Easter Sunday

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 23, 2019 by cliffdean

At 6am I was most surprised to find the Dogs Hill car park completely full! What could it be? Massed lug-diggers?

In fact, a Christian congregation greeting Sol Invictus, with the great red disc wobbling up behind them as pagan as anything.

My own contribution to this auspicious dawn was to wear shorts – a decision I regretted for at least the first hour.

James & I thought 6 hours before lunch should be plenty but by the time we’d walked through Castle Farm to the Halpin Hide & viewpoint and made a brief stop for refreshments at the “Avocet” we were running out of time and had to renounce Flat Beach as part of our itinerary, taking instead a hasty short-cut along the Ridge back to a car park now clogged with arriving swimmers & sunbathers.

Loads of birds though: 82 species including several one is not supposed to mention at this time of year and our first Cuckoo (in fact, Whatsapp messages were coming in reporting Cuckoos all over the area; they must have arrived in a broad wave overnight). (Also reported: Red Kites all over the place but we saw none.)

The most extraordinary sight, though, was of 2 Jays flying quite high over Beach Field in a strange, displaying, sort of a way. It’s very unusual to see Jays here – I’ve only done so a couple of times and that in the more normal Jay-wandering season around October. In fact, James had seen 3 Jays over the even less suitable habitat of Flat Beach two days previously. (When he’s reported this on Facebook someone, with no idea of context, had objected that this was not a rare species.)  I’d also seen them at Cliff End – it has big trees but I’ve still never seen them there in spring.


RXbirdwalks in late April

Posted in Uncategorized on April 23, 2019 by cliffdean

You only need to contact me for the last walk: rxbirwalks@gmail.com 

This evening! Tuesday 23rd- 6-9pm : Fore Wood, Crowhurst 

In conjunction with Crowhurst Environmental Group. Listening in to the evening chorus; looking at woodland management by RSPB & low-impact flood prevention by the Sussex Flow iniative. Meet at the main Fore Wood entrance gate on Forewood Lane.

Saturday 27th Rye Harbour Nature Reserve – 2-5pm: “Castle Water Wildlife Walk”

Meet at Brede Lock. No booking required. A chance to look inside the castle!!

Sunday 28th: Winchelsea & Pannel Valley

A great variety of birds & birdsong here just now – nearly 50 along the short stretch of canal where we’ll have a look at the heronry & listen in to the bill-clattering young, and more wetland species in the valley. Should be a beautiful and productive walk.

Sky, Bells, Tiles, Heads – you name it…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 22, 2019 by cliffdean




High up, Deep down

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 22, 2019 by cliffdean

Saturday’s RXbirdwalk: A really beautiful day to the west of Brightling, starting off  among Skylarks & Yellowhammers on the hazy heights by the Observatory before plunging down through varied plantations with Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Goldcrest,  Treecreeper, Great, Blue & Coal Tits providing the songs, down into hollow ways deeply carved by centuries of livestock & forge traffic.

Down to streams zig-zagging between interlocking spurs green & fragrant with bluebells & wild garlic then up through birch scrub into gloomy conifers where both Goldcrests & Firecrests are singing (with distant Nuthatches echoing in the back ground) and Siskins are displaying in the treetops. Then out into sunlight again among huge and collapsing beeches at the top of a steep bank scalloped with old sandstone quarries.

Here, in the birch scrub, there’s a warbler that starts singing as a Chiffchaff but changes to Willow Warbler halfway through – and sometimes adds a few more odd bits. I’ve encountered these a few times over the years but this one is too far away to see which species it actually looks like. A bit further over there’s another warbler which consistently identifies as Willow. Then there’s what seems to be a a Garden Warbler which, after a prolonged burble, ends with a Blackcap flourish. Exasperating – especially since I’m always telling people that their songs are perfectly distinct.

There are Buzzards in the blue sky as we drop in to Glazier’s Forge & get into an interesting conversation with two residents about its history. Then over to the Nice Pond where we disturb a dozen resting Fallow Deer and a Grey Heron. What’s it doing here – miles from the coastal heronries? I recall that we saw one out here during the Bird Atlas, when we’d learnt that there’s some small colony not too far away.  Also, a brilliant f Grey Wagtail is collecting nest material from the muddy pond margin (printed with deer slots and a variety of bird tracks) before carrying it off towards the Forge.

Having learnt that we’re on the steep edge between Ashdown Sand and Purbeck Beds, the steep, shady climb back up to Great Worges and the Brightling Highlands is all the more sweatily tolerable.

Ralph, my Proper Naturalist informant tells me this looks like a brown rust fungal ‘disease’ Puccinia sp. or closely related


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on April 17, 2019 by cliffdean

A misty morning at Winchelsea Beach; calm and full of birdsong, some of which I have inexpertly recorded on my phone with wobbly images and extraneous rustling. From the sea-wall, the chorus of garden birds mingled with that of Linnets and passing Sandwich Terns, so that the songs of Dunnocks which spend their whole lives within a couple of hundred metres’ radius, were intertwined with the twittering of Linnets recently returned from a winter in Spain and the S Terns which had been perhaps off W Africa but were now heading on up, perhaps to Scotland.

Scent of Nettles & Alexanders

Bh Gull, Robin, Cetti’s Warbler, Collared Dove, Greylag Goose, Dunnock

Blackcap, Med Gull, Willow Warbler, dog-walkers

Noisy, yelping packs of white-winged Mediterranean Gulls were speeding up the coast, Blackcaps were singing everywhere and I heard at least a dozen Willow Warblers in the course of my walk, fresh in after a winter in maybe Sierra Leone or Ghana. At the time, I regarded the human voices as intrusive but now regret I didn’t include more of their conversation. At least I could understand it.

Greenfinch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler contact note, Wren, Mallard

The wheezing of Greenfinches has disappeared from many places but there were several along the back of the Front Ridge.

Canada Goose, Cormorant, Robin, Chaffinch

Oystercatcher, Gadwall, Sedge warbler, Chiffchaff, Cormorant, Whitethroat

Anyway – there were a lot more birds between here & Castle Water: 80 species including Raven, Peregrine, Little Gull & booming Bittern. The Cattle Egret was nowhere to be seen but on my way back across The Bund to the sea, I happened upon this bird picking around one of the shallow pools just by the path. It’s a terrible video, but you can see it’s a male Black-winged Stilt – a great surprise. I later learnt that 2 had been seen in flight a short time before, then late pm 1 was at Camber but an hour later 2 – a pair – were back at my original spot. Later timings suggest the Camber bird is a third.

Last week in Spain they were so numerous they hardly merited a second look (oh yes they do!) but here. though they are not the great rarity of yesteryear, they’re still pretty scarce and, unlike some rare birds, easy to identify.

Mudéjar lustre

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 16, 2019 by cliffdean

The Real Alcázar is one of the Big Attractions in Seville, therefore attracting long queues and dense crowds of people waving their  phones at the spectacle. Attached to the palace are beautiful gardens where you can sit in the sun or shade, among perfumed trees and trickling fountains, birdsong (Bonelli’s Warbler! Wryneck!) and a chorus of petrol-driven strimmers & hedge-cutters.

I love the mesmerizing geometric tilework where the patterns flicker constantly beyond your grasp. No sooner have you settled on squares than they are subverted by a diagonal grid, immediately superseded by stars or diamonds, and even the lines are woven under & over, in & out.

You can never fix on one aspect nor safely comprehend the whole scheme. So, in various places I have taken lots & lots of flat-on photos like the wonky one above, none of which adequately recalls the alluring restlessness of the original when you’re confronted with a whole wall of it (all constructed in mosaic!) and anyway they’re all tucked away in the bowels of the computer.

On this occasion, however, I got distracted by raking light which emphasized the iridescent of the glaze on some tiles.

…and then the distorted reflections – of architecture and visitors – caught within it…

…so that the pure and universal certainties of geometry are overladen with accident and transience.

Easter Is Coming

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 13, 2019 by cliffdean