Friday, 29 March 2013

Friday 29th. March 2013

At the risk of boring the reader to death , I awoke early to unexpected sunshine this morning , and on the spur of the moment decided to return to the millstream to see if I could photograph the Water Rail in the better conditions . With very few people at work and no school traffic , I arrived in no time . The sun was out , just , as a bank of cloud was steadily approaching , but it was still bitterly cold , and I was glad of the multi layers that I had donned before leaving . After yesterday's experience , I knew that my chances were slim , but I headed for the spot where I saw the bird very briefly yesterday morning . When I arrived , there was no sign , but just below the spot in the
phragmites , a bird was moving , it was the Water Rail again , and this time in sunshine . From the
of things , the bird had just finished it's morning ablutions , and was sat up in the sun starting to preen . I couldn't believe that once again I was 5 mtrs. from the bird , and it was taking no notice of
me . Every now and again , it would pose , before starting to preen again .
Only one person passed along the footpath during this time , and he didn't stop or make any noise , so
the bird seemed not bothered . In fact , at one point , I was sure that the bird got into the 'Hokey

Cokey' , as it seemed to be doing 'left wing in' , and finishing up with 'shake it all about' . After seven minutes of magic , and 140 shots on the memory card , a loud talking couple with a dog approached ,
and that was it , the bird turned and disappeared into the depths of the phragmites , not to be seen again . I had a look down the far end of the millpool , no sign of the cormorants , but the three Grey Wagtails were busily feeding . As I turned back to the car , that bank of cloud enveloped the sun , and the wonderful experience was over . I was home in no time , enjoying a hearty breakfast .
Still unable to comment , even though I have reset everything I can think of .

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Thursday 28th.March 2013

Well , that will teach me to check emails before posting , as when I did do , today's last work day of the Winter had been cancelled , due to the group having done all that was required to finish the season off last week .
So , getting back to yesterday , and my visit to the 'Tree laying' reserve . I was welcomed with some pleasant sunshine , but as usual these days , that didn't last long , with cloud cover increasing throughout the visit . It was also eerily quiet , with no sound of Siskins that could be heard all over last visit . By the time I got to the feeders , a few could be heard , along with Great and Blue Tits and Nuthatch singing it's Spring song . The male Siskins had really come into breeding plumage , and did
look very smart , not saying that the females weren't stunning too . I had a good wander around the reserve , even though the weather was deteriorating , but failed to find John , one of the stalwarts , who's van I had parked next too on my arrival . I was about to give up on finding him , when he appeared from the bottom of a bank . He had been quietly sitting , photographing a pair of Long
Tailed Tits , found at the weekend , busily building their nest in a very open patch of Brambles . As can be seen , the nest was built from the bottom up , and the pair were in the process of building the dome . We stood some 7 mtrs. away , above the nest on the bank and behind a tree , but I think that if we had been standing next to the nest , they would have carried on regardless . The pair continuously returned , each with material in their bills and one at a time dropped in through the hole to place it either inside or on the lip of the hole . The first bird always waited for the second to finish off , before both flew off for more materials . The number of visits to have got the nest to the present state must have been in the hundreds , what a work of art . The funniest part was when one of the birds , probably the female , after several visits , would appear to spin around in the nest to get the right
shape , and as she did so , the nest bulged out where she was pushing . Here the second bird is waiting for the first to finish . We couldn't see an entrance hole , so this will probably be at the present height of the build . We must have spent the best part of an hour watching them , during which time we had three Common Buzzards low overhead and calling , but with all the trees , I was unable to focus on ant of them . We left the LTTs to carry on with the good work and went to a more open area to see if the Red Kite was about , I wish , which it wasn't , but we did get a flyover by a
Sparrowhawk in the deepening gloom . John earlier had had a pair displaying , before I arrived , of course . Above the Sparrowhawk passed a Corvid , I never got binoculars on it till I finished firing off
some shots , but it did have a very powerful bill . Two more Common Buzzards were seen as we left the reserve , but they were just silhouettes in the gloom .
With today's work cancelled , carol suggested doing the monthly shop , but some unexpected sunshine saw me heading out the door , hoping to get that Water Rail on the edge of Bromley in better light than before . Strange birding on a footpath next to an old millstream , with people walking past into the town centre , but there I was , but no sign of the Water Rail . A total of three Grey
Wagtails were seen this visit , with positively one male and one female . I saw three flying but
couldn't be sure of the sex of the third bird . Again , the weather deteriorated on the visit , from sunny periods to snow flurries and overcast . Walking up and down the millstream , a few interesting birds
included a Moorhen on a nest made almost entirely of rubbish , a juvenile Cormorant , that just
appeared in the top of one of the Willows on the island , before feeding with an adult just below the
culvert outfall , then drying off on a perch near the far bank . And the Water Rail , I did have it in sight for no more than 20 seconds amongst the phragmites , looking pretty fed up . It was just standing on some dead reed , then dropped down behind , not to be seen again on the visit . And of
course , during those seconds , the sun was behind clouds . With no other sightings , I made my way home in the snow flurries , and after a hot coffee , we set of to do the monthly shop .
Sorry , still unable to comment on other blogs .

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wednesday 27th.March 2013

Another early , cold start , to get down to Sevenoaks Reserve , with the hope of finding a couple of species that have been recorded there recently . Just two cars in the car park when I arrived , and a look from Grebe Hide , behind the car park , and the first target species was sighted , a pair of
Goosander , still to rub the sleep from their eyes , well out into West Lake , towards the area of sunken trees where the Cormorants rest up . I thought I would try to get closer along the edge of the West Lake , but as I left Grebe Hide , someone was opening up the Visitor Centre and toilets , noisily . The first view I got of the lake from just left of the viewing ramp , found the pair , obviously wide awake now , and taking to the air down the lake , no doubt disturbed by the noise from the VC .
I fired off a burst of shots , but once again , they were some distance from the camera . They urned right at the end of the lake and I thought they might drop into Snipe Bog Lake , but when I arrived at Willow Hide there was no sign , just lots of Canada and Greylag Geese . Leaving the hide , plenty of birdsong along the track to Long Lake , mainly Tits , but lots of small groups of Siskin , fragments of the large flocks seen on earlier visits . No sign of the Bittern , again , in fact Long Lake only
produced a pair of Mute Swan and this pair of Canada Geese , don't ask what was going on . Retracing my steps back alongside East Lake , facing into some now milky sunshine , a pair of
Egyptian Geese were trying to get onto the island , but were thwarted by the Canadas and Grelags already in residence on it . As I passed the point where the River Darenth leaves the West Lake , a pair of very yellow Chiffchaffs were doing a good imitation of Goldcrests , flitting and hovering amongst the bankside vegetation . More groups of Siskin on the way to Tyler Hide , where a bitter
wind was blowing down the length of the lake . A single male Shellduck was amongst the islands , and fleeting glimpses of another target species , Little Ringed Plover , as they chased amongst the islands . Along with the numerous Lapwings , the Common Snipe produced another 'Spot the Birds'
competition , especially for ShySongbird , this being only just some of the Common Snipe still around . More Siskins on the way to Sutton Hide , and also just three Lesser Redpoll , this being one
of them . Apart from a few Teal and lots of Black-headed Gulls , the only other interest from the hide was the pair of Goosanders again , now keeping well down the end of the lake , beyond the island . Slingsby Hide produced , nothing , despite being told by another birder that the Water Rail was out in the open for over an hour one day recently for one lucky birder/photographer . Returning to Tyler Hide , I set about trying for a better view of the 3 LRPs , and eventually one of them did stay still
long enough to grab a few shots , but once again at distance , and later , one landed near a Herring
Gull , which showed just how small these little migrants really are . It was about then that I made a most unexpected sighting of a rare species , Phil / Sharp by Nature , long time no see . A catch up whilst trying to watch the LRPs , after which , Phil headed off to Sutton and Slingsby Hides , hope you had better luck than I did . Good to see you again Phil . The only change out front was that the
Common Snipe decided to come out of their cover and feed on the edges of the islands . By now my feet were blocks of ice , so I decided to call it a day , as I had to do a bit of shopping in Sevenoaks , before calling in at the 'Tree felling' reserve on my way home . On the way there , I passed this frozen
ice sculpture , formed by water on the corner of one of the lanes being splashed onto the roadside vegetation . And there I'll leave it , and post my visit to the reserve after the work day up on the Common tomorrow .
Would just mention that I am unable to comment on other blogger's post at the moment . After typing my comment and clicking 'Publish' , I get a page asking me if I want to open a Google Account !
Any ideas ?

Friday, 22 March 2013

Friday 22nd. March 2013

Squeezed between yesterday's workday up on the Common and tomorrow's final outing of the season with the Surrey Hedgelaying Group , some early morning tool maintenance was followed by a cold and windy visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham , but at least it wasn't muddy . But , before leaving , I checked on the garden feeders , as Carol had had a male and female Siskin just before I returned from the Common yesterday , along with many more Finches on what she described as a 'feeding frenzy' , no doubt they knew what weather was on the way . Plenty of Greenfinches , including this male with
attitude , and Goldfinches came to the feeders along with good numbers of Chaffinches feeding on the ground . I was about to give up on the Siskins , when the male arrived on his own , and tucked in
to a hearty breakfast . Arriving at Kelsey Park , I was glad to have donned a couple of extra layers , as especially around the lake , the wind was bitter . Along The Beck , just before the first waterfall , a
male Mandarin , normally very well turned out , looked somewhat dishevelled as he balanced on a log in the water . Just below that waterfall , a female Greylag Goose , coming up for air , having just
been mated by her partner , and towards the far bank , a Coot was busy constructing it's nest . The noise level increased near the heronry island , as most visible nests seem to be occupied now , and
confirming that some birds are already on eggs , these two were just making the change over of sitting duties as I passed them . On the ground on the edge of the island , single large white eggs
could be seen in two , very rough nests , this being one of them . Most likely Canada or Greylag Geese . When I got around the other side , a Mute Swan could be seen sitting amongst the vegetation , I couldn't be sure if that too was nesting . Between the heronry and the end of the lake ,
an unusual sight of a female Grey Wagtail , perched in a tree . It stayed for some time , before flying off , calling . Just above the second waterfall , another unusual sighting , of three drake Mallards , one
being held down by the back of it's neck , and the third bird trying to get in on the action . The duck being 'ducked' , had a lighter bill than the other two , possibly indicating a juvenile . An adolescent being put in his place ? Along the Beck below the waterfall , a wet , leaf covered area , produced a
most confiding Song Thrush , that was until the next dog and owner turned the corner ,and at the
truncated tree further along the path , it seems that the feral pigeons are already breeding too . Crossing the Beck and returning on the other side , a male Green Woodpecker flew in and landed in a
nearby tree , and actually stayed still long enough to fire off a couple of shots , before disappearing into the adjacent gardens . As I walked alongside the lake , I caught sight of these three Black-headed
Gulls , each in a different stage of head plumage , one shot and they too were gone . Just before reaching the exit , a pair of Mandarins flew down the Beck , and as I crossed the small bridge , I
spotted the female in a large Beech tree , seemingly looking for a suitable nest site . When she flew , a male that I hadn't seen , followed her and they both landed in another tree . The male then waddle
along the branch to when she was , and I'm sure he was asking 'have you made a decision yet?'
Some squeaking noises then caught my attention , but I couldn't work out where they were coming
from . Eventually , this dapper male emerged from under the bridge I was standing on , closely followed my a female . I'll leave it to the imagination what had been going on under the bridge .

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wednesday 20th. March 2013

After all the excitement of Hawfinches and  Great Grey Shrike last week , it was back to earth time with a cold , muddy visit this morning to Sevenoaks Reserve . On arrival , although the birds were singing for the Spring Equinox , it felt far from it , and several layers were once again donned , before starting . First look from the ramp was nothing to write home about birdwise , with gulls , geese and Lapwing being the most numerous seen . Undeterred , I set off towards Tyler Hide , finding Bullfinch calling and Mistle Thrush in full song on the way . From the hide , with the cold wind blowing
straight in , apart from the species seen from the ramp , I could only find 5 Common Snipe , together
on the far side of one of the islands , and , still dozing , a pair of Shoveler in the same area . A few Cormorants were sharing the outer islands with the many Lapwing , and along with the Coots and Moorhens on the flooded area , that was as good as it got . The walk down to Sutton Hide was even
more uneventful , and when I opened the flap , just four Teal and two Canada Geese were all that I found . A check on the reedbed from Slingsby Hide produced absolutely nothing , but on the way back to the ramp , a Great Spotted Woodpecker gave some 'exposure compensation' practise , and a
large flock of Siskin could be heard , high in the Alders behind the fishermen's car park . A male
Wren was singing and displaying along the track towards Long Lake , and a Great Crested Grebe was
found on the East Lake , complete with hair gel , but no sign of any hoped for displaying pairs . Once again , no sign of a Bittern at Long lake , but another small flock of Siskin , lower down this time ,
were found . Retracing my footsteps , the first of two Kingfisher sighting was at the end of Long Lake , as the bird zig-zagged through the trees towards Snipe Bog Lake . There was no sign of the bird when I looked out of Willow Hide , somehow I knew there wouldn't be . All the action on the
lake was from the geese , with Canadas arriving noisily , and even noisier when they left to feed in
the field behind . Just a few Teal and Tufted Duck ,and the ever present Coots made up the numbers ,
and over in the Willow on the far bank , a pair of Jays , almost camouflaged by the branches in front of them . The second Kingfisher sighting was at the corner of the West Lake , on my way back to the car park , but neither posed . Although there were some sunny periods during the visit , it was now getting darker with the threat of rain . A stop at the horse field on the way home found the juvenile Common Buzzard on sentry duty on a fence post , but before I got out of the car , it flew off into the
trees , and nearby , the rookery now has nine nests .