Over the weekend we ran our annual Secret Wildlife Festival at The Secret Campsite near Barcombe. Campsite Manager Tim Bullen is passionate about wildlife and every year we take over the campsite and run a packed programme of wildlife activities.
On the first night we took the campers for a walk 'round the campsite looking for orchids, reptiles and other wildlife. We then set up a moth trap, put out some small mammal traps and hedgehog tunnels and set up our trail camera to try and discover what wildlife is around the campsite while we're sleeping in our tents.
When the sun went down we turned on our torches and bat detectors and found pipistrelles and glow-worms.
Next morning we gathered in the marquee to see whose mammal traps had been used overnight.
Eager campers with closed mammal traps were keen to see if anyone was at home inside and, as usual, we gave points to the species which we could find in the trap.
....although a giraffe seemed a bit ambitious (but probably worth the alloted 1,000,000,000 points).
This year Ryan and Michael went head to head in the mouse-off and we chose closed traps and added up our scores. It was a high scoring game this year with plenty of wood mice in the traps.
Ryan kept striking it lucky with wood mice, a yellow-necked mouse and even a bank vole and romped to victory
...beating Michael 101 points to 60. Then we gathered outside the marquee to open the moth trap.
The moth trap was rammed with moths including large emeralds, chinese characters, buff-tips and elephant hawkmoths.
But the highlight for Michael was his favourite moth - the amazing lappet.
After the moth trap we were led by Nick Lear into the beautiful Knowlands Wood which was alive with clouds of butterflies.
Along the woodland rides we also saw silver-washed fritillaries, purple hairstreaks and white admirals and Nick told us how he manages the woodland to make it a haven for wildlife.
Back at the camp the children joined Renzo, Jess, Nikki, Maria and David for bushcraft activities...
...or joined Ryan for some pond dipping (where we found the larvae of the great diving beetle).
In the evening we went on a dusk walk through the woods listening out for owls and found more bats back at the campsite.
Sunday morning was round two of the mammal trap openings and after yesterday's defeat Michael was keen to beat Ryan. But it was not off to a good start when Michael's first trap was empty and Ryan took the lead with a ninja wood mouse.
But then lady luck shined on him as, in the next trap he picked, Michael found a giraffe!
...which was a shock to everyone (especially Michael). With Michael now almost a billion points in the lead there was still everything to play for but despite pulling a few more mice out of the bag Ryan had to admit defeat.
The moth trap was busy again on Sunday and Bob from the Biodiversity Records Centre joined us to help record the moths. There were ruby tigers, lunar spotted pinions, beautiful hook-tips and a Brussel's lace in the trap but the highlight was Britain's biggest moth - the privet hawkmoth
...(modelled here by Evie). We then checked the hedgehog tunnels and found mammal footprints although they belonged to Tim's cat.
So after two nights of surveying with hedgehog tunnels all we had managed to prove was that Tim had a cat.
Next we all gathered in The Secret Cinema to view the trail camera footage
..and it seems we had kept one hungry fox very happy for the whole weekend.
The sun was blazing down now and some people had to take to the mud to cool off...
...while others joined in more bushcraft activities, bug hunts and butterfly walks before we all to say our sad farewells and return home.
A big thank you to every who came along and made this such an enjoyable weekend yet again. And a special thank you to SWT staff and volunteers who made it all work so well;
Ryan, Renzo, Maria, Jess, Clare, Bob, Nikki, David and Jasmine. And another thank you to Tim for hosting the weekend and managing his campsite for wildlife.