Monday, 16 January 2012

A cold and frosty morning

I was in a pensive mood as I walked to Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve this morning. Mostly I was thinking, 'Gordon Bennett, it's cold!'. But the sky was clear and it looked like it was going to be a lovely crisp winter's day. I missed some good birds at the reserve while we were away, including Pintail and White-fronted Goose. Today was quiet, but I did get a patch tick...

Only the corner of the East Lake was frozen. I walked down to Tyler hide and surveyed the scene. Numerous Lapwings were clustered on the frost-crusted islands, with Teals on the water, a smallish roost of gulls and the usual scattering of Cormorants here and there. One small and well-vegetated island was crammed with Snipes, there must have been a dozen of them.

This female Blackbird sat patiently on a stump by the path to the hide, while I walked around her looking for the best angle for a photo. You wouldn't catch a Spanish Blackbird being that co-operative.

As usual I checked the tall trees along the path for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and didn't see one. I did manage a consolation Treecreeper, plus a Great Spot that flew away, and plenty of Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits.

The lake in front of Willow Hide was mostly frozen over, with all the waterfowl packed into the still liquid bit around the island. I looked for the Bittern for a while without success, photographed this Grey Heron, then moved on towards Long Lake.

Absurdly approachable Robin on the way to Long Lake. As I watched, he sang a bit and had a scratch, but the nicest photo I managed is this one, where he's just being beautiful.

Lovely though this all was, it was a little disappointing not to have encountered anything more exciting. I didn't even hear a Siskin until I reached the (frozen) Long Lake, but then found one demolishing an alder cone in photographable range.

Carrying on towards the field, I noted a Goldcrest which I tried and failed to turn into a Firecrest, and then heard a distinctive two-note tit call which made me think 'Marsh Tit?'. But I decided it couldn't be, because I've never seen a Marsh Tit here. I was leaning on the gate by the field when another birder arrived and asked excitedly if I'd seen the Marsh Tit... So that's my patch tick, but sadly just a 'heard' record as I couldn't refind it, and I'm a little bit annoyed with myself for dismissing the possibility.

I headed back towards Willow hide, noting a nice surprise on the way - female Bullfinch, who dodged my camera with uncanny timing. Thinking there must be a male around somewhere I had a good look and listen but to no avail.

I spent a little longer in Willow hide this time, watching the Coots, Gadwalls and Wigeons milling around. This female Gadwall was really hassling a feeding Coot, doing her utmost to pinch his breakfast. This did not go down well with the Coot.

Some of the Coots were walking, running and skidding about on the ice. This was most entertaining, and caused me to almost miss a low-flying Sparrowhawk which might have made a good photo - oh well. Sometimes comedy is better than drama.


Phil said...

Hi Marianne
I was coming to Sevenoaks this morning but changed plan when I heard about a burst water main on the A25. I went to Oare instead, wish I'd braved the A25 though, it was a bit dead there. Bad luck with the lack of visual re the Marsh Tit.
I'm having trouble still with comment posting. Tried to comment on part 2 of your Spanish trip but was unable to. Will try again.

Christian said...

Hi Marianne

You're right, the comedy really works in this one! I'd love to catch a Coot like that.

ShySongbird said...

Hi Marianne, it's great to be back!

You certainly had a chilly visit but it sounded like an enjoyable and entertaining one. The Coots are always such fun to watch and the ice obviously added to the fun as your photo shows :-) You have some lovely photos here. As you say Robins can be absurdly approachable and that one posed beautifully for you!