I had just about one and a half hours to spare this morning so I thought i'd go Cuckoo hunting in the sunken marsh. There was a Reed Warbler chattering in the reed bed by the fishermen's building so I stopped for a while to see if I could get my first sighting of the year. Then a motorcyclist came through the railway tunnel and parked up close by, that put me off, so I carried on along the path by Brooklands lake. I know it sounds picky but I have a thing about motorbikes...........i'll say no more!
Along the path I saw Blackcap, Wren, Song Thrush, Goldfinch and a female Chaffinch doing an impression of a Spotted Flycatcher in one of the Alder trees. I drew my camera from it's holster at a speed that would have impressed Matt Dillon, but of course it's much too early for Spot Fly. Good practice for the next shoot out though! The paper mill seemed even louder than usual for some reason and I was glad to turn right along the eastern edge of the lake, scanning the sky above for Hirundines but finding none, in what looked like perfect conditions.
From the small wood the river was flooding in at a fast rate, fast enough to make last year's reeds vibrate as the water dashed relentlessly upstream through their dead stems. Remarkably, I didn't see anything from here, not even a Coot, so the bucket seat remains redundant for the time being. Just as I started to enter the sunken marsh a Cetti's Warbler called from the first clump of brambles on the right, I stopped and watched and was treated to a couple of short glimpses of the bird, as ever too fast for a photo but good to see anyway. A couple of yards further on and another Reed Warbler was heard singing in the reeds to the left, success this time when it flew from it's cover to the reedbed by the river, tick number 89 for my NH year list.
I was joined by Terry Laws a bit further along the path where it's a good spot to watch for raptors flying down the Medway valley or catching the thermals as they rise up along the North Downs. Among the species seen as we watched were Grey Herons as pictured above, presumably making trips to and from the Heronry further upstream. A couple of Oystercatchers, also flying up river, Greenfinches, who seemed to be nest building somewhere in the area, Pied Wagtail, a probable Grey Wagtail, a single Sand Martin, but not one raptor! The good news though is that we heard and then saw a Cuckoo in the top of a tree along the southern edge of the marsh. A nice bird to represent the 90th species at New Hythe this year (so far). A little while later the same bird flew across the marsh giving us good views before crossing the river and resuming it's calling from the top of another small tree. Mission accomplished.