A catch up in pictures of a few visits made over the last week or so :
The Redwings are almost finished the berries on the Cotoneaster bush next door , unfortunately the bush is in shade for most of the day .
The Laburnum tree on the other side makes a good perch , to make sure all is well before dropping down onto the feeders in our garden .
A morning visit to Sevenoaks Reserve found 6 Common Snipe dozing , and one having it's morning swim , seen from Tyler Hide . Otherwise , just the usual species on the East Lake .
Having found little of interest down at Sutton and Slingsby Hides , I had a look on my way back , finding the 7/10 Common Snipe feeding on the edge , directly infront of the hide . They were well settled and coming closer , when two 'birders' arrived , kicked one of the benches against the hide wall as they sat down , opened the windows whilst talking loudly and declaring 'not much out there , is there' . I didn't reply , packed up my gear and left , as did the Snipe when the bench hit the wall .
In the top of the tall Alders on the way to Willow Hide , 50+ Siskin , the largest flock that I have seen this Winter .
On the horse field alongside the track out , 1 of 2 Egyptian Geese was still doing it's morning PT .
Much further out in the field , a 100+ mixed Thrush flock feeding on the ground , mainly Redwings with a few Fieldfares and these two Mistle Thrushes .
A look in on Kelsey Park in the sunshine found the new season in full swing , but it seemed a bit more practice was needed here .
A Little Grebe had found a substantial meal .
For once it was the Moorhens , not the Coots , that were fighting amongst themselves .
Passing the heronry again , the pair seemed to have sorted things out . Just to the left of their heads and behind was another GH sitting on her nest , and trying to make out nothing was happening .
On the way home , a stop at Keston Ponds found my third new species for the site , a male Pochard .
With the hope of a sunny , rain free day yesterday , I was undecided between Dungeness and Rye Harbour as to being my destination , so en route a split decision was made , the morning at Dungeness and the afternoon at Rye Harbour . The sun was still half hidden by cloud and mist still hugged the ground as I made my first stop , hoping to see the Berwick Swan flock in a field just
outside Lydd . Well , I did see the 40+ flock , but they were way in the distance , white shapes in the early morning murk . Pushing on , I arrived at ARC car park with just one other car already there and headed for the hide , seeing at least two Great White Egrets and 2/3 Little Egret over towards the viewing screen on my way . Two birders were already enthroned in 'Ken's seat' , so after a quick look down the pit to the right , settled to their left , looking across to the screen area . Lots of Coots immediately in front of the hide , entertaining the three of us as they leapt out of the water to grab the seed heads from the Bullrushes , made easier for them by the high water level in the pit . When one bird was successful in grabbing a head , it then had the problem of keeping it from the rest . The
entertainment was interrupted by a Bittern that flew over the hide from behind , and headed for the reedbed in front of the screen on the far bank , and disappearing into it . Duck numbers weren't high ,
but along with the usual Mallards , Tufted and a few Gadwall , Wigeon were the most dominant species . At distance , both male and female Goldeneye were seen briefly , in between their constant
dives , but eventually they came a bit closer , enabling a few shots . Three redhead Smew were also
seen , but unfortunately no sign of a male . The duck spotting came to a sudden halt when the Bittern
appeared again from the reedbed , heading straight towards the hide . Just before the hide , it veered to the left and landed in the back if the small reedbed to the left of the hide , almost disappearing
from view almost immediately , but before doing so , taking up it's classic 'bill to the sky' pose for just a few seconds . I waited hoping that it would work it's way to the front of the reedbed where a Grey Heron was fishing , but unfortunately it didn't and wasn't seen again . Shortly afterwards ,
everything went up from the surface as a female and juvenile Marsh Harrier arrived looking for breakfast . After they moved on , it was difficult to relocate the rarer ducks , but after a while I found two of the Goldeneye , a male and female , and the MH's appearance didn't seem to have worried the
male , as every time she surfaced , he started displaying to her . The other two birders had moved on some time earlier and things were quietening down , so I headed back to the car and across the road to the RSPB Reserve . The feeders at Boulderwood Farm were busy , even though a new post and rail
fence was being erected close by , and the Tree Sparrow colony were tucking in , along with a few Reed Buntings . Along the track several birders were scanning the distant geese hoping to see the Bean or White-fronted that have been recorded recently . I stopped for a while , but only saw Greylags and Canadas . Arriving at the car park , I had a look in Denis's Hide , to find it full to overflowing with a group . They were talking about seeing a Goosander , but it was over on the new diggings , a long way away , also the favoured area for the Black-throated
Diver recently . To get closer it would be necessary to view from the main road , meaning looking straight into the low Winter sun , apart from taking your life in your hands to do so . A look from the
picnic area found a Great White Egret lapping up the sunshine whilst preening . With not much else reported on the Reserve , it was time to move on to Rye Harbour , but not before running in to Phil / Sharp by Nature , who , like myself , had contracted 'cabin fever' over the last couple of weeks . After a catch up we parted company and I headed towards Scotney Pits , hoping that the Barnacle Goose flock , with the Emperor Geese that Ken / Focusing on Wildlife , found with them on his visit , were still around , but sadly there was no sign . The fact that the local farmer/shepherd and his dog were rounding up his sheep on a quadbike , that was the farmer not the dog Warren , meant the grass banks by the road were almost devoid of any birds , but there was a flock of 75/100 Coot feeding down by
the water at one point . A picture for those excited by the species . Also found on the way , a small flock of wary Rooks , especially if anything was pointed at them like a camera . Managed to get this
shot just as they spotted the lens , but before they flew off . The car park at Rye Harbour was incredibly busy with walkers and dog walkers making the most of the sunny weather , although the wind had a chill . As the majority were heading up the road towards Lime Kiln Cottage and the river mouth , I cut through the caravan park and entered the Reserve over the small bridge . Almost immediately something put up every roosting bird and the sky was full of black dots , this being just
one part of the picture , but no reason could be found . It took many minutes before things got back to normal . Little was seen from the two hides out in the middle apart from a very confiding Little Grebe
that carried on diving and feeding within metres from the front of one hide . The hide along the beach road near the old lifeboat station held the most birds , with a large Oystercatcher roost to the right and space on what was left of the small islands was at a premium , this one occupied mainly by Knot
with a sprinkling of Dunlin . Other waders seen on other islands included Common Snipe , Ruff and the usual hoards of Lapwing , commuting between the edges of the islands to bathe and the shingle
banks to preen and dry . Returning down the road alongside the river , although the sun was still out , clouds were building on the horizon , but the local Rabbit population were still out feeding and
chasing about between burrows , and amongst them , moving and feeding very quietly , was this
Stock Dove . Very little was close in to the last hide , but further out Avocet , Shellduck , Godwit , Ring Plover , Little Egret , several Gull species and a very large roost of Curlew could be seen , the latter starting to return to feed on the mud on the receding tide . As I left the car park , a spur of the moment decision to stop at the footpath between the industrial units and walk out to Castle Water . I was only 200 metres along the very muddy track when I met two birders returning from the same trek . I asked if they had been successful , but they said that it had been very disappointing , and very wet and muddy underfoot . My boots were already caked in mud , so decided on just a look around a large reedbed before heading off home . Whilst doing so , I had a very quick glimpse of a small Grebe that immediately dived into the reedbed , not to be seen again . To my mind it was a possible Slavonian , but didn't see it for long enough to be sure .
First , a catch up with a couple of visits earlier in the week . Between showers , I made a quick visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham , where to my surprise several pairs of Grey Heron were busy re-
furbishing their nests , and one pair further into the heronry were even more forward , noisily mating .
Just one Mandarin , a male was seen . On the way home , I visited the site just outside Bromley where a Water Rail over-Wintered last year , but work on the large Willows on the island had flattened the reedbed that the Rail used , and there was no sign this visit , making do with just a fleeting glimpse of a Grey Wagtail . I also did the Down House bird survey , finding a better than average 21 species , none of which were out of the ordinary and only 3 Fieldfares counted . The Sandwalk woodland had taken a hemmering in the recent gales , having lost two large Beech trees and limbs torn from others , but it also held two Roe Deer . One skipped off before I could raise the
camera , but the other 'hid' behind a tree , no doubt thinking I couldn't see it . But a couple of seconds later , two rear ends were reaching the far end of the adjacent horse field . As usual , I stopped at
Keston Ponds on the way home , finding a juvenile Cormorant , the first I've seen on the site , sitting on a post in the middle pond . Being normally very wary , I took a wide swing around the pond to get closer , only to find a group of walkers standing 10-15 metres away from the bird taking photos . Even as they left it took no notice , so as I was wearing wellingtons , I waded out to get the above shot and still it didn't fly off . The walkers had told me that the bird had caught three fish when they
stopped earlier , and whilst I watched , it caught a small Roach for a starter and followed that with a
Perch for the main course . Having swallowed the Perch , it flew back to it's favoured perch to digest
it's meal and dry off , and that's how I left it .
This morning , with the sun shining , I headed for Sevenoaks Reserve to make the most of the day before the cloud and rain returned . I headed for Tyler Hide first , finding the mixed Goose flock ,
Lapwing and mixed Gull flock occupying the closest islands , but also a few Common Snipe , tucked in amongst the coppiced Willow . The walk down to Sutton Hide was very quiet apart from small flocks of Chaffinch and the odd Tit species . The mist was still rising from the reedbed and the sun was just climbing over the trees , just a shame that a Bittern or Water Rail wasn't showing , just more
Greylag Geese . Slingsby Hide was still in shadow , so I didn't hang around too long . On the return loop through the woods , I did find three Siskin , quietly feeding high in the Alders , and they proved
to be the only ones seen during the visit , surprisingly as numbers of 100+ have been seen in previous years . I headed next for Willow Hide , following along the side of the West and North Lake , only to find the path closed at the small bridge just before Snipe Bog Lake due to erosion . I retraced my steps and took the other route between the East Lake and the River Darenth . I finally reached Willow Hide , only to find very little on Snipe Bog Lake , apart from plenty of water . A scan of the fields beyond the far bank though , did produce at least 12 newly born lambs , which seems incredibly
early , especially with colder weather in the pipeline . Back towards the East Lake , a small bird flew
up from the track and I just managed to fire off one shot before it disappeared , from which I was able to confirm my first Common Redpoll of this Winter . Almost at the car park and at a point where a
Jay can often be seen , one flew into the tall trees alongside the East Lake . Unusually , it took no notice of me and flew closer and closer , allowing me to fire off several shots . Leaving the car park
and along the track several Redwings were seen , some feeding on the ripe Ivy berries , whilst others
preferred the bright red Cotoneaster berries at the livery stables where the track meets the road . Interestingly , Blackbird , Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush were also seen along the track , feeding on the berries and on the ground in the horse paddocks .
Got out in yesterday's sunshine and headed for Bough Beech Reservoir , finding it full to overflowing after all the recent rain and the water company taking the opportunity to fill up . The amount of water meant that it had flooded all the vegetation around the edges , and the few birds that were seen were tucked up deep in that vegetation . Just a few Fieldfares feeding on the fallen apples in the orchard and nothing exciting on the feeders , so I decided to return to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , a very soggy reserve at this time . I made straight for the area where I had seen the Parrot Crossbills on my last visit , but failed to find any , so headed off on a circuit , finding very little of interest , apart from hearing a Wood Lark , not in full song , seemingly just tuning things up for later .
Getting back to the previous sighting area , two birders were scanning the same Pine tops where several Parrot Crossbills were now feeding , but once again , high up and often hidden , but every now again they showed better and in the pleasant sunshine it was most enjoyable , apart from wet feet , as I hadn't taken willies with me . After some time , they all took off and flew to their favourite tree , preparing to drop down to drink at their favourite puddle . Having drunk , they flew around and most of the flock landed briefly in a nearby broad-leaved tree . The light on those birds not half hidden by branches was not great , but a few shots were managed , mainly of one particular male .
Later on , I found a couple of males feeding quietly , lower down , and through surrounding branches managed to get some closer shots of the bill .
On the way back home , I found the first wild flowers of the year , Winter Heliotrope / Petasites
fragrans , a member of the Daisy family , in it's usual place near Keston Church .
Just got an email that tomorrow's hedgelaying has been postponed because of the weather .
At least it means my feet will stay dry .