Wednesday, 2 May 2012


It was a bit chilly when I arrived at Brooklands car park this morning. It was overcast and gloomy, the cold mist was rolling in off  the North Downs, and the air was laden with the stench of the paper mill's early morning breath. Expectations were low.

But when I emerged from the short railway tunnel which opens out to Brooklands lake, things got better. From the surface of the lake to as high as I could see the air was filled with birds, House Martins, Sand Martins, Swifts and Swallows, swooped, swirled and swerved to catch all the delicious insects which were hatching from, and flying over the lake. I watched for a while, wondering how they avoided mid air collisions, this would be air traffic controls worst nightmare, and then I made my way to the sunken marsh.
It was here that I saw the Chiffchaff pictured above, collecting nesting material in among the brambles, seemingly unconcerned by my presence. Despite the gloom, the Nightingales continued their song, as did a few Cetti's Warblers, Reed Warblers and a Cuckoo, one of possibly three heard today.     

The tide was very high on the river and consequently nothing much was seen. So I made my way along the side of Abbey Mead lake where several small trees blocked the path, victims of the April mayhem. Blackcaps and Jays were seen along here but not much else apart from the Reed Bunting above and only Coots disturbed the surface of the lake. I got a text from Dennis as I approached the railway line, he'd just seen a Wheatear on the east scrub. I've only ever seen one here about three years ago, so I got there as quick as I could and Met Dennis and Doreen a few minutes later. They went on their way and left me to search for the bird and a few minutes later I found it, then I found another, then I found another, then I found another! Four Wheatears, I couldn't believe my eyes. I was joined by Alan Woodcock who had been ringing close by and between us we confirmed the presence of two males and two females. New Hythe, New Hythe so good............ 

On the way back to Brooklands I thought I heard a Lesser Whitethroat rattling away in the bushes, I hung around for a while and eventually managed to get a sort of picture, below. I think this is the first time i've got any shot at all of this secretive little bird.
Another text, this time from Martin Warburton, told me that a Common Tern had arrived at Brookland and sure enough there it was. Like the still present Hirundines and Swifts, it too appeared to have a taste for insects. I didn't see it dive, just a dainty little hover before dropping down and picking insects off the surface.

A bird of prey flew low over the mound as I chatted with Dennis and Doreen. I wasn't sure but I thought straight away that it was a Hobby. This was confirmed five minutes later when it returned, maybe attracted by all the Hirundines and flew low across the corner of the sunken marsh and then up over the mound again. Wheatear, Common Tern and Hobby were all New Hythe year ticks and bring my total to 91 species so far.
Lastly, the Nightingale that I heard singing just past the bottom of my garden on friday night is still singing away and has accompanied me all the way through this post. I hope his song isn't in vain.


Warren Baker said...

Wheatears are fantastic aren't they phil, had two more here today, after a poor April showing of just one!

You had a very good day, as I did :-)

ShySongbird said...

I nearly missed this post!! It sounded like a very good visit Phil. Lovely Wheatear photos and to be writing your post to the sound of a Nightingale sounds heavenly to me!

Chris said...

I still did not see any wheatears over here Phil. They seem to be late!

Stewart M said...

Hi there - Nightingales at the bottom of the garden. Now that’s not something you hear every day!

Splendid post.

Stewart M - Australia

Jason K said...

I'm glad you guys in Kent are getting a few Wheatears now...they are just cracking birds.

Every Spring I look forward to them arriving and never tire of them

Chris said...

Cool you manage to see these two couples! Well done! I've seen my first one this week. They are back over here now and will stay with us until October.