Alan Woodcock's car was already in the car park at brooklands when I arrived, hopefully the early bird found the early birds! As I crossed the car park I saw a small flock of fieldfare flying over and i'm glad I did as the sunken marsh is now just about devoid of winter thrushes, they've eaten all the berries and moved on to pastures new. The tide was very high on the river and at my usual vantage point I only found a single lapwing, a grey wagtail, some teal and a distant little egret so I made a small detour across the flattened reedbed further upstream and added redshank from the far bank and a common snipe which flew up from the near bank just in front of me. More of the commoner species were encountered on the way to the railway line which I crossed and then decided to have a quick scan on the railway lake, not usually very productive but today it threw up a real surprise in the shape of a red head smew! I quickly fired off a couple of distant shots and soon after it flew off in the direction of streamside lake where Ken Browne from Halling managed to locate it later on.
Red Head Smew Railway Lake
I started to cross the east scrub from the railway lake and was immediately confronted with a sparrowhawk which was chasing a blackbird but also flushed a green woodpecker which flew off making the devil of a din as did the blackbird. I added reed bunting and a single lesser redpoll before meeting Den & Doreen Capeling and walking back over the railway and down the riverside path with them. We got back to the sunken marsh where Den spotted a buzzard flying very low away from us in a northerly direction virtually following the river Two kestrel were also seen in the vicinity. The river by now was as high as i've seen it and just before we came to the end of the path and out to brooklands lake we found our way blocked by a stream of water pouring across the path and into the sunken marsh itself, this was impassable without wellies or waders so we had to retrace our steps back round the marsh and hope the river hadn't breached the path behind us or we'd have to climb a tree and wait for the ebb tide, thankfully it hadn't.
My final list consisted of 47 species, not a bad start to the New Hythe year list, especially when day one includes goldeneye, buzzard and smew all in about four hours. When I got back to my car I found a note under my wipers from Alan asking me if i'd found the red head smew on railway lake.............damn! The early bird got there before me!!