Scotney - cold, dry, sunny, nw 2 - For a change of scene we spent the morning flogging around the Scotney/Pigwell area in glorious winter sunshine, and with some success. The road side fields were largely quiet apart from the usual feral Barnacle Goose flock with their attendant Snow/Emperor hybrids, plus several each of Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing and a Ruff scattered across the grass. We walked along the cycle track to the copse where Barney flushed a Woodcock and whilst scanning the back fields a trio of Bewick`s Swans flew towards the wind farm, our first of the season. Wildfowl on the main lake included 92 Shelducks, 50 Wigeons and 30 Shovelers, plus two Great White and five Little Egrets.
In the farm complex a Little Owl sunbathed from a barn gutter and two quarrelling Buzzards attracted the attentions of a group of Crows. A Green Sandpiper flew along the main sewer by the conveyor belt, while the first lake through the farmyard was packed out with wildfowl including 300 Grey Lags, 35 Egyptian Geese, 100 Wigeon, two Great White Egrets and a couple of hundred assorted Cormorants, diving ducks and grebes.
At Pigwell six Bewick`s Swans sat nervously in a rape-seed field, presumably having not long arrived from across the sea. Shortly after a farm vehicle inadvertently flushed them towards Cheyne Court. A couple of Snipe scattered from a damp field near the sewage works where several Stonechat, Mipits, Pied Wagtails and a Grey Wagtail were noted.
We then backtracked to the old dung heap and game cover strip at Scotney which last winter attracted a couple of Lapland Buntings. I couldn't find any of the latter but could easily have missed one amongst the kale and weed seeds which harboured at least 150 Reed Buntings, 50 Skylarks, 10 Corn Buntings, 10 Meadow Pipits, 10 Goldfinches, five Stonechats, three Wrens and another Woodcock, flushed by, guess who...
Plenty of raptors were noted during the four hours on site: Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Peregrine and a Merlin, along with a couple of interesting observations. Firstly, a female Kestrel caught a Stonechat after hovering in typical fashion and dropping like a stone onto the unfortunate chat. Secondly, on a turf field a female Peregrine had killed a Curlew and was tucking in until a male (presumably its mate) gate crashed the feast and got stuck in itself! The female then moved a few yards away and through the scope I could clearly see a bulging crop full of Curlew flesh. After ten minutes both falcons flew off and the Crows moved in for the clean up.
One final snippet from today's outing. In the corner of a field I noticed a Larson trap that was baited with a clutch of what appeared to be colourful eggs. On the walk back to the car the farmer stopped for a chat and I asked him about the bait.
"What sort of eggs are they," said I. "Cadbury`s chocolate mini-eggs of course," he replied!