Having been cooped up in the house for the last few days with a cold, I was really looking forward to getting out again. The weather forecast wasn’t too good, but we decided to go to Toys Hill near Brasted. Malcolm and Sally had been there once before – on a wet day. As we went round the M25 the weather worsened and by the time we arrived, it looked like we had a replay of their previous visit!
After a cup of tea in the car we had no other excuses and as the rained eased off, we made tracks. Wood pigeon and great tit were feeding nearby as we left the car park. Blackbird, chaffinch and several more wood pigeons were seen as we progressed around the ‘red trail’. At one point Malcolm noticed a foamy mass on a tree trunk. This was caused by raindrops falling from a branch onto the same spot on moss on the tree trunk.
Toys Hill is an area of ancient pollard, which was damaged quite severly in the storm of 1987. Some trees were removed and used for furniture and other carpentry items, the rest were left to rot to provide homes for insects and funghi. In one area of around 50 acres nothing was touched so that the natural evolution of a woodland after hurricane damage could be measured.
We didn’t see the wood in the best of conditions, low cloud, rain and a howling gale, but one for another visit when there is a far better forecast!
Lunch at KWT Sevenoaks and as we warmed up a familiar face appeared; Roy on a day out to Bough Beech and Sevenoaks. We discussed our recent sightings and those birds recently at Sevenoaks and sent Roy off ahead to find us some birds.
Donning our already wet coats, we set off for the cover of the hides as the heavens opened yet again. At least there were a few more birds here with Canada geese, Greylag, a couple of Egyptian geese, great-crested grebe, five snipe, herring gull, common gull, black-headed gull, mallard and teal from the first hide. Roy joined us for the rest of our walk, and as we moved on towards the Tower hide we passed a marshy area where we had seen grey wagtail with our local RSPB group last year. Within seconds of this being said, Roy spotted movement, and it was a pair of grey wagtail – right on cue!
Tower hide gave us at least a dozen more snipe, all busily feeding in the short stubby grass in front of the reeds. Moorhen, coot and gadwall were also found here. At the Slingsby hide we looked for water rail. No luck on that score, but we did have great views of goldcrest in a nearby tree, a wren feeding in the channel cut through the reeds, and a very gregarious Robin who came in through the hide window to take crumbs of my cereal bar (the only thing we had with us).
We decided to try for the bittern which had been seen recently from the willow hide. Again no sign of this bird but we did have fleeting glimpses of kingfisher, more egyptian geese, jays, magpies, mute swan, teal, pochard and coot.
Overlooking the fields at the end if the nature trail we found 10 pied wagtail, ring-necked parakeet, jackdaw, carrion crow and while Roy and Malcolm watched redpoll, Sally pointed out a bird of prey to me – turned out to be a buzzard. A second bird, a lot paler than the first appeared, but as it was further away no conclusive ID was possible.
A stroll back to the car, and a quick scan of the riding school field before returning home with the heater in full blast to dry and warm us.