Friday, 30 March 2012

Friday 30th. March 2012

With 'tree laying' on the cards both days over the weekend , I thought I'd better get the bird survey at Down House done , before the weather goes downhill . Birdsong filled the air on my arrival , and the notebook was soon busier than normal . A pair of Nuthatches were very interested in an old standing trunk and Starlings were collecting nesting materials and taking it to the London Plane on the main lawn . Just two Rose-ringed Parakeets were seen today , probably because the remainder of their favourite nesting tree had been taken down , it being just a standing trunk on my last visit . Talking to the head gardener , the Ash was completely rotten , and being at the start of the Sandwalk , a path where the public can walk the path where Darwin deliberated over his Origin of Species , it had to come down on H&S grounds . I have no doubt that the RRPs will find another tree and tip the resident species out of that one . Nothing out of the expected was found , but with a better than average 24 species recorded , including possible migrants in the form of singing Blackcap and Chiffchaff , not a bad result , and it was good to see Pied Wagtail back on the cricket ground . They used to nest in the old dilapidated pavillion , but when the new one was built , they seemed to move
on . A surprise in the orchard was to find Toothwort / Lathraea squamaria in full flower . This group of the parasitic plant were on a Hazel stool , but around the Sandwalk , others were found on the
roots of a variety of host trees . An unusual plant , it has no green leaves and have been replaced by scales , and so has to gets its food materials from it's host , it's own roots becoming attached to the roots of the host . A second look in the walled vegetable garden didn't find any butterflies , but did
turn up a bee with a very ginger thorax . Looking through the book , I think it might be the Common Carder Bee / Bombus pascuorum , but as always , stand to be corrected . On the way back home , I made a quick stop at High Elms Country Park , the first of many this year I'm sure . On the road near
the car park , the Green Hellebores / Helleborus viridis , are obviously having a good year , with more of the plants that look like minature Palm trees than I have seen before on the site . Not the
most colourful of flowers , but definitely one of the earliest to come into flower . I didn't do the whole butterfly transect , just visiting Burnt Gorse and the Orchid Bank , but managed to record four species , 2 male Brimstone , 2 male Orange Tip and a single each of Comma and Peacock , the latter
posing , wings closed on a wood pile . The only other interest found was the tiny plant Moschatel /
Adoxa moschatellina , also known as 'Town Hall Clock' , with it's flower on four sides and one on top for good luck . Unfortunately the only ones in flower were right next to the 'dog bag bin' and there was no way I was getting too close to that , so will post a better shot when I find the plant in a more savoury spot . Back home for lunch on the patio , out of the breeze , almost too warm to sit . But I didn't sit long as the mewing of a Buzzard had me heading for the camera . As usual the wrong lens was attached , the 100mm macro , but with Carol shouting 'there's more' , I came running with what I had . Back on the patio , four Common Buzzard were now visible , riding the thermals , then two more came into view , and then another . 7 Common Buzzards , all in view at the same time . As
I said , they were high , and never came all together , but managed a few shots of threes . Six of them drifted off in the direction of Spring Park Pond , whilst the seventh hung around for a bit before joining them . Thinking it was all over , I put down the camera and got on with my lunch . Almost finished , a Common Buzzard came over the garage at about 50 ft. , but before I could grab the camera again , it was just tail feathers . With the others out of view , I can't be sure if it was one of them or an eighth bird , but I'm reasonably sure it was the latter . Whilst watching the birds , a hovering insect was often in line of sight , so when all the commotion finished , and as I had the right
lens on for once , I got a few shots of the Beefly / Bombylius major , in flight , against a clear blue
sky . Also in the garden , the first of Carol's Irises has just opened it's first flower . And finally ,
whilst watching the Common Buzzards it was noticeable that one was extremely large .

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Wednesday 28th. March 2012

With high temperatures expected again today , I made an early start to have a look up on the Downs , and hopefully find a few reptiles before the heat of the day drove them under cover . A wonderful
welcome in the form of Chiffchaff ( pictured ) , Blackcap and Skylark , all in full song made a good start , and my decision to get there early paid off , when I found a couple of male Adders within the
first few minutes , both of which looking as if they had just climbed out of bed , and were now
wanting to bask in the morning sunshine to warm up . And warming up it was , quickly , which resulted in just one other male and a juvenile , born at the end of last Summer were found . Two
Grass Snakes , my first of this year were found , this one , showing only it's back half , was a large animal , a probable female , that took off at speed into the woodland behind . Four Common Lizards
and the same number of Slow Worms were also recorded . As reptile numbers dwindle , my attention turned to butterflies and plants , producing another two male Orange Tips , three Speckled Woods ,
my first sighting of the species this year , and two of them already in an aerial battle . 1 Small Tortoiseshell , 6 Brimstone , 1 Small White , 1 Peacock and 3 Comma also made it into the book .
Plant-wise , I finally found some Coltsfoot / Tussilago farfara , a member of the Daisy family , still looking very fresh . Not far away I found several Cowslip / Primula veris plants in bud , but then just
one plant with just one of it's flowers fully out , to join the other members of it's family , the Primroses which seem to be having a very good year . In a shady corner and fully in flower , the
creamy white form of Common Comfrey /Symphytum officinale , a member of the Borage family . Also in flower , but with green flowers not as striking as others , Wood Spurge / Euphorbia
amygdaloides , as expected , one of the Spurge family . Although the Ash trees have not leafed yet ,
they have taken on a reddish hue , imparted by their flowers , which , if successful , will produce a good crop of 'keys' , which will feed many species of birds through the Winter . On the way back to the car , Bullfinch , Coal Tit and a singing Mistle Thrush were seen , along with what I thought at first was a Grizzled Skipper , when a small insect flew past me . I managed to keep sight of it , but
when I did catch up with it , it turned out to be another year first , a Pyrausta purpuralis moth . A Grizzled Skipper was seen in Sussex in the last couple of days , but I will have to wait a bit longer for my first one of the year .

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tuesday 27th. March 2012

Just a quick look around Spring Park Pond , which was very low and nothing of interest found in the water this afternoon , produced the following :
My first Orange Tip of the year . This is not the one seen today , as it passed me at speed , I tried to chase it down , and , well , he was younger than me , and much fitter .
Large swathes of Wood Anemone in the woods behind the pond .
The Blackthorn blossom was swarming with small mining bees , soon the paths will be covered with small piles of soil , outside the entrance to their nests .
Along with one of our native ladybirds, the Seven Spot , with half of the seventh spot on each wing casing .
And another variation of the Asian Harlequin ladybird .
The first female Small White I've recorded this year .
By the car park , a Comma resting on dead leaves and blending in very well .
And finally , another first for the year , help from 'the man' with a moth that flew across the path in freont of me and settled nicely on a tree . Heart and Dart went through my mind at the time , but I don't think it is now .

Monday, 26 March 2012

Monday 26th. March 2012

Carol needed some help this morning , so getting away later than usual , I decided to head for Kelsey Park in Beckenham , to check up on the juvenile Grey Herons , and hopefully get a shot of the adult coming back to feed them . It was still cool on my arrival , and the noise at the heronry was much less than on my last visit . In fact , some of the juveniles have already left the nest and could be found wobbling about the trees supporting the nests , but also a couple some distance along the lake .  I set up on the far side of the lake , and concentrated on the nest most out in the open , which had three
juveniles in it , looking a bit chilled as the sun had not yet reached their side of the island . It didn't take long though , for three juveniles left to their devices , to get bored and start squabbling amongst
themselves , and with lethal weapons like those bills , injury could easily occur . Needless to say , neither adult returned to this nest , but a couple did to other less open nests . This was the scene
when an adult flew in to the nest that I posted many weeks ago , with three small chicks in it . The adult was almost pushed out of the nest by the three juveniles , further advanced than the previous three , and , having disgorged the food into the nest , for the three to noisily fight over , got out of the
way and left them to it . Whilst waiting , a nice distraction was a very smart male Pied Wagtail that flew in behind me calling and landing on the grass . I was further distracted when I saw two Grey Wagtails land by the sluice , over the other side of the lake . At that point , I left the Grey Herons to try for the Grey Wagtails . As I got into position , the male flew off and landed on the heronry island , and the female flew out of sight behind the sluice . But , all was not lost , as a male Nuthatch was in the London Plane tree , doing his pee-pee-pee , Springtime call . A local birder that I met on a previous visit , showed me the hole that they usually nest in , so I took up station in the area and
waited . It wasn't long before the female Nuthatch arrived with some mud , and started making good the nest hole entrance , the fresh mus at the top left of the hole . When she was happy with that , she
started collecting nesting materials , which seemed to be flakes of bark from Pine trees . With plenty of Pines in the park , she was continuously backward and forward , and on leaving the nest hole ,
proved that the remedial work on the entrance was perfect , snug for her , and a deterrant for anything bigger getting in . And what was the male doing all this time ? He was on sentry duty , making sure
that the female was interrupted , or distracted from her work , and , every now and again , letting any
other males in the vicinity know that this was his territory , with another round of pee-pee-pee . Of course , every now and again , when the female wasn't about , he would hop down and make sure
that she was doing the job properly , not cutting any corners . Everything seemed to pass inspection whilst I was there , and more to the point , he wasn't caught whilst doing so . Higher up in the same
tree , the Jackdaws were still bringing nesting materials too , and of course , surveying all they own . The first 'new' butterfly of the year , as opposed to adults that have overwintered , was seen at the park too , a flyby Holly Blue , that would have spent the Winter as a chrysalis , starting life back in late August , early September last year .Two more 'new' butterflies in the form of Small Whites
passed through the back garden this afternoon , along with a worn Red Admiral that was nectaring on
Mahonia . Also in the garden , the first flowering Honesty / Lunaria annua , and overhead , in a clear blue sky , Carol spotted a high flier drifting over , and with only the 100mm. Macro lens with me ,
got this shot , which at least confirmed the ID , a Common Buzzard , not bad for 14 miles from Central London . Finally , help please on a large caterpillar with red dots along its length , I'm
reasonably sure it is a moth species .

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunday 25th . March 2012

Didn't manage to get out today , so just a quick catch up on yesterday , when I visited a small nature reserve , where the volunteers wanted some help with hedgelaying . Well , that turned out to be a miss-noma , as the 'hedge' turned out to be a scattered line of mature Hawthorns , but I have agreed to get some form of hedge out of it next weekend . Silk purse and sow's ear comes to mind .It was an interesting visit though , and I am sure I will visit during the Summer , as the site has much potential , including a good population of great Crested Newts .Whilst I was there , small mammal trapping / recording was taking place , and although only two species were trapped , it was good to see the species close to . The split was about even between the
longer tailed , and rather more active Bank Vole / Clethrionomys glareolus , and the photogenic
Short -tailed Vole /Microtus agrestis , which was much more laid back , and was happy to be
photographed on one of the volunteer's boots , and also in the hand of the recorder , where it seemed completely relaxed . Not so relaxed was the volunteer leader , who came across an injured
Jackdaw , with what looked like a broken wing . It sat quietly held by the leader , venting it's spleen
every now and again on his finger . A cloth bag was found and the bird popped in , and taken by two of the volunteers to a Wildlife Hospital . Sadly , after examination , the break was too bad to be dealt with , and the bird was put down . Lots of Primroses all over the reserve were attracting large
numbers of insects , including the Beefly / Bombylius major , who was making use of that long proboscis to reach down into the throat of the flowers to get at the nectar . Two Brimstones , a single
Peacock and this pair of Commas were also recorded during the visit . And finally , a bit of help
please with a Bee , possibly solitary or miner species , maybe Andrena haemorrhoa , the yellow on the back legs being a good stock of pollen , an a rather unusually marked Spider , both
found on the Reserve . A bit more digging on the spider leads me to think it is a Nursery Web Spider - Pisaura mirabilis , but always ready to be corrected .