Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sunday 30th. October 2011

Another busy week hedgelaying , left little time to get out , and the weather didn't help either , but I did manage a couple of visits . The first was up on the Downs , for what will probably be the last chance of reptile sightings this year . Conditions were very reasonable , with a temperature of around 16C and some good periods of clear sky . But , for all that , I only managed to find a single Slow Worm . Even the birdlife was very scarce , with the best being a flock of Common Gulls passing noisily overhead . Thinking about it , the whole year has been poor in that respect , with no Yellowhammers or Common Buzzards , and just a single Common Whitethroat being seen whilst on
site . Just a few remnants of Summer still remain , like this Harebell / Campanula rotundifolia , and
the odd Devilsbit Scabious / Knautia arvensis , still supplying nectar for the few insects that are still on the wing . The most interesting find for me was a group of Carline Thistles / Carlina vulgaris ,
found in a much more colourful condition , and showing the yellow sepal-like bracts , which according to the book , fold up in wet weather . I usually see the plant in it's drab beige/brown condition , in which it remains throughout the Winter . A few invertebrates were found on the way
round , like this Hawthorn Shield Bug /Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale , and it's cousin the Forest Bug
/ Pentatoma rufipes . On a nearby stack of old fence posts , a queen Common Wasp / Vespula
vulgaris , was looking for a safe , warm place to spend the Winter , before starting a new colony of the species next Spring . I also disturbed a female Dark Bush-cricket / Pholidoptera griseoaptera ,
which then posed helpfully on some Nettles , showing well the upward curved ovipositor which she would use to lay her eggs . The only other interest was when I turned over a large piece of wood that
was lying in the grass , and found four juvenile Wood Mice huddled up together .
The other visit was a very short one to the Farm lake . Short mainly because there was very little about . As I got to the lake , a Little Grebe that was in the nearest corner , spotted me in seconds , and
was off at full speed to the furthest corner off the lake . I watched it arrive alongside the reedbed , and was pleasantly surprised to see a mate/friend pop out of the reeds to greet it . That is the first
time that I have seen more than one on the lake , since the resident pair lost their brood during the Summer . Let's hope it is a mate , and they will be more fortunate next year . One male Migrant Hawker was recorded along with a single Red Admiral , like most that I have seen recently , heading South . The only other interest was a fast moving Tit flock along the hedgerow , composed of a mix
of Blue and Long Tailed , one of which posed just long enough to get a shot amongst the Spindle fruits .

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Monday 24th. October 2011

Firstly , many thanks to Ken / Focusing On Wildlife for identifying the aircraft on the last post . It is a Noorduyn AT-16 Harvard - 11B . Cheers Ken .
As I set off yesterday morning , still not sure exactly where I was heading , little did I know that it would result in a 55 species day , including 9 birds of prey . RSPB Elmley , on the Isle of Sheppey was my first port of call , but once again the track across to the car park was disappointing . Apart from the main ditches , all the scrapes and smaller channels were
bone dry , and although the sun was shining , a lazy wind was blowing across the site . A few
Lapwing were seen , and even a couple of pairs displaying , and the Skylarks were in the same
frame of mind , with many males hanging on that strong wind and singing their hearts out , when not chasing each other around . I did have a couple of sightings of Marsh Harrier , but they were very distant on the edge of the reserve . By the time I got to the car cark with both windows down , my hands were frozen . I made the decision not to go down to the hides , as the walk down the track would probably be as unproductive as coming in . From the car park I got a distant Common
Buzzard , right into the sun , and on the return to the entrance , found a single Whimbrel , busily
searching through cow pats for it's breakfast . I just missed getting a shot of a Kestrel as it dropped
onto it's prey , but did manage to get one of it manteling whatever it was that it had caught . The only

other interest found were a small flock of Stock Doves and a Rook that was copying the Whimbrel . Disappointed at the morning so far , I headed to Capel Fleet and the Raptor Viewing point , only to be disappointed again with the lack of birds . Eventually , I pulled off the road and sat hoping that something would happen . Another car pulled in behind me , probably hoping that I had found something , then another alonside that . This driver got out and spoke to the driver , then came to my window . 'Birdwatching ?' . Strange question as I had binoculars around my neck , but answered 'Yes' anyway . He then told me of a Rough-legged Buzzard that he had just been watching at Shellness . He explained where , I thanked him , and I arrived at the end of the Shellness track shortly afterwards . There were a few birders up on the sea wall , and they said that the bird had been showng well at distance , but hadn't been seen for a short time . Typical I thought . Then a call of 'it's up again' , and through binoculars I could make out a light coloured bird hovering in the distance , but one birder offered me a look through his scope , which was much better . Soon after it went to ground again , so I decided to walk along the sea wall to what I thought would be the closest point to where it was showing . Four other birders were already there , and fortunately it was possible to get out of the worst of the wind just down the bank a bit . Whilst waiting for the RLB to reappear , we were treated to a Peregrine and one possibly two Merlins , all I must add at distance . Also in the air ,
were several Kestrels , like this one which made a close pass . The RLB did show again , in short spells , and even though I thought I had shortened the distance between , it was still a long way
away , and just a few bad record shots were taken , but they do show the lightness of the bird , and
in particular the almost white leading edge of the wings . Watching it , the most remarkable thing was it's ability to hover , surprisingly with much more finess that the rapid wing beats of a Kestrel , it's low wing beats keeping it's larger frame in perfect position . Eventually it appeared to have caught something , only to be immediately mugged by a couple of the local Corvids . After that it went to ground for a considerable time . During that time , in an even more distant field , we watched a female ringtail Hen Harrier , searching the rough areas and ditches for a meal . By the time I walked back along the seawall and had a look at the beach , the tide was well out and heading further . Lots of Oystercatchers could be seen down on the water line along with several Gull species and a few Little Egrets . Closer in , I did manage to get a shot of two Sanderling , one still in Summer plumage
on the left , the other , just about to leave , already in it's Winter plumage , and on the right a Turnstone . By now , mid afternoon , the light was starting to get poor , with a thin veil of cloud coming over and the wind getting even cooler . Whilst chatting to another birder by the houses , the 8th. bird of prey almost passed overhead undetected , but a silhouette shot , almost into the milky
sun , just about made a record shot of the only Short-eared Owl to be seen today , although several had been seen in the area on pevious days . That birder also mentioned a site for Bearded Tits , so I gave that a try on my way home . As it happens , the path to the Bearded Tit site ran down the other side of where the RLB was showing earlier . On the way down the path I did find a late Wheatear .
Given their liking for high spots , it was open to the wind blowing across the grazing marshes , and didn't make the best of photo opportunities . I had a look for the Bearded Tits , but the reedbeds were so noisy with the strengthening wind , that it proved an impossible task . They did provide the last bird of prey of the day though , when a Sparrowhawk made a sorti along the vegetation , probably hoping that it's tea might be flushed . With the temperature dropping , I made my way back to the car , thinking back to a couple of Red Admirals I had seen earlier , desperately try to get back down South , straight into the strong SEasterly wind . I did get a last glimpse of the RLB , which seemed to be hunting further over towards where we sat in the lee of the sea wall , but that's birding I suppose .
And finally , I hope my brother John had a good birthday , another big one coming up next year !

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Saturday 22nd. October 2011

Another catch up post covering the last three days . A look for fungi around High Elms yesterday proved fruitless . Not a sign of any Magpie Fungus / Coprinus picaceus or Plums and Custard / Tricholomopsis rutilans , which would normally be showing now . In fact , there was very little fungi to be seen at all . Had it not been for three butterfly species being recorded , it would have been a totally wasted visit . Those three species were singles of Red Admiral , Speckled Wood , both of
which evaded the camera , and a Comma which did pose . All three were enjoying the sun in a sheltered corner of the Orchid Bank . On the way back home , I stopped for a look around the Farm lake . A Grey Heron lifted off as soon as I got there , but I did manage to get a shot of the Little
Grebe before that too disappeared into the reedbed . A distant view of a Common Buzzard being harried by the local Corvids was about the only other thing of note , until this plane approached and
started to make it's descent into Biggin Hill . I haven't seen this model before , nor do I know what model it is , but someone might ?
This morning , with skies still bright blue , although chilly , I headed to Bough Beech Reservoir , near Ide Hill . Since my last visit , the water level has dropped dramatically , meaning that the birds were a long way away from the causeway . A large flock of Greylag Geese were noisily occupying the area of the main reservoir , but the main interest seemed to be the culvert that connects to the small lake . Here , at least 6 Cormorants were feeding continuously , along with a couple of Little Egrets and three Grey Herons . One of the latter seemed to have found a 'hot spot' , right up against
the culvert entrance , and was making the most of it's find , seemingly catching small fish at every attempt . The only waders seen on this side of the causeway , was when a flock of Lapwing flew in , circled , and settled halfway down the reservoir . Just three Common Snipe were seen on the North lake , along with mumerous Mallard , a few Shoveler , and a good number of Teal , which included
this pair , who seemed to be sleeping off a late night . Just a single Winter Thrush was seen , first heard calling from the orchard , then appearing high above the reedbed on the North lake , but never
managing to show fully from behind foliage , except when it flew off over Winkworth Wood . As I watched it fly off , I caught a glimpse of another bird as it flew across the causeway . It was being chased by a Corvid , and I just managed to get three shots before it disappeared behind a large tree .

The first shot was useless , but the second above , shows a raptor with a protruding neck/head and a longish tail . The second shot has been lightened to try to show the underwing markings . I didn't even have time to get the binoculars on the bird , but have my own thoughts on the species , but would be grateful for other Blogger's views . As I made my way back to the car , a small flock of Linnets flew
 in and two perched in the scrub , the others having disappeared into the ground vegetation . Once again , the branches managed to get in the way . At the car , I could heat Teal 'whistling' beyond the hedge , and a had a look over . The males must have thought that this was Spring , as several were
displaying to one of a couple of females , very similar to Mandarin males , stretching and bobbing their heads .
And finally , just for Warren .
Whilst having breakfast on Thursday , before I went off hedgelaying , Carol asked , 'what's that bird
 on the feeder ?' . Admittedly she didn't have her glasses on , but this fat little Wood Mouse was what she was looking at . It was so engrossed in filling it's pouches that I managed to get upstairs for the
camera , open the patio doors , and almost close enough to stroke it . It was only when I tried to get a shot from around the other side of the feeder that it spotted me , and staggered off into the nearby hedge .

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wednesday 19th. October 2011

With the hedgelaying season really getting under way now , visits have been somewhat curtailed , but also very thin on interest . A roundup of the visits since the last post reads :Whilst visiting the local tip , a walk around South Norwood Country Park , before returning home , produced my first Winter visitors of the Autumn . A small Finch flock , high in the top of a Silver Birch , contained
at least two Lesser Redpoll , one just about caught on camera , whilst the central scrubby area produced a small number of Fieldfares and Redwings , all feeding on one particular Hawthorn bush , the fruit of which were much deeper red than the rest . Unfortunately these were far too flighty to get a shot of these though . The lake did produce at least 10 Shoveler , mostly males , and these too
seemed very camera shy , keeping well tucked in to the island in the middle . A pair of Cormorants
were feeding in the lake , one appearing very close to where I was standing . As I left the park , a
specimen of Scaly Polypore , Dryad's Saddle /Polyporus squamosus was found on the ground , having been ripped from where it was growing . In the last couple of weeks , I have made three quick visits to Salt Box Hill , to look for the results of the female Hummingbird Hawkmoth that I saw ovipositing . I searched for some time on each visit , but did not find any caterpillars . I did however record several Red Admirals , all heading South , probably on their return migration . I stopped in at the Farm lake on the way home , but of interest , only found this Caddis Fly , which I believe to be
Limnephilus lunatus , but as always , stand to be corrected . I did also record yet another Red Admiral , and this too was heading South .
On Monday , I was hedgelaying on the A25 west of Dorking , and on arrival at the site , alongside
the A25 , I found two Roe bucks in a field , along with the farmer's cattle . As can be seen , they were not in a mood to be photographed . After a good day's hedgelaying , I decided to see if they were still around as we left the site in the late afternoon . Sure enough , they were still in the same field , albeit
further back off the road , and the animal on the left was a different one to the one on the left in the morning , going by the antler growth , so there must have been a minimum of three animals . A quick visit to Sevenoaks Reserve revealed that little had changed , but any chance of finding anything of interest was dashed by a workparty out on the islands on the East Lake , cutting and burning the vegetation . The usual species were seen , with the addition of at least 3 Shoveler . As I passed the
back of the Willow hide , I came across this juvenile Mute Swan that posed in the dappled sunlight .
before proceeding to see me off it's territory . Just a single Speckled Wood was recorded , but there
were still good numbers of Common Darters on the wing , but these will reduce now with the frosty conditions . Today , was the last Dormouse/Reptile survey of the year , and although it was a beautiful crisp autumnal day , the results were low . Just 4 Dormice were found , two at each site ,
all in separate boxes , and included this male with only half a tail . He seems to be getting around all right though , as he weighed in at 21 grams , which should be enough to see him through hibernation . Reptiles were even thinner on the ground , with just 3 Grass Snakes , an adult and two
juveniles being found . Not a single Adder , Slow Worm or Common Lizard were found today . Two Wood Mice and a Short-tailed Field Vole were found under refugia , and birdwise , Marsh Tit , Common Buzzard and at least 7 Bullfinch , 5 of them leaving their roost in tall Bracken , were the
species seen of note . Just one butterfly , a Small Copper was recorded all day , and was found in the same area as the aberrant specimens found on the last survey . And finally a couple of fungi , Fly
Agaric / Amanita muscaria , which had already been munched and seemingly few and far between this season , around here anyway , and , hoping that you are not eating , Cheiltmenia stercorea , no
common name , found on it's favoured habitat , cow dung .

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Tuesday 11th. October 2011

With forecasts of colder weather on it's way , I decided to have one more look up on the Downs for newly born Adders . I did stop in , on the way , at Sevenoaks Reserve . Everything looked 'as was' on my last visit , until I got to Willow Hide on Snipe Bog Lake . The usual Canada and Greylag Geese
were in attendance as usual , but today they were joined by at least 10 Egyptian Geese , several of them juveniles that had been born on the reserve . With no sign of the Kingfisher from the hide , I made my way to the small hide on the North lake . One watcher already there said that just the odd sighting had been seen . This didn't sound very good , but the sighting of two Grass Snakes swimming in the lake kept an interest . Eventually , a Kingfisher did fly in , straight past the hide , settling right across the other side of the lake , and that was where it stayed , giving plenty of views , perched , hovering and catching fish , but never coming across to our side of the lake . I gave up in
the end , and made my way back to the car , finding this pristine looking Red Admiral on the way . By the time I got up on the Downs , the wind had got stronger , bringing more and more cloud . But ,
even though the conditions were not favourable , it wasn't long before I found the first of four newly born Adders . It was some time before I found the next one , but interest was kept with a Noon Fly /
Mesembrina meridiana , and it was only half an hour late . This was followed by a Devil's Coach
Horse / Staphylinus olens , one of the Rove Beetles , and always difficult to photograph , as it just doesn't stop even for a second , trying to hide under anything that is around . A bit different , was this
Yellow-necked Mouse / Apodemus flavicollis , which I disturbed from it's sleep , in a bed of leaves and grass . Two of the other juvenile Adders were found next to each other , but I only managed to
photograph the slower one of the pair . Butterflies were certainly in short supply today , but in a sheltered corner , I did find another two pristine Red Admirals , someone must have opened a box , a Small Copper and a Brown Argus , both being blown sideways by the strengthening wind , and a
single Speckled Wood , that had definitely seen better days .