Friday, 10 April 2015


 A Blackcap sang his melodious song from the top of a small tree as I left the car park at New Hythe lakes this morning. There was an urgency about him as he hopped from branch to branch, paying scant attention to me as I stood below and listened. He had more important things on his mind. The Spring has uncoiled.
Down by the river at Bucket Wood, (i'm pleased to say the bucket has survived another Winter) a few Teal still lingered along the muddy margins as the tide ebbed rapidly downstream. The only birds of note here were a pair of Oystercatchers who prodded and probed the exposed rocks and mud where the river meanders sharply to the right. These are a welcome addition to New Hythe's meagre wader list. The Redshanks and Lapwings having gone to their chosen breeding grounds, leaving only the Coots, Mallards and Moorhens to keep our interest. 

I paused for a while at the mound Checking out the gulls in the hope of seeing another Mediterranean. It was from here last wednesday that three of these white winged, black headed, smart looking gulls drifted over me calling indignantly. A first for the year for me. Just the usual suspects today though like the Herring Gull above.
While I was there the two Oystercatchers noisily circled Brookland lake and were soon joined by a third. Their loud piping competing even with the Cetti's Warblers who are plentiful and in good voice at the moment. By now the air was warming and a couple of Buzzards drifted over on motionless wings. I wished they had been Red Kites, there are lots about it seems, one being seen by the river recently and I had one fly over my house at the weekend too.

Nothing much to report on Abbey Mead other than a Shoveler on the east side, at least eight Great Crested Grebes and a small flock of Tufted Ducks. After crossing the east scrub, which remains uninspiring save for the Green Woodpeckers, I headed for the water filled ditch which runs along its southern edge. Here I was entertained by a couple of Water Voles who appeared to be having a bit of a spat over territorial boundaries. The victor is shown above returning to base. The loser retreated, disgruntled but uninjured.
I ran into Dennis and Doreen soon after and while catching up with the wildlife gossip I heard a Willow Warbler singing from the west scrub. This is the usual place for these birds to show up and I soon tracked it down to a tree where it continued its song of softly descending notes before flying off to announce its presence on the other side of the scrub.
We stood for a while watching Buzzards circling and drifting overhead, there must have been at least eight, plus a Sparrowhawk and a Kestrel if my memory serves me right. Still no Red Kite though!

As we walked back we had another look at the Water Voles. This is the loser of the earlier scrap. It doesn't seem too bothered. But maybe it should have, as more danger was looming. 

We were joined by a couple of the Park Rangers who had a small party of wildlife spotting children in tow. While watching the Vole, one of the rangers spotted this Grass Snake in the ditch. It was quite a big specimen and as we watched, it moved closer and closer to the Water Vole.  

It finally stopped just a couple of feet away from it and remained absolutely motionless, tongue flicking, as it watched the Vole feeding nonchalantly and seemingly unaware of its presence. Now I'm not at all sure what size prey a Grass Snake of this size can take but we were certainly worried what would happen next, in front of the kids too! Anyway, the snake seemed to think better of it and eventually, slowly turned, submerged itself completely and swam, Eel like, along the bottom of the ditch and away.
My return to the mound for lunch and a sky watch took me past the southern side of Brooklands lake and while passing the south east corner a bird with a longish, rufous brown tail flew across the path in front of me and into the bushes. No doubt about it, my first Nightingale of the year. I was proper chuffed and stood there for a few minutes hoping for some song. Which I was duly rewarded with. What a marvellous sound after a long cold winter.
I bumped into Glenn on the mound and we left for a final visit to the river where the highlight was a hovering Kingfisher who splashed down and returned fishless to a small branch. A nice way to end the visit.


Warren Baker said...

Plenty happening there Phil, wish it was that interesting on my patch LoL

Wilma said...

How big are water voles, Phil? Don't think we had them in the US, at least not in any of the places I lived. Sounds like an eventful outing!

Greenie said...

Phil ,
Good to hear of the return of the Nightingales . I can see a visit coming up in the next week or so .
For what it's worth , I don't think even a large female Grass Snake would be capable of taking an adult Water Vole , a youngster perhaps , but that's only my opinion .
Got to say , you're certainly getting your moneys-worth out of the bucket .

Phil said...

Hi Wilma
The Voles are about 6 or 7 inches in length plus the tail.
I agree with Greenie, a bit too big for a relatively small snake.