Friday, 24 August 2012

Friday 24th. August 2012

With a change in the weather about to arrive , I decided yesterday to make a visit to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , in the hope of finding some migrants before they left , and also in search of a couple of Odonata species . Arriving at the car park , all was still and quiet , with none of the song of the Summer migrants heard on previous visits , but also hardly a sound from any bird . With the sun just getting above the trees on the top path , it was like that all the way down to the dip , halfway along the top fence . The silence was not broken there , but a couple of small birds flying out
of , then returning into a Silver Birch , provided me with my first shots of the day , Spotted Flycatcher . After watching them doing what their name suggests for several minutes , they moved on and so did I , back into the previous silence , apart from an odd Corvid call and an impossible to see Nuthatch in the tall trees around the house at the end . The temperature was rising , but at the four small ponds on my route , there was not a single siting of any Odonata . Heading down to the small valley and stream , no sign of any Stonechats and definitely no Tree Pipits , was it going to be one of those days ? Down at the stream , where I found Golden-ringed Dragonfly this time last year , I checked both sides but found nothing . I was just about to head up the other side of the valley , when
I noticed something just above water level on the stem of one of the emerging plants in one of the more open areas . As can be seen , I couldn't see exactly what it was , but knew it wasn't an Odonata nymph , but a beetle of some kind . I retraced my steps , crossed back over to the other side , and tried to get as close as I could to the mystery species . Unfortunately , the terrain on the other side was not so photographer friendly , and without a plank , dump truck or person named Ron to call upon for help , got as close as I could without chancing myself and camera finishing up in the drink . Through
binoculars , my suspicion was confirmed , and from it's size , about 3-4 cms. long , my guess on site was Great Diving Beetle . Whilst watching it , it moved slightly as if just adjusting it's grip , but nothing more , but what was it doing out of the water ? I have had brief glimpses of the species in water but never seen one out of it . After about 5 minutes it climbed slightly higher up the stem and I was ready to try and get a shot of it flying , but when the moment came , it just dropped back into the water . Reading up when I got home , the Great Diving Beetle / Dytiscus marginalis , in both larvae and adult stages , is a fierce carnivore and preys on frogs , newts and fish , and flies mainly at night  using moonlight to find new ponds or as here , running streams . With that excitement over , I headed up the other side of the small valley , back into the silent state , without even a sound never mind sight of a raptor , often seen in numbers in the area . As I approached the woodland at the top , a small bird caught my attention as it alighted briefly on a gate post . It almost immediately disappeared into the trees , where other birds could be seen . As I reached the gate and looked along
the fenceline , what looked like a family group of Common Redstarts , with three sat out on the fence . Beyond the gate , I sat on a large boulder , and waited to see what was about , and after a short
while the family came closer , and I managed a few shots , but the adult male kept well back . The other birds feeding in the trees and bracken included several Chiffchaffs , Blue Tits , Coal Tits , Chaffinches and a couple of Wrens . The rest of the circuit provided many 'Phylloscopus hueets' without sightings , and the odd Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker . The usual busy gully from the dead trees back to the top path was non eventful , but I found another Redstart family at the top , close to where I found the SpFly , they must have been late risers . Being warmer than when I arrived , I returned to the ponds to see if there was any Odonata action , but between the four , I only saw 4 Common Darters , one Brown Hawker and not a single damselfly . That was until I was just about to head back to the car , when I noticed a red one flying over the brown acidic water . It settled on the edge and I managed a few shots of the Small Red Damselfly , a species restricted to bogs and
heathland pools . Apart from the size , the main differences between this and it's Large relation are red legs and pterostigma ( the coloured spots on the ends of the wings ) , both being black on the LRD . Not a sign of a Black Darter , which was the other species I was hoping to find . On the way home , I made a quick stop at Bough Beech Reservoir which was also quiet , but did get a distant shot
of both Common (left) and Green Sandpiper , but they never came any closer to each other to get a better comparison shot . When I did arrive home , Carol told me that she had had a Painted Lady nectaring on the Buddleia , so I went down the back garden to see if it was still there , which it was .

From it's size and the broad abdomen , I would say it was a female , she stayed for about another ten minutes , then was on her way , refuelled .
Other interest this week included 12 species of butterfly on Monday at High Elms , but again no WLHs but another 10 very fresh Peacocks . It was encouraging to find 5 second brood Common
Blues , including two females , this being one . On Tuesday following a trip to the Council dump , a walk around South Norwood Country Park found two of the three Great Crested Grebe youngsters still around and fending more for themselves now , and whilst trying to photograph a Common
Whitethroat , got a glimpse of a slightly larger bird in a nearby tree . Unfortunately , the only shot I managed was with the head turned away . Although it looks 'Dunnocky' in the shot , it was much larger than that . On the ground , even though made from the roots of the plant , the aroma of Horse-
radish / Armoracia rusticana , a member of the Cabbage family , was everywhere . On Wednesday , before doing the butterfly transect at the set-aside farm , Carol informed me that we had a Hornet on the back wall of the house . Although almost the same size as a Hornet , it turned out to be one of the
largest hoverflies Volucella zonaria . The weather closed in almost as soon as I started the transect , so the results were not great , apart from Meadow Browns , given that much of the main meadow has been cut for hay . The fresh green shoots of the grass did however encourage the Fallow Deer herd to
come out of the woods to graze , 18 animals in total . Also around , spooked by a horse rider on the bridlepath , two Roe Deer , possibly the pair seen last visit , that careered around the meadow , before
diving back into the wood for cover . On the way home a look in on the Common only found a well marked fly of interest , which I thought would make it easy to ID . Of course that was not the case ,
but I think it is a female Alophora hemiptera , but as usual , stand to be corrected . When I got home ,
a walk around the back garden found a female Southern Hawker around the pond , looking to lay her eggs .


Phil said...

I've been thinking about a trip to Ashdown myself lately Greenie. Not sure whether to wait a while now though, especially given the absence of planks and dumpers etc., they're never around when you need them, or seldom anyway.
I like the Gt Diving Beetles, had one in my pond last year.
I've not seen a single Painted Lady this year, at least not one i'd care to admit to!

Warren Baker said...

I'd stick with Dunnock on that Brown bird in the bush Greenie :-)

Good to see a couple of Redstart families, hope yet for more passing through here!

Marc Heath said...

Nice selection Greenie, that Painted Lady looks great.

ShySongbird said...

Lots of interest again Greenie. Lovely to see the Painted Lady and a beautiful photo of it. I haven't seen one so far this year and only saw one last.

The damsel is very striking with those eyes. Well done with getting the Great Diving Beetle...without getting wet. The hoverfly was pretty spectacular too!

Lovely to see the Redstarts.

Ken. said...

Nice blog report, andn great photo's to go with it.
I agree with Warren, the bird in the tree is a Dunnock.

ShySongbird said...

Hi again Greenie, I have had your mystery bird on my mind all week. After I saw Warren's comment I was reluctant to mention it and now I see Ken has also said Dunnock but I still have a little suspicion that it might be a female Reed Bunting which of course is just slightly larger than a Dunnock...Just a thought for you to consider?

Greenie said...

ShySongbird ,
Strangely enough , when I got the very brief glimpse of the bird , the size and shape said , don't laugh , Corn Bunting , but of course it never showed it's head to the camera . It wasn't enough to get a definite ID , and I wasn't going to post it as such , hence the mystery bird .
In my own mind I'm convinced it wasn't a Dunnock , but can see why Warren and Ken say it is .
Thank you for your offering of Reed Bunting which as you say could also fill the frame , but sadly we'll never know for sure , another shot for the 'LBJ' album .

ShySongbird said...

Really funny you should say that Greenie because my first thought was Corn Bunting but I dismissed it because of the habitat which then led me to think of Reed Bunting. As you say though we will never really know. The LBJs need magnified name tags!