An unusual sighting was of a little egret on July 6th. Over the past ten years the birds have occurred mainly from November to March, with very few between April and September and, until this latest sighting, none in July. The black-headed gull is an almost equally scarce visitor in the summer months, so three on the nearby Tonford lake also on the 6th were the first of a trickle that may become a torrent if the valley floods this winter – if we get a substantial amount of rain.
We’ve noted before the lack of swifts, house martins and swallows in recent years, so it is perhaps not surprising that the first Hambrook swallow of the year was only seen in early July. This is a truly appalling state of affairs; as recently as the mid-20th century the swallow was still abundant in all rural areas, where mixed farming – arable, pasture and meadows – was still the norm, often in small, hedged fields. The trend towards intensively managed monocultures in enormous fields that are heavily sprayed is anathema to these birds, as is the loss of decaying farm buildings that once supplied swallows with an abundance of ledges on which to build their scrappy nests.
A small collared dove population has established on the marshes; once an extremely rare visitor to Hambrook, but now two pairs are regularly seen on the embankment, dividing their time between the viewpoint and dense scrub on the far side of the river. The lone parakeet also continues to haunt the embankment area from time to time.
A dragonfly spotter reported seeing a probable red-eyed damselfly (right) this month, which would bring the site total to fourteen species. A not uncommon Kent insect, it has a distinctive characteristic, in addition to the eyes (which are really brownish-red), namely a preference for resting on flat leaves, especially water lilies, on the surface of a river or ditch.