Keith and I usually make one trip each year, in April, to Leybourne Country Park in New Hythe Kent. This is one of the best sites for hearing Nightingales, newly arrived from their wintering grounds in tropical Africa. It is also the best time to try and see this secretive bird as it sets up it’s territory on arrival.
We began at New Hythe station, entering the CP and walking around Roaden Island Lake and Ocean Lake to the cafe. We were surprised how little bird song there was, given it was a warm day, and only a Blackcap and a few Chiffchaffs, as far as summer visitors were concerned, could be heard. Cormorants, Gulls and a single Great Crested Grebe could be seen on the lake. Arriving at the cafe we had our first butterfly of the day, a Peacock.
After lunch, we walked back along the west side of Ocean Lake and as we reached the northern end, the skies darkened and we had a hail storm. Suddenly there was a flock of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins feeding low over the lake. They had obviously been feeding high up out of sight but were forced low by the change in the weather. This was my first sighting of these migrants this year. The hail soon passed and the Martins and Swallows moved on. Keith thought he might have seen a Hobby, which would not be surprising as they are one of the few species capable of hunting Swallows and Martins in flight, but it was only a glimpse and we couldn’t find it again, so were unable to confirm the sighting.
Moving on north alongside Railway Lake we had our first Orange-tip butterfly of the year. This is one of our earliest butterflies of the year, but this male was the only one we were to see.
Continuing north alongside Railway Lake, we heard a distant Nightingale singing, somewhere to the east. We moved onto another area at the north end of the CP, where we have heard Nightingale before, where we had two close singing males. Despite their proximity neither showed itself and so we traced our way back along Railway Lake, before turning towards the river and continuing our walk north between the river and Larkfield Lake, but added little to our days sightings.
We stopped at Brookland car park to get a drink at Peridise before making our way to Snodland Station and the train back home.
Although it was quiet, both in birds and butterflies, it had been a successful trip with 3 singing nightingales and both species of Martins plus Swallows.