Dogs’ Hill northwards
Friday: It’s a bit difficult with a blog like this to avoid becoming repetitious. Since it’s linked in to natural cycles you get drawn inexorably towards the “…and so the southward migration once more begins…” Vortex Of Tedium.
And some things are always the same but always interesting, to me at least: the Winchelsea Beach landscape of shacks and shingle and more or less rantworthy rebuildings. All I can do is refer my (half-dozen) readers to the tags for previous Jolly Informative posts.
And this morning it’s flickering with yellow-bellied Willow Warblers and rusty-winged Whitethroats, lots of the former singing – something we hardly hear in spring when they move straight through to the birchy margins of woodland clearings. It seems early for so many migrants. Maybe that’s because I never look for them at this time because I think it’s too early. Maybe in the past I’ve been away on holiday. But here they are, dashing about the bushes faster than I can focus on them.
This gives me, for the first time, the chance to extol the virtues of Skeleton Bushes for watching migrants. While warblers fidget through the foliage and slip among reeds you just can’t get a decent look, but they all like to disport themselves in the naked twiggery of dead hawthorns, where they Show Well, albeit Briefly, often several birds of three or four species at a time. This above (TQ920 173) is not the greatest Skeleton Bush in my opinion, but it was pretty lively this morning. The best one is at the SE corner of The Wood (TQ922172) but seems only to be busy earlier in the day, losing clawfall as noon approaches.
I’d also like to take this opportunity of commending for the first time, barbed wire fences. I’m not the first to do so; everyone knows that barbed wire was invented (in 1867, pub quiz enthusiasts) specifically to provide perches for insectivorous migrants, though this essential fact is missing from the entry on the otherwise…um…encyclopaedic Wikipedia.
I’m very fond of this one by Castle Farm, rippling like the paths through the Beach Field. When I first looked there was just one Wheatear perched there, my first for the autumn (“…and so the southward migration once more begins…”)
but eventually, there were 4, while earlier on another very nice fence near the Castle Water hide, a plastic bag turned out to be a Barn Owl (much better picture by Sam S on RXwildlife.)
The same owl continued hunting alongside me, largely indifferent to my presence, late into the morning as I sat on the soft and filamentous cushion of Common Bent, whereupon my legs were invaded by a tickling detachment of little spiders which Chris B has kindly identified as the wolf spider Arctosa leopardus (most probably – I neglected to get a good view of its abdomen).
Meanwhile, in the Crowded South-East… In this picture you can see the wooden piles of the eastward pier of the abandoned 18th century Smeaton’s Harbour, whose landward bed now attracts foraging Starlings which in turn diverted a rapid-transit Merlin.
A Merlin – in August. I never used to see them before October, but this was the third in Sussex so far this month. I’d seen just the same thing happening last winter, maybe a regular recurrence occasioned by 18th century civil engineering? (I’ve been reading “Psychogeography” by Merlin Coverley).