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.
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.