Eight members met in the car park by The Dover Patrol Memorial at St Margaret’s at Cliff. This is one of three war memorials designed by Sir Aston Webb to commemorate the Royal Navy’s Dover Patrol of the First World War. It sits on top of the chalk cliffs slightly to the north of Dover harbour giving commanding views over the channel. The arriving temperature was 11 degrees and it was sunny. The downside was that it was very windy, being so exposed. The first things of note were a kestrel hovering nearby and then a sparrowhawk being mobbed by jackdaws. Malcolm pointed out some autumn ladies’ tresses in the grass around the monument, together with some dainty blue harebells. Swallows were passing overhead, something that was common throughout the day.
We set off following the cliff edge heading North East. On the recently cut wheat field to the left, herring and lesser black backed gulls were seen together with various corvids. In the grass to the side of the path there were small groups of golden rod.
Sally pointed out a curlew (or whimbrel) flying low across the sea, close to the cliff base. A flock of house sparrows were seen in the bramble clumps to each side of the path. A common blue was hunkering down in the grass and an unidentified white butterfly flew along the field edge, seemingly immune to the wind. We passed through a gate to where the path, on the landward side, was now edged with bushes and small trees. A family of five stonechats were flitting around, showing nicely. A pair of blackcaps were also there with a whitethroat that didn’t seem that energetic; it sat in good view for the time that we were there. A buzzard was flying above the trees.
We returned back to the gate and walked inland for a short while before turning left onto a path cutting across the stubbly wheat field. This path is quite open on each side, apart from a couple of short, hedged sections that are so overgrown it was like walking through a tunnel. In these hedges some small birds were seen, one of which was identified as a greenfinch. At the end of the path, we turned left back towards the memorial and Andy pointed out some rooks flying overhead. After a short while a dragonfly flew past and settled on a bush in clear view. After a bit of discussion and looking at a book it was agreed that it was a migrant hawker. A few yards further on a sheltered hedge of ivy, in full sun, was attracting a good number of bees and butterflies, including red admirals, holly blue and speckled wood. More migrant hawkers were flying around. By now the siren call of lunch sped us back to the memorial and we retired to the field in front which was in the sun but well sheltered from the wind. Whilst here more stonechats together with a pair of house martins were seen as well as common blue and wall butterflies. There were a large number of ‘whites’ flying around; those that were positively identified were small whites.
After lunch we went onto Bockell Hill seeing wall and a large white butterfly at the entrance. Generally, we followed the perimeter path returning back to the entrance. Here blackcap, wren, dunnock and robin were heard or seen. In a small sunny sheltered clearing comma, small copper, meadow brown and common blues were seen. Norman pointed out a kestrel perched on a fence post, seemingly oblivious to us and passing cars, people and motor bikes on the road behind it. Once back at the car park we decided to go down to St Margaret’s Bay to make use of the ice cream kiosk. Some of the group drove and some walked down.
Whilst there, a kestrel flew in and perched on the cliff side along with jackdaws, crows and pigeons. At the last moment Malcom took an interest in a pair of gulls just off the beach. A scope was brought out and after a bit of discussion it was agreed they were Mediterranean gulls. On leaving, the car thermometer suggested that the temperature was 16 degrees. It was a nearly cloudless day but the wind didn’t abate throughout the day. Other birds spotted by some of the group included skylark, green woodpecker, linnet and oystercatchers. Overall, it was a lovely day with some 30 or so bird and 10 butterfly species seen and heard. There was a possibility a brown argus was seen but although some features seemed to indicate that was what it was, its overall size suggested it was in fact a female common blue.
Thanks to Peter and Karrie for leading and for the report. Thanks to Sally, Terry and Karrie for the photographs.