Saturday, 23 May 2015

Saturday 23rd. May 2015

A cool , windy visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , in the hope of Garden Warbler , proved a failure , with not a single note being heard , never mind a bird being seen . The usual mixed Gull and Goose flocks were also absent from in front of Tyler Hide , but at least one Little Ringed Plover , seemingly
arguing with a Lapwing over territory on the furthermost island , did give a photo opportunity , albeit distant . Nothing out of the ordinary found until reaching Kingfisher Hide , where Wren was building a nest behind an open flap . Just hope nobody closes it . Several Reed Warbler singing around
Slingsby Hide , and a male Reed Bunting arrived with food and dropped into the reedbed in front . The Egyptian Goose family seems to be reduced by one gosling to 10 , but the remainder are growing
very quickly . Walking down to Long Lake , more exposed to the cool wind , just the odd immature damselfly was seen , everything else was sheltering . But when I got to the clay spit and looking over towards Tower Hide , House and Sand Martin , Swallow and Swift , were all making the most of the
conditions , hawking insects from just above the lake surface on the way up towards the Visitor
Centre , before returning to the far end to start over again . At least it gave an opportunity for some
in-flight practice , though once again the subjects were distant , in the middle of the East Lake , the
Swift proving most difficult to lock onto and sending the AF into a nervous breakdown . A stop on the Common on the way back home , found one of the Long-tailed Tit nests , that I have been
watching being built , lying out in the open and ripped apart , most probably by Corvids . The amount of work and the number of feathers which lined it was just incredible .
The Butterfly Transect at High Elms LNR seems to be going from worse to worse , with just 19 butterflies of 9 species being recorded on the two and a half hour transect . The only high spot was
my first Large Skipper of the year . Doing much better are the orchids , with a late specimen Early
Purple Orchid , the only one I know of on site , 5 Bird's Nest Orchids , which have shot up all of a

sudden , and the first White Helleborine to come into flower , a really robust specimen this one . Other than those , Man Orchid has increased to 17 , and Fly Orchid to 23 . Other interest found were
4 iridescent green beetle on a Hawkweed flower . There are several similar species , but I think these could be Green Dock Beetle / Gastrophysa viridola , but as ever , open to correction , and an Oak
Apple , about the size of a large conker , and formed by the larvae of a gall wasp of the family Cynipidae , not to be confused with the Oak Marble Gall which is also found on the same tree species .
A couple of visits to Hutchinsons Bank , when the sun was shining , most important to have any chance to see the Glanville Fritillaries on the wing proved successful , finding visitors from as far
away as Bristol enjoying the sightings . Numbers are really good , with Martin recording 33 GFs on
his transect this week . Just hope this cloudy , cool weather passes soon , and have something better , in the hope of successful breeding for the species . Also on site , the Small Blue has emerged , but in very small numbers . I have only seen 3 individuals , a mating pair and a singleton , some good

weather would help them too . Another Painted Lady was found yesterday , but it looked absolutely
exhausted , managing only to make short flights before landing again . I think it will be fingers
crossed for this butterfly too .
And , finally , the reader might remember the Emperor moth caterpillars that I was entrusted with last year , that hatched earlier this year , including a deformed female which I 'hung up' hoping for a male to find her , which did happen , and she laid around 30 eggs on Gorse , which on advice , I brought
home . Well , those eggs are now hatching and the caterpillars will be returned to the wild when they have grown on a bit . The story has now gone full circle .

Monday, 18 May 2015

Monday 18th. May 2015

The latest High Elms LNR butterfly transect showed very little change from the last , with just 26
butterflies of 10 species , plus 9 Orange Tip eggs being recorded . The only new species was
Common Blue , with just a single male found . 6 Green Hairstreak were recorded , with four of those
being egg laying females , on their favoured Bird's-foot-trefoil . One of them showed a small part of
the brown upper-wing colour , explaining why they are so hard to spot in flight . A few Burnet
Companion , day flying moths , and a couple of migrant Silver Ys were also found . On the way
round , another Fly Orchid was found , now in full flower , and 7 Man Orchids , which were just
starting to flower , from the bottom up as usual . Also found was the first White Helleborine of the
year , though still to flower .
A visit to Spring Park Pond proved very quiet indeed , with just two immature Azure Damselflies ,
and about a dozen Large Red Damselflies , two of which were attempting to clasp and mate with the
other , only no one told them that they were both males , as can be seen by their markings .
Friday turned out a bit better than forecasted , so decided to have a look at New Hythe , especially as a couple of Turtle Doves and Cuckoos had been reported recently . Everything was very wet from the previous day's rain , but hearing a Cuckoo calling I made my way to the Sunken Marsh , catching just a glimpse before it dropped out of sight . Even if it hadn't , I would have been shooting into the sun , so decided to get round to the river side , arriving just to see the back end of the bird fly across it and calling from the other side . I stayed in cover hoping that it would return , but it didn't . I was just about to give up , when the rarest sighting of the day appeared from the vegetation behind me , Phil / Sharp by Nature , the local blogger . Phil was thinking the same as myself , and with the bird seemingly staying over the river , we had a chance to catch up on things , before moving on over the mound , around Abbeymead and across the railway to the East Scrub . Lots of immature damselflies
on the way , the best being this immature drab form female Common Blue Damselfly . Another senior moment , should read immature Red-eyed Damselfly - thanks for the correction Marc . Also found in
the vegetation was a 14 Spot Ladybird / Propylea 14-punctata , and a small colourful moth that I have
been trying to identify since , without any joy . If anyone could help with the ID , it would greatly appreciated . In the East scrub , we had a fleeting glimpse of a female Hairy Dragonfly , but apart from that and several singing Nightingales and Common Whitethroats , our walk back along the millstream was un-interrupted . Phil left , but I decided to give the Sunken Marsh another go , first having my lunch . Arriving , I heard the Cuckoo in exactly the same place as earlier on , and like earlier it moved almost straight away , calling soon after from the Poplars along the railway line . I started back to the car park , stopping at the last fishing platform before the tunnel , alongside the paper factory . I thought I might get an in-flight shot of the bird , but that didn't happen either . But , whilst I waited , a rustle in the reeds and a reed stem toppling over , alerted me to a Water Vole , just 2 mtrs. from where I was standing . With the large lens attached to the camera , I couldn't get far enough away to get it in focus , so had to swap to the 100mm. macro lens . The Vole took my
presence and the lens change in it's stride , and gave a most enjoyable 10 minutes as it demolished a small area of reedbed at an astonishing rate . The amount eaten to the size of the animal
was incredible , but it all came to an end as a couple of dog walkers approached , although completely at ease with the sound of the camera shutter , the first sound of their voices and the Vole disappeared deep into the reedbed , not to be seen again . I had intended to head home , but something made me turn off at the Ham Street water treatment plant and park up again . A short walk towards the diver's bridge found a male Hairy Dragonfly patrolling the ditch , and although I waited for almost half an hour , he didn't come to rest once . Also in the ditch , a Moorhen's nest with at least two eggs . I then had another look along the ditch to the East Scrub , finding as before very little , but as I approached the Scrub , ringing out from alongside the railway was the call of the Cuckoo again .
I made my way to the far end of the ditch , and against a dull sky managed to get a few shots of the bird before flying towards the railway crossing , where it again perched high in the trees . I caught up
with him just as he was making his next move and managed o few in flight shots before it flew acoss the railway line and was next heard over the other side of Abbeymead . Must admit , I was glad he had flown some distance as my energy levels were running on low by now .
On Saturday I made a visit to Hutchinsons Bank and had an enjoyable couple of hours wandering about the site and whilst doing so recorded 16 species of butterfly , albeit 9 of those producing a singleton sighting . Brimstone still the most numerous species , but 5 Common Blue and my first
Brown Argus of the year , a male , added to the mix . Down on the bottom track , a female Holly
Blue was also a year first . No sign of Small Blue or Painted Lady that Martin had recorded in the previous couple of days , but a Long-horned Beetle which I think is Stenocorus meridianus , but
as always stand to be corrected  , also added to the interest on the visit .
With a Fun Walk going on over the Common and surrounding areas , I hadn't intended to go out yesterday , but an afternoon call from Martin had me hot-footing it back to Hutchinson's Bank , where he had found at least 2 Glanville Fritillaries on the wing . Thankfully they were still around
when I arrived and the sun was still out too . A great way to finish off the weekend photographing
this superb butterfly . Hopefully , more will emerge during the next few days , and hope these two survive today's heavy rain and strong winds . I have since read that the species emerged on the Isle of Wight over this weekend too .

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Saturday 9th.May 2015

With a mixed week of weather forecasted , I set off on Monday to do the High Elms butterfly transect , hoping for a good improvement on last week's . Well , just 22 butterflies , albeit from
species is all that was recorded , the only new species was Green Hairstreak , of which 3 were found .
Dingy Skipper (4) , Grizzled Skipper (1) , Brimstone (4) , Peacock (2) , Small Tortoiseshell (1 - a
very fresh specimen , looking like the offspring of an over-wintering pair , which will now find a mate and produce it's own offspring , and the survivors will in turn over-winter and become next
Spring's sightings )  and 5 Orange Tip along with 6 of their orange eggs . All were found on Jack-by-the Hedge or Garlic Mustard / Alliaria petiolata , a member of the Cabbage family . Normally , a
single egg is laid on each flower head , but here , three eggs have been laid on one flower head , a problem when they hatch as the larvae tend to be cannibalistic . I can only think that it was because of the lack of foodplant available , I just hope that the over zealous stimming by contractors doesn't
happen again this year . Whilst on transect , the first Burnet Companion , a day flying moth was also found . Had the count been of flies , the figure would have been enormous , as St. Mark's Flies , the
ones that fly with dangling legs , were everywhere , a bit late this year with St. Mark's being the 25th. April . One sad find was the remains of a Gt. Spotted Woodpecker on Burnt Gorse .Along the bottom lane on the way home , Greater Celandine / Chelidonium majus , a member of the Poppy family , was
found flowering in it's usual small area .
After dropping Carol off shopping on Tuesday morning , I went for a look around Kelsey Park in Beckenham , under threatening skies . Not much new was found apart from a family group of
 
Greylag Goose youngsters , being shown off by their parents , and with the odd spit of rain in the air , I spotted a Mute Swan family heading down to the first bridge , and with a bit of a spurt , arrived just
before them and finding a bonus of one of the very young cygnets being carried on the mother's back . The family of 9 stayed for a few minutes before heading back towards the island , giving me
just the time to get back to the car , before the heavens opened . On the way , I spotted this unusual Mandarin in the Beck . When they moult , all Mandarins look like females and the males regain their
colourful plumage for the breeding season , which was last month and this . Why this specimen is so far behind the others , I just don't know .
Thursday looked as if would be the best day of the week , so I headed off to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest . I drove down in reasonable weather , but as I started to climb up onto Ashdown Forest , the cloud filled the sky and it was quite chilly . The top path from the car park was catching that cool wind and consequently little sigh song was heard , apart from a distant Cuckoo which seemed to come and go throughout my visit , but never seen . Somewhere in a tall Pine , a Tree Pipit was singing , but again I didn't see it . At the top of the slope down to the small stream at the far end of the site , a Common Whitethroat called , appeared and disappeared just as quickly . Half way down I was finally able to get the camera out with a very confiding pair of Stonechat , the only ones seen
on the visit . The male was very mobile and constantly 'chatting' , but the female was very laid back ,
making a very pleasurable interlude . A couple of Woodlark were heard but again not seen , and it wasn't till I got to the top end of the reserve that I found my first male Common Redstart , high in a
tree in awful light , his song somewhat subdued by the conditions . A second was seen on the fenceline where the logs are stacked , but that flew before I could get close . But , at least the sun
came out briefly , and that encouraged a male Tree Pipit to sing from the overhead wires , and I think his song was appreciated by what I believe was a female , that listened from a fence post , before
following the male into a Pine , I leave the rest to the reader's imagination . I met two other birders in that area , who had been on site since 0630 , who were still waiting for their first Redstart , but they had seen a Merlin and a Hobby soon after their arrival . A distant view of a Raven and a disappointingly small number of singing Willow Warblers made up the sightings . Only other interest
found was Petty Whin / Genista angelica , a member of the Pea family , a spiny species of heaths and moors , was a first for me . By midday , everything went even quieter , so , like on my last visit , I left the site and headed for Broadwater Warren for a look on my way home . By now there was more sun and with more shelter it was pleasantly warm . I made my way along the main track towards the quarry , turning left where I found Woodlark on the previous visit , but no sign this time , but in the area was a bonus of a female Wheatear . She seemed ravenous , scampering around on the ground
looking for food , which seemed successful , then every now and again , perching up to look for the
next meal . As long as I didn't get too close , she was happy to carry on . Further along the track , a
Kestrel was also looking for a meal , unsuccessfully , and across the lane the 'mewing' of Common
Buzzard alerted me to a pair looking for a 'bunny meal' . Both Skylark and Tree Pipit were up singing and 'parachuting' back down again , and amongst many blurred shots , managed to get a half decent
of the latter just before landing back down . A look around the pond found Willow Warbler and Blackcap , and on my way back to the car park , finally caught up with Woodlark , when what looked like a family group of four lifted off from the side of the main track , one landing closer than the rest
briefly before joining up with the others . Only two species of butterfly were seen on site , two Peacock and more Brimstones than you could 'waggle a stick at' , not surprising as several of the tracks were bordered with Buckthorn . Given the acidic tendency of heaths , most likely Alder Buckthorn / Frangula alnus .
This morning , in cool and breezy conditions before the rain arrived , I did the Down House bird survey , recording a reasonable 22 species . Once again , nothing very exciting , but it was good to
find two Swallow over the cricket square , and over by the pavilion , a distant Mistle Thrush with food , hopefully a sign of successful breeding . Not a single butterfly was recorded during the survey . On the way back home , I looked in on the farmhouse off Downe Road , and again failed to see a single House Martin . The only interest found was Borage / Borago officinalis , related to Green
Alkanet and Viper's Bugloss , growing on some waste ground .