Posted 7 February 2014 by Andrew Gardner
West Sussex has the dubious accolade of being the UK's roadkill capital. That might be good news if you're into wild food, but not so good if you're the wildlife. What we don't know, though, is whether this is due to particularly bad driving in these parts or just that we have a lot of animals - or that their presence is efficiently recorded.
Conservation has a good record around here though, and it's nice to hear that Worthing has a new urban nature project. Wild About Worthing is about offering wildlife-related activities to different groups of local people, with two youth ranger groups and a strong focus on both activities and recording sightings. We hope it'll have a knock-on effect for visitors, with scope for involvement and more information becoming available about local fauna that you can spot on your holiday in Sussex.
Even in February there is already so much to see. This is the month when catkins - aka male hazel flowers - start to appear, and hazel is a tree that's traditionally played a key role in the landscape, with the strong, flexible poles it produces after coppicing having all sorts of uses from hedging and fencing to walking sticks, shepherds' crooks, fishing rods and even water diviners. Toads are already emerging from hibernation and migrating to their favourite ponds along habitual routes, often of several kilometres. Sadly they often need to cross busy roads and as they tend to be out at or after dusk, they are often run over. So if you're driving in Sussex please look out for them - and it's worth pulling over, as a mass toad migration is a sight worth seeing.
Up on the cliffs of East Sussex the first fulmars are returning to their nesting places among the rocks. Peregrines should be around too, and you might spot a gannet out to sea. Down on the shoreline, keen beachcombers can find tangled seaweed, husks from spider crabs and abandoned limpet shells - kids love to count the growth lines on those. We often find cuttlefish bones at this time of year, and occasionally even a starfish.
So whether you've chosen a cosy holiday cottage on the Weald or a luxury seafront apartment keep your eyes open, drive slowly and you'll be rewarded with plenty to see. Enjoy!