Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wednesday 26th. September 2012

A catch up on a few bits of interest both before and during the recent deluges . Before all the rain started , I had a look up on the Greensand Ridge for any signs of Adder breeding this season . Although the conditions were ideal , I failed to find a single Adder , never mind a neonate . It wasn't a totally wasted journey though , as I managed to find a single Slow Worm and 8 Grass Snakes . Five of the latter were found singly , but the other three were found together . The two smaller specimens
were a good size , but the probable female was enormous . The same day , on my return home , I noticed a female Southern Hawker hovering around the pond . On previous occasions , by the time I have arrived with the camera , she has gone or only stayed for a matter of seconds , but this time she stayed for several minutes . She tried to lay her eggs on anything and everything around the pond ,
here attempting to deposit on one of Carol's flower pots . But her favoured spot was the mossy area just by the waterfall . She seemed to lay several eggs in the moss , and was not bothered by my close
attention . I left her to it , and asked Carol not to do any 'garden-heeping' in the area for the time being . The rains could have been great news for hedgelaying last Saturday , but the overnight showers seemed to miss the site that we were working on , and with the ground like concrete , it was impossible to drive in the stakes on the newly layed hedge , so we will have to make another visit later to finish things off . I had promised to help with a small mammal survey yesterday afternoon up on the Downs , and as things started to brighten up somewhat around lunchtime , I decided to have a look in at Sevenoaks Reserve before meeting up for the survey . That brightness didn't last long and the second half of the journey was in driving rain , which was still falling as I reached the Reserve car park , but again brightness was showing from over the West Lake , which duly arrived . I made my way down to Willow Hide , passing a very wet chap who had been caught out in the last shower . I
had the hide to myself and got set up . A good number of Teal , all females , were dabbling in the shallows and of course the Coots were arguing . A scan further out in the lake found a male Pochard ,
dozing , almost on the other bank . Then , from behind the left hand island , my first two Winter ducks of the Autumn , a pair of Wigeon , still looking very much an item , with the drake guarding
every move of his lady . The sunshine was nice , but more darkness was moving in . Whilst watching the Wigeon , a Kingfisher flew down from the far end of the lake and landed in the trees overhanging the island . Following it was what turned out to be a Chiffchaff . As the Kingfisher looked down for a meal , the Chiffchaff searched in the branches above . Twice the Kingfisher moved perched and both times the Chiffchaff followed . I was sure that the next move was going to be onto the stick outside the hide , and was ready for it . When the Kingfisher did fly , it was over to the East Lake , not to the stick , and again followed by the Chiffchaff . Whilst this was going on and the clouds gathered , a second pair of Wigeon appeared from the left of the island and started preening in the shallows .
Then , the heavens opened again , and the pair got a shower thrown in for free . I didn't see it fly in , but at some time during the shower , a drake Teal arrived , and when the sun came out , you could
almost see the smile on his face , the only male amongst the females present on the lake . With the sun , the feeding started up again , encouraging one of the resident drake Gadwall to venture near the
hide and show off his still splendid colours . Leaving the hide in the hope of reaching the car park before the next downpour , a quick look at the East Lake showed hardly anything on the water , but a large collection of birds , probably mainly Geese , down by Tower Hide , but I didn't have time to go down there to see if there was anything else with them . I also noticed that there had been recent clearance in front of Tyler Hide , possibly earlier in the day , which would account for the lack of birds on the water at the Visitor Centre end . I did make it to the car before the rain , but drove through lots of it on way to meet my fellow surveyor . On arrival , it was still raining , so it was wellies and wet gear , but by the time he arrived , delayed by local M25 traffic problems , the worst was over . We headed off to check the 50 pre-baited traps , thinking that not much was going to be out in the recent conditions , and so it proved . Although 11 Wood Mice and a single Yellow-necked Mouse were found in the morning survey , just a single , very energetic Y-nM ( pictured showing the
yellow band running right round the neck , and some very sharp teeth ) and a very wet Field Vole was all that was found , but at least we stayed dry . As I neared home I caught another shower , which stopped just before backing in . Carol was amazed how much rain I had managed to find , as that five minutes before I arrived was all she had had all afternoon . Perhaps that should tell me something ?
Oh , and in case you're wondering , yes , it is still raining as I post this .


Warren Baker said...

Nice to see some Ducks Greenie, a seldom seen species of bird on my patch :-)

Got rained off here today, what waste of a September day!

Ken. said...

Good to see you made a valiant effort to Sevenoaks knowing what the weather was like.
Nice photo of the Gadwall, they are a very under rated bird, they have nice markings and colours.
Hope you didn't get nipped by the Y/N/Mouse.

Marc Heath said...

Another great report and shots, keep it up. Nice to be cheered up with all this rain!

ShySongbird said...

An interesting report and great photos of your latest 'adventures' Greenie. You have certainly had plenty to keep you busy. The 'probable' female grass snake did look huge! Good news on the garden Southern Hawker and the photo of it on the moss is particularly lovely when enlarged! I agree with Ken about the 'underrated' Gadwall, they do have very attractive markings and I always think the male Teal is attractive and dainty too.

Alan Pavey said...

Lots going on Greenie, I agree with Ken, the Gadwall is a wonderfully marked duck, you did do well predicting where the showers would be following them around like that :-)

Alan Pavey said...

Lots going on Greenie, I agree with Ken, the Gadwall is a wonderfully marked duck, you did do well predicting where the showers would be following them around like that :-)