Sunday, 11 January 2009
Sunday 11th January
Another frosty morning, but not has harsh as yesterday. I started off patch at New Hythe, greeted by a fantastic sunrise over the frozen lakes, but not by the fabled lurking Jack Snipe of Lunsford Lane. Undeterred I checked Alders Lake and got good views of the female Goosander that was crammed into one of the few remaning patches of free water. Joined by James Bushnell I headed off to try and locate the West Scrub Firecrest, following the 'snipe' ditch for it's full-length. This was productive, both a Little Egret and showy Water Rail put in appearances. A single Siskin was the only sighting from the bridge by the Divers' car park. A pair of Bullfinches lisped through the hawthorns, but the Firecrest failed to show, so we walked back alongside the Tesco Lake, checking out for Redpolls. A male Stonechat showed very well and after much deliberation we failed to turn a female Tufted Duck with much white above the bill into a Scaup or Scaup-hybrid! By the time we returned to Lunsford Lane a few others were searching out the Jack Snipe which apparently been flushed while we had been discussing Aythya anatomy! A Kingfisher flew along the ditch, most probably relieved that the thaw underway. Steve Nunn picked out a couple of Lesser Redpoll just as we made our way back to the car.
Back in Barming I capitalised on the increasingly mild weather and took the kids for a walk along the River Medway between Barming and Teston Bridges. A Kingfisher was quickly located by Barming Bridge and watched for a while, reassurred by it's successful fishing forays - a lucky bird to be living to one of the few non-iced over waterways in the locality. Great Tits and Goldfinches were all in song. A Yellowhammer stood guard over a Hawthorn along the tow path and numerous Robins and Song Thrushes prodded away as the iced-ground gave way to mud. Four Lapwings were disturbed just west of Barnjet Priory, but after a couple of flappy circuits they settled back down in the sheep field alongside the Tonbridge Road. Upto 20x Black-headed Gulls loafed in the Oak tree alongside Teston Bridge, occasionally taking buoyant sorties up and down the river. Both a Cormorant and a Grey Heron were noted making high passes but failed to land. On the return leg 7x Meadow Pipits went up, followed by a grass-skimming female Sparrowhawk. They all landed on the ballast alongside the railway track, only to be flushed again by the fast-gliding shadow of a Kestrel!As soon as I got home Ross (The Bald Birder) phoned to tell me he'd picked out 4x Waxwings in the gene bank orchard on the Research Station behind (east of) East Malling church. As quick as I could I put coats and wellies back on the kids and we made the trip to work! As we walked through the churchyard a huge flock of winter thrushes went up in the air - hedge trimming on the Italian Alder windbreaks was underway - great! I picked out a male Brambling, and then as luck would have it, a Waxwing. It was feeding on unpicked apples, quite close to the public footpath, and by some amazing feat, considering I was trying to control two under-6s, set-up the scope and not block the unbelievably busy footpath, I managed some record shots. The bird flew out of the orchard and south after just a couple of minutes. Another bider arrived but the Waxwing (s) couldn't be relocated. Ross et al then came into view on the return leg of their walk. I thanked him for his phone call and he asked if I'd managed to photograph any of the birds - I smugly gave him a slideshow! I didn't realise it but Warren of Pittswood blog fame (http://pittswoodpatch.blogspot.com/) had prompted Ross into an unofficial competition with a comment he'd made on Ross' blog yesterday (http://baldbirder.blogspot.com/) - who could get the first picture of the patch Waxwings?! Ross had put the groundwork in and now was I about awarded the Laurels? He obviously liked the photos as he commented that I'd just photographed images out of a book, but fortunately I'd taken care to add my characteristic photographic style to each image - bird slightly out of focus and obscured by branches - the evidence was indisputable! I'm sure he'll repay my gratitude by supressing the news of the Dusky Thrush he'll discover amongst the 10,000s of Fieldfares on site! All a bit of healthy competition.