14 hours ago
Saturday, 1 January 2011
Saturday 1st. January 2010
Firstly , a very happy and healthy New Year to all fellow Bloggers and readers .
Yesterday , New Year's Eve , was another grey , misty and damp day , and Carol and I were due to visit her brother and family in the afternoon , so I spent the the morning sorting out pictures on the computer , and hatching a plan that could make the afternoon a bit more wildlife friendly . Whilst in the back bedroom , a casual glance out of the window , caught a Grey Heron gliding low over the back garden , three houses along , and coming to rest on ridge of the garage roof . It spent some time making sure that no one was around , before it headed down the roof before dropping out of sight , into the area that I know there is a pond . As it disappeared , two gardens further along , 3 Rose Ringed Parakeets were up to no good , ripping the unopened buds from the tree that they were perched in . As I have said before , when they get down into orchard areas in any sort of numbers , they will suffer the fate that Bullfinches used to , being shot and strung up on the fence lines . A call from Carol downstairs brought my attention to our garden , with the first visit of the Winter from a female Blackcap . A male has been seen for several weeks now , but less frequently recently . Last Winter , we managed 2 males and a female , all feeding on the Callicarpa berries together . Unfortunately , she was chased off by one of the many local Jackdaws , swooping in to see was was about to eat . I put the mesh on the side of the covered feeders in an attempt to keep these and the Collared Doves from 'hoovering' everything up , leaving nothing for the smaller birds , but both species found a way to get in in a matter of a few weeks .
We were due at Carol's brother's mid afternoon , so I put my plan into action , and suggested an early lunch , Carol to take her book , and we would make a stop at Mote Park , Maidstone , on our way . On arrival , the weather was unfortunately no better , and the Park was much busier than on any of my previous visits , but I did have the Old Pond to myself , having left Carol in the car with her book . I spotted the Green Sandpiper almost straight away , right at the back , but it was spooked by some children and flew off up the small stream . A couple of small movements amongst the dead vegetation produced a Wren , probably the same one I photographed last visit , and a very mobile Grey Wagtail . I got a fleeting glimpse of a Water Rail as it disappeared up the gully at the back , then spent some time searching for my real quarry , the Jack Snipe . As I said , the light was not good and water level was quite high , so my hopes of finding the small camouflaged bird were not high . Then , out of the gloom , stepped a figure I knew , Simon / Mote Park - a Wildlife Patchwork , and was I pleased to see him , as if anyone had a chance of finding the Jack Snipe , it was the young eyes of Simon , but I knew it wasn't going to be easy . We scanned all the vegetation over and over without success , but , whilst doing so , the Green Sandpiper flew across in front of us and started to feed some 7/8 metres away . I was amazed how confiding this usually very flighty bird was , especially as there were many family parties , many with dogs , passing by on the road , but it did not seem to worry the bird . Once again the light didn't help , and nor did the bird's non stop movement in it's constant search for food . Also putting in an appearance was the same or another Water Rail , but it stayed well to the back of the pond . I must admit , I was beginning to give up on the Jack Snipe , especially as time was tight , when three words from Simon made my day , 'I've got it' . That began a period of frustration for me , and I'm sure despair for Simon , as he tried to describe where the small bird was in the tangle of dead vegetation , and I couldn't see it . It must have taken 10/15 minutes for Simon to guide my old eyes to the spot , but eventually , he managed it . There , nestled amongst the vegetation , about 5/6 metres out , was what I must have looked at several times and not seen , the head and shoulders of the Jack Snipe , with the two golden straps running over it's head and continuing down it's back . Given that the bird is about the same size as a Grey Wagtail , and coloured the same as the vegetation it was sitting in , how Simon spotted it I shall never know , but I am really thankful that he did , and after enjoying further views of the bird , he continued on his walk around the park , and I went back to the car and Carol , to continue our journey , feeling well chuffed , thanks to the keen young eyes of Simon .
It just happened that one route to Carol's brother's house from Mote Park , would take us via Strood and on towards Wainscott , and it just so happened that I had read that a good sized flock of Waxwings had been seen feeding at MacDonalds , not actually at , but in the trees around . It was 2.45 by the time we arrived and the poor light was getting worse by the minute , but I thought I saw a few birds lifting from the trees by the road , but couldn't be sure . I parked up and watched the trees , and after some 10 minutes , a flock of 25+ birds returned to the trees and this time I was able to get them in the binoculars and confirm that they were Waxwings . Once again , Carol was left in the car with the book as I grabbed the camera and headed for the birds . They were obviously not feeding , but flying down to the flat roof of the adjacent building , where I guess there was standing water , which they were probably drinking and bathing in , as they returned to the trees for a few minutes , preening , before flying off into the deepening gloom . I did manage a few shots , once again of poor quality , but I enjoyed watching them for the few minutes . I have since read that Ken / Focusing on Wildlife was there earlier in the day , when many more birds were in the area and he has posted some great shots on his blog .
We arrived at Carol's brother's house , a bit late , and had an enjoyable visit . Thinking all the excitement was over for the day , we left about 9 pm. , heading home along the M20 . As we started to climb Wrotham Hill , the matrix signs were flashing '30 MPH' , but with no rel fog or flashing lights , couldn't make out what it was all about , until we reached a large sign near the junction of the M25 , flashing 'oncoming vehicle' . Fortunately , as we turned off onto the M25 , the signs showed 'End' , so the problem must have been further along the M20 towards London . Let's hope that it was sorted out without an accident . What a way that would have been to finish the year .