Hidebound

P1200358As the sun rose over the Rother yesterday, Linda Wren, Pete Rouse & I were hanging around the reserve gate in the hope of picking up some household species before setting off down the road to the sea. It seemed to take ages before HS & CD became vocal, and by that point we had already found Grey Wagtail, Greenshank & Kingfisher. The thing is, we were planning to spend the day just on that road and past the gate there was little chance of seeing or hearing certain birds. Great Tit for instance we never did get on our list.

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However we were in the right place for waders, dabbling ducks and, eventually, raptors. But what was conspicuously missing was visible migration. in any other year, by this time, you could expect not only streams of birds going south but also thrushes arriving from the north. All seven teams participating in the RX Bird Race were disappointed in this respect, struggling to find even a Siskin. No-one had L Redpoll, Brambling or Crossbill.

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Sheltering from a chilly NW breeze, we could see & hear Skylarks & Meadow Pipits arriving off the sea. Although there were many hundreds of gulls out on the horizon morning and afternoon there was, frustratingly,  little at identifiable range apart from an Arctic Skua earlier and, following eye-watering scrutiny, a couple of Gannets later.

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By late morning we’d seen 62 species but then for hours in the Gooders Hide nothing new turned up. However, during this period which would otherwise have threatened cabin fever, we were visited by many members of the public. The reserve now has a new collection of binoculars to loan on such occasions, which became a good way of engaging with both adults and families.

The most dramatic episode during this mid-period was provided by the persistent attempts of a young Peregrine to grab a Redshank, entailing panicky chases, low-level stoops and a lot of splashing. I couldn’t see why the Redshank didn’t just make its way into some island vegetation but instead it chose proximity to a Grey Heron which objected to the falcon’s presence and eventually the Peregrine lost interest. All this proved too much for the 250-odd Golden Plovers which had, up to that point, provided a constant aerial spectacle, and they pushed off to some other destination.

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With heavy rain forecast, we made a second sortie to the beach adding just 3 more species, on our return to the hide we found ourselves in the company of various other, increasingly soggy, teams as they returned from excursions to Dungeness or, in the case of Slow But Sure, in the latter stages of their 15-mile coastal walk. Our last 3 species were a hurtling Merlin, a Pintail and a very belated Marsh Harrier cruising over Denny Hide though by this time the sightings whiteboard was too wet to add them.

Our target had been 60 species. We got 69 (though I’ve just entered the list on Birdtrack where it came out at 70…) but had walked just 2.6 miles. Slow But Sure got 96 in 15 miles and the winning team, Pannel Beaters had to put in another c45 miles to get 97. In the process, about £800 was raised in sponsorship in aid of RSPCA Mallydams Wood and Rye Harbour NR.

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2 Responses to “Hidebound”

  1. Well done all of you.

  2. […] Having sat in hides last year and been unavoidably detained in Italy the year before that, I returned on Sunday to foot-slogging along this remarkable bit of coastline in the company of Alan Parker, Dave Rowlands, James Tomlinson & Tim Waters.  The weather was lovely, if windy later on, and we found 101 species, 83 of them between Fairlight and Pett Pools (the remaining 18 accumulated slowly, slowly, slowly). […]

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