, germander speedwell, herb robert, chicory.

Viv Goodridge

Kithurst Hill July 2022
ChiNATS members

Kithurst Hill July 2022
Yellowhammer

Kithurst Hill July 2022
Marbeld White


 


 

 

Kithurst Hill July 2022
Close inspection by the group.
Kithurst Hill July 2022
Small Tortoiseshell on Common Valerian
Kithurst Hill July 2022
Pyramidal Orchid
 
Kithurst Hill July 2022
A buzzard soaring overhead

Chichester, West Sussex

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