Saturday, 28 April 2012

Saturday 28th. April 2012

Well , yesterday's sunny periods were nowhere to be seen today , as from first light , grey skies and constant rain has been the order of the day , and apparently there is worse to come overnight and tomorrow , great . So , carrying on with yesterday's trip out : I returned to the causeway , and it was still as cold and windy as before , but there were signs of things getting a bit better .
A Grey Heron returning to the heronry in Winkworth Wood looked strange , caught in a ray of sunshine against a leaden shy .
Halfway down the main reservoir , I picked up six ducks in flight , but too far to ID .
After covering most of the reservoir , they approached the causeway , and I could see that they were now five Shellduck , a single female surrounded by four drakes .
They alighted on the surface about 25 metres out from the causeway and after a short time the female was mated by one of the drakes .
After a very quick wash , they all took off again , this time heading into a bay right down the other end of the reservoir , where no doubt , there was a repeat performance .
I didn't see any Swifts , but good numbers of Swallows , House and Sand Martins were probably wondering if they had made the right decision back in Africa .
I noticed a small wader fly over and land on the edge of the main reservoir . A search along the waters edge in almost gale force wind , revealed a Little Ringed Plover . Even with IS , I couldn't keep the camera still . That water is an inland reservoir , not the North Sea .
A last look at the North Lake , where the pair of Common Terns were still showing off their aerobatic skills . The water level at Bough Beech has risen dramatically since my last visit , and I just hope that not many ground nesters have been caught out by the rising level .
As I left the causeway , I could see a heavy downpour lashing at the top of the Greensand Ridge , but , by the time I got up there , the rain had passed over , but it like the Somme underfoot .
After all the excitement of my last visit , just one Adder , this female , was found during the visit . I'm not sure wether she was warming up or drying out at the time .
After finding just the odd specimen so far this year , Grass Snakes were by far the dominant reptile found , with eight specimens found over three sites .
Several were juveniles , and one individual at least had attitude .
The brighter periods mentioned earlier , did eventually appear , and the sun's warmth brought out a few more butterflies , like this Comma , nectaring on Bluebells .
This female Small White on Hawthorn ,
and my first Green-veined White of the year , trying to warm up whilst being buffeted by the still strong wind . Two Speckled Woods were also recorded , needless to say , fighting for the ownership of a sunny glade .
Underfoot , the Bluebells were superb , but there is always the black sheep in the family .
And finally , one of the fields I passed had large drifts of Common Field Speedwell / Veronica persica , looking as if a giant had thrown hand-fulls of blue chippings all over it .

Friday, 27 April 2012

Friday 27th. April 2012

Well , at last a half decent day to get out and about , still windy , but drier and warmer , but good to be out . I headed for Bough Beech Reservoir , forgetting just how cold it can be on the causeway when the wind is blowing down the reservoir , as it was today . Pushed for time , it's the picture and comment post tonight .
On the small island in the middle of the Roy Coles Scrape , a pair of preening Shellduck .
The female Coot had just got off this nest with at least 3 eggs , calling for her partner .
Bet she wished she hadn't bothered , all she got was a bout of domestic violence .
Over the North Lake , one of a pair of Common Terns , several others on the main reservoir .
In the woods alongside the reservoir , a Cuckoo flew close and called , then flew closer and called again , only trouble  the usual branch syndrome .
Had better luck with my first Common Whitethroat of the year , in full song .
Why are singing Goldcrests always high in the tree ?
Juvenile Slow Worm , apart from size , the thin dark line along the length of it's body says so .
Lots of Bugle / Ajuga reptans found in flower .
After failing to get a shot of a mobile male , this female Orange Tip was a poser .
Even happy for a top shot too .
Found quite a few long horn moths /  Adela reamurella , this male seems to have lost one of his antennae .
Almost got a static shot of a Bank Vole / Clethrionomys glareolus , but as you can see , the front end is just about to exit right .
And finally for tonight , I found this Guinea Fowl in a field with sheep and lambs . I just photographed it , a certain other Blogger would probably added it to his year list .
Looks like another wet one tomorrow , so will finish off today's visit then .

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Thursday 26th. April 2012

The last three days have been a washout in every sense of the word . I have only managed a few darting outings to local sites during that time , and have finished up getting a soaking on my way back to the car each time . When it wasn't raining , the strong wind made sure that little wildlife was found . Even though the weather has been so bad , a pair of Blue Tits have been busy collecting
materials for their nest on the garage wall . Well , that should read , one of them has been busy
collecting , whilst the other one makes sure that the job is done properly . Both shots were taken yesterday through double glazing . Talking of nests , the pair of Robins that made their home in an old enamel teapot I put deep in some Honeysuckle , seem to have a family now , as both adults are constantly too and fro with food . The bad news on the nest front is that in next door's back garden , a pair of Carrion Crows have a nest in a large Eucalyptus tree and a pair of Magpies have one at the top of a conifer at the bottom . Then of course there are several pairs of Jackdaws nesting in the chimneys along the road , and many more is adjoining streets . The are regular visitors to the bird
tables , and I must say look very dapper in their breeding plumage . Two of my visits were up to the Common , and I'm pleased to say that the second Long Tailed Tit nest now has young , with the adults working hard to keep anything up to 12 hungry young satisfied . On today's visit , the wind was so strong it was almost a waste of time carrying the camera around , but a couple of shots of a
Chiffchaff in song just about made it ., as he took a roller coaster ride on an Oak branch . Over on the heathland area , that wind has damaged a couple of Silver Birches , and I certainly gave this one a
wide berth as I passed it by . You could almost see the split getting lower as you looked at it . Only other interest found was by the car park , where Green Alkanet / Pentaglottis sempervirens , a
member of the Borage family , has come into flower . Hoping to get out and do a proper visit somewhere tomorrow , weather permitting , I think 'cabin fever' is setting in .
And finally , some help please with a caterpillar found on Heather on the heathland yesterday . I
thought at first it was the Beautiful Yellow Underwing moth at first , but now I don't think so . Any ideas ?

Monday, 23 April 2012

Monday 23rd. April 2012

Given the weather forecast , I wasn't expecting to get out this St.Georges Day , but the expected rain came in a bit later , giving a chance of a quick look up on the Common , as the clouds gathered and the odd spot of rain was felt on the wind . All was quiet at the first LTTit nest , which was built about a week after the other one on the heathland . With Blackcap , Chiffchaff and Wren song above the wind , I reached the other nest in a brief gap in the cloud , and after waiting a few minutes , was
pleased to see both adults arrive with food , this being one of them . Now all they have to do is to make hundreds of journeys to and from the nest , without attracting the attention of the Magpies and Jays , quite an ask . Very soon after this shot , the first shower had me packing up and making my way back to the car . By the time I got home , the rain had really set in , and so it has continued .
As I mentioned yesterday , I made a visit to the Greensand Ridge , intending for it to be a flying visit , as gathering clouds were looking threatening . Almost immediately , I met a fellow enthusiast , and we spent some time looking around together and chatting . We both thought that animals would be out given the higher temperature , about 12C , but we weren't having any luck . After a while , we went our separate ways . A few minutes later , he returned , somewhat breathless , to tell me that he had found two male Adders 'dancing' , but they had only 'danced' for a short time , before disappearing into the vegetation . He did however get a few shots of the 'dance' , the first time he had seen it . We made our way to the spot , and , sure enough , everything was quiet . We said cheerio again and he went on his way , whilst I had a look around the area . I found nothing of interest , and was about to make my way also , but as I approached the original spot , found a male 'silverback'
Adder curled up in an area of moss , a couple of metres from the original sighting . He wasn't bothered by my presence , and he almost appeared sleepy . I got a couple of shots , then , to my
surprise from nowhere , in charges another 'silverback' , and all hell was let loose . There was so
much movement and thrashing about , that at times it appeared that there were more than two animals involved . Fortunately , I had my 100mm. macro lens on , but , even shooting at 1/4000th. of
a second , the lens was struggling to focus and record all the action , even though the light conditions were very reasonable . This trial of strength was sometimes devoted to which animal could get higher
that it's opponent , thus showing domination , where at other times , the emphasis seemed to be
which animal could stretch out further in the horizontal plain , to show superiority . All the action obviously took it's toll , and frequent rests were taken , but these were short lived as one or the other
animal restarted the combat . When I got home and downloaded the shots , it turned out that the combat had lasted for 32 minutes , at the end of which , the two animals slumped exhausted onto the
 moss , before both leaving the arena in different directions . I watched one return to the spot where the other chap first saw the pair and settled , and a minute or so later , I spotted what I'm sure was the other combatant , about 3 metres away in thick heather , where he started another combat session with another 'silverback' male . The pair soon disappeared from sight , and I was glad to get my breath back . To my mind , there had to be a receptive female somewhere in the area , but I never caught sight of her . The settled male was still recovering as I played back some of the 504 shots that I had taken during the 32 minute combat , which now takes me up to having witnessed the 'dance of the Adders' for the sixth time , I just can't believe it .

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Sunday 22nd. April 2012

What with the weather and an old neighbour's funeral , I haven't got out much recently , and on the odd occasion that I did , I saw almost nothing of interest . With another bright but cold morning today , I decided on an early visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham , mainly to see how the Nuthatches and Grey Herons were getting on . Arriving early , I almost had the park to myself , but I knew that things would change quickly as dog walkers , families and keep-fitters started to arrive , so I made the most of the situation . Almost the first bird I came across was a Willow-chiff , obviously unsure
of it's own identity , as it was calling in a mixture of both Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff calls . A pair of Mallards were by the small bridge , and as I approached , the drake gave a couple of short
calls to alert the duck , and they both watched me go by , without either lifting it's head . On The Beck , before it reaches the lake , 8 drake Mandarins were found , but not a sign of a single female during the whole visit . If not in the park itself , there are plenty of mature trees in woodland nearby ,
and I'm sure that they would have some holes that would be ideal for this tree nesting species . Just past the bridge over the first waterfall , a pair of Coots seemed to be acting out the Barocca advert from the TV , both standing on the same fallen branch in the water , but it soon became obvious that
the male had already had his tablet ad the female was tried as a witch at the same time . As I passed the heronry , it was obvious that many of the juveniles had already fledged the nest , with much less noise coming from the few that remained . The fledged juveniles then started turning up around the
lake , this one parked on top of a Yew , making sure that it had all the essentials of life , and another
two parked down at the end of the lake . I was hoping that the adult might arrive with food for them , but it never happened . Whilst at that end , I had flybys of both Grey and Pied Wagtail and on a
soggy area of grass , two Song Thrushes were finding plenty of worms for their breakfast . At the same time , overhead a female Blackcap was feeding , but she never gave a photo shot opportunity , nor did any of the males that were singing around the lake . It must have been a heavy night for this
Muscovy Duck , as he finished up sleeping on one of the park benches . I just missed the male
bringing it , but this female Coot didn't look at all impressed as her mate added a piece of polystyrene
burger box to the nest . A bit further down The Beck , I did see a juvenile Coot , it'll have to be wary with all the Grey Herons about . A single Swallow passed through as I watched and listened to a
male Dunnock , and from the main feeding area , a Little Grebe was looking very dapper in it's
breeding plumage , and close by , the 'Pied' Coot looks even stranger as it starts to get it's adult
feathers , looks like a Bobby Charlton wrap-over hairstyle to me . I think that the male
Greylag Goose was meant to be guarding his partner whilst she was sitting , but he must have had a hard night too . By the time I got back near the car , the park was well and truly starting to fill up , so it was time for me to be off . With the weather still holding , I decided on a quick visit to the Greensand Ridge , but will write that up tomorrow , when it is meant to be raining all day , which is exactly what it is doing as I write this .