Friday, 31 October 2014

Brent Geese migrating over Kent

Brent Geese over Packing Wood on route to Rye harbour

A rare sight in mid-Kent, migrating Brent Geese
Yesterday's light winds and clear sky seemed to trigger continental Brent Geese to make the move to our Southern estuaries and coast. At Dungeness, 4000 birds were seen, and then whilst walking at Packing woods we saw a further 500 birds cutting across Kent probably on a line from Margate to Rye.  Between 6 and 8.30pm I heard a further 3 skeins flying over Shadoxhurst, including one memorable moment when I was able to shine a spotight on the birds as they passed south overhead. It was also really exciting to hear other Kent birders on Twitter recording more Brents Geese passing over - suggesting a total number of birds running in thousands for the day.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Fly-by Little Egrets Dungeness

 A one hour sea watch from the fishing boats at Dungeness this afternoon was enlivened by a party of eight Little Egrets flying west down channel. At a similar time a distant dark and long tailed bird came into view, I was hoping it would be a Pomarine Skua, but as it came closer in from the horizon it turned out to be a migrating Marsh Harrier! Also present, there was a large number (hundreds) of Gannets feeding offshore and inshore Great crested Grebes numbers are building up for the winter. Calling in on the ARC pit this evening flying over the top of the many waterfowl, a single Brent Goose arrived and looked likely to roost for the night.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Alex Pastures a once moribund SSSI moving forward

With the kind permission of Mr Carl Floyd, owner of Alex Pastures, a collaboration between Butterfly Conservation, Kent Wildlife Trust and Moat Farm has begun, aimed at restoring the meadows to the species-rich unimproved grassland of the past.

The first stage has been to cut back invasive scrub (mostly blackthorn and bramble) to encourage the rarer meadow plants to re-establish themselves in the first of the two fields at Alex Pastures.  The first picture, below, shows the site entrance before work commenced.

Summer 2014, invasive scrub had over-run much of the original grassland

After scrub removal, just the deeply-rutted track has been left
The first cut and removal of scrub had an immediate effect opening up the meadow to a significant size.
Whilst wishing to return Alex Pastures to the high quality, rare, unimproved grassland of the past, the invasive scrub has allowed new colonisers to breed successfully on the site. These include Red Data listed Turtle Dove, fast declining Bullfinch (feeding flock of 7 there last night) and one of the highest concentrations of Nightingale in Orlestone Forest. Alex Pastures, at less than 15 acres, is a small site and balancing flora and fauna now present with the desire to return the meadows to the splendour of the past is going to be a skillful task.

The original grassland has been left surrounded by nothing much more than dry earth following the scrub removal. Next spring, if my memory serves me well, the fields will be peppered with hundreds of Primroses.

Panoramic of Alex Pastures top field showing scrub removal. The site margin left and to centre has a well developed scrub habitat - a stronghold of Bullfinch, Garden Warbler and Nightingale.