Friday, 7 May 2010

Friday 7th May


This plant caught my eye this morning at New Hythe, there was quite a mass of it growing together which looked quite striking in a brief burst of sunshine. If I have ID'd it correctly it is a plant originally from southern France and Spain which was brought here for the red dye that can be extracted from the roots. It's now established in the UK and the flowers are edible and can be used to decorate drinks and salads.

My original plan today was to go to Dungeness, I changed my mind because the forecast was for a cold stiff north easterly and I thought that would translate to gale force across the flat landscape of Romney Marsh and Dungeness. So I went to New Hythe again, and i'm glad I did.

By the time I got to the East Scrub I had listed little of note and once again no Turtle Dove. As I walked across the first half of the scrub I noticed a large Gull on the ground about thirty yards from me. It was an adult Lesser Black Backed and you don't usually see them on the ground here, I walked towards it reaching for my camera at the same time expecting it to fly off at any moment. But it couldn't, the poor thing was injured and was struggling to move away from me. I think it may have flown into the overhead power lines which were directly above. I put the camera away and stood still wondering what to do when all of a sudden three large dogs came round the corner, they spotted it immediately and ran past me towards the Gull. Most people know that i'm not good with dogs, especially large ones but something had to be done. I took my coat off and ran towards the Gull which was now surrounded by the dogs and absolutely terrified, and threw the coat over the bird scooping it up off the floor. Meanwhile the dogs' owner turned up telling me that 'it's alright they won't touch feather', try telling that to the Gull!

Now what do I do. A large Gull wrapped in a coat in the middle of nowhere. I couldn't walk back to my car even though that would be quickest because I wouldn't be able to drive so I braced myself for the long walk to the Leybourne RSPCA centre. It took me about 30-40 minutes during which time the Gull managed to get it's head out of my coat and was trying to take lumps out of my hand. I got to the A228 dual carriageway eventually, having passed the lorry drivers' snack wagon in the layby there. I got a few funny looks from the chap who cooks the food in the wagon as I hurried past with a Gulls head poking out of my coat squawking like mad so I asked him if he did Gull burgers, he didn't answer, no sense of humour some people.

With a great sense of relief I reached the RSPCA centre and handed over the patient still wrapped in my coat which I presumed was going to need a very good wash knowing what seagulls poo is like. But I was very surprised to get it back without a mark on it, I like to think the Gull thought one good turn deserves another.
Eventually I got back to the East Scrub, just in time to see the helicopter below flying very low checking the same power lines that I presume had been the Gulls downfall. I thought to myself if this one hits the power lines and lands in the scrub i'm out of here.

I was quite tired by my exertions now but I thought I might as well go back to the car via the Sunken Marsh just in case..........and it was here that the next bit of excitement started. I was walking past the WW2 pill box on the side of the river listening for the purr of the elusive Turtle Dove when I spotted a Seal in the river alongside me. Trouble was there were so many reed stalks between me and it that I couldn't get a proper picture before it saw me and sank below the surface. Only one thing for it, run. I knew the next open stretch of river would be in the small wood adjacent to the creek where the outfall is and that was probably 300 yards away or more so run I did, most of the way at any rate. Having arrived at the spot I scanned the river and saw no sign, I thought i'd missed it but I positioned myself out of sight anyway and a couple of minutes later up he popped in front of me and I got a couple of shots in before he disappeared again and surfaced about 150 yards downstream and was promptly set upon by a dozen Black Headed Gulls who ALL bombarded him from their rear bizarre was that. I'm still laughing as I type this!


While I was watching all this unfold two waders flew across the river from the New Hythe side to the Burham side. One was quite a bit smaller than the other and I think it was the Common Sandpiper I saw from this spot yesterday but I couldn't ID the other because of the distance involved although I thought it might be a Greenshank. I did take a long distance photo of it and I have sent it to Alan Woodcock, somebody who knows an awful lot more than me about waders in the hope that he can ID it for me. I'll post it up if I get lucky. When I looked at the photo's of the Seal I thought it looked more like a Grey Seal but I think i'm right in sticking with Common....................hard work this birdwatching isn't it!
By the way I'll call in at the RSPCA centre over the weekend and see how the patient is and post it on the blog. Should I take grapes or half a pound of Sprats I wonder.
Since publishing this post I have seen Alan Woodcocks blog and he has confirmed that the second wader was indeed a Greenshank which i'm absolutely delighted about as it's my first ever at New Hythe.


Greenie said...

Phil ,
Your Green Alkanet ID is spot on . Don't be tempted to put a bit in the garden like our neighbour did , can't get rid of it now .
Reckon that Gull was looking for a warm room for the weekend and was looking for someone gullible to take him there . Hope it makes it .
From the sound of it , you are now the expert on Gull poo and rear ends !

Warren Baker said...

You do a good turn and something nice happens in return IE you get a patch first. I like it when life works out like that :-)

Ken Browne. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ken Browne. said...

Hi Phil. I removed my first post as I made a few mistakes at the beginning, so I am re-posting.
Nice shots of the Common Seal. It is probably the one that is always coming in and out with the tide, the one that is regularly seen from Halling.You can tell it is a Common, not a Atlantic Grey by it's head shape. Also good to see you found a Greenshank.
When you go to see your patient why not take apples,something like Gullden Delicious, or some soup to help build it up,like Fishy soirs.

ShySongbird said...

Goodness! What a day you had and what an exciting post! I was there with you. I could barely wait to see what was going to happen next. Good on you for helping the gull, I would have had to do exactly the same as you did. I do hope it makes it, you must let us know.

Well done on the Greenshank and on the Seal, a just reward for your compassion :)