Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Tuesday 21st October 2014

A couple of recent visits proved very uninteresting , with very little found . A visit to Kelsey Park in
Beckenham proved otherwise , with the Mandarins already in their finery and paired up , even though April is their normal breeding time . As usual , females are in short supply , so unpaired males had to
make do with a bit of showing off , hoping a female might change her mind . A noticeable change was the number of Brown Rats all over the site . Notices ask people not to leave food around and put
the explosion in numbers down to the last wet Winter and Spring . One individual must have been
watching the Grey Squirrels on site , begging to be fed as I approached . On the way home , I stopped again at the woods at Crystal Palace and again heard and got a possible glimpse of a Firecrest , possibly two , high in a Yew , but looking into the sun I was only looking at silhouettes . Then two dogs decided to start WW3 directly under the tree , and that was that .
Yesterday , I decided to visit the Isle of Sheppey before the arrival of the latest ex-hurricane . As it
was high tide on arrival , I started at Leysdown , finding little more than a few Turnstone , picking over the small area of beach that wasn't covered by the tide . Down the Shellness track , just a flock of Brent Geese feeding in a brassica crop and a couple of Reed Buntings on arrival at the car park . A flat walk out to the point found a large number of waders , mostly Godwits with a couple of Little
Egret , out in the middle of the saltmarsh . But that was nothing compared to the main hightide roost
on the beach . Impossible to estimate the number of birds , and this shot is only of the centre of the roost . Shortly after I took the shot , a walker put half of the birds up , so I didn't go any further ,
instead went to have a look at the male Hen Harrier painted on the blockhouse , a superb piece of art , I just wished I saw a real one , or a SE Owl , but the only raptor seen was a male Kestrel . By the houses , I was photographing a Redshank perched on a half submerged post , when I got just too
close , and it flew off and neatly fitted in between 6 Grey Plover , perched a bit further out . At the same time , a small flock of Ringed Plover , flew in from behind the houses , and landed on the beach
just 10 metres from where I was standing . I managed to fire off six shots before they realised I was there , and flew off further down the beach . At the time I thought I had photographed a Rock Pipit
directly behind the last house , but on looking at home , I think it is a Meadow Pipit . On returning to the car park , the sound of geese , although a good distance away beyond Leysdown was incredible ,
and once again , I only managed to photograph the middle of the flock as it flew out to sea , wheeled , and settled on the sea , seemingly between Leysdown and Warden Point . I expected to come across them on my way back to Leysdown , but didn't .
A drive down to Capel Fleet and the raptor viewpoint was quiet apart from several Marsh Harriers ,
including this juvenile , which were throwing the waterfowl into panic as they passed over . My last stop was at Elmley Nature Reserve for a look along the track , with clouds building , but there was
still time for a very confiding Wheatear along the track , both male and female Stonechat amongst
the ripened seed heads , but only the male was willing to pose . At the car park , the resident House
Sparrows were in constant conversation , by the old wardens house , at least three Red Admirals were

enjoying what remained of the sunshine . In the old orchard , two LEOwls were busy at roost , one
almost completely shrouded in vegetation , but the other a little less so . Several Migrant Hawkers
were on the wing in the area , and one came to rest on one of the Shepherds Huts . On the way back
down the track , Skylarks were singing and displaying , a pair of Mute Swan were practising their
synchronised flying , a male Clouded Yellow and a Stoat that raced across the track in front of me .

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tuesday 7th. October 2014

A catch up on a few short visits made recently .
A real Autumnal feel about the bird survey at Down House , which produced an average 18 species , none of which was unusual , and two Roe Deer , quite unexpected as all meadows have now been
cut to the fence lines , leaving no cover at all . Only picture taken was this of ripe clusters of Hornbeam seeds , on a tree in the formal garden .
A look at the lake at South Norwood Country Park proved more interesting , with a pair of Shoveler ,
a fly over by a juvenile LBBGull , eventually driven off by Corvids ,
a fly-by by a very large pair of feet , attached to a Coot .
and eventually , the male Wood Duck that has been seen there recently . Apparently , there is a breeding feral population in Surrey and Berkshire , or of course it could be an escapee .
A visit to the causeway at Bough Beech Reservoir , found about a dozen Wigeon grazing around the North Lake , four of which pictured ,
a Kingfisher that landed momentarily on the culvert wall on the North Lake ,
and low flying Lapwings .
A look up on the Common found this female Small Copper resting between egg laying ,
searching the preferred laying area , I found these three eggs , from which the caterpillars had already emerged , and in which form they will over Winter .
A short distance away , I found this Hornet , and from the size , 3-3.5 cms. , assume that it is a Queen , being much larger than other I have seen this Autumn .
On the way back to the car , a look for Purple Hairstreak eggs on the bud clusters of Oak , found just one , but the hole in it this time shows that it has already been predated , by an Ichneumon or something similar , as the species over Winters in egg form .
Today , I made a third attempt to find the Firecrest in the wood almost under the BBC transmitter at Crystal Palace . The first two visits failed , but last night I read that the Wood Duck , or another one , was on the lake at Crystal Palace Park and as I would be passing decided to have a look . First find was 8/10 Cormorants fishing as a pack down the length of the lake . Impossible to count as some
were always underwater . At the far end , four were drying off , but soon the pack was working it's way back the other way .
A Grey Wagtail flitted into view , and out of view just as quickly . The Wood Duck was found sleeping under the bankside vegetation , but after a while , the handsome drake did move into open
water for a short time , before returning to the bankside . I see that the bird hasn't been seen for the last two days at SNCP , so the two sightings are probably both the same bird . At the Firecrest wood , a short burst of song was heard over the strong wind and a movement in the shadows was a 'possible' , but I came away for a third time without a positive sighting .

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 26th. September 2014

Once again , the onset of cabin fever got me out on Thursday , onto the flat site of RSPB Rainham Marshes . Again , the weather didn't live up to forecast but even though windier and cloudier , at least it didn't rain . A quick look at the river , where the tide was on the way in , revealed two Seals , hauled out on the Kent side . As I walked down the ramp onto the reserve , there was an ominous lack of birds on the first pool , and almost every other one after that too . I took the anti-clock route , heading for the woodland area first , which turned out as quiet as the pools , but did produce a singing Chiffchaff . Once out of the woods and into the reedbeds , the first of many Cetti's Warbler was heard , but not one sighting , but in the early light Chicory / Cichorium intybus , a
member of the Daisy family , looked superb . As a Eurostar train sped by to Central London to my right , A Marsh Harrier was harassing the waterfowl in the centre of the reserve . Before reaching the top right corner , a pair of Stonechat perched on the fenceline , and immediately flew onto the adjacent island and disappeared . A chat with another birder who was doing the clockwise circuit , revealed that a few Bearded Tits were all that he had found so far . I wasn't able to offer much hope for the remainder of his circuit either . The view from the Butts Hide produced a Coot , Moorhen and a Little Egret and a lot of empty marshland . The Dragonfly Pool lived up to it's name with a few
Common Darter and Migrant Hawker on the wing and a few non-croaking Marsh Frogs . The top right hand corner failed to produce the Bearded Tits , but with the wind strengthening , they were probably keeping their heads down . At the turnstile to the river bank , a large flock of Goldfinch
were feeding on Teasel , that was until I got within camera range when just this one remained . Heading towards the Visitor Centre some excitement at last , when what I assumed was a Weasel dashed across the stone path , way ahead of me , and disappeared . I made up some of the distance then waited with the camera ready , hoping for a re-appearance , and for once it worked , only the Weasel had moved further down the track before re-emerging from the vegetation , negating any advantage I had gained . Then as I tried to focus , only the second person that I had seen came around
the corner , the Weasel sat upright for a split second and shot into the vegetation again . This was the moment the Weasel saw the other person , and although he froze when he saw it , the Weasel didn't . I did hang around for a while , but it didn't re-appear . The walk to the VC failed to produce any other interest , so I decided to turn around and have another look for the Weasel . As I turned a corner , about halfway back to the first sighting , it was my turn to come face to face with the little creature , but there was no sit up this time , just straight into cover . I backed off some 20 mtrs or so , tucked myself into some vegetation and waited . After half an hour or so , the only thing I got was strange looks from a couple of visitors . I gave up and headed for the Bearded Tit area , failing again to find them , but did have a Kingfisher fly across in front of me just before getting there . A Kestrel on the field behind the Butts Hide and a work party on one of the viewing platforms was as good as it got , until I reached a small bridge with a photographer aiming down in the ditch below . His subject was a

young Water Vole , totally unbothered by us , as it had a wash and brush up , before settling down to breakfast . Chatting between Water Vole sightings the other chap mentioned that he was there , hoping to see Willow Emerald Damselfly , a species both of us had read were on site , but neither of us knew exactly where . A while later , what proved to be the last WV sighting on the other side of the bridge , was followed by a 'possible' Emerald sighting further down the ditch , but it was then blown out of sight . A second more positive sighting was also lost in the swaying reeds , then somewhat of a lull . A very brief spell of sunshine produced a third sighting which was blown over the boardwalk and disappeared amongst the trackside vegetation . With no more sightings around the ditch , I crossed onto the track and almost immediately found two perched low on vegetation , only for them to fly off immediately , not to be re-found , most frustratingly .With thicker cloud moving in , we thought our chance was gone , until , by luck , one flew a short distance and landed a gain . Now we had a subject , but it was perched on vegetation that was being constantly moving in the wind . AF was impossible and on MF , the moving subject was a nightmare . To prove the point , when I got home between 50% and 75% of the shots taken went straight into the bin . Fortunately , a

few of the shots taken were usable , but given better conditions , I would like to get back and hopefully get some better ones , if not this year , then next , now that I know where they are to be
found . I was seen off the premises by this Grey Heron which only spotted me at the last second and took evasive action . I mentioned the lack of birds earlier , but on meeting a local during the visit , he informed me that 'you should have been here yesterday , it was brilliant' , the story of my life !

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday 23rd. September 2014

With the weather looking good , I made a snap decision yesterday morning to visit Oare Marshes , and hopefully find some waders . It was patchy mist on the way down , but by the time I arrived , that had cleared but there was a keen wind blowing . I had the place to myself and although there were a couple of hours before the top of the tide , there were good numbers of species on the flood . As usual in the morning , anything sighted from the track is almost in silhouette , but along the roadside ditch ,
a Little Grebe was in full shade . After parking up and walking to the top of the sea wall , the full effect of that wind could be felt , with the reedbeds swaying from side to side , but I was still able to hear a Cetti's Warbler calling and a bit further along , 5 Bearded Tits make a short flight , then dive back into the reeds again .The Swale was almost birdless , with just the odd gull like this Lesser
Black-backed , drifting effortlessly past . A small flock of Linnet was no compensation for the hoped for rarity before reaching the seawall hide and a sit on the leeward side . Much of Faversham Creek was lined with birds , but once again , looking into the light didn't make ID easy . A couple of Reed Buntings on the way to the corner of the flood near the sluice , then with the light behind , I was able
to look through the roost of birds . This was just one small area of that roost , but a couple of minutes
later , this happened , as a Marsh Harrier flew from the sluice to the car park , causing probably every bird on the site to take to the air . Fortunately , within minutes things settled down again , and I was
soon looking at several Ruff , one of which seemed to have an exceedingly long neck . In the gully leading from the sluice were several more , including a very light individual with a white collar and
several juveniles . I wandered if this might have been a male , and the white collar the Winter replacement for it's breeding plumes . Singletons of Turnstone , Common Sandpiper and Wigeon were also picked out amongst the gathered species . By the time I left the sluice area it was past midday , so I sarted back to the car for a drink and a sandwich . On the way down the East side of the flood , I checked the ditches for Penduline Tit and Spotted Crake , both species that have turned up around this time in previous years , but they did not this time , or much more than a few Starling and the odd Blue Tit . A work party was on the scrub area of the West flood , so there was no point having a look there , but at the pull in , several birders were watching a Little Stint , one of the species I was hoping to see . I decided to wait a bit longer to let the light come round into a better position before taking any shots . Back at the car and refreshed , a look from the top of the sea wall westwards towards Dan's Dock produced two Wheatear , but too distant for a shot , and more or the
same Bearded Tits were seen . Beyond the West flood , several Konic ponies were busy , keeping the ground vegetation in check . Another mass take off announced a high flying Hobby , but by the time I got back to the pull in area , all had settled down again , and soon managed a first shot of one of the
Little Stints , of which there proved to be at least 3 . Ringed Plover were well represented , with many
juveniles around . The same species provided a size comparison with the Little Stint , even joining

them in syncronied preening . Other species on the flood included ,
Dunlin ,
Black-tailed Godwit , in large numbers ,
Avocet , 1 of 6 seen ,
Golden Plover , some of which were still sporting Summer plumage ,
and Common Snipe . No sign of the juvenile Curlew Sandpipers that have been reported , but with so many birds on the flood , it was impossible to look though them all . My last shot of the Little Stints
was of two of them settling down for another power-nap , no doubt followed by another frantic feeding session . At least 25 Clouded Yellow butterflies were seen , with probably a lot more on site , as the work party said they had been seeing them all day too . Still lots of Common Darters and Migrant Hawkers on the wing too .
A short visit up on the Common over the weekend produced a female Small Copper , egg laying on
the species foodplant Common Sorrel / Rumex acetosa . She laid several eggs in the area before
moving on , and when she did so , I found two of them , looking like mini golf balls .