Great, the wettest day of the year so far and it chooses to be a Wednesday, so yet another soaking on the cards. In view of the forecast we decided to go to Sevenoaks KWT reserve this week, plenty of natural cover to provide shelter and the luxury of hides, tea and toilets, what more could you wish for?
After sitting in the car prevaricating for 15 minutes or so there was no further excuse but to get out there and see what was about. A quick cup of tea and we were finally off, just as the rain decided to abate slightly.
Although lots of birds were calling; blue tit, dunnock, blackbird, robin, the first bird we saw was a song thrush singing away at the top of one of the trees near the car park. At the viewpoint sand martin, house martin and swallow were hungrily swooping low over the lake – a huge flock which looked like leaves being tossed about in the breeze against the dark trees on the far side of the water. It was hard to pick out and follow individuals so we just stood watching them fill the sky.
All the usual suspects were on the ground, greylag, tufted duck, great crested grebe, lapwing, pied wagtail and a very distant little ringed plover, well spotted by Paul. Moorhen, mallard and canada geese were busily feeding, coot joined in but in a quieter vein there were a couple on nests.
We decided to go to the Tyler Hide to see if we could get a closer view of the plover. A great move as on the way the heavens opened again. Once settled we confirmed the little ringed plover with the yellow eye-ring clearly visible at this distance. We finally found four moving between three or four islands. There were pied wagtail and greylag were shepherding eight goslings around in the long grass on the edge of the reeds.
Another birdwatcher asked if we had seen a tern, as he had spotted one earlier but could not find it again. We all scanned the skies and island edges, eventually the same chap re-found the tern, a common tern which was showing just the top of its head as it sat on the far side of one of the islands in front of us. Gradually, it moved further out into the open and eventually was on full show, a lovely view. As I watched the tern a yellow flash passed through the view, it was a wagtail, and as that too moved more into the open we realised it was a bright yellow wagtail, strangely looking more yellow than the first view. [It later turned out that there had been a pair, and I had seen the female first, which had slightly duller plumage- excuses, excuses!]
We spent quite some time here as the rain fell outside, discussing the possible ways to sex a robin [apparently this can only be done in the hand and during the breeding period, where you look for a brood patch on the female and enlarged sexual organs on the male – thanks to Phil for the info] Lesson one over, and it was back to scanning the lake where a common sandpiper eventually appeared.
From outside the hide we could hear chiffchaff, great tit, blue tit, and robin. On the way to the next hide a further song thrush sang. On the way to the next hide we found a wren sitting out in the open on a branch with tail cocked and waving it’s rear end from side to side. Looking agitated we kept our distance and eventually it moved off, a further wren was nearby so either aggression or courtship.
At the Sutton Hide we decided it was lunch time and as we sat enjoying a further two greylag families (2 and 3 goslings resp.) a swift appeared. Swooping and diving near to the hide we had great views, this just added to our delight as we watched the rest of the hirundines feeding up after their long journey. Even in the pouring rain the house martins were chattering away as they fed and drank – such a lovely sound, you sometimes forget in the middle of winter what a great sound they make.
At the final hide on this lake we had a close encounter with a robin which has taken up residence. For the last three visits, it has come into the hide virtually begging for food. On this occasion it was carrying food back to the nest, so hopefully a successful brood (if supplemented by cereal bars and sandwiches – not the healthiest diet for young robins I’m sure!). Three long-tailed tits fed in a nearby bush following a well learned flight path, going back and forth with their contact calls filling the air.
Finally we had to move on to our final stop, at the Willow Hide on the other side of the reserve. Guess what – it started to rain again! On the field beyond the lake were over 20 wood pigeons with starlings mixed in, a swan covered a nest on the far side of the lake, we also saw magpie, more dunnock, blackbird, a crow and a rather wet and bedraggled grey heron. Two egypitan geese appeared from behind one of the islands. Two gadwall flew in and landed close by so that we could examine the vermiculations (thanks to Irene for that one) on the male’s neck and chest.
For the record, there was 16.5 mm of rain in my gauge yesterday – the weatherproof trousers are still out and ready for use!