Locally, there has been a few interesting birds to be tempted by like a Wood Warbler on Headley Heath yesterday morning, but it's Holmethorpe Sand Pits I'm drawn to at the moment whenever I get the chance to go out for a wander..
It's been great in recent weeks. I haven't seen all the birds that have come through lately but my patch list, both yearly and all-time, is growing day by day.
After the splendid male Ring Ouzel last week, which joined a female that went missing then reappeared a couple of days later, last Sunday turned out to be an awesome day for Holmethorpe. Unfortunately, I was heading east to Margate to visit my mum for the day (best I could come up with at Foreness Ooint was a female Red-breasted Merganser on the sea and plenty of Fulmar) so I completely missed out on one of the best days the patch has had in recent months, maybe even years.
I'm not sure why, but it didn't affect me as much is it would have done in years gone by – I'm just happy that after a quiet period Holmethorpe has suddenly re-emerged as a site worth watching. It has helped considerably we have more feet on the ground walking the area than we've had in a long while.
We had to bid bon voyage to Graham James, a Holmethorpe legend, who has moved to deepest Wales, where he has Dipper as a patch tick. Now that Graham has left, his old sparring partner, Gordon Hay, has kept the patch moving with his current sidekick Ian Kehl and together they keep me updated on sightings for the Holmethorpe blog each week.
We also have Ray Baker on board. Ray used to walk the patch some years ago and has now moved house and lives within the Water Colour complex and so can visit the patch regularly virtually every day. There are plenty of other very good birders who send me sightings too, with Matt Farmer, Neil Hadden, Richard Perry, who lives in Oxford but visits the area every week, as well as Jerry Blumire and the other patch legend Des Ball, who doesn't send in sightings but updates us when we meet up on occasion – he has a fantastic eye for spotting stuff.
Back to last weekend, the weather closed in overnight and, boy, did it reap dividends on Sunday morning. Gordon and Ian enjoyed eight species of wader, with Snipe, Dunlin, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, a probable Golden Plover over plus – rare for Holmethorpe – a Whimbrel fly over and, best of all, a Wood Sandpiper on the Water Colour Lagoon 2 island first thing.
They also had plenty of Warblers – Sedge, Reed, Garden and Lesser Whitethroat – plus Yellow Wagtail fly over and a Whinchat on the Moors. It was one of those days.
I was able to catch up with the Common Sandpiper later in the day, and the Whinchat, seen on the Moors from the Water Colour mound, and my first couple of Swift of the spring. The Wood Sand had long gone unfortunately.
Independently, Ray had a Wheatear earlier and Des had seen a Harrier, probably an Hen Harrier, heading north near the M23 at about 4pm. He was debating whether it was a Montague's...
This influx has set the tone this week, with Hobby on the list and on Monday morning a Tree Pipit, another rarity for Holmethorpe, seen and heard flying over by Gordon. Ray also saw a White Wagtail on the Water Colour Lagoon2 island and a pair of Common Tern on the pontoons on Mercer's Lake. I saw these fly off heading south later in the morning.
|The male Garganey on the first day. Photo courtesy of Gordon Hay
|The Garganey in typical pose – with its handsome head stuck in the water feeding...
|A slightly better view
Holmethorpe is on a roll, and anyone planning a visit at the moment will enjoy a wide variety of species.
|One of the rare occasions the Garganey didn't have its head submerged