Sunday 17th December:
Wendy and I woke up to find we could barely see the end of our garden for fog and it was wet and cold. Oh well, knowing the intrepid Gravesend Group birders someone was bound to be at Leybourne so we packed a flask and set off. On our way down the A2 the fog lifted and the sun shone brightly but descending into the Medway valley the fog once again enveloped us, so an inauspicious start to the trip.
Yes, others had taken a break from Christmas shopping and so seven of us set off to see what was about. Leybourne lakes are old flooded gravel pits which have been landscaped and the surrounding area turned into a leisure park with a mixed habitat which encourages wildlife. It is very popular for water sports and sure enough a group of scuba divers were swimming about in the water – made me feel cold just looking at them!
Our walk from the car park through a lightly wooded area saw blue tit, great tit, and robin; continuing on through the conservation area we had sightings of wren, dunnock and several blackbirds. A lone chiffchaff was feeding in a willow and in the ditch below some had a brief glimpse of a Cetti’s warbler. The ponds were mainly frozen over but there were moorhen and coot scuttling about feeding and black-headed and herring gull drifting overhead. It was quite difficult peering through the mist and a distant bird may have been a mistle thrush and a woodpecker flew over but not sure which one it was. A bush containing a number of goldfinches made a pleasing sight as there were few birds showing well.
However, we had heard that there was a goosander on the Railway Lake and sure enough as we looked out a female emerged from a nearby bank, a superb sight as it swam in front of us diving as it went. There were over 20 tufted ducks on this lake with some cormorants, great-crested grebe and a pair of shovelers. A sparrowhawk flew away from us across the frozen lake. Generally there were not many ducks about which was probably because most of the lakes were frozen over. A walk around the adjacent Railway Scrub area was better with sightings of fieldfare, song thrush, green woodpecker, jay, long-tailed tit, chaffinch, collard dove and kestrel.
It really was getting quite cold by this time so a fairly brisk walk back to the car park took us past The Ocean lake where we saw pochard, mallard, mute swan, lesser black-backed gull and greylag goose on some open water, but none of the Canada geese that are normally here. There were any number of woodpigeon, crows and magpies throughout the park
As we were leaving a grey heron flew over making our total number of species seen 43, not bad given the difficult conditions.
So after exchanging seasonal greetings Wendy and I went to get the bird we really wanted – a turkey.
Happy Christmas to everyone and we look forward to seeing you in 2018!
Jeffrey and Wendy Kirk
Thanks to Jeff and Wendy for leading the walk, and to those who attended.