Monday, 28 September 2009

Monday 28th.September 2009

With a change in the weather from the last few days , under cloudy skies , I spent some time this morning , trying for a half decent shot of the Nuthatch that seems to be making twice daily visits to the sunflower hearts . It duly appeared , but never stayed for long enough to focus on it , zooming in , grabbing a seed , and away , in the wink of an eye . I shall keep trying , but in the meantime , will have to make do with another species that does exactly the same usually , but today stayed around feeding on the peanuts , and a Greenfinch , having gorged itself once , was waiting to get back on the feeder for seconds .

Lunchtime promised better to come , but by the time I reached Fackenden Down , the cloud had rolled in again , and a cool NW breeze was blowing along the slope , not good conditions for reptiles . And so it proved , with just two Slow Worms and two Common Lizards being recorded on the site and in the surrounding area , one of the Common Lizards having lost it's tail at some time , and looking strange with two legs in the ring of it's body . Butterflies did just as badly , with just 6 recorded from 4 species . The only shot was this male Large White , nectaring on one of the few remaining Black Knapweed flowers still in flower . Birds recorded were mainly Corvids , with about 10 Magpies being the most numerous . I did see two Sparrowhawks that looked as if they were practising food exchanges , until a couple of the local Carrion Crows decided to have a go at them . They won that one , but were immediately set upon by 6 Magpies , and were obviously outnumbered and driven off , the Magpies seemed to cheer loudly as they went .
Not much colour on the slope now , but standing out in patches are the fruits of the WildPrivet , looking not unlike the fruits of the Buckthorn .
Even the Grasshopper numbers have crashed , but I did find a female Dark Bush Cricket , identified by the ovipositor at the end of her abdomen . And finally , a green caterpillar , about 4cms. long , with a yellow collar , that I thought would make it easy to identify . I've looked at pages and pages of images , but haven't ID'd it yet . Any ideas ?
A big thank you to Steve/Kingsdowner , for his identification , Green Silver Lines , even down to the red anal prolegs . Cheers Steve .

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Saturday 26th.September 2009

Dropped Carol off in the town , not knowing where I was going today , but finally decided on a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve , where , last year , we layed the hedge alongside the road . I've been going to visit ever since , and made it today . Spynes Mere , right alongside the M23 motorway , was a ballast extraction site , and when worked out , leased to SWT . The reserve covers only one of the three man made lakes , another is totally fenced off , and the third used as a water sport / angling centre . The reserve is a good size lake , but why was a hedge planted , within the stockproof fencing , with hardly any viewpoints for wildfowl and water birds ? In hazy sunshine , I set off around the reserve , and almost immediately found a Peacock butterfly , nectaring on Creeping Thistle . I could hear geese as I walked round , but it wasn't till I got to a high point , that I had a view of the water and bank . The geese I had heard , were a mixture of Greylag and Canada , and a single , what I can only describe as a 'bitsa' , as in bits of this and bits of that . From the legs back , it looked like a Greylag , but the white breast and neck was from something else , and to finish off , a white mask of a White Fronted Goose . The Greylags , with which it was trying to associate did not want to know it , and had several attempts to drive it off . Not a great shot , but it was at quite some distance . Other sightings around the bank included Green Sandpiper , Lapwing , Teal , Gadwall and Cormorant . In total 26 species of bird were recorded on the site , the best of the rest being , Sparrowhawk and Green Woodpecker . Walking round , there was very little in flower , but one that was , was Goat's Rue-Galega officinalis , a member of the Pea family . Also providing colour , was a very good crop of Rose Hips , that should satisfy the hunger of the Winter Thrushes , when they arrive . Butterflies were very few , with 8 specimens from 6 species being recorded . Most were ragged to say the least , but this Small Copper was very dapper indeed . Odonata , given the large water area were very poor , with just two Common Darters , mating , and three male Migrant Hawkers being recorded . Mind you , one of them posed and allowed me to get within 15 cms. , and he was rather dapper as well . Once again , I had several sightings of male Vapourer Moth , but , once again , failed to see any of them come to rest . The only other thing of interest was a Forest Bug-Pentatoma rufipes , which was in almost the same spot as the Peacock , and seen as I was leaving the reserve .

Friday, 25 September 2009

Friday 25th.September 2009

Firstly , a big ' Thank You ' to ShySongbird / ShySongbirds Twitterings , who , with a little more self conviction , would have beaten 'The Man ' , to identifying the Feathered Thorn that I asked for help with last night . Like ShySongbird , I looked at lots of images of moths both before and after posting , but did not come up with the answer Thank You again Shy Songbird for your effort .
Yet another day 'stolen from Summer' , I really like that phrase , it describes today's weather perfectly . Carol wanted some help , doing some heavy cutting back in the garden , and as I wanted some dinner tonight , I said I would be only too happy to help , so I only got out this morning . I headed straight for the Common , to see how the Wasp Spider was getting on . I found her easily enough , but it appeared that she had been to Weightwatchers , as she was much smaller in the abdomen . Then , I spotted why , she had constructed her egg sack , and as it was sealed at the top , I assume that she had already laid her eggs . Looking like a hot air balloon , and suspended by a criss-cross web amongst the Heather , this egg sack contains the continuance of the species as far as she is concerned , as , having mated , and then probably eaten the male , she will die over the Winter . Leaving her to finish her work , I found a specimen of an over mature Common Darter , resting on Bracken , Difficult to say whether a male or female , as they both go a dark beige/brown colour at this time . Next stop was right on the road crossing on the Common , where I first saw a Wasp Spider egg sack , two years ago . An old sack was found , but nothing fresh , until I came across another female , and from the size of her , she had not yet laid her eggs , and having made her web across a small track , enabled a full on shot . Also in the shot is the zig-zag (bottom centre) , that is part of the web spun by this species , but no one is sure of the purpose of it . Enjoying the sunshine , I headed for the Hornet's nest , to find a lot of activity around the entrance hole . Not so much coming and going , more excitement at the entrance . After a sort while , this enormous specimen , much bigger than any I have seen there , appeared at the entrance , I think it may be one of the future Queens , but cannot be sure . Shortly afterwards , the workers started taking an interest in me , so I backed off , in big strides . A little later , I spent quite some time trying to photograph a female Ichneumon type fly , without success , because she just would not keep still . Walking through the Heather on the heathland area , I was surprised to disturb yet another Clouded Yellow . This must be my 14/16th. sighting this year , and that number will be up with the Painted Lady sighting for the year . During my visit , I saw many male Vapourer moths , flying between Oak trees , probably looking for the non-flying females of the species . I never did manage to see one land , they just seemed to disappear into thin air , or over the tops of the trees .
On my way home , I stopped and had a look at a piece of rough headland around a harvested arable field . A lot of the time was spent trying to Identify a yellow Hawkbit/Hawkweed/Hawksbeard type specimen , which I still haven't managed to do . But I did find and identify , Small Toadflax-Chaenorthinum minus , a member of the Figwort family , Knotgrass-Polygonum aviculare , in flower , a member of the Dock family ,and Black Medick-Medicago lupulina , a member of the Pea family , identified from other similar species , by the minute point on the end of each leaflet .

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Thursday 24th.September 2009

I couldn't describe today better than the way Warren of Pittswood Birds described it opening his Blog 'today was a day stolen from Summer' , perfectly put .
We had visitors this afternoon , so I had to make the most of a couple of hours before lunch and after a bit of shopping , headed for the farm lake . It was cool on arrival , and I didn't hold out too much hope of finding much , but the sun soon got to work and started to warm things up . I disturbed a Grey Heron from the corner of the lake as I arrived , and it was birds that made up most of the interest early on . A Sparrowhawk coming over the woods was soon set upon by the resident Corvids and 'escorted to the parish boundary' , to quote the Blogger mentioned earlier .
Nothing really great was recorded but 21 species , topped by Green Woodpecker , Linnet , Nuthatch and Rose Ringed Parakeet , was a reasonable haul for the small site . Just 5 butterflies , each a different species , was all that was recorded today , but the Brown Argus found , a female , was egg laying as if there was no tomorrow , flitting from here to there , laying , then resting , before starting to lay again . She seemed not to notice me following her , and after several attempts , managed to get a shot of her in the act , the tip of her abdomen depositing next year's generation . I found several of the eggs after she had moved on , tiny little specks of white against the green leaf . Eventually she disappeared , probably having layed all her eggs , and hopefully to get a rest . The other species recorded were Speckled Wood , Meadow Brown , Large White and Comma . The rising temperature encouraged the Odonata to emerge . Just two species were recorded , 3 Migrant Hawkers , all males , one of them showing the damage inflicted when two males clash in mid air over territory , but it made no difference to his flying ability , as they were still squabbling , even though there wasn't a female present . The Common Darters were much much more numerous , with 35/50 recorded , and the majority were either mating or egg laying in tandem . One particular spot seemed to be very popular , as I found three pairs in 'the ring' , within 25 cms. of each other , top right , bottom left and just right
I just had time for a quick look at Keston Ponds , and found the same situation with the Common Darters , with about the same number recorded . About 10 Common Blue Damselflies , a single Brown Hawker , and this male Southern Hawker , which gave me a good looking over , even attempting to snatch a yellow logo from my camera bag . I didn't go down to the bottom pond as tree surgeons were working down there , and the Mandarins would have made themselves scarce . Walking back to the car , what looked like a leaf , blowing on the ground , on closer inspection turned out to be a moth , lying on it's back , with a Common Wasp looking as if it was eating it . If it was , I know it happens in nature , but I like moths better than Wasps , so i flicked it off with a stick , and turned the moth over . It turned out to be a male , identified by the feathery antennae , but that is as far as I have got . But I do know a man who might be able to help !
And 'the man' , Dean/mostlymacro , once again came up trumps , identifying the moth as a Feathered Thorn , thanks very much Dean .

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Tuesday 22nd.September 2009

The Autumn Equinox was also the day of the monthly Dormouse and Reptile survey , up on the Greensand Ridge . 70 Dormice boxes and about 35 pairs of refugia to check , made for along day's walking . As I have said before , numbers of both have been down this year , but regular monitoring still goes on , in the hope that numbers increase again .
50 boxes were the first target , and once again most were empty , but a couple had Hazel leaves in the bottom , an indicator of the box being used as an 'overnight nest' . A couple had Hazel nut shells that had been opened in the Dormouse style , very neatly . It wasn't until we were about to turn the corner to come back to where we started , that a single male was found . A single , very active male . Several times he attempted to use my arm as a tree , to I finished up putting him in my 'holding pot' , a plastic jar that I think held nuts and raisins originally , whilst we sorted things out . The light in the shot is natural sunlight , I never use flash on these animals . He had a good weight , and I 'posted' him back into his home , none the worse for wear . I was hoping to find some interesting fungi today , especially in the damper area where we found him , but very little was about . I did find one specimen of one the lower classes of fungi , Myxomycetes , commonly called Slime Moulds . A microscope is needed to see many of this class , but there are a few , like this Fuligo septica-Flowers of Tan , a very striking specimen . The refugia didn't produce much either , just the Slow Worm , but one of the corrugated tins had this Hunting type Spider , sat on top , a female , carrying her egg sack with her . It wasn't till the second site that the only Adder , a female was found under refugia . Another female was found laying out sunning herself , but she saw me first and beat the camera . This one was happier to pose for a few shots , she was sharing with two immature Grass Snakes . One shot off straight away , but the other stayed to be included in the shot . On this second site , we trebled our Dormouse numbers , when we found a female and a juvenile . The picture is of the juvenile , a male weighing in at just 6.5 grammes , he will need to feed up now to get a good hibernation weight . Under refugia we also found a Pigmy Shrew and a Wood Mouse , only the second that I have found this year . By no means mega numbers today , but it appears that the Dormice and Reptiles are at least ticking over . As we finished the surveys , it was very pleasing to find a flock of 25+ House Martins , hawking for insects over the last meadow that we walked through .

Monday, 21 September 2009

Monday 21st.September 2009

After helping with the shopping this morning , I headed off for a look around Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve , managed by Kent Wildlife Trust . As is the norm , the sunshine I had travelling there , quickly disappeared behind clouds . The water level on most of the lakes seems very low , even though there seems to be plenty of water in the River Darenth which passes through the site . Apart from the usual geese and water fowl , the most exciting species seen were a Snipe and a Little Egret . I visited all the hides , and didn't see another person in any of them . Even the feeders outside Grebe Hide didn't manage to attract any interest , but I must admit that the constant call from this juvenile Great Crested Grebe , hastened my decision to look for wildlife elsewhere . Two species of butterfly were recorded towards the end of the visit , when the sun appeared again , 6 Comma and 3 Small White .
I had to almost pass Fackenden Down on my way back , so stopped for a look . Surprisingly , within the first five minutes of being there , I recorded Green Veined and Small White , Brown Argus and a couple of Silver Y day flying moths . I had to lift a few tins , but only found 3 Slow Worms , a single Common Lizard and an immature , female Adder . More butterfly species were recorded , with Small Copper , Brimstone , Meadow Brown , Large White and Comma going into the book .
I carried on to the nearby site that I visited last time , and found a couple of fungi growing on , or very near , the droppings of the ponies that grazed the field last Winter . The first I have identified as Panaeolus campanulatus-Bell-shaped Mottlegill , and the second , Psilocybe coprophila, actually growing out of the droppings . Both species probable brought on by the heavy rain on Friday night . Several more Small Coppers were recorded , this one nectaring on Devilsbit Scabious , as was an unexpected male Common Blue . Speckled Wood , and another Brimstone were also recorded here , along with the best butterfly sightings of the day , but no pictures , were definitely two , probable three , possible four Clouded Yellows . I saw the two at the same time , the others separately , but as they were so active in the warm sunshine , somewhere between 2/4 is as good as I can say . The warmth also put up at least three Common Buzzards , but they were so high , they would have been just specks on a photo . Just a single male Adder was found on this site . Taking both sites together , 11 species of butterfly and 4 Silver Y moths were , surprisingly recorded , albeit in small numbers .
And finally , a caterpillar found once again on the Devilsbit Scabious , a moth I'm reasonably sure

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Sunday 20th.September 2009

Yet again , today was a day of two visits . The first was a look around the Common , in what turned out to be barmy , humid conditions . Things were still pretty wet from the overnight rain , which made seeing the spider's webs easier to see . There were loads of them , stretched between almost every piece of vegetation . Nearly all were made , and guarded by the Garden Spider-Araneus diadematus , but a flash of yellow on one , had me taking a closer look . My near three year wait was over , it was a female Wasp Spider . The last time I saw an adult of the species , I had 10 females in two patches of Bramble at Spring Park Pond . I have found egg sacks , mainly when working on the Common during the Winter . Strange thing is thou , I have never found an egg sack that looked as if young had emerged from it , they have all looked as if they were still sealed , as the female would do . I had a good look around the area , but did not find any others , but I will keep an eye on this one , would be great to get her egg laying . Chuffed with the find , I headed off to check a previous find , the Hornet nest . All seemed quiet from a distance , but as I drew closer , that was not the case . Whereas on the last visit , the entrance just looked like a hole in the moss and Heather roots , now the paper type material of the nest can be seen , extending right to the mouth of the entrance , and I would swear that the Hornets were even bigger than last time , four seen here , three heading out and one in . I had the feeling of being watched on the heathland area , the watcher turned out to be a cock Pheasant , and he was watching a female . No sign of Brimstones today , but the Buckthorn , on which the females laid their eggs and the caterpillars fed , are now looking Autumnal , and their berries turning black . On one of the Heather patches , I found a Common Lizard , one of three recorded on site , enjoying the sunshine . Just two butterflies were recorded on site , a Small White and this Comma .
An after lunch visit to High Elms was even lighter with butterflies , with just one Meadow Brown recorded . Without butterflies , I searched for fungi , but even that was in short supply . No sign yet of the Magpie Fungus and Plums & Custard that I usually find here , probably more rain and cooler temperatures needed . Two species that I did find were Hypholoma sublateritium-Brickcap and Calocera viscosa , both found on moss covered tree stumps . The only other interest found was this male Dark Bush-Cricket , identified by the saddle on the back and no ovipositor , which seemed to be having a Darcey Bussell moment .