After a rather delayed start to my 2014 birdwatching I finally made it out today. When I started out this morning my bird list stood at a disappointing 3. So I was keen to add to my list whilst staying warm and dry.
After much discussion we settled on Bough Beech and Sevenoaks. Bough Beech felt like a good choice and it did not let us down with over 30 species seen despite the high water levels on the reservoir which pushed many of the birds into the surrounding undergrowth. Starting at the visitor centre, we spent some time looking at the birds using the feeders. Here blue tit and great tit were enjoying peanuts at one of the smaller feeders. A second feeder seemed to have mainly black sunflower hearts which was attracting large numbers of chaffinch, greenfinch, goldfinch, house sparrow, dunnock and robin. As seeds were dropped a couple of female pheasants pecked around taking advantage.
We noticed a couple of kestrels overhead, they appeared to be two males displaying and as we enjoyed the birds around the feeding area these two continued to circle overhead for some time. A great spotted woodpecker gave good views as it moved around us near the car park. A large flock of fieldfare moved from one tree to another, keeping to the tops of the trees, but giving themselves away with their distinctive call. We looked for any other species with them but without success. Coot and moorhen were spotted around the pools, and several mallard were roosting on a falled tree trunk enjoying the weak winter sunshine.
As we moved along towards the main body of water we added starling, woodpigeon, jackdaw, rook and carrion crow to our list. The sight that greeted us from the causeway was probably the highest water level I have seen in the last 15 years, with the banks of the reservoir completely underwater. Highlights here were pochard, teal, shoveler, cormorant, greylag geese, gadwall, great-crested grebe and tufted duck. Sally spotted a buzzard being mobbed as it flew over the treetops.
As we returned to the centre for lunch, Malcolm found a marsh tit at the feeders – the rest of us missed it, but we all saw the elegant nuthatch which seemed to appear at pretty much the same time and was a little more obliging!
Lunch over and it was time to move off to Sevenoaks reserve. More waterfowl here of course, adding wigeon to our duck tally. We also had some great views of around 25 snipe with some of them feeding out in the open and for once giving excellent views. Around 150 lapwing were also counted by Malcolm, some were already calling and displaying whilst others stood their ground in the increasingly breezy weather. Gulls were in greater numbers on the more sheltered waters here with black-headed gull joined by herring gull, great black-backed and common gull. Canada and egyptian geese, mute swan and cormorant completed this section of our walk. From the tower hide whilst some of us were spotting more snipe, Sally found a goosander which unfortunately disappeared before the rest of us could see it.
As we continued through the woodland long-tailed tit, lesser redpoll and goldcrest were found near the new goat enclosure. A water rail was heard squealing and green woodpecker “yaffled” nearby.
Bumping into Jeff and Wendy as we hunted for the goosander again, we spent some time catching up on both our christmas and new year breaks and comparing notes on our day’s bird watching.
Our final additions were found at the end of the afternoon as the light was failing – not easy to identify thrushes in the tree tops with the only daylight creating a silhouette, but we were confident of redwing, fieldfare and song thrush (as the latter was calling well). Possible mistle thrush was harder to discern.
So, all in all a great day out, not quite purple sandpipers, snow buntings and fulmars but birds of every species are always a delight to see.