Sunday, 20 March 2011

Early signs of spring

This weekend has been gorgeous, and for once I've been out in it, making t'most of it etc etc. Up 5.30am on Saturday, I headed for Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. It had been a cold night, and there was frost all over everything on my walk down, which I'd timed a bit too early for good light on the birdlife of Lambarde Road.

This female Mallard was having a sit-down on the pavement, while her mate pillaged a nearby garden. I presume they had wandered there from Bradbourne Lakes, which has a sizeable population of streetwise Mallards. Much more approachable than the ones on the nearby reserve - do the populations really stay apart, or does the same bird behave like a pukka wild bird on a nature reserve, only to turn into a Hovis-scoffing, tame-as-you-like parkland ducky when it moves to the lakes?

Dunnock on a frosty Forsythia (I think) hedge, like many others he was singing his heart out, though stopped when I got too close and flew to a higher perch.

 At the top of the drive down to the reserve, I found myself suddenly surrounded by Greenfinches, which is a pleasant experience if you haven't been scarred for life by Hitchcockian imagery. There must have been five different males all singing in the same small area, either from their twirly little songflight or a perch at the top of one of the Lleylandii trees.

Here it is - your promised sign of spring. It might be a pretty bad photo of a Chiffchaff but you can make out that he's singing. There were at least five different ones singing on the reserve, all very restless and keeping to the higher bits of the trees. It took a long wait to get even this poor shot.

Presumably, those geese which are going to breed this year are already in the paired-up stage at least, which makes me suspect this trio won't be joining in (or if they are, they're doing it in an interesting new way).

Early spring or late winter? This was one of two Redwings I saw - the other was singing high in a tree, and caused me some confusion because I haven't heard one singing for ages. The song is a bit shrill and musically lacking compared to other thrushes, but it's always nice to hear something different.

 By Willow hide, I found this male Reed Bunting, sitting high in a small tree and tirelessly delivering his extremely boring song. Luckily he's not at all boring to look at, and is coming into full breeding plumage with just a bit of hind-crown still not completely black.

Wrens seemed to be everywhere. This one broke all the rules by actually hopping towards me and into better light as I stood there taking its photo.

I sat by Long Lake for a while (as I'd remembered to use my rucksack-that's-also-a-folding-chair) and got a few shots of passing Stock Doves, commuting between various large trees. Perhaps they are nesting in one of them. Unlike its big sister the Woodpigeon, the Stock Dove is a hole-nester, so has to duke it out with Jackdaws, Little Owls and so on for the best rotten trees.

While I was there, two Mallard drakes zoomed past in hot pursuit of a female. This is one of them. How could she refuse, when he looks this good? (Actually, we know that with female Mallards, refusal is often not an option anyway...)

Nice male Great Spot. I am scouring the treetops for Lesser Spots all the time but not had a sniff of one, but I did get the other two woodie species today by way of compensation.

I'll end with this lovely Song Thrush, who was singing with great verve and panache by the main trail. All in all, didn't see anything that exciting (best bird was probably a distant Shelduck from Tyler hide) but the weather and general springiness made it a highly enjoyable visit.
In the afternoon I went to Michele's mum's (M is living there for now, as she is in between houses). I spent the last half-hour of sunshine watching passing birds overhead, including a Buzzard winging its way west very purposefully, a couple of 'skeins' of Cormorants, and lots of Starlings including this one, organising a nest despite still being very much winter-plumaged.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow,what a fantastic day out. How nice it would be to have wild wolves again in Highland Scotland. Alas, can't see it happening any time soon certainly not in my lifetime. Sad.