Wednesday 25 January 2023


Romney Salts - cold, overcast, light airs - Another grim January day set in a Mordor-like twilight - just the weather then for a tramp across the Salts in search of farmland birds to lift the spirits! My circular route from home took me down Church Lane to the spinney, then south along the old railway track (passing the dung heap) to Northlade, west to Belgar Farm, north to Kemps Hill and eventually back to New Romney, which took me just under four hours covering roughly four miles allowing for diversions along the way. For those of you unfamiliar with the terrain, the Salts is primarily high grade arable land (reclaimed from salt marsh) bisected by reed-fringed drainage sewers. Patches of rank grass and scrub occur along the old railway track and around a dirt bike circuit, while a few stunted willows have escaped the attention of the digger bucket. Dengemarsh Sewer starts here and is dredged every winter as it forms the main drainage channel for this section of the Marsh. Crops grown comprise a mix of oil-seed rape, wheat and barley with several large fields still in stubble and a market garden area of spuds, sprouts, onions and leeks.

                                  Linnets, Belgar Farm

                                 Grubbed out willows, Romney Salts

Unsurprisingly small birds were few and far between as everywhere you looked the few remaining patches of cover were being grubbed out, and all the crops were sown right down to field the margins without headland sanctuaries. However, the highlight was a flock of 200 Linnets and 100 Chaffinches in a weedy field by the race track; the only other little uns noted were two Yellowhammers and a Chaffinch along the railway track, ten House Sparrows around the farm and up to 50 Skylarks in stubble fields. Plenty of corvids, Magpies, Woodpigeons, 100 Stock Doves and four Buzzards were present, mostly amongst the market garden crops. Only last winter when I did the same walk, Tree Sparrows and Corn Buntings were noted along with many more Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Snipes; although last year it was much milder with hardly any freezing weather, so maybe some of the passerines have moved further west and south to escape the worst of the weather and may return to breed in the spring, hopefully...    

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