Wednesday, 1 February 2012


I foolishly decided to go to Oare Marshes this morning, it started off badly when I realised that two of the three other cars in the car park were shooters. Thankfully they were leaving instead of arriving. It got worse when I stepped from the warmth of my car into the teeth of an absolutely bitter, easterly gale. I walked to the sea watching hide but every time I tried to look across the water my eyes watered so badly I couldn't see anything. I managed one picture of a passing Herring Gull above and watched a Marsh Harrier cross over from Sheppey before returning to the car, wondering what to do next.

I decided on Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, arriving at about 11am to a still cold but much kinder environment, and within minutes I had the pleasure of bumping into Marianne Taylor, who was just leaving the site which is her local patch. Click on her name to visit her excellent blog 'The Wild Side'.

As I approached the first hide, several alarm calls alerted me to a Sparrowhawk flying over the treetops. As I looked up I saw the first of many Siskins seen today, for a change they weren't too high and I managed a couple of shots.

Each time I saw a flock of Siskins I checked for a Lesser Redpoll among them but I didn't find one today.

A brief stop in the first hide, which I think is Tyler hide, produced Teal, Moorhen, about 30 or so Lapwings, a few Greylags and a flotilla of Black Headed Gulls but no sign of the Goosanders that I knew to be on site. En route to the Kingfisher and Tower hides, Dunnocks, Song Thrush, Tufties, Grey Heron and Little Grebe were all seen but still no Goosanders.

The Robin above was on sentry duty on the path to Slingsby hide, it's probably the tame one which joined me within seconds of opening the door to the hide. I think somebody tipped him off that I had sandwiches about my person. He had a knowing look in his eye, how could I refuse to share my lunch?
Feeling suitably refreshed I decided to head for Willow hide and a possible Bittern, on the other side of the lake. It's a fairly long walk but there was plenty to keep me occupied, Blackbirds, Wrens, sleepy Pochards, Gt Crested Grebes, more Herons, like the one below which I unwittingly disturbed from the lake edge, along with a couple of Jays and some Chaffinches. Willow hide however, was rammed, standing room only. The Bittern is clearly the star turn here, but not while I was there. I quickly noted the Shovelers, Gadwalls, Canada Geese and Greylags before hastily moving on to have a look at whatever was in the fields at the end of the path.

It was here that I narrowly escaped injury when a branch came crashing down from above and shattered into sizeable lumps on the footpath just behind me. Accident? Who knows, all I do know is that there was a similar incident in this area recently when a blogger from another patch strayed into Sevenoaks reserve.

My return was uneventful, apart from a Treecreeper searching for food in an Ivy covered tree, a Jackdaw, and a Gt Spotted Woodpecker calling from high above while clinging to a bare branch.

West lake was looking calm and inviting, being sheltered from the wind, so I decided to do the circuit around it. The Cormorants and Grey Heron above were resting on a small outcrop of branches and rocks while a Kingfisher flashed by along the reed fringed far bank. Another Treecreeper was also seen here as was a single Goldfinch and a Pied Wagtail. The two Mallards below had chosen a sunny spot nearby for a wash, brush up and snooze, very smart they looked too. As usual the Pochards were also sleeping.

I was disappointed by now that the Goosanders, one of my favourite birds had eluded me, so I gave them one more chance and headed back down to the Tower and Kingfisher hides for a final look. There were just three Snipe feeding almost unseen along the water's edge, a pair of Wigeons and a large flock of geese, who arrived amid their usual fanfare, probably from the nearby fields. But best of all was a single female Goosander who drifted past in the distance, no sign of a drake though, but there's always next time.
Finally while I was at Sevenoaks I had a couple of texts telling me that there were some Wigeon on one of the lakes at New Hythe. So I called in on my way home and managed to bag them, my 64th species of the year so far at NH, the 63rd being a Green Sandpiper seen during the week from the small wood by the river.


Greenie said...

Phil ,
I obviously left too long a delay on the trip wire . Better luck next time !
Shame the Goosanders didn't show and I'm getting the feeling that the Bittern is less than happy with the increased building work behind the reedbed .
Can you imagine what Dunge was like today ?

Warren Baker said...

Nice account Phil, Some good photo's today too. :-)

Green sandpiper and wigeon back at NH, well envious of those mate :-)

Marc Heath said...

A very nice account. Great Siskin shots Phil.

Marianne said...

I was about to protest my innocence re the falling branch but I see Greenie has confessed to everything :) Glad you were OK! Also glad you found the female Goosander, I wonder what happened to her fella.

Mike H said...

Sounds like a good time at Sevenoaks apart from the Greenie booby trap! Great Siskin shots Phil.

Stephanie said...

Nice images, Phil! It was absolutely freezing today! Steph

Mike Attwood said...

DAMN!!!! Missed.

Jason K said...

Cracking Siskin photos Phil. I love the one from behind where he is all fluffed up

ShySongbird said...

A most enjoyable account Phil and lovely photos to go with it. It does sound like a great place to visit... if somewhat dangerous!!! I did wonder if Greenie was lurking up that tree but see he had a far more dastardly plan! ;-)

Like everyone else I liked the Siskin but I think my favourite this time was the gathering of Cormorants and Heron looking quite sculptural I thought.

Sharing the hide (and lunch) with that lovely little Robin would have made my day, he's a canny little chap and becoming quite a celebrity in blogland. Your photo is beautiful.

Regarding your mention of the shooters, I thought it was supposed to be illegal after Jan 31st? Of course in my opinion it should be illegal at all times...

Alan Pavey said...

Another nicde write up Phil, really like the Siskin pics :-)

Phil said...

Dungeness was actually my first choice of destination on the day. Glad I saw sense!

Thanks mate, as you say, all down to habitat.

Thanks for your comments Marc, much appreciated

I never doubted your innocence for a moment!

Thanks very much and good to meet up recently.

Lovely to hear from you. Hope all is going well at Uni. Maybe we'll have a traditional Easter get together if you're home.

Better luck next time Mike!!

Thanks mate much appreciated.

Thanks very much. Apparently 1st Feb is the last day of the game shooting season.

Much appreciated, thanks.

Bob Bushell said...

A wonderful place to see wildlife, your photos are superb, everyone of them.