Thursday, 8 October 2009

Thursday 8th.October 2009

Firstly a big 'Thank you' to Orchids and Nature , and Shysongbird , for both identifying the floating water plant as Aponogeton distacyos-Water Hawthorn , as I thought , an alien invader , this time from South Africa .
Amongst a lot of rushing around today , I managed two visits , one either side of lunch , and both in beautiful sunshine , so welcome after all the recent rain and cloud . The first was a quick look up on the Common . The Hornets are still busy , but at a slower rate , and I'm sure I saw another Queen at the entrance to the nest . Butterflies were few , just 2 Small Copper and a single Speckled Wood . I had several sightings of male Vapourer moth , but once again , never saw one land . I did disturb a Plume moth-Platyptilia celidotus , I believe , and when it settled again , it allowed a few shots . The only other interest was a lichen , on the heathland area . It is Cladonia cristatella , but I prefer the second of it's two common names , British Soldier Lichen or Devil's Matches . The after lunch visit was to the farm lake , which was much fuller following the rain . I thought the Mandarins might have settled here as it is very close to Keston Ponds , but there was no sign , just the usual Coots , Moorhens , Little Grebes and 4 Tufted Ducks . I've posted a shot of the latter , as some Bloggers don't see many Tufties . Walking round the lake , I only recorded a single Comma , sunning itself on the warm side of a hedge . There was though , quite a good emergence of Caddisflies-Trichoptera , and one stayed still long enough to get a few shots . As things were quiet , I did a lap of the harvested field above the lake , and from the very top of the hill took this shot of London through the Autumn haze .It reminded me of pictures I've seen of New York , from Central Park . The tall building right of centre is the NatWest Tower and to the right of it , the Gerkin , and Canary Wharf further right again . On my way back to the lake , I found Shaggy Parasol-Lepiota rhacodes in the shade of the hedgeline . I did another lap of the lake , and found 3 Migrant Hawkers , all males , sunning themselves , when not fighting aerial battles . As has been the case for some time now , the most numerous dragonfly found was the Common Darter with 15+ recorded , and even a couple of pairs egglaying in tandem . Some males still had good colouring , but several were like this one , described as over mature , with the abdomen going a browny/beige colour , and the wings become yellowish . On the way home , there was a large , mixed , Corvid flock in the horse fields alongside the bottom lane , which contained a good number of Rooks , a species that was not found locally until a few years ago . It was interesting to have a size comparison between one and the more numerous Jackdaw .

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Wednesday 7th.October 2009

In between this morning's constant drizzle and the heavier rain after lunch , I managed to get out for a short while up to Keston Ponds . Two things struck me on my arrival , the first , the almost total absence of water birds . I looked straight away for the Mandarins , but none were seen , just three Moorhen down on the bottom pond . Nothing at all on the middle pond and just one female Mallard and two Moorhen on the top pond . The only explanation that I could see , was that a large Oak tree , that leaned over the footpath below the bottom pond , had had severe surgery applied to it . All that was left of it was a trunk , about 4 mtrs. high , so the remainder being brought down and processed , probably frightened everthing away . I just hope they return , especially the Mandarins . The only other bird seen , was a Grey Wagtail , that would not let me get within a decent lens distance , before flying off to the other end of the pond . In fact , in the second shot , one foot is already in the air ready to go . The second thing , was a floating plant , in full flower , when everything else is dying off . I have fried to identify this in previous years , and failed , and have come to the conclusion that it is some alien species that has invaded the top pond . With very little else found , I headed off looking for fungi , under ever more threatening skies . The rain and cooler temperatures are bringing more fungi out , but it seems to be a very slow process . It didn't need rain to make the cap shiny of the first species found , Suillus luteus , that shine giving it's common name Slippery Jack , a member of the Boletus family , all of which have pores , not gills , on the underside of the cap , from which the spores are released . Having found one on my last visit , I found 8/10 of the next species , Amanita muscaria-Fly agaric . All today's specimens were like this one , just having emerged . The white pyramidal warts covering the red cap can be washed off by the rain , leaving the cap smooth . This is one of the poisonous Amanitas . Deeper in the woodland , around a large Oak tree , were several specimens of Blackish-purple Russula-Russula atropurpurea . The Russula family is large and some are very common , but even those common members are few and far between so far this year . The last species found was Root Fomes-Heterobasidionb annosum , one of the bracket form of fungi . This particular fungi causes serious economical losses in conifer plantations .

Friday, 2 October 2009

Friday 2nd.October 2009

The bird survey at Down House was due , so that is where I headed , and fortunately , the weather was improving all the time . Although chilly to start , the sun shone throughout the visit . That probably helped with a better end result that the last couple of visits . Not a single Summer visitor , or come to that , a single Winter visitor was recorded . 23 species were recorded , with nothing exceptional amongst them . The best of the bunch being 4 Mistle Thrush , 3 Nuthatch and 7 Rose Ringed Parakeet . I did have a fly over of five large Finches , calling continually , and I got brick red on two of them . They didn't stop , but I'm reasonably sure they were Crossbills , but I am not 100% sure , so I will not be recording them .
Incidentally , I half heard a report on the radio this morning , that although a protected species , Parakeets can be shot starting next year . I haven't heard the report again and haven't been able to confirm it , but I'm sure that was what was said . Having experienced them in the area for many years , I have often said that once they spread into the fruit growing areas , they would be treated like the Bullfinch was many years ago , because of their destructive habit of sitting in the tops of trees and ripping out the buds .

Around the Sandwalk , where Darwin mulled over his thoughts , I found some Armillaria mellea-Honey Fungus , but the dry warm weather is certainly holding things up , as this area is usually very good for several species . Also on the side of the path , is what is left of the Violet Helleborine that I posted back in the Summer . Now all that remains are the seed pods , hopefully these will provide more plants in the years to come . Around the cricket field , are many Hawthorn trees , but this one stands out from all the others , producing marble sized Hawes , and much fewer leaves that the normal ones . I had hoped that I might have had another Clouded Yellow on my visit , but the meadows have been 'topped' since my last visit , and what flower there was has gone , leaving nothing to attract butterflies . I always have a second look around the walled vegetable garden before leaving , and found this small Small Copper , nectaring on Michaelmas Daisies . It was tiny , and also one of the blue spotted variants . Apart from this , just a single Painted Lady , warming up , high in a hedgerow , and two Hornets hunting insects , were the only other interest .
After lunch , after doing a few calls in the town , I stopped off at Spring Park Pond , on my way home . My first sighting was this caterpillar , found on the leaves of Yellow Flag Iris . I have looked through the images , and the only one that I can find is the Yellow Tailed moth , but , the flight time does not match . Any help would be appreciated .With thanks , once again , to ShySongbird/Shysongbird's Twitterings , the caterpillar has been identified as that of the Knot Grass moth . A species that I have never heard of , and a very drab adult resulting from a very colourful caterpillar . Personally , I think 'SS' should be changed from 'ShySongbird' to 'Super Sleuth' , another great ID effort , thank you very much .Walking around the pond , I also disturbed a male Southern Hawker , that went into a few manic laps , before settling back at rest . As I was photographing this one , another movement , to my left , produced a second male . Walking further round , numbers 3 , 4 and 5 appeared , and continual aerial battles ensued . Added to this , 20+ Common Darter , mostly males , eager to defend their territory , it sometimes seemed like WW3 had started . I moved on to the small sheltered meadow , and was surprised to find , after yesterday's fresh female Brown Argus , a fresh male of the same species .
Fresh was not the word to describe my next find , a very tatty male Common Blue , the wings of which were almost see through , and well camouflaged on some late Bramble flowers . Along with these two , I recorded another 4 Small Copper , 1 Comma and 2 Small , 2 Large and 1 Green Veined White . On the edge of the meadow I had yet another male Vapourer moth , that only just evaded being a meal for yet another male Southern Hawker .
Tomorrow is the last day hedgelaying at Leith Hill , will it produce a Raven ?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Thursday 1st.October 2009

After two days working up on the Greensand Ridge , I was itching to get out and about , but had things to do first , so didn't get out till after lunch . First stop was the farm lake , which I must say was very quiet , apart from disturbing a Grey Heron having his lunch on the floating island . He had caught a decent sized fish , but was having trouble 'getting it down' , as it flew off and left the fish behind . I waited for it to return , secreted in the surrounding trees , but it was too smart for me , and I left it in the horse paddock , well out of camera distance . Only other interest found was a single Migrant Hawker and 20+ Common Darters , some mating and some egg laying .
Keston Ponds was my second stop , and without any tree surgeons around , I had a look for the Mandarins , down on the bottom pond . Five at the last count , has increased to ten today , seven males and three females . Still very shy , all ten are in this shot , all perched on what seems to be their favourite tree which droops down to the water . Within 10 metres , was what I can only think was a Moorhen convention , with 11 specimens in the middle of the pond . Not unusual to see Moorhens here , but 11 together is unusual . Just as I was about to leave the bottom pond , a flash of yellow landed near the Mandarins , and the bobbing motion could only be a Grey Wagtail , but it insisted at staying as far as it could from the camera . With very little else of interest found , I headed off into the woods and heathland looking for fungi , with very little result for my efforts . I did find a Common Lizard on the heathland area , and shortly afterwards , found only my second Amanita muscari-Fly Agaric of the Autumn , the first the other day up on the Ridge , but a well chewed specimen . It gets it's common name from being used in medieval times as a fly trap , as the cap was broken into bowls of milk , and the flies were stupefied when they fed on it . Like many of the Amanita family , this one is poisonous , and also hallucinogenic . It affects the central nervous system and cause convulsions , dizziness and a death-like sleep , this is when the hallucinations are experienced . Apparently , the Reindeer in Lapland are affected in the same way , perhaps that is how Rudolph and the others manage to fly . Very little else was found until I found Otidea onotica-Hare's Ears growing under a Holly bush . No need to explain how this one got it's name . A single male Brimstone and two Small Coppers were recorded on the site . With little found , I stopped on the Common on my way home . There was no sign of the Wasp Spider who has laid her eggs , nor of the web with the zig-zag , but her egg sack is there , suspender by threads , and sealed at the open end with a cotton wool type material . I shall keep an eye on it in the Spring , as all 'old' egg sacks that I have found , have still been sealed , suggesting no young have ever emerged from them . A walk over the heathland area produced little , till I got to the sheltered area where I had the Clouded Yellow last visit . Within a very small area , I recorded a very fresh , female Brown Argus , warming herself in the afternoon sun , an equally fresh Small Copper , and then , a very fresh looking , twitchy , Painted Lady , three specimens that I certainly didn't expect to record . I had to pass the Hornet nest on my way back to the car , so stopped for a look . Things are definitely slowing down now , but still comings and goings . I got a few shots , then four Hornets came out , line abreast , heading my way . One last shot , and I got out of their way and out of the line of fire .