Of course, as soon as I could I made my move for the Oriental Turtle Dove in Kent. It was only right, given its a species I have long wanted to see, seemed predictable in its pattern and was particularly expensive to get to (Less than £50 for a journey into Kent is not bad). Its my first ever visit into the south-east so that alone was something I was excited about. I was very excited for the whole thing in fact.
I set off from my house at 01.00 to get a taxi to Meadowhall to get my coach into London. Once in London I made the short walk from the coach station to Victoria train station where I got a half an hour train to Otford where the dove was residing. I was on site by half 6 in the morning, the earliest I could have realistically been. I swear I only got about two hours kip on the coach, and I did have fears for how my body would hold up, but fortunately I was fine until the train back to London in the evening.
In the three hour morning wait the Dove showed for a grand total of 5 seconds at 7.30. Super looking bird and well worth the trip down, but sadly a little brief. It spent all its time in the garden feeding out of sight. I was obviously a little disappointed at its showing but I knew I was coming back later in the day and fancied my chances then. Plus I'd seen it, and there are plenty of birders who have not. Also on site were a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets, and commoner garden species.
-Oriental Turtle Dove
It was also great to meet a few of the Norfolk NGB's there, who arrived just in time to see the bird. In total we managed to clock up just over 30 species for the site during the time there.
When it became apparent that the bird was not going to show again I made my move. I had decided to get the train down to Tonbridge and walk along the river, as a couple of European Turtle Doves had been seen there over the last couple of days, and as my biggest tarts tick I felt this needed attention. From Tonbridge, once I connected (or not) with any doves I had planned to go to a country park near Maidenhead for Nightingale but when I suddenly learnt that would take an absurd amount of time I decided instead to walk from Tonbridge to Paddock Wood train station along the river Medway, before getting the train back to Otford for the evening.
Once I gathered my bearings in Tonbridge I was soon out into the countryside along the river. I quickly picked up my first Swift of the year, followed by both Sedge and Reed Warbler. Oddly I also had my first Robin and Great Tit fledglings of the year, showing just how much faster things really do move down south.
The river walk was lovely. I was surrounded by singing Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Cuckoo, although I failed to see the later species. I was also serenaded by Turtle Dove. I was strolling along and suddenly I picked up on the purring sound coming from the trees across the river. However it stopped too quickly and I lost any location I had on it. It took it 20 mins or so to start again but by then I had already picked it up in the top tree, badly backed against the light and rather distant. Through the scope the views were fantastic but I sadly failed to get that with the camera.
Its so sad to think this is my first ever Turtle Dove, but I guess thats a sign of the times. Its such a smart bird it really is so sad whats happened to them. But I finally connected with one and got to spend a good hour watching it chill in the top of the tree. Given the poor conditions I only included a couple of my record shots, no point using up data.
Double Turtle Dove lifer day...
-European Turtle Dove
The weather was on point today, with glorious sunshine and barely any wind. It was lovely. There were plenty of butterflies on the wing, including Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Orange Tip and Peacock.
Continuing along the walk I had a bird whizz over my head. It only took a short view to realise it was in fact a Hobby, my first of the year and very exciting too. It circled a couple of times over the field allowing me to get a few nice record shots of what was probably my best unexpected species of the day looking back. A really nice surprise.
I had looked on the Kent Bird Club sightings page before I left and found a few bits and pieces on an old gravel pits near paddock wood at the end of my walk, so I decided to call in there. A few Nightingales were reported there and since I had now ruled out going to Maidenhead it seemed like my best chance of seeing one. The site was really smart, although there were fewer waterbirds than I imagined for the quality of the site. However, the bushes were full song and it did not take long for me to pick out a Nightingale. I headed over to where it had called from and somehow managed to miss it, only spotting its bright red rump flying away from me. However, with some persistence I did manage to get a shot of it sat out in the almost open. Lifer number three. Whilst I waited I also got another yeartick when two Common Tern flew overhead.
Although the bird itself proved elusive during my hour trying to get a photo of it, it kept singing the whole time and that song was beautiful, really pleasant to listen to.
I had not quite realised but the walk between the stations was well over 10km, and with carring the tripod on my shoulder, wearing two jackets as it was cold when I set off and all my gear in my backpack, I was more than a little exhausted when I stumbled into the station. Still, I got half an hours sit down as I made my way back to Otford. On the way I recieved a notification informing me of the bird showing again.
And when I arrived on site it was doing just that, siting out fairly well in an area we could get much closer to it than before. The only downside was the light was against us but that was only an issue for photographers. For me, a good record shot is all I ask and I definately got that. Through the scope I got fantastic views of the bird preening as well as moving round. All in all I got everything I wanted. What a superb bird.
-Oriental Turtle Dove
The Parakeets also kept appearing, with one bird sitting out in the open so much it would have been rude not to take a photo...
My coach back left London at half 8, so I left the Dove at 19.00 to make sure I was there in good time. By that time the bird had dropped back into the garden and with the light continuing to fade there really was not worth staying for.
I arrived back home in Sheffield at 00.30, by the completely exhausted but so thrilled about an incredible days birding, possibly one of the best I have ever had. Three lifers, year-ticks galore and a host of other awesome birds, more than I could have dreamed of at the start of the day.
Species List:Otford: Robin, Kestrel, Blackbird, Starling, Oriental Turtle Dove, Feral Pigeon, Ring-necked Parakeet, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon. Goldfinch, Dunnock, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Jay, Collard Dove, Grey Heron, Wren, Sparrowhawk, Pied Wagtail, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Buzzard, Stock Dove, House Sparrow, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard,
Tonbridge: Swift, Grey Wagtail, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Sedge Warbler, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Collard Dove, Mallard, Magpie, Long-tailed Tit, Robin, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Yellowhammer, Linnet, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Wren, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Herring Gull, Common Buzzard, Starling, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Hobby, Skylark, Nightingale, Common Tern, Moorhen, Coot, Great-crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Wheatear,