Friday, 28 February 2014

Friday 28th. February 2014

A catch up on a few things found whilst out and about , at a time when the weather can't decide whether Spring is here , or not .
Nothing different on the feeders in the woodland , but lifting a few bits and pieces , produced my first newt of the year , a Great Crested variety .
Don't seem to have got many Winter Thrushes in the viewfinder this Winter . A bit of sunshine would have made a big difference to the shot .
2 of 7/8 female Pheasants , mopping up under the feeders in the orchard at Bough Beech . Sun wouldn't have gone amiss here either .
Sunshine on a visit to Sevenoaks Reserve , but very little about apart from hundreds of gulls . When they all took of , it looked like a blizzard . Strangest thing found , was this male Mandarin following every move made by the Greylag Goose in front .
The sunshine continued up on the Downs , to begin with , and this male Brimstone was making the most of it .
Also on the wing , 5 Small Tortoiseshells , but being buffeted by the stiff breeze .
3 Adders were found on a woodland edge , this one scented me and headed down into the tree roots , probably his hibernacular . The hazy area at the bottom of the shot was the wire fencing I was shooting through .
A little later , he had a look from his underground home to see if I had gone .
A second animal posed briefly for a shot , but seconds later was heading underground .
The visit also produced my first Slow Worm of the year ,
and also first flowering Primroses .
This Common Lizard , still in hibernation , was found under a felt , just in a small depression in the ground . Luckily the temperature hasn't dropped that low this Winter , or it could have been in trouble .
Managed to break 3 , when during some pre midday sunshine today , I managed to find 4 Adders , but the sun didn't last long and they disappeared with it .

Monday, 24 February 2014

Monday 24th. February 2014

Started off this morning working down the bottom of the garden that I have been putting off due to the weather . Chilly to start , but soon warming up and becoming teeshirt weather . By 10 o'clock I decided to put the job on hold till this afternoon , and headed off to the Greensand Ridge to see if the weather had encouraged any reptiles from their hibernation . If any were to be found so early in the season , they would be very close to their hibernacular , so concentrated on those areas . The car thermometyer was showing 10C on arrival , and I think it might have gone up a degree or two whilst I was there . Nothing was found for a while , even though likely , sunny spots were checked out . I must admit , given the amount of rain since they went into hibernation , the thought as to whether any would survive often went through my head during those wet days and nights . But thankfully , at least some have survived as I found three males sunning themselves , as expected , very close to
hibernacular . The first was in a tight 'doughnut, a very striking yellow/black animal . The second was
much more chilled out , and more out in the open , with a more usual light brown/black colouration .
He changed position several times , once showing well the vertical pupil of the species . The third
animal was getting the maximum from the sun by flattening his body to get the maximum exposed . Only three animals , but it is a good start , lets hope the rest survived too .
It was still sunny as I headed home for lunch , and decided on a quick look around the Common . The warm sun had brought some flies and sheildbugs out , and also 2 possibly 3 male Brimstone
butterflies . I watched one land some 50 metres away and it took quite a search to find him , looking resplendent in the midday sun . He must have found a good place to hibernate , as he looked as if he had just hatched , but would have happened last Autumn . Maybe he was even the one that hatched out of the pupa case that I found back then , you never know . Walking back to the car , the sun was
also showing off  the lichen - Cladonia cristatella , which has many common names including British Soldiers , Matchstick Lichen and Red Caps . The red parts produce the spores to reproduce the species .
Whilst the sun was out , it really did feel like Spring , but , writing this , clouds have drawn over , and once again rain and wind is on it's way . It was nice whilst it lasted .
And yes , I did finish the job down the garden this afternoon .

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Saturday 22nd. February 2014

Was glad to get out in sunshine yesterday , although my chosen area , the Isle of Sheppey ,was moderated  somewhat by a stiff , very cool wind . Elmley Reserve was my first stop , and along the
track , plenty of Lapwing were displaying both on the ground and in the air . Looking towards the bridge , a Buzzard was looking for a rabbit breakfast , but soon drifted off . Just 2 Marsh Harrier
sightings , both at distance . Skylarks were singing all the way , but by far the most numerous species
were the Starling , so many it would be impossible to estimate . Flocks would appear and descend on a small area . Above is just one small section of this flock .They would start feeding , then like an army of ants start moving forwards , by means of the ones at the back overflying the others , and
landing just in front . The birds in flight were just that in the shot above , as the noisy carpet of birds moved forward . 5+ Little Egrets making the most of the well filled hollows on either side of the
track , this individual having just got it's breakfast , but the new larger scrapes held very little . Not a sign of a Hare , which I was hoping for either to or from the car park . The scrape behind the toilets was almost empty , so I decided to turn around and head for Leysdown . On the way back down the
track , one of the Skylarks dropped in , just in front of the car , but two seconds later was gone . I
don't remember seeing a Rook at Elmley before , but there was a singleton there today . En route , I decided to have a look at Capel Fleet and the raptor viewpoint , bad mistake as several tractor and trailers were ferrying manure past the viewpoint then returning for more , little wonder that not much was seen . I did have another MH sighting , and whilst watching was aware of something moving on the track behind . It turned out to be two Red-legged Partridge and came within 5 metres of the car , but as they walked past , all I could see was their legs and bottom half of their bodies , the rest beind one of the fence rails , I felt gutted , as all my shots are at distance , and usual from the back as they scamper away . With nothing else about , I started the car and headed out , turning the corner I see one of the birds standing out in the open on the flooded track . Expecting it to disappear I stopped and
reached for the camera , and it was still there . And there it stayed for a couple of minutes , not
moving much , but at least I've got e few shots of the species , head-on now . I finally made it to Leysdown with the tide well on the way in . Gulls were the main species , with many of the Black-
headed already living up to their name , like this one trying to stay on the sea wall in the wind . Just a handful of Brent Geese flying well out were all that were seen . Several Oystercatchers , busily

feeding as were the Sanderling with the first one , and another was escorting a Turnstone . Although named after one crustacean , the Oystercatchers seemed to be dining on another , the humble Winkle , which I noticed they always took to water to 'winkle' out their meal . I got halfway down the
Shellness track to find repairs being done , so turned back , finding several Pied Wagtails looking for left over lunch crumbs . Then the noisiest part of the day . I could see a large number of gulls almost the end of the parking area , and on the ground there seemed to be a large pile of chips and bread and
probably other things as well . Three species were attracted and getting home found I had a shot of
all three in flight in the same frame , Herring ( fingers crossed ) , Common and lots of Black-headed .
Three juvenile Herring Gulls ,( fingers crossed ) were the bullies of the bunch , fighting the other
gulls both in the air and when they landed , chasing off as many of the other birds to gorge
themselves . It was strange to see so many birds flying around with chips etc in their bills .Leaving Leysdown , I had a second quick look along Harty Ferry Road , but still busy with tractors , but did
find a few Corn Buntings , most were in the lea of the wind but the odd one braved it . The decision
to leave was made for me when this shower cloud loomed into the picture .
I started this last night , did a bit before leaving for hedgelaying , for once in great conditions , and just finished it on my return .

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Covered by insurance ?

During a storm , ridge tiles fall from your neighbour's house , landing on your car , smashing the windscreen and doing damage to the body/paintwork . Who is to blame and who pays for repairs ?
Last Saturday morning I went out into the carport to load up my car for hedgelaying , to find the windscreen shattered and other damage . Parts of my neighbour's ridge tiles were still on the car , parts teetering on the smashed carport roof and the rest splattered across the carport floor having
skidded down the side and over the bonnet of the car . I didn't make it to hedgelaying .
I waited till a reasonable hour , then knocked on my neighbour's door and told her what had happened , showing her the damage to the car and the missing ridge tiles from her roof . She then went back in to ring her insurance company , whilst I started ringing for a replacement windscreen , without any joy and was told I would have to wait till Monday before they would get it in stock .
Later in the day my neighbour came out to tell me that her insurance company had told her that they were not liable for any damage to my car , but they would pay to have new ridge tiles put back up on her roof , and that I would have to claim on my car insurance , on which I opted for a £400 excess at renewal to keep the premium down , and also meaning higher premiums in the future for making the claim . After getting the new windscreen fitted on Monday morning , with a £60 excess , I went to my insurer's preferred bodyshop to get an estimate for the repairs . Verbally , I was told it would be in the region of £900 but it would be sent to my insurer . A chat with the claims dept. confirmed that my neighbour's insurers were not liable for the damage to my car , unless I , not them , could prove neglect/non maintenance on her roof . As it happens , the ridge on the other side of the roof came off in the winds about 6/8 weeks ago , but no repairs have been done , and in between times I advised her to have the rest of the ridge tiles checked over when the repairs were being done .
Overnight I started thinking about what level of damage would my insurer decide to write off my 12 year old vehicle with 133,000 miles on the clock , so this morning I got back to them and was told that the company policy was to write off all 10 year + vehicles involved in claims , and if that happened , I would get £400 less because of the excess . I look after my vehicle , a 4x4 which means I can drive over fields whilst hedgelaying , and do not want it written off , meaning that I would have to withdraw my claim and put the whole thing down to 'life' or 'an act of god', and my neighbour and her insurers get away scot free , don't you just love this insurance con , you are required by law to insure your car , but what has happened to third party cover ? and was it an 'act of god' that killed the lady taxi driver in London and who will compensate her family ?
I spent today stripping the car port roof and replacing the busted sheets , down to me as well as my Home insurance has a £100 excess , and I spent less than that buying the sheets .
An incident that opened my eyes , and might be worth remembering for the future , and the remaining ridge tiles still haven't been looked at , they were all put on at the same time .
On a brighter note , Spring was in the air in the garden in the sun this weekend , with a pair of
RRParakeets getting very up close , the male on the right with the collar , females and juvenile not so , and we have been getting regular visits from up to three House Sparrows , shot taken through
double glazing , wonder if they will use the communal boxes this year ?

Monday, 10 February 2014

Monday 10th. February 2014

Firstly , I've been pleased to read three reports of Slavonian Grebe sightings in the area around the Bittern viewpoint at Castle Water , Rye , the area where I got a very quick glimpse of such a bird on my last visit there , so reasonable to say that my brief sighting and ID was correct .
Last Friday in a lull in the rain , I made a visit to Bough Beech Reservoir , but due to the amount of water that has been pumped in , I have never seen it so full , the only sightings were a few Tufted Duck on the North Lake and 3 Pochard , 1 Cormorant and 1 GCGrebe on the main reservoir . I'm sure that there were other birds there , but the water being now right into the surrounding vegetation and trees , new feeding and resting areas mean that they can stay out of sight from anyone on the causeway . A quick look around the feeders and the orchard didn't turn up anything out of the ordinary , even the fallen apples had only attracted a handful of Fieldfares . So , I decided to move on to some feeders in woodland a couple of miles away , that were last year covered in Siskins , but like other places , very few have turned up this year . Great and Blue Tits made up the majority of visitors to the feeders , but every now and again , other species turned up like ,
at least two Marsh Tits , but could have been more , rarely feeding , just flying off with up to three sunflower seeds to eat away from all the commotion ,
two or more Coal Tits , employing their 'snatch and fly' feeding method ,
Finch cousins , Siskin (male) and Goldfinch ,
Tit cousins , Marsh and Blue ,
Goldfinch , Siskin and Marsh Tit ,
less frequent visitors were at least two Nuthatches ,
who also made regular visits to a 'drinking well' high above the feeders ,
two GSWoodpeckers were too shy to come down to the feeders whilst I was there ,
and just before leaving , a few LTTits arrived , and headed straight for the fat balls .
This morning , I headed for Sevenoaks Reserve , hoping for a bit more of that sunshine , but all I got was grey skies and rain . Once again , I've never seen the water level so high , with hardly a single island showing from Tyler Hide , which I just made before the first of the many showers whilst on
site . Out in the gloom in the middle of the East Lake , a pair of GCGrebes were displaying to each other , will be hoping to get better shots of the 'weed dance' when they start nesting . Heading down towards Sutton Hide , I found the female Goosander tucked away in the little bay , but she didn't hang
around for long , just managing to get a few shots as she went . In the Alders , Siskins could be heard , but went unseen in the gloom . Good numbers of Pochard again from Sutton Hide and with
just a few females around , the drakes seemed to have just one thing on their minds , with a lot of displaying/showing off going on . On the loop back to Tyler Hide , Scarlet Elfcup / Sarcoscypha
coccinea did it's best to brighten the day , contrasting nicely with the green moss , growing on decaying branches on the ground . I caught up again with the female Goosander just before the track
to the car park , but she was more alert this time , so I only managed a shot of her heading for open water and as far away from the camera that she could get .
And finally , although still not yet halfway through February , the male Hazel catkins are already open and releasing their pollen , and to receive it , the red female flowers are fully open , ready to be
pollinated and produce nuts in the Autumn .