Yesterday, I drove the A2 east under clear skies to the hamlet of Reculver, located on the flat coast not far from Margate and parked next to the pub beneath the remnant twin towers of the 12th century church. Admiring its fearful symmetry and outstanding location, I reckoned this would never get planning permission today. The stark, stone edifice stood uncomfortably out of scale with its surroundings, rather like the cooling towers at nearby Richborough. Thankfully the latter, serving no useful purpose, have been blown up.
I wanted to work the beach further to the east around Plumpudding Island, so drove round and with luck found a place to park at a large farm, quiet in its winter sleep, with well-marked footpath to the coast adjacent the reed-fringed River Wantsum. I was searching for a small flock of snow buntings, which are regular on the sparsely vegetated shingle, and seen recently (going by the most useful ‘latest sightings’ page on the Kent Ornithological Society website). I scanned the beach from the concrete coastal path with rare intent, but could only find a small flock of linnet feeding on the seeds of, I am not sure what, but elsewhere on the shingle I recognised leaves of plantain, yellow-horned poppy and sea kale.
Linnet on the vegetated shingle.
The beach was busy with a murder of crows that were stationed near an outfall and, with a shiver, I thought the worst as to their food supply. There were also a few oystercatcher, redshank and turnstone and as ever some idling gulls on the make. A well fed herd of mute swans squatted in a puddled rape field inland and stonechat, pipits and blackbirds livened the hawthorns.
A murder of crows.
As I walked inland to the car, I turned and spotted a barn owl working the sides of the railway. I walked back and down a field edge by the line, intent on taking the world class photograph of owl dodging the Ramsgate Express but of course to no avail and, with light fading, left. As I neared the farm, I watched the mute swans fly with surprising grace, low over the tree tops, to their roost and wondered what plans were being hatched at the kitchen table for their demise.
Distant barn owl hunting the railway.