Archive for the ‘Kent’ Category

A Bank Holiday Monday morning visit to the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Sevenoaks to look for Little Ringed plover and other migrants.

The reserve is based around two large lakes which were originally dug for sand and gravel extraction. My first stop was at the hide overlooking the west end of the main lake. This was where the Little Ringed Plovers had been seen the previous day but there was no sign this morning. More common birds were present including Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe and a single Mute Swan.

Eurasian Teal (m)
Wood Forget-me-nots

I then walked through the wood to the hide at the other end of the main lake but only saw the same species. Blackcaps were singing in the trees but no other migrant warblers were heard. My final stop was at the hide on the second lake. Here there was a group of Greylag Geese. The feeding station was not busy and only a couple of Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Dunnock and a Magpie visited whilst I was there.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

A winters day and a chance for some birdwatching in Kent with Keith. Our first stop was a housing estate in Strood, which is now becoming a regular spot for a wintering flock of Bohemian Waxwings, a Scandinavian bird which only comes to the UK in years when the berry crop on the continent is not enough to sustain them. Some years there are huge eruptions with many hundreds or even thousands of birds coming over the North Sea. This is not one on them and this winter there has only been a handful in the South of England, so we wanted to take the opportunity to see if we could catch up with them. We had to wait over an hour, but eventually, the group of 6 birds dropped into their favourite feeding tree and stayed for about 20 minutes before flying off.

After a break in a local cafe for lunch, we made our way down to the River Medway at Rochester looking for Common Sandpiper, a species which winters on this stretch of river. As the mud was exposed on the falling tide there were Northern Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Common Redshank feeding on the mud together with Mallard and a single Little Grebe.

Mallard
Common Redshank

Then out from one of the little creeks came a Common Sandpiper and we got close views as it began to feed.

Common Sandpiper

As we walked along the riverside to the Railway station we saw a second Common Sandpiper. A good day with both target species seen well.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Bohemian Waxwing [sp] (Bombycilla garrulus)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

In Gravesend on the River Thames today for an RSPB meeting so Keith and I arranged to meet early and go for a walk along the promenade to see what was about on the river.

The River Thames at Gravesend

As we walked along the riverside, there were groups of Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud.

Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwits with Black-headed Gulls

Nearer to the fort, there were some Common Redshank

Common Redshank
Common Redshank

As we walked into the riverside park a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over attracting the attention of one of the resident Carrion Crows which harried it till it flew on. The lake contained only a small party of Moorhen and the sheltered gully only the usual residents.

As we walked back towards the town, a man was feeding the Black-headed Gulls and the Mute Swans and a couple of Common Gulls were present.

On one of the peirs, we spotted a small party of Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

River Thames at Gravesend

Keith and I were in Gravesend for an RSPB meeting and so we decided to make a day of it by doing a short walk along the riverfront. Gravesend had once been a thriving port, as is witnessed by the multitude of piers that are still present, but apart from a ferry across the river to Tilbury and some pleasure boats, this is no longer the case.

Town Pier

 The tide was falling as we reached the front. our first sighting was on a Common Redshank, feeding on the mud.

Common Redshank

We passed the mooring of Light Vessel 21, part of the National Historic Ships Collection. Built in 1963, it saw service mostly off the Kent coast and was involved in the worst collision to involve a light vessel when on 28th June 1981 LV21 was hit by the ‘Ore Meteor’ which was under tow at the time in rough weather. Observers at the time commented that the tug seemed too small to be handling such a large vessel in open water. In rough seas, the tug and its tow, past too close to LV21 and first the side and then the stern of the Meteor crashed into the bow of the Light Vessel. Thankfully all damage was above deck and the ship remained afloat and was later towed to Southampton for repairs. It was finally decommissioned in 2008. It is now used as an arts performance venue 

LV2

Across the river was Tilbury Fort, one of two built to protect the entrance to London along the Thames. Details of its counterpart in Gravesend can be found at https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2018/02/02/a-tour-of-gravesend-2/

Tilbury Fort

On the exposed river mud a group of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding.

Black-Tailed Godwit

Passing Gravesend Fort we came to Promenade Park, which has a lake and a small reed-bed.

It was very quiet today and apart from some small birds in the bushes there were only Moorhen and Mute Swan present.

It was now time to turn back to the Town centre, but on the river further downstream we could see a group of Common Redshank and Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud. As we retraced our steps along the Promenade we found two Common Gulls and a single Ruddy Turnstone feeding on the mud.

Common Gull
Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

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A Day of uncertain weather forecasts saw me visiting Keith on his home patch along the River Medway in Kent.

Starting at Abbots Court the lakes were rather sparsely populated, but we were soon welcomed by a close flying Sparrowhawk, which having sized up flew off to look for more manageable prey. This was to prove the only highlight as we walked down to the estuary as the horse fields were empty (apart from the Horses). There were a number of Migrant Hawker Dragonflies and a single Common Darter.

Migrant Hawker (left and top right) and Common Darter (bottom right). Photos by Keith

Large numbers of Small White Butterflies were present along with Meadow Brown, Small Heath and Common Blue, but the best sighting was a single Small Copper.

small copper-3

Small Copper. Photo By Keith

The tide was high as we turned north along the estuary towards Kingsnorth. A Thames Barge was moving up river towards Chatham and was seen later moored mid-channel.

There were large numbers of Greylag Geese on the fields and a small party of Canada Geese were seen flying away. Ahead we could see a Common Kestrel hunting over the fields.

It started raining but the showers soon passed over and we found this feather illustrating it’s waterproof qualities

Turning South we headed towards Hoo Marina. I spotted a bird that we flushed from the path but annoyingly it kept heading back into the path side vegetation before we could get a good look. This must have happened 4 or 5 times but each time we saw a little more and concluded it was a juvenile Yellow Wagtail. This was the only migrant passerine we were to see on the whole walk. On the waters edge were some little Egrets and Gulls, mostly Black-headed. One Black-tailed Godwit in flight plus a couple of Northern Lapwing were the only wading birds we encountered.

As we approached Hoo Marina we passed the boat graveyard. Many of these boats have been here for many years and some have become part of the landscape.

After Lunch at the Marina, we walked into Hoo village visiting the church and a small stream, but all we added was Stock Dove before we adjourned to Keith’s garden for refreshments

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Small Copper [sp] (Lycaena phlaeas)
Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lucorum)

Was videoing the feeder at Bough Beech and managed to extract this set of stills of a Blue Tit landing on the feeder

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Last week Keith and I took a trip to visit the Royal Engineers Museum in Gillingham Kent. The Museum is situated in a building alongside Brompton Barracks, which is the location of the School of Military Engineering.

The Royal Engineers trace their history back to Norman times. There have always been Engineers who have worked within the army to produce fortifications. The first official separate unit dedicated to this function can be found in the 15th century in the Board of Ordinance, which also included what would later become the Royal Artillery. The two corps were split in 1716. Initially, the Corps of Engineers contained only officers who supervised civilian labourers and craftsmen, but within 60 years this had been abandoned and the army began recruiting its own craftsman and artificers. In 1855 the corps established its headquarters in Chatham. Engineers were present in all campaigns of the British Army.

Some Interesting Facts

  •  It was the RE who in 1911 formed its own air unit, the first in the British Military and as such the forerunner of The Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.
  • The RE team played in the first FA Cup final in 1872 losing to Wanderers 1-0; they lost again to Oxford University in 1874 but won the following year beating Old Etonians in a replay. Their last appearance in the final was in 1878 when they again lost to Wanderers. Their last appearance in the cup was in 1882-3 although they won the FA Amateur Cup in 1908.
  • Two RE officers played in the first England International Rugby Team- Lt Charles Arthur Crompton and Lt Charles Sherrard.
  • Other Army units which have separated from their initial inception in the RE include the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Corps of Transport.

The Museum contains a detailed history of the Corps with displays illustrating the major roles of their work. It also contains some unexpected exhibits including a WWII V-2 Rocket (captured and used for training purposes); a Harrier Jump-Jet and a piece of the Berlin Wall.

Outside in the Museums grounds are a collection of RE vehicles used for bridging and road making.

Today’s venue was the New Hythe and Leybourne complex of lakes in the Medway valley in Kent. This is one of the best venues to hear and see Nightengales when they first arrive and so Keith and I decided to visit to see if there were any early returners.

Certainly, there were migrants establishing territories and a number of Chiffchaff and Blackcaps together with a single Willow Warbler were heard and in some cases seen. Apart from these birds, it was relatively quiet on the lakes and there was no sound of any returning Nightengales yet.

DSCN9190-13

Blackcap (m)

The other highlight of the day was a number of butterflies, probably all overwintering species brought out by the warm weather. Brimstone, Red Admiral and Peacock were all seen.

DSCN9187-12

There were plenty of Rabbits as well

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

A Tour of Gravesend (2)

Posted: February 2, 2018 in Kent, UK
Tags: ,

Turning east and returning to the Riverfront we soon pass the Customs House and the headquarters of the Port of London Authority.

DSCN8612-17

Just east of here is New Tavern Fort, which replaced the blockhouse in the 18th century. Its well-preserved fortifications now stand in a riverside park. Originally built to defend the Thames against raiders during the American War of Independence, it was strengthened in the 19th century during The Napoleonic Wars. General Gordon, experienced in the construction of fortifications, was stationed here between 1865 and 1871 whilst he oversaw building works on the Thames forts. New Tavern Fort was decommissioned at the start of the 20th century but reused during WWII. Unfortunately, the buildings, which house a museum, were not open the day we were there.

Our final stop is what was once the canal basin of the Thames and Medway Canal. This was intended to provide a safe route to move ships from the dockyards at Woolwich and Deptford in London, through the newly constructed Higham and Strood tunnels, to the River Medway and the dockyard at Chatham – thus avoiding the waters of the open estuary. Construction began in 1799 and it finally opened in October 1824, by which time the Napoleonic war was over and the need for the use of the canal by the Navy had disappeared. It was opened to commercial traffic but it was never a success. In 1845 the railway between Gravesend and Strood laid a single track through the Higham and Strood Tunnels on the path adjacent to the canal. The following year the canal company sold the tunnels to the South Eastern Railway and the canal closed. The canal was filled in and the railway company laid a double track through the tunnels. All that can be seen now is the basin at Gravesend and the entrance to the Medway at Strood, although if you travel from Gravesend to Strood you still pass through the original canal tunnels.

DSCN8634

A Tour of Gravesend (1)

Posted: February 1, 2018 in Kent, UK
Tags: ,

After we left the Sikh temple we passed the Clock Tower built in 1887 to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Inside are contained copies of newspapers and coins of the time.

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Then we walked down to the riverfront and visited the site of Gravesend Blockhouse. Built as part of the river defences in 1539. The gun platforms faced both east and west and it operated in conjunction with Tilbury Fort on the north bank of the river opposite Gravesend. It was remodelled in 1588 during the war with Spain and in 1667 during the war with the Dutch. It became obsolete in 1778 when the New Fort was built a little way to the east.

A little way further along the riverfront is moored LV21, a lightship which is now an arts performance space. Built in 1963 it saw service mostly off the Kent coast and was involved in the worst collision involving a light vessel when on 28th June 1981 LV21 was hit by the ‘Ore Meteor’ which was under tow at the time in rough weather.Observers at the time commented that the tug seemed too small to be handling such a large vessel in open water. In rough seas, the tug and its tow, past too close to LV21 and first the side and then the stern of the Meteor crashed into the bow of the Light Vessel. Thankfully all damage was above deck and the ship escaped and was later towed to Southampton for repairs. It was finally decommissioned in 2008.

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Near here is St Andrews Mission Church. Originally a mission to the dockside community it is now an arts centre. It was here that General Gordon (of Khartoum fame) taught as a Sunday school teacher whilst he was stationed in Gravesend.

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Our next stop was the 3 Daws pub. This is a historic riverside Inn which is said to date back to around 1400. Originally a group of cottages for ship workers, it was granted a licence in 1565. During its history, it was often targetted by Naval press Gangs looking for new recruits. The 3 Daws of the name refers to 3 Jackdaws, a member of the Crow family.

At this point, we turned inland and made our way through St George’s Churchyard. There had been a Royal Chapel on this site until 1376 when a chapel of ease was built. It became the parish church in 1544. ON 24th August 1727 a fire swept through the town destroying over 100 houses and the Church. The new building was opened in 1732. The church is famous for its connection with the Indian Princess Pocahontas, who was buried in the church in 1616. A search was made in 1923 to find the burial site but nothing conclusive was found. A statue of the Princess, a replica of one in Jamestown was placed in the gardens in 1958.

For more details about the Jamestown settlement and Pocahontas see

https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2016/10/18/all-aboard-the-waverley-2-gravesend/ and https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2015/02/12/statues-and-memorials-in-london-virginia-settlers/