Wednesday, 7 August 2013

A local patch for local people

Unfortunately, some of the locals don't seem to like Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve as much as I do - on arrival yesterday morning I saw a police notice asking for information on an overnight spree of vandalism in the hides back in July. How nice. Either it wasn't too bad or it was quickly fixed because I didn't see any evidence of it on my tour of the reserve. I arrived at about 5.30am under clear skies, it was a little chilly but that didn't last long.

A tranquil scene. I wasn't really expecting amazing things today, and I didn't get them... but it has been a while since I visited and it was good to be out enjoying the general greenness and lushness of it all.

I went to Carter hide first, remembering that August is 'Kingfisher month' round here. All quiet. Moved on, past the near shore of North Lake which was where all the wildfowl were. There were a pair of Mute Swans with two half-grown cygnets - the family from Snipe Bog Lake I think, plenty of Mallards and various Moorhen and Coot families.

On to Willow hide. The water levels were low, with a little exposed mud, apparently not enough to tempt a Green Sandpiper though. A Kingfisher flashed past pretty much the moment I sat down, followed by two more chasing each other in the opposite direction. I was entertained for a while by the antics of half a dozen Moorhen juveniles, two of which climbed up to the top of the taller Kingfisher stick but they weren't fooling me. The lake also held Gadwalls, Tufties and a Grey Heron. I had a strong Water Rail vibe but Water Rails came there none. It was still quite gloomy so no (worthwhile) photos.

I carried on as far as the big field. Things were really quiet. Hardly any birdsong. Gulls are beginning to assemble on West Lake - I scanned for a while in the hope of a Black Tern but again my hopes were dashed. Then I noticed Swifts overhead and the next half an hour was lost as I tried to photograph them.

A few Swift pics. I tried out a range of different settings on these, and came to the conclusion that... Swifts are quite difficult to photograph, no matter what you do. Nearly all of them were sporting bulging throats, containing a lovely big ball of squashed flies for their offspring, which must be almost ready to fledge now.

I returned to Willow hide on the way back, to take a few photos in the improved light.

The young Moorhens were still chasing each other about. There seemed to be a dominance hierarchy among them. But it was an angry adult Moorhen that really sent them flying.

There were also plenty of juvenile Coots on the water. Looks like it has been a very good breeding season for both species - and I spotted a brood of tiny new Moorhen chicks as well.

There were Kingfishers calling in the background the whole time I was in the hide but it wasn't until I was on the verge of leaving that this juvenile came and landed briefly on one of the sticks in front of the hide. Worth the wait :)

On to Tyler hide. I found a Grey Wagtail on the way. Then when I was almost at the hide I nearly fell over a Southern Hawker which was patrolling the path somewhere between ankle and knee height. I watched it for ages, then it suddenly veered skywards and settled quite a long way up a tree.

I was checking out the scene from Tyler hide when I heard a tap-tap-tap from the unopenable window in the landward corner, and there was a Marsh Tit on the sill, hammering at the glass. Sadly the sunlight hadn't reached that corner yet so my photos are gloomy as well as glass-distorted. I went back to the hide doorway in hope of a better look, and tried making some squeaky Marsh Tit-like noises. The Marsh Tit didn't respond, but a juvenile Wren appeared, followed by an adult male then a juvenile/female Blackcap.

Back in the hide, I scanned through the geese and Lapwings and Pied Wagtails and a small mixed bunch of gulls, and took a few shots of this Tree Bumblebee as it visited a Creeping Thistle in front of the hide.

It was getting alarmingly late by this point - 10am, where had the time gone? and I had work to do at home, so I decided not to continue to Tower hide et al. I did, however, spend a few minutes on the open area near the fishermens' car park, photographing butterflies at the buddleia.

From the top, Red Admiral, Large White and Painted Lady. Very nice to see the last of these in particular. My patch is not great for butterflies but everywhere seems to be having a proper old-fashioned butterfly summer at the moment. Also saw Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and Small White.


Graham Canny said...

Glad you had a lovely day out! I'll get down there eventually!
I've yet to see a Painted Lady but we are getting others in some numbers now too.
I can just hear your Marsh Tit imitation :)
The Bittern Hide at Fishers Green has only just re-opened - we are getting vandalism up here too. Why?

Warren Baker said...

I've got to get over there Marianne, I haven't got a Kingfisher photo of any quality yet :-)

Nice read again :-)

Phil said...

Well done with the Kingfisher shot Marianne. Worth the wait indeed. Nice Swift pics too. Yet to see a Painted Lady this year.
Saw you walking along just past the reserve entrance yesterday morning. Carol and I were on our way to Coolings nursery at Knockholt, you must have been heading home I guess.
Look forward to hearing the Marsh Tit impression soon:-)

Alan Pavey said...

Love that first pic, a great scene. A Kingfisher pic must be really rewarding, like Warren haven't managed a decent one yet, excellent stuff:-)

Lou Mary said...

It has been so brilliant that this summer has been excellent for our fluttery friends!

Your in-flight swift photos are fantastic! Far better than any of my attempts! I will be very sad when they disappear for another 9/10 months :(