ABOUT Cliff Dean

2014-07-30 13.15.13

Seven sisters: Art-historical reference

I started watching birds nearly 60 years ago in SE London, where I grew up.

I’ve lived in East Sussex for more than forty years, working  as a teacher until my retirement . All through my career I took my classes out into the countryside to learn about history, farming and wildlife.

Throughout this time, I’ve been a member of the Sussex Ornithological Society and have led birding groups for them and other wildlife bodies.  I’ve worked with school groups and led public events for Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, RSPB Dungeness and Friends of Combe Valley.

I am currently Chair of the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

I had the “beauty setting” cranked up to 10 for this one, eliminating most of the ravages of time.

Much of the knowledge I’ve gained about the RX region has been gained from participation in Bird Atlas, Wetland Bird and Breeding Bird surveys organised by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Letea, Romania about 10 years ago, reflecting on the Catfish I’d eaten the previous evening. 

Istanbul: Homage to John Gooders


Feeling uncertain in Tbilisi

In St Thomas’ Winchelsea, where so many things have happened…

Pretending to be a male model in my favourite Micrographia T-shirt

Darkest Margate, this time in a “Herring Gull” T-shirt. Spot the deliberate mistake.

Pretending to be a couple on Facebook – “Beauty Setting” at max again and a straw up my wife’s nose.


Beauty Setting turned down to zero, this is what we really look like.


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47 Responses to “ABOUT Cliff Dean”

  1. Hi, Cliff; I love to read your entries on the RX website. I have moved and now live in Herefordshire and get lots of super birds in my front garden.
    I return to Hastings at halfterm and holidays so you never know I might meet you again. Best wishes for 2010. Alan

    • Good to hear from you Alan. I hope to put the more discursive stuff on here from now on, as well as more photos. It’s been a busy day today and I’m looking forward to getting out to RHNR tomorrow. Do get in touch if you’re back in Darkest Sussex.

      • Alan Hooper Says:

        Thanks for taking time out to write, Cliff. My front garden in Leominster, 5 mins walk from town centre, but also 5 mins from countryside, has attracted 19 different species of bird this winter, not including a sparrow hawk which was sitting on my aviary in the back garden, or a buzzard overhead being mobbed by a corvid and a gull! The latest – 2 song thrushes, which I have heard at 6.30 a.m. for the last few days in tree up the road. In The Broadway at Ore I used to see sparrows, starlings and pigeons but not much else, so at least for this reason I am pleased I moved.
        Will try to time an Easter visit to Hastings with an April walk in RX country. Best wishes Alan. P.S. Are at liberty to tell me what camera you use for your wonderful photos?

      • Hi Alan, What have you got in your aviary that so attracts the poor hungry Sparrowhawk? Something colourful & tasty?? The camera is a Panasonic Lumix err….TZ5… Someone else asked me but I can’t remember. Anyway it’s just a pocket-size digital camera – they’re all amazing now. There’s nothing fancy about the pictures, just being there to take them is the main thing plus some cropping & cranking up various qualities on the computer. The setting is important too – I always have it set to “Very Nice”.

  2. Dean Morrison Says:

    Hi Cliff,

    best of luck on your latest venture – I’d certainly love to join up with you on some of your walks sometime.

    I’m also a fan of your entries on RX wildlife, there’s always something over and above what birds you’ve seen – and I’ll be following you here form now on,


    • Hi Dean
      Long time no see/hear; hope you’re well. It would be good if you could come on a walk – you could point out stuff i don’t know about (ie all the rest.)

  3. Mike Salmon Says:

    Hi Cliff

    You probably don’t remember me as you must have met 100,s of birders on your walks over the years. (clue; I work in a local garage where you sometimes have your car serviced)

    I have throughly enjoyed your leadership on all of the walks I have attended, Hastings Country Park etc. Even my wife, who came along once, was impressed with your expertise and knowledge and she is a non-birder!

    I have been a birdwatcher for around 40 years but I am no expert by any means. Started my bird watching in Somerset. Chew Valley Lake etc. Like you I am just as excited by a good view or unusual behaviour of a common bird as I am by a rarity. Indeed if there is a mega rarity around I often head off in opposite direction!

    Anyway that’s enough waffle from me, good luck with your new venture. Might see you on walk sometime. Love the web site!


    • Of course I remember you Mike, because you had the good sense to introduce yourself when I came in to the garage (I’m due in again soon with warning-light sickness).
      It’s not just the birdwalk clientele but the hundreds of ex-pupils from the Hastings/Rye area, some now middle-aged, that pose the identification problem!!
      I’m pleased you enjoy the blog and look forward to seing you on a walk (when I’ll look blank…) In the meantime, watch out for exciting dispatches from Darkest Bexhill.


  4. Alan Hooper Says:

    The aviary has 10 colourful budgerigars, currently looking in fine fettle, and if I were to put nest boxes in they would be laying very soon; but I will hold fire till March. Disappointed by your reply re camera; I wanted you to tell me it was a digiscope or something similar and thus recommend a particular variety; never mind.
    Lovely bird spot last week – 2 male bullfinches and 3 females in same hedgerow.

    • Ah right – what do you expect? Sparrerhawks go mad for them budgies. As for the camera, no, I can’t be bothered with digiscoping. All that kit and anyway I haven’t got the patience. I have a feeling that you wanted a camera with nice pictures already inside it. Used to win those at fair-grounds.

  5. Lee Cornes Says:

    Hello Cliff Dean! Delighted that you’ve set up shop – the very best of luck with full itineraries and kind weather. My, you do look cold in one of the photos, still – no pain, no gain, which I took to heart when birdwatching at Rock-a-Nore recently. 50 minutes frozen studying a male Peregrine standing on a distant cliff until it was literally knocked off it’s perch by an obviously larger female. No awsome aerial hunting display worthy of an Attenborough commentary, although second prize was the appearance of a seal off Ecclesbourne Glen which, judging from it’s intense stare, was also birdwatching raptors. Regards to you all, pip pip! Lee

  6. John Phillips Says:


    My wife is reading a Monica Edwards pony book set in the Rye Harbour area and features a pair of Hoopoe nesting on Camber Castle.

    We are intrigued to known whether this is based upon an actual record.

    Many thanks,

    John and Sue

    P.S. Can I say how impressed I am with your web site!

    • Strangers to the Marsh – it’s never occurred to me whether it might stem from fact. I always assumed it was based upon the dream that all of us had of finding any Hoopoe, breeding or not. It was THE classic rare bird. However, other personages and events in her books are based in reality – the flood in Storm Ahead for instance. Did you know there’s a Monica Edwards Society? When I taught in Winchelsea, I read Strangers to a couple of classes and we went on a walk around Rye Harbour to identify places mentioned in the book. Do you know Malcolm Saville’s books – also ripping yarns and, in my opinion, rather better written? The Gay Dolphin Adventure is also based around Rye & Winchelsea Beach with Camber Castle doubling for Maiden as a Hardyesque site of dodgy trysts.

  7. Mike Mullis Says:

    Just reading the above ….. mention of Malcolm Saville’s (Lone pine ?) books has jogged a memory or two from 40+years ago (probably for the first time since !). I read quite a few of them at primary school. Think some of his other books were based around Shropshire’s Long Myndd or am I thinking of something else? And Seawitch ? Wasn’t that based at Rye ……. or was it Suffolk ? Will have to go and Google him now ….

    • Yes, you remember correctly. I think I’ve only read the Gay Dolphin Adventure though, and that only quite recently. iIdidn’t know them at all when I was young.

  8. Trew & co Says:

    Met a strange looking bird at the end of Morlais Ridge Winchelsea Beach this afternoon…yellow and brown feathers, short legs, extraordinarily long heavy looking beak and rather odd jerky flight. ..just looked it up with the boys…could only be a Snipe. We thought they were rare but perhaps not.

    • Hello there – yes, sounds like a Snipe to me. They’re not at all rare around your way in winter but often hard to get a good look at since they burst up & fly away in a high speed zig-zag. If you go to Castle Water Hide you can often see them hiding in the flooded vegetation b you have to look carefully because they are brilliantly camouflaged.

  9. Cliff,

    Since you wrote a piece about Scarecrows I have been wondering if you would like to see a photo of a Scarecrow that was given to me by a local Wood Turner who had created it for the annual Hayling Island Scarecrow Hunt (up to 100 Scarecrows are put on show each August in all sorts of locations around the Island and there is a prize for the person who can track down the biggest number).

    The photo shows a life size wooden figure with four fully articulated arms, head, etc. My involvement was in helping to obtain the RSPB Logo which is the ‘banner’ on the Roman Legion style standard held by one of the four arms.

    I am using this comment facility as a way of asking you, should you be interested in having the photo, if you would be prepared to give me an email address to which I can send it.

    In case you are dubious of my honesty and think I am a member of a Nigerian scam team you can check out the ‘Who is Ralph Hollins’ page (and the Diary and Weekly Summary pages) on my website and I am prepared to answer questions on the Old Roar Road area of Hollington in Hastings during the period (1934 to 1940) when I lived in a large house called ‘Clovelly’ on the north side of that road with the ‘Old Roar stream forming the eastern border of the property – your recent ‘Via Dolorosa’ piece caused me to have a nostalgic look at that area (no more than half a mile south of The Ridge) using the excellent ‘Where’s the path’ website.

    Thanks for all the wildlife news that I regularly steal from your website and the nostalgia it gives me for a time when I was around 5 to 10 years old (and more recent times when was active in supporting the Hampshire Wildlife Trust, among other things leading weekly Nature Rambles around this Havant area)


    • Ralph, those Nigerian scammers are rarely called Ralph, any more than the Indian cold-callers who always claim to be “Alan” or “Jerry”.
      Yes, do send the photo to me at rxbirdwalks1066@yahoo.com
      It sounds a fearsome scarecrow, in danger of coming to life with those moveable limbs. Far too complex, of course, for a lonely effigy doomed to rot in wind and rain.
      I’m pleased you found the piece of interest, for I’m never sure whether posts digressing from the Showing Well format attract more than fleeting attention.
      I continue to ponder the meanings behind current interpretations of scarecrows: they seem to have diverged to extremes of the disturbing (do an images search and you’ll see what I mean) and the cosy (village festival style). The former has more in common with the warning displays of corpses (Via Appia, London Bridge etc) and the latter with….what? Some household deities perhaps.
      We were up beside Old Roar on the walk the other day – it’s amazing the way you can be down in that ghyll hardly aware of the suburbs which now enclose it.
      I didn’t realize you had been “stealing” from my blog! I’ll have to have a look at your website to see what’s been going on!

  10. Elaine Cleeves Says:

    Please, please how do I find out about your walks and how to join them?

    • Thanks Elaine, but I’ve found it so difficult to build up a regular clientele that I’m not sure the walks are a good use of my time. Quite a few people have come on a lot of walks, which have been very enjoyable but everyone has conflicting commitments of work, family and other interests. Me too! I think also that most people prefer to go to well-known nature reserves, where they believe it will be more interesting.

  11. Mike Evenden Says:

    I really enjoyed reading your piece on walking around Coombe Haven and wandered if you you would be doing it again soon , or indeed any walk near Crowhurst (Forewood for example)? I would definitely join you on any such walk as I struggle as a beginner when I take my daily walk on the marsh. Unfortunately I have just read that the link road is going ahead so that will be the end of Coombe Haven as a beautiful place for birds and birdwatchers alike.

    • Thanks for your interest, Mike. Yes, I do plan to lead a walk in the Combe Haven valley next month since we need to make the most of it before it’s trashed – very depressing news about the Link Road. Watch for the April Programme which I’ll compile in the next few days and which will appear in the right-hand column.

  12. Dorothy Webb Says:

    I travelled into Hastings on the bus today with your mother and she told me you were a birdwatcher – so I looked on your website – fascinating – shall log in from time to time to cartch up with what you are doing

    • I’m glad you find it of interest Dorothy. I’m currently backed up with half a dozen posts I’ve started on but never finished, so with the kind of weather that’s promised this weekend, I should have the time to publish some of those.

  13. N Barker Says:

    Why no recent posts? We miss them. Too cold out there for you, perhaps?

    • Too kind… No, no, we’ve been walking in Lanzarote: up in the Ajaches, along the coast, around craters and floundering across lava fields. Yesterday it wasn’t so much the cold as the snow (can’t see anything), wellies which had been stupidly left outside to fill with snow & ice and domestic order to be reasserted. Excuses now out of the way, I’ve been out this morning in Darkest TQ81W – post to follow.

  14. neil davidson Says:

    long time no contact, but still enjoy reading your informative and amusing blogs; I was thrilled yesterday to see some crested birds in my garden – a closer look showed them to be 11 waxwings, my first. And you may be interested to hear of a single mandarin making a colourful addition to the usual mallards at Bodiam Castle over Christmas! [Incidentally, do you not publicise your weekly walks on your site any more? I would like to come agin, though Linda is still only able to come on short ones!] Keep birding – Neil

    • Good to hear from you Neil! Lucky you with the WX – They have declined to come my way so far this winter but have given a lot of pleasure to others in car parks up and down the country.
      I’ve not put on any walks after New Year principally because we were away, then had a lot to catch up on, then have had some family issues to deal. with. This came on top of a discouraging run of bad weather in the late autumn (made me realise how lucky we’d been previously!) However, once the diary clears I shall resume.

    • Neil and Linda..hope its the right ones!! how are you all. where are you all.

      • neil davidson Says:

        yes it is the right ones! How come you are on this site??? Are you/have you been/will you be in UK. Have left message with S safaris. Do contact !

  15. neil davidson Says:

    hello again! I am thinking of getting a scope – with limited funds (around £100-£130, I am not looking for anything fancy, but do you have any advice? Is it possible to attach dig camera to items in that price range with reasonable results?

    Thanks if you are able to help. Hope you are well.


    • Neil, I think your best bet is to go to one of the InFocus events at Rye H or RSPB Dungeness. They have a good variety of optics which you can test in field conditions, they give helpful advice and don’t try to push into making a purchase. Look for the next dates on their website.

  16. neil davidson Says:

    Thank you, I’ll look out for them


  17. Ben Thompson Says:

    Hello Cliff,
    I very much enjoy your blog and wondered if you could tell me if a pair of cirl buntings in Hastings country park on a summer Tuesday lunchtime is a conceivable sighting or more like wishful thinking. I’m used to the yellowhammers but this male was much darker around the chin – almost as if it had something in its mouth – while the female had no visible yellow around its head. I know cirl burntings get as far East as the Isle of Wight but I didn’t know if there was any recent history of them in Sussex. What do you think?
    Thanks for your time,
    Ben Thompson

    • Thanks for the note Ben,
      As much as I’d like to see them here, I think Cirl B extremely unlikely since they’ve been extinct in Sussex since the mid-70s. Yellowhammer, on the other hand, is a typical bird at the Country Park so I would guess that this unaccustomed sunshine must have strengthened the shadows to make them look different.
      I recall some years ago hearing what I was sure was Cirl B singing just over the other side near Wissant. I wrote to the area recorder who very politely replied this is an interesting record, however they don’t occur in this region….

  18. Ben Thompson Says:

    Thanks for being gentle with me. I feared it was too good to be true. Will just have to accept it was an albino serin and leave it at that…

  19. Hi Cliff,

    I am contacting you from a TV broadcasting company, the NHK. We are currently producing a documentary on apple orchards and we need to find some photographs of old and abandoned apple orchards, preferable with overgrown bramble. I’ve seen you have a photo of an abandoned orchard in one of your blogs – i was wondering if you had any more I could take a look at. If used, you will of course be mentioned in the credits.


    Abigail Brown
    NHK Wildlife

  20. Neil Davidson Says:

    Hola, Cliff! Having collected a few Peruvian ticks (!), I am back for a couple of months. Not sure I have got the right website for your walks, but would love to catch up…Are you doing any walks in Jan/Feb?
    Hope you are well, anyway, and have a good Christmas!


    • Hi Neil and welcome back to the Land of Mud. Good to hear from you again! Yes, there will be walks over the next two months and I’ll post them on this blog when I’ve finalized the arrangements. I’ll also email you direct. Till then….

  21. Neil Davidson Says:


    Do you have details of your July walks yet?

    I am back in UK from Peru and am determined to get my wife Linda to come on one of your walks!

    Neil Davidson

    • Hi Neil!
      I hope you’re well and profiting from your experience in Peru.
      I don’t schedule walks in July /August since many people are busy elsewhere.
      I’m doing a couple of evening sessions at Castle Water viewpoint 7-9pn: tomorrow 14th & Aug 18th and may help out at other RHNR events – I’ll let you know.
      I have also suggested an evening pub group meet-up for a chat but not yet fixed anything. Again – I’ll let you know.
      I hope we can meet up,

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