I was invited by Eddie Denson to join him on an early morning trip to Knole Park to try and find some Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers today. How could I refuse, especially as i've never seen one. I should immediately confess that the Fallow Deer picture above was one that I took on a trip last October, but we saw plenty of these today, maybe even this one so I don't feel too guilty.
We parked at the quieter end of the park and began our search in a stand of mature trees, just a couple of hundred yards in from the road.
Green Woodpeckers yaffled loudly, their Spring plumage standing out nicely in the early morning light. One of two bright green noisy species of birds we encountered almost immediately, the other of course being the Ring-necked Parakeets that now live in the park in seemingly ever increasing numbers. A backdrop of of the Himalayas or Mt Kilimanjaro would seem more appropriate to accompany these birds.
We spent some considerable time scanning the outer branches and the tops of the trees, thankfully they seemed to be slightly behind with leaf formation here. Another couple of weeks and locating the LSW's would be even harder than it is now and that's saying something.
I don't think i've ever seen so many Nuthatches as we saw this morning, they seemed to be everywhere and of course each one was a potential woodpecker and had to be checked out. As did the Chaffinches, Blue Tits, and Great Tits, in fact everything that moved in the higher branches caught our attention. As well as a pair of fine Yellowhammers that flew from the lower branches of a tree and into a golf bunker, don't know what the attraction was there.
The easiest way to locate the Lesser Peckers is to hear them drumming, like the Gt Spotted Woodpeckers that we could hear and see regularly as we searched. But they didn't seem to be in the mood this morning, or maybe they just weren't there. Then in the distance we heard it, a longer, slightly softer and more even drum roll that didn't tail off at the end, this was definitely our quarry, but could we find it! We walked back in the general direction of the sound but it's a big park and the bird wasn't exactly helping by staying quiet for a while. But then we heard the drumming again and we stood watching the now closer area trying to pinpoint the sound. All of a sudden it was there, flying from one tree to a dead branch on another. Disappearing behind the branch, it continued drumming, sounding incredibly loud, almost mechanical but staying mostly out of sight until it once more took off and flew strongly into the distance.
This was my first and only Lesser Spotted Woodpecker as we failed to find any more, but that was OK. There's always next time.
We still had a bit of time so we went to Holborough marshes near Snodland. This was a trip down memory lane for me, the last time I was there I was thirteen I think. I used to visit it to fish for Eels in the two dykes there on the site of the long abandoned cement factory, at least I think that's what it was. Anyway I was pleased to see they were still there, much as I remembered them from nearly 45 years ago.
The site is now owned and maintained by the Kent Wildlife Trust and looks really great. We were able to see Common Snipe, Grey Heron, Lapwings, Mistle Thrush and a Common Tern among other species as we made our way back along the river path. Unfortunately the tide was right in, otherwise i'm sure we would have seen a lot more. I also saw my first damselfly of the year but it was too high for me to ID it. This reserve is literally half a mile downstream from Brooklands Lake and the Sunken marsh and the only thing stopping it being joined up to make a superb riverside walk from Halling in the north to New Hythe in the south is that blot on the landscape, the paper mill, whose ugly dominance reaches to the very edge of the river, effectively blocking the access.
Thanks for a great morning Eddie.