When the skies cleared and the sun came out this afternoon it was Bushy Ruff that beckoned. A couple of day ago John O'Donnell, who supplied the albino Magpie pictures that featured on June 26th last year contacted me to say he'd had an encounter with a Willow Tit at Bushy Ruff. Willow Tits are now very rare in Kent and they have virtually vanished from the whole of S.E. England, and no-one seems to know why. Odd records have occurred in cold spells and I think these are probably migrants or at least wanderers. It's a long time since I saw one and I've never photographed one,so I set off with fingers crossed.
A noticeable sign that spring is on the way was the large number of Snow Drops in flower. I know that these aren't wild flowers but they are still an attractive addition to the scenery.
I came across a very active area at the far end of the lake. A large group of Long-tailed Tits, with Great, Blue and Coal Tits were feeding and noisily calling in the sunshine. They were joined by a couple of Treecreepers, that first drew attention to themselves by their calls.
As usual the Treecreepers were adept at popping into view and then disappearing round the back of the tree trunk. I liked this picture of one on a tree covered in lichen and moss.
The ponds on the opposite side of the road are always worth an investigation and today I was surprised to find a pair of Gadwall, the first I've seen here, The main pond at Bushy Ruff had at least four Tufted Ducks on it, but no other visitors that I could see.
As well as the Snow Drops, many of the birds were also reminding us that spring was on the way. Both Thrushes were singing, this Song Thrush from quite low down, while it's relative the Mistle Thrush sung its wistful song from much higher up. Other birds that were singing included Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens, Dunnocks, Goldcrest, all four species of Tits (Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed), Chaffinch, Gold and Greenfinches. In addition Dabchicks were braying (it's their song but you can't call it singing) and Mallards were head bobbing in display.
There are lots of Common Alders round the lake and I always associate these with feeding flocks of Redpolls, but I am yet to see one here, a great shame as I know there a good flock at Stodmarsh at the moment.
Next to Bushy Ruff is the more formal Russell Gardens and at the far end of that the river flows out of the deeper lake and through a wilder area before going under the road and into Kearsney Abbey Gardens. A I walked into this area I saw a flash of blue and scanning the trees it took me some time to pick it out sitting about 100 metres away. It's there can you find it?
Using the larger trees as cover I managed to get a bit closer and identify this beauty as a female, it has a mainly red lower mandible, the males bill is all black.
I didn't find the Willow Tit, it may have moved on or I could have just not bumped into it, unless it was calling close by I would have needed some luck to coincide with it, but I will be back again.
Cricket I must just mention that during the rain I watched Sachin Tendulkar get to the first double century in an International one day match. He's still "only" 36, 37 in April and has scored 47 ODI centuries and 46 Test centuries, and even at the end he was still capable of running a quick two. Absolutely fantastic, he must be the greatest batsman ever; Bradman may have been but he never had to perform under the pressure that the current cricketers have to.