Friday, 26 November 2010

Friday 26th. November 2010

Having seen and read of the Slavonian Grebe at New Hythe on Phil's/Sharp by Nature's blog , and once again unsure of where to go today , the blue sky and sunshine had me pulling into the car park at Brooklands Lake , just after nine o'clock . I parked next to another chap who was getting kitted out for the weather and binoculars around his neck . As I got my boots on , I casually asked ' here for anything special ? ' . He said that he had seen the Slavonian Grebe yesterday in not so good weather and had returned today in better . That's hand I thought , I'll stick around this chap . From the conversation it was obvious that he was local , and after a while , I asked ' do you know Phil Sharp ? ' , to which he re[lied , ' I am Phil Sharp ' , and thus started a most enjoyable morning with a fellow blogger . We started looking along the Paper Mill end of the lake , and before we got to the first corner , we came face to face with Allan Woodcock/Snodland and Surrounding Area , who as it happens was tracking the Slavonian Grebe along the edge of the reedbed towards us , and gave us our first fleeting glimpse of this smart little bird , before diving and disappearing for a while . When it did show again , it was heading for the diagonally opposite corner of the lake , at quite a remarkable speed , given it's size . We left Allan and headed around the lake , getting just the odd glimpse . From high ground Phil spotted it again , but by the time we got in front , it had disappeared again . Then eagle eyed Phil spotted it again in a small bay in a reedbed quite a distance away , and in case this was to be the only opportunity , I got the camera ready , and fired off a few shots , just as it was dealing with a good sized fish it had caught . No sooner was that fished swallowed , the bird dived again , and shortly afterwards , came up with the second course of it's breakfast . It then went into a preening session , and we took the opportunity to get closer , but found that this bird could spot a camera from a great distance , and was very good at making itself scarce . Eventually , after much trying , a few decent shots were obtained , firsts for me , having seen but not photographed the species before , but , looking back , the most frequent shot taken , was of the back of the bird , as it once again put distance between us and it .
Phil had mentioned that the river should be about at low water , so we left the Slavonian Grebe in peace and went down to the little outfall to see what was about . On the mud were Lapwing , Little Grebe , Cormorants , Grey Heron , Redshank and , spotted by eagle eyed Phil on the far bank of the river , a single Common Snipe , which became 2,3,4, possibly 5 seen during our stay . Along with the usual BH Gulls , were a couple of Common and 2/3 Greater Black-backed Gulls patrolling the river as the tide turned . With the tide turning so did the weather as the cloud started to roll in on a stiffening breeze . Phil headed for Abbeymead , whilst I headed back to Brooklands and another look at the Slavonian Grebe , which was now well out towards the centre of the lake . A few more species were seen on the way back to the car park , and am posting a couple of shots for anyone who doesn't often see them ,Tufted Duck and Pochard ,and a male Shoveller . Before heading home , I tried for the Goldeneye on the small Alders lake , but no sign , probably because of three angler there . On the large lake , a Great Crested Grebe posed for a shot .A slow drive down Lunsford Lane once again didn't produce the hoped for Redpolls , but there were several very nervous Redwings , feeding on the Hawthorns . Movement high up in an Alder had me grabbing the camera , but it turned out to be a female Chaffinch . I thoroughly enjoyed my visit this morning and it was good to put a face to a name . If it hadn't been for Phil's eagle eye , I could well have dipped the Slavonian Grebe shots , so thank you Phil , I hope we meet up again in the future .

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Thursday 25th.November 2010

I'm not sure if this will count as a ' whilst having breakfast ' post , but here goes . After two days hedgelaying up on the Greensand Ridge with nothing of interest found , Carol was getting breakfast ready , and I was getting ready for a day working up on the Common . As I passed the back bedroom window , I noticed several small birds flying from the bottom of the garden , towards the feeders . I stood and watched as they arrived , mainly Chaffinches , with Blue and Great Tits , the odd Greenfinch and Goldfinch . They tried to feed , but were constantly harassed by the resident Robin , who thinks he owns the feeders . A flash of orange lead my eye to the small right hand open feeder , and that flash of orange turned out to be my first Brambling of the Winter , visiting the morning of the first snow flurry of the Winter overnight . I managed to get a few shots , but they were through double glazing , the second in next door's Laburnum tree . No sooner had I taken them , this Jay arrived noisily , and the mixed flock flew off down the garden . I took the opportunity to open a window and waited . A Blackbird was the first back , and started to eat the Blackcap's berries on the Callicarpa , and eventually the flock returned , one by one . The Brambling returned to the same feeder , but entered from the other side , with the roof now hiding it at times . Later , it and the Chaffinches moved onto the Pyracantha berries on the fence line . Carol had mentioned earlier in the week that she had seen the Chaffinches feeding on the berries earlier in the week . The Goldfinch also returned and posed for a shot , but the light didn't do it justice . Shortly afterwards , a couple of the local Jackdaws chased everything off , probably just as well , as I now had to rush breakfast and get up on the Common .
The work on the Common was cutting and burning Gorse and scrub on the heathland area , and a good fire was appreciated , especially at lunchtime . We were shadowed by a couple of Robins all day , but the only interest were a couple of fungi :The tiny brownish cups of Rutstroemia firma ,and early specimens of Neobulgaria pura var. foliacea .

Monday, 22 November 2010

Monday 22nd.November 2010

It seems that Steve/Kingsdowner , was right when he commented that Saturday's Waxwing was probably a scout , as although I have spent quite some time in the local streets , getting some very strange looks re. the camera and tripod , no further sightings of Waxwings , or even Winter Thrushes have been forthcoming . On the plus side , I now know where every berry bearing tree is on the estate , so if we do get an invasion , I know the places to look .
In an effort to repair Saturday's 'dumping of Carol in exchange for a strange bird' , so aptly put by ShySongbird , I offered Carol a lift up to town this morning . As with every exit from the house recently , the camera was with me , and before I could get out onto the road , I had to wait for this Pied Wagtail , doing a very good impression of a 'road runner ' . Passing cars didn't bother it , and even when I did pull out , I had to steer around it . On the way back , I detoured around the roads with the berry laden trees , without any luck , but did find an unexpected cock Pheasant on the pavement outside one house . He must have been related to the 'road runner' , as he took no notice of me and just carried on doing his yoga exercises .
Before lunch , I had a quick look at Keston Ponds and Common . No sign of any Mandarins , and no change on the local residents , starting to sound like Cortonwood . A car stopped and a chap got out with a big bag of white bread , not ideal for waterfowl , but everything must have been hungry , as they all descended on the bread , and in a couple of minutes , it was all gone . Lagging about afterwards , were these four bitsers , and I thought any one of them would make a good subject for a 'Who do you think you are ?' episode .
A walk up on Keston Common was pleasant enough , but hardly a bird was seen/heard , and very little fungi was found . Under some Scots Pines , I did find a few specimens of Auriscalpium vulgare , a species that I have only found once before . This species only grows on decaying/buried Pone cones , and has spines rather than gills or pores , similar to the Hedgehog Fungus that I posted a while back . Oh yes , it's common name , Ear Pick Fungus .
And finally , a warning passed on from the Sec. of the Surrey Hedgelaying Group .
Beware if you receive a card through the letterbox from PDS ( Parcel Delivery Service ) , stating that they tried to deliver a parcel , but no one was in . They ask that you ring 0906 6611911 to arrange a return visit . IF you ring the number , a recorded message starts , and the cost of the call - £315 . This scam originates in Belize , and if you get a card , Royal Mail Fraud
( 0207 239 6655 ) , would like to know .

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Saturday 20th.November 2010

Leaving after having my lunch , I did a quick loop of Lunsford Lane , looking for a Jack Snipe or Redpoll , or a Goldeneye on the small angler's lake - well Steve/New Hythe Wildlife Blog used to manage it - but it wasn't to be for me , I headed for East Malling , just a few minutes away . Had I not done the Lunsford Lane loop , I might well have bumped into another blogger , Adam/East Malling , Ditton & Barming , who tells me that he spent his lunch break around the churchyard , alongside which I parked . Taking the footpath alongside the church , I was soon on the edge of the Research Station , with plenty of Apples and other fruit both still on the trees and on the ground , perfect for Winter Thrushes and perhaps , a Waxwing or two . A first walk to the road , checking each row with binoculars , was very disappointing . Although I could hear Fieldfares , there were none to be seen , but almost at the road , a small movement on one of the trees , revealed a Blackcap . I'm not sure if it was the light conditions and the distance , but most of the cap looked brown , but the middle looked as if it was coming through black , in my mind making it a first year bird just coming into adult plumage . Another couple of scans didn't produce anything better , so I took the path across the road and down another road where many of the Fieldfares seen overhead were landing . Unfortunately the road is lined with windbreak trees that are still in full leaf , so that didn't work either . Heading back , I reached the churchyard again , and finally got a shot of a Fieldfare in a tree on the back wall . I also realised that some of the birds I had heard , were feeding deep in the many Yew tress , on the ripe fruits , but very difficult to see . Keeping an eye on the rows of fruit trees too , I finally found the only one I saw on the ground . Whilst in the churchyard I found a specimen of Stinking Iris-Iris foetidissima , now in it's fruit bearing stage , under one of the larger Yews . The book says it smells 'sickly sweet' when crushed , hence it's common name .
By now , the sun was dropping quickly , casting shadow over the fruit trees and making the churchyard even darker , so I moved to a small lane behind the Yews , which was still in sun . Once again the Fieldfares kept well hidden whilst feeding , but one of their relations , the Song Thrush , one of several seen and heard showed well , as did the other native relation , the Mistle Thrush , showing well against the clear blue sky , and enjoying a meal of Yew berries .
Whilst watching the Thrushes , a Green Woodpecker flew in and landed high up on a trunk . Shortly after this , one of the local residents came out to hoover out his car on the drive , and that was the end of the Thrush watch .
I had to pass Hew Hythe again on my way home , and decided to give the Bittern another chance to meet me . By the time I got to the reedbed , the shadows were already creeping over it and making their way up the lake . Not much had changed since my last visit , but I was treated to two more Kingfisher sightings , probably the same bird as this morning .
The Great Crested Grebes were going about their evening ablutions , prior to roosting . Every overflying bird was checked as well as watching the reedbed . A slow , low flight caught my attention down at the far end of the lake in the gloom , and my hopes were raised , but as it came closer , and circled in front of me , it was just a Grey Heron , which then settled in it's probable roost , halfway up the lake , on a dead tree . By now the light was going fast , and the moon over the Downs was getting quite bright in the evening sky . At 4pm. I gave in , the cold and damp getting the better of me . So the day finished , no Bittern , no meet with Phil ( I've heard since that he was on 'domestic duties' at the Bluewater Shopping Centre ) , no Waxwings and just missed Adam into the bargain .
That should be the end of this post , but .
I was the one on domestic duties this morning , when Carol asked for help with some shopping . We set of to get the bus into Bromley , when a couple of hundred metres from the door , I look up into the top of a tree , and couldn't believe my eyes , a Waxwing . I immediately asked Carol if she could manage on her own , and headed back home for the camera . As there was quite a bit of traffic passing when I saw it , I returned in the car , hoping to use it as a hide . My heart dropped when I got back and the tree was empty . I parked up anyway , and had a look around , and a couple of minutes later , spotted the bird , feeding on Rowan berries on a small tree in the road . I managed to get just three shots , luckily with the large lens attached , before a skip lorry came by with chains clanging , and that was the last I saw of the bird . I checked other berried trees around but nothing . After lunch I did the local streets and further afield , but did not connect again .
I got the three shots , but I think I've blown a big hole in my 'brownie points' account .

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friday 19th.November 2010

After two days up on the Greensand Ridge , and yesterday working up on the Common , I couldn't wait to get out this morning , especially as we were fog free and the sun was shining . I set off , as often not sure where to , but soon ran into fog on the M20 . From high ground , the fog could be seen lying the lower areas , and unsure of the weather further on , turned off at New Hythe for a look around Phil's lakes , and who knows , run into the man himself .
I was parked at the sewage works entrance just after nine , and headed straight to the Bittern viewpoint , thinking that it might be around still due to the conditions . A good hour , produced a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers , almost directly overhead , several Great Crested Grebes and Cormorants , and lots of Coots . The reedbed remained motionless during the hour , but I did have a Kingfisher sighting . Getting chilly , I set off to see what else was about , and getting closer to the railway and river , the fog got thicker . Crossing the West scrub , the amount of berries for the Thrushes was incredible , at that went for the rest of the site as well . In the East scrub , I checked out the area where I have found Wax Caps in the past , but like other sites this year , they are few and far between . I did find a few Parrot Wax Caps-Hygrocybe psittacina ,
and the odd specimen of Snowy Wax Cap-Hygrocybe nivea . Also found were a few specimens of Field Blewit-Lepista saeva and over the railway line , on the path to the river , lots of Clitocybe gotropa and Clitocybe nebularis-Clouded Agaric , pictured .
Lots of Bullfinches calling , and the odd one seen along the river , which was just about coming up to high tide , seen through a thick fog . Fieldfares , Redwings and Blackbirds were feeding along the length of the path , and a splash of white caught my eye amongst the green and brown vegetation , which I think is Marsh Stitchwort-Stellaria palustris , which should have finish flowering back in July according to the books .
I didn't go around the Sunken Marsh , but headed back along the railway , not seeing / being able to see much on the way . By the time I crossed the railway and was approaching the Bittern reedbed , as if by magic the sun appeared and the fog started to quickly lift . I'm not sure , but it seemed to be going back up the river , perhaps with the tide turning . Just before the reedbed , a flock of Finches few into one of the Alders and started feeding . Hoping for Siskins , I scanned them with difficulty as all the leaves are still on these trees . I found Greenfinches , Goldfinches ,
Blue and Great Tits and then finally , a couple of Siskins , which didn't stay around for long .
Although I was heading back to the car to get my lunch , I decided to give the Bittern another shot . All was much the same , but for three Cormorants , hauled out on the small island . Another 45 minute vigil had the same result as before , but I was treated to a mixed flock , mostly Long Tailed Tits , with the odd Blue and Great Tit and a single Goldcrest . They flew in and noisily got on with their lunch . Try as I may , I just couldn't get a shot of the Goldcrest , but the Long Tailed Tits gave good views .
As I passed the diver's car park , I noticed a Swan swimming towards me from the far bank . As it got closer , I could see it was the Whooper Swan that Ken posted the other day . As it got closer , two diver's were half in , half out of the water , and the Swan came to within 10 metres of the pair . I don't think that there is any doubt that it is semi tame .
I finally made it back to the car for lunch , and whilst eating it , decided to have a look at the footpath alongside the Research Station at East Malling , where Adam works . I'll write that up tomorrow .