Sunday, 27 December 2009

Christmas Past, Christmas presents

So did you have a good Christmas? What did Santa bring for you? Is it recyclable?

My first present was a fluttering firecrest at the bottom of the garden - seen clearly until a sparrowhawk cruised low across the lawn. This corner of Britain is good for firecrests but this was the first for the garden.
A male blackcap has been with us since the snowfall, and has occasionally been joined by a female and (once) another male.
He sits in a shrub by the feeders surveying the scene, chasing off any blue tits that may appear, then lands on the suet feeder and may spend minutes on it.
A sunny morning beckoned, so I walked around the Langdon cliffs area, including following the old railway track cut into the cliffs that linked Martin Mill station with Dover harbour. A hint to locals....the path does not go all the way down, so it's necessary to retrace one's steps.
It's a little used path (not surprisingly as it doesn't go anywhere) and with the protection of the cliff it's an interesting little ecosystem, with spring growth on plants that is further forward than elsewhere.
On of my presents was Britain's Rare Flowers by Peter Marren, recommended by Steve of the North Downs and Beyond blog. It's a good fireside read, and it inspires plans for later in the year. One plant that has been mentioned a few times already (in conjunction with Nottingham catchfly and early spider orchid) is wild cabbage, which is frequent between Folkestone and Sandwich, but which is considered rare on a national level.

Mr Marren makes the good point that 'a love of botany and a love of maps go well together.... where you can trace the occurrence of a plant along the river valleys or observe its confinement to certain geological formations.'
By coincidence I was also given two OS maps of East Kent, one from 1816 and the other from 1898. The most obvious difference between the two is the black lines that show the spread of the railways:-
but although the Dover and Deal Joint Railway (1881) is shown on the 1898 map, the track down to the port is not, although it was built in 1897.


Warren Baker said...

Firecrest and Blackcap in the Garden! Blimey,.....

I bet those maps are interesting, but at the same time a bit sad to see how much countryside has been lost to urbanisation.

Steve Gale said...

Glad that you've got hold of the Peter Marren book. Trouble is, it will make you want to visit many, many places and target quite a few species - at least you live in a botanically rich part of Kent already. Happy reading!

Mary said...

Birds and books...great presents! I think everything can be recycled, if we would try harder.

Greenie said...

Steve ,
We seem to have the same number of Blackcaps in our gardens .
Our three are bossed about by the Chaffinches and Greenfinches .
Look forward to more revelations from your Christmas presents .

Kingsdowner said...

Warren. it's stunning to see the urbanisation, but is the blanket of agribusiness even worse? Discuss.

Steve, thanks again for the recommendation. Lizard, here we come!

Mary, you're right. We're not going to survive unless we act individually.

Fred, there will be no more revelations (although a review on a reusable handwarmer may be posted in due course).

Charlie P said...

Firecrest in the garden is indeed a wonderful Christmas present. If only that was recyclable - it's only happened to me once, when I lived in Sutton Valence. I'd returned from a fruitless walk through the allotments and was coming back through the garden when one appeared above the compost heap. Happy days...

Happy New Year Steve!