Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Granville Road

A glorious autumn morning, spoilt only by traffic jams on the way to work. Before that, however, a stroll along Granville Road beside the golf course had plenty of birds, flying south for a change as the wind has moved back to the west.

A party of half a dozen tiny Goldcrests flitted along a hedgerow, and amongst them were a couple of Firecrests, distinguished by their louder calls and bright eyestripes.

The colours of the hedgerow are mainly reds and yellows, but a single scabious provided some nice variety.

Monday, 29 October 2007


Briefly, the first arrival of Common Gulls was apparent this morning on Kingsdown beach, a dozen among 300-odd Black-Headed Gulls with a few Herring, Great and Lesser Black-backs.

Driving to Dover in mid-morning, there were two Buzzards circling over Oxney Bottom woods.

Another brief look at the rifle range (on a sunny morning with a chilly NW breeze) produced far fewer gulls, the pair of Stonechats, the female Kestrel, plenty of unidentified passerines flying north and a Short-Eared Owl. The owl was especially welcome as they were in short supply last year (I didn't see any). The local jackdaws half-heartedly mobbed it as it drifted south along the cliff-top.

At lunch time, it was approaching high tide in Thanet, which generally attracts me to Foreness. I arrived too late to see the gradual submerging of the rocks (the wind was onshore and the tidal spread quite large, leading to my miscalculation - better luck tomorrow) but the wader roost had gathered below the water works.
The count was 50+ Turnstones with many others still gallivanting along the shore, 43 Ringed Plovers, 190 Sanderlings in a white swathe and 9 Purple Sandpipers including one still on the concrete base of the pumping station.

Sunday, 28 October 2007


On a grubby dark day with no bird movement, a walk in the woods seemed a good idea. A favourite local wood is by Waldershare Park, beyond the church.
Apparently the original house (seat of the Earls of Guilford) burned down in 1913, but the painting shows what it looked like. The church survives, however, supported by the Churches Conservation Trust, and is well worth a visit as it combines a typical East Kent nave with two spectacular side chapels, dedicated to members of the Guilford family. Among the many memorials is:

In This Vault is intended to lye The Honourable Peregrine BERTIE second Son to Mountague, EARL OF LINDSEY, Lord Great Chamberlaine, of England; who was Volunteer at the famour Seige of Arras, in the Yeare 1654 under Marshall TUREN, and afterwards a Captaine of a Troop of Horse, in the EARLE OF OXFORD’s regiment, when KING CHARLES the 2nd was restored. His Father Mountague attended KING CHARLES THE FIRST, in all his Troubles, and in his Imprisonment in the Isle of Wight, and, at last, was one of the 4 Lords, who were loyall, not only unto, but after, Death; by attending his sacred Majestie to his Grave and giving him Xtian Burial, at Windsor, after his barbarous & horried Murder.

The churchyard holds two large yewtrees overshadowing the church itself.

The path from the church towards the park leads down to the wood, which has obviously been well managed in the past, and holds sweet chestnut (both standards and coppiced), an avenue of limes, a plantation of spruce and occasional oaks and Norway maples.

The dry leaves and fallen branches on a springy deep layer of leaf litter are a joy to walk on, and there are the first signs of autumn fungi starting to appear.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Colours of Autumn

The dogwoods, guelder rose and whitebeams of Kingsdown's chalk downland show well on Granville Road (leading to the ninth hole) at this time of the year.

Colours seem so bright on sunny autumn mornings that we are lulled into a false sense of security

Winter gulls

On a dark dank day in Thanet, one of the best places to be is Ramsgate Harbour, because at least the local birds are visible, even if they're not very exciting. These gulls were lined up on the inner harbour wall, waiting for a fishing boat to unload.

A cormorant was the most successful at fishing when I ws there, catching an eel and making a strange croaking sound when it was chased by a herring gull.


The day before, a walk around Botany Bay at high tide produced the usual waders, plus a pair of stonechats, a rock pipit and a tired grounded yellowhammer.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Weekend sightings

A lovely Autumn weekend gave a few intermittent birdwatching opportunities, but not many photos.

Friday afternoon after work was spent at the northern part of Pegwell Bay by the hoverport, watching the few birds that had not been scared away by a roaring motorbike. The pools held Redshanks, Turnstones and a couple of Grey Plovers, while the area at the water's edge by the cliffs held three Bar-tailed Godwits, a couple of Little Egrets and about 20 Brent Geese.
An hour on Saturday morning was spent on Ash levels near Goldstone farm (as the wife had coffee with the daughter). The hedgerows attracted many Redwings that seemed to fall out of the clear blue sky to feast on the berry-laden bushes. At the first corner were a handful of Tree Sparrows - the first I've seen in East Kent.

A stroll along Deal Pier in the afternoon just provided Maria with close views of the tame Turnstones.
Sunday morning sunshine reflected a little warmth off the cliffs along the Kingsdown rifle range, relieving some of the autumnal chill. The usual residents were in attendance (Rock and Meadow Pipits, pairs of Stonechats and Kestrels, Feral Pigeons and Robins), but surprises were in the shape of a Shag (I think - it certainly had no white on it) and a lone Fulmar -the first I've seen for over a month, and not expected to return until January.

Then on to the hide at Restharrow, where there were around 100 ducks - Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Tufted, three Little Grebes and a female Goldeneye.
Two Greenshanks roosted at the far side of the scrape, and two Dunlin pottered around the banks, giving good views and proving that they were not Little Stints (easy point of reference - stints have striped heads, while Dunlin don't). Three Stonechats were showing at the tops of shrubs as I left, but I didn't see the Bluethroat that was found nearby later in the day.

A good variety then, with a final addition of a Kingfisher during a walk through Loose valley on Sunday afternoon.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Loss of habitat!

There are extensive areas of seaweed-covered chalk around the Thanet coast (similar to those seen at low tide off Kingsdown). These rocks attract waders and gulls who roost and feed on them - when the tide comes in, of course, the rocks shrink and then are submerged, and this period a couple of hours before full tide becomes quite interesting.

These pictures show Turnstones, Knot and Purple Sandpipers watching their chosen rocks slowly sink beneath the waves.

Meanwhile, some Ringed Plovers are standing on a nearby 'island':

The Knot's latin name is Calidris Canutus - very appropriate in these photos. One of my first 'wow' moments in birding was seeing photos of waders on a rising tide at Hibre Island; one of my most recent such moments was watching (on TV) swirling clouds of knot at Snettisham.

Getting our feet wet - better move to higher ground.

That's it - I'm off!

Sunday, 14 October 2007


This week has seen substantial passerine migration, most notably of goldfinches but also of other finches, pipits and thrushes.
A welcome arrival to the rifle range has been a pair of Stonechats, and as the range usually hosts at least one pair each year I hope they will stay to brighten up the winter.

With their perky habit of seeking out high perches, their confident calls, and their invariable fidelity to each other they are a joy to see.

They spend so much time on rocks, fences and high twigs that it's hard to know when they actually eat - presumably they are not just looking out for danger, but also watching for passing bugs to eat.
Ringing recoveries have shown that British stonechats are 'partially migratory', with about half of them leaving the country. It would be interesting to know if pairs have been ringed and recovered, to prove that the male and female stay together over long distances.