Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Today, I was pleased to have the company of another blogger with me at New Hythe, Marianne Taylor, who is the author of an excellent blog entitled The Wild Side. I recommend that you click the link and pay a visit, you won't be disappointed.

As usual the morning started from Brooklands car park and as usual the first part of the walk was blighted by the sight, sound and smell of the paper mill. Are we heading for a paperless society? I hope so! Brookland lake held no surprises today, being almost deserted save a few Sand Martins and some higher level Swifts. Around the margins though, Reed Warblers were chuntering away and even allowing some tantalising sightings through the reed stems. Common Whitethroats also cheerfully announced their presence, from the tops of the blossom laden Hawthorns, as they did all across the site. The tide was very low and I hoped to show off some of the Medway's elusive waders, but of course they're not called elusive for nothing and today they justified their reputation. With a distinct lack of North Downs Buzzards, a cool morning breeze and only one bucket seat we moved on to the sunken marsh where I thought that things could only improve. Along the way the drone of the mill receded and was replaced by the calls of Cetti's Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, a rather strange sounding Cuckoo, hiccups maybe, which was also seen on it's favourite wire across the marsh and the soft contact calls of a couple of Bullfinches. Then as we neared Hoopoe corner we heard the soft, intermittent purr of a Turtle Dove, my first of the year, and Marianne's too I believe. Although we could pinpoint it's location, it remained tantalisingly out of sight, deep in the scrub. I'll be back soon to hopefully see it and then add it to my NH year list. The rest of the marsh and the river turned up at least six Shelducks and lots of Herons who seemed to be busy teaching their somewhat dumb looking offspring what the sharp thing on the front of their face was for, i.e. catching fish.

Nightingales were on Marianne's wish list and they didn't disappoint with several heard around the site and two particular individuals who treated us to a stereophonic rendition of their amazing musical phrasing from both sides of the causeway below the raptor viewpoint. Here we also found one of many Hairy Hawkers, pictured above, urged onto the wing by the now warming sunshine.

More Nightingales sang across the east scrub and at the Brook House entrance track, where the Terrapin was seen basking in it's usual spot in the finger lake. We were disappointed that we couldn't get any photos of the Nightingales, a briefest glimpse was all we were spared, but I had higher hopes of a posing Water Vole and with this in mind we proceded to the usual ditch alongside the west scrub. Sure enough, we soon saw one swim from bank to bank, but it was too quick for Mariannne's camera. Luckily a second chance was had further downstream and hopefully the results will be seen on The Wild Side. No pressure then Marianne! While we were Vole watching Marianne spotted a Hobby coming over quite low from Johnson's Lake, by the time I saw it, it had gained height and was over the east scrub. This turned out to be one of four seen throughout the day and is tick number 98 for the NH year.

One of the thirteen species of butterfly seen was the Small Copper above, spotted by Marianne on the way back across the scrub. The other species seen were as follows; Grizzled Skipper (5), the most i've ever seen at New Hythe, Brimstone, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, Green Hairstreak, Holly Blue, Brown Argus, Speckled Wood and Small White.

Apart from the Hairy Hawkers, the only other dragon species seen was this superb Four Spotted Chaser, I saw a couple of these down here last year but not very many so this was a really nice surprise find in the west scrub. Below is one of the five, fresh looking Grizzled Skippers, all found as we returned across the east scrub and below that is the Brown Argus, often mistaken with Common Blue, as we nearly did first of all.

The last leg of the walk took us down the railway path where we spotted this Holly Blue butterfly (below) laying her eggs in neither Holly or Ivy, but if it works for her, why not. Note the drooping antennae, i've noticed this before with egg laying butterflies, I don't know if it has any relevance. If you know what it's about let me know, if you don't, you heard it here first.

The handsome red moth below was seen clambering through the undergrowth as we approached the raptor viewpoint, I've never seen one before but Marianne told me it 's a Ruby Tiger. Another new species for me at New Hythe. The last surprise of the day was at the raptor mound, where a flock of Black Headed Gulls were swirling around seemingly catching insects on the wing. The surprise was that among them was a lovely Mediterranean Gull. After two years without seeing one this was my third sighting this year. What a great way to end a very enjoyable day. Thanks for your good company, excellent spotting and your impressive knowledge Marianne.


Paul said...

Hi Phil, a great selection of photos there mate.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Sounds like a really good visit for Marrianne after a slow start .
Some really good species , especially the Ruby Tiger , and glad the Water Voles performed on the day .
That mad wind just calmed down a bit in time .

Marianne said...

It was great - thank you Phil! Nice photos too. The Ruby Tiger looks like it's waving :)

ShySongbird said...

It sounds like you both had a very enjoyable visit and I have enjoyed reading about it.

Lovely photos too, my favourite being the one of the Holly Blue.

I do envy your sightings of the Water Vole, I haven't seen one for years.