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.