I went today instead, to start my 2014 New Hythe lakes list. Terry Laws (one of said hardier souls) was already in the car park. He was already 40 species up on me but hey, the first forty are the easiest aren't they?
At the river, under very welcome blue skies we added Lapwing, Heron, Teal, GBB Gull, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Jackdaw and Rook. The latter two being seen more regularly now than in previous years. Although the tide was out, the run off of water from the still flooded upper Medway was keeping the levels high. Because of this the hoped for waders didn't turn up, although we did hear a Redshank later but were unable to find it for the list.
A Kingfisher zipped across the corner of the sunken marsh, which was almost empty save for a couple of Fieldfares, an invisible Cetti's and the odd Blackbird. Around the edge of the marsh a small group of Bullfinches looked handsome in the sun, while a Jay flashing its white rump and a single Greenfinch were seen along the southern end of the river.
On the flooded Abbey Mead the flock of sleepy Pochards were still sleeping towards the southern end of the lake. They looked great in the sunlight too, but as usual managed to maintain their distant position despite being asleep. We scanned the rest of the lake in the hope of finding a Wigeon or two but Coot, Moorhen, Gt Crested Grebes, Gadwalls, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and a welcome Shoveler or two were pretty much all we could see.
Green Woodpecker made the list as we crossed the east scrub, along with the odd Redwing and Song Thrush. But the star was this Water Vole who munched his lunch unhurriedly in the ditch to the south of the west scrub. Courtesy no doubt, of the very mild temperatures at the moment.
Refreshments were taken at the Bittern viewpoint on Streamside. Unfortunately nobody had invited the Bittern. Worryingly there have been no reported sightings anywhere on site so far this winter. I hope they are just keeping their heads down (or should that be up), New Hythe without its most famous winter attraction would not be the same at all I think.
A chance glance into an Alder tree as we started to walk back had me calling Terry to check out no less than four Lesser Redpolls who were quietly feeding on seeds in the small cones of the tree. This is another difficult bird at New Hythe, I only saw one last year so a great tick for the year list.
As we walked back across the east scrub our old friend the Kestrel was seen perched in the top of a small tree. It flew just as I took the pictures and I was sure i'd missed it, so was pleasantly surprised to get something at least. It was here too that we watched a Peacock butterfly flutter by, the latest (or earliest) i've ever seen.
In the fishermen's car park at Abbey Mead we spotted this Grey Wagtail which stayed out of reach of the cameras while on the ground and then flew up into a tree and remained half hidden behind the branches. Don't often see them in trees. The last two species were seen back at the car park, a Sparrowhawk and finally a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a great spot by Terry as it flew silently over our heads bringing the day's total to 51 species. If only the next 51 were as easy!