Friday, 18 April 2014

Two patch ticks

Shane and I visited Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve this morning, and it turned out to be a bit of a corker of a visit, with two bird species I've not seen on the reserve before. One of them is to feature rather heavily in this post. Weather - mostly bright, and warm in sheltered spots, but chilly with a stiff breeze elsewhere.

This one ISN'T going to feature heavily in this post, because it was a long way off. But a Whimbrel, guys! I've had generally no luck finding passage migrant waders on the reserve so this was a real treat. Also from the Tyler hide were a couple of LRPs plus the usual summer water birds (ie not a lot).

On to Sutton and then Slingsby hides, with a few near-misses with good birds en route. A Buzzard slipped behind the trees out of sight. We flushed a resting Sparrowhawk, couldn't quite draw a bead on a singing Reed Warbler, and were laughed at by a hyperactive Blackcap. The year's first House Martins wheeled overhead.

We headed back and up towards Willow hide, stopping for a while to enjoy this Goldcrest, which was singing and actually sitting still for long enough to be photographed.

I walked round the side of the tiny reedbed before going into the hide, and here found patch tick 2 - a long-overdue Mandarin, a drake in full glorious breeding plumage. From the hide, we had great views of this little stunner, which seemed to have attached himself to a pair of Greylags. They seemed quite happy to have him around. Maybe this is the goose equivalent of a young couple adopting a labradoodle.

They might have been thinking about getting their pet neutered though, because the Mandarin seemed in frisky mood. They all swam very close to the hide and the two geese began their synchronous honking routine, which spurred the Mandarin into full-on display mode.

What a beautiful boy. Showing off his whiskers, crest and sails in courtship display.

And now he's having a bath.

And now he's... Oh. Well, that's just CHARMING.

Time to look around at what else is about. The answer - not much. Several Greylags and Canadas, a couple of Mallards and Tufties. The Mute Swan pair, one on eggs and the other on the prowl for potential danger. No sign of the Egyptian family, just a single bird flying over. On the upside, for the first time in three years or so we have a pair of Great Crested Grebes on this lake, which were doing some rather lacklustre headshaking in between fish-catching. And here's a distant Jay.

On to Long Lake, where we found the day's first (in fact only) Garden Warbler, an unusually obliging bird that sang from assorted open perches, and I really should have managed better photos than I did.

Another warbler, this one's a Willow. There were at least three singing around the reserve today.

On the way, we noted a dust-bathing Wren, and this food-carrying Robin. Also a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few butterflies.

Here are the few butterflies. Green-veined White, Orange-tip and Speckled Wood. No vanessids around today.

There wasn't much activity in the wildlife garden. Here's a little baby Hop leaf resting on top of a grown-up Hop leaf. We decided after this to go on to the Downs to see if any of the more exciting butterflies are on the wing yet.

No sooner had we arrived than a pair of tiny grey flutterers rose from the grass and spiralled around each other for a while. Then they separated and both settled - two pristine Grizzled Skippers. Lovely.

That actually turned out to be almost it for butterflies though. Just one male Brimstone was added to the tally. Things should improve over the next couple of weeks. We did find a couple of Slow-worms, and had a most interesting chat with a guy who was doing temperature monitoring of the refugia, and of any snakes he found underneath them, to work out when the snakes will use refugia and when they won't. I'll finish with a shot of one of the Slow-worms - a tiny individual, maybe 15cm long.


Warren Baker said...

Two patch visits in one visit, cant be bad! Whimbrel is a real goodie to find!

Greenie said...

Marianne ,
Your Greylag and Labradoodle seem to be in a long term relationship , as I posted them on the 28th. February .
Long Lake area is usually my 'banker' for a Garden Warbler , especially on the edge of the small meadow .
Nice fresh Grizzled Skipper .

Marianne said...

Oooh, I missed that post of yours, Greenie, I'll go back and have a look. The Garden Warbler was moving around the periphery of the small meadow, I've seen them there in previous years too. I might have another try for better photos of it this week, as it was really quite obliging.

Phil said...

How nice to get a couple of patch ticks in one visit Marianne. You must have been well pleased. Just as I would be with either of those species at NH.

Penny Taylor said...

I've seen a Mandarin once at the reserve, but never a whimbrel! Amazing!