Archive for December, 2010

31st December 2010, Friday

New Year, new challenge…

We hope you have enjoyed the wildlife news reported here and been able to enjoy the real thing during 2010.
As Rye Harbour Nature Reserve enters its 42nd year there is the prospect of the new wetland habitats attracting even more wildlife, BUT it also faces a great financial challenge – Click here for more detail – so it is now more important than ever to have your support.
Please consider joining the Friends of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and help us to continue improving this special place for wildlife and people. CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE.
Wishing all our Friends a happy and healthy New Year.

31st December 2010, Friday

Pett Level

An amazing morning, with Red-breasted Goose, 350 Whitefronts, 132 Barnacles, c80 Brents inc some Pale-bellied, 3 Bitterns and many thousands of Wigeon. At midday a long line of Bewick’s Swans flew over east. Various estimates were made but mine was c100.
Also ran: Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, Raven, Water Pipit, Yellowhammer.
More on RXbirdwalks

30th December 2010, Thursday

Exhibition at RSPB Dungeness

Exhibition of original paintings and prints by Stephen Message.
10 am to 4 pm daily until 22nd January.

30th December 2010, Thursday

RSPB Dungeness sightings

The best place to see a bittern for the past three or four days has been from Scott hide. A bird has been feeding almost continuously just a few feet from the hide and giving absolutely cracking views. Several smew have been coming in very close as well and a water rail has been running back and forth. Actually, bitterns have been all over the place so it is almost impossible to walk around the trail without seeing one!

Other sightings of note over the past couple of days include; 15 goosanders on Burrowes pit, a hen harrier over Denge Marsh, two firecrests at the ARC site and one near Hooker’s pits, and a Dartford warbler near Christmas Dell.

30th December 2010, Thursday

Rye Harbour

Highlights over the past few days have included 4 Bittern, 3500 Wigeon, 370 Teal, 17 Ruff, 1000 Lapwing, 150 Fieldfare and 5 Marsh Harrier at Castle Water. On the Beach Reserve Peregrine, Merlin, 250 Dunlin and 390 Curlew.


At least one Bittern or sometimes two have shown well on a daily basis from the hide at Castle Water.

29th December 2010, Wednesday

Yet More Sparrows

About 6 weeks ago (16th Nov) I did a TTV in TQ72G (Robertsbridge). I parked in the layby on the A21 just S of the bypass, walked down into the village via George Hill, then walked Station Rd, Brightling Rd, Bishop’s La before heading towards Glottenham. Most of the first hour and a bit were therefore in the “built up” part of Robertsbridge. My total House Sparrow count for the TTV was 71 (thus getting a red card when inputting the TTV!) – 61 in the first hour, 10 in the second. And I guess this was, if anything, an undercount. They were mostly in relatively small groups and, as always, hard to count accurately.

Before setting out on the TTV I’d suspected I might find several House Sparrows because I had noticed quite often, over the years, what seemed to be a roost forming in the Ivy climbing the walls of the butcher’s shop at the junction of Station Rd and High St. But I was surprised, when I tallied up at the end of my walk, to find so many.

Here in Hoath Hill (Mountfield), which stretches for maybe 400 yards, there seem to be at least three discrete gangs perhaps supporting the view that this species doesn’t venture far, at least in the daytime.

Robin Harris


28th December 2010, Tuesday

RSPB Dungeness sightings

There were 11 bitterns seen around the site again yesterday – at least three seen on and off from the Visitor Centre, three at the ARC site, one at Scott hide – one even dropped into the car park bushes. There were 14 smew on various pits including a male at New Diggings, where there was also a female red-crested pochard. Water rails have been showing, well both from Scott hide and at the ARC site.

28th December 2010, Tuesday

Walland Marsh

27th December on the Walland Marsh area saw of note 152 Bewick’s Swans ,  220 Mute swans, 187 White-fronted Geese, 5000 wigeon, 45 pintail, 3 buzzards. Also , c300 skylarks

Much of the area still frozen over with most of the wildfowl concentrated on the walland reservoir. The bulk of the bewick’s were feeding in rape fields in the area of Newlands with a small number associating with Mute swans around the Marsh in general.

27th December 2010, Monday

Hmmmm: High density Camber sparrows

I was very interested to read about the high numbers of sparrows at Camber.  It is widely reported that these birds benefit from insect prey during the summer months as they are rearing youngsters.  One of the conservation initiatives on that area of the Marsh has seen a farmer growing large areas of hay in recent years between Camber and Moneypenny, partly as a hay crop, but also encouraging flowers such as red clover in it to benefit the rarer bumblebees.  It is possible that the sparrows are making use of the insect prey that results from this management.  If so, nice to see more than one benefit from such an initiative, although the rough dune grassland on the golf course may well help too.

27th December 2010, Monday

More on House Sparrows

Of all my tetrads covered for the Bird Atlas, the most sparrow-rich has been TQ81Q at Fairlight Cove, which resembles Pat’s area at Camber in that it is a seaside bungalow development though on a cliff-top rather than sand. The gardens there are pretty manicured but many householders put out feeders and there is access to rough grass on the cliff-edge. On my early winter visit I found 76 birds, which had the website sending a flashing red warning that the count was unusually high.

Another good flock is to be found around the entrance to Toot Rock, Pett Level where they exploit a chicken run and up to 60 birds are present in late summer. Around our house at Chick Hill I see breeding adults foraging, as Brian notes, for insects in pasture well-manured by cattle. I share his views on their conservatism in visiting new feeding sites even at a very short distance from an existing one.

House Sparrows are not that easy to count; not only do they squabble inside dense shrubs as Pat notes, but also chirrup invisibly from eaves and gutters. Around Alexandra Park, Hastings, you can hear them calling from nearby streets but they don’t seem to cross to the park itself. In the Weald they are often either absent from human habitation or hanging on in isolated pairs and seem most to favour untidy farms with livestock. In N Spain, though, I’ve noticed they occupy any building, even vacant second homes way out in the woods, with not a chicken in sight.