Friday, 10 February 2012


Well, just as I thought we'd escaped, winter delivers the sting in its tail. I don't mind it too much and it's certainly livened things up at New Hythe this week, with an assortment of different birds arriving and leaving almost every day. Common Snipe, like the one above snoozing near the Millstream, have been taking advantage of the softer ground around the margins of the lakes, often waiting until the very last moment to burst up with a whirr of wings and an accompanying 'squelch' as they fly off and away before you can say Jack (Snipe) Robinson.
A text from Terry Laws on wednesday morning saw me dashing along to Abbey Mead lake where he'd just found a drake Smew. It didn't take me too long to get there but when I did I was greeted by the sight of a fisherman, standing up in a small boat in the middle of the lake. Obviously this wouldn't have pleased Mr Smew who'd flown off to make somebody else's day. Mr Sharp was none too pleased either. My consolation prize was a drake Goosander who circled the lake before deciding that man in boat wasn't his bag either. He raised his landing gear and probably headed for Mote Park in Maidstone where I believe most of his mates are at the moment.

With a bit of spare time on my hands, thursday morning saw me back at the lakes. I changed my route this time and hot footed it up the railway path in the vain hope that the Smew might have returned. I only stopped to take a couple of pics of a Wren who was creeping mouse like around the base of the trees, exploring every crevice of the bark for tiny edible morsels. There seems to be a lot of them around at the moment, or maybe like a lot of small birds, they are throwing caution to the wind and spending more time in the open searching for food.

The Smew was nowhere to be seen of course and I couldn't find anything on Abbey Mead other than some Gadwall, a couple of distant Shovelers and the army of Coots who seem to favour this lake, probably due to the areas of shallow water in the middle. A couple of noisy Jays squabbled along the footpath adjacent to the lake and a Sparrowhawk's stealthy approach was thwarted by several alarm calls from a mixed flock of Tits. I also heard a Chiffchaff call intermittently, but didn't see it.

Over the railway line and along the Railway lake where I saw a couple of Reed Buntings, above, who unlike the Wren weren't so keen to be seen and insisted on staying partially hidden, although both birds did drop to the track to feed with a few Goldfinches a couple of times. On the far bank a couple of Grey Herons stood hunched and fluffed up against the bitter wind. They gave the impression that this wasn't their idea of fun. A bit further on there are some trees opposite the west scrub, it was here that Eddie Denson, his friend David, myself and Carol saw a Brambling last sunday morning, a first for me at New Hythe and number 69 for the patch this year.

The Bittern at Streamside wasn't seen today, not surprising really given that the whole of the southern end of the lake including the reedbed was frozen solid. I did have an idea where it might be though, more of that later. A Snipe flew up from under the overhanging branches to my right and a flock of Siskins arrived to feed in the tops of the Alder trees alongside me, their constant chatter almost drowning out the thin trill that alerted me to a Treecreeper above. Not plentiful at New Hythe so a very welcome bonus whenever I see them.

The trees here have kept the snow off the ground, a life saver for Blackbirds and Song Thrushes especially. The female Blackbird above was far too busy leaf turning to worry about me, it makes a change not to have them fly off screaming blue murder like they usually do.

I made my way back to the river path where I saw six Bullfinches, amazingly, one of them allowed a semi close approach and the result above is possibly, despite the darkness, one of the best photos i've taken of a Bullfinch, which says a lot about the others! There were a few Herons in the heronry who looked as if they might be sitting on eggs, I could also see some nests that were still snow covered. More Herons stood tall in the treetops while others, like the Railway lake mob just sat hunched and looked bored. A couple of Redshanks and a few Little Grebes were seen on the river with the usual Cormorants and dozens of Teal lined the far bank.

The path around the sunken marsh was extremely quiet, in part maybe to the renewed pipe mending activity. It had all finished at the end of last week, all the machinery had gone and a horrible roadstone material had been put down on what was the nice grassy track, making good I think they call it. Anyway, they've now found another leak and it's all started again. But just as I came to the last bit of scrub before reaching the bucket wood, a Woodcock (70) flew up noisily and sped off towards the river, the first of the year.

From the wood I counted 80 Teal, there must have been a lot more, probably over a hundred. It was low tide and almost all of them were lined around the shallow edges where the water meets the muddy bank and they were mostly getting their heads down and feeding, presumably filtering the silt for something. I crept up as close as I could get for a picture but they are incredibly wary and leave at the slightest hint of movement.

A Kingfisher, a couple of Snipe and a Little Grebe, above, were also noted as I left to walk around Brooklands before leaving for home. I found two female Goldeneyes on Brooklands, another Woodcock, better views this time and in the southwest corner I spotted a Bittern, or at least I spotted a Bittern's beak mostly.
As you can see from the picture below it wasn't a great view, but a nice find nonetheless. This could be the bird from Streamside, at least there's no ice here.

There was a chap called Graham from Strood sitting by the fishing hut eating his lunch as I walked past, I stopped for a chat and as we spoke I noticed a large bird being mobbed by Crows and Gulls to the east just over the river. It was a Marsh Harrier (71), Grahame got his scope on it and I noticed what looked like a wing tag and wondered if it could be one of the Sheppey tagged birds.
I'm sorry this is such a long post but I haven't had time to get on the computer much this week. Anyway, nearly there, stick with it. Yesterday afternoon I got a text from Martin to say that there was a Redhead Smew (72) on Alders lake, I dashed out just before the light went and saw it for myself. What a splendid bird, just a pity it wasn't a bit closer, but never mind, at least I saw it. Unlike the Gt White Egret that Terry found this morning. I went down to try and find it but without any luck. I did find two drake Goosanders on the river though and while we stood in the weak sunshine, just past Hoopoe corner a Peregrine Falcon (73) entertained us to the north circling over the river.


8 comments: said...

A bullfinch, so nice! and the wren it looks a wallcreeper in the first pic!!! :-)

Mike H said...

Sounds like some good stuff from New Hythe again Phil.

Greenie said...

Phil ,
I was exhausted at the end of your post , and that was just reading it .
Good to hear some winter ducks are turning up , about time .
You're going to have to train those Bittern to step out of the reeds for their photos .

ShySongbird said...

Lots of goodies in there Phil, you had a good day despite the no show Smew, I know all about fruitless searches for Smew!! Glad you got to see the redhead eventually though.

I do enjoy hunt the Bittern shots, I've seen quite a few this week on other blogs :-)

Love the Treecreeper photo, well done on the Bullfinch too! I also loved the Wren, I find it very difficult to get anything half decent of them, they skulk about so much.

Warren Baker said...

Phew indeed Phil, but crikey you've had some brilliant birds there this week, looks like a record breaking year list for you this year :-)

Bob Bushell said...

You caught the Snipe, good on you. And the others, Wren, Bullfinch and Treecreeper amongst the rest of them, superb.

Mike Attwood said...

Now I know where all my birds have gone. Nice collection.

Tomás Crespo said...

beautiful photos, the troglodites is lovely