Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday 19th.March 2010

Well , I'm finally back posting again , with many thanks to my neighbour , who has lent me this Mac laptop , for which I am very grateful . Having said that , it has been a nightmare trying to edit photos under a different system , and failing dismally , so the pictures are straight from the card out of the camera , without any editing , and some are not the ones that I wanted to post , but on a quite day , when things have settled down , I will post them again , cropped .
It has been another busy week for wildlife and volunteering , staring on Mothering Sunday , I visited my old Mum's grave , then had a walk around the adjacent Country Park . Just one Shoveler remains on the lake , but the 3 Pochard are still there , but nothing out of the ordinary apart from them . Whilst standing at one of the feeding platforms , I felt that I was not alone , and sure enough , I wasn't . Scampering around an area of fallen trees , were about 15/20 Brown Rats , and they were also finding bread amongst the reeds . I have seen the odd one or two here before , but never this many . I must say though , they looked very clean , and just before I left the platform , two young girls arrived with bread , to feed the rats . The only picture
opportunity came with this female Kestrel , looking for her next meal . Back in the garden I found my first Bumble Bee of the year , feeding on Crocus , and producing a shot almost identical to that posted by Warren about the same time .
Monday had me up on the Downs , still looking for my first Adders of the year , and this time I did . I found 10 males out enjoying the sun , two groups of 3 , a pair and two singles . All were
found around known hibernating sites . At this time of year , the males just lie around together , sometimes in good numbers . The most I've seen together was 8 , I think , as it is difficult to see where one starts and ends when they are all laying on top of each other . As the females start to emerge in a week or two's time , the males will not be so happy to share ground with others , as the battle for mating rights start . On the way back , I had another look for the Little Owls , without success , but managed to find out some more information on their habits , and likely times to see them . I also stopped at the Trout Fishery , and found all 4 Egyptian Geese , just as
an angler had told me a few weeks ago , and they seemed to be paired up , so there could be even more later in the year . When I got home , the first frogs of the year were found in the pond and two were already coupled .
Tuesday was spent helping another Warden , working along the Pilgrims Way at Wrotham . The hedgeline had been cut back over quite a length , leaving large quantities of brash to be collected and burnt . During the lunch break , I had a wander up on he Downs where I knew refugia had been layed , but did not find any reptiles . I did however see a male Brimstone , and found the first Common Dog Violets - Viola riviniana growing amongs large swathes of Primrose . Later that afternoon , two Peacocks were seen when we returned to work on the Greensand Ridge . Wednesday was almost devoid of wildlife , but with the next day off from working on the Common , I was planning a trip to Elmley RSPB , on the Isle of Sheppey .
I made my way down early , arriving just after 9 o'clock , and I think I was one of the first cars along the track to the car park , as right away , I came across large numbers of Curlew , feeding
not far off the track . Normally , they keep well away from the area , usually needing a scope to get good views . Lots of Lapwings , many displaying and really large flocks of Starlings , swirling around in shapes , and often being targeted by two or three Peregrines that I saw on the site . Still large numbers of Wigeon , grazing on the pastures , a couple of Common Snipe , plenty of Redshank , even tough it was low water , at least 5 Little Egret and several Grey Heron , then a sighting of one of my target species , a Brown Hare . But , as I came to a stop , it started running , over the rise and out of sight , and exactly the same happened when I saw another a bit further on . Having rached the car park , I decided to head for the hides , bad decision , as , as soon as I got out of the shelter of the buildings and orchard , a biting wind was blowing across the flat landscape from the south , only passing below the sea defence banks gave any respite , and with water levels in the scrapes and the low water mentioned before , the one and a quarter mile walk each way , did not produce very much at all , apart from Skylarks , Meadow Pipits , and a fly over of about a dozen Brent Geese , before they dropped down onto the Swale . By the time I got back to the car , I was pleased that I had a hot cup of coffee waiting for me . With just a couple of distant Marsh Harrier sighting on the way back down the track , I headed off to Capel Fleet and the Ferry Boat Inn at Harty Ferry . Marsh Harrier sightings were the order of the day , with probably 6/8 birds seen , possibly more , as when they drop down into a drainage ditch and reappear some way off , true numbers are difficult to access . From the Raptor Viewing area , I

watched a male and female Marsh Harrier courting , the female above the male in this shot . Another pair seemed to dropping into the reeds at intervals , perhaps looking for a nest site . From the same point , two more distant sighting of Peregrine were had . The only other interest were at least two Bearded Tits , calling and glimpsed briefly , before the dived down into the reeds below the Raptor Point . More good Marsh Harrier sightings as I was leaving Capel Fleet along with Shellduck and several Red Legged Partridge . Heading back towards the bridge over the Swale , I made a last second decision to have one last look along the track at Elmley , before heading home . I was rewarded straight away with good views of a female Kestrel on a fence post , but the Curlew had moved on , and i general , things were much quieter than earlier . I still carried on , and within sight of the car park , stopped to have a look at a movement on the far bank of the trackside ditch . At first I thought it was a Grey Wagtail , but through the binoculars
, it turned out to be a pristine male Wheatear , looking as if it had only just flown in and exhausted . Cropped , this shot is really stunning , with the bright breeding plumage really showing up well . I got plenty of shots and , even when a second car pulled up behind me , he didn't fly off . When a third car stopped going the other way , the driver having asked what I was looking at , drove backwards and forwards several times before he saw it , but the Wheatear just carried on looking for food unphased . I left them to it and turned in the car park , by which time , both cars had moved on . Just past the spot , a Brown Hare ran from the ditch , across the track , and into the field on the other side . I was trying to get rear end shots of that one , unaware that ther was a second already on the field edge . As I took shots of the two , a strange call started from another spot , a call that I had not heard before , a cross between a cry ad a bark is the best I can do to describe it . I searched the area of longer grass where it was coming from , and eventually found that it was a third Brown Hare . I'm not sure if it was a youngster , or something to do with the mating game , but they all got together out in the open
, the noisy one on the left , and shortly after thus shot , they raced off together at speed , over the rise and out of sight . The track to the road was still quiet , but I made my way home with a big grin on my face , and glad that the last second decision at the roundabout was such a good one , for once .
Even though today has taken a step backwards , I think that after this week's sightings , I think it can be said that Spring is here .
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my computer will be fixed very soon , as working with this one I'm sure , would drive me around the bend , very quickly .


Phil said...

Nice post Greenie and welcome back, I haven't been to Elmley for some time now so will try for a visit next week if I can. Look forward to seeing the cropped Wheatear.

Kingsdowner said...

Technological nightmare, some people.

Great posting of spring though, which is highly irritating to those of us stuck at work.

So, what sound does a hare make?

Warren Baker said...

He's Back ! The big green one! Nice catch up post mate.

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Greenie.
It was nice talking with you on the phone the other day. you mentioned what you saw at Elmley, and your pictures do it justice. Love the Wheatear photo and the 3 Hares. Elmley is the place to go for Hares, well I think so.
Like Phil, I haven't been to Elmley for what seems a lifetime, in fact I haven't been at all this year.
I hope you get your P.C. up and running soon.

Ken Browne. said...

PS. Have a good weekend Grenie.

Adam said...

Like the Wheatear shot Greenie - can't wait for my first of Spring!


Anonymous said...

Spring has definitely sprung down your way, Greenie. Great post and what a cracker of a pic that Kestrel is.

Dave J. said...

Hi Greenie
Just thought I'd let you know I am back posting again, at seventy plus I have found it much to cold, how did you fare with the weather?
What birds are likely to be back soon.?
RSPB Elmley is a washout,
good birding