May 302014

This Wednesday Malcolm had the bright idea to travel the byways of Kent in search of Grey Wagtail territories.   As the driver of a car only washed the day before I was delighted to ramble down narrow country lanes with potholes in abundance – Malcolm helpfully requesting that I avoid them of course!   Through roadworks, flood, mud, overgrown hedgerows and inconsiderate drivers but I have to admit that Malcolm had a brilliant idea.

Bedraggled Magpie

Bedraggled Magpie

We stopped at four spots along the River Darent from Horton Kirby to Shoreham and found adult birds taking food back to the nest in two of them and two juveniles at the third.   Only the ford at Eynesford failed us.

The river is very high and fast running with all the recent rain and in some respects that is excellent for Grey Wagtails.   They thrive in areas around weirs where the water is turbulent and and water fast flowing.   They prefer to nest in rock crevices or cavities in bridges or other buildings beside the water.    Usually found on smaller rivers with trees along the bank which provide cover for the adults as they hunt for food for their young.   They eat eat flies, mayflies, small damsel and dragonflies and can often be seen to hover like a hummingbird as they dart out to their prey on the wing.   See two adults going into their nest on this video, but be patient they were a long way off and are hard to spot at first!

Delightful birds, and we didn’t just ignore everything else, we found whitethroat, a family of newly fledged blackcap being fed by the parents. Chiffchaff, robin, song thrush,  linnet, red-legged partridge, ring-necked parakeet, fledgling great tit in the car park at Lullingstone, and the day was topped off with five little ringed plover and a common sandpiper at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve.   We also saw a huge number of swift, sand martin and house martin feeding over the main lake, with fledglings all over the place including; coot, moorhen, egyptian goose and pied wagtail.

Nettle tap moths and some as yet unidentified caterpillars were also noted.


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