Wednesday 11 March 2009

Close to home

Last night, my son went on a night hike with the cubs. A few responsible adults were asked to volunteer to ensure adequate supervision for 20 unruly 8 to 11 year-olds. Since no responsible adults came forward, I offered my services.
Baloo had mapped out a route which took us off through meadows and streams that I had no idea existed.

This morning, I decided to explore the same route in daylight with my camera. It occurred to me that although the birds close to home are very familiar to me, this blog may be read by international subscribers. To a birder from Kansas, say, a European Robin would be really exotic.
The route took me across the road from the Scout Hut and onto a discreetly hidden public footpath. This passed between some houses and opened out onto
a rough meadow.
Before me was a shallow valley. My route would take me across the valley, then East along the far side and back across to complete 3 sides of a square. My first bird since starting the blog was a Eurasian Blackbird which flew quickly across the path. Too quickly for me to catch his picture.Alongside the path were hawthorn and brambles. I recognised the contact calls of the Long-tailed Tit and soon found 3 of them working their way downhill. The yaffle of the Green Woodpecker sounded, but I could not see him.
At the bottom of the meadow was a footbridge over a small stream. This gave onto a grazed field, bordered on two sides by water, one side by the stream I had just crossed, the other by the tiny River Len. The banks were well wooded with water-loving Alders which in turn were filled with singing birds. Most obvious among them were the European Robins who sat well for the camera. Also present were the usual suspects such as Woodpigeons, Carrion Crows, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch and Wren.
More calls from the Green Woodpecker were complimented by drumming from the Greater Spotted Woodpecker, but again they did not make themselves visible.

Then a movement beneath some overhanging branches on the bank of the Len caught my eye. It was a flash of white tail such as one might expect from a Common Moorhen, but it was quickly obvious that this was not a moorhen, but a Water Rail. I so seldom see Water Rails that this was a real treat and to be close enough to get a picture made it my best ever sighting. OK so the picture is not great, but …

The path crossed the Len and came out onto a small lane which I followed until another footpath cut back towards the River Len further upstream. In the gardens by the road I saw Dunnock and Mistle Thrush
The robins continued to show well and I got shots of 6 different individuals. A Eurasian Treecreeper rocked up the trunk of an Oak and another group of Long-tailed Tits sat for me as I approached the river. Just before the footbridge was a small water meadow which (I’m assuming here) floods when the Len is in spate. It is surrounded with brambles and Hawthorn and will make an interesting place to visit come April and May when the Warblers come.Beyond the bridge was a golf course, and more drumming from the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. Sadly the rules governing public footpaths did not allow me to stray off the track to look for it.
My one regret today is that I did not see any woodpeckers to share with you. Because everyone loves woodpeckers don’t they?
The final side of the square to bring me back to the Scout Hut passed through the wonderful Bearsted Woodland Trust. This is an area of green land bought by benefactors and contributors for the use of the local community. There is a bridge built by the local regiment of the Ghurkas across yet another stream. Here I found more Mistle Thrush, Redwing and a Grey Wagtail.

Full Species sightings 20 species
Water Rail Rallus aquaticus 1, Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 12, Common (Mew) Gull, Larus canus 5, Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2, Common Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus c60, Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decoato 2, Grey Wagtail Motacilla cineria 1, Wren (conspecific with Winter Wren) Troglodytes troglodytes 4, Dunnock Prunella modularis 2, European Robin Erithacus rubecula 14, Redwing Turdus iliacus 4, Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 6, Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula 8, Great Tit Parus major 12, Blue Tit Parus caeruleus 9, Log-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus 6, Eurasian Treecreeper Certhia familiaris 1,Common Magpie Pica pica c30, Carrion Crow Corvus corone 6, Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 4

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