What a horrible week that was !
Monday , still full of a stinking cold , dark enough to herald the end of the world .
Tuesday and Wednesday , your's truly went working up on the Greensand Ridge , which did no favours to the cold situation .
Thursday , work on the Common cancelled because of the non stop rain .
Friday , yet more rain , but with hedgelaying looming on Saturday , tried desperately to shake off the cold .
Saturday , made the hedgelaying , but coughed all the day , and got another soaking .
The only thing that has got me through the week , was reading the numbers of Waxwings that were on the Research Centre site , on Adam's blog - East Malling , Ditton and Barming , and the fact that the forecast ? for Sunday was cold and sunny , the first day like that for ages .
I must admit that my heart sunk , when I read Adam's Saturday post , no Waxwings seen today .
In the words of another 'South Londoner' , ' who dares wins' , I was up before six , and pulling out of the drive whilst it was still dark , heading for East Malling , I hadn't been out birding for a week , and I needed to be out . Adam was good enough to let me know that he was hoping to be on site this morning , so all was not lost .
I arrived just before 8 o'clock and parked by the church . The first orchards , behind the churchyard and up to where the footpath meets the road contained good numbers of Fieldfares and Blackbirds , but nothing more . As I approached the sign that Adam posted on his last blog , the Silver Birch held no birds at all , never mind a few Waxwings dropping down to feed on the Guelder Rose berries below . But , further towards the Research buildings , four birds perched high in another Silver Birch , once sighted through binoculars , proved to be my elusive quarry .
I reached for the camera , even though still some distance away , only to hear a 'trill' and the quartet took flight and were out of sight in a matter of seconds . I dejectedly looked around the other places that Adam had mentioned , and found nothing . Walking back towards the Corner Orchard , my prayers were answered , when a car slowed , the window came down , and the driver asked , 'Greenie ? ' . Adam parked up , and within minutes , it was like chatting with an old mate , an old mate that could get us into places that us mere mortals , would have to look in from afar . I mentioned the earlier sighting , and soon after , Waxwings were seen in the original Silver Birch . We made our way , getting the sun behind us , to the tree , to find nothing . A look across the Corner Orchard once again produced lots of Winter Thrushes and the odd Brambling .
Having seen the Waxwings landing twice in the same Silver Birch , we decided to stake it out and wait for them to come to us . Eventually , a large flock of birds laded in the tree , and as I looked through them , all I saw was Fieldfares , when Adam said 'what about those three up top ?' . I got the binoculars on the threesome , almost choked on the cough sweet that I was sucking , and started the shutter clicking . In the early morning light , the three Waxwings looked absolutely superb , and I was well pleased that I had cleaned the card last night , given the number of shutter operations . They must have posed for about 3/4 minutes , when , once again , a short trill , and off they flew . Adam managed to keep them in sight , and saw them coming down at the rear of the Corner Orchard , and that was where we headed . It took some time , but eventually Adam spotted one on a post , which then flew down as if to feed . Once again , we got the sun behind us , then Adam very kindly let me go ahead to hopefully get some close shots . I slowly made my way between the rows , and to be honest , thought that they had flown , when almost at the end of the row , found two feeding on the apples . Not the greatest of shots , but the one on the right was a bit nervous , and I dare not get any closer . It proved right , as it flew off after just a couple of shots , but I managed to get closer to the bird that remained . Ideally , the shadow could have been elsewhere , but it's probably the closest I'll ever get to one of these fabulous birds . Soon after , all the Winter Thrushes lifted off , and the Waxwing joined them . A couple of minutes later , a Sparrowhawk , spotted by Adam , came at speed between the rows of trees , and overhead . By the time I got on to it , I managed another of my trademake 'rear-end' shots . I think Adam managed a couple of much better shots . I know I said I wouldn't post any more Redwing shots , but that light today was perfect , so just one more , and to go with it , one of the Fieldfares , this one , I managed to get to within 10 metres of , before it flew . I said before that we had a few Brambling sightings , mostly amongst the Winter Thrushes , but the only shot I managed of one was a long distance shot along Adam's seeded track .
I know full well that without Adam's kind help and excellent spotting ability , I would have probably come home with maybe a very long distance Waxwing shot , but instead , I need another rainy day to process the near 200 shots taken .
Adam , it might have been just 3/4 Waxwings , compared to the 60/70 that were around during the week , but it was a magical morning for me , made even better for meeting another fellow Blogger , thank you very much for your time .
I toyed briefly with stopping at Mote Park or New Hythe on the way home , but being a Sunday , quickly thought better of the idea . I did stop at Sevenoaks Reserve , once again should have thought that one through too , as it was full of young children screaming all over the place . I'll write that one up in the next couple of days .
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