The rumours of my demise are exaggerated. Thankfully. I'm still commuting on a near daily basis between Larkfield and West Farleigh and can't find much time to be out and about with bins, boots and box brownie.
But I did finally get out today and decided to pay a visit to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve, where I knew there had been at least one Marsh Tit seen in recent weeks. I was very pleased to eventually see the little chap (above) in the vicinity of the feeders to the side of Grebe hide, albeit just a fleeting glimpse.
Here too, taking full advantage of the free seed on offer were lots of its cousins, Blue Tits above and Great Tits below. On the lake to the front of the hide were Gt Crested Grebes, a couple of Little Grebes and two Kingfishers, one of which perched briefly before skimming purposefully across the lake, its departure and subsequent arrival on the far bank announced with the usual loud piping.
As I was putting my boots on by the car a Nuthatch had flown overhead with what looked like a peanut in its beak, I hoped it would return to the feeders while I was there but it didn't. I decided to move on to Tyler hide but made a note to return to Grebe hide later. Tyler was empty, I think this was the first time I had encountered this. I scratched my head for a few moments, unable to decide where to sit, i'm the same with car parks, if there are loads of spaces I can't decide where to park. I think I may need counselling or something.
I settled eventually and noted good numbers of Lapwings on the small islands as well as Teal, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Ducks and three Common Snipe. Most of these birds were hunkered down against the bitter wind that blew from the North Downs and straight across the cold flooded gravel pit. I kept my window closed.
Apart from the wind whistling through the bare trees, the clear, ringing calls of the Siskins as they fly in small flocks from one stand of Alders to the next searching for seeds are the most notable sounds here right now. As usual they were too high to get a picture of. But the second most common bird (or so it seemed) was the Robin, much happier lower down and always ready to pose for the camera.
I headed off towards the far side of East lake stopping briefly in Carter and Willow hides, both of which were cold, bleak and not very inspiring unless Canada Geese are your thing. For a brief while the weak winter sun broke out, just in time to illuminate a distant male Bullfinch, perched in a bush on the other side of the River Darent. I thought that was brilliant enough, but then I reached Long lake and couldn't help noticing another Kingfisher perched in the leafless bushes on the far edge of the lake. I've included the very distant photo below just to illustrate the stunning colour of the bird with the low sun on its back.
While I was gawping at the Kingfisher I heard what I thought was a Chiffchaff calling and sure enough a quick scan along the bank side Willows revealed it, flitting confidently from branch to branch, finding who knows what to eat on the bare bark. Overhead, another flock of about 25 Siskins flew noisily to the next Alder tree and the Tufted Ducks below, eyes sparkling in the sun, made their escape to the safety of the middle of the lake. I took their hint and left.
My final stop was at Grebe hide once more and this time my patience was rewarded with numerous visits to the feeders by the Nuthatch below.
It was very nice to be out again!