The snow lingered, and was refreshed by a light powdering overnight. I still couldn't get my car off the drive so missed out on the Research Station Solstice run. An eccentric tradition relived each June and December by some mebers of the Research - the rules: one circuit of Bradbourne Lake as the sun rises on the solstice......but only one item of clothing allowed....trainers count as one item! Its pushed some people's imagination to the limit, it's certainly effective in waking you up before work! I could set up a 'separate' blog with photos of this event if there's enough interest.
The orchards near Kiln Barn Road that have been full of Fieldfare were deserted, the fallen apples totally covered in snow. I knew where the birds would be, in the orchards that hadn't been picked; the genebank at the back of the church in East Malling (where the Waxwings were seen) and the orchard viewable from the public footpath just west of the main laboratory complex. I ventured out at lunchtime to check out my theory and was amazed at the shear number of winter thrushes that were in the process of what could be called a feeding frenzy.
Redwings which have been relatively scarce on site up until now outnumbered the Fieldfares by about 2 to 1. Lots of Blackbirds and Chaffinches picked around on the ground, while the Fieldfares and Redwings stabbed away at the apples left on the trees and Starlings, Woodpigeons, a couple of Green Woodpeckers and a lone Song Thrush joined in. A Sparrowhawk swept threw and was suprisingly unsuccessful despite the density of the flocks. The genebank was the same, although there seemed to be a greater proportion of Fieldfare here. It was hard to keep track, let alone count the birds. I scanned through as much as possible to see if I could locate a Brambling or even a Waxwing (for Greenie!), if there were any in this swarm then I didn't pick them out. An amazing sight, all viewable from the east-west public footpath on the Research Station, but probably will only last while the snow does.
A special train was passing through East Malling this evening - Tornado, the newly rebuilt steam locomotive on it's first run down this line. My lad's madder on trains than I am on birds, and as it was the shortest day I wasn't confident we'd get a very good view as it sped through East Malling, so we caught up with it at Maidstone West. I was impressed!