Another day , another hunt for a Bittern . I set off for New Hythe , which seems to be the centre of the Bittern world at the moment , but by the time I reached Wrotham Hill , the fog was so thick that I nearly turned back , but it thinned to some degree on the down slope , and things weren't too bad when I pulled into Brooklands car park . I was just thinking to myself that what I needed was a local 'Bittern tracker' , when another car sweeps into the car park , and out stepped 'Mr.Bittern/New Hythe , Phil/Sharp by Nature , and my first thoughts were , have I got a big enough card in the camera for all the pictures that I would be taking .
We got kitted up and headed past the paper mill , sighting two Common Snipe almost immediately . The first angler's swim produced a Water Rail type squeal , and Phil caught a fleeting glance , but nothing positive . Heading for Abbey Mead , we detoured to the river via the small wood , and found it rushing in and carrying a lot of debris . In the far distance , we both got onto a Grebe , constantly diving and coming up further down the flow . we both got a steep forehead and dark head , but the light was not good . Another couple of Grebes showed up closer to our bank , but both of those turned out to be Little , like the one above , but we never did get a really good look at the steep foreheaded one . Phil then spotted a Goldeneye fly in and settle well downstream from where we were standing . It had the look of a male , but no sign of the white spot on the cheek . Even enlarging the pictures on the camera didn't give a definitive answer .
When I got home , I managed to lighten one of the shots , and the spot can just be made out . I have spoken to Phil since , and we are of the opinion that it could be a first Winter male . Also seen whilst watching the river , was a Kingfisher . Well pleased with the Goldeneye , we headed off in search of Bittern , arriving at the spot where I 'sunbathed' on my last visit . We scanned the reedbeds , made more hopeful by the small area of unfrozen water in front of the far end , that was occupied by common waterfowl . But , all that scanning failed to find a single Bittern , although a 'plop' whilst we were scanning turned out to be another Kingfisher which dived into the small stream that entered the lake , just 10 metres to our left . We continued our search along the railway side of the lake , but only finding Blackbirds , Winter Thrushes and the occassional Jay . Over the railway , to find a van with engine running near the spot where Phil had a Bittern recently , so we moved on . Up the path between Railway lake and Streamside lake , finding a couple of areas of open water , which was being well used by various species , and we noted how much more tolerant the birds were in the conditions , not flying off as soon as we came into view as they normally do . We checked each reedbed as we came to them , and on reaching the far end of Railway lake , we both scanned a long thin reedbed along the railway side , but found nothing . As we walked behind that reedbed , up lifted a Bittern and made height towards the diagonally opposite corner of the lake . I got a few shots , but the bird was well away before the first shutter movement , and when we lost it from view , it seemed to go down in the 'normal' viewing area . At least I will be able to recognise the bird again , as long as I can see it's rear end .We headed for the 'normal' viewing area , and scanned the reedbed for some time . Then Phil had to make his way home , and as we climbed back to the path , Phil said ' there it is ' . I didn't see it , but Phil had a good view of the bird , that must have been standing in the vegetation behind us , whilst we were scanning the reedbed . I thought it might have flown straight ahead and into reeds on the conservation lake , so I headed there , and Phil headed along the Millstream back to the car park . I found nothing where I was looking , and Phil found the Bittern again in a reedbed on the Millstream , the first time he had seen one on the Millstream . I got a text from Phil and followed along the Millstream , but of course there was no sign , so I made my way to the car for my lunch .
The light seemed to be getting worse after lunch , but I decided on another look at the river and headed off around Brooklands . Almost immediately , a loud call from the large reedbed on the corner stopped me and had me reaching for the camera . The bird called again , and a movement , and out popped a Robin . I was ready to go , when another movement and a dark shape on the edge of the reedbed stopped me . It flitted about , never really showing itself for some time , then all of a sudden popped out and posed , a Cetti's Warbler . A bird as secretive as a Bittern , and one that I have had fleeting glimpses of before , but never out in the open like this . I fired off about ten shots , and I know my hands were shaking as I took them . After what seemed like just a few seconds , it flew across the path in front of me and disappeared into the Brambles . Further around Brooklands , I got a couple of Thrushes , a very light coloured , especially in flight Mistle Thrush , and one of the elusive New Hythe Redwings . When I arrived at the river , the small path through the woods was under water with the high tide and the spot where we stood looking at the Goldeneye , was also under water . The tide had just turned , and in the 20 minutes I stood there , the water level dropped quickly as the outgoing water raced faster and faster . With the turning of the tide came a cold wind that told me it was time to head home , and after my third Kingfisher sighting of the day , I left the river to the wildfowl flying in to see what had been deposited on the mudflats .
A big thank you to Phil for showing me parts of New Hythe that I had never been before , and of course for making my day with the Bittern sighting , even if it was the back end .
3 hours ago