Making the most of it

Emerging from another day of roaring wind and lashing rain to see a forecast for frost, sunshine and calm I determined to make the most of perhaps the last decent day of 2017 by extending the ever-longer “short walk” along the seawall across Pett Level and back along the Canal.

The first bird of interest was a Chiffchaff, in the Marsham Reedbed. Two new pools were dug there this autumn but were frozen over. Fulmars have returned in force to the cliffs, where a Peregrine was perched out on an overhanging branch.

On the PLPT land, areas which have been cleared of blackthorn the resulting rough vegetation concealed dozens of Song Thrushes, foraging safely there with Blackbirds, protected from strong winds and hidden from Sparrowhawks.

Across the Canal, Redwings & Fieldfares were continuing to strip the hawthorns, the latter an infrequent visitor along this stretch though common enough a little inland.

The marsh was covered with birds, which a pair of Marsh Harriers sent up in great wavering clouds: Curlews, Lapwings & Golden Plovers in a fabulous spectacle, filling the air with mournful wails and whistles. There were more Golden Plovers than I’d ever seen here – at least 600 – but probably a detachment from just down the road at Rye Harbour.  Ruff can be a bit tricky to pick out on the ground – though one has a helpfully pure white head – but once in the air were easier to distinguish.

On the beach opposite, Turnstones, Dunlin & Grey Plovers were waiting for the tide to drop, lined up at the points where moorlog would first be exposed like commuters clustered where the doors would be on a train yet to arrive.

The Pools were occupied by the usual ducks but at the east end a Great Egret sat in the reeds. It has been hanging around for a week or so, sometimes hunched on the bank among Cormorants along with the crazy,mixed-up Wigeon-killing GBb Gull.

Hundreds of Greylag & Canada Geese spread across the marsh, we managed to pick out a couple of Whitefronts.

Nothing much to add from then on; 72 species but no Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Stonechats or Reed Buntings.

The low, raking light emphasises WWII gun positions dug into the landward side of the Napoleonic-era Canal parapet, looking towards and invading force that never came.

A quick lunch, then off to the Reedbed Viewpoint at Castle Water to witness the orange sunset drama, as dark Fieldfares on their way to roost crossed rose-pink plumes of vapour from shining jets high above, Cormorants converged into the bare trees, shadowy Marsh Harriers cruised the fields and, as the reedbeds blackened, Water Rails signed out in a squealing choir.

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