Departures & Arrivals

Tuesday Sept 10: 06.45 at Winchelsea Beach it’s cold. I’m glad I opted for long trousers & coat, rather regret leaving gloves in the car. But there are already people swimming, a Grey Seal watching them, and beyond a stream of Cormorants – hundreds – converging on a shoal of fish further west. Wheeling Gannets catch the sunlight out towards the horizon.

There are very few birds moving through the clear sky: Meadow Pipits, a couple of Swallows, a single Grey Wagtail.

The brambles are full of warblers: Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Whitethroats & Lesser Whitethroats. A fluttering Sparrowhawk is aiming to save them the long journey south. My teeth are full of blackberry pips.

Secateurs are required for the snagging briars now constricting the path west of Castle Water. Beyond the crimson, wind-sculpted thorns. pastures are crisp, grey and ammonia-scented, Rooks in a loose pack pick over the parched ridges. As usual, there’s nobody much about; a couple of distant dog-walkers, that’s it. There’s a Peregrine perched on the battlements.

The soundscape is dominated by squawking as echelons of Greylag Geese are in constant circulation. They crowd the islands, along with Lapwings. A Great Egret joins them but I’m not sure whether it’s the one I saw earlier alongside the Ocean.

Back towards Castle Farmyard (only one Wheatear), from the fence alongside the conifers, a Pied Flycatcher is flitting out in quick sorties. I watch from the shadow, where there’s a bad smell as if something dead is rotting in the nettles.

It’s hot by now and I regret not risking shorts. In the warm sand of an ancient beach, stripey Ivy Bees have perforated the arch above a rabbit burrow with nest-holes. From The Wood, a Nuthatch is calling. It’s only this autumn that they have first taken up residence there. It’s not part of the Reserve, so I thought that one we saw on Sunday, flying W of Halpin Hide, must be the very first record but I now discover just two previous. Until very recently, Rye Harbour has not been Nuthatch Country.

Chat Corner, however, is the place for chats. There are at least 4 Whinchats and 2 Stonechats between here and the old breach of the Chalk Curve, popping up on top of bushes & twigs, then disappearing. 79 species in the course of this walk.

Returning across Pett Level, I decide to have a quick look at the Pools, where I’m surprised to find police cars with flashing blue lights and a breathless policewoman running toward two bird-watchers. I’d noticed a grey Border Force vessel surprisingly close in towards Cliff End and now learn that it was trailing a small boatload of migrants – one of several that day – making the most of calm conditions to risk the busy Channel traffic. The police arrived some time after they had made landfall so were rushing about the roads while the brightly-dressed new arrivals walked quickly beside the RM Canal before turning inland up the Pannel Valley. The bird-watchers were joined by two more, and while they all expressed compassion for the immigrants’ plight they were at the same time excited by the chase.

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