Friday, 21 October 2011


Apart from a couple of short 'stolen' hours, I haven't been able to get out for the best part of three weeks. But today, at last, I was able to change all that, and with the sun still shining I left Brooklands car park with great expectations, to see what Autumn had brought to New Hythe during my absence.
I took my usual route along the northern edge of Brooklands lake, where numbers of Tufted Duck seemed to have gone up considerably and then along the raised embankment alongside the mill. Two Grey Wagtails flew over here, followed by a Great Spotted Woodpecker which seemed to have come from across the river. A quick pause at the outflow into the river failed to find me my long awaited Water Rail, just Moorhens who ran across the mud to the cover of the reedbeds in their usual state of panic. I did see a shoal of what I think were Mullet here though, that is until a Grey Heron flew low across them and sent them swirling and diving to deeper water.

October can sometimes produce the odd Bearded Tit passing through the sunken marsh, so I took my time and hoped for the giveaway pinging that usually announces their presence. It didn't happen, but I did hear and see several Skylarks flying over, and across the river, adjacent to Burham church a large flock of Fieldfares were put up from the bushes by a couple of horse riders. These, together with a small flock of Redwings that dropped into the marsh to feed on the berries were sure signs that things had indeed changed since late September. But even now, some of Summer's creatures like the Hover Fly above, possibly Syrphus ribesii, and a single Red Admiral are hanging on, courtesy of the still warm, mid morning sun.

By the time I reached the end of the marsh I had seen or heard an impressive 36 species of birds, these included; Cetti's Warblers, good numbers of Chaffinches, Lapwings, Jays, Pheasants, Song Thrush, lots of Blackbirds, Teal, Wrens, Greenfinches, and a male Kestrel who flew silently from the telegraph pole, as did a not so silent Green Woodpecker, a fantastically exotic mix of red, green and yellow when seen from above in the low morning sunlight.

From the top of the mound I watched an impressive flock of up to a hundred or so Greylag Geese as they circled in the distance above the east scrub before landing on Johnson's Lake. The other notable sighting here was a flock of Siskins who flew overhead before alighting in a Silver Birch tree behind me. Hopefully a sign of another good Siskin winter.

Surprisingly, Abbey Mead lake was still very quiet, with just a couple of Great Crested Grebes and a couple of Swans to disturb the flat calm surface. But I did see a Goldcrest among a group of Long Tailed Tits in the adjacent bushes. Talking of Swans, I heard today that a Whooper Swan had been found dead at New Hythe recently, possibly the one I had seen a few times on the river during the back end of summer. Sad news either way.

Pictured above is a Water Vole which I spotted in the ditch on the south side of the west scrub. I guess he'll be stocking up his underground larder to help see him through the coming winter. I wish him luck, he'll probably need it. The east scrub was an avian desert as usual, only redeeming itself with a single fly over Fieldfare, a couple of Linnets and surprisingly a small flock of Lesser Redpolls, three of which landed on top of a hawthorn bush giving me a better view, but not a picture.
It's a bit early but I thought i'd check out the Bittern reedbed on Streamside and I was right, it was a bit early. But I did spot a couple of Gadwall and a Kingfisher, who zoomed across in front of me while I was holding the camera luckily, the resulting hurried snap is below.

With the time getting on I decided to head back to the mound. On the way I had to walk along one of my favourite stretches of path between Brookland and Abbey Mead lakes. This is the sunny area favoured by Crickets, Butterflies, Damselflies, Dragonflies and a host of other sun worshipping insects during high summer. But today the honours went to just two Migrant Hawkers, one pictured below and two Common Darters, one of which landed first on my hand and then on my jacket, ruling out any chance of a picture.

I had a very pleasant half an hour or so sitting on the mound watching the Avian world go by, which included a solitary Rook, quite uncommon here and the Common Buzzard pictured below, who was being given a very hard time of it by a flock of Crows. Just time for a last quick look at the river from the small wood where the now receding tide gave a roosting opportunity to Cormorants and a Great Black-backed Gull and a fishing opportunity to a Little Egret. These three species bought my total list to a whopping 52 species in three and a half hours.

It's good to be back!!


Warren Baker said...

52 Species, thats a great haul Phil, and I love that kingfisher photo, it really gives the impression of speed :-) Have a good Autumn at newhythe mate!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Like Warren , I think that Kingfisher shot is a gem .
Good to see you back 'on post' .
I can feel a visit coming on for the Water Vole .

Bob Bushell said...

It is nice to see you for a long time. The best of your pictures, to me, was the dragonfly, superb.

Marianne said...

Glad you are back out on the patch. Nothing like a bit of wildlife to raise the spirits. I agree with the chaps - the Kingfisher in flight is great, a very difficult shot to get :)

Kieron said...

Hi Phil, driving past the lakes on Friday morning (on the A228) and I saw a swan flying in from the West. Cant be sure as I was driving but it looked like a Whooper. Maybe there are more in the area?

Alan Pavey said...

Nice post Phil and a good return for your three and a half hours. Well done on keeping up with that Kingfisher!! I really like the hoverfly too, great colours :-)