The first thing that caught my attention as I donned my boots and rucksack in Brooklands car park was the excited screaming of Swifts. I looked up to see about thirty of them wheeling high above me before inevitably disappearing to the south. Great to see and hear but also a sad reminder of their departure and also a hint of the passing summer.
My companions along the northern edge of Brooklands lake were mostly Goldfinches, more here than i've seen of late, their numbers boosted by numerous juveniles. Hopefully they will have had a good breeding season and judging by the Thistles (above) and the seeming abundance of Teasels across the site there will be enough food to sustain them through the winter.
The tide was at it's lowest point when I arrived at 09.00 so I made my way through the thick vegetation to the small wood by the river. I haven't been there for a while now and I was struck by the darkness from the overhead canopy of leaves and what was also a rather dull and grey morning.............it was a bit spooky!
I scanned the large island exposed by the water's rush back to the sea and immediately noticed the dorsal and tail fins of what must have been a really big shoal of Grey Mullet continually breaking the surface of the shallow water as they 'grazed' on the rocks and mud on the riverbed. They had also been spotted by two Cormorants and a couple of juvenile Grey Herons who were drooling over this feast of fish, swimming virtually between their legs and which were far too big for even the most optimistic beak. I watched in amusement as the Cormorants dived among them causing the surface to boil as the fish panicked but each time they came up empty handed, or beaked, and eventually they gave up and climbed back on the island and watched grumpily as lunch continued to lunch, so close yet so far.
While I watched all this unfold a small wader flickered across the river and landed on the far bank. It was a Sandpiper and I'm pretty sure it was of the common variety but either way it was good to see, albeit fleetingly.
And so to the sunken marsh where a rather punkish looking Greenfinch sang from the top of a bush and a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits noisily leapfrogged their way from bush to bush along the northern edge in a manner reminiscent of a winter feeding flock. A Chiffchaff also joined the fray and posed briefly to allow me to take a poor shot of him, I don't think he would like it much if he saw it but I would definitely blame it on the poor light and battleship grey skies! The only other bird of note along the river was a lone Lapwing, I checked it out to make sure it hadn't got a white tail, just in case.
The previously mentioned grey conditions meant that Butterflies were at a premium, the ever present Gatekeepers, or Hedge Browns as I believe they were once referred to were the most abundant species but I did see a Peacock, a couple of Red Admirals, two Speckled Woods and a solitary Ringlet which I believe are just about at the end of their flying time now.
Over the railway line and the Railway lake provided the usual suspects in the shape of Gt Crested Grebes, Tufties, Coots and Greylags and a flyover Lesser Black -backed Gull. The East Scrub only managed to present me with Dunnocks, Blackbirds and Common Whitethroats but a Green Woodpecker brightened up the grey picture as did a singing Willow Warbler which although only a few yards from me had taken the art of invisibility to a new dimension. I wish I could do that!
I managed to find these two Slow Worms under a piece of refugia, I don't know why they are referred to as slow though because they certainly aren't. Some people still think of these super critters as snakes but of course they're not. For one thing they have eyelids which snakes don't have and unlike snakes they shed their skin in bits as opposed to one piece. They are also autotomic like some other lizards i.e. they are able to shed part of their body, in this case their tail, to escape predators. So although they are harmless and nice to handle you have to be very careful how you do it. Probably best not to really.
The return along the river yielded a few more species to the list including the family of Shelducks, still looking good, a Reed Warbler and a singing Blackcap or two. I was pleased to see a Common Tern fishing gracefully and successfully at Brookland lake as I headed back to the car and also two Pied Wagtails which were bouncing along the roof of the mill seemingly oblivious to the noise and steam generated by this blot on the landscape.