The car park at Stodmarsh National Nature Reserve was nearly full when Carol and I arrived on thursday morning. The reason for the unusual amount of visitors was another visitor; a Penduline Tit, which had been in residence on the reserve for a few days. This is a bird I have wanted to see for some time and there have been several occasions when I have dashed off to Dungeness when they have turned up now and again, but have always missed them.
We made our way straight to the nature trail area where we soon found an orderly row of scopes and lenses assembled on the wooden boardwalk, all pointing at a small, sunlit reed bed close by. Our luck was in, the bird had just appeared and was feeding on the seeds at the top of the dead stems of Reedmace. After feeding for a while it flew to a small area of undergrowth and preened for some time before returning to feed again, unfortunately never quite close enough for my Box Brownie, but a treat to watch nevertheless.
After filling our boots with the Penduline we walked the rest of the 5km Stodmarsh/Grove Ferry circuit and filled our boots with mud, hence the blog title. I thought New Hythe was muddy enough, but the path here is a wet, slippery, ankle deep, squelching quagmire of monumental proportions, which threatened to wrench the boots from our feet and quickly sapped the strength from our legs. On the odd occasion when we could safely look up without the fear of ending up with a facial mudpack all we saw was a couple of Marsh Harriers (albeit a splendid sight), lots of Lapwings, some very distant Water Pipits and a surprise Egyptian Goose from the ramp. Three cheers for the Penduline!
Earlier in the week I'd been told about a flock of Waxwings which had been seen on a local housing estate about a third of a mile from me. I called in a couple of times but hadn't managed to find them, but on my way to New Hythe on saturday morning, and following another sighting I tried again. This time I was lucky, but not as lucky as the owner of one particular house where about a dozen or so Waxwings trilled from a tree in the garden and another seven or eight perched on the TV aerial. I really don't like using binoculars or cameras in residential areas so I stayed in the car and surreptitiously fired off a couple of shots before quickly moving on. On reflection that probably would have looked even more suspicious had I been seen.
Five minutes later I was in Brooklands car park, boots on, ready for the next bout of mud wrestling. From the Bucket Wood I saw the usual array of Teal, Gadwall, a single Redshank, a couple of Little Grebes and three Shelduck.
Sometimes, when the tide is low, Grey Wagtails can be found in Bucket Wood Creek (above). I still need this species for my NH year list, but today wasn't the day. This is also a favourite fishing spot for the local Kingfisher, but again I was out of luck, although I saw three in other parts of the site later on. I was joined by Terry and we made our way to Abbey Mead lake where a couple of Water Rails chased through the undergrowth and we found just one Red-head Smew in its usual spot on the eastern edge of the lake. A couple of Bullfinches also showed up, a site year tick for Terry.
On the Railway lake another Red-head Smew lifted off as we arrived, circling once and coming back down on Streamside lake possibly. Several Sparrowhawks, a couple of distant Buzzards and a Kestrel made up a trio of raptors. And on the way back, while scanning across Abbey Mead again from the southern end, I saw a Bittern in the distance, flying low across the causeway area near the sunken marsh. It was a very brief, very distant sighting so I'm not going to claim it as a New Hythe year tick. I'll wait until I acquaint myself properly with this so far, very elusive bird.