Friday, 17 February 2012


Back down the lakes today with John, he'd never seen a Smew so we were hoping the four I saw on wednesday were still there. As we watched a female Goldeneye on Brooklands lake I got a call from Greenie of 'Greenie in the Wild'. He was already at Abbey Meads and was watching five Smew including one drake. But by the time we reached the lake a combination of vehicles going to and fro the sunken marsh, they're now fixing the second water main leak, and a fisherman in a boat, had been a bit too much for them, as it was for me, and they had departed. The only other sighting of note here was a distant flock of at least 60 Lapwings flying in a straggly line north to south over the river.
We crossed the railway line and paused for a chat by the railway lake and as we did so three of the female Smew took off from the lake hardly thirty feet from where we were standing. Scan first, chat later was the lesson learned. I wondered if they may have come down on Johnson's lake so we headed in that direction via Streamside where the Bittern was a no show but Siskins were feeding in the Alders along with some Goldfinches, a Treecreeper was heard but not seen and a Kingfisher crossed the water in silence. A very brief view of a Water Vole was had in the ditch adjacent to Johnson's and from there we also relocated the Smews. But now there were six! All redheads and all very, very shy. I tried everything to get close enough for a picture but they were too smart for me and I had to settle for a long distance effort which did them no justice.

There's a small lake next to Johnson's and on it was this fine Great Crested Grebe. We stood for sometime watching it fishing and successfully catching a couple of Perch. How such a delicate looking bird deals with the impressive spines on the dorsal fin and gill covers of these fish I don't know. Obviously swallowing them head first keeps the dorsal fin down but even so it still seems a very prickly meal.

The mild weather and calm winds gave the day a spring like feel, even more so when a couple of Gt Spotted Woodpeckers began drumming nearby, the first i've heard this year. A Green Woodpecker also made a brief appearance.

A couple of Mistle Thrushes flew over just before we headed back across the east scrub, where a handful of Redwings were perched in the hawthorns which have now been stripped of their berries. Not much else here other than the odd Chaffinch and Greenfinch.

We didn't see a single raptor today but six redhead Smews, the most i've ever seen together more than made up for it. I wonder what happened to the drake? Good to see you again today Greenie. We won't mention the 'falling branch' incident any more!!


Bob Bushell said...

Great photos of the Great Crested Grebe.

Anonymous said...


What time were you at the lakes today? I visited from 10 -12 but missed out on smew. I attach my list.

List for a visit to Snodland/Leybourne area today (17/02/12 - 10.00 – 12.00)

Mute Swan (10); Canada Goose (4); Greylag Goose (4); Gadwall (19); Teal (22); Mallard (22); Shovelar (19); Pochard (19); Tufted Duck (c100); Cormorant (11); Grey Heron (2); Little Grebe (2); Great-crested Grebe (2); Kestrel (1); Water Rail (1); Moorhen (17); Coot (c200); Woodcock (1); Redshank (1); Black-headed Gull (c250); Herring Gull (c50); Woodpigeon (c50); Collard Dove (6); Green Woodpecker (3); Magpie (18); Carrion Crow (c30); Jay (5); Blue Tit (24); Great Tit (13); Long-tailed Tit (4); Wren (3); Starling (2); Blackbird (13); Song Thrush (3); Robin (13); Dunnock (3); Chaffinch (2); Goldfinch (8).

Bill S

Alan Pavey said...

Hi Phil, glad you caught up with the Smew, the Great Crest looks particularly nice, lovely pics.

Phil said...

We were around the lakes from about 0915 to 1215. We left Johnson's lake area about 1145 and the Smew, or at least some of them were still there then. You managed a good list in 2 hours.

Jason K said...

Cracking set of Grebe photos Phil!

One has returned to the pool on my patch now...he has been calling away all day, but he will probably have to wait a week or two before his mate turns up!

ShySongbird said...

Yes, GCGs are delicate and very elegant looking birds and you got some good shots of that one enjoying its lunch Phil.

A shame about the Smews being disturbed but to see six in one go was quite something.

- Yvonaut -
Das sind Raphael und Yvonne

Very nice pictures!
Many greetings from Switzerland
Yvonne & Raphael

Simon said...

Great to hear the Great-spots drumming!! Nice set of GCG photos!

Chris said...

Wonderful sequence of the Great crested grebe Phil. Lovely!

Ken. said...

Well done on having both male (white nun) and female (redhead)Smew on your local patch, and getting a record shot of them.
Great shot of the G/C/Grebe.
I will have to try and get down there soon in the hope of possibly seeing one of the Smew, if they are still around.