Average Birding

Kentish Bank Holiday Monday

This early May bank holiday isn't over yet! Although, given we're eight ticks up already, perhaps we've earned a rest. What's that they say about the wicked, though?

Pronoun guidance: AB1's friends, who now prefer AB2. This post covers the events of May 7, 2018. Cover photo: some fig leaves to cover the embarrassing lack of relevant photos to this post.

To High-Speed One, Once More

A couple of friends are heading out to North Kent for a day out; specifically, they want to go to Herne Bay. That area of Kent is very well birded, so despite having never been there, I know that a walk around the coast to Reculver could yield a tick or two. A nice walk should be possible in any case!

We get on a High Speed 1 train from Pancreas to Herne Bay, thinking that we're probably going to be even later than the rather late 2pm we were aiming for. Arriving, Herne is utterly rammed. We narrowly avoid an Abba tribute band and settle down in a Turkish restaurant to take on some food; we just got feisty over finding a toilet so blood sugar is clearly very low. Our friends (+ dog) arrive in a similar state of hunger, so we sojourn a little while as they make their way through a mezze.

Some time later, we make a start along the coast. The company is excellent, the sea views are too. The birding is less good. Lots of House Sparrows. After a long and tedious seafront section followed by some unnecessary scrambling, we climb into what some interpretive panels inform us is Reculver Country Park.

This looks a bit more helpful - a beautiful grassy area full of Skylarks. As I'm watching a Skylark ascend, a wagtail shaped bird flaps by overhead. What sort of wagtail? Yellow? We may never know. Not grey; tail not long enough, wrong jizz. No hope of a tick from that.

Reculver Towers

We reach Reculver itself, and are greeted by a not particularly salubrious public house and several ice cream joints. A vote to stop for a beverage is unanimously passed, particularly by the dog, who energetically makes some new friends among the other pub guests.

We have a quick look around the towers themselves. With an eye on the time, I shelf the plan to wander around the marshes further East - instead, we'll cut back inland and make a circuit that way instead. As we head into the farmland, a couple of Grey Partridges give us the eyeball; in any other year that'd probably be a tick, but they're already accounted for by that trip to Bramfield in January.

This part of the walk manages to be more scenic than the coastal bit. Kent lives up to its claim of being the garden of England; the light provided by the progression of the day towards sunset is helping as well. Some unwelcome plants have grown rather larger than my beshorted legs would like. It's a good job I'm an adult and nettles no longer have any effect.

We trundle past a few well-to-do places with significant barbecue capability; AB2's obviously impressed; I find her looking at property in the area later in the day, the sure sign of approval.

A last minute bonus

At this point, I'm not even thinking about birds, I'm just enjoying the walk. As we pass underneath a railway bridge and head towards a large set of farm buildings, I hear an unusual dove-like noise. Interesting. People have described Turtle Doves as 'purring'; is this what they mean? Worth a look, in any case.

The source of the noise is sitting in a giant tree at the opposite edge of the field we're in. It's just on the edge of being identifiable; the sun's quite low; plenty of light, but colours are tricky. Is the top of that wing showing a warm brown colouration? It could be. I can't convince myself of the id at this distance, so I get the xeno-canto page for Turtle Dove up for some audio confirmation. Unmistakable.

The bird helpfully flies to a different tree that puts the sun behind us, and I can now see enough of its features to be absolutely certain. What an unlooked for bit of joy; I've never seen one before.

The rest of the walk, after we leave farmland and have to pick our way through the Eastern edge of Herne Bay, is a bit of a thankless trudge; the dog provides some entertainment, but otherwise it's much the same as the way out, only with more sparrows.

The light at the end of the tunnel is the promise of a very greasy meal from a fish and chip shop back in the centre of town. We collapse into a set of plastic chairs and enjoy our hard-earned nosh. We stagger back to the station and board the train home; excellent day out, bonus tick, fish and chips to finish; a very good bank holiday all round.