Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Tuesday 27th. September 2011

A foggy , cool morning , gave the perfect opportunity to take Carol to do the monthly shop , and get that out of the way . Over lunch , the skies began to clear , and that was all I needed to get out . Having heard that the ponies had finally been removed about two weeks ago from Salt Box Hill , the London Wildlife managed site below Biggin Hill Airport , I decided that I would see if anything was left of the site . The answer is that the ponies seem to have eaten all the long grass , much favoured by the Marbled White butterflies , but have left untouched the regrowth of the Ash , Hawthorn and Dogwood , cleared by contractors . The presence of the ponies on site for the best part of a year , without any 'clearing up' being done after them , has meant that their droppings will have enriched the ground , which has encouraged many species that are certainly not on the agenda of this Site of Special Scientific Interest . Chalk grassland it most certainly not . Without treatment to the scrub , the site will return to scrub in very quick order , and then I suppose Lottery money or something similar will be applied for , and the whole circle will turn again , as it has done three times before to my knowledge . The good thing about the visit was that it was in barmy , warm sunshine , that would have been very nice back in the Summer . Also that refugia have been laid , to monitor the reptiles on site , and refugia can't be passed by in my book . A few Slow Worms were found , then right at the top of the site , a flash back to yesterday morning , when a very confiding Wood Mouse was
disturbed from it's sleep . Just five butterflies were recorded during the visit , with three of them
being Meadow Browns , which are coming to the end of their flight season now , and the other two

being a femaloe and male Brimstone , the first of the species that I have recorded for 3 weeks , and could well have been encouraged out of hibernation by the rising temperature . Fortunately for them , some pollen sources were still available , like the Dandelion pictured , and also several stands of
Great Mullein / Verbascum thapsus , a member of the Figwort family . The highlight of the visit though , was just before the end of the visit , as I approached an old fire site , around which a good growth of Hedge Bedstraw / Galium mollugo had sprung up . From a distance I could see movement but couldn't make out what , until I got closer and found my second Hummingbird Hawkmoth of the year . It must have felt at home in the warm conditions , and unlike the the first at High Elms which
was concentrating on feeding , this one had another thing on it's mind . It was a female , as she was
 laying eggs on the fresh end growths of the Hedge Bedstraw , the end of her abdomen tucked under . I watched her lay many eggs as I photographed her and she had probably been there some time before I arrived . Since getting home , I have read that she could have laid up to 200 eggs on the site , and given the warm conditions prevailing , they could hatch out in 6/8 days , so I will be visiting again in about two weeks time , when , with luck , I hope to find the caterpillars . After a few minutes , she flew off and quickly was out of sight . I put up 5 Pheasants whilst on site , but the only other birds of note were on my way back to the car , when I heard two Common Buzzards calling ,
but did not get sight of them .
On the way home , I made a short visit to the Farm lake , still in glorious sunshine . Just two feral Pigeons , one of which landed on the lake surface before flying off again , were additions to the Coots and Moorhens . 2 Meadow Brown and a single Speckled Woods were recorded , along with 8
Common Darter and this male Brown Hawker that was enjoying the afternoon sun , in between feasting on the many insects that were trying to enjoy it too . At least 4 male Migrant Hawkers were
also recorded , this one being found on my second lap around the lake , in almost the same place as the previous Brown Hawker .

Monday, 26 September 2011

Monday 26th. September 2011

This morning , I arrived on the Downs with the license holder , to check the 50 small mammal traps . I asked how many were trapped yesterday , getting an answer of 2 Wood Mice , 1 Short-tailed Vole and one  Common Shrew . But , with the traps having been in situ longer , better results were expected today . I have to admit that the number trapped was up , but 6 Wood Mice was as good as it got . I could have done with a few Vole or Shrew shots , especially close up , but it wasn't to be .As it was so close , and  the drizzle was giving way to a few bright spells , I made another visit to Knoll Park to see how the Fallow Deer rut was progressing . Passing around the high ground on the way to the car park , not a deer in sight , and positively no rutting taking place . I walked to the top of the high ground and headed down the other side , with the intention of looking for the Devil's Fingers fungi again . On my way , I came across the animal that I mentioned after the last visit that could be a
contender , spreading his scent amongst the bracken . Although he knew I was close by , he took practically no notice of me , and after letting every other male know that this was his territory , he
sauntered off to the gym . The gym being , a large branch that had fallen from a nearby Beech , and obviously , this was how he built up the neck muscles , as he lifted it clear of the ground on several occasions . He was giving the equipment another good work out , so I left him and went looking for fungi . Again I failed to find any Devils Fingers , and with warm weather being forcasted for the rest of the week , it could well be some time before they appear . In the area , I did find the odd specimen
of the Wax Cap , Hygrocybe coccinea / Scarlet Hood , but no sign of the target species . Making my way back towards the high ground , I met up with the contender again , and it looked as if his work
out had been a bit too strenuous , as he was taking a rest in the shade at the foot of a large Beech . As I got back to the top of the high ground , I heard my first bellow of this year's rut . Whilst I had been away two stags had taken up station , one amongst the trees , the most coverted place , and the other
had settled into one of the many pits surrounding the trees . Neither seemed to know what they were doing there , and even less when the odd doe came to see what all the noise was about . A third stag
moved into one of the lower pits , and although noisy , he didn't seem to know what to do either . I'm sure the contender will sort these two out , once he makes his appearance . The only action seen was
between two very young stags , with a gentle clink as they touched antlers , compared to the crash of the older animals . It will be some time before either will be a contender , perhaps a pretender .
I did make a short stop at Sevenoaks Reserve on my way home , but things were really quiet .
A female Teal was paddling around outside Willow Hide ,
several male Migrant Hawkers were enjoying the sun , in between territorial battles ,
and the only Kingfisher seen was taking a nap , as far from the hide as it possibly could .

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Saturday 24th. September 2011

Last night .I got a phone call from the owner of the Farm lake , to say she had seen large birds overhead , and proceeded to make a reasonable imitation of a Common Buzzard call , and had also seen a smaller , faster , hawk-like bird too .I visited this morning , to find an empty sky and empty lake , apart from 2 Coot and a single Moorhen . I stayed for about an hour , and only managed to add 3/4 Chiffchaffs in the reedbed and the occasional Corvid flying over . I did however find 2 Brown Hawkers , 3 Migrant Hawkers , and 3 Common Darters , which at least added some interest . With no sign of any birds of prey , I headed to look around a set aside field , not far away from High Elms . This too proved to be quiet , but I did
 find a few plants that were still in flower . The first is a member of the Dock family , Knotgrass / Polygonum aviculare , easily overlooked by taller vegetation . Also in flower still , Scarlet Pimpernel
/ Anagallis arvensis , a member of the Primrose family . It was whilst I was photographing the tiny
Field Pansy / Viola arvensis , a member of the Violet family , that I got a text from Carol , saying that the Farm lake owner had just rung and that the birds were back again . I made my way back to the car and back to the Farm lake , where I found things exactly as I had left them . I had a good look over the surrounding fields , but found nothing . I was about to leave , again , when a single Common
Buzzard call announced three of them , at height , being persued by some of the local Corvids .
Unfortunately , all three never made it together on a single frame , and before long , they had lifted higher and higher , until small specks in the sky . I packed up my gear , and headed back to the car , passing the lake on the way . As I did so , a flash of movement caught my eye , which turned out to be the first Hobby that I had seen there this year , better late than never . I grabbed the camera again ,
and just managed to get a bad shot of it , as it stooped down towards the lake , probably having eyed one of the dragonflies that I had seen earlier . As quickly as it appeared , it disappeared out of view .  I waited , hoping that it would return , but it didn't . But , whilst I was waiting , a third bird of prey
came into view over the woods , this time a Sparrowhawk , and once again with an attendant Corvid .
A second bird was seen seconds later , at distance over the horse paddocks . I gave it another 10 minutes , then headed home , having confirmed the Common Buzzards , albeit second time around .
This afternoon , with other members of the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group , baited and layed small mammal traps , in an exercise to see what food is available for the Adder population in the area . I will be helping the license holder check and re-bait the traps on Monday morning , which could prove interesting . Other members are assisting in the twice daily checks between now and then . Whilst laying the traps , two male Adders were found , one made it to the lens , the other
didn't . A few butterflies were recorded during the visit , being  9 Meadow Brown , 1 Small Heath , 1 Speckled Wood , 1 Small Copper and a late female Chalkhill Blue .

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Thursday 22nd. September 2011

I thought I would have another trip to Knole Park this morning , as two weeks have passed since the failed trip for the Fallow Deer rut . I have to report that once again there was no activity on the high ground , but I don't think it is too far off . Having been disappointed on the high ground , I had a wander around the slopes surrounding it , concentrating on large area of Bracken . From the tracks and flattened Bracken , it was obviously well used by the deer for shelter , and by the look of it , for sleeping . As I wandered through the bracken , I came face to face with this boy , just look at the
muscles in his neck , and the air sack in his throat that will allow him to roar . I just managed to get the one shot before he turned and walked off . I watched him from a distance , and at one point he crossed some open ground , allowing a full shot of an animal that I think will be a contender for the
'king of the hill' . I left him hovering , just below the hill , and as I said , things will kick off soon . The only other interest found on site was a fungi that fruits at the base of deciduous trees ,
especially Oak and Beech , and this one , the size of a football , was at the base of an Oak . With things so quiet , I decided to visit Sevenoaks Reserve , which is only a short drive away . My first stop was to see if I could strike lucky with the Kingfisher again . I had several flybys and saw it catch
a couple of fish , but never came closer than the far corner of the lake . Until , it just appeared much
closer , but , just as I got it in focus , it took off again , leaving me a blurred shot of the action . In
between views , I spotted a good sized Grass Snake swim into view from the right , looking as if it was struggling . It slowly made it's way to a mat of Blanket Weed , where it managed to haul itself out and get it's breath back . While it was resting , two Grey Herons circled the lake , and criss-crossed the Grass Snake . I felt sure that one of them was going to take it , but neither did .
Eventually , the Herons flew off , and the Grass Snake took it's chance to sprint for the overhung bank , and safety . All this happened at 20/25 metres out from the hide . Still nothing special on the large lake , and as I walked between it and the Long Lake , I was escorted by a family of Mute Swans
who were moving between the two lakes . The one in front , with attitude , was the cob , followed by the pen and their cygnet . The only other interest found was a juvenile Cormorant , a species not
easily approached , but was more concerned with the large number of Canada Geese that were around , rather than a bloke with a camera .

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tuesday 20th. September 2011

This morning , I ran Carol down to a friend's at Ashford , and after the visit , offered Carol a detour off the motorway on the way back , which she accepted . Half an hour later , we were pulling into the car park at Oare Marshes , a Kent Wildlife Trust reserve near Faversham . Quite cloudy conditions with occasional sunny spells with a strong breeze were the order of the day . I happened to look in the back of the car , and found my camera bag and binoculars , so whilst Carol got stuck into her book , which just happened to be in the car as well , I set off to see what was about .
From the small number of cars around , it was obvious that the Long-billed Dowitcher wasn't around , but given that it was still some time till high tide , there were quite a few waders on the
flood .The majority turned out to be Black-tailed Godwits , some still showing their summer plumage like the one in front , and many sporting their drab , by comparison winter plumage . Some were
feeding like the two above , but the majority formed a large flock , sheltering on the leeward side of one of the islands on the flood . Large numbers of Lapwing and a few Redshank were also seen ,
along witha few Ruff , the one pictured I believe is a juvenile . Just a few Avocets , busily feeding all
 the time , but probably many more were out on the Swale , frantically feeding , before the rising tide stopped the feast . At least 10 Little Egrets , a couple of Grey Heron , a Cetti's Warbler calling from the bushes between the car park and the sea wall , a distant view of a Marsh Harrier and a couple of Curlew flying along the water line near the Swale hide all added interest .Near the East Hide , it was
good to see , and hear , a good sized flock of House Sparrows , some of which pictured here . By far the largest numbers in the air , were several large flocks of Starlings , nosily swirling around before all landing together for a short while before all taking off again together . It was in one of those brief
sessions on the ground , that I spotted this unusual light brown , almost beige coloured individual .
Several Cormorants were roosting on the islands , and the odd one gave a fly past over the road . also over head was a constant stream of Swallows and House Martins , all battling against that strong breeze . Coot , Moorhen , Pied Wagtail and Little Grebe were seen and probably several other species went undetected ,due to the noise of the breeze , especially near the reedbeds in areas out in the open , and no sign of a Yellow Wagtail or Wheatear , which I hoped might have turned up . Very
little colour to be found apart from Haws and Rosehips , but the odd stand of Golden Samphire / Inula crithmoides did it's best to cheer things up , but eventually , heavy grey clouds rolled in , and it was time to head back home .

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday 19th. September 2011

Firstly a quick catch up from a short visit yesterday that I didn't have time to post .
Larch Bolete / Suillus grevillei .
Calocera viscosa , growing on a conifer stump .
Green Wood-cup / Chlorosplenium aeruginascens .
The pink fruits of the Spindle / Euonymus europaeus have split open revealing the orange seeds .
Not many insects about , but the Common Wasps are still shaving wood to take to the nest .
Today's visit was to Bough Beech reservoir , as I had to go close by . The water level is low now , meaning that any birds present were seen at a distance , making photography difficult . The few bits of interest found included ,
A few Meadow Pipits , feeding along the causeway .
No sign of the hoped for Osprey , but several Common Buzzards , all at distance , were seen , along with a single Sparrowhawk and Kestrel .
Part of a 50+ Lapwing flock that wheeled around several times , before choosing a sheltered bay half way down the main reservoir to land .
A Common Snipe that was awakened from it's sleep by a gang of Teal .
Two of just three Green Sandpipers seen today .
A Little Egret and a juvenile Grey Heron seemed to be getting on well together ,
until the Grey Heron got too close , and the Little Egret took evasive action , flying back over the causeway to the main reservoir . A Water Rail was seen near the Visitor Centre , but by the time I got there , it was back in the reedbed .
This is the third time I have tried to publish this post , having lost everything on the two previous occasions at this point , and having to start over again . Third time lucky ? Here goes .