Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Kentish Men

Both of our sons were born in Kent - west of the Medway, making them Kentish Men as opposed to Men of Kent from the east - and we were back in the County of their birth this weekend, for a wedding and to catch up with old friends. The bride was my former PA when I had such a thing, and the venue was the same place where my wife and I got married over a decade ago. Very happy memories: it was great having a PA.
Male Turtle Dove - unlike the old days, none were singing over my old garden last weekend, but Kent is still a good place to catch up with them
Our former neighbours, the generous Prices, put us up, fed us, dropped us off and picked us up at the end of the night, and generally made us feel at home again. The time we lived over the road from them - the early years of the 21st century - included some of the hottest summers on record, so it was a bit of a shock to encounter strong winds and cool temperatures on our latest visit. Hopefully this explained the silence from the Turtle Doves which used to purr from the wires rather than the depressing tale of decline for which this species is now known.

This Hawfinch landed on my garden feeders for 3 minutes in 2003 - just long enough for my shaking hands to digiscope it through the French windows
My little garden in Dorset can't quite compete with the rambling patch we had in Kent in terms of birdlife, which also played host to Spotted Flycatchers, Garden Warblers, Lesser Whitethroats, Tawny Owls, Cuckoos, and, once, even a Hawfinch.

Our friendly garden fox - pictured here in 2007, the year we left Kent for Dorset
Perched over the Medway Valley, from its various vantage points I could also see Red-legged Partridges, Yellowhammers and Hobbies. Grey Wagtails visited the pond, Pipistrelles roosted in the eaves, Wood Mice chewed their way into a dustbin containing the bird food and a tame Fox poked it's head around the gate most evenings.
Male Banded Demoiselle at Leybourne Lakes, the day after the wedding

Another highlight on my inland Kent garden list was a migrating Wheatear which turned up one foggy Autumn morning. More exotic, but also more dodgy, was a Harris Hawk which used to frequent the area - that caused a bit of confusion, not to mention panic, when it first soared past the upstairs window.
This is the female Banded Demoiselle, also at Leybourne Lakes
Amid the happy memories, a stop-start journey there and back around the M25 was a jolting reminder of why we moved down to Dorset. But while we certainly have no regrets, it was good to go back for something other than a Dusky Thrush. Or a Crested Lark. Or an Eastern Black Redstart...
A rare visit 'home' for these Kentish Men and their Mum. And an even rarer visit to Church...

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