Tuesday 29 December 2020

Green Urban Birding - The Higham Loop - 29th December 2020

I struggled to get going this morning and in fact I went back to bed and actually slept for another couple of hours such is the general apathy and lethargy that seems to have descended in recent weeks.

I hoped that it would be vaguely brighter when I remerged but the skies were still leaden and low but I somehow managed to drag myself out for a few hours circuit that took me up to Rede Common where the Hawthorns were covered in Redwings and I reckon that about 200 were scattered across the site where they were doing their best to find the remaining hawthorn berries.  Chacking made me look up and two flocks totally 73 Fieldfare slowly made their way west in economic flight.

Back at ground level a few Blackbirds moved off in front of me and the soft ‘pook’ calls of the Redwings could be heard all around. I had a look for Firecrests but could find none but they are probably still around.

Watching my feet produced the now expected Phytomyza chaerophylli fly mines on Cow Parsley and Phytomyza ranunculi on Buttercup as well at the two common Bramble moth mine species. I am sorry if I keep reporting on these in my blogs as I quite understand that it is not the most riveting subject matter but the repetition is the best way for me to learn what it is I am looking at.

Phytomyza ranunculi on Buttercup

The Gorse was in flower as I left the common and the local Moles had done a splendid job of rotivating the front lawn on the approach to the Strood Academy.



I followed some Goldcrests along the London Road towards Crutches Lane and checked the Elaeagnus but despite still having flowers, it was just too cold for any insects to be out.  Greenfinches wheezed from the gardens and I could see Black-headed Gulls scouring one of the winter wheat fields although I am not sure what they were after.

I might have accidentally noted some leaf mines on the way down the Lane where, as usual the amount of rubbish and fly tipping was outrageous. There seems to be some sort of perverse kudos to see if you can dump your household waste as close to the signs that say ‘no tipping – we’re watching you!’ as quite clearly ‘they’ are not.  There were as many mattresses in the layby as cars...

Phytomyza chaerophylli on Cow Parsley

Stigmella aurella on Bramble

Anyway enough griping; I turned off into the wood and then headed up slope rather than traverse along the bottom of Great Crabbles Wood. The trail was incredibly muddy and cut up and like most tracks round here, seems to have become a haunt of off road mountain bikes but I did not see a soul once I was away from the road and had the woods to myself.

Lichen encrusted windfall branch - help welcomed!

Guessing at post-glacial rounded flints and cherts under an upturned Birch

It was a bit squidgy


They were predictably quiet with just the odd Blue Tit, calling Great Spotted Woodpecker and high pitched Treecreeper. There was not even a breeze to stir the upper branches of the Chestnuts. Two vociferous Jays brought me from my silent contemplation but stayed out of sight but not ear as they moved through the wood. 

Stigmella aurella and Coptotriche marginea on Bramble

Coptotriche marginea on Bramble

Stigmella microtheriella or thereabouts on Hazel

Phytomyza ilicis fly mine on Holly

I looped around and up alongside the house with the two large ponds and popped out on Peartree Lane amongst the huge house and even bigger gardens.  The lack of leaves really showed up just how large some of these pads are. Needless to say it was the gardens that drew my eye.


Sneezey Tits in the background

Coal Tits, Treecreepers and Goldcrests could all be heard and Song Thrushes were in good voice but I was not expecting to pick up two Marsh Tits as they fed in the copse running through one garden. I never saw them but they were both sneezing well to each other as they moved further into the trees.  This is only the second time on a local walk that I have encountered the species this year with the family in June at Ranscombe being the only other sighting.

I followed the lane down the hill and turned onto the Gravesend Road, going past Gad’s Hill where I discovered that is there is a tunnel under the road leading directly to the Dicken’s residence. 


A few more Redwings fed in the hedges and a solitary Winter Moth was sat up on some roadside Alexanders but with the cold starting to seep in and the grey becoming a foreboding shade of argenteus Herring Gull, I made a direct line for home.

Winter Moth





  1. It’s becoming increasingly hard to motivate oneself these days Howard so I fully empathise with you. Particularly as people seem to have lost all sense of distancing when you cross on narrow paths. Could you have a quiet word with the Redwings that there are plenty of berries North of the River too please ?

  2. Hi Howard, great to see more leaf mine records. The one on Hazel isn’t clerkella as it’s not a Corylus feeder. It’s one of the Stigmella species.

    1. Thank you... should have known that by now. Alway appreciate the input

  3. Howard, this is just to say how much I have enjoyed your blog this year in particular. A trying year for everyone, your photos and narrative - you have an easy to read and evocative writing style - have been uniformly uplifting and I have learned loads too, in particular about our native plants and insects. Can't say I've got into leaf mines yet, but I find them fascinating and you have introduced me via this blog to a whole new world and new level of awareness.

    It takes time, effort, motivation and perseverance to keep a blog going. Thank you for doing so. Here's to everyone getting through the winter and to vaccine roll outs and greater freedoms as the rush of spring migrants arrive (I think the first Sand Martins, Little Ringed Plovers and Chiffchaffs may be a bit early for a return to liberty).

    Best wishes for 2021
    Matt Evans

  4. Thanks Matt - appreciated. been an anchor for me to be able to write so often and freely