Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Tuesday 30th.September 2008

A very wet volunteering day , and needless to say , not a single photo . So am just posting a few more shots from earlier Farne Islands , Bempton Cliffs trip .

Grey Seals on the Farne Islands .
Puffins on the Farne Islands .
Tree Sparrow at Bempton Cliffs .
Male Reed Bunting at Bempton Cliffs .

Monday, 29 September 2008

Monday 29th.September 2008

Almost the end of the month , time for the Down House bird survey . The main garden , walled vegetable garden and the orchard were alive with bird and song . 16 species were recorded here alone , with the best being 9 Redwing , 4 Mistle Thrush , 2 Rose Ringed Parakeets and a Green Woodpecker . The Mistle Thrushes and the Redwings seemed to be arguing about perching rights , and the Rose Ringed Parakeets were just making lots of noise as usual .
Since my last visit , the top two meadows have been cut , and a start made on the large bottom one . On an overhanging branch was a female Kestrel , warming up in the morning sun , and
keeping a keen eye on the edge of the uncut meadow . She let me get so near , and then she just
lifted off , and glided down to the bottom corner . As I approached her again , she disappeared over the trees onto the Golf Course . The open fields were not as productive as the gardens , but did produce Pheasant , 5 Jays , mosty on the ground under Oak trees , probably burying acornsor looking for victims of the grass cutter . Also feeding amongst was a small flock of Starlings . Two more Green Woodpeckers were found on the ground , but before getting into camera range , flew off , yaffling back at me . In the sunny , warm corner of the Cricket Field where several Speckled Woods were fighting for the best spot on the last visit , the Elder only had a single specimen this time .
By the time I had got back to the gardens , 23 species had been recorded , and although the first of the Winter visitors was recorded , no Summer visitors were found . On the main lawn behind the house , I found a clump of fungi that would not normally be found on grass , Armillaria mellea-Honey Fungus , normally found on dead wood . I then remembered that a hedgeline used to stand here , and the fungus was probably growing on the old roots of that hedge . Not far away , were two Agaricus campestris-Field Mushroom , enough to make a hearty omelette , I would say ( film cannister or size ) . The Waxcaps seen last visit were nowhere to be seen this time , but a single large yellow one , Hygrocybe konradii was standing proud amongst the grass and moss .
Mentioning moss , the lawns are not treated to get rid of it , as this would probably kill off all the fungi , including what could well be the rarest on the site , another Waxcap , Hygrocybe calyptraeformis , a beautiful pinky mauve fungi . I did find one Boletus ( pores rather than gills under the cap ) on the main lawn , I think it is Tylopilus felleus , one that I don't see all that often . Before leaving , I always re-visit the walled vegetable garden to see if any butterflies are showing . Today was no different , and found two specimens . The first , a Small Copper , posing on Verbascum-Mullein ,
and the second a Comma , nectaring on the flowers of Ivy .
Just before reaching the car park was this trio of Brown Roll-rim -Paxillus involutus .

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Sunday September 28th. 2008

As I said yesterday , I spent today helping Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group on their stall at Kent Goes Wild , at Shorne Country Park .The only wildlife I saw was a Small Heath , a Comma , several Hornets , and about 10 Swallows ,hawking over the ponds .
But , on the next stall were Kent Mammal Group , and on their stall were two harvest mice .

Needless to say , you know which stall got the most attention .

When I got home , my wife said she was moving some logs , when she found eight of these in a

log , Stag Beetle larvae . Needless to say , the log was replaced and covered with others .

Now , commenting on last night's post , Steve (New Hythe) thought the Pale Tussock moth caterpillar was one of the most attractive caterpillars . I suggested The Vapourer (pictured below) . I leave it to the reader to make their own decisions .

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Saturday 27th.September 2008

Just a few lines and a few pictures that might be of interest . A beautiful day for hedgelaying near Leith Hill in Surrey , if anything too warm for this country craft , but lets not complain . The hedge to be layed , first thing this morning :- The hedge , as we left it , part layed , going back in two weeks :-Hopefully , this side if the field gate will be completed then .

Like busses , they come in twos , as it was with the Pale Tussock moth caterpillar . After my neighbour finding one yesterday , one of the layers found this one today . Today's specimen was prepared to un-curl , and was very active .

Not so many Buzzards heard or seen today , but one individual caught my eye , but by the time I got the camera from the car , it was soaring on a thermal and a poor photo was the result .
As we were packing up for the day , Corvids were mobbing a bird of prey , I think it was a Sparrowhawk , but couldn't be sure as it was in the distance .
All day at Shorne Park tomorrow , chances of wildlife ?

Friday, 26 September 2008

Friday 26th.September 2008

A morning visit to the farm lake , in warming sunshine did not produce a single butterfly or dragon/damselfly . I did get sight of the Little Grebe , which I thought had been chased off by the Coots . The resident four Moorhens are still intact , and have been joined by four Tufted Duck , two of which pictured above . Whilst I was there , four Jays flew in formation , heading for the large Oak trees , beyond the farmhouse , probably collecting acorns for their winter cache . Three Rose Ringed Parakeets also flew over , much noisier , but were heading up the valley . No sign of the Goldfinch flock , must have moved on to pastures new . About a dozen Wood Pigeon were feeding in the horse paddock , but quickly left the area . One male and three female Pheasants were fossicking in the longer grass .
I moved on to High Elms Country Park , and walked the top perimiter of the Conservation Field . With the woodland behind , sheltering any breeze , it would be easy to think it was mid summer . Surprisingly , several species of butterfly were recorded , but only in these sheltered , warmer spots .Two Meadow Brown were found , both in pretty poor condition .
In the warm morning light , the four Commas recorded , looked very autumnal .
Three Brown Argus , all faded or very faded were recorded .
On Burnt Gorse , a distant flash of yellow made the heart skip a beat , a Clouded Yellow ? No , too lazy a flight . As I got nearer , my supposition was confirmed , a male Brimstone , probably out of hibernation , on the strength of the temperatures of yesterday . If the weather changes , he will just go back into hibernation again . This is why butterflies that hibernate as adults , can be seen on warm days in December and January . He was the first of three seen today .
Two Large and three Small Whites were also recorded , along with rather fresh looking female , from the two bold black spots on the forewing , Green Veined White .
Also recorded were five Speckled Wood and three Common Blue , including a very , very faded female . Fungi is still in very short supply , but the Lepiota rhacodes - Shaggy Parasols that I posted a few days ago as closed cups , have now fully opened and are showing how they get their common name . I also found another member of the same family , Lepiota cristata .
One fungi that is numerous is Hypholoma fasiculare-Sulphur Tuft .
There were a few dragonflies on the dipping pond , mainly Common Darters , but there were two Southern and one Migrant Hawkers . Several of the Common Darters were ovipositing in tandem , making the most of the good weather . Also on the pond were two juvenile Moorhen and two juvenile Mallard , the last two seemed to be expending large quantities of energy , trying to catch the Common Darters . Whilst I was there , no Darters were caught , but there was a lot of huffing and puffing from the chasers .
On arrival home , I was approached by a neighbour to have a look at a caterpillar in his garden .
The caterpillar refused to uncurl , but I knew I had seen this one before , with its yellow tufts , black bands , and that mauve bristle on the rear end . Later I looked back pictures on the computer and found it , Pale Tussock moth caterpillar .
Tomorrow is hedgelaying at Leith Hill , wildlife ?
Sunday , helping KRAG at Shorne Country Park , so might not post again before Monday .

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Thursday 25th.September 2008

After yesterday's weather , this morning's sun and mild temperature was a welcomed surprise . I set off to check half a dozen Dormice tubes that I put up , with permission of the Keeper , in the woodland behind Spring Park Pond , the site managed by the City of London .
On the way from the car park , across the meadow , something flashed past me and landed about 10 mtrs. in front . Carefully approaching , I could see it was a Small Copper , and in very good condition . Other butterflies recorded , Comma (1) , Speckled Wood (4) and Small White (3) . As the sun was out , I couldn't pass the pond without having a look . Last visit was dour , and to begin with , this one looked as if it would be the same . The three juvenile Moorhens haven't moved on , but there is no sign of the adults , perhaps it is the reverse of the farm lake , and the juveniles have driven them off , or perhaps , they just got fed up with the kids . With the sun still warming things up , a few male Common Darters appeared and started scrapping over bankside ownership . I was about to leave them to it , when a male Southern Hawker appeared , and after a while settled on the surrounding vegetation . The blue markings on segments 9 and 10 , are diagnostic for the male , the female being green and brown all over . After a few minutes , another male appeared and aerial scrapping started , one trying to beat the
other down onto the water surface , where surface tension would make it very hard to get back in the air again . A few minutes later , another two appeared , one of them being an immature male , which later settled under passing cloud cover , enabling a picture opportunity . He hasn't yet got the blue markings on the end of his abdomen . By this time , the Common Darter numbers had increased to about a dozen , and they started to get on with what they were born for , reproduction . Within minutes , there were at least four pairs ovipositing in tandem , being harrassed by the Southern Hawkers .

I left them to it , and set off to check the Dormice tubes . These are sections of square , brown rainwater downpipe , with a sliding wooden insert , and an entry hole at one end , wired to suitable Hazel bushes in the woodland . We put them in about 18 months ago , but have not had any evidence of Dormice . I did find moss and dried grass , probable Tit nest attempt in one tube , but that was all . One tube had disappeared completely and one unwired and thrown away , which I found . I shall resite the tubes in a recently coppiced area of Hazel , and monitor them again next year . Whilst searching for the one thrown away , I found this caterpillar which wouldn't have looked out of place with the Sex Pistols . Any ideas ?

After lunch , I had a walk up on Keston Common . I made my way to see if the Hares Ears had finished , and was surprised to see that they were still in very good condition . Another interesting fungi found , was Sparassis crispa - Cauliflower or Brain fungus .
I couldn't leave without checking on the Mandarins . There were fewer on the lower pond than the other day , but a male and female posed on the side .
When I got to the main fishing pond , I found the rest of them , but as soon as I got close , they paddled away , but I noticed that they were not phased by passing cars . So I went and got mine , and parked alongside the pond . After a while , they were quite happy to come to the edge , with me in the car taking shots . They seemed to me to be feeding on fallen acorns from an overhanging Oak tree . Every time one fell into the water , it attracted their attention , and they paddled around looking on the bottom , then diving and coming up with the acorn in their bill . After each dive , the duck would rise up in the water and flap it's wings to dry off .
After a while , probably because all the fallen acorns had been devoured , they lost interest and paddled to the other side of the pond and lifted out of the water , like I had seen them do before , for a preening session , on the overhanging trees .
Forgot to mention last night , the family of Dormice found on the August survey , had been successfully reared and left home , as an empty nest was found this time round .