Monday, 21 March 2011


After two glorious weeks on the lovely island of Tobago we returned on friday lunchtime to the cold and rain. Despite that it was good to be back. One of the best things about travelling is getting back, there's no place quite like home. Oh to be in England now that spring is here.

Today really did feel like it was here and I started out from Brooklands car park with spring in the air and in my step. I soon noticed the difference from a few weeks ago, the winter ducks now all but gone. Just the Coots, Grebes and Tufted Ducks around to keep the dozens of Black Headed and occasional Common Gulls company on Brooklands lake. It was a similar story on Abbey Mead lake where, ominously, signs have now appeared declaring it and the land around it as a private fishing area. Abbey Mead is the last relatively inaccessible and therefore undisturbed lake in the area and it's impending loss will be a sad blow to wildlife and birdwatchers alike. And so it goes on.

On a more optimistic note I was lucky enough to find a Water Vole this afternoon in the ditch adjacent to the west scrub. This was the ditch that used to hold a good head of these Voles but was polluted twice last year so it was a surprise to find it there. Fingers crossed. The humble Mallard pictured below was preening in the shadows under some trees alongside Streamside lake. Not so humble when seen close up and in the light is she.

To say the area was awash with birds would be far from the truth. The usual characters like Goldfinches, Robins, Wrens, Blue, Great and Long tailed Tits and the inevitable Dunnocks were all well represented. Along with some of the less reliable like Cetti's Warblers, Green Woodpeckers, Reed Buntings and Greenfinches. But the only Summer migrants I could find were the Chiffchaffs, monotonously announcing their presence from the tops of trees and bushes in their familiar way. As I made my way back towards the railway line along the path shown at the top of the post I heard the indignant call of a Mediterranean Gull. I looked up and sure enough, there they were, two of them circling above me, their white wings and black heads showing up brilliantly against the blue sky before they headed off south, roughly following the River Medway. For me, this is a great bird to find at New Hythe, I know they are sometimes seen but I haven't seen one here for nearly two years so my day was made and my New Hythe year list hit 76.

There were a few butterflies on the wing, I managed to get a quick pic (below) of one of two Commas seen but the Brimstone along the river was on a mission and wouldn't settle, good to see though.

My final destination was the wood by the river where I had about half an hour watching from the bucket. I added two Kingfishers and two Teal but not much else apart from three very fast speedboats heading upriver full of soldiers. Is there a war on?

It's been bought to my attention recently that the said bucket was formerly known as Terry's seat. Legend has it that he used to sit on it watching for Buzzards over the north downs but one day, sadly, he fell asleep on it and was picked up and washed away by the tide. Apparently the tide came back in later that day and miraculously deposited the bucket in exactly the same spot it had picked it up from. As for Terry, who knows? All I know is that every time I go to park my backside on that bucket it feels warm, even in the middle of winter and I kind of feel I'm being watched.......................spooky!


Warren Baker said...

welcome back Phil, i'll be wathing your reports carefully, as your patch gets the Migrant a week or so before me, good luck with them!

Bob Bushell said...

I was wondering where you had been, so its Tobago, nice one. I love your female Mallard Duck.

Paul said...

Hi Phil, good to see you back mate. I too saw a couple of Brimstone today, but like you, no chance in getting a photo of them becasue they just wouldnt land!

Ken. said...

Hi Phil.
Glad to hear that you and Carol had a great holiday.
Good to see you back where you belong. Nice Comma Shot.
Just a bit of advice Phil. Sitting on the bucket is one thing, just don't kick it!!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Glad you had a good trip .
Things have certainly moved on in the two weeks you were away , as you say .
Good news on the Water Vole .

ShySongbird said...

I read this post quickly before going to bed last night and spent the night dreaming of Water Voles :) sad aren't I?!! Oh well it makes a change from dreaming about birds I suppose!

Glad you had a wonderful holiday I thought about you and Carol enjoying all that glorious sunshine several times on gloomy days here ;) Good to have you back among us.

I think the Mallard is a beautiful bird and would be far more appreciated were it not seen so regularly.

I still haven't seen a butterfly here yet but my husband has seen Brimstones.

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, Nice to hear you found a Water Vole, we haven't had any here for a while. Glad you picked up Med. Gull as well, sounds like a really nice return to your patch :-)