Thursday, 24 October 2013

Thursday 24th. October 2013

A short visit yesterday to Knole Park in Sevenoaks , failed again this Autumn to find the Fallow Deer bucks rutting as they are supposed to be at this time of year , in fact I only found four bucks in total on the visit . On Echo Mount , the dominant buck , apparently brought in a couple of years ago to rejuvenate the herd , was the only male to be found , and from the look of him , doesn't seem to be
bothered about any contenders , as he spent most of the time dozing . Another reason for his position could be the large quantity of Sweet Chestnut fruits that have fallen , on which he has probably feasted . The other buck with a reasonable set of antlers was a long way off on the golf course , no Warren he wasn't playing , he was chasing a doe , but not seemingly getting very far with her . The
other two bucks seen have a few years to go before they can even think of usurping the ruler of Echo Mount . Very few birds around , but this female Green Woodpecker allowed me to get reasonably
close to her , before flying off . With no rutting , I headed across the golf course looking for fungi , and in between showers , managed to four species of Wax Caps , which seemed to echo the colours of the season ,
Scarlet Hood / Hygrocybe coccinea ,
Hygrocybe ceracea ,
Snowy Wax Cap / Hygrocybe nivea ,
and Blackening Wax Cap / Hygrocybe nigrescens .
I also found several specimens of the rare species Clathrus archeri / Devils Fingers , a relative of the more common Stinkhorn , and like it emerges from an egg , partially buried in the ground . Unfortunately , every specimen was damaged either by the heavy rainfall recently or by birds or
animals . As it's common name indicates , an undamaged specimen would have 4/6 red fingers pointing skywards , looking somewhat like a jester's cap . Another unusual species found , but more
common , was White Helvella / Helvella crispa . I also saw three Hornets whilst on site .
Today , after a very disappointing visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham , finding nothing of interest , I spent an hour or so this afternoon in pleasant sunshine up on West Wickham Common , finding a couple more colourful fungi ,
Amethyst Deceiver / Laccaria amethystea ,
and Mycena pura .
Also found were three butterflies . A Comma that just wouldn't stop , and two Speckled Woods . One
was well worn , pictured , the other less so . The Comma will hopefully see next Spring , overwintering as an adult , but the two Speckled Woods will not , their lives will end soon , but interestingly , their offspring will overwinter as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis , the only British butterfly to do so , the rest doing so as one of the distinct stages , adult , egg , caterpillar or chrysalis .

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thursday 17th. October 2013

Having read reports on Alan's / Sissinghurst Birds etc. , and from Stephen Message on KOS ,  I had a quick look at the forecast for the Sissinghurst area , which proved to be better than here at home , so I set off early for the Hemsted Forest in deepest Kent , in the search of Crossbills . Driving through pouring rain on the way , I arrived about 0830 in much better conditions . Not having been to the site before , I was glad to see three birders in the distance along the main track , and headed for them across the main clearing , with half a dozen Common Crossbills , and I found out later , a Two-barred male as well . By the time I reached the three birders , the small flock had disappeared , so it was down to the waiting game . We had a few sightings , all at distance and high up in the Pines , but even with the largest lens they would have been small in the frame . Small flocks showed then disappeared , but always arriving calling . Eventually a male and female Common Crossbill settled
briefly close enough to get a shot in the top of the single Oak . Sometimes it was 45-60 minutes between sightings , but when another pair of Commons , and a male Two-barred posed together in
the same tree , it was well worth the wait . Later the Two-barred flew around the clearing , calling , and landed in the single Oak , but then the dreaded scourge of the ' twig in the way' came
into play , spoiling what would have been the shot of the day . Early afternoon proved very quiet , so I took myself off for a 45 minute walk in the area where the Crossbills often flew off to when they left . During that walk , I didn't see a single specimen , nor did I hear a single call . When I circled back to where the gathered birders were , I could see they were intently watching an area of standing water where birds had been coming down to drink during the morning . I arrived at the same time as they did , and spotted two birds in the gloom at the edge of the water . The dull one , presumably the female flew immediately , but the male stayed a few seconds drinking . I fired off 7 shots , the bird flew off , and looking at the back of the camera , it looked like a shot at night . I've lightened it up ,
but it is still poor , but could it just have been my third species of Crossbill of the day ? With that large bill , could it be a male Parrot Crossbill ? The other birders seemed pretty sure that it was a male and female drinking at the water in the gloom , and they had seen them in the trees before they flew down . I only had a glimpse of the pair in the gloom .

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Wednesday 15th. October 2013

With an incredible number of Ring Ousels being seen in the area over the weekend , I decided to head for Dungeness yesterday to see if I could catch up with one or two , and a few other species of interest , hopefully . I arrived on site at just before 0900 , and headed straight for the ARC site , where several Ring Ousels had been found in the Pines beyond the viewing screen . As I approached the screen I met another birder who had already spent some time at the Pines , but hadn't found any . I had a look out from the screen for the Glossy Ibis that had been around for a couple of days , but didn't see that either . I decided to try the Pines myself but just one Woodpigeon was all I found . As I
returned , I had a look over at the ARC pit , and there at the back of an island was the Glossy Ibis Unfortunately , the bird was between the camera and the sun and a long way off , not a good combination . Shortly afterwards , everything on the water took off , but the cause couldn't be seen . I headed back to the car park and on to Hanson hide where there were just two birders , but plenty of species on view , albeit mostly distant . Waders included Greenshank , Com. Sandpiper , Lapwing ,
Snipe , a single Grey Plover , pictured , Ruff and Dunlin . Waterfowl included Gadwall , Shoveler , Pintail , Wigeon ,Teal , Mallard and Tufted Duck , along with Cormorant , Coot and Moorhen , not a bad selection . Along with the Black-headed Gulls , a single Little Gull was seen briefly as it was
being seen off by some Lapwing , but I managed a bad record shot of the bird as it flew off , not to be seen again during the visit . I returned to the car and crossed onto the RSPB reserve , noting not a single Tree Sparrow around the farmhouse at the entrance . There seemed to be a Coot convention on
the right of the track , with 50+ birds gathered together , these being just a few of them . I posted the picture as I know some birders actually get excited when they see the species . I searched every bush along the track hoping for a Ring Ousel , but none were seen , in fact very little was seen . When I reached the car park I thought there must be a 'mega' about , as it was packed , but another birder explained that there was a teacher's conference taking place in the Visitor Centre . From the first hide , no sign of the hoped for Black-necked Grebes , but over in the corner , a Great White Egret
was sunning itself watched by a Grey Heron and close by , another GH and 4 Little Egrets . The VC and the next two hides didn't produce very much interest and with Scott Hide looking straight into the sun's reflection on the water , things were still not going to plan . But , as I left that hide , 'cronking'
from high above directed me to a spat between a Sparrowhawk and a Raven . A second Raven was flying nearby , but although it didn't get involved , it was calling constantly to the other , no doubt giving advice . After a while , the rolls were reversed as the Sparrowhawk seemed to be getting it's
own back . Eventually they both gave in and went on their separate ways , the two Ravens headed
towards Dengemarsh hide , still calling to each other . Heading along the track towards Christmas Dell hide , the hoped for Firecrest didn't put in an appearance either , but along a distant ditchline ,
three Curlew were feeding on the move , one pictured . Just before the hide , a pair of Stonechats , for once at a reasonable distance , were happy to pose , in between sortis down onto the ground to pick
up a tasty morsel . Two other birders who approached from the other way were also able to get some
close up views of the pair . All quiet on the way to Dengemarsh Hide , apart from the odd Linnet and unseen singing Cetti's Warbler . From the hide itself , the expected waterfowl , plus Canada and Greylag Geese , Mute Swan , Great-crested Grebe and a couple of marauding Marsh Harriers , one
pictured . The return to the car park was no better , with just a Kestrel and another male Stonechat being seen , and none of the Ring Ousels that the first birder I had met had seen the day previously in the area . All the way round , Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters were found in good numbers ,
with several mating pairs of both species seen . Male and female Migrant Hawker pictured . Also seen , a female Short-winged Conehead , identified by her scimitar shaped ovipositor , that of the
Long-winged Conehead being straight . Under the corrugated iron that she was posing on was also the home of a young Grass Snake and two short-tailed Field Voles , but all three were far to quick to get in the viewfinder . The car park was still packed when I got back , so decided to take my lunch down to the lighthouses area , in the fading hope of finding the elusive Ring Ousels . It was high tide , with the Gulls asleep all over the shingle , but apart from them and a few Goldfinches , I didn't see any other species , not even a Wheatear . I returned to the car and headed back to the ARC pit to try for a better view of the Glossy Ibis . The Hanson Hide was busy on arrival , so I guessed that the bird was showing , but was first attracted to the area outside 'Ken's seat' , where a strange call was coming from the reedbed . An area of reeds has been cut in a 'T' shape outside that end of the hide , and the call was coming from the right hand side of the leg of the 'T' . After a while , the head of a Water Rail popped out of the reed , looked up at the faces in the hide and shot back into the reeds again . This happened several times , very quickly each time . On one of it's last showings , I just
managed to fire off a couple of shots before it's disappearance . A couple more times , then it dashed from right to left across the gap and it all went quiet again . Sure enough , the Glossy Ibis was showing in front of the hide , in between constant flights around the pit , when joining in with the
other species , when a Harrier or the like was spotted , coming closer to the hide in flight than when
 feeding or preening among the islands . But , when it was down , it was possible to see the small size of the bird , here against a drake Wigeon . But those times were short lived , soon it would be up
again , circling , then landing down somewhere else . Given the weather forecast , the area did much better than expected with reasonable amounts of sunshine , which made for a very pleasant visit , even though Ring Ousel , Black-necked Grebe and Firecrest were not found .
Mind you the forecasters were right today , been tipping down .

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday 8th. October 2013

Firstly , many thanks to Ken / Focusing On Wildlife for offering Tenthredo livida for the sawfly on the last post . I checked that species , but it didn't quite fit , but the Tenthredo images on Google , after much searching , did turn up it's identity , Tenthredo serotinus , also known by Apethymus serotinus , so between us Ken , we managed to solve that one , thanks for your help .
Secondly , I hadn't expected to post again so soon , but I noticed a report of 10 Long-tailed Blue being seen inland from Reculver on the north Kent coast . With my brother visiting in the afternoon , I decided to make another attempt to find the species , leaving early on Monday morning , hoping to get back for the visit . Once again , Wrotham Hill made me wonder if I was doing the right thing , as all lights on the car , including front and back fogs were on going over the top , but as I travelled further on , brightness was showing in the direction I was heading . I arrived at the car park at Reculver Towers just about 0900 , in beautiful sunshine , albeit still a bit nippy . I checked the rocks for Black Redstart but none were found . The tide was on it's way in as I started along the seawall to Coldharbour . At the Wantsum outfall , a few Brent Geese were feeding , and two of them , one a
black-bellied , the other pale-bellied , posed to show the differing sub species . A bit further along , two waders caught my eye , one was a Redshank , and the other larger bird , I think is a Bar-tailed
Godwit going by that slightly upturned bill , but as ever stand to be corrected . Not much else around as I approached Coldharbour , but there was work going on with heavy machinery all over the place , and a tractor ploughing the fields inland . At Coldharbour I headed inland towards the railway embankment , then left towards the Wade crossing , where the butterflies had been seen on Sunday . I started to find Everlasting Pea plants , some still with the odd flower , as I got closer to the Wade crossing , and scanned every flower . No butterflies were seen , until one was disturbed from the path in front of me , which flew just a few metres , then landed again . It was a worn specimen and it was blue , but I couldn't be sure which blue until I took a couple of shots and enlarged them on the
screen . Joy of joys , it was my first Long-tailed Blue , and I managed a few more shots as it warmed up in the sun . Finding one so quickly , I thought there must be several more around , but it was not to be , as for the next 90 minutes , even with a second pair of eyes , another enthusiast who had seen the reports looking as well , there were no further sightings . It became like Kingsdown Leas , constant patrolling , checking every flower , but finding nothing . By now the temperature had risen quite a bit and I was down to just a tee shirt , but it triggered several Whites , a Peacock and a couple of Commas onto the wing , then another small butterfly dropped into the grass on the side of the path , but didn't open it's wings . Once again I took shots and checked then on the playback , and there was
the unmistakable stripes of the LtB underwing . I called the other chap and he too was able to get his
first shots . A while later , I found this specimen on a Pea flower , and once again the other chap came
running . The sightings continued for about 45 minutes , with long spells between , with this being
the final specimen , after which sightings , probably 4/5 males , finished as quickly as they started . Another chap came along from the Plumpudding Stables end and said that he had sen a single female down that end , which would have put the icing on the cake . When the other chap left for lunch , I stayed on but didn't have any further sightings . I gave up and headed back to the Towers with time to get home before my brother's arrival . On the walk back a few bits of interest were found , including ,
Salsify / Tragopogon porrifolius , a member of the Daisy family , and a close relative of Goatsbeard / T. pratensis , found on grassland ,
4 of 6 Little Egrets that were roosting over high tide in a drained lagoon at the oyster farm ,
and , on one of the rock groynes , a flock of Sandering , also waiting for the tide to turn .

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Sunday 6th. October 2013

A catch up on a few outings which produced some interest included ,
a pair of Robber-flies / Asilidae sp. , who were making the most of the sunshine on the 5 bar gate at the entrance to Burnt Gorse ,when I did the last full butterfly transect of the year . The transect only produced 10 butterflies from 4 species .
One of which was this Brimstone male topping up on nectar from Red Clover .
Below the Orchid Bank , I found several Magpie Fungus / Coprinus picaceus , some specimens were newly emerged like this one , but some had already gone over .
A hastily arranged trip with the two Keiths to Kingsdown Leas in the hope of seeing the Long-tailed Blues , failed after spending 6 hours searching and not a single sighting . The steps up onto the Leas did produce a Bloody-nosed Beetle / Timarcha tenebricosa , normally a night-time feeder , so called as when threatened , has the ability to squirt foul smelling red/orange liquid at it's enemy from it's mouth .
Amongst the grass on the cliff-top , four Wasp Spiders , three of them guarding their egg sacks , which look like a miniature hot-air balloon suspended by webs , like the one pictured .
Catching up on the shots of the Oare Marsh trip for the Spotted Crake , found one of the Spotted Redshank (right) seen in company with one of the Ruffs .
Down the garden , I came across this large female Ichneumon sp. , with an incredible ovipositor . She searched all the holes and cracks in this trellis support , constantly quivering , making photography difficult . Could be Rhyssa persuasoria , but I'm not sure as it lacks any white spots .
Eventually , she raised her abdomen and lowered her ovipositor into the selected area , assumingly laying her egg on a host , which when hatched , would eat it's host , nice . It appears that thicker appendages , being the two filaments pointing towards 2o/clock in the shot above , are protection for the very fine ovipositor , which I read can drill into wood to leave it's offspring's meal .
When she was finished , I managed to catch her and got a size comparison shot with this 35mm. film canister lid .
In today's sunshine , I went looking for newly born Adders , but only found 3 males and a single female , two males pictured , all soaking up the late Autumnal sun .
The 35mm. film canister was useful again to show the size of this fungi found , a Boletus sp. 
A quick stop on the Common found for butterflies on the wing , this Peacock , a Large and Small White , and a Speckled Wood ,
and this insect which I suspect is a Sawfly , with white banded antennae and orange and white banded legs . Any help with the ID would be appreciated .