Thursday, 24 April 2008

Thursday 24th April

A quick lunchtime dash down to Bradbourne Lake on the East Malling Research Station site, revealed the drake Mandarin Duck was still present. It posed long enough for a couple of photos, before taking to the water and drifting out of sight around the other side of the lake's island.
The thunder and lighting that dominated the skies this afternoon cleared by early evening so I took the oppurtunity to do a few jobs in my garden in East Barming, and it was from here that I heard my first Cuckoo of the year, calling from River Medway valley.

Sunday 20th April

Slightly off patch, I took the oppurtunity for a quick visit to New Hythe Lakes after attending a kids party at Larkfield Leisure Centre. With kids in tow I made my way from Brook House, New Hythe towards the srub area in the hope of hearing, if not seeing, a Nightingale at the entrance to the country park. Although I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing both Sedge Warbler and Blackcap, I didn't manage to find a Nightingale. Skirting round the East Scrub I noticed large numbers of hirundines, mainly Sand Martins but with a peppering of Swallows caught up in the swarm. While waiting at the level crossing for a train to pass, I noticed the flock disperse and then watched the elegant silhouette of a Hobby which passed rapidly overhead along the southern edge of Abbeymeads. Walking back across the East Scrub, a flick of white from the ground caught my attention - a fantastic male Wheatear. Steve Nunn arrived later and got some superb photos which are on his blog. I returned to the car happy to have seen 2 fantastic summer vistors, but still lacking a Nightingale!

Friday, 18 April 2008

Friday 18th April

Only thing of note this morning was a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls in the field north of the 'burger-van' layby, A26 Tonbridge Road, East Barming.

A couple of Chiffchaffs braved the cold wind and called in Ditton Quarry, and my first Blackcap of the year was heard, but not see in the dense shrubbery. A pair of Linnets looked suitably wind-blown on the top of the East Malling Research Station roof. Also 2x Great Black-backed Gulls over the Research Station at 15:30.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Sunday 13th April

An early start, and forfeited lie-in, at Swale NNR. Tempted by Derek's postings on KOSnet and a a trip to Sheppey being long overdue, I found myself wandering along the seawall at 07:00. A couple of Red-breasted Geese were picked out distantly with Greylags in the corn field south of Elliot's Farm, but not the most satisfying of views as they periodically disappeared behind a hawthorn hedge that surronded the field. Closer in on the reserve a female Wheatear paused briefly on a fence post near the start of the seawall and 2x Swallows sped low overhead. The long-awaited song of a Reed Warbler was drowned out by the explosive call of a Cetti's Warbler. There were many Marsh Harriers drifting over the rape fields north of the reserve, but a stunning female Hen Harrier stole the show, giving excellent views as she drifted across the saltmarsh. A distant figure, the fine form of Derek Faulkner, loomed by the Swale Hide. I was very grateful to him for pointing out a couple of White-fronted Geese and a Bearded Tit. As ever time was against me but as I walked back to Harty Church the flock of geese took off and landed back on the reserve giving much better views of the Red-breasted Geese. An added bonus was 8x Common Seals hauled up on Horse Sands.

Back in Barming the weather had changed decidely nasty and so I spent much of the rest of the day indoors. However a brief sunny interlude had me looking to the sky, just in time to see the flickering and dropping flight of 3x House Martins moving slowly north - my first of the year.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Thursday 10th April

My first Swallow of the year was seen perched on the telegraph wires opposite the North Pole Pub, Teston as I drove into work this morning.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Monday 7th April 2008

The snow lingered, and the sign at the top of North Street, Barming seemed quite appropriate. 2x superb, summer-plummaged Med Gulls garced the field just north of the 'Burger Van layby' north of the A26 between Teston and Barming. They were more active than their Black-headed and Herring Gull counterparts.

Friday 4th April 2008

Another scour of Oaken Woods, Barming in the lunchtime sun drew a blank for the Camberwell Beauty, but more Peacock, Comma and my first Small White of the year were seen. The Mandarin Duck remained, shyly, at Bradbourne Lake.

Thursday 3rd April 2008

More Chiffchaffs on the way into walk by Gallagher's Gallop, and 6+ Bullfinches "seeping" away in the blackthorn.

It was the monthly East Malling Research Running Club race at lunchtime, and with a lead to defend I set of across the farmland towards Oaken Wood, Barming. I was pleased to see 2x Peacock and 3x Comma butterflies en route and took much pleasure in telling Mike Easterbrook, the county recorder, as I overtook somewhere around the 3.5 mile mark! However, my boss, who was on the longer 5.5 mile route along North Pole Road, found both Mike and I as soon as he'd finished to tell us a large 'black butterfly with white wing borders had flown across his path...he'd never seen this butterfly before...what was it? We double checked it wasn't April 1st, before asking him to take a look at the pinned down butterfly collection housed at the research station. He identified it as a Camberwell Beauty! Unfortunately I was due in a meeting at 2pm, but Mike + ANother went to the site, and despite extensive scouring and turning up numerous Peacocks and Commas the Beauty was nowhere to be found.

A call from Ross informed me that a drake Mandarin Duck had appeared at the lake at Bradbourne House, so leaving early I managed to relocate the duck (extremley timid hence no photo) but failed to find the butterfly!

Monday 31st March 2008

A couple of Chiffchaffs sang out over Ditton Quarry this afternoon, my first of the Summer on this site. A Common Lizard and Toad were also found to have come out of hibernation.

10th March 2008

Seven Jackdaws, quite a rarity at East Malling, made a welcome visit to the Research Station site, feeding on ploughed land with 40+ Carrion Crow.

SW Spain 3rd-7th March 2008

I was lucky enough to present a talk at a conference in SW Spain. The birding oppurtunities looked good, but the schedule looked bad - and as expected the conference programme was very intense, 08:30-20:30 most days. We arrived in the dark and saturday night and spent 2 hours driving through pitch blackness from Seville to Huelva - not chance of seeing anything!