We spoke to Polly Mair and Sue Robinson in their Seaford garden
Tell me a bit about yourselves
I’m 67 and retired over two years ago from the NHS after 35 years working as a mental health nurse. Prior to that I was a gardener. I lived in Surrey most of my life and moved to Sussex in 1993. I’ve had a lifelong interest in birds and have been birding since the age of 11. Retirement has given me more time for nature and through photography my interest has widened into a love of butterflies, orchids, wildflowers and dragonflies.
Clouded Yellow at Pulborough by Polly
I’ve lived in Sussex since 1965 and turned 70 this year. I was a library assistant for 26 years. I’ve loved the natural world all my life, but when I was bringing up two sons, I didn’t really have time to indulge much in that or in photography. Digital cameras made it much easier - and cheaper!
I like being out and about but unfortunately I’m not as fit and able as I used to be, so am somewhat restricted. I tend to stay in the garden, or keep it local.
Blue Tit in the garden by Sue
How has lockdown been?
It has been largely ok. Sue has had to shield, but we’ve managed to get groceries delivered and help getting prescriptions. We’ve concentrated on the garden, though when Polly’s taking the dog for a walk she has some good sightings of wildlife and plants. (Polly) We don’t tend to be that social. (Sue) Ignore her. I’ve really missed seeing my sons and grandchildren and being able to give them a hug.
Lichen and autumn leaves in Friston Forest by Sue
What wildlife do you get in the garden?
We get a great variety. We’ve created a wildlife garden and have hedgehogs, foxes, slow-worms, a badger, squirrels and many species of birds. Our little pond is a fixed liner as past experience has taught us badgers dig their front claws through butyl as they lean over to drink. We have frogs, newts, water beetles and different damsel and dragonfly larvae. We provide drinking water in various places but the pond is also used by most of our wildlife.
Juvenile Brown Rats in the garden by Polly
We’ve got lots of hedgehogs living in and visiting our garden. We have two hog houses and a hedgehog feeding station. Kinsey [their dog] alerted us to a hoglet out in the sun on the hottest day of the summer, then suddenly found two more. All were rescued by WRAS and two, now up to weight, have already come home. The last one will come back when she is also up to a safe weight.
Baby Hedgehog. 'Our first garden rescue' by Sue
We feed our birds every day, year-round. We get some super birds in the garden. We have all the common garden birds and frequently have Sparrowhawks zooming through, Common Buzzards over and a day of five Red Kites drifting east. Seaford Head is on the migration route and we’ve even had a Ring Ouzel on its way south. We've also had Common Redstart, Brambling, Pied Flycatcher as well as three Hawfinches during an irruption a couple of years ago.
Thank you for your support of the trust over the years as members.
We believe in what Sussex Wildlife Trust does, taking care of wildlife, the local countryside etc, so we want to support it.
Tell me about your wildlife photography and social media
It’s about capturing a moment in time and sharing what we see. Some people don’t have gardens or may not even know about the wildlife that lives alongside all of us. Social media is great because one can learn so much from other people’s photos.
Sue: I couldn’t enjoy photography casually when it involved the cost of film processing and carrying heavy equipment. Now I can. It’s much more relaxed and I don’t worry if I don’t get it right first time! It makes me look more closely at things. I’ve discovered creatures in the garden that I didn’t know existed. It’s like having our own mini nature reserve.
Water Vole, Mill Road, Arundel, by Sue
Polly: I’ve dabbled in photography over the years, but I only really took it up since retirement. I’ve had more time to focus this year. We part exchanged all our heavy camera equipment, and switched to a different system that’s lighter and easier to use. It’s an age thing!
Humming Bird Hawkmoth in the garden by Polly
Pick a favourite photo and tell us about it.
Cionus hortulanus weevil on Buddleia leaf
This might seem an odd choice. It’s an oldie, but definitely a favourite. I gave it the title, “JUMP? You’re JOKING. You aren’t? Oh...”. But the humour is just one aspect. For me, it goes back to the beginning of discovering garden wildlife. There was so much I hadn’t ever noticed and coming across all the mini-beasts was exciting and absorbing.
Spiked Rampion (Phyteuma spicatum)
It was only last year I first learned about Spiked Rampion [one of the rarest plants in the UK, thriving in some parts of East Sussex]. I saw a photo and felt an immediate connection. Through social media I learned where to find this rare, beautiful flower and was lucky enough to see and photograph many plants. It’s also known as Rapunzel, from the fairy story of the same name.