Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tuesday 30th. April 2013

Since reading that Alan / Snodland and Surrounding Area , posted that he had 24 singing male Nightingales at New Hythe , and with the leaves coming out very quickly on the trees , I made another visit to the site this morning , and I was not disappointed . I didn't manage the 24 that Alan did , but must have had half that number . If I hadn't seen a single male , just listening to that song

was magic . I took loads of shots that I still have to look through , but am just posting a couple . Mixed in with the Nightingale song were Blackcap , Chiffchaff , Common Whitethroat , Willow Warbler and Reed Warbler , of which I managed a couple of shots on the far side of the Millstream ,
just before it dived back into the Brambles . A couple of birders had Sedge Warbler in the same area , but I didn't see / hear it . As the sun lifted the temperature , and the birdsong , it really did feel like Spring at last .
About midday , I left the birds and headed off to the Downs , with butterflies and reptiles on my list .
The sun also helped the butterfly count with 13 Peacock ,
12 Brimstone , mostly males like this one , but one egg laying female also ,
3 Comma , together with singletons of Red Admiral , Large and Small White , which managed to avoid the viewfinder , and 7 Orange Tip , all males , charging around searching for mates .
as one passed by , a cloud covered the sun for a short time , and it immediately settled , fearing rain .
It wasn't for long though , and with the first rays of sunshine returning , he was ready to carry on the
search . Reptile numbers for some species were good too , with 33 Slow Worms recorded , two of
that number being this pair snugged up together . The male is on the left with the blue spots . 3 Grass
Snakes , 2 adults and a juvenile . One adult was the more normal yellow collared type , the second
was the more orangy collared type . Just two Adders were recorded , and unfortunately one , a sub. adult female was dead . It looked as if she had been crushed , possibly by an animal that had been
grazing on site , a real shame . No worries about the male though , he was off and running as the
shutter went . Whilst trying to photograph the Orange Tip , a Common Lizard scuttled right up close ,
and I managed to cup it in my hands and get some real close ups . And finally , some colour from the afternoon visit ,
Sweet Violets - Viola odorata ,
Cowslips - Primula veris ,
and it looks like a good year for Wild Strawberry - Fragaria vesca .

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Sunday 28th. April 2013

As the reader knows well , when Carol and I go away , it usually finishes up with Carol sitting with her book , whilst I'm out and about looking for wildlife . But the 'Brownie points' situation was looking perilously low , so when Carol spotted a chance to relive the train journeys made two Michaels , Palin and Portillo , through the Highlands of Scotland , it was only fair that she took the chance , and so off we headed , over the border . Needless to say , the camera and binoculars were packed , just in case . Those opportunities were few and far between , with full days on coaches and trains along lines with amazing scenery . We did the Speyside Steam Railway , the Cairngorm Mountain Railway , the run from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh , and also from Fort William to Malliag .
On the way up to Edinburgh on the first morning , I started making a list of what I would like to see . Golden and White-tailed Eagles , Dipper , Scottish Crossbill , Crested Tit and Ptarmigan , all came to mind . Before going any further , I didn't see any of them , except a dead specimen of one species . As I said , time was hard to find , but with reasonable weather , for Scotland , a snatched hour before breakfast or after dinner , using breaks in the journey to see what was about , and keeping an eye on the sky whilst travelling , produced 57 species , the pick of them being Red Kite , Tree Pipit , Shag and Red-throated Diver . The Diver appeared whilst chatting to a local birder , who had a Golden Eagle high overhead earlier in the day . Many were whilst moving so pictures were few and far between , but here are a few that I did manage to get .
Hooded Crow , during a wet lunch stop in Inverness . Much harder to approach than it's relatives here
The dead Ptarmigan , outside the top station on the Cairngorm . Two live birds were seen flying past the viewing platform just a couple of minutes before I got there , story of my life , according to birders who had been outside in atrocious conditions for two hours .
Herring Gull , playing with the strong wind at Kyle of Lochalsh
Early morning Oystercatchers over the local golf course at Carr-bridge , where we were based .
Juvenile Herring Gull ,
and Great Black-backed Gull , both in the harbour at Malliag .
A few mammals were also found ,
One of two Grey Seals , going by the dog shaped head , found in the same harbour .
Red Deer were seen , but always distant , whilst travelling , but the only wild herd of Reindeer in the UK were spotted below the snowline on Cairngorm .
As we drove in for a coffee break one morning , a movement amongst the Pines turned out to be this Red Squirrel , looking for it's breakfast .
In no time , the next nut was being tucked into .
And finally , some inanimate creatures I found on one of my after dinner walks , some might even describe as wooden ,
Squirrels and Owls ,
Stork / Crane type bird ,
Serpent type creature ,
Hawk /Eagle ,
And finally , a grumpy looking chap . Reminds me of someone , no not you Warren , but there again !
All in all , an enjoyable trip , even tried proper Porridge and Haggis , and survived to tell the tale .

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Saturday 20th. April 2013

Don't usually go far at the weekend , but with little wind and the promise of sunshine , I made a wish list of 5 ( Wood Lark , Com.Redstart , Tree Pipit , Raven and Cuckoo ) , and headed off to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest . The first part of the journey was in thick fog , but halfway there , it almost lifted , but as I drove onto the Forest , the thick stuff came back again . Willow Warbler welcomed me to the car park , which only had one other car parked . A walk along the top path was eerily quiet , apart from the usual numerous Chaffinches . As I approached the gulley that runs downhill , Common Redstart was heard but not seen , unsurprising in the conditions . The only bird
found along the top fence line was a Willow Warbler , looking for it's breakfast in the gloom and calling occasionally . Still couldn't find the Redstart , but noticed a bird fly up from the ground and land in the top of a Pine . Before I got in position to get a shot , it called , and my first wish was
granted , Tree Pipit , seemingly unfazed by the fog . With little else about , I just enjoyed the song , which stopped when it dropped down onto the ground to feed . I watched it land , but when I got the binoculars on the area , could only find a male Chaffinch , but eventually found the well camouflaged
bird fossicking amongst the cones and needles . I decide not to drop down to the stream because of the fog , so took the path down beside the gully to the dead trees , much liked by the Cuckoo , but it wasn't to be today . Ten ponies were at the bottom of the path , trying to warm up in the milky sunshine that was starting to burn off the fog . Along the back path under the wires , I listened for the
Ravens but no luck there , but that luck changed with a male Com. Redstart alighting on the Pines on the right , spotlighted by the increasing sunshine , two down , three to go . Another Tree Pipit was heard as I turned right to head down to the stream from the other side , then found another male Redstart near the gate , which I followed to the right , back towards the ponies . This bird stayed at a
good distance , and only when it landed on top of  a dead tree to call , did it offer a photo opportunity . Reaching the ponies , I walked back up the gulley path as by now the fog had cleared completely . At the top , a male and female Redstart were flitting about the trees , possibly the one I had heard earlier . While up the top of the reserve , I could hear Ravens 'cronking' , but right over the other side where I had been earlier , and later two birders I passed said that they were seeing off a Buzzard . I walked to the house at the end of the top track again , finding little . I then walked left under the wires that run diagonally across the site , hoping for the Cuckoo that often frequents them , but again it wasn't to be , just another Tree Pipit at the far end near the ponies . Nearby , an unusual call , just a few low notes . I just had time to fire off a couple of shots , which when
enlarged ,  turned out to be number three on my list , a distant Woodlark . I decided to try again for the Ravens , so set up in a gap in the Pines and waited . Three quarters of an hour went by without a single 'cronk'. I decided to move on , and a couple of minutes later there were a couple of calls . I made my way to where the call seemed to come from , and when I looked up over the towering Pines , seven Common Buzzards were drifted over , much higher than the Pines . But that didn't matter to the Ravens , they set off to repel the invaders . Trouble was , I could hear the Ravens calling , but couldn't see them through the Pines . I changed position again and finally got them in the
viewfinder . Each Raven took on a separate Com. Buzzard , and having driven them far enough off ,
came back to deal with another one . Having dealt with all but one Buzzard , the pair joined forces
and drove the final intruder away , by which time all the birds were very high . Four down , one to go . With lunchtime coming on , and things always seem to get very quiet on the reserve then , I decided to head back to the car park , surprisingly still to see a Stonechat on the visit . After I had my lunch , I decided to look in on a reptile site , where a fellow enthusiast had eleven Adders during the week . On the way , I stopped to see if there were any Early Purple Orchids showing at the usual road junction . Not even a leaf , but on the other side of the road I found my first Ladies Smock/Cuckoo Flower/Milk Maids - Cardamine pratensis , a member of the Cabbage family , of the year , but no sign of any Orange Tip butterflies unfortunately . Just a thought , no , I can't count that as number five .
It was very pleasant on the South facing slope looking for Adders , but an hour and a quarter's looking produced absolutely nothing . Insect-wise did better , with a minimum of ten Brimstones , all
but one testosterone charge males , including this one refuelling on Violets , six Peacocks , not so
manic , but still in need of refuelling , and four Commas . The only other interest found were a couple
of Bee-flies - Bombylius major . Once the fog cleared , a most enjoyable day out , in at last some reasonable weather .

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Thursday 18th. April 2013

So , there I was walking up the road towards the barrier , with a cool wind blowing in off Tesco Lake and quite overcast skies . In the lake are a few trees , and just in front of them , what looked like a small mudflat . Paddling around the mudflat were two Great Crested Grebes , acting strangely . Usually at a distance of 10/15 mtrs. , they would be off as soon as they spotted me , but these two
looked a couple of times , then carried on in their furtive way . It looked to all intent and purpose that there was a 'drug deal' going down , but I ruled that out on account that the money would get soggy . . After a while , one bird climbed out of the water onto the mudbank , calling continuously to the
other , that just carried on paddling about . The bird on the mudflat even stretched out prone , calling even more vociferously , but to no avail . Eventually , the bird paddling about joined the prone bird on the mudflat , and after waddling around for a while , proceeded to trample all over the prone bird's
back and neck with gay abandon , much to the disgust of the prone bird , which was calling even louder . After a short while , even though the bird on the mudflat remained prone , the other bird went
back to paddling around . The scene reminded me of Penelope Keith / Margo in The Good Life saying , 'that's the last time I play the tart for you Jerry' .  I don't know if the paddling bird had an instruction book , but it climbed out onto the mudflat for a second attempt , but perhaps the book was
in a foreign language , as this attempt was no better than the last , with the upper bird almost falling off the one below , who by now was doing the equivalent of human screaming . Once again the second bird returned to the water , by now with a very quizzical look on it's face . The volume of
calling encouraged the paddling bird back onto the mudflat , and at least this time it was at the right end .It took a few more minutes before the 'Eureka moment' happened , by which time the prone bird
was either exhausted , or even lost the will to live . In no time at all the upper bird was off and
heading back to the water , looking very pleased with itself , with chest inflated , ear tufts pushed out and wings flapping . The other bird remained prone with a 'was it all worth it' look on it's face .
Today , I managed a look around the Common after lunch under clearing skies , finding my first adult
Slow Worm of the year , a good sized female on the heathland area , and in one of the glades , a
melanistic / black Common Lizard , a first for me . On the way back home , the juvenile Common Buzzard was still in place , three Swallows were feeding over the horse fields ,  and it appears that the first youngsters have hatched in one of the Rook's nests . The other nests still have birds sitting tight , especially in today's wind . I just managed to get home before thunder , lightning , hail and heavy rain was the order of the day . Carol didn't mind though , as we had cut the lawns before I went out .