As Malcolm said today, we know quite a bit about the birds to expect in places like Dungeness and Stodmarsh, but what do we know about the birds on our doorstep? So this week we were off to Horton Kirby on a walk following the banks of the River Darent, and we knew nothing about what to expect in the area.
The one species you always seem to be able to count on however are Wood Pigeons and they were out in force, over 70 in the first couple of fields. A little nearer we had a group of about 8 Long-tailed Tit feeding in the trees over the lane where we had parked the car. Flocks of Starling were also filling the skies. Magpie, Rook and Crow joined forces and held the ground territory. Robin, Wren, Song Thrush and Dunnock were also calling from the hedgerows, the latter confusing us for a while as it gave the single note call which we all recognised but struggled to identify. Eventually a rather gregarious individual decided to help us out by sitting on a branch nearby, calling and leaving us in no doubt as to it’s identity. The Song Thrush was another pleasing find, having not come across this species for several months, to have heard it last weekend and then again today felt like a real “win”.
Fieldfare were perched in a distant tree, several groups of Chaffinch flew over, and we were reminded of the large number of coastal migrants spotted a couple of weeks ago. The volume today, although smaller was reminiscent of that experience.
Several Blue Tit and a couple of Great Tit called their contact in nearby trees, and a large number of Goldfinch called as they moved from treetop to treetop. One of the open fields held half a dozen Stock Dove. Sally spotted a Sparrowhawk chasing a small bird over the nearby field, great to see the two birds in action, but my heart was in my mouth hoping the prey escaped on this one occasion.
Malcolm spotted a couple of small birds moving ahead of us down a narrow path, they were keeping to the back and middle of the bushes (deep joy!) but eventually one of them peeled off and momentarily showed itself – a Yellowhammer! – this was the best view I had had of the species all year. The only other opportunity was a rather fleeting glimpse down by the Royal Miliary Canal, so again another good moment for us.
Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Jay were the next to make it onto the list, the Green Woodpecker was outdone on the call front by a rather noisy group of Ring-necked Parakeet.
At this point the first part of out walk was complete and we were back near the car. We decided to have our picnic lunch by the Recreation Ground, and enjoyed a rather sheltered sunny spot with a thoughtfully provided bench.
Several Field Maple trees were spotted by Malcolm (boy, he was busy today) and one a particular fine specimen with its own swarm of honey bees busying themselves in the late Autumn sunshine.
The second half of the walk took us back towards the village. Although muddy, the walk was pleasant, sadly the lakes to our left were hidden behind fencing and a hedge but we did spot a Great-crested Grebe and a pair of Mallard through the fence. On the babbling river a moorhen was spooked as we squelched along. More Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blue Title, and a Wren were found. A Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull were attracted by the lakes. A pair of Blackbird fed on hawthorn berries and another Song Thrush was seen with them. Nearing the village a House Sparrow was seen with more Chaffinch, Fieldfare and several Redwing.