Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Wednesday 30th.June 2010

Two days strimming paths , stiles and gateways , up on the Greensand Ridge was sweaty work , but these areas , where mechanical means cannot be used has to be done manually , so we had to just get on with it .
I mentioned in my last post that I had more on the Kestrel nest , on the farm , just inside the entrance of RSPB Dungeness . It is the story of 'a sinister Cuckoo clock' plus more .Word has it that the juvenile which rose to fame on another Blogger's site a short while ago , now wants to be known as 'Phil' . Only trouble is , that there is another juvenile in the nest , and word has it that this one wants to be called 'I-want-to-be-called-Phil-too' . Only trouble is that the entry hole is only big enough for one of the juveniles at a time to stand in the front . 'Phil' and 'I-Want-to-be-called-Phil-too' , spend much of the time jostling each other for the best view from their vantage point , to see what is happening in the big world outside . That is until a distant call from Mum , turns sibling friendship into winner takes all . With her still calling , and the pair returning in shrieks , the whole farmyard is aware of what is happening .
In swoops Mum , with a small rodent in her bill , and basically tosses it into the entrance . Squabbling is heard from the nest , and Mum waits just to make sure that that is all that occurs . Then , with a backward flip , she is off , to find the next meal for her ever hungry family .
It probably won't happen many more times at the nest , as 'Phil' and 'I-want-to-be-called-Phil-too' look as if they will be out in that big world very soo now .
Last night , after volunteering , I had a meeting on the London Wildlife Trust site a Salt Box Hill , with the Grazing Officer , regarding the continued presence of the two Dartmoor ponies on the site . Despite my opinion regarding the detrimental effect on the butterflies that are found on the site , particularly Marbled Whites , I was told that the horses will remain on site for at least another month , as part of the Natural England demand that either the site makes forward progress as chalk grassland , or LWT will loose the designation of the site being a Site of Special Scientific Interest , which I am amazed that it presently holds . My opinion against Natural England , no chance .Before the meeting , I had a quick look at the unfenced area , and found the first two Marbled Whites that I have recorded this year . Of interest , although called a White , it is in fact a black butterfly , with white markings . I also recorded 15 Ringlet , 1 Common Blue , 3 Meadow Brown and 3 Large Skipper , all females , identified by the lack of the prominent dark line , sex brand , on the forewing . Whilst walking through the fenced section with the Grazing Officer , just a few Ringlet and Meadow Brown , plus a fly through Red Admiral , no sign of a Marbled White .
And finally , one for Dean . This was the best I could manage of this small , active moth . With many thanks to Dean/DDD , now identified as Agapeta hamana .
And definitely finally , in answer to Steve/Kingsdown's question , no I didn't see the Purple Heron , when I reached the viewing mound , there were so many people and gear around , and the RSPB warden telling everyone that there were very good views - yesterday , I left them to it and found my own space on the site .

Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday 28th.June 2010

Carol had arranged to visit her friend at Camber , on the coast between Rye and Dungeness . Always looking for brownie points , I offered to run her down , and , as it was close to Dunge , I put my gear in the back .
We arrived earlier than expected , so had a quick look around part of Rye Harbour Nature Reserve . We walked to the first hide , the pathside very colourful with Viper's Bugloss , Yellow Horned Poppies and Everlasting Pea all in flower .The scrape in front of the hide held just a few Avocets , both adults and well grown juveniles , now fending for themselves . A couple of Oystercatchers and a pair of Ring Plovers , pictured , were the only other birds seen . Walking back to the car , a Black-headed Gull followed us overhead , and it definitely looked as if it was taking aim . I dropped Carol off at her friend's house , and carried on to Dungeness RSPB Reserve , arriving about 1030 , and it was already very warm . Phil's mate was standing guard at the entrance , more of that later , but very little else was found along the track apart from the odd , Common Whitethroat , Reed and Sedge Warbler calling . It was the same on leaving the visitor centre apart from 3 Grey Herons squabbling with the BHGulls . The odd Reed Bunting , then a family of Great Crested Grebes passing by , in line astern . A splash of yellow around one of the small pits had me down on my knees checking Biting Stonecrop-Sedum acre . Just a bit further along the path , a splash of pink this time , Thrift-Armeria maritima . Just before Hookers Pit , tiny spots of pink amongst the grass and the large numbers of Burnet moths , one of my favourites , the delicate Grass Vetchling-Lathyrus nissolia , a member of the Pea family . As I walked around Hookers Pit , within a matter of seconds , I had sightings of Cuckoo and Bittern , both in flight . The Cuckoo was too quick to get on to , but I managed a distant shot with the 100mm lens of the Bittern , passing the middle pylon . The viewpoint was crowded with people hoping to see the Purple Herons , and the Visitor Centre had set up a sub Centre , with information , and of course , items for sale . I headed on , to find a smart male Linnet , calling
from the top of a stand of Gorse . Then he flew off , and a couple of seconds later , a female landed in almost the same spot , that's life . Several Cinnabar moths were seen , but I watched this one searching all the vegetation , until she found a Ragwort plant . She immediately settled on the shaded side of the plant and remained motionless . I marked the spot and left her for a while . Ten minutes later I went back and she was gone , but on the underside of the Ragwort leaf , the food plant of the caterpillar , were 12 of her eggs .
Butterlfies were in very short supply , but Small Tortoiseshell , Red Admiral , Small Heath , Small Copper and Meadow Brown were recorded . Odonata did even worse , with a few Common Blue Damselflies , 4 Emperor Dragonflies and what looked like a very over mature female Hairy Dragonfly .
As I left to pick Carol up , Phil's mate was more active , but the Tree Sparrow , nesting in one of the holes in the triangle had a worried look on it's face .
More on the Kestrels Tuesday or Wednesday , if nothing of interest urns up whilst volunteering up on the Greensand Ridge .

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sunday 27th.June 2010

A new experience for me today , bird ringing . One of my Surrey Hedgelaying colleagues , Roger Taylor , a licenced bird ringer , has a site on Crossness Nature Reserve on the banks of the Thames , almost opposite Ford of Dagenham . We arranged for me to help out , before the end of the last hedgelaying season , and that came to fruition when the alarm went off at 0245 this morning . When I arrived on site at 0400 , Roger was waiting , and although he had put up some nets , there were more to do . Roger explained that the site was a 'constant effort' site , meaning that 12 visits during the breeding season were necessary , with the same nets in the same places and for the same length of time on each visit . By the time the last nets were erected , and we had got soaked through from the waist down by the dew on the over head high Fragmites Reeds through which we had to walk between nets , it was time to make the first round of visits . there were birds in all of the nets , 8 - total length 520 feet , on this visit , and I was amazed to see how unphased the birds , probably 90% juveniles , were to their predicament . Roger deftly removed the birds and placed them in bags , which we secured to carrabinas strung around our necks , one being used for each net visited , and once in the bags , little movement came from the birds . Having visited all nets , we returned to a table and two chairs by the parked cars , and started to process the first batch . Whilst Roger attached the rings , sexed , and weighed each bird , I recorded all the information that he called out . Finally the birds were released back into their world , looking none the worse for the experience . Roger joked how a released bird might meet a another and tell the story of how he was flying along , minding his business , when something stopped him . Then a big thing put him in darkness , before doing experiments on him , before letting him go . Sounded like a script for a sci-fi film .
We made four rounds of the nets , the first two being the most fruitful , the third and fourth less so as the sun got higher and the nets were more obvious to the birds , but even the fourth provided some excitement . I have heard from Roger since with a summary of the days results .
122 birds were trapped , 89 of them being first timers and 33 being re-traps , having already been ringed here or on other sites . The birds covered 18 species , the most numerous being Common Whitethroat (25) , This one still in situ in the nets .closely followed by Reed Warbler (20) and Great Tit (17) , Blackcap (10) , all brown headed juveniles apart from one male adult .
Smaller numbers of other common species , but a few notable finds were ,a juvenile Kestrel which provided the excitement of the last round . This was one of 3 newly fledged birds from a nest box in the middle of the site , and flew off to join the rest of the family group when released .
The noisiest trapping was this juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker . A juvenile Reed Bunting from only a couple of pairs on the site .A super cock Linnet .And finally one of a handful of Sedge Warblers .
I have to mention the ignominious weighing of the birds . As seen below , they are placed head down in a cup with a small hole in the bottom . This Reed Warbler , and all the others stayed perfectly still whilst doing their headstands , including the GSWoodpecker and the Kestrel , but they did have larger cups ! All flew off strongly when released from the cup .
Apart from the birds , a couple of Buff Tailed Bumble Bees managed to get entangled , which also required Roger's dexterity not to get stung . Being a reedbed , there were plenty of biters about , and repellant was the order of the day . The worst of these was this big Horse-fly-Tabanus bromius , several of which managed to get snagged up in the nets . Another job for Roger . By 1200 the temperature was about 29/30C , and it was time to take down the nets and pack away . At least the vegetation was bone dry by then , as was our previously sodden clothing .
Given the habitat very few Odonata were seen , with difficulty above those Reeds . Small Tortoiseshell , Red Admiral , Comma , lots of Large Skipper and Large and Small White were all recorded on the butterfly front .
All in all , a very enjoyable morning , and I thank Roger for giving me the experience and the chance to get up close to many species , usually seen at the other end of optics .
Shame I can't say the same about the afternoon , watching the football !

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Saturday 26th.June 2010

As I mentioned yesterday , it was the Biggin Hill Air Fair today , and apart from the traffic , the likes of the above and below , any thoughts of recording birdlife was out of the window .
I spent the first hour or so up on the Common , wandering if the run of warm days might have encouraged the Purple Hairstreaks out . It hadn't , so I went to try again for the Brimstone chrysalis , and after much searching , found nothing , not even at the small shrub standing alone , although there was no sign of the caterpillar either . on one of the Buckthorn bushes , I did find a pair of Clown Bugs-Amorbus robustus . Whilst identifying them , I wish they had been juveniles , as it is from them that the species gets it's common name , the juveniles being multi coloured . Just 2 Ringlet , 4 Meadow Brown and a single large Skipper were recorded .
I headed then for the Farm lake , closer to the Air Show , but out of the traffic . With display aircraft directly overhead now , even the Coots and Moorhens were staying in the reedbeds , heads down . So I concentrated on the Odonata , which , I must admit was poor in numbers considering the weather . Not the large numbers that I had expected to find ovipositing , but many pairs found in the 'ring' or 'wheel' position , like these Blue-tailed Damselflies , the female
below being of the form rufescens,
a pair of Azure Damselflies ,
and this pair of Black-tailed Skimmers . Almost immediately after this shot , she started ovipositing , and was immediately clasped by another male and carried off .As things were slow , I spent a bit of time attempting to photograph a Common Blue Damselfly in flight . This was one of the resulting shots . There were at least 4 female Emperor Dragonflies ovipositing around the Lake , and standing quietly in the vegetation , this one came and laid her eggs directly infront of me .
Around the Lake , the Ladies Bedstraw is taking it's time to come into flower , but the Musk Mallow-Malva moschata has , and is adding some colour to the banks .
Also around the banks , I spotted at least two Swallows collecting mud and flying off towards the stables . Running repairs for a second brood ? Also , coming in for a drink , the white rump identified a couple of House Martins . A quieter spell , just as I was heading home for lunch , seemed to encourage what could have been a family group , from all the chattering , of Swallows down for a drink and I snatched a shot of one of them .
And finally , another ID for Dean please . A moth that I found on the Buckthorn whilst looking for Brimstone chrysalis . From it's markings , I think it should be called 'Spider's Web' . Once again , a big thank you to Dean / DDD , who identified the moth as a Large Fruit Tree Tortrix , female .

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday 25th.June 2010

As High Elms is only a stone's throw from Biggin Hill Airport , and High Elms Lane is used to bring all the traffic from the A.21 and M.25 to the air show , the whole area is a 'no-go' area for the weekend . With that in mind , I headed there today with two butterfly species in mind , White Admiral and Silver Washed Fritillary . I spent two and a half hours patrolling the areas favoured by these two species , and finished up with neither .
It wasn't all bad news though , as on Burnt Gorse , Small Skipper has emerged , the fourth and last but one Skipper , Essex to come , to be recorded on the site . Apart from obvious size , the identifying points are , no mottling on the wings and the lack of the club shaped antennae . I am posting a shot of the Large Skipper for comparison . The really hard work comes with the Essex Skipper , just a difference in the colour on the underside of the antennae between it and the Small . Apart from the Skippers , butterflies were hard to find , a few more Meadow Browns and the single Ringlet now joined by three more . Another of the lime loving chalk grassland plants , Agrimony-Agrimonia eupatoria , is coming into flower with it's yellow flowers , as the Bird's Foot Trefoil is already going over . An unexpected sighting on Burnt Gorse , was the RAF Memorial Flight , made up of the Wellington Bomber , with Hurricane above left and Spitfire below right . I hope I've got that right from memory , practicing for the weekend .
Leaving Burnt Gorse , I had another look in some of the favourite haunts , and came across this Longhorn Beetle on the leaves of Rosebay Willowherb . It was about 3 cm. from head to end of abdomen , but the antennae and long hind legs made it look much bigger . I think it could be Cerambyx cerdo , but not certain .
I came across this Red Admiral , one of the few I have recorded this year , just as I met one of the High Elms Rangers , leading a butterfly walk . They had searched the Conservation Field , and they too were finding things hard , even with many pairs of eyes scanning .
On the way back home for lunch , I stopped off at Keston Ponds for a look around . Good numbers of Odonata were recorded , covering 8 species . 2 Downy emerald , 7 Emperor Dragonfly , including an egg laying female , and 15+ Red Eyed Damselflies , male pictured , were the pick of the bunch .
In a cool corner of the top pond , a female Mallard was keeping a good eye on her sleeping offspring , who all managed to get out of the water , apart from one , who just settled down for a snooze nearby . Even though the fishing season has started again , the water erupted every now and again , as the resident male Tench attempted to fertilize the female's eggs . When I got home , Carol said that she had found a caterpillar in the back garden , which turned out to be that of the Mullein Moth-Cucullia verbasci , and whilst posting , realised that it was on a Verbascum plant .
And finally , a shot that I took on Tuesday up on the Ridge , and forgot about . Driving between strimming sites , growing on a laneside bank , Orange Hawkweed-Pilosella aurantiacum , one of my favourites .