The woodland-fringed wetland north of the causeway is drained down by the end of the long dry summer and migrating waders feed in the shallows. Green sandpipers are expected, a wayward black-tailed godwit less so. The best is a grey phalarope, which is in winter plumage with elegant steel-grey feathers that appear at a distance to be daubed on its back. It is a rare visitor from the arctic but a much more common sight than the solitary Beluga whale that currently inhabits the muddy waters of the Thames Estuary off Gravesend.
Four snipe hug the water’s edge, a kingfisher flies from the lip of concrete outfall where a little egret takes up position. Teal and gadwall lounge in the shadows in their dull brown, eclipse plumage Autumn is an easy time when the weather is kind.
The hordes of greylag and Canada geese own the banks of the main reservoir and honk and squabble along with a few cormorants and other waterfowl. A great white egret is also present on the water’s edge, as large as a heron and increasingly common in wetlands across the UK; 30 years ago it was rarer than the phalarope. A pink-footed goose with dark head and undersides sits amongst the greylags; it is a long way from North Norfolk.
At dusk from the hide adjacent to the Roy Coles Flood, a green sandpiper feeds at the far end. Then stock doves come down to drink as do jackdaws and crows; the stock doves are skittish and fly quickly circle and return and try again. A fox stakes the pool out and makes a run at the birds but with no luck; all the moorhens runs and huddle in the shallow water. A little egret comes down from the dead oak, sees off another with an angry shouted chase, and then lands to work the water with paddled foot and to feed.
Back on the main reservoir, three goosanders fly in and two black-tailed godwits fly out. The greylags start to leave to the reservoir in small skeins heading south west towards Edenbridge. The sun drops and the reservoir colours slowly fade.