Thursday, 24 February 2011

Turned out nice... at last

Yay, the first sign of spring for me is the blooming Coltsfoot - late this year, of course, but as we've had a run of south-westerlies in February I think that the season will catch up this year.

Yew are blooming too, the male flowers above on one tree, and the green female ones on the next tree. How romantic - standing side by side but destined never to touch. The female flowers are on the stem, by the way, and the flower-like growth at the tip is a Yew Gall Midge gall (Taxomyia taxi - thanks Claire!)

In the depths of the wood the slow-growing Butcher's Broom's tiny flowers briefly show, then if fertilised turn into ripe red berries.
The bugs were out today and I think this might be a solitary wasp - perhaps one of the multi-talented pan-listers can help?

Oare was lovely in the afternoon sunshine in good company - nothing special to be seen, but a Merlin and a Little Owl were perched on a bank, 119 Avocets swept the shallows of the creek, a Little Egret waded in a roadside pool and Golden Plovers glowed in the sun.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Yew suckers

Another grotty weekend, but not totally wasted (the weekend, not me) as I passed a morning clearing scrub from the Lynch, probably the only inland chalk downland left in the parish.
The 1930s OS map shows the Lynch as a mile of unwooded slope, where now almost all is scrub and trees.
The good news is that some of the trees are yews, which provide more interest than the ubiquitous sycamores and holm oaks. Ash keys, yew berries and wayfaring tree seeds are enthusiastically populating the last area of grassland while blackthorn and dogwood encroach by suckers. A little clearance is all that's needed to keep the last bit free of scrub, but it would be good to push it back with some heavy machinery.
A party of four goldcrests with six (British) long-tailed tits brightened the gloom, and even in the depths of winter there are still a few plants to lift the spirits, like salad burnet and carline thistle, with its apparently dead seed-head shut tight against the miserable weather.
Little more was encountered on a slippery muddy walk along the Lynch to Oxney Wood, apart from some untrained fighting dogs (don't worry, he won't hurt you).

Bird sighting of the day was a great spotted woodpecker surveying the village from the top of the church cross, while 31 nest-sites were occupied by fulmars along the cliffs over the rifle range - a higher number than in the past when 17-26 sites have been counted.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep

The best experience this weekend was when I was washing the car (bear with me on this) - a Coal Tit sang from a leafless shrub just six feet away from my ear, unafraid of my presence. His song included the usual Great-Tit-like teacher, as well as tumbling random phrases that put me in mind of that classic 70s track. For a few minutes, the dreariness of another dull weekend was banished.
[The photo above is from a few years ago - the sunshine shows it wasn't taken in 2011]
Some plants are struggling towards spring - Goat Willow (why goat - why not pussy?)
A few of the scattering of Moschatel plants near my back gate has started to put up their tiny flower stems; while the eagerly-sought first flowering of Coltsfoot at the bottom of the cliffs amounts to just one stalk - last year it was also late, appearing on Feb 27th whereas it was in full bloom on 18th and 20th January in 2008 & 2009.

The original fat Blackcap has left the feeders to his slimmer rival, distinguished by slight differences in its plumage (and a more svelte figure).

A walk along the beach to Walmer reminded me of the density of the alien invasion from the gardens onto the shingle. Holm Oak and Red Valerian plants and seedlings are ubiquitous, while others like Silver Ragwort and Red Hot Poker are currently confined to an area closer to the houses, but are spreading strongly.
"Native plants do not, as a rule, spread suddenly and rapidly all over the place " wrote Peter Marren, "nor do they normally shrink to vanishing point just as suddenly. A native plant should be more or less in balance with its wild environment."
It's clear that the age-old lichen and native plants are being out-competed by the incomers that have found a favourable climate on the beach.
The draft management plan by the White Cliffs Countryside project can be found here, and if supported it will enable us to protect at least some of the beach from invading species.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

The sun ain't gonna shine anymore...

With the wind back into the south-west, we've got thick cloud and drizzle. Most weekends. It could be worse - we could live in Australia. The least grim photograph was of Knot, Dunlin and Lapwings at Pegwell Bay where time passed watching the rising tide was complemented by good company, including Craig who provided information on the large numbers of slightly differently-toned gulls.

A female Merlin dashed across the mudflats every quarter of an hour, scattering gulls and waders but taking none of them - she landed after each foray beside a sign that read "No Landing". These raptors, eh? Think they own the place.

A new map website was found today-, with the Kent part in 1801 here.

On this map, the name Ringwould is part-way through its morph from Kingeswoulde. It must have been very confusing before standardisation, and looking up the village in an index must have been time-consuming.

Old Bottom and East Bottom are shown, but not Otty Bottom or Oxney Bottom. Residents might like to note that a grid has been shown between East Bottom farm and the village, where Kingsdown Hill and Victoria, Hillcrest and Queensdown Roads are now. I assume that these represent fields of cultivated land carved out of the downland.

Only one of the Northern Long-tailed Tits seems to be around the village now (of the two seen previously) but I'm pleased to report that it has been seen, with a small party of the usual type, in the churchyard - more salubrious surroundings than "by the public toilets" which is where they were initially reported.

The scattered plants of Spurge-Laurel in the village is coming into flower - along footpaths, in the woods and in my garden, I'm proud to report.