Since I last had a look at the area downstream from Crowhurst several works connected with the Link Road have been completed. Yesterday I led a group from the village looking at the way the site was developing. The area’s extraordinary silence has, of course gone forever, to be replaced with the constant hum of traffic but the news is not entirely bad.
The Flood Attenuation Pond, just north of the road in the Powdermill Valley has retained a pretty constant water level whereas I had understood it would fill and drain according to rainfall, giving a frequently changing amount of mud. Instead, its permanent water has attracted a small population of wetland birds – small, but more constant than the inexplicably lacking wildfowl of the main valley. There were Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Coot & Moorhen as well as a Little Egret. The rough margins held Reed Buntings & Stonechats. The water’s edge has been colonized by Greater Reed-mace yet no Phragmites while the northwest corner is growing willow at a healthy rate which threatens to obscure sight of the water over the next couple of years. A new raised bridge crossing from the east bank of the stream presents an elevated viewpoint.
After such a prolonged rainless period, the zone between the road and the river looks very dry and is becoming scrubbed over with hawthorn & willow. Tracks both east and west have become overgrown and more difficult of access, in the latter case because extended closure of the path between Acton’s & Hillcroft Farms prevented walkers from using the riverside path. In this area there were Reed Buntings, Yellowhammers & more Stonechats. A harrier which flew along the opposite side, against the light, was probably Marsh but something made me think it could be Hen. Unfortunately it glided behind trees before I could get a good enough look.
Around Three Bridges, a Water Pipit flew up calling and further west, close to the now-completed-and-quite-useful Greenway, the call was coming from a group of 4 pipits but it was hard to say whether they were all Water or mixed with Meadow, of which there were quite a few. The shallow ponds near there were frequented by 4 Cormorants, c10 Teal, BH & Herring Gulls and a lot of Pied Wagtails.
In spite of the intrusive new road, there are still plenty of birds in the upper valley – I noted 55 species and extensive planting of woodlands, hedges, scrub & grassland should provide plenty more habitat. Whether formerly breeding Lapwings will tolerate the disturbance, in fact whether the wetlands are managed in a way that will suit them, remains to be seen.