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 .


Warren Baker said...

some excellent bird species on the list there, and photo's. It will be a while before that little lot gets repeated :-)

Look forward to your posts next year mate!

Paul said...

Hi Greenie, Some nice photos there, and you were indeed lucky to spot that Jack Snipe! I took my young son to Mote Park on the 30/12/10, and although we spent an hour there, we spotted Snipe, Water Rail and the Green Sandpiper, but we just couldn't see the Jack Snipe. maybe next time then for us.

Phil said...

A good read and some good birds Greenie. Excellent Green Sand shots and of course always special to get a picture of a Jack Snipe.
Happy new year to you and Carol.

Ken. said...

Thank you for the compliment.You had some good birds. A nice selection of good photo's. Happy New Year.

Simon said...

Hi Greenie, it was great to see you again!!! Pleased you got to see 'Jack' :-).

Hope you and your family have a wonderful 2011!!!

Dean said...

A great day by the look of things Greenie.

Wishing you & Carol a great 2011.