Tuesday, 6 March 2012


When I got to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve I was surprised to see that my car was telling me it was 4.5 degrees outside. When I got out to put my boots on I had to agree, it was flipping cold.
It was certainly a contrast from last week when it reached 16 degrees and I thought Spring had arrived.
The Grey Squirrel above was in no doubt though and was busy building a drey in the still bare branches of a tree near Slingsby hide. As I approached the hide I noticed a Kingfisher in the branches of a small tree alongside the small pond close to the hide. I tried to get a picture but the Kingfisher was having none of it and flew behind the island and out of sight.

I decided to sit in the hide for a while in case it came back and in due course my patience was rewarded when it perched briefly, some distance away to the left of the island. While I waited for the Kingfisher to arrive I watched and listened to two very vocal Sparrowhawks as they chased back and forth and displayed some distance away over towards the sandbank.

I was happy to get a visit from the famous and most friendly Robin which the Slingsby hide is now quite rightly renowned for. He did come inside for a visit but insisted on perching too close for a picture and it was too dark anyway. I'm quite excited though, to be able to reveal a previously unknown and totally unexpected fact about Robins. They really like custard creams!

It seemed that a lot of the birds I saw were in pairs, as was the case with the Long-tailed Tits above and below. They flitted to and fro constantly and on one occasion dropped to the floor and picked up nesting material. Clearly the birds aren't fooled by random fluctuations in the temperature and they don't need a calendar to tell them that the sap is beginning to rise and it's time to get on with the most important job of the year. Perpetuating their species.

Other birds seen or heard from Slingsby hide included a Water Rail who called from the adjacent reedbed, a Little Grebe, a single Siskin who dropped down to the water's edge, a couple of Jays, a Stock Dove and five Ring-necked Parakeets who flew in noisily and landed in the trees close by.

The Wren above did a passable impression of a Treecreeper before dropping down onto the log pile near the hide door and giving a burst of song, the incredible size of its voice bearing no relation whatsoever to the size of its body. This was probably the most common song I heard today all across the site.

I reluctantly moved on from Slingsby, driven by the desire to warm my feet with a brisk walk. For this reason I only stopped briefly at Tyler hide, noting Lapwings, Cormorants, Coots, Moorhens, Greylags and a few Teal among the rafts of mainly Black-headed and Common Gulls.
A single Song Thrush sang from the tall trees on the way down to Willow hide and a Treecreeper called and came into view briefly before disappearing back under the Ivy that blankets some of the trees alongside the lake.

I stopped briefly to take a picture of this female Mallard and as I did so a Wren flew up and landed quite close to me, it was very agitated and called and scolded alarmingly, but I couldn't work out why.

I took its picture and turned to walk away and then discovered what all the fuss was about.

A flipping moggy! If only I had my catapult.

Not a great deal to report from the Willow hide, some Canada Geese were honking at each other and getting all aggressive like they do. The one above is giving a demonstration of what's commonly referred to as a slice of tongue pie. While the one below wouldn't melt butter if it had it in its beak.

There were a couple of Egyptian geese in the field behind the lake and on the water a couple of Gadwall and a Pochard bolstered the morning's list.

I decided to walk down to the field, nervously passing the spot where the branch 'accidentally' fell out of the tree and narrowly missed me last time. I'm glad I did because there were two Curlew on the far side of the field, not too common here I think. They took off while I watched, and circled the field before heading off to the north.

I took off and headed back towards the car park, grabbing a long distance shot of this Sparrowhawk and accompanying corvid as they sparred and shouted at each other while drifting over in the now welcome sunshine. And a pair of Kingfishers perched in bushes alongside the small lake on the right, sparkling like jewels as they waited patiently for small fish to move into the warmer shallows.

As if to prove the point about Spring being close despite the cold, this Chiffchaff, species number 44 for the morning, gave a brief rendition of its monotonous 'chiff-chaff' Spring song as I walked past. In the weak sun, under a blue sky and with warm feet, I was convinced.

Following a text from Terry Laws I made a quick visit to Brooklands lake on the way home to try and see an adult Mediterranean Gull he'd seen there earlier. Luckily it was still around and looking very smart, but as usual kept its distance from the camera. Species number 75 for the year so far at New Hythe, cheers Terry.


Mike Attwood said...

Not a bad morning Phil. I was struggling with the light most of the time.

Bob Bushell said...

Good story. The photos are beautiful as well.

Jason K said...

Sounds like a great day Phil. Ive not had an overwintering Chiffy here this year, I bet it was great to hear its song.

As for that Wren....it really does think its a Treecreeper!

Alan Pavey said...

Great post Phil, some lovely Wren pics and a good number of species too.

Warren Baker said...

Blimey phil, photo's galore, you could have warmed you feet on the heat of the camera :-)

Great day out though by the looks of it. I wish i had someone to watch my patch while I worked !

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Missed you by a day , and I thought we had 'forgotten' the branch ?
Never seen a Curlew there , nice one , and you had some good weather too .
No displaying GCGs ?
Great day and year numbers .

ShySongbird said...

A most enjoyable and varied post with some great photos Phil!

You did well with the Wren, I have just missed a photo of one on two separate occasions in the same place recently.

I loved the Canada Geese comments, the second one did look incredibly haughty!

My dear old Dad used to keep a catapult in the kitchen ready for neighbouring cats!! He was the most gentle man on earth so I'm sure he only aimed it at the fence to frighten them off :-)

Anonymous said...

Nice one Phil !

Marianne said...

D'oh, I'd missed this post. All good stuff, esp. the Curlews :)

That particular moggy is a regular visitor to the reserve, much to the staff's annoyance. The first time we found him there we nearly took him to the vet to be scanned for a microchip, assuming he was a stray. But the people at the visitor centre said that he does have a home, but just keeps coming back to the reserve, to hunt the rabbits :( And he now wears a collar with a tag reading 'Not lost, just visiting'.