Goodbye to the Contortionists’ Bridge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 7, 2019 by cliffdean




Conditions were rather dull and cloudy during Saturday’s RXbirdwalk at Dengemarsh we saw quite a good range – 55 species – of the usual birds, including good views of Bearded Tit, Great Egret & Marsh Harrier. However it was clear that most winter birds had yet to reach that part of the reserve, other than c20 Golden Plovers. (Tantalisingly, a lot of thrushes came in the next day).

One very unexpected bird was a late Common Swift that arrived with a load of House Martins and flew past us close enough to make sure it wasn’t a Pallid. A Water Pipit flew up calling from the hay fields but I was the only one who heard it.

The event to celebrate, however, was the long overdue replacement of the appallingly obstructive footbridge on the footpath from Lydd. The slumped angle, missing boards and contortionist bars would have deterred all but the most flexible walkers and, combined with dense summer crops had effectively closed off access.

Thanks to Kent Rights of Way, galvanized by Lydd Town Council in response to my complaints, this structure has now been replaced with a nice new normal bridge. Whether anyone will use it remains to be seen.


A less cheerful new feature was a wayside memorial to two young people who lost their lives earlier this year in a car crash at the junction of Dengemarsh & Galloways Roads.


Migrants on the Move – but not many

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on October 5, 2019 by cliffdean

First frost of the autumn: white hollows in the Weald and a cold skim of mist over Romney Marshes. The drop in temperature should at last stimulate some visible migration. There are plenty of Swallows making their way westwards, later joined by House Martins. The Meadow Pipits have been joined by small bands of Chaffinches bobbing over the cliffs, with many more calling from the ground.

But, as yet, there is no sign of the other species you would expect from mid-September onwards. Where are they? Has it been just too warm? Or are the populations so diminished?

I never know what to make of the GS Woodeckers we see flying over here westwards during the autumn. They do migrate, but the surrounding countryside is so full of them they could just as well be local birds moving about. The same goes for Rooks, which cruise along the edge of the land. If it were the Dutch coast they would have a different meaning but here they’re much more likely to come from the Two Sawyers in Pett.

There are a lot of Chiffchaffs in the bushes but very little else – a couple of Blackcaps, a pair of Stonechats. No Ring Ouzels yet nor any sign of Dartford Warbler. I meet Andrew G, who’s had a bit of luck in the form of an encounter with a SE Owl at North’s Seat but not much apart from that.

A broad stretch of the French coast is visible beyond shipping on the grey, flat Channel providing perhaps the last chance of small craft crossing before the winter weather sets in. I meet a friend who tells me there has indeed been frantic activity on the part of Coastguard and Police, though I missed it having been otherwise occupied around Warren Cottage. I didn’t even hear the helicopter, dispatched at great expense to assist in the interception of a handful of seriously cold adults & children at Pett Level.

The Hostile Environment has been taken to heart in the tight-knit local community where many local people view this tiny trickle of desperate incomers as an invasion disease-ridden scroungers

Below the radar a steep and perilous ravine is opening up. On the beach far below stand lines of Great Black-backed Gulls, accompanied on the corrugated sandstone shelf of Lee Ness Ledge by dozens of Cormorants. A Grey Seal watches from the grey-green sea.

Garden birds

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 2, 2019 by cliffdean

October 1st: when I wake I can no longer calculate the time by the light level since a) the sun now rises later b) the sky is overcast. I can however hear the usual Tawny Owls outside and, less usually, a Little Owl somewhere further over. And I can work out the hour from the deep and isolated sound of incoming flight from Riyadh, quickly followed by that from Johannesburg.

Down the garden it’s damp & cloudy but quite warm and the Blackbirds & Robins are already busy, followed by Carrion Crow, Rook & incoming Jackdaws. Flocks of migrant Meadow Pipits are already passing over but it’s quite a while before the first flurries of hirundines also make their way south, by which time the Buzzard youngsters have started begging for breakfast, Wrens, Dunnocks & Chiffchaffs are calling from the shrubs. There’s a Green Woodpecker laughing from trees downhill, a Curlew piping out on the marsh, then the rattle of a Mistle Thrush as it settles on the crown of a Sycamore. I haven’t seen or heard one for more than a month and in fact there are still no Song Thrushes visible here – just broken snail shells.

This is later from Firehills – but I like rainbows.

Herring & Black-headed Gulls cruise across the field but Common Gulls have yet to arrive this autumn. Chaffinches, Gold- & Greenfinches are in circulation and a crowd of Starlings rushes up the hill from the roost at Rye Harbour to take up their Whistling Posts on the chimneys. There’s the thin call of a Goldcrest hidden the Ivy and then a seasonal squawking from a pair of Jays passing through. Finally the increasingly common Nuthatch and a Coat Tit bring the tally up to 34 species by 0730.

RXbirdwalks in October 2019

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2019 by cliffdean

In view of the fact that I’m otherwise occupied on some weekends this month, I’m proposing some mid-week walks in compensation. apologies to those of you who, still in work, are unable to attend as a result.

As ever in the hope of catching up with some visible migration, most walks this month are coastal – though I’m beginning to feel the Call of the Weald!

Saturday 5th: Dengemarsh

A circular walk to find birds of farmland, scrub and freshwater, usually a broad range and with luck some migrants passing through. Crops which impeded our progress during the summer will by now have been harvested!

Wednesday 9th: Hastings Country Park NR

It’s Ring Ouzel time, so we’ll be searching the likely spots for sight & sound of these charismatic thrushes. There should also be visible migration of hirundines, finches, larks, pipits & wagtails.

(Saturday 12th: RHNR Camber Castle)

For details see: 

(Saturday 12th: FoRHNR Quiz)

No, it’s not a walk but if you like quizzes you’ll be very welcome! In aid of Rye Harbour Discovery Centre. For details see

Wednesday 23rd: Combe Valley, Crowhurst

(Saturday 26th: RHNR Guide in a Hide)

I’ll be one of a group of experienced birders installed in hides on the reserve to point out wildlife to the general public. Feel free to drop in.

For details see:

(Sunday 27th: FoRHNR Winchelsea Beach)

I’ll be leading this Friends’ walk, not for birds but to point out some of the interesting and intriguing historic features of the landscape at the western end of RHNR. For details see:


A lot of wind, a lot of rain and a lot of tide

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 29, 2019 by cliffdean

A bit of movement and a lot of wind

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on September 28, 2019 by cliffdean

With Sunday’s forecast pretty catastrophic I swapped the RXbirdwalk to today, when I thought the rough weather would get some migration going, and it did in a way: plenty of hirundines of 3 species, Meadow Pipits, a few Pied Wagtails going over but absolutely no Siskins or Crossbills which might normally be expected by now.

Until recently, the ridges have been pale desiccated grey while the gullies between have been green. Today the tonality was reversed as the sunlit dry Crested Dog’s Tail was the paler and the sodden shallow soil the darker.

The last of unexpected violent showers passed through just before we started, the very last as we sheltered behind a hedge watching Chiffchaffs darting back and forth across the track. Once the clouds had moved away the vegetation was left sparkling in rich early autumn colours, the abundant blackberries beaded with rain. Warblers were dashing about in their usual tantalising way, zipping across gaps to vanish almost instantly – just as you were focusing – into the dark hearts of the thorn bushes, or perhaps lurking half-hidden where the diagnostic bits were blocked by a leaf. The great majority were Chiffchaffs & Blackcaps, the latter not properly visible till the northern end of the Beach Field. There were plenty of Chaffinches, Robins, Dunnocks, Blue & Great Tits mixed in, just ot keep you on your toes, and occasional unsatisfactory views of Common & Lesser Whitethroat.

Very few Blackbirds though, and no Song Thrushes although at Pett during the week there were signs of an increase. There were though several Goldcrests throughout the walk.

We noticed a new wild bees’ nest on this moribund Willow in the Wood. Others are in the Willow by Marker 12 and in the Castle itself.

By late morning the wind had got up to a strength where it was difficult to hold binoculars steady, so half an hour in the hide was a pleasant relief although most of the Wigeon had flown off shortly before we arrived. As usual there were a lot of Canada Geese with a group of the buff-faced hybrids among them but also two hybrid Greylag Geese I’d not seen before, one with extensive white on this neck, the other very pale.

Otherwise, among many Lapwings we picked out a couple of distant Redshanks, single Greenshank, Green Sandpiper & Snipe. Over the reeds at the back one Marsh Harrier quartered and I had a brief glimpse of a Great Egret.

Quite a lot of the usual birds had made themselves unavailable – Egyptian Goose, Skylark for instance, and there was no sign of Nuthatches or Treecreepers in The Wood but maybe the wind was too much for them. So I think we added no further species once we turned back from the hide until Chat Corner turned up 2 Stonechats. Nonetheless, we clocked up 70 species.

This Is England 2019

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on September 27, 2019 by cliffdean

Watching 3 Peregrines at Cliff End

Just a week ago I set out with a group of friends to walk eastwards along the seawall.

It’s a regular itinerary from Cliff End toilets along to Rye Harbour then back to Winchelsea Beach via Castle Water and we always see a good variety of birds. On this occasion I think the total came to 93 species, once a list was patched up from a cluster of failing memories.

Normally, I keep a note (though even then birds get duplicated or missed) but this day I had matters to attend to in The Antiente Towne so was obliged to peel off shortly after Dogs Hill.

As we passed the cafe, a school bus pulled in, and the group within was soon level with us, keeping up a cracking pace in spite of the youth of most of its members. They were from the Bruderhof though, as we discovered in conversation with them, not the local Darvell community who can often be encountered walking through the local countryside in wholesome enjoyment of nature, one of the admirable values they embrace.

They are recognizable from the women’s long dresses and headscarves and are always very friendly. This party had come from near Sandwich for a hike which would take them up to Rye then down the Rother to finish up at Camber. They were well organised with back-markers, older children held hands with younger ones and – this was impressive – were led by a couple of competent birders.

By coincidence, I turned off the asphalt haul road at the same time as they did, and was at the back of the column when I noticed several police officers running towards us while another headed along the Ridge gravel track to head them off.

With a sinking feeling, I realized what was happening, and so it turned out.

Some fool, fired up with xenophobia, had denounced them as illegal immigrants and must have done so within minutes of their arrival to elicit such a rapid police response. At least three squad cars – and a helicopter had been called up, at huge expense.

I guess it was the headscarves set off the vigilante.

The police officers looked perplexed; I felt ashamed.

But this set the tone for the coming week.