After a weekend of reading accounts of other people's Spring arrival sightings I decided to walk down to New Hythe and find some of my own today. Because my car was in dry dock I walked from the house so the first place of interest was the towpath between the Alders lakes where I was serenaded by a Chiffchaff, one of many heard today. The big alders lake was where I hoped to find my first Sand Martin of the year but today wasn't the day and I had to be content with Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Gt Crested Grebe and a Common Gull among the usual ducks etc.
As I walked along Lunsford lane towards the entrance to the country park I found good numbers of Chaffinch, Gt Tit, Blue Tit and a pair of Song Thrushes digging around in the soft earth and leaf litter alongside the stream. A quick look in the small wood near the car park failed to turn up the hoped for Treecreeper and from there I walked across the open scrub where the Stonechats have over wintered in recent years but declined their presence this year, not surprising really as most of the perching material in this area seems to have been hacked down in the relentless tidying up programme that seems to be going on at present. I saw nothing of interest in this area and I was glad to get across it and down to the Millstream area where I disturbed a fishing Heron, pictured above.
As I walked up what was the rough track to the Railway lake and now resembles a badly made tarmac road (more tidying up), I was surprised to see the Whooper Swan on the lake. It was being seen off in no uncertain fashion by a male Mute Swan which converged on the poor Whooper with it's neck tucked down, it's chest puffed out and it's wings held high off it's back. There's no mistaking the threat in this pose and the Whooper wisely retreated, straight to my side of the lake! The last time I saw it I couldn't get close enough for a reasonable picture so I made up for it this time and filled my boots. I whittled it down to three but I could so easily have gone over the top, this is one super, elegant bird, I know it's not truly wild but it's still a Whooper and I think it looks great, so there!
Over the railway, down the railway path and round to the small wood by the river where I found the tide out, the pair of Oystercatchers in and a Sand Martin over, mission accomplished. Two Shelduck a LBB Gull and some Teal, although only a couple now, completed the picture. The sunken marsh was deader than a dead thing and I wouldn't have been surprised if the fresh south westerly had started whistling and one of those balls of tumbleweed that you get in Westerns in the ghost towns had rolled through it.
A bit further along the river I met Den and Doreen and while we continued I spotted a pair of Rooks flying over the river towards us, they can be quite a difficult species to find at New Hythe so I was pleased with that and I was also pleased with the second Sand Martin seen from the mound a bit later. We looked for Mistle Thrushes in the Brooklands car park behind the old cafe to no avail but did see two Pied Wagtails for our troubles. I carried on up the Millstream here heading for home and only added Goldfinch to my day list and I thought that would be it but one more surprise was in store for me in the shape of a male Blackcap lurking in the bushes with some House Sparrows at the end of the Alders towpath. This was a worthy last bird to end my walk and a species list of 39 including three New Hythe year ticks.