Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wednesday 29th. May 2013

Having seen our Robin's nest ripped apart earlier in the Spring , we were sure that they had nested again within 1 or 2 gardens of ours , but never found where . This morning whilst having breakfast ,
this little chap came for a drink from the birdbath on the patio , great start to the day . With grey skies and rain approaching by lunchtime , I decided not to venture too far , so headed for Kelsey Park in Beckenham , even though it is half term . The weather seemed to have put many off as even dog walkers were few on my arrival . I made straight for the large London Plane tree , to see if my prediction of the Nuthatch being on eggs was right , when nothing was seen last visit . It didn't take
long after setting up the tripod that the first parent was seen , with a bill full of goodies . It soon became obvious that both birds were working hard , seemingly one foraging on either side of the
tree . Of course , every action has a reaction , not sure who said that , or whether I just made it up ,
but it wasn't one way traffic with the food . Sometimes when the adults left the nest hole , they launched themselves into the air , only needing a coiled spring behind them to resemble a Cuckoo on
a Swiss clock . Although they didn't make a sound coming or going , the constant movement attracted the attention of a predator . The last time I photographed the nest hole , a Great Spotted Woodpecker
attempted to get into the nest , this time it was a Magpie . At the time , the right hand bird had just entered the nest and even though the other bird was going berserk , the Magpie took no notice . I decided to shoo off the Magpie , but it didn't go far , so I moved it on again . It was some considerable time after that before the bird came out and the other entered with it's food . Apart from the Nuthatch , this tree also has a Jackdaw and a minimum of three Rose-ringed Parakeet nests . I left
the Nuthatches to it and found several Coot families , all with very young broods . Only one Grey Wagtail was seen this visit , hopefully the other one is on eggs . The usual duck species were seen , with nothing unusual , unless you count the strange Muscovy Duck , this one having to find natural
food , there being no families with loaves around . In the same area , a Grey Squirrel looks as if it was
practising it's audition for Fagin in Oliver . I mentioned earlier the abundance of RRP nests , and this was confirmed when 25/30 flew over the lake , noisily of course . I managed to get 9 in the
viewfinder together , and with several with short tail feathers , think this could be flying practice for new arrivals . There will probably be many more flying lessons , especially if these two have their way . The one on the left had just come out of a hole , and I think the one on the right was telling
what the other one's eyes reminded it of , well , for starters anyway . With not much else around , I set up the tripod across the lake from the most open Grey Heron nest and once again waited and
hoped that an adult would fly in with food for the brood , which by the size of them , must be almost ready to fledge . Needless to say , another failure , but hopefully one day it will work out . To fill in the time , and in deteriorating light conditions , I played 'try and get one of the 6 Swifts that were
around , into the viewfinder' . A couple of times , the odd bird swooped low over the water , but then the AF struggled to work with a busy background of trees etc . So I had to settle for long distance
shots against a grey sky , what I would have given for just 5 minutes of decent light . I seem to remember saying the same after try to photograph the Swallows over the lake on my last visit . I was
pleased when a juvenile Herring Gull made a slower , lower fly past , much easier to get in the viewfinder . Very shortly after taking this shot , the first spots of rain started and it was time to get the gear under cover and call it a day .
Since then it's been on and off drizzle and cold , and I've been keeping an eye on the back garden at irregular intervals . One look turned up trumps , when two juvenile Robins and two adults were seen ,
and even luckier when I got this shot , albeit through double glazing . Last shot of the day was of
what we call 'our Jackdaw' , as it is easily recognised and clears up loose seed like a hoover .

Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday 27th. May 2013

Firstly , many thanks to Spock for suggesting either Double Square-Spot or Triple Spotted Clay , as the identity of the caterpillar on the last post . I have found pictures of the first , but just a sketch of the second . On balance I think that it is the Double Square-Spot . Many thanks for your time Spock .
With Summer coming to a close again this evening , the wall to wall sunshine tempted me out early again , heading up onto the Downs to search for butterflies and reptiles , and of course , any other wildlife . With a temperature just into double figures , butterflies were few and far between , but as the temperature rose , they began to show up . The two areas that I visited eventually produced 12 species , but one species made up the lion's share of the sightings . Dingy Skipper (54 and that was a conservative count) , Grizzled Skipper (1) , Peacock (1) , Small Heath (2) , Small Copper (2) , Brimstone (3) , Green-veined White (2) , Holly Blue (1) , Common Blue (2 my first Kent sightings) ,
Speckled Wood (3) ,Large White (1) and Green Hairstreak (1 pictured) . The strong wind probably kept numbers down as they sheltered , like the male Brimstone which was sheltering in this Wayfarer
tree . I only saw it as it flew in and disappeared . Answer at end of this blog if not found .
Day flying moths included several Pyrausta sp.- Mint moths) , Burnet Companion , Common Carpet
and this Treble Bar . Another encounter with a fox produced a different outcome this time . At first ,
it was a 'stare out' at distance , but before I even took a single step , it was off into the undergrowth ,
not to be seen again . As normal , Slow Worms made up the majority of the reptile sighting , with 29 recorded , but today it was the Common Lizards that were missing . A single Grass Snake , which
hissed at me , no doubt because I woke it from it's slumber , and I managed to get back on track with the Adders , finding five specimens today ;
an adult female ,
another female , sub adult , tucked up with a juvenile male ,
an adult male , still in breeding colours , looking as if he had fed recently ,
and lastly , a female who looked as if she too had fed recently .
The first of two unusual sightings , was as I approached a water trough . A large beetle type was struggling to climb up the side of the trough . My first thoughts were diving beetle of some sort , but
 as I got closer , I dismissed the idea . It had manage to climb where the water had left deposits on the side of the trough , but was struggling on the smooth galvanised metal above . I picked it out and had a good look at it , and realised that I had seen smaller versions , but couldn't remember where or when . To get some better shots , I found a stick and encouraged the insect to climb onto it . Once on ,
I pushed the end of the stick into the ground , and the insect climbed to the top of the stick . I also
took a shot of it alongside 'old faithful' , the 35mm. film canister to show size . Before reaching home , Cockchafer filtered down into the grey matter , but I got no further . I usually see lots of Garden Chafer on the site , but the book at home identified it as a Common Cockchafer / Melolontha melolontha , also known as the May Bug , and although I have seen May Bugs before , not of this size . Reading up on the web , this was a male , as it had seven 'leaves' on it's antennae , females just have six . In the Middle Ages , adult bugs were collected as a means of pest control and in 1320 , the bugs were brought to court in Avignon and sentenced in their absence to 'withdraw within 3 days to a designated area ' . Naturally enough , the bugs failed to comply and the order was given for them to be collected and killed . They were also used as food , with recipes for soup and stew , and as recent as the 1920s , sugar-coated Cockchafers were available . It all reminded me of a story on the news recently about eating bugs and worms .
The other was a small flower I found , whilst following a butterfly , which I never did find . It went to ground and whilst looking a small splash of blue/violet caught my eye . Very small , struggling amongst the grass , it reminder me of Autumn Gentian , a species that does well on site . But , it's still
Spring/Summer so it couldn't be that . I cleared the grass away and took some shots , and at home checked the books , to find an Early Gentian / Gentianella anglica , described as ' differs chiefly in flowering May / June . Always on lime' . If the ID is confirmed , it will be a first for me .
And finally , if you didn't spot the male Brimstone , it is in the bottom right hand corner , hanging under a leaf , between the two bare twigs .

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Sunday 26th. May 2013

Wall to wall sunshine had me out early , stopping first at Spring Park Pond , hoping to find some emerging damsel/dragonflies , but on arrival all was very still . Lots of tadpoles still , but not much else . After much scanning of the vegetation , all I could find were two distant newly emerged
specimens , the first a very pink Large Red Damselfly , which , when mature will be a female of the
form melanotom , the second a male Azure Damselfly . I was hoping to find a few Broad-bodied Chasers , either in the pond or sunning themselves on the nearby vegetation , but it wasn't to be .
There were several of these long legged spiders around , and just before leaving found this Snipe Fly
/Rhagio scolopacea , also warming up in the sun .
From there I moved on to Hutchinson's Bank , just over the border in Surrey , hoping to find the Small Blue butterfly for which the site is well known . They have emerged in Sussex recently and I arrived full of hope . After about an hour on site , it looked like it was going to be High Elms again , as only Dingy Skipper and Large White were recorded , and no sign of a Small Blue . But my luck eventually changed , no Small Blue , but 3 firsts for the year . The first was a pristine Small Copper

that did not move very far from it's favoured patch of bare ground , and it was closely followed by
two Small Heaths , another species that likes those conditions . I added Orange Tip , Small and Green-veined White , Brimstone and Peacock to the day's list , before running into Martin , who was doing the site transect . We went to where I had the Sm. Copper as it would be a year first for the
transect and as we approached the area , the third first for the year was found , Common Blue which was also a first for the year transect . The Sm. Copper was refound shortly afterwards , and Speckled Wood was added too , but there the species list finished , without the Sm. Blue . I left Martin to finish the transect and started back to the car . Other interest found , Goatsbeard /Tragopogon pratensis , a
member of the Daisy family , fortunately found before midday , as it's common name is 'Jack goes to Bed at Noon' , as it's flowers are only open during sunny mornings . And finally a caterpillar , I
believe of a moth , 3/4 cms ,with distinctive dark spots on the back end . Any thoughts ? Think we are settled on Double Square-spot , thanks for your help Spock .

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Saturday 25th. May 2013

Firstly , many thanks to Greg , again , for helping with an ID , this time the large black Weevil I
found up on the Downs , which  he has identified as Liparus coronatus . Very little information on the web for this species , so a very good job by Greg .
This morning , with sunny spells between the clouds , I did the full butterfly survey at High Elms LNR , and over the 2 hour transect I recorded just 10 butterflies of just two species . Dingy Skipper
provided 7 of the 10 , and I was glad to find a tubby female on Burnt Gorse , hopefully full of eggs to ensure the species on site next year . The other species recorded was the Large White , finding a female first , and having to wait for the sun to come out and encourage her to show the black
identifying spots on her upperwing , the second brood in Aug/Sept. will have even darker markings . Later at the bottom of Burnt Gorse , I found a male just going to roost high up on a Wayfarer tree , as
another cloud rolled over the sun . He has no dark spots on the upperwing , but does show a dark spot on the underwing . Apart from those , a quick look at the Garlic Mustard in the coppiced area didn't produce the hoped for Orange Tip , but I did find 13 eggs , easier to see now that the petals are
dropping off and the seed pods , which the caterpillars will feed on , are growing very quickly . In the
 same area , a single robust spike of Early Purple Orchid is all that seems to have emerged this year . Once I finished the butterfly transect , I set off to see what other orchids were showing . Not a sign of Birdsnest Orchid at the old site , but 4 very fresh specimens at the site Keith found a couple of years
ago . Then 30+ were found , about 15 last year , so hopefully they will be in for a good year this time . As can been seen from the photo , this species lacks chlorophyll , and even when fully in flower , are still far from able to be described as colourful , and is always found growing in leaf litter , particularly under Beech and Yew on chalk soils . In the same sort of conditions , I found 50+
specimens of White Helleborine , most still in their early stages , but a few were in flower bud . It looks like they could be in for a good year . Also found , unexpectedly , were a couple of fungi ,
being full of water , looking like miniature baths . I checked the books when I got home and think they are Peziza varia . On the Orchid Bank , the 3 Fly Orchids are now 7 , all with at least one
flower , and also found was a single Man Orchid , just starting to come into flower . The Common
Spotted Orchids won't be far behind , with several specimens sporting flower spikes . Whilst on the Bank a pair of Sparrowhawks were soaring overhead and calling , and a Common Buzzard drifted over high up .
Surprisingly , I did better this afternoon for butterflies when I had an hour up on the Common . 4 Brimstone ( + several caterpillars ) , 1 Orange Tip , 1 Holly Blue and 1 Large and 1 Small White were recorded . Other interest found included several specimens of Broad-leaved Helleborine , this
one pushing through alongside last year's flower spike , and a Common Lizard found sunning itself in
the heathland area .