Trip reports

Stodmarsh, Kent on 24 May 2014

Monday, 9 June 2014

Fortunately the prolonged heavy rain forecast for this visit to one of our top favourite destinations didn't show up, rather just two or three brief downpours, each arriving when we had hides conveniently nearby for shelter. Instead it was the lingering aftermath of the very wet and mild weather during winter and spring that had a big influence on our birding day, with high water levels in all lakes and ponds and a general luxuriance of vegetation combining to eradicate any bare or muddy areas that might have attracted wading birds, for example. Nevertheless, there was still plenty to see and hear, beginning in woodland near the carpark where we found singing Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff and also heard a juvenile Tawny Owl calling for food. Our only Hobby (one of the day's three declared target birds) was also spotted here - unusually, it was in flight among the trees. Emerging onto the Lampen Wall, we managed just a few brief views of Cetti's and Reed Warblers - even though their songs were to be a regular back drop for us right through the day - but Sedge Warbler numbers appeared to be very low. Common Terns were active around a nesting raft on the main lake and the first male and female Marsh Harriers of the day soon appeared, though numbers of this (and, indeed, all raptors) seemed well below average. An unexpected bonus (though for the leader only) was a Raven in flight over the far edge of the lake. As we approached the Great Stour river, a Bittern began "booming" nearby, before we added Lesser Whitethroat, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting and the day's other two target birds - Bearded Tit and Turtle Dove - to our lists. The water meadows beside the Stour disappointed - just a pair of Gadwall and one or two Lapwings were present - and the scrape beside the viewing mound even more so, with just an odd Mallard or two resting in the grass. The return route to the vehicles was slightly marred by our failure, until too late, to select the current dry route back from the Marsh Hide! However, during our consequent bog-trotting we were treated to very close views of another Marsh Harrier pair and then were a little surprised to see two Cuckoos circling quite high overhead. We also picked out Swallows and both Sand and House Martins amongst the wheeling hordes of Swifts and heard Skylarks singing. By the time we reached the car park, our nine participants had accrued a bird list of 61 species between them. During the occasional sunny intervals, we had been checking any dragonflies found on the wing and had identified Four-spotted and Broad-bodied Chasers, Blue-tailed and Azure Damselflies and Banded Demoiselle. All-in-all, our rewards had been well worth getting wet feet for!