With less than summery temperatures, a definite hint of autumn hung in the air, a feeling accentuated by the sight of 31 goldfinches swirling up from a patch of thistle seed-heads. 

But there was still plenty of seasonal activity, with a range of dragonflies seeming to cope reasonably well in the absence of their beloved sunshine. One of the commoner species in late summer is the migrant hawker, a mid-sized dragonfly that habitually hunts at a greater height than most other species; or the brown hawker, a large, powerful flier readily identified by its smoky brown wings. But the greatest surprise was the discovery of a golden-ringed dragonfly (above) on August 11th, just downstream in Tannery Field. The golden-ringed dragonfly occurs in the far south west of Kent, in the general area of Tenterden, Hawkhurst and Tonbridge Wells but is not known from this end of the county. Whether it was just a lone vagrant that has failed to leave its mark or a coloniser that will one day turn up at Hambrook, remains to be seen.

Another sign of the changing season was a lively mix of birds in the embankment scrub on August 20th. No longer focused on rearing a family, they were now single-mindedly feeding up prior to migrating south to Africa – chiffchaffs, whitethroats, garden warblers and blackcaps, together with a small troop of blue and great tits

At what Is generally rather a quiet time of year for birds, there were a surprising number of less usual records, including two herons on August 3rd, and a little egret, the first seen since January. On August 27th around 65 herring gulls were swarming overhead, all apparently coming from the Wincheap retail estate, where they nest on the conveniently flat roofs. A large bird of prey flying over can provoke this sort of reaction, but I was unable to see anything out of the ordinary, and the reason for this eruption of activity remains obscure.

A nuthatch calling from the old embankment on August 20th was the first Hambrook record of this woodland species – the habitat provided by this exceedingly narrow strip of trees being decidedly sub-optimal and, unsurprisingly, not seen since. 

Equally unexpected was hearing the raucous calls of a ring-necked parakeet (right) in the same area on August 11th and 17th. Their distribution seems to be curiously static as, having made a success of colonising London and Thanet, they appear largely unable or unwilling to fill in the gaps, and there is little sign of them getting established around Canterbury. As with the nuthatch, it hasn’t been heard again, so it may well have just been passing through. 

Parakeet photo courtesy of Dave Smith