You know that feeling when the alarm goes off at 5.30am and being awake feels like the worst thing imaginable? Luckily it doesn't last too long. Sunshine was forecast for today, followed by rain all weekend, so I decided to pay a long overdue visit to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve. Wildlife-wise, my expectations were very low, and they were met (just about). Still, it was very nice to be out in the sun at this early hour.
The walk down to the reserve yielded very little. Young Blackbird eating a squashed apple in my road. Song Thrush going through the leaf litter at Bradbourne Lakes. Great Spotted Woodpecker calling from a tree opposite the reserve entrance. So far, so so.
The Grebe hide had a notice on the way in, warning that wasps were nesting inside. Half the interior of the hide was taped off (luckily the less interesting half) and though I couldn't see the nest I could certainly see plenty of wasps coming and going. Nothing coming to the feeders, not much moving on the lake. I moved on.
I went to Tyler hide next. The lake was about as quiet as I've ever seen it. The odd Lapwing, Black-headed Gull and a bonus Common Sandpiper was about all there was to see. Then a Goldfinch came to feed on the thistle heads in front of the hide.
I retraced my steps and headed up towards Willow hide. The vegetation here has gone nuts in the last few weeks - on some of the smaller trails I had a distinct sense of disorientation as familiar views were obscured by great walls of Teasels, thistles, Brambles, various young trees and whatnot. Though very lush and pleasant, it made for tricky photography.
By Long Lake I listened for a while to another Reed Warbler in full song. Among its usual phrases were some fine examples of mimicry - I picked out calls of Blackbird, Blue Tit, Goldfinch and Kingfisher, plus a lovely exotic silvery trill which I didn't recognise. Maybe it's an African species, heard by the Reed Warbler last winter.
I went back and sat in Carter hide for a while. Would this become the Kingfisher mecca that it was last summer (albeit not til late August)? Today it was extremely peaceful and I zoned out a bit while gazing across the clear sunlit water, watching the odd fish leaping about. At some point a bird (Woodpigeon I'm guessing) landed heavily on the hide roof, sending down a cascade of dead leaves. Soon after, a dozy juvenile Wren flew up and settled on the hide windowframe, peered in at me for a moment and decided against coming in. When I heard what I thought was the mewing of a distant Buzzard but was actually the squealing of a nearby baby Coot, I decided I'd better move on.
I ended my trip with a bit of a mooch around the wildlife/butterfly garden. I'd sneakily borrowed Rob's new lens, a 70-180mm macro, and decided to give it a workout. Here are some of the results:
Purple Loosestrife. One of my favourite flowers, and a sure sign of summer (calendar-wise, at least).