Archive for Cadborough Cliff

Seething Scrub & Sparrowful Stubble

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 25, 2020 by cliffdean

Monday Aug 24th: even the walk down from Winchelsea Station to Dumb Woman’s Lane was more eventful than usual, with a few warblers, a long tangled flock of Long-tailed Tits + hangers-on, a male Marsh Harrier and a flock of c50 House Sparrows in the hedge. The latter was especially interesting since I’ve never seen any number like that here. There are none in winter, then a few pairs move down to the bungalows in the lane for breeding. It could be that I’ve not been here when there have been extensive stubble fields, as there are now, in which sparrows may glean. There was a similar-sized flock in the ditch S of Dairy Cottage then at least 100 east of Ferry House. with a few subsidiary clusters along the way, there must have been a good 200 altogether which would have been a common enough sight years ago but is much less so now.

The west end of Cadborough Cliff was full of action, with warblers darting about everywhere through the gorse, willow & elder scrub. They were principally Whitethroats, but with a lot of Lesser Whitethroats &, Chiffchaffs and fewer Willow Warblers & Blackcaps, difficult to count. I had brief views of a beautiful orange-bellied male Common Redstart while an uncertain number of young Stonechats (local produce) were flicking their wings from the bush-tops.

It was like more Proper Birdwatching, though when there are so many migrants you hope for a few extras: flycatchers…or..a Garden Warbler? (I hardly ever see those on migration.) Further along the cliff there was plenty of buzzing, ticking and peeping to indicate the presence of more warblers, but steeper slopes and thicker scrub kept them better hidden.

Kestrels were moving between the cliff and fields, often harassed by Jackdaws, a Sparrowhawk sailed through (maybe heading for the sparrows?) and the wailing of young Buzzards provided seasonal background music. Goldfinches, Linnets, several Bullfinches and a few welcome Greenfinches were along the way but no Yellowhammers at all and only one Cetti’s Warbler. It looks as if Swallows are doing well on the houses towards Rye.


The stubble fields of Rye Marsh seemed pretty quiet at first and in fact I heard only a few Reed Warblers and no Reed Buntings. Skylarks were few, though a flock flushed by a jogger off the footpath suggested they were just out of the way and keeping a low profile, probably a good idea in view of the Peregrine which tussled with a Kestrel before making triumphant circuits clasping a dead bird – maybe a Starling.

Apart from a great big flock of Rooks & Jackdaws, it was raptors which animated this part of the walk, with up to 6 Buzzards and maybe the same number of Kestrels drifting back and forth. In vain I kept an eye on the former in the hope that some other raptor might join them.

On the dry fields there were just a couple each of Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear & Whinchat – the latter in a strip of unharvested linseed closer to Winchelsea.

From the bridge

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on May 7, 2019 by cliffdean

Although a cold, cold, northerly wind was blowing, in the lee of Cadborough cliff you are protected from the worst of it, even if the birds seem a bit depressed. However right at the start we came across a f Stonechat carrying food, in the same place they bred last year (though later on we were unable to find the pair I’d seen recently in the middle of Rye Marsh). There were still plenty of Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Whitethroats & Linnets plus a few Lesser Whitethroats & Cetti’s Warblers. Two Nightingales struck up from the taller vegetation and a Hobby raced along the cliff-line.

In Rye we checked out two sites for the ever-decreasing Turtle Dove, which hangs on in a few sites around the town. The first was unproductive (though a bird had been heard singing there earlier in the day) but at the station we managed to pick one out as it sat in an elder beside the Ashford line.

No longer sheltered from the wind, but with it at least at our backs as we crossed Rye Marsh, we were immediately confronted by a glowing m Yellow Wagtail. Further on we saw a pair and another single bird. Since their current status in the Brede Valley seems uncertain, these would be the only breeding birds west of the Rother, marking the very western edge of the Romney Marsh population. Apart from these and a small number of Reed Buntings & Warblers, Skylarks made up most of the interest of this end of the walk. 51sp.

Extremely yellow

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on April 29, 2019 by cliffdean

Friday 26th: Woooow! Look at thiiis! Tarmac, white lines, parking bays at Winchelsea Station! Just think if such a thing were possible at Rye Harbour Car Park! You could “Say goodbye to stupid parking” – but no, it hardly seems possible.

As sunny morning along Cadborough Cliff  – so sadly neglected by all but a couple of birdwatchers yet so full of activity: 53 Linnets, 30 Whitethroats,  24 Wrens, 16 Chaffinches, 15 Blackcaps, 14 Chiffchaffs, 12 Dunnocks, 9 Reed Warblers, 7 Cetti’s Warblers, 4 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Sedge Warblers, 2  Nightingales.…you get the picture.

And a Hobby, and various other common birds, but no Turtle Dove – that arrived the following day.

Then back through the fields of cereals, sheep and oilseed rape (my Jacket sleeves are still daubed with pollen) for 33 Skylarks, 9 Reed Buntings, a pair of Stonechats and 4 Yellow Wagtails in probably their most westerly location in the county.

Although this route through the fields between Rye & Winchelsea is frequently recommended in guide books & newspaper articles, this stile has been collapsing for some time and is now difficult to use. Previously, it was possible to pass through the gate but that is now securely locked – maybe walkers left it open & sheep escaped. However, ESCC have a helpful Rights of Way team to which problems of this kind can be reported.


Winter Colour

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on December 29, 2018 by cliffdean


As James & I set off from Winchelsea Station we marvelled at the indifference with which the countryside is regarded by some of those passing through it. Plastic sacks of rubbish flung into the hedgerow, an oil drum toppled (and leaking what?) into the ditch and multiple McDonalds containers & wrappings jettisoned by homegoing merrymakers.

Large amounts of roadside rubbish originates from McDonalds & KFC. Certain points along local lanes measure the time it takes to scoff a burger or swallow a drink before tossing the wrappings from the car window. Everyone’s lives are degraded by the ensuing squalour.

 Across England the problem is getting worse, according to Keep Britain Tidy. It found a quarter of our streets strewn with refuse compared to 16 per cent six years ago.  Overall, McDonald’s topped the league. Up to 29 per cent of all takeaway rubbish, such as burger wrappers, ketchup sachets and plastic straws, came from its restaurants. In second place, was the local chippie, with a 21 per cent share of waste including polystyrene trays and wrappers. Greggs was third with 18 per cent, KFC fourth with eight per cent and Subway fifth with five per cent. ” (and that was 2009)

Of course we were not doing a litter survey, we were looking for birds, but with the trash so unashamed it was hard to pretend that our surroundings are as “unspoilt” as travel writers and estate agents insist.

Our destination was a pair of fields at the Rye end of Cadborough Cliff where a crop of sunflowers has been left as winter birdfood, attracting a large flock of finches. Chaffinches were the main component with at least 100 present though the constantly moving small flocks made an accurate count difficult (that 100 these days counts as a “large” flock is a sign of the times) with smaller numbers – maybe only 10 each – of Linnet, Goldfinch & Greenfinch. 

Secreted low down among the brown & soggy stems were c100 Woodpigeons whose presence only became apparent when a m Marsh Harrier came over. As they clattered up from the field, it made a few perfunctory feints at individuals with lower rates of acceleration.

At the far end there’s a paddock poached to a pulp by overcrowded horses. Though these animals have retreated to a far corner where a bit of yellow grass can still be had, the morass has drawn out of cover about 20 Moorhens which peck about, in the open, tails flicking

The other thing we wanted to check was the large flock of Mute Swans which tramps around the rape fields on Rye Marsh, in which 2 Black Swans have been feeding recently. You can pick those out from the A259 if you dare to take your eyes from the road for a split-second (I don’t recommend it – don’t blame me if you have head-on crash) but you will not be able to count the Mutes. And actually it wasn’t that easy because you can’t see them all at once. We made it about 80, but I suspect there may have been more on the  fields up by Road End, since I’ve seen over 100 swans – about a quarter of the Romney Marsh total – here in the past.

Cadborough Cliff circular

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on October 25, 2018 by cliffdean

Quite a few Blackbirds & Song Thrushes in scrub along the cliff-line, a couple of Mistle Thrushes in the lane and one small flock of Fieldfares.

Chaffinches moving overhead.

Skylarks among the maize stubble – at least 50 and a similar number of Stock Doves.

From a reedy ditch by the wooden footbridge, calls of one or more Bearded Tits – a new bird for me at this site, and a Water Pipit calling overhead – a species I’ve had here just once before.

Back in Pett, a Yellowhammer flies over the allotments. They used to breed around the lanes here but have long disappeared so what this represents is anyone’s guess.

Land of Ammonia

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on April 14, 2018 by cliffdean

Friday: The misty world of Cadborough Cliff was delicately perfumed yesterday with manure from muck-spreading at Rye Marsh, where slippery black clods made walking more difficult and, once back in the car, smelly boots a liability.

Along the cliff line many of the Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps & numerous Linnets are back in place, though only 4 Whitethroats have so far returned, and I’ll be keeping an eye open for further appearances of a male Stonechat and a Raven there.

More than 30 brightly plumaged Chaffinches were very active in singing and seeing off rivals, with a few unseemly scuffles on the path, though I suspect that some of these will join the northbound flocks passing along the coast just now.

On the edge of Rye the pasture was busy with probing Starlings & Jackdaws, shuttling out from their nests in nearby roofs.

Across the marsh 30 Skylarks, 2 Sedge Warblers, 1 Yellow Wagtail. First Lesser Whitethroat for this year in the garden of Dairy Cottage. A single Lapwing stood among the foraging gulls in the World of Dung.

Around the whole circuit there were good numbers (6 of each)of singing Cetti’s Warblers & Yellowhammers (also reported to be in good numbers at nearby Crutches Fm)

House Sparrows are usually in Station Road & along the top of Cadborough Cliff but also today at Winchelsea Station and Dairy Cottage – 2 sites where I’ve never previously noticed them.

Summertime Greens

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 15, 2017 by cliffdean

Following rain, after dew, grassy paths will soak you. Better to choose a an arable route where the tramlines will give a clear path. Up to a point, but the wheat is just long enough to lean over, soaking you all the same and, what’s more, bare claggy soil ensures an accretion of clods on your clumping summer footwear.

Never mind; there’s a Turtle Dove purring as soon as I open the car door at Winchelsea Stn, plenty of Skylarks are still singing, the odd Yellow Wagtail is still in situ and Winchelsea Swifts are hawking overhead.

After  the wheat, dew-beaded peas glisten in the low morning light, are low enough to keep the dew to themselves and bring joy to the hearts of many Woodpigeons which rise from the fields on clattering wings. The bridges are obstructed by vigorous, sprawling brambles which rip at your nice lightweight shirt.

(Note to self: Secateurs in backpack next time.)

Meadow Barley flanking the approach to a footbridge on sheep pasture.

But then some good news: a click from the smooth heads of (what is this crop??) denotes the presence of a Corn Bunting – two in fact and one is carrying food. So they’re still hanging on here as breeders. Then the giant dung heap south of Dairy Cottage has plenty of customers, mostly corvids but also two broods of fashionably grey Pied Wagtail fledglings, a single brilliant male Yellow Wagtail and an attendant flight of Swallows, appreciative of the flies.

At the Rye end, the nesting Herring Gulls on the workshop roof at Jempson’s yard have brown young by now. A worker going off-shift gets shouted at by his boss for lobbing the remains of his sandwiches out for the parents. On the edge of the town gardens, dozens of young Starlings are running about the pastures and…in a hedgerow behind Gibbet’s Marsh,another Turtle Dove is purring – a traditional place but they’re not always calling.

Along Cadborough Cliff the many, many breeding birds have gone quiet: feeding young, keeping a low profile apart from loads of Linnets twittering over the scrub, and there’s a third Turtle Dove at the start of the cliff, where I saw one last time. They’ve gone from ubiquitous to scarce in recent years and are hard to find in the broader countryside but around Rye town there’s still a little relic population.




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.”)