Tuesday, 4 March 2014


 It was a rare treat to arrive at Brooklands car park in the sun this morning. It was also a treat to watch at least four Lesser Redpolls as they fed, with Goldfinches, in the Alder trees that line the northern edge of Brooklands Lake. This isn't a common species for New Hythe so I watched and waited for a while in the hope that they would come into range of the camera. They didn't but it was a good start to what would be an interesting amble around the site.
As I turned to walk along the eastern edge of the lake I heard an unusual gull calling above me. It turned out to be two gulls, Mediterranean Gulls in fact. They looked splendid as they drifted across the lake against the cloudless sky before disappearing in the direction of the east scrub. Another uncommon and very welcome species here. 

 Through the bucket wood and out to the river, where a cautious approach paid dividends as one of five or so Redshanks seen there was feeding just in front of the now thinning reedbed. I managed to find a gap in the reeds and got a hurried picture before being discovered. An indignant, loud departure followed. That's the Redshank not me.
Time to look for a Bittern at Abbey Mead. On the way I bumped into a trespasser in the shape of Fred from 'Greenie in the Wild' fame who was also on the hunt for one. We teamed up and tried my favourite Bittern hang out of late. First impressions were that no birds were present but a few minutes later I spotted a cryptic shape picking its way through the reeds. But the Bittern was out of sight again before Fred could locate it. We waited in vain for it to reappear but it didn't. We made our way to the east scrub area noting a distant, calling Buzzard but not much else along the way. 
Warning. If you don't like, or are fed up with Water Voles, look away now.

 We found this chap above, in the stream adjacent to Johnson's lake. I think, that in this picture, he looks a bit surprised. As were we at his tolerance of our presence, this is a busy path, perhaps they get used to us. 

  Reeds were the main food of choice as you can see from the picture above.

 But every now and again he would return to the water and dive down for for a root of some sort.

I only noticed when I got home that at some point this one had acquired a piece of twig in his fur on his head. Accident, or something to impress the ladies?

Maybe this one was the lady in question who appeared a couple of yards further along and proceeded to munch on nettle leaves found on forays higher up the bank.

We left these two in peace and moved on towards the divers' footbridge, another famous 'Ratty' hangout. But we hadn't gone far when I spotted some movement higher in the undergrowth. 

This turned out to be another animal who had climbed up the stems to a height of a metre or so to feast on something which must have been very tasty I should think. I've never seen a Water Vole this high off the ground before, very strange. But stranger was to come!

I left Fred at the junction of the iron bridge and made my way along the Millstream back to Brooklands.

When I was about 100 metres from the car park I noticed a a small swirl on the water in the narrow flooded ditch to the right. I first thought it might be another Vole, or maybe a Frog. So I made my way down to the water's edge and stood looking at the spot where i'd seen the disturbance. After a minute or so a Moorhen's head surfaced and then dipped back down under the water. I was amazed and couldn't understand what was going on. After a couple of minutes I decided that I would have to wade in and try to rescue what I thought was a trapped and drowning Moorhen. But just before I did, the head popped up again. Then all hell was let loose as the bird spotted me, surfaced and dashed off in an absolute panic into the nearby tree roots. What on earth was all that about. Answers on a postcard please!
Good to see you today Fred.


alan woodcock said...

Hi,Moorhens will dive under if they have no means of escape an easy exit.

Alan Pavey said...

Great shots Phil, Med Gulls really stand out, especially in such good light. Love the Water Vole pics again Phil.

Mike Attwood said...

Good shots of the water voles Phil, wish we had them at Warnham. Perhaps when we can make it mink proof. As to the saga of the moorhen, beats me!

Mike H said...

Super water vole shots Phil, may have to pay a visit again soon.

Wilma said...

Don"t think we have water voles on this side of the Atlantic, so nice to see your shots. Freaky moorhen encounter!

Marianne said...

Luckily I think Water Voles are fabulous :) Pic of the day for me has to be the stunning angelic Med Gull against the blue sky though. Brilliant pic of the Moorhen in its underwater hiding place - I've never seen this behaviour, very interesting.

Warren Baker said...

Excellent Vole images Phil, I see Greenie got in on the act as well :-).

Most envious of the Redshank too!!

Phil said...

ALAN W. Thanks for that never seen them do that before.

ALAN P. Thanks, would like to see a few more Meds on site. The Water Voles seem to be doing well at the moment. Long may it last.

MIKE A. Thanks. I understand that Mink numbers are now reducing. Good news.

MIKE H. Thanks Mike hopefully our paths will cross!

WILMA Thanks very much for reading my blog. The Moorhen was indeed freaky!

DEREK. Thanks for the info. Oddly, the Moorhens here are usually very confiding due to the amount of human traffic going past. This one must have been a bit of a wimp.

Phil said...

MARIANNE I like Water Voles too. They seem to be on the up at NH. That Moorhen nearly got me wet feet, I was just about to wade in to rescue it!

WARREN Thanks very much. Redshanks seem to like it there, unlike most other waders unfortunately.

Jason K said...

Can never see too many Water Vole photos Phil...yet another interesting post!

Phil said...

JASON I agree about the Water Vole bit:-)