Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Tuesday 9th. September 2014

Well , my outings have been somewhat curtailed , as I have sprung a hernia . My GP has referred me to the hospital , but am still waiting to hear from them . I am still getting out , but have to keep on the flat and not walk too far , which means that I have had to cancel the remaining transects at High Elms , which is where the whole thing came to the surface , so to speak . Annoying , as there were only five more to do for the season . I did manage the Down House bird survey , just , which produced 19 species , but nothing out of the ordinary , and two Roe Deer , but with all the meadows having been cut , much to the disgust of the chap who does the butterfly survey , they saw me as soon as I stepped into the field , and they disappeared into the woodland . A visit to the causeway at Bough Beech early one morning did produce a long distance shot in poor light , of the Wood Sandpiper that
seems to have taken up residence on the main reservoir . Shame about the rubbish in the foreground .
A trip to Hutchinsons Bank found an almost fully grown Elephant Hawk Moth caterpillar feeding on
Rose Bay Willowherb  , showing how the species gets the 'elephant' bit in it's common name . I only managed the bottom of the site , but butterfly numbers were few . A short walk up on the Greensand Ridge looking for young reptiles failed to produce proof of any successful  breeding , but one female
Adder was found , sunning herself . I'm reasonably sure it was one of the females I saw being mated back in the Spring . I also found a specimen of Hedgerow Cranesbill / Geranium pyrenaicum ,
looking very similar to it's more often found relation , Herb Robert / G.robertianum . I spent the weekend reading about the fantastic fall of migrants around the Dungeness area . Waking Monday morning , and with Carol having an old friend over for lunch , I decided to see if I could see some for myself , and arrived at the ARC car park just after 0800 . My initial feeling was that I had missed the boat , and that was how the day panned out . From Hanson Hide , just the common waterbirds , the drive along the entrance track was devoid of birds , not even the Tree Sparrows at the farmhouse , and in particular no sign of the Red-backed Shrike that was seen on the return track the previous afternoon . As I made my way from hide to hide , having a rest at each , I couldn't believe how few birds were on view , and it became obvious that overnight the migrants had made use of the cloudless sky covered in stars , and headed off . Even though I was disappointed , I hope they make it to their
wintering sites . The only shots I got were of a GBBGull in flight , and another , posing with a
juvenile Common , I hope , and a diminutive BHGull in the foreground . The only raptor seen was
this Sparrowhawk , which was soon sent on it's way by the local Magpie gang . A look around the
lighthouse and power station boundary fence , only found a couple of Wheatear , but better than nothing . I decided to have a last look from the screen at the ARC pit , and was pleased that I did , as ,
after a short wait , the Glossy Ibis showed itself distantly amongst the Lapwing , it's plumage reflecting it's name . At the same time , a Spoonbill was busily sleeping on the rocky Cormorant Island . Only other interest found was a first for me , if I have identified it correctly , a female Grey
Bush Cricket / Platycleis albopunctata , a coastal species . Today , I had a look up on the Common ,
finding a smart male Southern Hawker resting on Gorse , and one of three Beautiful Yellow
Underwing caterpillars found feeding on the Heather .

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Saturday 30th. August 2014

After the rain washed out Monday and Tuesday , a couple of hours in Willow Hide at Sevenoaks Reserve found the Kingfishers on good form , making regular visits to the two stick just out in front .
Shame the few sunny spells were interspersed with longer cloudy ones , and that the Kingfishers
seemed to choose the latter for their visits . Most interesting sight was a Sparrowhawk chasing two Kingfishers around the far end of Snipe Bog Lake . Also around were two Green Sandpipers who stayed well away in cover , apart from one fly by which John managed to get on camera .
Thursday started in similar vein weather-wise , but suddenly the skies opened up just after lunch , enough for me to head for the meadow below Biggin Hill Airport to see if the Clouded Yellows were still around . A surprising 14 species were recorded , many of which were very faded and damaged ,
which included the 3 male CYs that were recorded on the visit . Once again there was interest overhead , with three Common Buzzard enjoying the warmth and wind , two Sparrowhawk and a male Kestrel . But the best sighting was what looked like a family group of three Raven , two flying
together and the third some distance behind , 'cronking' continuously as the passed over . The habitat
would seem ideal for them , but they would have to learn to live in harmony with those Common Buzzards , which I know from visits to Old Lodge on Ashdown Forest is rather unlikely , but we can
hope . On the track back to the car , and out of the wind , a mating pair of Small White and a male
Brimstone , topping up on nectar from Black Knapweed .
Yesterday , I headed off for Elmley Reserve on the Isle of Sheppey , to hopefully see some migrants before the all headed South . I started the track to the car park full of expectation , but on arrival all I had seen were Coot , Little Grebe , Starling , Grey Heron and distant views of Marsh Harrier , not even a Lapwing or Redshank never mind a migrant . I did however find a Yellow Wagtail looking for
food on the edge of the car park , along with several juvenile Pied Wagtail , and a good number of
noisy juvenile Goldfinches , all clamouring for use of the one , almost dried out, puddle . The return
down the track was no more exciting , apart from a fleeting glimpse of a Brown Hare , just before it
disappeared into the game crop , and a Little Egret that flew in from the pools behind the farmhouse .
Over the Swale in the Oare area , darkened skies were dumping their contents , not a day to get caught out in the open , as more could be seen down wind . My next stop was Leysdown , where the tide was coming in , with lots of waders and gulls on the waterline . With binoculars , Godwit , Curlew and Oystercatcher could be seen , but too far for any shots . I watched a young family arrive , the kids full of excitement on getting to the beach , and starting to dig in the sand and play bat and ball . A look in the bush behind the pitch and putt hut , favoured by a migrating Wryneck , failed to produce , same as it failed for me last year , and a wooded area nearby had a juvenile Sparrowhawk , seen a couple of times , but continually calling . On the shore side , a group of Turnstone , still in
Summer plumage , turned into the wind , and many of the Oystercatcher started moving down the

beach towards Shellness ,a favoured roost for them , then , the heavens opened . The beach cleared in seconds , including the young family , all running for their cars . I carried on to the start of the Shellness track , but finding little , decided to head for the raptor mound at Capel Fleet . I looked for Wheatear at a couple of places where I had found them in previous years , but failed this time . The wind had got up quite a bit and it blew a flock of about 50 LBJs across the road in front of me . I couldn't get a positive ID , but many were likely to be Corn Bunting , being in the area where I have
seen them before . A couple of Marsh Harrier were searching the ditches for a meal , the male above always keeping a good distance , the female I thought was going to fly right over my head , but she
veered off early , denying the shot I was hoping for . With little else found , I decided to give Elmley a second chance , before heading off home . It was a case of 'deja vu' until reaching the final rise to
the car park , where I found a single Wheatear on the side of the track , which took no notice of me at all . It was later joined by a second and whilst looking at that bird with binoculars , sensed something moving across the track closer to me . It proved to be a Stoat , but , by the time I put down the binoculars and grabbed the camera , it had disappeared into the trackside vegetation . At the top of the rise to the car park , I could seen several dark birds , seemingly lying on the ground . As I approached , naturally they flew off , so I pulled over , turned off and waited . Eventually they
returned , and proved to be mainly Sand Martin , with a few juvenile Swallow . They seemed to be
dust-bathing , but the track is made up of road planings , the material removed when a new surface is put down , so wouldn't seem to contain much in the way of dust , but seemed to be happy with it . It's the closest I have ever got to the species , and must say it made my day . On my way back down the track , a second , or the same Stoat almost ran under the front wheels across in front of me , but fortunately I was only crawling along , and it safely made the other side , and another large flock of LBJs in the game crop , blown around by the strong wind and disappearing immediately they landed . As I passed the cattle , a flock of Starling lifted off , with an unusual individual amongst them . I kept an eye on it and after a while it came a bit closer , before once again flying away . It had white tail
feathers , a possible part albino ?  The same area produced another 5/6 Yellow Wagtail , including a bright male . I was seen off the property by a juvenile Grey Heron alongside the last ditch , no doubt
looking for the Marsh Frogs that I could hear croaking in the area . A day that started off poorly , but turned out to be most enjoyable in the end , especially the Sand Martins .
And finally , Carol has always wanted to get a Nuthatch on the garden feeders . Her wish has come true , with a regular visitor every day this week .

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sunday 24th. August 2014

Thursday morning , I returned to the meadow below Biggin Hill airport with sunnier skies , but still with the strong wind blowing across the slope . I didn't see as many Clouded Yellows , just 3/4 on the visit , but the sunshine gave longer views than those of the previous afternoon . As anyone will know who has chased CYs , it's better than a morning at the gym , but worth the effort when one flicks
open it's wings , just as the shutter is pressed , but feeding seemed to be the main aim of the
specimens , all males , seen during the visit . Also seen were a pair of Sparrowhawks , playing with the wind on the fringe of the airport , and two of the local Common Buzzards that drifted overhead ,
no doubt searching for their breakfast . With just the 100mm. macro lens on , the shots had to be
heavily cropped . On Friday , I did the High Elms butterfly transect in reasonable conditions , and was surprised to record 15 species , and a total of 145 butterflies . But , taking out Common Blue , Meadow Brown and Brown Argus , a total of 111, the other 12 species only produced 34 butterflies
between them . The sunny spells brought Brimstones out to nectar , and Silver-washed Fritillaries ,
down to 4 , all females , and time has caught up with them too , they will probably have finished on the next transect . Down in the bottom glade , butterfly numbers might have been down , but Odonata numbers were definitely up , with 30/35 Migrant and 2 Brown Hawkers filling the air space , and making short work of anything that flew up into it . On the bridleway through the golf course , on the way back to the car , a Pigmy Shrew nipped across the path in front of me . A quick look at the House Martin nests on the farmhouse showed most had headed South , but there were still 3/4 birds feeding overhead . Yesterday , a quick look at Bough Beech Reservoir revealed even less waders around with no sign of the Black-tailed Godwit , and just 3 Green Sandpipers and a single Common Snipe seen from the causeway . I then moved on to the reserve with the feeders in the wood , where the flora was
a sight to behold . Lots of Common Fleabane / Pulicaria dysenterica , a member of the Daisy family ,
interspersed with my favourite Scabious , Devilsbit / Succisa pratensis , a member of the Teasle family . The best surprise was finding a few specimens of Sneezewort / Achillea ptarmica , another
member of the Daisy family , and a species that I see very rarely these days . 8 species of butterfly ,
once again , all in small numbers were recorded , they included Red Admiral and Comma , both
found feeding on the ripe blackberries . Whilst on site , 3 Grass Snakes were found , two juveniles
together , and this adult , found with a Slow Worm . The opaque film on the snake's eye indicating that it is about to slough , change it's skin . Several Southern Hawkers were on the wing during sunny
periods , like this one , all but one were immatures . A couple of Brown Hawkers who refused to stop
for the camera , and a few Ruddy Darter , completed the Odonata sightings . With the cloud thickening , I left for home , having really enjoyed my time on site .
This morning , with cloud due in by lunchtime , I spent a couple of hours wandering around up on the Common . First find was the remains of a dragonfly , regarded as towards the top of the insect foodchain , but this one obviously met it's match , snared in a spider's web , and eaten by the
occupant . In the sunshine , something shone like a jewel on the leaf of a Buckthorn . I have no idea
what had emerged from them , about 2mm in length , but it's the first time I've come across anything
like them . On the small Oak to the right , one of our smallest Ladybirds , with almost the largest number of spots of any of them , the 22-spot Ladybird / Psyllobora 22-punctata . Most of the Gorse on the Common is not in flower at the moment , but amongst the Heather , the low growing Dwarf
Gorse / Ulex minor is taking it's opportunity to do so before it's larger relative . And finally , with the
butterfly season coming to a close , as demonstrated by this very faded Common Blue , some , like
this pair of Green-veined Whites think there is still time to get the job done .