Trip reports

New Hythe Lakes (Leader Warren Mann)

New Hythe Lakes (Leader Warren Mann)
Tufted Duck (Richard Hanman)

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

As the seven of us made our way around Brooklands lake on a still, bright and unseasonably warm December day, one of our more experienced members reminisced about birds' past; that corner was where two weeks ago, he had seen the goosanders, that piece of reed bed was where two years ago he had seen the bittern preening and the scrub over there was where 22 years ago the long-eared owl roost had been. Alas, these birds remained but a memory and we had to be content with rather more mundane fare.

In the car park, we had started the morning with long-tailed and blue tits, a pied wagtail and just the sound of a song thrush. Our first view of the lake was handicapped by the brightness of the sun which was still very low in the sky, but we were able to pick out black-headed gulls, both great-crested and little grebes, coots, the first of innumerable tufted ducks, a pair of mute swans and some gadwalls. As we made our way along we added collared dove, dunnock, chaffinch and goldfinch to our list. We then spent some time trying to identify a very fidgety bird, but although we agreed it was a warbler we were unable to confirm the identification.

Progressing up the further side of the lake the sun was no longer a problem and we got clear views of what we had seen previously, plus moorhen, wren and common gull, and we heard a Cetti's warbler. At our first view of Snodland lake we saw pochard and mallard, and three reed buntings flew over the reed bed on the other side of the track. As we made our way along the track we saw several cormorants - some perched some flying, first we heard, then we saw a few fieldfares and after some discussion we agreed a flighty little bird was a goldcrest.

At the top of the lake we decided to back-track slightly by walking alongside the Medway a little way. There was a fast-flowing incoming tide, but on some, as yet uncovered, mud we spotted some distant teals, two of which then flew downstream past our viewpoint, but no herons. Back on the main circuit we decided to follow the woodland trail close to the lake. Our limited views did not yield any new sightings other than herring gull, but then we met a gentleman with a gun who said he was off to scare some cormorants which were the bane of the local fishermen. Actually, he did not need his gun as his dogs were causing such a commotion as they ran along the paths that they had frightened-off all wildlife from the northern end of the lake.

We went over the un-manned level crossing into the country park and as we did so we saw a jay. We checked the scrub and two of the lakes (one apparently known formerly as the Sewage Works pit) and we had a little egret, redwing, and for one of us a brief sighting of a sparrowhawk and we heard a green woodpecker. We walked down a narrow strip of land between two other lakes, but saw nothing new other than three Canada geese, but as we retraced our steps we were rewarded by excellent views of a small flock of redwings and a brief fly-by by a great-spotted woodpecker.

We returned to the car park via the long path between a small stream and some scrubby reed bed known as Sunken Marsh, but we saw no birds other than black-headed and herring gulls roosting on top of a warehouse on the other side of the stream, but overall, we had seen or heard a respectable 43 species and enjoyed a very pleasant birding walk on a lovely and mild winters day. My top birds were the many male tufties, very common but they looked really smart in the sunshine - black with crisp white flanks.

Warren Mann