Medway Valley

Medway Valley

A bright sunny day saw Keith and I heading off for New Hythe and Leybourne Lakes, which are situated in the Medway valley in Kent. Formally gravel and sand extraction pits they now form a large area of lake and scrub habitat. It is a good place for waterbirds in the winter, but the object of our visit was the healthy colony of Common Nightingales that breed here plus any other summer visitors. Despite its name, the Common Nightingale is a species which is becoming more restricted in distribution as its range seems to be contracting and the UK is on the north-western edge of that range. It is now only found at a few sites in SE England.

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It did not take long before we had found one of our targets as a Sedge Warbler entertained us with its scratchy song from the reedbed on Brooklands lake. Continuing our way along the eastern shore we heard the call of a Mediterranean Gull although we failed to locate the bird. This may have been because our attention was focused on the first Nightingale of the day, singing stridently from within the cover. This is the best time to locate them as when they first arrive on site they are more active, vocal and visible and later in the breeding season they can be really difficult to find. If we were to think this was going to be our only encounter with this species we were very mistaken and stopped for lunch at a spot where two (either a prospective pair or two rival males) were busily chasing each other through the bushes around us – intent on each other and not on our presence. However despite excellent views, their quick movement made them impossible to photograph and we would have to wait till almost the end of the afternoon till we had one pose for us in a bush whilst it sang.

Nightingale

Nightingale

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Moving on from Brooklands, we came to a patch of open grassland and my thoughts were that this would be the sort of place where you would find a migrating Northern Wheatear, when Keith spied one atop a pile of earth – wish that worked more often! We were able to get some photos before it dropped down to the ground and out of sight.

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Northern Wheatear

Nightingales continued to serenade us as we proceeded around Leybourne Lake and back up the west side of Brooklands. A Willow Warbler was heard but not found together with Chiffchaff and a good number of blackcaps plus a few Common Whitethroat. A second Sedge Warbler was heard on the western side of Brooklands and a Buzzard seen distantly over the North Downs before it was time to head for home. An excellent day with plenty of summer migrants which with the lovely weather means that summer is truly on its way. I hope!

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Collared Dove

Collared Dove

Small Tortoiseshell

Small Tortoiseshell

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Common Nightingale [sp] (Luscinia megarhynchos)
Northern Wheatear [sp] (Oenanthe oenanthe)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus Lapidarus)

Comments
  1. bubblewishuk says:

    I have been to Leybourne Lakes as we have family living nearby. However, I didn’t know that there was so much wildlife there.

    • Pete says:

      I imagine it is best to avoid weekends and summer holidays as it probably gets very busy then. The best part of the site is over towards Snodland and New Hythe as there is less disturbance on that side.

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