Mi­grant hunt­ing on a newly-formed piece of Eng­land

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - PAUL TRODD

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!

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