Saturday, 19 January 2013

Patch of the day - Foreness point, Barry Hunt

I moved to Cliftonville almost exactly three years ago after spending 25 years of local patch birding at Reculver/Minnis Bay just 20 miles further along the coast. The patch is indeed local to my home and I can be birding in the area within ten minutes of leaving home on foot.

The area is situated at the extreme north east tip of Kent and is on a true headland, which lies where the North Sea and English Channel merge and it is serviced by the North Foreland Lighthouse, the presence of a Lighthouse always reminds me of a good birding area and I’m rather fond of them too. A lot of the areas here are on the private grounds of the North Foreland Golf Course which is rather annoying really as there is lots of decent habitat that you just cannot get into to cover. The coastal chalk cliffs are not that high and they stretch right around the coast in the area covered, although there are several small beautiful sandy bays that are very popular in the summer months with tourists.  Taking things away from the coast we head inland to Northdown Park, a large park with many mature trees and famous for a large population of Ring-necked Parakeets, it has attracted some good migrants over the years and thankfully it fits nicely into the patch challenge parameters. The rest of the area is taken up with a very large housing development and is virtually a non birding zone. There is no fresh water here and no marshy habitat so some species are very scarce Moorhen and Coot spring to mind and the dabbling ducks are usually restricted to seawatches.

With nearly 40 years of records from the area it has the kudos of producing just over 300 species of bird and in drift migration conditions it can produce significant falls of Continental migrants which seem to avoid other Kent coastal areas. Some really good birds have been recorded here and they include Collared Flycatcher, Trumpeter Finch, Pied Wheatear, Desert Wheatear and Eastern Black Redstart, along with many sightings of the scarcer drift migrants such as Icterine Warbler, Richard’s Pipit and Wryneck. Epic tales abound and any area that can produce 3 Pallas’s Warblers in the same tree and an arrival of 5 Red-breasted Flycatchers must surely be worth scrutiny.

To sum the area up it is still capable of throwing up some real quality birding but the habitat loss and the ever growing pressure of the general public and their activities has made the whole birding experience here a little stale at times.

Good luck to all in the 2013 Patch Challenge,

Barry Hunt.

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