Migrant hunting on a newly-formed piece of England
RECENTLY CREATED BY spoil deposited from excavated material from the Channel Tunnel project, Samphire Hoe has gained a reputation as a local migrant hotspot due to its location. Habitats here include herb-rich grassland, scrub and several small marl ponds, all managed in partnership with the White Cliffs Countryside Project. The views along the iconic White Cliffs are wonderful and are worth scanning from late morning for migrating raptors such as Buzzard and Honey Buzzard, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk and Hobby. Ring Ouzels are often noted on the lower slopes while fencelines and scrub along the railway track typically attract chats, starts, warblers and the occasional Wryneck. At times the overhead passage of wagtails, pipits and hirundines can be spectacular and, given an onshore wind, seawatching is worthwhile, with skuas regularly seen in early autumn harassing migrating terns. The Hoe is blessed with good walkways and cycle paths throughout and is accessible to wheelchair users. Facilities are also good, although it can get crowded at weekends, so an early morning or weekday visit is recommended. The chalk grasslands are grazed by cattle and sheep at various times of year to manage the rich botanical habitat which supports around 200 species of plants, including many orchids during the summer. In turn, more than 30 species of butterflies also prosper with a thriving population of the lovely Adonis Blue. Samphire Hoe is a unique site in a spectacular setting sandwiched between the North Downs and the English Channel, and is worthy of a visit for that alone. But pay particular attention to those chalk cliffs and scan with care, as one of these days I’m convinced they will be graced by a Wallcreeper!