Archive for Icklesham

Four Go Birding In “Geoff+Tracey” Land

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 11, 2016 by cliffdean

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For a change, the sky was blue, the air cool and the sunshine bright. Bright, low and dazzling. Even before we left Icklesham Sports Ground we had seen 16 species from Dunnocks down in the hedge-bottoms to Redwings in the treetops, singing Robins, Starlings & Collared Doves competing with the rush of traffic on the A259. Then just across the lane and past the church to the rusty Swamp Cypress & contorted skeletal Sweet Chestnut for Gold- & Greenfinches and a singing Mistle Thrush.

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Those orchards still surviving are carpeted with crimson windfalls and alive with the chuckering of Fieldfares which, along with numerous Blackbirds were gorging on the cider-scented fruit. Just a few Redwings, Starlings & Jays joined in the feast while Black-headed, Common & Herring Gulls preened & slept on the adjoining pasture. Over past the windmill and along the Hog Hill ridge, through erstwhile birdfood plots now devoid of customers and down to the edge of the erstwhile cliff to enjoy the broad expanse of glowing green marsh dotted with Lapwings & Curlews.

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By the kinked canal, one attentive Little Egret and on the mud, now the boards are out, a Kingfisher, 3 Redshanks and what looked, against blinding sunlight, like a Common Sandpiper. Extraordinary though were the grooves carved in the muddy gutter floor by cruising Swan Mussels. It had never occurred to me that they moved about, once their glochidial hitch-hiking days were over, but there they were, making tracks through the shallows, a particularly big specimen misguidedly heading for the heron-printed bank.

Following the Pannel upstream, we were accompanied by a Water Rail scuttling beneath overhanging vegetation. 130 Teal on the Scrape, a Buzzard, a Marsh Harrier, a single Cetti’s Warbler, then fantastic close views of a male Bearded Tit closely followed by typically hopeless views of a flying Water Pipit.

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Fallen Crab-apples in a mixed plantation

Making our way uphill through mixed-species plantations, we crossed paths with a large flock of Long-tailed Tits trailing Goldcrest, Coal Tit & Treecreeper before finally entering orchards crowded with Fieldfares. In other parts of the area you can walk all morning without seeing one, since they’re all scoffing windfalls.

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Pett Level – Icklesham

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on January 7, 2010 by cliffdean

We walked through the snow to Icklesham for lunch at the Queen’s Head. Immediately, it was clear that loads of Redwings had moved into the area – dozens of them flying out from the still-green hedge bases. There were Blackbirds and Chaffinches foraging there too, Goldfinches, a Green Woodpecker.

Down on the marsh, flocks of Redwings were streaming past and from the snowy fields were bursting up Snipe, Meadow Pipits and Skylarks. I don’t normally see many of those on the level, but I suddenly realized there was another, fluting call coming from them and a flock of 12 stubby little Woodlarks fluttered down by some sheep. For the past several years, a flock of Woodlarks has wintered at Pett Level, so I assumed this must be it – not in its usual place but..

Along the Canal, more Snipe, Teal, Redshanks, a couple of Green Sandpipers echoing up and two dark Marsh Harriers were quartering the white pastures, sending up yet more Snipe. More and more Redwings were passing us, flying inexplicably north, often accompanied by Skylarks and a few times I was sure I could hear Woodlarks again.

Then it started snowing, harder and harder until Winchelsea disappeared and we wondered whether the whole enterprise was sensible. On top of the cliff, a mass of Jackdaws & Rooks flew up into the snow, from which a croaking Raven emerged.

The orchards were packed with Redwings, Fieldfares and Starlings – hundreds of them scavenging windfall apples. Maybe that’s where they had been heading.

By the time we had eaten at the strangely-empty pub, the sun had come out and we cut back across to Pannel Bridge: Water Rails squeaking from the orange swamp and yet more Snipe flying up from the stream edge. I scanned the bush-tops fruitlessly for the Great Grey Shrike, which is either blatant or invisible, and had just given up when it flew past me and settled quite low in an alder to munch some small prey item.

At the scrape, up to 20 Snipe were hungrily probing the grassy bank right in front of the hide, giving amazing views of their beautifully barred, brindled, streaked and striped buffs, browns and blacks. Normally such cryptic birds, they were fluttering down on the snow-covered ice and plodding across it ahead of a long blue shadow. Very silent there, apart from keening Lapwings and disputing Teal on the ice, along with a mass of curled-up Common Gulls.

As I walked back along the canal, a flock of Woodlarks flew past me, going north. I assumed they were from the same flock I’d seen earlier until i got home and looked at the SOS website, where people were reporting lots of woodlarks in places they don’t normally winter. So maybe there were more than 20…

In the morning, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret had been hunched in the stag-headed oak near Carter’s Flood, and now they came flying towards me, silhouetted by the dazzling low sun…which was shining through their white wings… The smaller egret peeled off onto the flood while the Great White Egret continued past me in stately fashion, its big yellow beak glowing in the winter light. It’s the first one I’ve seen at Pett Level. Other people have seen them, but not me. In fact, the first I’d seen in the UK was only a few weeks ago, at Dungeness. And agin, on the SOS site was a report of one flying E at Climping at half past twelve. This one was at three. Could it be the same?

So for me it’s been an exciting day, watching starving birds. And now I’m sitting in a nice warm house writing about it while they’re huddled in hedges and reed beds under the cold stars, trying to survive another night.