Saturday, 29 November 2008

Saturday 29th.November 2008

A very foggy , but dry , journey down to the Hogsback , just beyond Guildford , for another hedgelaying session with the Surrey Hedgelaying Group .
On arrival at the site , it was very gloomy and chilly , so getting going on the hedge to keep warm was the first essential .
The first arrival told me that a bird with a very large wingspan was on the ground halfway up the field when he got there , but hadn't seen it since .
Whilst laying , I noticed three Roe Deer in an adjacent field that was occupied by a few ponies/small horses .
When we stopped for a break , I took the camera and set off up the stubble field we were working in , to get a better view of the deer , and to look for the bird with a very large wingspan . As I walked up the field , a flock of about 25 Meadow Pipits rose out of the stubble and circled me , before settling down again a bit further away .
As soon as I had closed the distance by half to the deer , the male snorted a warning to the two females with him and all three took off to the furthest corner of the field . That was the last I saw of the male and one of the females , but the other female reappeared over a rise and gave an opportunity of a few shots .

Not very sharp shots , but given the fog and light conditions , best I could do .
I never did see the bird with the big wingspan , but from his description , I think it was probably a Common Buzzard .

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Tuesday 25th.November 2008

Spent the day doing the last Dormouse survey of the year , up on the Greensand Ridge near Westerham .

Given the cold nights recently , we were not expecting much , and we were not disappointed . The boxes that had Dormice in them last month , were now empty and the nesting materials were cold and damp . Their occupants probably rolled up in a ball in a natural nest , at or very near ground level , to hibernate away the worst of the Winter's weather , and hopefully emerge again next Spring . In the past , on this last survey , we have found the odd torpid - semi hibernating Dormouse in a box , but it was not to be this year .

The first survey day next May will be to do maintainance , or even replace boxes damaged by the Winter's weather , or more likely , Grey Squirrels .

In fact the only animals we came across in the boxes were three Wood Mice , keeping each other warm in the same box .

The reptile surveys have already finished , but I must admit I couldn't help but look under any refugia that we passed . No reptiles were found , and the only living thing found was a Short Tailed Field Vole , who most definately didn't want to pose for the camera . It was under one of the refugia that was being used by the Great Crested Newt the other week .

Once again today , I didn't hear/see any Winter Thrushes , but did find two Siskins , my first this year , feeding high in the Alders around a pond .

I don't know if anyone read it , but the other day I commented on Warren's blog , about finding a sheep , lying on it's back , with all four legs in the air , seemingly in a distressed state . I eventually found someone on the site and told them .

Today , I was retelling the story , when I was told that sheep , once on their back , cannot roll back to stand up , and are at risk of drowning in their own fluids , or being attacked by Corvids , their speciality being pecking their eyes out . What I should have done , was to go into the field and basically pull the animal up onto it's feet . Apparently , in the Peak District it happens quite a lot , and people just pull over and right the animal . Worth knowing I think .
Although we didn't find one today , this is a torpid Dormouse that we found in a box last year.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Saturday 22nd.November 2008

Had a two hour walk around High Elms Country Park this morning . All bird species were in short supply , even the reliable Rose Ringed Parakeets could only muster a count of four . A single Mistle and Song Thrush were the only Thrushes seen/heard , where have all the Winter visitors gone ? Corvids were few and far between with the odd Carrion Crow , Jay and Magpie showing up . I only came across one Tit flock , and that was small and almost silent . The noisiest birds I passed were a couple of Wrens that I disturbed in the undergrowth . No sign of the Buzzard which has been seen often beyond Burnt Gorse over the last few weeks . The largest flock of birds I saw was 16 Black Headed Gulls , which flew in and settled on the fairway of the first hole .
So , I went looking for fungi , and although there isn't much of that about either , the Rhodotus palmatus that I found in the middle of the Golf Course is still intact after 2/3 weeks .
Along the path , above where the Silver Washed Fritillaries were ovipositing , a couple of Lepista nuda-Wood Blewits were poking out from the carpet of fallen leaves .
Amongst the fallen leaves is also the place to find Geastrum triplex-Earthstar .
Well hidden amonst the leaves in this picture is the spore sack of one - can you see it ?

In the garden , the feeders are getting a right bashing from the Chaffinches , Goldfinches and Greenfinches . Regular visits from Coal , Blue and Great Tit , and at least once daily by Gt.Spotted Woodpecker . Robin , Dunnock , Blackbird and the occassional Wren , together with several Collared Doves and Wood Pigeons , clear up the bits and pieces .

The female Brambling hasn't been seen for well over a week , but the male and female Blackcaps fed constantly on the Callicarpa berries all day yesterday , but only the male today .

With not a lot to post , a couple of shots that made me smile , I'm not sure if this one is legal , but here goes . By the way , the Earthstar spore sack was in the top left hand corner of the shot .

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Thursday 20th.November 2008

A few months ago , during the Summer , I remember mentioning that the shrub Callicarpa was good for attracting Blackcaps during the Winter .
When I got home from volunteering yesterday , Carol said that she had seen a female Blackcap feeding on the berries of the shrub in the early afternoon .
As I was not due up on the Common until 1000 , I watched the shrub over breakfast , to no avail . I got ready , and spent the last few minutes before leaving at the back bedroom window . There was plenty of activity on the feeders from Greenfinches , Chaffinches , Goldfinches , a pair of Coal Tits and a single Blue Tit . Underneath the feeders , Chaffinches and a pair of Dunnocks were 'clearing up' , but no sign of the Blackcap .
The sun was just starting to get onto the shrub , and I was due to leave , when a movement in the shrub made me reach for the camera . The female Blackcap had turned up for her breakfast , and almost immediately , she was joined by the male . I managed four shots before , together , they flew into cover in a conifer , a bit further down the garden .
The female always stayed in the middle of the shrub , whereas the macho male fed on the outer branches .
We have noticed this in previous years , where they don't gorge themselves like Redwings or Fieldfares , but just take a few berries then disappear for a while , most likely to digest them .
On the way to the Common I did pop in quickly to Keston Ponds , but could see nothing new there . As I looked around from the car , a juvenile Carrion Crow arrived and perched on the rail , no doubt looking for food .I think the Canada Goose had the same thoughts ,
as did the Black Headed Gull .
But they were unlucky , I was keeping my sandwiches for my lunch .

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Sunday 16th.November 2008

Following my last post , regarding the Stag Beetle larvae , Warren asked if I had exposed the grubs .
A good while ago I came across a nice piece of Oak , that looked as if it might have been a seat earlier in it's life . I took it home , cleaned it up , and managed to aqquire a couple of Oak legs to return it to it's former use , and fashioned a rustic seat which we had on the patio . After some time , Carol noticed piles of wood dust under it and removed the seat which was just placed on top of the two legs , the weight of the seat holding things in place . She found seven of the larvae munching their way through one of the legs and also the underside of the seat above the leg . We carefully removed the whole thing from the patio , and reassembled it in the bottom corner of the garden , where it still remains .
To get yesterday's picture , I simply took off the seat and the larvae were in the top of the left hand leg in the picture . A close up of the top of the same leg shows how rotten the inner wood is .

I think the eggs were layed whilst in situ on the patio , and as the larvae take up to seven years to mature , it might have quite a stay in that corner of the garden . We have found adult females in the garden in the past , but not for the last 3/4 years .

Today , thankfully , before the rain I spent with a member of the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group and another surveyor , deciding on any changes to the refugia up on the Greensand Ridge near Westerham . Decisions were made to move , remove or leave each tin/felt . Nothing was expected to be found at this time of year , but under one of the tins was this Grass Snake .

I think it is the same one that I have had under that tin on my last three visits . The rest of the refugia produced absolutely nothing , until we got to the last two pairs , about 5mtrs. apart , on the edge of a pond . As we were approaching , Nick , the other surveyor was saying that he had recorded a Great Crested Newt there , either last visit or the one before . I told him about the juvenile that I had found under refugia , and mentioned it would be good to find an adult . The first tin was lifted , and there underneath was a male Great Crested Newt .
If you look along the spine of the back , you can see the crest , deflated now , as it's main use is in courting during the breeding season . All three of us got our shots , then he slowly waddled off into the vegetation . We all felt chuffed to see a rare amphibian . The felt next to thew tin had nothing . Jokingly , as we walked the 5mtrs. to the last pair of refugia , I said ' well , we only need the female now' . The last felt was lifted , and there was a female GCN . Unbelievable . She was a bit quicker to disappear into the vegetation , but I got a couple of shots first .

As you can see , she doesn't have the crest down her back . We left the area well pleased with what we had found . Throughout the 2/3 hours we were out , there was hardly any birds or calls , not even the Tawny Owl I usually get in the area . Also on the bird front , still no sign of the female Brambling .

Friday, 14 November 2008

Friday 14th.November 2008

Whilst working in the garden this morning , I had a look to see how the Stag Beetle larvae were gettin on , Getting bigger by the day was the answer .
After lunch , I went for a walk over the Common and on to Keston Ponds . In the sunshine , it was barmey , 15C. and warmer than many days this Summer .
It wasn't only me that thought so either , on the heathland part of the Common , I had a fly by Peacock butterfly and also a Buff Tailed Bumble Bee , frantically nectaring on the yellow Gorse flowers . Even a small moth was dancing amongst the Heather .
I hardly saw or hear a bird on the Common , but did find a nice specimen of Stropharia aeruginosa-Verdigris Agaric . When I posted this fungi before , it was in a woodland situation , but this was in a grassland situation , which is where I have seen it more often .

I got to Keston Ponds twenty minutes before the sun went out , and it was back to the grey cloud again . As I had a bit more time , I had a good look around for the Mandarins , as they were not obvious . Eventually I found them well camouflaged at the back of the bottom pond .You can just see two males and one female , resting on a half submerged branch . The other male and female were even harder to see a bit further back . At least I know that they don't actually disappear off site when I can't find them , just that they are good at hiding . On the top pond , a group of Mallards were taking communal ablutions , probably knowing that the sunshine was short lived .They took it in turn to have a good splash , followed by a good flap to get rid of the surplus water .
Then it was the Drake's turn .

Just before the sun disappeared , I noticed a large dragonfly , hawking along the far side of the pond . I followed it backwards and forwards along the bank . It was a male Southern Hawker , but despite my efforts to keep it in sight and get a shot , it disappeared as the cloud cover came over , not to be seen again , but it was my latest ever record for this species .

Answers to last night's birds and end of list :-

Bird 15 . Devil's Bird ---------------Yellowhammer

Bird 16 . Least Willow Wren -------Chiffchaff

Bird 17 . Gay Pie -------------------Jay

Bird 18 . Cuddy --------------------Moorhen

Bird 19 . Cock Up ------------------Pheasant

Bird 20 . Bellringer ----------------Long Tailed Tit

Tomorrow is hedgelaying alongside the Hogsback on the A31. in Surrey , doesn't sound like wildlife , but who knows .

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Thursday 13th.November 2008

Three days with a chainsaw in the hand , has once again produced very little wildlife . Even the female Brambling has deserted the garden .
Before working on the Common today , I stopped at Keston Ponds . Things are pretty much the same in water fowl numbers , but 3 male and 2 female Manderins have reappeared .
It was and brush up time for a couple of the Canada Geese .
On Tuesday , I did manage to get shots of a male Pheasant ,
and a female Blackbird , both in some sunshine ,
and also a male Kestrel looking for his next meal .
Yesterday , in a break , I got a couple of poor shots of Fieldfare , very wary birds .

Apart from that , it was very quiet .

Answers to the last bird names posted :-

Bird 13 . Guernsey Nightingale or nettle Creeper ----Blackcap

Bird 14 .Mouse Falcon or Stannel Hawk -------------Kestrel

Last few birds with just single names :-

Bird 15 . Devil's Bird Bird 16 . Least Willow Wren

Bird 17 . Gay Pie Bird 18 . Cuddy

Bird 19 . Cock Up Bird 20 . Bellringer

Monday, 10 November 2008

Monday 10th.November 2008

Well , I wasn't going to post today as it has been wall to wall rain all day , at some times almost torrential . Consequently I haven't been out of the door , and I'm sure anyone logging on has had enough of the female Brambling on the feeders .
Then , just about 1400 , Carol was watching the latest downpour from the back bedroom window , I had just gone to the loo , when Carol calls out ' where are you , get in here quick , and be careful as you look out the window '. I crouch below the window , grab the camera which was nearby , and slowly stood up using Carol to hide my movement . I didn't know what to expect , the rain was torrential , streaming down the window and the light was terrible . Anyway , there sitting on the post behind the stone Squirrel was
what I believe to be a juvenile male Sparrowhawk . I was happy to have got a shot , as usually they are gone before you can focus , but this one just sat there looking around and very wet .
I managed about 15 shots , then he made as if to take off . Well he did , but only to the roof of the birdhouse about a metre away , the one the Brambling has posed on .There he sat for another couple of minutes , whilst I took another 15/20 shots , albeit of poor quality . Eventually , he flew off down the garden at low level , and then reappeared in a Silver Birch in a neighbour's garden , three houses down . We watched him for a while , and the rain got even heavier , then he flew down , presumably to get shelter in a shrub or the like . We never saw him again , but feel privileged to have been so close for so long , even knowing why he came to the feeders . The only sighting on the feeders in the hour+ since he left , was a Great Spotted Woodpecker on the peanuts halfway down the garden , perhaps he is still about . Looking through the shots I got , I wish the light and weather conditions were better . Shooting through double glazed window streaming with rain is not conducive to good shots , but if conditions were good , then he probably would have been gone before the first shot was taken , and if Carol hadn't been at the window , we would never have known he was there at all .

Answers to last night's birds :-

Bird 11 . Tittling or Gowk -----------Cuckoo

Bird 12 . Tom Pudding or Arsfoot ----Little Grebe

Tonight's birds :-

Bird 13 . Guernsey Nightingale or Nettle Creeper

Bird 14 . Mouse Falcon or Stannel Hawk

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Sunday 9th.November 2008

Spent a couple of hours this morning at Spring Park Woods , just above the pond on the City of London managed site . Two winters ago , I put a few Dormouse boxes in the woodland , at the request of the Keeper , and have monitored them whilst recording Butterflies and Dragon/Damselflies there during the season . A couple of the boxes were used as roosts by birds , probably Tits , but no evidence of Dormice was found . So this morning I took them down and relocated them in a different area , which wasn't suitable last times because it had been coppiced , but now that coppice is of a size to support Dormice , if they are present . Only time will tell .
I ran into the Keeper whilst I was there and discussed the management work being carried out on the pond . Marestail , two large Water Lillies and Reed Sweetgrass are strangling the pond , and work has started to remove much of all three . With the Blanket Weed growth , the water surface was sometimes not seen this year . Of course , removing the vegetation also removes some of the larvae which live amongst the roots and detritus on the bottom , but they are leaving the removed vegetation on the side , hoping that the larvae will return to the water . Lets hope so , as they had a bad enough time this Summer without this upheaval , but I understand that something has to be done to keep growth in check , especially as the pond is spring fed from further up in the woods .
I had a walk around the wood , but , apart from a couple of feeding Tit flocks , Corvids , Wood Pigeons and a single Mistle Thrush , it was very quiet .
On my way back to the car , the ground was carpeted with Autumn colour , mostly Sycamore with a sprinkling of Norway Maple .
I looked back across the playing fields at the woods and wondered if the Autumn tints would still be there after the forecast stong winds .Before I reached the car , the first spots were on the wind , and by the time I got to the car , it was raining quite hard .
After lunch , Carol and I did the same walk I did yesterday . Not much had changed , apart from fewer Winter Thrushes in the Holly tree , but a bit further along , my first Meadow Pipit of the Winter on the site . In other years , I have had good numbers on the phone wires across the bridleway . In the field with the grazing sheep , a large flock of Starlings had joined the Corvids .
Along the lane below the horse field , a young Grey Squirrel was sat on top of a fence post , seemingly oblivious to our presence , even when I approached with the camera , it didn't move .
When we got home , I took my coffee and watched the feeders for a while . The Chaffinches are up to a maximum of 25 , Goldfinches 5 , Greenfinches 4 . Whilst watching , a female Great Spotted Woodpecker fed for some time , and I couldn't resist the shot of the female Brambling with the Coal Tit . Blue and Great Tit , Dunnock , Wren , Collared Dove , Wood Pigeon and Jackdaw all put in an appearance .
Answers to last night's birds :-
Bird 9. Sheep Stare or Chepster ----- Starling
Bird 10 . Field Lark or Our Lady's Hen ----Skylark
Tonight's birds :-
Bird 11 . Tittling or Gowk
Bird 12 . Tom Pudding or Arsfoot

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Saturday 8th.November 2008

Well , today started wet and dull , and that was how it finished , with just a little bit of brightness in between .
I went for a walk locally this afternoon in a bright spell , and caught two showers . It was more for fresh air than anything as very little was seen , I did put up a flock of about 10 Redwings and the same number of Fieldfares from a Holly tree , but apart from the usual Rose Ringed Parakeets and a mixed flock of Corvids in the field with the sheep grazing in it , that was it .
Two sightings of the Brambling on the feeders today , and the Chaffinch numbers have increased overnight . It's amazing , nothing on the feeders for ages , then in they all come together , Finches and Tits , then something spooks them , and they disappear again for an age . Still , I suppose it gives the Sparrowhawk less chance make a kill .

As it was so quiet , I am just posting a few more shots from earlier in the year .
Eiders on the Farne Islands .
Artic Tern on the Farne Islands .
Shag on the Farne Islands .

Gannets at Bempton Cliffs .

Answers to last night's birds :-

Bird 7 . French Pie or Woodnacker ------Gt.Sp.Woodpecker

Bird 8 . Bee Biter or Saw Sharpener -----Great Tit

Tonight's birds :-

Bird 9 . Sheep Stare or Chepster

Bird 10 . Field Lark or Our Lady's Hen