Great Crested Grebe

These articles are written for the CR6 magazine and reproduced here with the permission of the author, Brian Hobley (01883 625404). If you would like to reproduce them in your magazine, it would be courteous to ask him. 

Have you been noticing the different butterflies coming into your gardens during the nice sunny weather? I have had quite a variety, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Gate Keeper, Ringlet and Meadow Brown. Birds have been very quiet though - a few swallows, swift,s a single hobby, nuthatch, great, blue and coal tits, with house sparrows being the most notable - which is very good as they are uncommon in parts of the village.
Our mystery field trip was a great success with waders starting to return from their Arctic breeding grounds. The first we saw were curlew, whimbrel and bar-tailed godwit. Further along the coast we saw ruff, black-tailed godwits, avocets with young, common, green and the rare marsh sandpiper. We also saw spoonbill - so-called because of the shape of its beak which it uses like a sieve or strainer to feed with.
Keep looking and feeding not forgetting to put water out in the hot weather!

Back in the 1950's an American conservationist called Rachel Carson wrote a book called The Silent Spring. This was a warning about the damage the use of insecticides, herbicides and pesticides cause to the natural world especially to insects and bird life. For 10 years it was ignored, remember hearing about DDT IN THE FOOD CHAIN in the 60's?!  It made people look up and start to take it seriously. Has Rachel's warning come to be reality?
A Father’s Day visit to Stodmarsh - a national Nature Reserve near Canterbury - 10 to 15 years ago there were so many swifts, swallows and both species of martins, that you thought they might hit you. Father’s Day today - JUST 1 Swallow!!! No swifts, no martins, no hobbies - where there should have been a dozen or more! Only  1 cuckoo calling and a sprinkling of warblers. At least we saw 6 or 7 turtle doves - probably are our next extinction as a breeding species. I hope Rachel Carson's warning does not become fact for we will all be poorer for it.
It would be interesting to know if there are any swallows or house martins nesting locally... Have you seen any?

We took our annual pilgrimage to the RSPB flagship reserve at Minsmere on the Suffolk coast.
Collectively we saw a magnificent 85 species. Birds of prey included buzzard, hobby, marsh harrier and kestrel. Herons bittern, little egret and spoonbill (a bird with a spoon-shaped bill with which it sieves out small invertebrates from the brackish water). Sandwich, common and little terns; avocet, oystercatcher, black and bartailed godwits. Bartailed godwits breed in Alaska migrate none stop to Australia about 7000 miles!

A half day trip to Bough Beech reservoir on a morning which was overcast, cold and not very promising weather wise. But it produced amazing views of garden warbler, blackcap, whitethroat plus fantastic views of a nightingale posing and singing its heart out.
The first swifts appeared locally on the 6th May. On the 9th up to 5 wheatears and a number of whitethroats dropped in on the heath - things are late but still coming in.

Spring is slowly springing… a few Swallows are passing through, sand martins and a few house martins have been seen.
Little ringed plovers are back at Sevenoaks reserve, a garganey (our only summer visiting duck) has been at Bough Beech, whilst ospreys have been seen at Weir Wood reservoir.
I was lucky enough to see and photograph my first wheatear of the year at Bough Beech. In the garden I had a wren displaying outside my conservatory about 18 inches away for two mornings - close enough to photograph even through the double glazing with robins, blackbirds and dunnocks all showing signs of nesting.
The results of the Big Garden Bird Watch are in - the top ten birds in Surrey were 1st woodpidgeon, 2nd blue tit, 3rd blackbird, 4th starling, 5th house sparrow, 6th robin, 7th goldfinch, 8th great tit, 9th magpie and 10th long tailed tit. 497,000 people took part counting over 8,000,000 birds - 10,000 of those people were in Surrey!

Summer's coming - I think.
A few hardy souls braved the rain and sleet for our field trip on 15thJanuary to Dungeness, more in hope than expectation. We had a cracking day with 50 species seen some common and some rarer! An American ring necked duck, 2 long eared owls, 5 great white egrets, tree sparrows - a bird that used to breed locally but no more. Plus a good supporting cast of ducks such as golden eye, pintail, wigeon, pochard and tufted duck, with great crested, little and Slavonian grebes. We finished off with a couple of wintering chiffchaffs and a Cetti's warbler. Locally I had a red kite over my garden in Warlingham on New Years Day!