Off patch today, and although I was hoping for a trip up to Sheppey the fog and poor light first thing put me off. I decided to head down to New Hythe GPs which I hadn't visited yet this year. The redhead Smew was still on Motorway Lake, and a small flock of Lesser Redpoll were feeding in Alders alongside footpath just off Lunsford Lane.Spurred on by Barry Wright's (http://barry-wright.blogspot.com/)recent obsession with the quarries and new sites, the rest of my day was spent checking out some sites on the other side of the River Medway - sand pit Quarry just N of Aylesford Village, Eccles Reservoir, Millhall Sewage works and the scrub/wasteland, creeks and damp woodland in between all these sites. I stopped off at Aylesford Church first, the OS map showed a nearby footpath gave views across the quarry. However I decided to explore the churchyard first to see what was about. None birdy I know but I was fascinated by a war, seen plenty of them before but this one had two regimental insignia on it. Further on I met two Foxes loafing around; one was very timid and the other extremely inquisitive. Views over the quarry weren't brilliant, but I could see a footpath on the northern perimeter, which, when I eventually got there gave excellent views:
Sand pit Quarry, Aylesford - held 115 Common Gull, 5 Herring Gull, 12 Cormorant, 72 Lapwing, 3 GC Grebe, 1 Little Grebe. One of the gulls had upright stance, small beady eye, seemed to have a 'kinder', slender-headed look than than HGs around it,, longish bill - thought Caspian but no experience of this species and I wasn't convinced the bill looked that much longer or slender than the HGs nearby. Looked for 'white tongue' on P10 but not satisfactory views. I posted some pictures earlier, but no removed them after the consensus came down as Herring Gull - I live to learn!
I moved onto the other sites I wanted to explore. They were surprisingly bird less but looked to have great potential:
Eccles Resorvoir - 60+ BH Gull, 35 Tufties, 2 Pochard, 5 GC Grebe, but small area of Phragmites reeds in SE corner and muddy margins all the way around. Views are a little bit difficult as the area is fenced off by the fishing club, but it's fairly open at the S end (walking from Burham Waterworks). There's masses of wet woodland and scrub all around this area - equivalent to West Scrub at New Hythe, larger but principally Buddleia (potential if we get an influx of continental butterflies this summer)
Millhall Sewage Works, Aylesford - I can remember looking across to here last summer and seeing a cloud of Sand Martins. Well I finally got here, parking in The Friars, Aylesford and walking along the footpath. Good roost of Pied Wagtails (50+) with Grey Wagtail and Meadow Pipit in the flock. A Green Sandpiper also put in an appearance (for all of 5 secs!). Masses of Gulls, predominantly BH Gulls with a few Herring Gulls. The bushes around the area were full of Tits and Finches, noticeably more than in the other areas I'd visited today so obviously drawn to the area.
I carried on along the path towards Burham waterworks and there's a huge area opposite Aylesford Newsprint that's been left derelict (SCA Island Site) - this to me looks like it could be alive with things later in the year. Mostly Buddleia again, but also a couple of Larch saplings, and even a few 'scrapes' with Phragmites, bordering a larger area of reed bed, similar to the sunken marsh. The terrain seems to consist of broken up rubble and at a similar, but smaller, site near Burham I had 5 LRPs nestling down this year! I think it's private area but by the state of it's dereliction I don't think anyone seems to be too worried! Further still I came across an inlet from the River Medway that held 72 Teal (all lacking a vertical white bar unfortunately!), but again lots of scrub.
Despite spending over 3 hours covering damp woodland/scrub I failed to find a Woodcock! Only a week ago Alan Woodcock (http://snodlandblogspotcom.blogspot.com/)had found 6 just across the river - all in the name I think!
I finally made my way back to New Hythe, took up my position opposite the reed bed in the SE corner of Streamside Pit, and waited. At 16:40, I heard a wing beat, and a Bittern glided directly over my head (from the direction of the Tesco Lake), raised it's wings to slow itself down and legs dangling dropped gently into the front of the reed bed. It disappeared momentarily, before climbing up the reeds in full view. It puffed itself up, turned it's back to me and settled in for the night! Perfect end to a stimulating day.