Thursday, 30 August 2007

Sea level changes and protection

The Environment Agency & DDC have issued a consultation document about the best ways to manage the coastal defences from Pegwell to Kingsdown, with submissions required before October 12th :

The preferred options for the Kingsdown area are:

Walmer Castle, Kingsdown and Oldstairs BayMaintain
The preferred option has been selected since this option would prevent erosion and loss of property, and is the most cost-effective and environmentally acceptable solution.

MoD Rifle Range – Managed realignment The preferred option is Managed Realignment. This would provide the maximum environmental benefit, restoring the coastline towards a more natural process. This option is dependent on further analysis of the site and the availability of funding and intentions of the land owner, who will be responsible for implementation of this option.

The map below estimates the areas threatened by flooding if sea levels rise to a certain level - clearly Thanet will become an island again, and much of Deal and Sandwich will disappear.

As I live on a hill, I say: 'Let them sink' but that's probably not a broadly-held view. [Oh OK, Deal and Sandwich are lovely towns, and should be protected]

During the quiet times on Deal pier (in between the hectic recording of huge numbers of birds flying past ahem) I have wondered what the piece of equipment on the end of the pier did - I assumed it was probably something to stop shipping colliding with the thing in fog.

But no.... measures the size of each wave - and the results are used by the Channel Coastal Observatory ( to provide information for development of strategic shoreline management plans, coastal defence strategies and operational management of coastal protection and flood defence.

As previously reported, this August had some rough seas driven by NEasterly gales, and this is shown on their graph:

Perhaps the equipment could double as a bird recorder, to reduce the time spent at the end of the pier in the cold winds of winter? But why should we be deprived of that pleasure?

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Oak bush cricket

This and other Oak Bush Crickets were found in my car, after loading bags of pruning from our garden Holm Oak and leaving them there overnight, before disposal at the dump.

The Oak Bush-cricket is nocturnal and usually not noticed during the day. At night it becomes active and is attracted to lights and so may be found in houses, on windows and under street and other bright lights.
It is almost entirely carnivorous, feeding on smaller invertebrates. Females can often be found on tree trunks looking for suitable egg-laying sites, during late evening. The females lay their eggs in crevices in tree bark. The eggs over winter and the nymphs emerge in June of the following year becoming adult in late July or August.

This species does not have a normal song but drums on leaves with a hind foot. It is just about audible to humans at about 1 m. So that's what keeps me awake at night.

Cliff-nesting Martins

There was plenty of avian activity on the cliffs beside the rifle range in the bright morning sunlight. The usual residents were seen - feral pigeons, jackdaws, crows, whitethroats, rock pipits, kestrels and house martins have all been here through the summer and hopefully have bred successfully.
The fulmars have now departed for the open sea, and will return in the late winter to choose nesting sites.

These cliffs hold one of only two House Martin cliff nesting sites in Kent, and the later youngsters are still in the nests - it seemed that the rest of the flock was trying to encourage them out today.

There are fewer nests on houses these days, which is a shame as they were considered lucky in the days of my youth(!). Now, in the B&Q age, our houses are expected to be pristine inside and out, so martins' nests are routinely destroyed. Perhaps the lack of muddy puddles (also tidied up) prevents the birds from building in our neat suburbs.

Sunday, 26 August 2007


This Grey Seal bobbed around off Kingsdown this morning, checking what was happening on the beach.
Grey seals have flatter heads than Common Seals, which look more 'puppy-like'. The Greys tend to be found more around rocky coasts, while the Commons prefer sandy shores, and consequently it is usually the latter that are seen around Kent, especially hauled up on the banks of the Stour estuary or on the Goodwin Sands.

The photos of Common Seals (below) were taken in September last year from a boat on a SBBO trip.

The NBN survey maps show the different sightings of the two species:- first the Grey Seal with a presence in (for example) Cornwall but not the Wash, and second the Common Seal, vice versa.
Grey Seal sightings

Common Seal sightings

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Life has a porpoise

At last, the cold wet weather has passed, leaving warm sunshine, and for a Bank Holiday weekend too. A stroll along the cliffs was needed, so I walked to my usual lookout at Hope Point.


A couple of young kittiwakes were the best of the birds flying south, but I was rewarded by the local porpoise slowly passing along the coast. As it's now a regular here, I expect it has a nickname?
Soon afterwards, a pair of kayakers passed by, presumably making for St Margaret's Bay - the older of the two looked like he was struggling into the wind - porpoise food perhaps?

Small Whites enjoying the warmth

A tatty Magpie

A view from the golf course towards the village

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Deal Pier in August

The pier master said he'd never seen such a North-easterly gale in August, and he should know - he's worked on the pier for 12 years and with his father on the fishing boats before that.

The grey sea and howling wind looked like winter, but in fact it was about 18 degrees C so trying to watch birds from the end of the pier was not uncomfortable. The shelter below is where birders congregate on days like this (usually in the colder months) protected from all but easterly winds and rain. It is in fact the entrance to the disabled toilet but it makes a great shelter. The pier's buildings are to be demolished in November and a separate cafe and toilet block will be built, so we hope that a similar shelter is provided.

There was a movement of birds northwards into the teeth of the wind this evening, including Common and Sandwich terns (the former singly, the latter in noisy parties), three Curlews, four small indeterminate dark waders, two kittiwakes and a couple of cormorants. A Common Scoter was sitting on the water, the first of the season for me.

This tally is nothing compared with the impressive sightings of gannets, terns, skuas and shearwaters elsewhere in Kent today, but there will hopefully be more tomorrow morning.
The evening was brightened up by the sight of three Turnstones on the pier, including Stumpy, the resident over the last three years, who is well known to the fishermen and trippers.


Sunday, 19 August 2007

Trip to Ireland

Our family holiday this year was to the west coast of Ireland, with a few days in Dublin. The area of Clare was chosen to match the various interests of the family (sea, surf and wildlife).

Much of the county consists of the Burren, a landscape of limestone pavements that reach from the hilltops to the sea, and with a mild climate this provides a variety of habitats for a huge range of plants (and not a few insects).

The first interesting bird to be seen was a Hooded Crow, in a housing estate in the city of Limerick, but they proved elusive for photographing until a couple were found on the dock of a bay.
The hollows made in the limestone by water over the ages (grykes, I believe) hold small specimens of a huge variety of plants, and even in the rain a clamber over the rock provides endless fascination.
Wood Sage

Harbells by a mossy clint

Maidenhair Spleenwort

Fragant orchid, flowering late near acid-loving heathers


The number one target species was the Grayling butterfly, and one flew in front of me near the coast at Doolin, settling on part of the pavement and blending into the mottled rock.

The weather was not condicive to butterfly-finding (nor indeed to surfing, swimming or sunbathing) but I noticed that Green-veined and Wood Whites were far more frequent than the common British whites, and although Meadow Browns were frequent, not a single Gatekeeper was seen.
Dark Green Fritillary

Carline Thistle

A cute type of Scabious was common, with flower-heads of about an inch diameter, and with three heards to a stalk.

Visits were made to the top and (by boat) the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher but most of the nesting seabirds had flown, leaving only a few rafts of Kittiwakes and some family parties of Shags [note - what is the collective noun for shags?]

A handful of Choughs patrolled the visitor centre at the cliff-top, looking out-of-place away from the rugged landscape that they normally frequent.

Also out of its normal habitat, a Rock Pipit used this boat as a perch.

Does anyone want to buy some suncream? Unused, honest!

New species at Lydden

A walk around the first field of the Lydden reserve this morning produced a good variety of butterflies, despite threatening rain, cloud and a cooling breeze. If anywhere near home was going to have butterflies in this weather, Lydden is the place.

I managed to add two new species to my life list (my life has been long, my list is not). The beautiful Adonis Blue was one, the males showing themselves to be spectacularly different to Chalkhill Blues when they fly.

The other new species was the Silver-Spotted Skipper, fluttering like a moth over the short chalkland plants.

I was expecting (well, hoping) to see these two new species, but the sight of a Great Green Bush Cricket was a surprise.