Archive for Pett Level

New to the list

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 15, 2018 by cliffdean

In fact I’ve seen them both here before , but not in the time I’ve been recording lists for this site on Birdtrack, so each addition, even if it isn’t really, is a cheap thrill. This is the “Short Walk” along Pett seawall, from the Cliff End toilets to 3 Gates, at the E end of the Pools.

After slack midsummer doldrums, the tally is starting to look more respectable – 69 species today and that with a whole lot of common birds stupidly missing; I won’t list them.

Yet another beautiful morning however, with one local birder showing his knees for the first time in living memory. As we sat scanning through the very many birds on the roadside pool (including an Avocet and 5 Black-tailed Godwits) I noticed a small wader creeping along the far side. It was white underneath – no Dunlin black patch – and as it passed a dark background I could see it clearly had pale, yellowish legs. It looked like a tiny Common Sandpiper. We hurried to get level with it, a bit closer, and just as I got it in the scope it fluttered its wings to reveal a strong white wing-bar. Forget it. A Common Sandpiper, and not tiny at all. Blame the heat.

The two New To The List birds were elsewhere however: a Nuthatch calling from the trees on Cliff End (there are wanderers right now – one around our garden for the last week) and – in a dead Elder by the canal at Toot Rock – sitting with a Collared Dove and looking small and dark in comparison was a – not a Tiny Collared Dove but a – Turtle Dove! They used to arrive in the Coastguard gardens regular as clockwork on May 1st – you’d wake up to their purring but now, as everyone knows…..

a few other birds of interest were Bullfinch (singing and sitting in the open) Water Rail (calling and not sitting in the open) Bearded Tits (zooming back and forth across the roadside reeds, Common Terns busily crossing the marsh from their breeding spot in the Pannel Valley and, for the first time this year, from dawn onwards (and to become a bit tiresome over the next few weeks) a begging juvenile Buzzard.

Meanwhile, elsewhere…

It’s always encouraging to find art-history references on a demo, especially this fabulous Minoan Snake Goddess in support of the Matriarchy. It seems not certain that the original does depict a goddess; she could be a priestess or maybe just a snake-charming entertainer but there’s no denying the fearsome power of the image.

Then there was a pretentious American student, his placard declaring in Mai ’68 style La beauté est dans la rue. 

Among the the heavy-handed plays on words and the ubiquitous expletives, there were many witty inscriptions, the one I liked best was:

“ANGRY about too many things to get on one sign”



Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on July 10, 2018 by cliffdean

It must be a good time for aerial archaeology, as differential bleaching emphasises shallow, compacted or well-drained soils. The phone-photo above is not very good but shows a section of the old track that used to meander behind the coastal shingle bank before the post-war construction of the present sea wall. I think the greener sweep may show the hollow of a coastal pool while the raised heap to the right could be rubble from the old Ship Inn.

Within the Chalk Curve at Winchelsea Beach, the gold and copper of desiccated plants contrasts with bright blue of Viper’s Bugloss, the yellows, browns and purples of specialised drought-resistant plants beginning to feel stressed. Disappointingly, there seems to be no difference in colour between ant-hills and surrounding turf.

Looking north along the axis of the old shore-lines at Castle Farm, even the hollows have dried to create a panorama of golden grasses.

Round at the harbour, a combination of short tides, absence of rain (though it showered just across the river at Camber) and hot sun has left the former mud-flats pallid and crazed, mottled with subtle variations. A few channels retain a sky-reflecting sheen of damp across the chaotic polygons of shrinking mud and one tiny pool of water is ringed by egrets plundering the hapless fish trapped therein.

This small pond, close to the caravan site, sits within a curve in the old seawall along which the path runs to the hides. I think it must be the scour pool carved out by rushing tide during some past breach of the wall. The subsequent repair was hard to achieve across the depression so was built around its edge. There are similar repair loops, often with the scour pool still in situ on Walland Marsh and indeed another on the reserve at Ridge End.

That smell….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on May 31, 2018 by cliffdean

That springtime scent seeps in from the sea; it goes with sunshine and buttercups. Some people hate it and complain to the council, wanting Something To Be Done but I inhale deeply.

It comes from an algal bloom in the shallow waters of the bay. Sometimes the shallows are stained orange. Fishing lines are slimed and shrimp-nets fouled with it. The moorlog acquires a grey, slithery surface. The rich, fertile ferment oozes its oily perfume over the meadows and up the hill.

It’s called gullywater or Mayrot or Maybloom.

But today, after forty years of wondering, thanks to my EA informant, I discovered the organism’s scientific name:


Learn that name. You can win admiration this weekend by deploying it at BBQs or among fellow beach-goers. You can complain knowledgeably in the pub: “Yeah, it’s the ******** Phaeocystis innit?” In no time at all you’ll hear it on the Today programme.

Here’s what else I learnt:

Locally it’s believed to be cause by a combination of a few things

1.     Water reaching a critical temperature

2.     The nutrient loading caused by the Bognor weed banks breaking away and rotting down – subsequently pulled along the coast

3.     Nutrient enrichment caused by outfalls & run off.

OSPAR  did a study on it in Belgium, Holland and Germany. – below is the link to the full article.

In case you haven’t seen any photos of snow.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 27, 2018 by cliffdean



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

The sandstone face of Cliff End edged a little further westwards last week when two significant rockfalls took place. The first fell from close to the Cave which, year by year, promises to vanish altogether yet with each collapse is revealed to reach further back.

The Fulmars which nest there are just having to shuffle a bit closer together while a few are now camped under the scrub on the very cliff edge.

The second fall was further west, a huge slab which has been leaning away most menacingly for the last couple of years but is now a heap of smashed rock on the beach. When I went down to look, two women had walked along that far and were returning right along the base of the cliff, having failed to make the connection between the rubble and how it got there. Unbelievably foolhardy (though having said that, none of the incautious visitors who do likewise have yet been flattened).

The bright green cascades to the right are the invasive alien Hottentot Fig.

A high tide then scoured away the shingle bank which has protected the rock since the mid-80s, allowing the landslip of softer material to slide down and drift away as slurry, carrying with it an unsightly ladder constructed recently by a nearby householder who had also failed to make the connection between “land” and “slip”.

With the shingle gone, the former beach is revealed, with big flat slabs of stone lying upon a bed of ferruginous sand (many years ago this same sand was said to stain washing hung out on windy days).

New Year almost

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 5, 2018 by cliffdean

Tuesday January 2nd 2018: Since I’d wanted to join the Rye Harbour walk on the First (it was wet and windy but 18 people turned up, stayed the course and enjoyed watching murmurations of Golden Plovers & Lapwings as well as some scarcer birds such as Black-necked Grebe & Red-breasted Merganser) the customary RXbirdwalk was displaced till the following day when it was dark and grey but at least dry – till 11 o’clock.

This meant a change of plan to make the most of the two hours available: drive to the Pools and look out from the seawall and beach. There were plenty of birds again – the sky often full of Lapwings, Curlews, Dunlins & Starlings flushed up from the soggy pastures by unseen predators or maybe just popular panic. Sorting from these moving silhouettes the small groups of Golden Plovers & Ruffs was a stimulating challenge as was the separation of grey roosting waders into Grey Plover, Knot & Dunlin as they huddled on the shingle, thanks to the miserable weather undisturbed by strollers .

Likewise, the lines of birds roosting behind the roadside pool provided an interesting task since they comprised several species of gull & wader. Then there were the many dabbling and diving ducks with a Marsh Harrier cruising over them.

So, by the time the New Year Drizzle arrived half an hour early we had seen quite a variety of birds (40), though when I came to compile it the lack of you-see-them-every-time species such as Blackbird, Blue Tit & Robin felt strangely unbalanced. Once you get east of the Toot Rock bushes though, they just aren’t there.

Making the most of it

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 30, 2017 by cliffdean

Emerging from another day of roaring wind and lashing rain to see a forecast for frost, sunshine and calm I determined to make the most of perhaps the last decent day of 2017 by extending the ever-longer “short walk” along the seawall across Pett Level and back along the Canal.

The first bird of interest was a Chiffchaff, in the Marsham Reedbed. Two new pools were dug there this autumn but were frozen over. Fulmars have returned in force to the cliffs, where a Peregrine was perched out on an overhanging branch.

On the PLPT land, areas which have been cleared of blackthorn the resulting rough vegetation concealed dozens of Song Thrushes, foraging safely there with Blackbirds, protected from strong winds and hidden from Sparrowhawks.

Across the Canal, Redwings & Fieldfares were continuing to strip the hawthorns, the latter an infrequent visitor along this stretch though common enough a little inland.

The marsh was covered with birds, which a pair of Marsh Harriers sent up in great wavering clouds: Curlews, Lapwings & Golden Plovers in a fabulous spectacle, filling the air with mournful wails and whistles. There were more Golden Plovers than I’d ever seen here – at least 600 – but probably a detachment from just down the road at Rye Harbour.  Ruff can be a bit tricky to pick out on the ground – though one has a helpfully pure white head – but once in the air were easier to distinguish.

On the beach opposite, Turnstones, Dunlin & Grey Plovers were waiting for the tide to drop, lined up at the points where moorlog would first be exposed like commuters clustered where the doors would be on a train yet to arrive.

The Pools were occupied by the usual ducks but at the east end a Great Egret sat in the reeds. It has been hanging around for a week or so, sometimes hunched on the bank among Cormorants along with the crazy,mixed-up Wigeon-killing GBb Gull.

Hundreds of Greylag & Canada Geese spread across the marsh, we managed to pick out a couple of Whitefronts.

Nothing much to add from then on; 72 species but no Meadow Pipits, Skylarks, Stonechats or Reed Buntings.

The low, raking light emphasises WWII gun positions dug into the landward side of the Napoleonic-era Canal parapet, looking towards and invading force that never came.

A quick lunch, then off to the Reedbed Viewpoint at Castle Water to witness the orange sunset drama, as dark Fieldfares on their way to roost crossed rose-pink plumes of vapour from shining jets high above, Cormorants converged into the bare trees, shadowy Marsh Harriers cruised the fields and, as the reedbeds blackened, Water Rails signed out in a squealing choir.