Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Tuesday 31st.March 2009

Just one day working up on the Greensand Ridge this week . So , knowing that wildlife would be at a premium whilst working , I turned a few tins before starting , not that much was found . The three Slow Worms under felt , were still in situ , looking as if they hadn't moved since my last visit , and a Common Lizard was under another , looking as if it had finished it's slough now . The same Adder was found on the Juniper patch , but , whilst there , Bullfinches were calling incessently . I caught odd glimpses , but no chance of a photo . Eventually , three of them flew across the site in line astern , each showing a white rump . Also on site , was a single singing Chiffchaff .
The lighter late afternoon enabled another look around on the way home . On my way , along a narrow lane , I found my first Wood Sorrel of the year in flower , a good sized patch on a shady bank . My first find on site was a female Roe Deer on the edge of one of the Adder glades that we made recently . It is deep within Sweet Chestnut coppice , so although I tried for a shot , there was too much vegetation in between . The refugia here also produced very little except for one Slow Worm laying on Bluebells . Just one Adder was found , a male , and he was already on his way undergroung for the night . The most unexpected sighting , was when a rustle of leaves attracted my attention to a log on the ground , and the leaves were those directly alongside it . I thought I would wait a bit , camera in hand , to try and see what caused the rustling . After a couple of minutes , I could see movement between the ground and the log . I couldn't be sure what it was , so a 'Mexican Standoff' started . After another few minutes , more movement , and a bit better view . Now I could see a twinkling eye and whiskers . Then it got brave , and ventured further out of it's hole , and showed as a Wood Mouse . A second after this was taken , it was off along the log and disappeared into the vegetation .I left it to look for it's tea , whilst I set off for mine .
I notice some people have no longer got their Bramblings at their feeders , here , the male was in this morning , and I caught sight of the female this evening . Also visiting this morning was the female Great Spotted Woodpecker , who stopped for a drink . I close with one of the local Robins , giving me the evil eye , after spotting the camera lens .

Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday 27th.March 2009

Grey skies and the constant threat of rain , gave me the chance to catch up with some chores this morning . The threat never really came to anything until lunch time , when it tipped it down , then cleared to almost blue skies . The forecast was for heavier showers in the afternoon , but seeing as they got it wrong once , I thought I would take a chance , and headed off to the Greensand Ridge . Just my luck , as I arrived , so did the clouds , and a cool wind . I decided that as I was there , I would turn some tins , not expecting much in those conditions . Well , I wasn't disappointed , after turning 19 pairs of refugia , I had amassed one Slow Worm .
Fortunately , away from the refugia , I found a single and a pair of male Adders laying out , even though there was no sign of the sun . The singleton looked enormous , as Adders have the ability to flatten out their bodies , so that the maximun area can be warmed , when the sun comes out . The pair together were also using the same strategy , how much warmth they were getting was debatable .Whilst walking , I found the first Bluebell of the year in flower , well just two bells in flower . Also found was the first member of the Speedwell family in flower . A large family this one , and the species found was Common Field Speedwell , identified by the bottom petal of the flower being white , whereas the other three are blue with darker blue veins .
Few insects were around on this chilly afternoon , but the orange coloured Dung fly was around in reasonable numbers , and a few large Buff Tailed Bumblebees were seen . Not much for them to feed on , but one opportunity was the catkins of Goat Willow , providing nectar in hard times . The second site I visited did no better under refugia than the first . We have cleared Gorse , up to three metres high from the site earlier in the year , but have left Juniper , one of only four native evergreen trees , in the hope that they will regenerate , now they have room and light . One male Adder was found in amongst last year's bracken .
On the third site visited , at last animals were found under the refugia . A single Common Lizard was found under one , and surprisingly it had already started to slough , shed it's old skin , as can be seen on it's hind legs . A trio of adult Slow Worms were found under another refugia , must have been keeping each other warm .

Birdwise , things were very quiet , not helped by the wind . Passing a private lake , I did see 18 Greylag and 11 Canada Geese , 2 Tufted Duck and the odd Coot and Moorhen . Probably the best of the rest was hearing a Nuthatch and Green Woodpecker and a brief glimpse of a Sparrowhawk , working the woodland edge and a calling Chiffchaff . At least I kept dry , and within half an hour of getting back home , the heavens opened again .

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Thursday 26th.March 2009

The final work day of the season up on the Common , was called off this morning because of weather conditions then and those forecasted for the remainder of the day . I earned some brownie points taking Carol shopping this morning and after lunch headed off for a walk around Hayes Farm .
The site is totally different to my last visit , with no sign of the large flocks of Gulls , just a few of the large number of Carrion Crows and Jackdaws showing . The most surprising thing was the number of Mistle Thrushes seen , somewhere around 10/12 , with one male in full song on the large Oak at the stile at the entrance . Six seemed to be playing tag around another Oak , all calling with the 'wood on comb' call and hardly taking any notice of me . I did manage one shot of one of them . As you can see , it was in fine voice , even if it's feathers were being ruffled by the strong wind . At least another four were seen in two different horse paddocks .
I didn't see the female Kestrel today , but did see a male for the first time on the site . He came over a hedgerow and flattened out low to the ground like a Sparrowhawk . He landed on an old water bowser , but was gone again before I got the camera out . Heard or seen were Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker , Blue and Great Tit , Greenfinch , Goldfinch and Bullfinch , Woodpigeon , Stock and Collared Dove .
At the Trout Fishery , not much had changed . Two of the white farmyard geese were on nests on an island in the middle , and the Egyptian goose was still with the 'Bitsers' . Coot and Moorhen numbers were down and Tufted Duck up to 8 with 3 males and 5 females . As well as the Greylag crosses , there were two real Greylags in the adjoining field with two Canada geese .
A pair of Mallard were tucked in out of the wind , the male catching fourty winks , whilst the female preened . I left the Fishery and headed to see if there was any sign of the Little Owl , which there wasn't , but on the way had at least two calling Chiffchaffs , one of which I disturbed have it's ablutions in the River Ravensbourne . Along the way , I first found what could be Spring Quill-Scilla verna , a member of the Lily family . Not the best of shots with the sun bleaching the colour . Always difficult to be sure that it is a true wild flower , or a cultivated version , especially close to a built up area . Not far away , I found the first Honesty in flower this year . On my return journey , my attention was drawn to a tree on the edge of the wood with bright green , what I first thought was foliage , but on getting closer , realised it was flowers . It was the Norway Maple , a cousin of the Sycamore , the difference being that this flowers before leafing and the Sycamore flowers after leafing . On the way back to the car , Wren , Blackbird , Pied Wagtail , Magpie , Jay and of course Rose Ringed Parakeet were found .
I called in on Keston Ponds on the way home , and basically the status quo stands , with the exception of just the male Mandarin , no sign of the female , nesting ? The Coots nest that I posted a while back has been destroyed , by whom or what I don't know , but they have already rebuilt further down the pond , and the female is sitting again .
No sign of the Redpolls since , but in case you were wondering , this was one of the male Bramblings late this afternoon , now they come for tea as well .

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Sunday 22nd.March 2009

Now , with the computer , hopefully , behaving , today's second post is a compilation of yesterday's afternoon and this morning's visits up onto the Common .
But before that , I know I promised , but they'll be gone soon and I can't resist another couple of shots . Today , the female Brambling was in the Laburnum tree , one male also visited ,
and the Redpoll on the feeder . As you can see , it saw me as I took the shot , and was gone straight after .
Back to yesterday afternoon . At least two singing Chiffchaffs , and possibily three seen/heard , how such a small bird can sing constantly always amazes me . Just after taking this shot , it flew off into a Silver Birch , landing right next to another small bird . This bird was feeding on the Silver Birch seeds and constantly on the move , and although I never got a full clear view of it , the red crown indicated yet another Redpoll . Perhaps it had followed me up from the garden . As I posted the other day , the Long Tailed Tits have finished their nest , and with the afternoon sun , a distant view of it was possible . This domed creation has to be one of the wonders of nature , let's hope they are successful . A little further on , a Green Woodpecker flew low across the heathland and landed on the side of a Silver Birch . As usual , it only stayed for a few seconds , but I managed a quick snapshot . Whilst walking through another area of heathland , I heard a rustle in front of me . This was my view . I took another couple of steps and took another shot . It was a male Pheasant , trying to make out that it wasn't really there . One more step and I would get the full picture , but in a flash , he was up , running and disappearing into another patch of thick gorse , I left him to it .
This morning I returned to the Common and the Chiffchaffs were still singing . There were more butterflies around today with 4 Brimstone , a single Peacock , looking decidedly sleepy ,

and 5 Commas . The comma on the underside of the wing showing how it gets it's name , and the side shot showing that although , as an insect it has six legs , only uses the rear four legs to walk on . The front two , as with several other species of butterfly , are non-functional , covered with hairs and held forward , close to the head . Every tree I passed is bursting bud , some like the Aspen have produced catkins before coming into leaf . Let's hope the cooler weather forcasted will not do them damage . Over lunch in the garden , a very dapper male Chaffinch in breeding plumage , flew in , took no notice of us , and proceeded to have his lunch as well . For some reason , their numbers have been steadily building again , up to 20/25 at times .

Saturday 21st.March 2009

My Broadband connection was down most of yesterday , so this is being posted a day late .
The day started with another visit from the pair of Redpolls , not to feed with the other Finches , but just for a quick drink from the birdbath , and away . The only other visitor of note was the female Brambling , and I finally managed a shot , albeit of poor quality , as she decided to feed in one of Carol's flower containers in the shade on the patio .
I decided on a trip to Fackenden Down , to see if the good weather of the past week had brought more Adders and other reptiles out of hibernation . The short answew was , not many . Although the sun was warm , a stiff cool breeze was blowing over the site , and one field still had two horses grazing it , and from their droppings , often frequented the areas where reptiles are normally found . I hope they will be taken off site shortly . Just one Adder was found under a tin , which isn't unusual , as they tend to use the refugia later in the season . It was a good sized male , and duly posed in the sunshine . Three other males were found in the open , all close together . Two I think were the pair found last week , and this one which was mostly hidden by grass , at the bottom of a Dog Rose stem . The only other reptiles found were four Slow Worms , a count well down on last week , once again probably due to the cool breeze . Overhead , several Skylarks were in full song , and a mobile flock of about 15 Golfinches noisily charged around the site . Even the butterflies numbers were well down , with just 1 Comma , 2 Brimstone and a single Peacock being found . Along the bottom track , amongst many Blackthorn bushes , just one small spindly bush had burst into flower .
On the way home , I stopped off at High Elms Country Park , to see if the Green Hellebores were showing . The flower I posted from the Greensand Ridge was past it's best , and I was pleased to find them in good numbers and very fresh and vibrant , even though they are all green . Whilst there , I also went looking to see if another not rare , but unusual plant was showing yet . Looking like some sort of alien , I found it just bursting out of the ground . It is Butterbur- Petasites hybridus , a member of the Daisy family , and unusual as the flower head comes out of the ground , the flowers open , and then the plant is raised on a long stalk with strap-like bracts . When all this has happened , the leaves , which can reach up to 1mtr. across , appear . The flower head pictured is about 5 cm. across . This plant is very closly related to Winter Heliotrope , which I posted as one on the first flowers of the year , sometimes flowering before Christmas .
A stop at the farm lake was quiet . A Grey Heron lifted off on my arrival , and the call of Little Grebe confirmed that there is a pair again on the lake , and later I saw both . The Coots have already built their nest and the Moorhens are at about the same number . Three male and two female Mallard were on the water , with two of the drakes doing their 'dunk the female under the water' routine . The amount of Frogspawn around the margins was phenominal . In some areas , square metres of spawn could be measured , but quite a lot seems to have been caught by the early morning frosts of late , and probably will not hatch out . Birdwise , it was quiet , but just before leaving , a Common Buzzard appeared from over the woods , soared over the fields , and headed further up the valley . A distant silhouette was all that I could manage .
After lunch , I headed up on the Common , but I will post that tonight , if the Broadband connection holds up .
The answer to the white egg question was Barn Owl . Well done Warren , right family . It was laid on the ground in the aviary , by one of the Barn Owls that my friend rescued when a West Country Zoo was close down by the authorities . She just ignored the egg , same as Canaries and Budgerigars sometimes do in cages . Interestingly , had she sat on and hatched the egg , my friend tells me that the paperwork for breeding Barn Owls in captivity is unbelievable , much worse than all he had to fill out just to rescue them from being put down .