Archive for Cadborough Cliff


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

An early morning circular walk from Winchelsea Station to Rye produced a good variety of birds, including some species I’d not seen there for a while. The Little Owl, for instance, at the junction of Station Road & Dumbwoman’s Lane, which had vanished for a year and a half shortly after I told people it was a good place to see them, was back again perched out in the open on top of a dead hawthorn bush.

I was actually searching for Cetti’s Warblers but they were keeping uncharacteristically quiet – not to be found in even the most regular spots and those I did hear were rather distant so hard to pinpoint: one along the railway line and another beside the A259, where I’d heard it from the car the previous day. as usual though, there were a lot of small birds, many with newly fledged young. The more notable were 10 Blackcaps, 16 Chiffchaffs, 62 Linnets, 13 Reed Buntings, 15 Reed Warblers, 3 Sedge Warblers, 34 Skylarks, 20 Whitethroats & 3 Yellowhammers.

A large dung heap just south of Dairy Cottage is attracting hundreds of Rooks & Jackdaws as well as pairs of Pied & Yellow Wagtails.

And although I’d given up on Corn Buntings, two were back again at the customary spots on Rye Marsh. This is also one of the few places west of the Rother where Yellow Wagtails still nest. Numbers last year were poor – perhaps they didn’t like the maize monoculture then –  but this year’s barley must be more agreeable since I found 4 pairs, one of them carrying food, while two others flying over were apparently visiting nests further from the footpath.

One of the most welcome sights & sounds came from here. See that house on the left with the two dormer windows? Well, those windows were open in the heat though the curtains still drawn so the occupants had the now-rare luxury of awakening to the drowsy purring of a Turtle Dove in the little tree just outside. That’s if they notice. Quite likely not. But it was sitting there in the sunshine, sometimes fluttering up in display flight.

Rye town is perhaps now the best (only?) place to hear them in our area: here at Cadborough Cliff, at Gibbets Marsh car park and Rye Station (Ashford platform).

Some things are more reliable, fly-tipping for example. Public spending cuts ensure that a mattress such as this embellish the landscape for months at a time.

“The School of Love” by George Shaw

Between Rye & Winchelsea

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on May 19, 2017 by cliffdean

Synchronising with the Freccia della Palude at Winchelsea Centrale on a morning cooler than it ought to be, thick with the night’s rain and scented with fading hawthorns, are two Cuckoos, ever more precious for all their louche wing-drooping as they promise to vanish from our world.

Along the lane,where the fly-tipped junk is engulfed by springtime weeds, Chiffchaffs sing from the willows and golden Yellowhammers skim the field-edge. Within the withered branches of the spring-fed oak just beyond the junction a dot is moving; moving in a way that reveals it as a Spotted Flycatcher. Another bird now reduced to a dot like the one that used to shrink to nothing as you turned off the television. And the Little Owl that used to sun itself on the rabbit-grazed bank has upped sticks ever since I told people this was a good place to see Little Owl.

Along the misty cliff-line though, the air is so crowded with voices welling up from prehistory  – Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Dunnock, Reed Warbler, Wren…. concentration is required to unravel the soundscape.

Deep and percussive pulses of Nightingale song issue from the shadows by a rope-swing beneath a clump of taller trees.

Max Ernst: Deux enfants menacés par un rossignol

Rossignol translates not only as Nightingale but also, magically, as “skeleton key”. The song is the key which unlocks deep and forgotten doors.

Usignolo di fiume, River Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler, also deeply hidden, announces its presence in brief and blatant blasts. For a long time just one or two here, last year nine, this morning five.

Both end and beginning, this extensive dung-heap S of Dairy Cottage attracts much favourable attention from Yellow Wagtails, Jackdaws, Rooks, Greylag Geese, Stock Doves, a Herring Gull, Pied Wagtails & Swallows, the latter three commuting from nest-sites on Cadborough Cliff to profit from its fertility.

Joan Miro: Man and Woman in Front of a Pile of Excrement

Efforts have been made, across the arable fields, to impose productive uniformity and erase history by levelling out the snaking hollows of former creeks.  Comparatively birdless maize last year has been superseded by other cereals, currently inhabited by a couple of dozen Skylarks and four pairs of Yellow Wagtails. While one Mute Swan continues to incubate, two other pairs already have cygnets. Four Sedge Warblers are grating from scrubby ditches toward the Antient Towne, above which yet more dots denote the hanging on of the relic Swift & House Martin populations.

Only the surface of the ground is wet but by the time I reach the lane again I’m hobbling on high pattens claggy soil.

Common & Not-so-common

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 7, 2016 by cliffdean

20160605_081828As the cold wind relented towards the end of last week I caught up with a couple of local sites. The birdsong has diminished now that adults are busy feeding young but along Cadborough Cliff there were still lots of Whitethroats & Linnets, a Cuckoo, Yellowhammers in 4 places and several singing . Sadly, no sign of Turtle Doves though David B tells me they are still to be heard sometimes at Gibbet Marsh. Out on Rye Marsh there were plenty of singing Skylarks, 3-4 pairs of Yellow Wagtails and, most surprisingly, a Short-eared Owl. Though several have stayed on in the county this spring, a June bird is most unusual.


Sunday morning brought beautiful warm sunshine and saw me out in second-home country at Hundredhouse Bridge to do my Late BTO Breeding Bird Survey. Gratifyingly, there were more Whitethroats than I had ever recorded there, even though they had been absent for some years, and Yellowhammers at 2 sites.


Since it was still quite early and I’d had a message to confirm its continued presence, I dropped down to Rye Harbour to have a look at the American Golden Plover. By Gooders’ Hide, I met Roy G, who’d seen the plover earlier and walked with him to the Red-roofed Hut (it’s being repainted, but only the walls; surely it’s  time for a makeover – a blue roof, say?) where only half a dozen people were assembled. I’d expected more for such a rarity but was nonetheless pleased to avoid a crowd.

After several minutes of well-it-was-there-earlier searching I began to worry that I was launched into another episode of My Twitching Shame. I was about to swallow my pride and ask someone to point it out when Chris B arrived and immediately got it in his scope. It was obvious (now). Cracking, of course, but less obvious once it went to sleep among green vegetation. I made some notes, talked to a few people, looked again and could not see it, pretended to make a few more notes while in reality practising for old age by sitting on a Nice Comfortable Bench in the sunshine. Quite a few people then began to arrive.


Before I left I checked and there the plover was again but I noticed no one else was looking in that direction.  Sensing that they too faced Twitching Shame I did my Good Deed (“Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds” – if only…) and prepared to go. However, as much as I avoid twitches (easy enough around here, owing to the lack of rare birds) they can be enjoyably sociable occasions – like a wedding…or a funeral – where you meet up with people you don’t see very often, and get talking…(“Working late at the office again darling.”)


About birds for a change

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 9, 2015 by cliffdean

Cadborough Cliff is one of the tetrad-based local walks I do fairly regularly, finding much the same birds – with minor variations – on each occasion. It’s not often that I add species to the list so 3 new ones this morning was unusual.

What made the difference was a small flood in the field behind Dairy Cottage (TQ914198) where, beside Herring, Common & Black-headed Gulls, were 300 Lapwings, 4 Redshanks & 1 Ruff. the latter two were the new species, the trio completed later by a Raven which was seeing off a Buzzard closer to Winchelsea.

At another small flood on the far side of the railway (TQ911199), 60 Pied Wagtails & 10 Reed Buntings were doing their best to avoid a Sparrowhawk which had identified them as an All-You-Can-Eat buffet.

Otherwise, there were a lot of Blackbirds (31) with smaller numbers of Song Thrushes (16), Fieldfares (34) & Redwings (6), the latter two mainly in the Hawthorns lining Station Road. There were 2 Cetti’s Warblers singing along the foot of the cliff, 1 Stonechat there + another pair on Rye Marsh where there were also c40 Skylarks & 2 Grey Wagtails. I was disappointed to find only 1 Yellowhammer, just by the station.

And the Little Owl was sunning itself in its normal tree on the corner of Dumb Woman’s Lane.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on August 3, 2015 by cliffdean


Cadborough Cliff is pretty quiet now, apart from full-throated Wrens and a few lacklustre Chiffchaffs but there are plenty of birds in the scrub, most visibly flitting about in skeleton Elders where families of Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Linnet & Goldfinch are joined by the odd Robin, Dunnock, Lesser Whitethroat & Sedge Warbler. (It’s getting to that time of year when full names become a chore, so get ready for BTO codes – coming soon!)


The landscape is patched with ripened cereals, the pasture pallid with Crested Dog’s-tail and field edges golden with tall, dry stems of False Oat-grass and billowed white with the seed-heads of Creeping Thistle. Along the railway line, 4 Yellowhammers were singing.


So, all in all pleasant enough (except that clouds came over almost at once – this often happens – and they break up just as I finish…) until, just as I approached Rye, I heard a Turtle Dove purring. Now so uncommon that, when I recorded one at nearby Gibbet Marsh a while ago it was put out on Rare Bird Alert. How dreadful is that?


Here it is: a Shot that is Beyond Record

This was at a site where I last recorded one a couple of years ago. I don’t come here too often so it could have been here all spring – just not purring when I passed.


And then, as I set out across Rye Marsh, just past Dairy Cottage, I could hear the ticking of a Corn Bunting, which I finally caught sight of on a stockade, where it wheezed out a feeble jingle. I had one here on my last visit so that makes it permanent territory, though sadly the main CB area just up the valley seems to have none this summer.


Across the marsh there were just a dozen Skylarks, a few Reed Buntings and….hmmm, that’s about it. The Yellow Wagtails have moved on.


The footpath follows an old causeway, or maybe a river wall, its elevation emphasised by seasonal growth.

Just before Winchelsea though, another Yellowhammer. And, feeding with BH Gulls & Jackdaws, 3 ad Common Gulls, recently returned.



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 27, 2015 by cliffdean


The still morning air traps a patchwork of perfumes and, as usual, Cadborough Cliff is crowded with songbirds. It’s quite a challenge to count them (but keeps me busy) since I need to simultaneously differentiate the various songs, bear in mind the various species, assess whether any are duplications of birds I’ve already noted and choose one up ahead as a boundary marker for the next count.

The list is made up mostly of Blackbirds, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Dunnocks,Linnets, Whitethroats & Wrens, backed up by smaller numbers of around 25 other species including Cetti’s, Reed  & Sedge Warbler and Yellowhammer. The wandering of Cetti’s Warblers continues, with one singing right by Winchelsea Station.


Sadly, there’s no sound of Turtle Dove in Rye, though I had an email recently from someone who’d been on holiday in the town and heard them in two places.


The cliff-top Cadborough Farm owes its post-war appearance to the destruction of the former building by a doodlebug during the war. The bare ground results from winter flooding of the hollow bed of an old creek.


Skylarks are audible all across the arable fields between Rye & Winchelsea; I counted 31 birds of which about 20 were singing males. There was one Corn Bunting towards the northern end and 5 Yellow Wagtails towards the transition to sheep pasture.


While the ditches with newly-grown reed are occupied by Reed Warblers & Buntings, the brambly ditches and broad field margins at Rye Marsh Farm provide good habitat for 4 Sedge Warblers, another pair of Yellow Wagtails with young and another singing Yellowhammer. Somewhere among the crops, a Red-legged Partridge is grating.


From Dumb Woman’s Lane to Gibbet Marsh

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 22, 2015 by cliffdean


The sign has gone. It even had an apostrophe.


A wonderful May morning, hedgerows foaming with Cow Parsley, birdsong everywhere.


The path passes between a steep and scrubby stranded sea-cliff to one side and flat ex-estuary on the other.


From the brambles come songs of Whitethroats, Linnets, Dunnocks & a single Nightingale; from the taller bushes Blackbirds & Song Thrushes; from the trees, Chiffchaffs & Blackcaps. A Hobby slices through air almond-scented by hawthorns decked in matrimonial splendour. A Cetti’s Warbler has moved a few hundred metres west of its traditional site and another is spluttering from a new site just by Ferry house.



From the fields, where a Marsh Harrier is patrolling, you can hear a few Yellowhammers and beyond them Skylarks.



In Rye a Turtle Dove is purring by the railway and a Lesser Whitethroat rattling nearby. You can hear them both from the level crossing (having first ascertained that no train approaches).


Back across Rye Marsh, there are Skylarks singing on every field and 6 pairs of Yellow Wagtails but where the vegetation was cleared out in winter the ditch-sides are only just starting to send up green shoots of reed so Reed Buntings and Warblers.