Archive for the 'Walland Marsh' Category

21st September 2009, Monday

Walland Marsh drought

Many of the ditches to the south east of Rye are dry at the moment, a symptom of the run of dry weather we have had in recent months. Although water could be fed into them from the Royal Military Canal it would need to be pumped uphill, and the sandy/shingly ground means that it would be lost to the ground quite quickly. So is it better to pump water, generate carbon dioxide, and save wetland wildlife, or let nature take it’s course?

The answer rather depends on the ecology of the species concerned. Some are suffering. This is soft hornwort Ceratophyllum submersum, a fairly local water weed of slightly brackish coastal grazing marshes with a whorl of leaves around a central stem that divide up to three times, to provide a plant with the appearance of a bottle brush with an often reddish-green appearance. It’s commoner relative, rigid hornwort C. demersum, is a darker green colour, has leaves that divide only twice, and is more typically found in freshwater.

Both species require sections of ditch that retain water all year. If they get this they will dominate the open water next year.

Conversely the Read the rest of this entry »

20th September 2009, Sunday

Walland Marsh – end of the summer

Today on Walland Marsh there were numerous groups of wheatear, heading south for the winter. This bird preceeded me as I walked along a field boundary, passing from post to post.

They are leaving behind Read the rest of this entry »

22nd June 2009, Monday

Romney Marsh and Rye Bay bumblebees

Last Friday Larry Cooke held an open day at his Farm at East Guldeford to help launch the initiative to reintroduce the short haired bumblebee Bombus subterraneus to Britain.  Although extinct in this country British bees were taken out to New Zealand 120 years ago to help pollinate red clover, where they still persist.  As well as restoring this lost element of our fauna it is hoped that the project will stimulate the management of more of this habitat for these insects and benefit other rare bumblebee species that have threatened populations on the Marsh.

One of the revelations of the day Read the rest of this entry »

1st June 2009, Monday

Painted Lady and a moan

Yesterday on a completely pointless exercise in trying to investigate the Walland Marsh area, hardly any of the footpaths shown on the ordance survey map were marked, passable or encouraged to use, the only good thing from the experience was finding at least 500 Painted Lady grouped together, the attached picture shows only a small fraction.

24th August 2008, Sunday

Autumn ladies-tresses

The grazing marshes on Walland Marsh are not great places for orchids so I was slightly surprised to come across a few specimens of autumn ladies-tresses Spiranthes spiralis in a grazed field just behind Camber Dunes on Friday. They were growing on the sandy margin at the edge of the dunes and in low numbers, although whether this reflected their true abundance or the attention of sheep and horses was difficult to say.

Autumn ladies-tresses

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1st July 2008, Tuesday

The New Frontier

Little Cheyne Court windmill

A bird atlas survey of tetrads TQ91U and TQ92Q in yesterday’s blustery winds took me from Camber up to the Kent Ditch, the old Sussex boundary. This area is so deserted that in about 5 miles of walking I saw nobody until I reached the new wind power station (why call it a farm?). The site was very quiet, just a few workmen and their dinky-toy vehicles totally dwarfed by the first three windmills towering above me into the blue sky. If the marching pylons represent the 20th century, then certainly these sleek white sculptures are symbolic of the 21st, a new frontier in the continuing challenge to produce enough energy to ‘meet people’s needs’ (perhaps we should all try to ‘need’ a little less?)   Oh yes, the birds!  All the expected marsh species, with Tree Sparrow and Yellow Wagtail carrying food for young, several Mute Swan families, chicks of Little Grebe, Coot and Moorhen, a hunting male Marsh Harrier, plus quite a variety of butterflies and dragonflies including a pair of Emperors with the female egg-laying on a floating stem right in front of me. All under a vast marsh sky.

17th February 2008, Sunday

Border country

Fine, sunny, with a light breeze – just the day for a long hike over the marsh from Union Channel, along the A259, down the Kent Ditch and the Wainway Wall to Camber, filling in several remote tetrads. Indeed, TQ92 Q and R are totally uninhabited, population density zero – how many of those are there within 60 miles of London? A good haul, with 36 species in tetrad L, 33 in Q but only 15 in R – but including a very close hunting Barn Owl. There were big flocks of Wigeon, 50 Mute Swans, 150+ Stock Doves and 500+ Fieldfares, countless Lapwings and ‘Goldies’, Little Egrets, Gadwall and Red-legged Partridges, but no harriers – where have they all gone?

Chittendens Cottage
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17th January 2008, Thursday

Water, water everywhere, but where are the frogs?

Travelling around the marsh at the moment is frustrating. For once the place really lives up to its name, with extensive areas of flooded fields, so why are there so few common frogs Rana temporaria out there?

Flooded grazing marsh at Newenden

 Its obvious I hear you say – those European marsh frogs Pelophylax ridibundus* have eaten them all. The great British herpetologist, Malcolm Smith reported declines in common frogs and toads after their introduction.  I am not so sure though. Read the rest of this entry »

20th December 2007, Thursday

Lower Agney (TQ92V) – far horizons

Agney with pylon.jpg
This tetrad straddles the Kent/Sussex border in the middle of Walland Marsh. It takes a bit of getting to, being over 2 miles from the nearest road. The only cover is provided by a network of deep brushy drainage ditches and a few old wind-blasted willows, mainly around the long-deserted shell of the remote Lower Agney farmhouse. In today’s hazy sunshine this was a place of great peace, the landscape reduced to simple swathes of green and brown arable stretching away to distant horizons. I found just 15 species in the tetrad, but 23 in TR02A to the east and 24 in TQ91Z to the south, both of which are more varied with occupied farms or houses. Birds such as Golden Plover, Stock Doves, Stonechats, Reed and Corn Buntings are characteristic; conversely it’s exciting to come across a Blue Tit, Robin, Wren or Dunnock! The best bird was a Little Owl peering at me from a barn at Scotney Court, and the only disappointment was the lack of Tree Sparrows anywhere. The two Long-tailed Ducks were still on Scotney gravel pits, plus a female Common Scoter, all at the Kent end. The Marsh is dotted with abandoned places like Lower Agney, once homes but long since left to the wind.
Read the rest of this entry »

9th December 2007, Sunday

Walland Marsh Raptors

A break in the rain this afternoon encouraged me out to an area of rough grassland and reeds on Walland Marsh that I frequently watch for raptors. For once, after the rains, the site really lived up to its name. Squelching along the muddy track the first bird spotted was a kestrel, and then a number of marsh harriers. I counted a maximum of 6 birds at any one time, but they were moving backwards and forwards between two distant sites so it was difficult to say how many birds were present in total. One of these, a female, was intent on agressively mobbing a barn owl. In the end the two birds dropped behind some reeds and I assumed the worst. I have been told from several sources that a few weeks ago a local wildfowler reported a marsh harrier taking a barn owl at this site. This was not the fate for my bird however, it reappeared about 15 minutes later and continued hunting unmolested. One of the marsh harriers was now being chased itself by a couple of crows.

Highlight of the afternoon was a beautiful male hen harrier that glided over the reedbed in front of me for five minutes before dropping down to roost for the night.