That got your attention didn't it!
No, it wasn't a new species at New Hythe it was me. In the last week or two i've managed to dip on Marsh Harrier, Rough legged Buzzard, Firecrest and Red Breasted Merganser to name a few. To top it all I couldn't find the Redhead Smew or the Goosander today, both of which were on site, but out of sight for me. It's a fine line between a good day and a great day, today it was a good day!
I arrived at Brooklands car park at the crack of dawn (08.30), full of optimism and itching to make a start on the 2011 New Hythe year list which Warren assures me will peak somewhere between 115 to 120 species. He might be right because I got a brand new species straight away, yes, a flying pig! :-) My own target for this year is 108. There's two reasons for that, firstly it would beat my 2009 record of 107, and secondly, this year, to align myself with other local New Hythe listers, I will be including the lake at the bottom of my garden and it's surroundings which includes the garden as well. Controversial? No, I should have done it last year, i'd have got Coal Tit and RN Parakeet if I had, at least I didn't change mid year.
So, back to the lakes, the first two birds to grace my new list were Grey Heron which flapped over in that typical 'can't be arsed' fashion they often adopt. The second was a 'Chiswick flyover', sometimes known as a Pied Wagtail, again over the car park but this one bounding urgently across the millstream, chiswicking constantly in total contrast to the Heron.
On reaching the southeast corner of Brooklands lake I had 18 species on the list, all of them commoner species but including a Sparrowhawk which swooped out of the mill's steamy, smelly breath looking for breakfast. The 19th was a female Goldeneye, one of at least two present on the now 80% unfrozen lake, and a good bird to get on the first outing.
The sunken marsh was quieter than usual, mainly due to the reduced Redwing numbers, I think that's because they've just about eaten all the berries there. Fieldfare, Pheasant,Greylag Goose and a single Rook over the river west to east made the notebook, as did a loose flock of 29 Lapwings following the river northwards.
Soon after this I saw Jerry Warne who told me he'd seen the Goosander on the streamside lake earlier. While we talked we heard, but didn't see a Skylark overhead, unusual for this time of year at New Hythe, later on I heard and saw another three singles, maybe this is down to the bad weather? A Great Spotted Woodpecker also showed well in the top of a tree over the river as we spoke.
Abbey Mead is still frozen apart from some small pockets of open water on the eastern edge. It was here that the Smew had been seen earlier, but again, a no show for me. I did find a Bittern though on the western side of the lake. This bird looked very thin to me and was quite a light colour, I hope that the current thaw will enable it to find more food, there's still a lot of winter to come. A Goldcrest was seen along the railway path but still no sign of the Firecrest further along near the crossing.
After failing to find the Goosander on Streamside I did manage a consolation prize of a small flock of Siskins feeding in an Alder tree nearby, species number 38 on the list. Being Sunday, the east and west scrub were full of dogs and people so I beat a hasty retreat back over the railway picking up a Green Woodpecker en route. And so to the river where I had high hopes of a Redshank maybe, or even the Smew and Goosander, but as I started walking down the steps to the river path I heard the sound of an engine which turned out to be the biggest pleasure cruiser I think i've seen on the river here (pictured below) coming upstream, that buggered my little plan!
I walked down the wide path instead adding Bullfinch to the list and then rejoined the river by the little bridge close to the sunken marsh. I was pleased to add Gt. Black-backed Gull here but that was all because along came the next boat, downstream this time, i'll make no comment regarding it's name!