Wednesday, 12 December 2012


 You certainly need your winter drawers this week. I even wore my hat and gloves on monday morning at New Hythe lakes which is almost unheard of. How the likes of the young Great Crested Grebe above survive is a mystery to me. This one was constantly diving in the corner of Brooklands lake but I never saw it surface with a fish. The River Medway was at high tide and full to the brim making a trip to the bucket seat in the small wood a pointless, not to mention bum chilling experience in the icy north wind. I opted instead to walk the clay quagmire of a path between the river and the sunken marsh. I'd worn my wellies for this very reason, forward thinking! Pity I hadn't thought to put the thermal 'long johns' on, that would have been smart.
Anyway, the sunken marsh was birdless and berryless, they've eaten the lot and moved on leaving a few local Blackbirds and a heck of a lot more incomers I suspect. More Blackbirds than you could shake a bare Hawthorn stick at.

 It was the same story alongside Abbey Mead lake where the recent flocks of super wary and super hungry Redwings have had their fill and moved on to wherever the next berry fest may be. And who can blame them, they're only here for the food after all.
The lake itself was positively brimming with birds though. Coots, Swans, Mallards, Gt Crested Grebes, Little Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, loads of Gadwalls, Moorhens and a few geese. All in perfect harmony and all feeding and surviving in their own specialised ways. A great scene, which only a couple of winter grebes and a Goosander or two could have enhanced. But not today unfortunately.
I made my way down to the Bittern reedbed on Streamside, pausing to take the picture above of a Grey Squirrel which looked for all the world as if it had just surfaced from a long sleep in its drey and was having a   good scratch and deciding whether to get up or go back to bed. Very much like myself a few hours earlier I thought. On reaching Streamside I stood on the muddy bank opposite the reedbed and had a flashback to my last short visit there. About a week earlier a dog (and its owner) caused me to end up face down in the mud, sending camera and binoculars flying and arms and legs outstretched in their vain attempt to defy gravity. But that's another story, which is too painful to recount in full yet!
I didn't find a Bittern, in fact I still haven't. I hope my fears of a no show this year are unfounded.

All in all this was a disappointing foray in terms of species and sightings, although a couple of distant Sparrowhawks and a brief flash of a Kingfisher did brighten things up. As did the small flock of Siskins (above and below) who arrived to feed in the Alder trees and drink from the northern edge of Brooklands lake.

Yes, the picture above is a Waxwing, I know, I need a longer lens but hey, it's the thought that counts. This was one of a small flock that eventually turned up for myself and Greenie on Adam's patch/workplace at East Malling. Adam had very kindly tipped us off to the presence of up to 50 or so of the little Scandinavian beauties which had flown in the previous day. So despite the sub zero temperatures I found myself walking alongside East Malling church, where incidentally, Carol and I were married nearly 40 years ago, listening for the trill of Waxwings but hearing only the call of a Nuthatch. Which I believe is something of a rarity here.

It was soon after that I bumped into Greenie himself and together we watched and waited for them to arrive which they did twice, alighting in a small Silver Birch tree, both times very briefly. In the meantime we watched and tried to get close to the few Fieldfares who were feeding on the one or two left over Apple drops in the field opposite. Must get a longer lens!

And finally. Previous readers may be aware that Carol and I are in the process of selling up and moving to West Farleigh. The garden at the new house has the added attraction of regular visits from Nuthatches, Carol's favourite bird. We have never had a Nuthatch in the garden at Larkfield, until a week ago when one suddenly turned up after nearly 32 years of waiting, and it's still here. Anyone want to buy a house at West Farleigh?? 


Ken. said...

You in hat and gloves... that I would have paid to see :-)
Greenie and Waxwings, what more could you ask for.
Carol must be happy that her fav bird has put in a appearance, it is like they say "Everything comes to he/she who waits".

Greenie said...

Phil ,
It was good to meet up again , even if it looked like we were both going on a trek to the North Pole . If you remember , neither of us were sure if the other one was or was not .
Good luck with the Bittern hunt at NH .
New angle on house selling , 'with sitting Nuthatch' .

ShySongbird said...

It sounded like a very pleasant meeting of birding blog boys Phil. The meeting with mud on the earlier occasion much less pleasant!! I hope you and the camera equipment weren't too damaged. You must tell us the full story eventually.

A nice selection of photos and I'm very envious of the Waxwings! You saw a very good selection of birds on the lake too.

A Nuthatch sounds like an excellent selling point :-)

Warren Baker said...

Well done for getting out Phil, it has been a touch on the cold side :-)

I went a bit green with envy when you listed the duck species there !

Jason K said...

It certainly is getting to that thermal stage Phil!

Nice one on the Waxie btw