Archive for Rye

A Good Thing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on January 28, 2018 by cliffdean

Friday: the East Guldeford loop with Slow But Sure: down the Rother to the rivermouth, across to Camber and the Wainway Wall, back through Moneypenny. In the bright sunshine, a Mistle Thrush is singing in the tall trees by the fishing boats.

Since I was last here, something amazing has happened. For years, the banks of the river have been piled with rubbish, appalling amounts of plastic which shamed a picture-postcard town which prides itself as a prime regional tourist destination. (In fact, a blind eye is turned to litter in other parts of Tinseltown, especially the Cattle Market car park. On return from Cuba a couple of years ago I found it shockingly filthy compared with Havana.) Well, I hadn’t done anything about it either – such a mass of junk could not easily be cleared. (Wrong.) I’ve been searching through my photos for a “before” image for comparison but failed to find one. turning a blind shutter too.

Sometime around Christmas a lady came into the RHNR information centre to report how saddened she’d been by the squalor of the riverside upstream of Rye, asking if the reserve could do anything. I explained that the reserve has its hands full clearing the beach but suggested some potentially helpful contacts. I later discussed the problem with Andy Dinsdale, who organises Beach Cleans in other parts of Rye Bay (see Rye Bay Beachcombing Facebook page).

And that was it, till suddenly I see that the owners of Rye’s Mermaid Street Cafe had just got in touch with their friends and organised work parties, contacted Rother DC to cart away the spoil. In just two sessions of this brilliant Citizen Action they made an incredible difference.

Photos thanks to Rye Bay Beachcombing on Facebook

Since the refuse had accumulated over decades, it seems reasonable to hope that after this mass clearance little effort will be required to maintain a clean riverbank.

Thanks to Tim Waters for making Rye Harbour look like Mariupol

Following this metaphorical ray of sunshine, a thick mist drifted in. Apart from the usual Redshanks and a lolling Common Seal, wildlife sightings were restricted.

Once we got out to the Wainway Wall, we found a herd of 115 Mute Swans – about a quarter of the Romney Marsh winter population, accompanied by an Egyptian Goose, and lurking in the reeds round Moneypenny Pit, a long white neck ended in the long yellow bill of a Great Egret, now a regular bird in many of our wetlands.


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.

E Guldeford & beyond

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on February 16, 2016 by cliffdean

20160216_090304_001The north side of Rye was full of birds – the wrong sort as far as bird-watchers are concerned, since no group of tripod-bearers was gathered on the pavement to admire the many noisy House Sparrows, Starlings, Jackdaws, Collared Doves, Woodpigeons & Chaffinches like there was at Pett Pools for a single ibis.

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Most pictures by Tim Waters

And when fog drifted in, though the houses behind us were half-lost, their chattering, whistling, cooing bird chorus extended out across the serpentine ghost-creeks of long-lost Appledore Water.

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For a while only the tops of the turbine blades could be seen swishing above the fog-bank.

For a while, only Skylarks & distant traffic, until we doubled back to the Moneypenny willows where once more there was a tangle of birdsong: Robin, Great Tit, Dunnock, Song Thrush & House Sparrow.


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Tucked away in the pits were Coot, Moorhen, Gadwall, Shoveler, Teal, Heron & a reticent Chiffchaff, against the backing drone of a grain drier. (And while on the subject of Clapped-out Vehicles, here’s a beautiful one stumbled across by Mike M in France:)



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Further out onto the marsh along the Wainway Wall, a breeze had cleared fog then dropped away completely. The turbines stood unproductive, the sounds in the stillness were of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Lapwings. Golden Plovers and heavy machine guns.

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This photo is reduced too much to see, but the pasture past the sheep is full of Lapwings, Starlings & Golden Plovers – all in thousands but the plovers maybe 3000. Who knows – maybe more? When confronted with clouds of birds, I give in. The 62 Mute Swans were more my skill-level.

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A Buzzard hunched on a power lines, a Merlin pounced on some unfortunate victim and a Kingfisher dashed past us.

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We walked/hobbled/limped eight miles & saw/heard / smelt/ intuited 58 species.

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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.

Levels & Dunes

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on June 30, 2015 by cliffdean


Sunday: Over the humps and hollows of old sand-banks blown across the erstwhile Appledore Water, leaving behind for a while the urban birdsounds of Rye – House Sparrows, Collared Doves, Herring Gulls – but never escaping the howl of accelerating motor-bikes (already racing through the 30mph zone at twice that speed).




Perfumes of clover and beans.


Reedy ditches chugging with Reed Warblers or clogged with nightmare Crassula. Skylarks singing; Curlews edged from the river by the rising tide; a Kingfisher – a stubby dot – hurtling across pasture; Lapwings rising in advance of a patrolling Land Rover; young Starlings announcing the stealthy approach of a subtle Sparrowhawk.




Few birds though, across the broad horizons, apart from Rooks. The airborne larks are invisible for the most part; the Yellow Wagtails absent but for a few in a bean field; just a few male Reed Buntings on the look-out. But further over toward the wind-farm some raptors can be seen, though it takes some Naming of Landmarks to direct everyone towards them. There’s a Kestrel hovering, a bulky Peregrine sitting on a gate-post and 3 Buzzards circling by the turbines.

A Brown Hare lopes through the long grass of a long-dry creek, only the black tips of its long ears projecting from its brief refuge in a rill.

Motor-bikes take the curves of the Camber Road at speed.


More and more, along the back lanes and peeping through the bushes, one sees That Grey which means Designers Are Here. Say Goodbye to humble bungalows and Hello To Style. A gap in the traffic permits us to cross into the ridged world of sand, Sea Buckthorn, toppled block-houses and golf.


There are Common Whitethroats singing here, a couple of Lesser Whitethroats and, unexpectedly (because the vegetation doesn’t look tall enough) a Blackcap. A really surprising number of Meadow Pipits in display flight, for unlike some golf courses, manicured and sterile, this one retains many areas of rough, speckled with intense pink Pyramidal Orchids. The best bird of all, though, is a boldly coloured, boldly clicking and flicking male Stonechat, obviously on territory though there’s no sign of mate or offspring. It’s a scarce breeding bird at this end of the county and, although they have bred before along the lower Rother, a pleasure to find.


On the return from Rye, traffic is backed up from a police road-block at Winchelsea and diverted across Pett Level. A motorcyclist has been killed on the A259 at Icklesham.