Friday, 22 April 2011

Friday 22nd. April 2011

With high temperatures expected again today , I got out reasonably early and my first stop at the Farm lake . With the sun getting warmer by the minute , and just birdsong to accompany me , I spent an hour and a half , just walking around the lake and enjoying every minute . The Cowslips are incredible this year , packed tightly all around one end of the lake . In another corner , Bogbean is racing to flower and set seed , before the Bullrushes exclude the light , and in another , which was a blaze of yellow on my last visit , the Coltsfoot has finished flowering and the seed heads , looking like a halo atop the stem , stand waiting to release the next generation . As is often the way here , the quiet was broken , when a Moorhen strayed a bit too close to the Coot's territory , and a noisy chase ensued . A little later , I found that the dispute wasn't just territorial , as the Coots had there first brood , 7 little balls of fluff , tucked away in the reed bed .
I only managed to get a shot of one adult with 6 of the youngsters . By half past nine , with the temperature at 21C. , I left the lake and headed off to Salt Box Hill , just below Biggin Hill Airport , for my first visit this year . A lot of clearance work , probably by contractors over the winter , had obviously been done , but when I got to the kissing gate on the large patch and found it chained and padlocked , there was only one answer , animals must be on the site . And so it was , the two Dartmoor ponies that had destroyed the site last year , were standing in the shade . When I had the meeting with the grazier last summer , he said that grazing would be minimal this year . Minimal must mean something different to graziers , as later I met two local people who voluntarily keep an eye on the animals , who told me that the two ponies had been on site for months , and it showed , and also that the grazier didn't have any grass for them on other sites , so here they stay , to destroy even more of the site . Nothing I could do , so I got on with the butterfly survey . First find was not a butterfly but another day flying moth , the Treble Bar . Brimstones were the most numerous species ( 13 including 5 egg laying females ) , but six other species , all in small numbers , were found , including two female Holly Blues , one of which was egg laying on Cornus/Dogwood , even though the books say just Holly and Ivy are used . The most numerous of all though , were the St.Mark's Flies , with their dangling legs , which were swarming everywhere .Very difficult to focus on , but they will certainly sustain all those arriving migrants . In the wooded area , one of the more unusual Buttercups , Goldilocks/Ranunculus auricomus , with it's deep cut leaves in swirls around the stem . Before leaving , I tried to cool off in the shade at the top of the site , a great spot to look for Common Buzzards , but even with perfect conditions for them , they did not put in an appearance .
With Lunch time looming , my last stop was the old farm house at Keston , which I have been watching each time I pass , to see if the House Martins had returned . As I pulled off the road , a black and white blob emerged from one of the under the eaves nests , they were back . I set up the tripod to get some shots , but the speed entering and leaving the nests made things difficult . At least leaving , a head poking out of the nest before the launch , gave some warning , but returning was much harder , as they arrived from behind . At least three pairs were around , and , talking to the owner later , they must have arrived late yesterday/early today , as there was no sign of them yesterday during the day . It was not just the House Martins that have returned , the pair of Grey Wagtails that were seen last year , were back , using the damaged roof to gain entry to their preferred nesting site .

And finally , looking around the garden after lunch , a handsome looking hoverfly , Helophilus pendulus , was sunning itself on the leaves of the Marsh Marigold in the pond . Carol had seen a Large Red Damselfly around the pond in the morning , but no sign this afternoon .


ShySongbird said...

The Cowslips seem to have done exceptionally well this year here too Greenie.

Good news on the House Martins, you did well to get the shots too.

I haven't seen one Brimstone settled yet, only ones whizzing past me!

Phil and Mandy said...

the last photo is stunning greenie, lovely shot

Phil said...

Well done Greenie, very nice post and well done Carol, have hardly seen a damselfly yet. The St. Mark's fly will not only sustain the migrants but also the Trout. Must dust off the rods!

Rodney Orton said...

That’s awesome! It’s very rare that you see and capture through lenses a laying Holly Blues or other animal/ insects. That is just a beautiful photo! I also love your bird photos but I easily noticed a missing shingle on the roof. Maybe they have their nests there, huh?