Tuesday 8 June 1915, New Romney
Birds soon grow accustomed to the sound of firing and those on the Lydd ranges seem wholly indifferent to the nerve-racking reports. A linnet has built her nest in a gorse bush between the targets and the first firing line and I have seen these birds, as well as skylarks, feeding placidly under a curtain of lead and within a few yards of the muzzles of the rifles! Big guns are also fired across this ground.
Stonechats are also nesting here and today I found one placed at the base of a gorse bush with young about four days old.
Talking of strange sites, a ringed plover has chosen to lay her eggs on the shingly edge of the road that runs in front of Littlestone. This bird is now so used to seeing people pass that I have cycled by on the other side of the road without moving her from her eggs. I only hope her temerity will be rewarded with a safe hatching.
Male ringed plovers are still courting and indulging in their characteristic ‘display’ flight. As they beat to and fro, they utter an oft and rapidly repeated whee-er-ter, whee-er-ter, whee-er-ter. I watched one this evening. When finally he dropped to the ground he ran forward with an affected stooping gait, ‘pattering’ with his feet. Presently he selected a nesting scrape which he attempted to enlarge with the usual sprawling, shuffling movement. When his spouse came up, he further displayed his domestic inclination by plucking at small grass stems; these he either pretended to or actually tossed over his shoulder. As is usual on these occasions, the female treated these advances with the severest disdain and occupied the time by preening her feathers!
A party of eleven grey plovers – some wearing beautiful black ‘dickies’ – were feeding on the sand. Their cry is an almost double note and is a piping whee – ou, easily distinguished from the whistle of the golden plover by its lower key and different tone. Among them I thought I recognised a curlew sandpiper. Sanderlings, Kentish plover, ringed plover, common curlew and lesser black-backed gulls were also on the sands. The other day I saw a few oystercatchers. Lesser terns are fond of sitting on the firm sands.
This evening as I left the sands I found a 'Kentish', with two woolly babies, close to Littlestone. As they do not nest nearer
than the shingle beach more than a mile away, these youngsters, despite their small size (they couldn't have been more than two days old) must have been conducted there by their parents. Austen
says it is a common practice with the Kentish to take their young to the sand dunes as soon as they are hatched.
[A dicky is a shirt front.
Ingram added at the foot of the page, ‘Alexander, who dined with me tonight, also noted a curlew sandpiper today so I am confident that my identification is correct’. This was Horace Gundry Alexander (1889-1989), a notable ornithologist well known for his studies at Dungeness in the early 20th century (see his 1974 book, Seventy Years of Birdwatching, published by T & AD Poyser).
For Collingwood Ingram