Thursday, 29 December 2011

Winter on the Coast

Brent Geese in Westbrook Bay on a dull winter's day.

Winter Wildlife Treats

Now that all the visitors have gone it is a good time to go down to our beaches and coast. Wrap up warm, check the tide and forecast. This time of the year there are exciting things to find. One example is the Brent Geese that regularly visit us from Northern Russia. Often seen flying in V formation from bay to bay and across the estuary. From time to time off Westbrook you will see in excess of a hundred of these birds feeding at the end of the chalk reef. Many thousands of these geese visit the South East each year. If Bonkers Boris' Airport is ever build these geese could pose a major threat to aircraft. Let us hope common sense prevails as an airport here would devastate wildlife in the estuary.
On the cliff tops and under cliff on some days you will see migrating birds using it as a staging post. For a feast of birds Sandwich Bay is the crème de la crème for birders but any part of our coast has its own treats.

Living on the Edge.

Wintertime can be the time to watch for incidents of nature. Recently we have had a number of seal pups beaching. In previous years we have had phenomenon like the death of thousands of Velvet Swimming Crabs.

Two years ago following a serious drop in temperature Westbrook Bay was the major disaster area and last year Walpole Bay experienced a similar incident. The conclusion is that these crabs have been living on the edge of their existence and had moved up our coasts due to warmer seas. When we had a severe drop in temperature after a number of years of warmer winters they got caught out and suffered the consequences. We cannot be certain but this is our best guess so far. If you witness a similar incident this year please contact the Thanet Coast Project.

Over the years we do witness incidents like this on the coast like the unexplained mass of starfish washed up and many years ago Walpole bay pool being awash with herring.

As Tony Beachcomber tells us the coast and beaches are full of interesting finds especially after a good blow.

So after Christmas, weather permitting, it may be a good time to get out in the fresh air with your bins and cameras and make the most of this winter wildlife wonderland.

We are all depressed by the chancellor about the economy but forget what is really important. The following is a reminder to us all what is really at stake. Put speakers on and watch it to the end. Happy New Year.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from WUNPy WASPies

And from the Westbrook Turnstones


At this time of the year all the media decide to remind us of all the news from the year that is a passing. Not much cheer there then.

However local news looked a bit more promising for Margate with the opening of Turner, a visit from the Queen and Duke and a revival of the old town. Not bad with a backdrop of doom and gloom.

I am not going to mention the local elections in May as they just reflected those of national government and now its all change again.

One thing for sure its been a fabulous year for WASPS and the Westbrook Undercliffe Nature Park.

In February the site became a Town Green (a bit like a Village Green but in a Town). This meant that the site is now protected for future generations and cannot be handed over to developers.

Also in February WASPS became Westbrook Undercliffe Nature Park with the launch and volunteer day when trees, shrubs and wild flower seeds were planted.

In June we got our sign which was unveiled by Mick Tomlinson and established it as a nature park. As a matter of interest is Mick still around I haven't seen him for a long time?

During the summer the wild flowers did well giving a lovely display of poppies, cornflowers and others which I cannot remember the names. The dry weather however meant that the shrubs struggled in their first year.

Not to worry though as we held another planting day on 20th November and another 105 saplings were planted.

Future plans being discussed are an extension of wild flower seeding and we are hoping that TDC will replace the bench that was broken this year.

All this would not have happened without the dedicated work of volunteers with the support of TDC, Local People, Kent Wildlife Trust, Thanet Coast Project and the Westgate and Westbrook Residents Association. Many thanks to everyone involved.

However the year closes on a sad note as Stan the Van passed away on 13th December. He was a lovely chap and supported us with his van serving teas and coffees to all our volunteers on our launch day. He will be sadly missed.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Turnstone Story

You may have spotted these guys as you walk along Westbrook Promenade. Often I am asked what are these cute little birds scurrying to and fro. They are Turnstones and are quite remarkable. Generally they are a winter visitor although some of the juveniles hang around throughout the summer.
During the winter they feed up on our shores storing body fat ready for migration in the spring. This is when they fly all the way to Northern Canada to breed in the summer, only to return to the Kent Coast, mainly Thanet, in the autumn.
Counts of Turnstones that roost on the Promenade at Westbrook are usually around 72 although they can be found around most of Thanet's coastline. It would appear that this number is fairly consistent year on year. It is pretty certain that most of them that return are the same birds that leave each year.
If you want to do your bit to help these guys please keep dogs under control and do do not cause roosting birds to flight. They need to rest at high tide.