Sunday, 26 February 2012

Somewhat springlike

I had a lovely morning at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve this morning. It was sunny and quite still, chilly at first but quickly warming up in the sunshine. No migrants around yet but the resident birds were definitely gearing up for spring.

Walking down the track, I met this Mistle Thrush which was playfully posing on the posts for just as long as it took me to line up my shot before flying down into the horse field. I eventually managed a single photo.

The alders by the wildlife garden held a small flock of Lesser Redpolls and Siskins, busily demolishing the cones. I didn't see either species elsewhere on the reserve today, though the finch count was further boosted with a glimpse of a Bullfinch pair near the visitor centre.

Through the morning I heard at least six different Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, though they were all pretty camera-shy. Not a sniff of a LSW though. From what I've heard from other local birders, there have been next to no sightings for a year now.

I walked on to Willow hide, disturbing frisky pairs of Robins, Dunnocks and Blackbirds along the way. It was all a bit embarrassing. There was much birdsong to enjoy, and I did hear a Chiffchaff call (not sing) though there's no way to know if it was an overwinterer or a newly arrived migrant.

Things were pretty quiet at Willow hide, that is until a shedload of Canada Geese arrived. This photo is full-frame - it's a minor miracle that I got all three in shot and didn't chop off any bits. I suppose it would have been too much to ask for them all to be in focus.

My quest for interesting in-flight pics continues. This Moorhen was briefly airborne while escaping another, more ferocious Moorhen.

A pair of Gadwalls flew in, landed off to the left, then swam towards the hide. When they were right in front of me, they begun doing a head-bobbing display, and it was clear what was going to happen - at least they couldn't see me watching. Deciding there had been enough bobbing, the female laid her head down on the water. This was the male's cue, and he clambered aboard, the wrong way round at first. As is usual in wildfowl copulation, the female has to put up with being almost totally submerged, but he did let her put her head up for air periodically.

What else was here? A few Teals and Shovelers, a Cormorant. No sign of the Great Crested Grebes that have at least attempted to breed on this lake before. A Jay and a few Stock Doves went over.

I moved on towards Long Lake, stopping to photograph this Wren as it sang from a logpile. I've often gone on about how Wrens like logpiles, but it's nice to be able to back that up with photographic evidence.

At Long Lake I saw a Kingfisher streak across the back of the water then land in a tree, sadly too far away to be anything but a fuzzy blue speck in my photos.

 I waited at Long Lake for a while, hoping that one of the Stock Doves which were cooing from the trees beyond would give me a flypast, but they didn't. I photographed this bulrush instead. It would look so much better if it was being demolished by a Bearded Tit... not much chance of that round here, though I suppose you never know...

Walking back towards Willow hide I noticed baby Stinging Nettles pushing out of the leaf litter. Very green and springlike.

I decided to look in at Willow hide again and ended up staying for ages, being entertained by the Canada Geese. Many had paired up, and were affirming their tender bonds by screaming at each other.

The light by now was very pleasant, showing off a good selection of wildfowl including three Pochards.

A quartet of Teals flitted in and landed in the left-hand corner of the lake, before swimming across in front of the hide to the muddy patches on the far right. Why they didn't just land where they wanted to be, I don't know, but I'm not complaining.

I hadn't really bothered looking for the Bittern (I know, poor show) as I knew it would be too distant for a nice pic, but another person in the hide found it and kindly gave me a look through his scope. It did look splendid at 40x. Here is a record shot, for the record.

I went on to Tyler hide after this, and settled in the top corner. There were gulls aplenty to sort through, but I couldn't find any contenders for the third-winter Caspian reported recently.

A flurry of gull excitement - a young Black-headed had to struggle to keep hold of a mouthful of food with an adult Lesser Black-back and three adult Commons in hot pursuit.

These two Egyptian Geese treated a hide-ful of impressed humans to a very close fly-by.

Also impressing the punters were these Great Crested Grebes, doing their thing quite close to the hide. I watched them for ages hoping for a 'weed dance' but didn't get one - but there was plenty of amorous head-shaking.

Just trying something here:


Hawky said...

Really lovely blog, always quality pictures and stories!
I hope I can see a GCG display one day, I think we'll have to move closer to water though!

Mike Attwood said...

Looks as though you had a good day Marianne.

creadur said...

lovely lovely pics. It does feel like spring is round the corner :D I especially liked the goose yelling at its friend .

Warren Baker said...

Shed loads going on at the SWR today :-) Might have to pay another visit soon ;-)

Phil said...

More super shots Marianne. Nice to see a picture of a Mistle Thrush, not the easiest of subjects.
What an absolute gent that drake Gadwall was, letting her up for air like that. Makes me proud to be of the male gender!!