Archive for Alexandra Park

In the shade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on June 21, 2017 by cliffdean

On Sunday, shadow falling from the park’s tall trees cast a welcome cool on a day of mounting heat. Although at 9 Hastings was still pretty quiet, traffic noise built up as visitors poured into the town and after a while the detection of birdsong was enhanced by the identification by sound of arriving motorcycles.

There was a remarkable amount of song – a lot of Wrens especially (and they always make themselves heard) – but also Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Woodpigeons, Blackcaps & Chiffchaffs. A lot of Goldcrests too; we weren’t counting but it would have been interesting to have done so. My theory that the winter’s Firecrests might have stayed on to breed met with no support even after lengthy listening-in around ostensibly suitable habitats.

Caucasian Wing-nut – part of a shady stand of suckers by Shornden Reservoir

We spent a bit of time trying to identify trees. Out in the woods this is not too demanding but in this park it definitely is, thanks to the presence of about 400 different types, including forms & cultivars. As we moved around we passed through zones of musty perfume from flowering laurels.

The ponds provided interest not only from lazily cruising Carp but also a variety of spectacular dragonflies such as Emperor & Broad-bodied Chaser. At Buckshole Reservoir a Grey Wagtail seemed to be nesting in the concrete outflow structure and on Shornden the local Herring Gulls and a few Black-headed were joined by one Lesser Black-back.

From this open vantage point, a flock of Swifts could be seen wheeling over Bohemia.

 

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Too many birds!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 22, 2017 by cliffdean

firecrest-2pngFirecrest by Stuart Barnes

Not a huge number of species – 33 I think – but an awful lot of birds. Not just Robins, Blue & Great Tits (which were everywhere) but Goldcrests, Treecreepers & Nuthatches too. I’ve said before & I’ll say it again: birds for which you have to hunt in “wild” woodlands are packed into Alexandra Park and easier to see too.

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Treecreeper by Stuart Barnes

On a warm sunny morning, the trees were full of song and flitting, hard-to-focus-on bird-shapes and shadows, from the  stiff-winged display flight of Stock Doves to the silvery trill of Firecrests. The first of these latter was singing in the very place we saw one last year – was it there still or again? We found at least 5 of them, 3 above the road bridge where we also saw the only 2 Grey Wagtails, a characteristic bird of the park which I expected to find more widely.

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Following photos by Peter Matthews: Grey Wagtail

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 Cormorant

On Shornden Reservoir, a fine sinensis Cormorant and 4 species of gull: Black-headed, all adult,  on their way north; Herring adults & immatures, maybe resident locals; 3 Lesser Black-backs just arrived back from somewhere down the  Atlantic coast, maybe still en route, maybe planning a summer on St Leonards rooftops; finally a single Common Gull – the first I’ve seen in the park, not really the kind of place Common Gulls like.

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Lesser Black-backed Gull

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Moorhen

A bit of Park news: a grant has been obtained to renovate the greenhouse, which is now covered in plastic, protecting Prince Albert from the weather.

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Firecrest by Stuart Barnes again

Sprites in the shrubbery

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 21, 2016 by cliffdean

It was a dull morning yesterday, but having already dumped a series of proposed walks on account of miserable weather, I was determined to go ahead and the sheltered nature of this lovely park (click on the “Alexandra Park” link at the foot of this post for more on its history and our previous visits) protected us from the wind.

As I noted in a previous post, we were surrounded by Wrens, Robins too, just everywhere but the other member of the Scrub Trio – Dunnock only in the more open spaces. We were keen to see the Kingfishers which have been reported on Facebook etc but they were nowhere to be found. The streams & ponds did hold a couple of Grey Wagtails however.

What was really interesting was the number of Treecreepers – starting to sing now – Goldcrests (likewise) and Firecrests. We saw 4 of the latter, 3 of them together in one spot (with a male showing a brilliantly orange crown), all reclusive at first. I suspect there could be many wintering in the park.

Altogether, we saw/heard 32 species. Looking at past lists, this seems pretty standard for winter. A conspicuous absentee was Greenfinch, which has returned to many breeding areas in the last fortnight. In the past I have recorded them in the 20s in winter. There are 3 urban species too which frequent surrounding houses yet rarely seem to venture into the park itself: Collared Dove, Starling & House Sparrow. Though we could hear the latter from nearby back gardens, but no sign at all of the others.

Sunday in the Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 15, 2015 by cliffdean

Alexandra Park in Hastings is a very friendly place to go watching birds. During Sunday morning’s RXbirdwalk there we were often engaged in conversation by walkers or dog-walkers wanting to know what we’d seen or to tell us what to look out for. It’s clear that there exists a strong appreciation of this most lovely and tree-rich of Victorian town parks where the bird most valued was the Kingfisher, hardly surprising in view of its vivid colours, barely credible in an urban setting and dealing out a daily dose of the miraculous to those with eyes to see.

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Yes, we did catch up with one, glowing in ironic contrast to the sludgy water above which it perched at the top Buckshole settling pond. Work is going on there to improve the general water quality, a couple of bunds having been installed to trap silt and many trees cut back to throw more light on the many Moorhens scuttling around the dark and muddy pool. Unfortunately many plastic bottles embellish the outflow.

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In past winters, the Alders around the settling ponds have been visited by Siskins, Lesser Redpolls & Goldfinches, picking seeds from the little cones but we saw just a couple of the latter, for SK & LS seem to be nowhere this year. We saw no Grey Wagtails either, perhaps the park’s truly iconic bird but maybe preferring nearby rooftops around Morrison’s car park where I often see them.

What we did see, great plenty, were Robins, just everywhere, unlike Wrens, their usual companions-in-scrub, which were confined to marginal, brambly zones. There were numerous Blue & Great Tits too, with fewer but louder Coal Tits, one or two flocks of Long-tailed Tits and frequent high-pitched Goldcrests.

Just NW of Harmer’s Pond, we had fantastic close views of Treecreepers and then a dazzling Green Woodpecker which probed the turf of an enclosure indifferent to passers-by. Altogether we saw & heard 33 species, the last of which was a Nuthatch on trees right by Dordrecht Way.

Click the “Alexandra Park” link below to see other posts about this site.

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Alexandra Park RXbirdwalk

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 12, 2013 by cliffdean

Sheltered, but not sheltered enough, down in the steep dendritic stream valley, the tall trees did not protect us as the wind became colder and a deeper shade of grey crept up over the wooded crest of The Ridge; complacent from the recent warmth I had worn no gloves.

The park, as I have often claimed, was full of birds, especially dense with Blue & Great Tits. Wrens were everywhere and by no means silent; the shrub layer of bramble, the tangled roots and sandstone overhangs suit them. I recall that I titled a sunnier park post “Surrounded By Wrens”.

The one area that was not busy with little birds was the wildest bit, up under the road viaduct, perhaps because of the way the valley there is nearly throttled by housing either side. Taking advantage of recently installed boardwalks, we reached Little Roar waterfall, the first time I’d been there for many years, but apart from a Goldcrest singing hidden in holly and a Stock Dove throbbing in  a tall beech it was surprisingly quiet.

There are a lot of Goldcrests in Alexandra Park – they like the native evergreens and exotic conifers – and they specialise in sticking behind trunks, boughs and needle-bearing branches. 10×42 binoculars are not great for watching them either, since you struggle to focus as they zip hither and thither or whirr like little helicopters down through the ivy macrame. The character-building struggle makes it all the more rewarding, however, when one does Show Well.

On the Swannery there was just one Mute Swan, a bronzy young Cormorant, a bunch of variegated Black-headed & Herring Gulls and 3 gleaming Lesser Black-backs fresh back from their N African hols.

But it’s the Grey Wagtail which for me most characterises the park, whether for its shrill song echoing beneath the graffitied arches of the bridge, the flash of vivid sulphur as one is displaced by a (well-behaved!) dog, or the improbable elegance and brilliance of the female we watched at close range as it wagged its way across a sludgy settling pond, indifferent to the garbage accumulated there.

Every so often a shrill wave of alarm calls swept through the treetops but only once did we catch sight through the twig tracery of not one, not a pair, but three displaying Sparrowhawks wheeling with butterfly wingbeats in the cold wind.

We saw 33 species.

As far as Old Roar Ghyll

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 11, 2011 by cliffdean

A gloomy, windy morning for today’s RXbirdwalk, but from the tall treetops of Alexandra Park the sound that came was not howling or droning but the cheerful melodies of several Song Thrushes. With ten days yet till the solstice, their music was enlivening and backed up by early drumming of a G S Woodpecker.

As usual the park was packed with Great and Blue Tits, plenty of cooing Woodpigeons and of course the Hastings Sound of Herring Gulls. Multiple Magpies too and insouciant Jays. It’s not yet cold enough to drive in Redwings or much in the way of wildfowl (c70 Mallard, 2 Mute Swans, c20 Moorhens and a single Coot). We could only see one of the pair of pinioned White-fronted Geese which have been in the park for at least 6 years.

As we moved upstream from the more formal park into the wilds of Old Roar, we could find no Fancy Finches in the Alders overhanging the dark and sludgy settling ponds (the Blue Plaque Night Heron Pond) and just one Grey Wagtail which however Showed Well among the little waterfalls.

The shrill alarm calls of various little birds suggested there was a raptor prowling above the twiggery  sure enough, as soon as we emerged on the road with a bit of sky in view a Sparrowhawk drifted over.

We were lucky enough to miss all but a little rain as well as a Fun Run involving a large number of people dressed as Santa Claus. 34 species.

Alexandra Park Before Alexandra Park

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on February 2, 2011 by cliffdean

On walk out in the hinterland I often find myself in an abandoned lane or alongside some ancient boundary bank, both representing a previous landscape. Luckily, the detailed Yeakell & Gardner map is available online to give an idea of our area’s topography in the late 18th century before railways, urban sprawl or the modern road network appeared to obscure the earlier web of tracks.

Hill shading gives a more vivid sense of the relief than do the contours of modern maps, bringing to prominence stream valleys which are of less concern now that no-one has to walk or haul a cart up their steep inclines.

The extract above shows the Hastings landscape at that time, with the town quite shockingly restricted to the lower Bourne Valley. To the west we can see the marshy Priory Valley where the shopping centre now stands, running down from the ghylls now occupied by the park. It’s possible to see how well the park’s boundaries emphasise the interpenetration of town and country which once characterised the unique Hastings landscape but has been more or less ignored in subsequent planning.

This broader extract was one I returned to the other week when trying to work out the course of previous thoroughfares around The Ridge, at the time of the map still countryside, a century before its Victorian development.

I’ve found no equivalent map for Kent – perhaps someone can direct me to one?