Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday 3rd December 2010

An early morning visit down to the River Medway in Barming turned up 10x Snipe, a Lapwing and Grey Wagtail crouched down in one the streams that ran down to the river just west of Barming Bridge.  A Cormorant fished on the river and a male Sparrowhawk sitting in a tree next to the railway bridge at the bottom of South Street eyed up the Blackbirds and Song Thrushes (x3) that were flitting back and forth on the road.

Back to work today after spending an enforced day sledging with the kids!  The snow had really collected in Oaken Wood, 16" or so, which made it hard work to walk in but had left lots of tell tale signs of what had been around.  It was absolutely silent - not a bird to be seen, no Redpolls, no Bullfinches, nothing.  By Kiln Barn Farm Barn a couple of Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches fed around the hay that had been left out for the cattle, and with 2x tolerant Robins....a tolerant, non-territorial Robin - things must be getting desperate!

At lunchtime I checked out the orchards on the East Malling Research site.  Plenty of Woodpigeons, Chaffinches, Starlings, Blackbirds and Fieldfares but not in numbers I'd expect in such harsh conditions. The churchyard held high numbers of Redwings feeding in the Yews and Goldcrests were heard calling.

I then met a couple scanning the genebank at the church and asked if they'd seen anything of interest.  They told me that there was a big flock of what they thought were Chaffinches feeding to the west of the road to Park Farm.  Hoping for a Brambling amongst the flock I set off and quickly located the birds they had told me about feeding in a weedy plot to the west of the road.

There were a number of Chaffinches (20+), but also a few Goldfinch (5+) and lots of Linnets, probably 60-70 birds.  However, alongside the plot and on the road were a collection of birds I didn't instantly recognise, but one of the birds took the air and sang....Skylarks!  I'm not sure if it was because they were away from their usual habitat or just the sheer number of them, 52+ but I was completely thrown out!

Some of the large exaltation of Skylarks feeding on one of the Research station roads (click to enlarge)

Walking alongside the fence, checking the finches I noticed what I thought was the back of a hen Pheasant crouching in the weeds, I walked closer and up flew a Woodcock!  It flew silently (apart from it's wing beats) across the plot and round the back of me towards the Bullock Yard.  At last - I'd heard a few reports of one on site, I was just glad to connect with one at last!  Suddenly a Sparrowhawk glided low from the east and put everything up in the air, and had me wondering if it was me or the Sparrowhawk that had flushed the Woodcock.

Sparrowhawk spooking Skylarks

I carried on towards Bradbourne House, skirting the stream to check for Snipe...and bingo, a Snipe took flight from the edge of the waterfall pool - a species needed for the East Malling Tetrad (BTO Winter Atlas).  I thought today would be the day with so many Snipe being reported from around the county.  Bradbourne Lake had the usual Coots, Moorhens, Canada Geese and Black-headed Gulls as well as a pair of Gadwall, an infrequent visitor to the patch.  The last part of the patch was to check near the bridge to the Pavillion at Bradbourne where I expected a Grey Wagtail or even another Snipe, but was extremely surprised to flush another Woodcock sitting out near a Yew at the side of the bridge - this one shot across the boundary wall, over New Road and towards the Clare Park Estate.

The day was just getting better, but was topped off by a Lapwing drinking from a puddle in the Bradbourne House car park, an occasional flyover species but quite rare on the deck.  What a day!


Phil said...

Congratulations Adam. A well deserved result for you today.
A couple of days ago I saw a flock of birds at least 30 birds fly over the west scrub at New Hythe , I thought they were Redwings but some of the birds were calling and sounded like Skylarks. I didn't report it because I wasn't sure about it but i'm now wondering if they could have been Skylarks after reading your post.

Greenie said...

Adam ,
I'm amazed you managed to get any work done with all that was happening around you .
Shame there wasn't a Brambling or two amongst the Finches , that would have put the icing on the cake .
Massive thaw overnight here .

Warren Baker said...

Blimey Adam, quite a day indeed, excellent Woodcock record :-)