Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Wednesday 29th. February 2012

No real excitement today , as I only had time to quickly visit two sites , but I have never posted on the 29th. February before , so this is a first , having started blogging mid 2008 . Once around the lake at Kelsey Park in Beckenham , proved that things had moved on considerably since my last visit . Several of the nests now contain youngsters with their constant 'machine gun' like constant calls to be fed . This was the nest that contained three small youngsters on my last
visit . Today , the youngsters are well on the way to being as big as their parent , standing on the right . In another nest , both parents had obviously gone looking for food , as the youngsters had been
left to take care of themselves , and at such a young age . If I remember correctly , last year one of the youngsters fell from this nest , and it dangled lifeless on the branches below . Two Grey Wagtails
whizzed past , and a little bit further on , I managed to get a distant shot when is posed briefly across the other side of the lake . The only different species seen today , was this 'handsome' male Muscovy
Duck . I've mentioned before that the Grey Squirrels in the park almost 'mug' you as you go past , but
 as I left the park , fortunately this one was tucking into mixed seed that had been put down . The other stop was at a chilly Keston Ponds , but I didn't stay long , as there was little to see . Only
 interest was a single male Mandarin , sat , as usual , amongst the overhanging branches .
Gorse burning up on the Common tomorrow , so will get back home smelling like a kipper .

Monday, 27 February 2012

Monday 27th. February 2012

Gone was the weekend of Spring , it was back to the grey of Winter again this morning , and even though the car thermometer read 9C , it didn't feel anything like that . After an early visit to the tip with the result of Carol's 'spring clean' of the back garden over the last couple of days , I set off for Sevenoaks Reserve , which has become a regular site to visit over this Winter , and usually on a Monday . A few Siskins and possible Redpolls were feeding in the Alders near the Visitor Centre , and skulking below the feeders by Grebe Hide was this magnificent male Pheasant , dressed in all his
finery . Plenty of birdsong despite the gloom , and a look from the viewpoint at the end of the East Lake showed small numbers of waterfowl spread around the lake , no longer confined to small areas of open water . A flyby Kingfisher and a Little Egret fishing near the island were a good start . As I walked down the track between East Lake and The Darenth , the Greylag Geese that were down by
 the spit decided it was time to head off to the fields , and took off in twos and threes . The three
Mute Swans that were on East Lake also decided to move into the small pond alongside the Darenth .
No excitement on Long Lake , so I returned and crossed the Darenth to have a look from Willow Hide . Now , I don't know if it says something about me , but as soon as I got settled in , the pair of
Canada Geese that were out in front decided to depart too , was it something I said ? At least the two
male Pochard stayed put , but would have looked so much better with a bit of sun shining on their plumage . I wasn't expecting the Goosander to be still there , so wasn't disappointed at their absence . Also not showing was the Bittern . Walking back on the other track alongside the West Lake , a Song
Thrush was in full song , just where the river runs out of the lake . On the way to the Public Hide ,
another small flock of Siskins , this male looking sadly rather drab in the conditions . The usual Lapwing and Gulls from the hide along with a minimum of 20 Common Snipe feeding amongst the
grass tussocks and marshy areas . A last sweep of the islands found a single redhead Goosander on
one island , and a Cormorant playing 'King of the Castle' on Cairn Island . Out on the water , there
were at least three pairs of Great Crested Grebe displaying to each other , one of the pairs were starting to collect nesting materials , and whenever either of the other pairs got too close , a chase
ensued , until the intruders were far enough away to satisfy the nest builders . At one point , the nest building pair swan over to the side of the hide and displayed , then moved into the overhanging
trees , and I'm sure performed the 'weed dance' , but with so much in the way , I could not be sure .
Just my luck , last time was branches and right into the sun , so all I got was a silhouette . The pair
returned to the nest building , and I had to be satisfied with a Little Egret that flew across into the same area . I could have done with two other birders in the hide to watch the three pairs of GCGrebes , but on my own , I had to keep moving from one pair to the next . Patience finally paid off , when I returned at one time to the nest building pair , who were further away than their nest
site , but swimming towards each other with weed in their bills , and gotcha , I finally managed to get a few shots , albeit at distance . The whole thing only lasted eight shots of continuous shooting , but it's by far the best I have managed so far . Next time , right outside the hide please . Elated , and
cold , a last scan around the islands found three Common Snipe feeding on the edge of the nearest island , that was until someone on the building site dropped something on the building site behind the Bittern's reedbed , that made one hell of a clang , and everything on the lake , and probably the Reserve , took off . That was my cue to make my way back to the warmth of the car , and headed home .

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Sunday 26th. February 2012

Just a quick post to catch up on a few sightings over the weekend . Yesterday , I spent a very pleasant
half hour up on the Common , watching a pair of Long Tailed Tits starting to build their nest . This one has just arrived with some lichen to camouflage the soon to be domed nest . Later , I found a male Hairy-footed Flower Bee in the back garden , on the same Winter Jasmine that the female was photographed on , but he didn't stay long enough for me to get the camera . Once again this morning ,
the male Blackcap visited the Callicarpa bush for his breakfast , the difference being that this time ,
 he brought his lady . I saw the pair firstly from the back bedroom window , and managed a single
shot of the pair through the double glazing , but by the time I got downstairs , the local cat had appeared , and that was the last I saw of the female . Later , I went to help a friend put up some tubes in a woodland with a good under-storey of Hazel , to see if there was a population of Dormice in the area . We will survey the tubes on a regular basis when the animals emerge from hibernation , and if found , wooden nest boxes will replace the tubes . A most enjoyable amble around a woodland surrounded mainly by houses , with the most Honeysuckle I have ever seen , so White Admirals
could feature as well in the future . The only shots I got were of a Tree Creeper who seemed to be
enjoying the mild temperature as it busily looked for food .

Friday, 24 February 2012

Friday 24th. February 2012

Most of today was spent catching up on an ever lengthening list of jobs around the house and garden . Mind you , a few points of interest did catch my attention . In the pond , Spring was
certainly in the air for these amphibians , but the female in the middle didn't look too happy about it .
With little colour around , the multi coloured Lungwort / Pulmonaria officinalis brightens things up . Another was Winter Jasmine , and it was around this that I first heard , then saw , what I originally
thought was an all black Bumblebee , with orange hairs on it's back legs . But , after a bit of time on Google , it turns out to be a female Hairy-footed Flower-bee / Anthophora plumipes , one of the earliest bees on the wing . I have a feeling that I have come across this species before . It would be nice to find the male now , he has orange hairs on the front part of his thorax . Right down the bottom of the garden was evidence of the Wood Mouse . A collection of Hazel nuts , minus the kernels . From the actual hole in the shell , it could have been a Wood Mouse or a Bank Vole , but because of
the marks on the surface of the shell , Wood Mouse was confirmed . Had it been a Bank Vole , there would not have been any shell surface marks . Of interest , had it been a Dormouse , the shell surface marks would be there , but the inside surface of the hole would have been smooth . I must admit that I had been itching to go back up onto the Greensand Ridge all day , and with most jobs finished , I managed a very quick visit , just before grey clouds came rolling in . Yesterday's male Adder was
still basking in the same place , and two other males , this being one of them were also found .

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Thursday 23rd. February 2012

What a difference a day makes . Today we 'cooked' , working up on the Common in a temperature that must have been about 15C . That high temperature did induce a male Brimstone to leave his hibernation and fly across the heathland , my first sighting of the year , but he didn't stop for a shot .
There were also a lot of small moths around , this one stopped momentarily , and , when I returned to
the car , there were several more on the warm bodywork . Given my record with moths , I'll put my head in the noose and suggest March Moth , even though it's still February , but we'll wait and see .
Needless to say , they are not March Moth , but Tortricodes alternella . Many thanks to Dean / DDD
for pulling my head out of the noose .
That return to the car park was a bit earlier than usual , job done , and as the sun was still shining , I made a quick visit up onto the Greensand Ridge , before heading home . I was hoping to find several
reptiles out basking given the conditions , but just one male Adder , a very smart looking
individual , was found , another first for the year . A final first for the year came in the car park as I was leaving the Greensand Ridge , a bee or wasp , I never saw which it was , stung me on the side of the neck .

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Wednesday 22nd. February 2012

They said it would be 'Springlike' today , but no one told the weather . With rain due after lunch , and the warmer ? weather , I decided to try once more for my first Brambling of the Winter , and headed for Bough Beech Reservoir , a Kent Wildlife Trust site . I did not succeed in my quest , and found very little , due mainly to a very strong wind blowing down the reservoir , making it look like the North Sea . So this post will take the picture and comment form .
From the new hide overlooking the Roy Coles Scrape , a Lapwing was meticulously preparing a hollow on one of the small islands , while it's mate stayed on the other island .
A male Kestrel flew over with something in it's talons . A bad shot as it was about to move on having seen me , showed that the 'something' looked very much like one of the many Blue Tits around .
This male GSWoodpecker stayed just long enough for one shot before he too departed .
It was good to see , and hear , a good number of House Sparrows , fingers crossed , they seem to be on their way back .
One of the local Robins was wrestling with it's breakfast , but it downed it in the end .
Watch out little fellah , that Kestrel could be looking for seconds .
The only wader seen today , was this Common Snipe , probing the edge of the small North Lake .
Further up the bank , this Pied Wagtail was definitely struggling to find any insects in that wind .
A picture of concentration as one of at least a dozen Grey Heron seen , tries , and got , it's meal .
On the reservoir , lots of Teal , a few Wigeon and Pochard and at least 40 Cormorant .
On the way home , a Rook in the horse paddock on the bottom lane posed , for once .
And finally , I mentioned yesterday that I thought there might be 3 youngsters in the Grey Heron nest . When I processed some of the other shots taken , just one showed a third bill , behind the adult's legs .

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Tuesday 21st. February 2012

A short article and picture in the local free paper caught my eye at the end of last week . It was about a different species of Parakeet found in Kelsey Park , Beckenham , a site that I visit during the winter . It was nice to arrive in plus temperature , although , until the sun rose above the mature trees , it felt chilly . On a previous visit , I thought that I had seen a different Parakeet , but it was a fly by at speed , so I couldn't be sure . The presence of Parakeets was obvious from my arrival , but on checking them out , I could only find the Rose-ringed species on my first lap of the park . I stopped for a while at the sunny end of the lake watching a pair of Nuthatches , high in a London Plane . As I did so , three birds flew into a Cotoneaster bush , but before I could check them out , they were gone again , but it was obvious that they were Thrushes . Beside the bush was a little shelter with seats , so I made myself comfortable and waited . Sure enough , after a few minutes , the
three Redwings returned to feed . After all the time I spent in the cold weather trying to get near the species , they were now feeding not 5mtrs. away from me . They had their fill and flew off several
times , but when other people came along , they disappeared for good . Apart from a few fly-over Fieldfares whilst hedgelaying on Saturday , they were the only Winter Thrushes I have seen since they cleared all the berries from next door's bush . Another lap of the lake , and plenty more Rose-
ringed Parakeets , including this one looking very at home . Then , whilst the local Carrion Crows were arguing noisily in the top of another London Plane , a pair of Parakeets flew by , calling and
flying differently to the RRPs. They landed , and I managed to get a record shot of the pair , just before the Crows drove them off with all their noise . Things quietened down a bit after a while , and
I spotted the pair returning and settling right at the top of yet another London Plane on the other side of the Beck . The better view enabled me to confirm that they were indeed Blue-crowned Parakeets ., a species native to South America .The article had said that there were 8 birds around the park , and later I did see a group of eight birds high up , flying like the original pair , but I couldn't make a positive ID of the group . Walking past one of the areas where bread is thrown in to feed the ducks , I
saw this female Tufted Duck that has a rubber band in her bill and around her neck , but could still feed . Fortunately a local birder also saw her , and said that he knew who to contact to sort things out . While I was on site , the Gulls appeared , like something out of Hitchcock's 'The Birds' , swarming , noisily over the lake before settling down . Amongst them was this BHGull in full
breeding plumage . First time around the heronry , things were pretty quiet , but by the second lap ,
the sun had reached most of the nests , and it was obvious that this year's generation had left the egg .
This was proved when a youngster popped it's head over the edge of the nest . It was followed very
soon afterwards by another , and a third could well have been in the nest too , but I couldn't be sure . I think this was the nest of the pair I saw mating a few visits ago . The nest below the family , still
had the adult sitting on eggs . And it wasn't just the Grey Herons that were working on the next
generation , this female Coot was found sitting tight on her nest on the way back to the car .