Monday, 31 March 2014

Monday 31st. March 2014

Whilst in the throws of painting the outside of the house , I have managed a few visits , resulting as follows ;
A grey , morning visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham , found the Nuthatch pair 'mudding up' the entrance to their nest hole . At one visit , one of the birds went in , and seconds later , a Rose-ringed
Parakeet clamped itself onto the entrance , then proceeded to attempt to enlarge the hole with it's
strong bill . As it did so 'her indoors' sat a metre away watching , and no doubt giving advice . After several minutes , I became worried about the Nuthatch trapped inside , and with clapping making no difference , I shook one of the bushes below the hole and the two RRPs flew off , for how long I do not know . The Nuthatch emerged immediately , and the pair resumed the repairs . If you remember , last year the problem was a Magpie and the previous year , a GSWoodpecker .
Also seen on he visit , at least 5 juvenile Grey Heron , 3 pictured here ,
a pair of Egyptian Geese , where the Beck enters the lake , and several Coot and Moorhen sitting on nests . A quick look up on the Common with things starting to warm up , found at least 4 Chiffchaffs in song and 10+ Brimstone on the wing , including 2 females .
I made another visit to New Hythe , without being caught this time , hoping for a Nightingale , but failing , but did find a Water Vole that dived down and returned to the bank with a reed stem , which
it started to eat , but then froze when a second animal appeared . The second animal slowly
approached , then the two animals squared up to each other  and had a bit of handbags , with the
original animal retreating , leaving it's meal to the intruder . I failed on the Nightingale , but did have two singing Blackcaps near the Treatment Works entrance .
A visit to the Adder site overlooking the M25 produced this Bloody-nosed Beetle / Trimarcha tenebricosa , so called as when threatened , exudes deep red blood from it's mouth and various joints , to warn off it's attacker . I also doubled my Adder sightings to four males .
An afternoon visit to Hutchinson's Bank , just over the border in Surrey , produced 10 Peacock , 6 Brimstone , 7 Small Tortoiseshell and a Speckled Wood , my first non-over wintering butterfly of the year .

A second juvenile Adder , born last Autumn was found on one visit to the Greensand Ridge , along
with several males , one pictured , and the odd female is also showing up . A subsequent visit this
afternoon found things have moved on somewhat , with this male , above , already in breeding colours , guarding a female . Only time will tell if he will succeed in mating with her , when other males realise she is around .

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tuesday 25th. March 2014

A damp , cool day today at least gave time to catch up on photographs taken over the last few trips out , and to post some of them . The warmth of last week brought more Adders out from their Winter hibernation . I have still only found males , but I have heard of at least one female showing .  Four
males here looked like they had been flattened by a steam roller , but when I passed them later
 on , three of them were charging around as if a female was in the area . A
 quick check didn't find one , but that's not saying that there wasn't one around .
Once Carol puts out the bird food first thing , anything up to 8/9 Jackdaws swoop down , bullying the other species . They do look smart in their breeding plumage . 
Another early morning search for Brown Hares failed again . All that was found was this Rabbit /Meerkat . 
Another Adder site almost overlooking the M25 , produced just two males . This one was happy for me to take shots , but swiftly made off when two joggers approached . The sun was out but a very
cool wind blew across the site , so I wasn't expecting to find this Sm .Tortoiseshell sunning itself . On site , I also had my first singing Blackcap of the year .
Found my first Bluebells of the year in flower , beaten this year by Warren/Pittswood Birds . 
Also found , lots of Cuckoo Flower / Ladies Smock / Cardamine pratensis , a member of the Cabbage family . Hopefully the Orange Tip butterflies who use it as one of the plants they lay eggs on , will follow soon . 
A stop whilst passing at Bough Beech Reservoir found very little on the water , but around the Visitor
Centre , what seems to be a growing colony of House Sparrows were very vocal . Whilst photographing them , the head of a Weasel popped out of a woodpile , and popped back in as quickly . I backed off and waited for it to show again . Half an hour later I gave up , chilled to the bone .
Having failed to see a Brambling last Winter , this one was going the same , until , whilst having breakfast this morning , I saw a white rump fly off from below the feeders . A wait at the back bedroom window proved successful , when the bird returned with the other Finches a while later . Unfortunately the shot was through double glazing and drizzle .

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Thursday 20th. March 2014

I would like to take this opportunity to answer a comment made on my
last post regarding the advisability of hedgelaying , given the early
Spring with birds already nesting , having mentioned finding nests on
the post .
We three hedgelayers involved , are also avid wildlife enthusiasts and
conservators , putting in many hours each week to create habitat ,
surveying and doing general wildlife enhancing management , and
would not even think about destroying what we work towards .
To the commenter , and to anyone else worried about the situation ,
I can confirm that the full length of the hedge , which is only just
coming into leaf , was meticulously inspected by one of the layers
in the afternoon of the day before we started laying , and needless
to say , no nests or signs of nesting were found . If any had been
found , the hedge would not have been touched , and we would
have returned in the Autumn to do the job .

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Wednesday 19th. March 2014

Another picture catch up on recent sightings include ; 
A survey of a pond with a fellow volunteer from the Common , who has a licence to handle Great Crested Newts , produced 15 specimens , some netted , others found under refugia . The larger one is a female and the white stripe on the male's tail can be seen on the other .
A few Common/Smooth Newts were also found , along with several male Palmate Newts , identified by the webbed back feet and the hair-like filament at the end of it's tail .
On the way out of the site , I saw a LTTit fly into Brambles with a feather in it's bill . Had it not been for that , you would pass the nest by .
An afternoon visit to Hutchinson's Bank in sunshine , found lots of Common Dog Violet / Viola riviniana in flower , along with 1 Peacock , 7/8 Comma , several in aerial combat already , and
6 Small Tortoiseshell , 2 of which were engaged in some serious courting .

A trip up on the Downs found another 3 , along with 3 Peacock and 13 Brimstone , including this , my first female of the year .
Several Bee Flies / Bombylius major , were also first sightings for the year . 
Like snakes , Common Lizards are able to 'flatten' their bodies , to maximise the warming up process , as this one shows .
Adders were at their constant 3 , including this male , who was just too fast with his tongue for the shutter speed on the camera . 
On my way home , I stopped to photograph a heavily laden Cotoneaster , which wouldn't have happened last Winter with all the Waxwings , and Winter Thrushes that arrived , and a Cherry tree in full blossom alongside .
A visit to the feeders in the woods , found the local ringers at work . It was mainly Tits being trapped and rung , but this Treecreeper made a nice change . In one of the ponds on the site , a female Mallard with 7/8 young , which she quickly shepherded into the vegetation .
A stop at Bough Beech Reservoir wasn't very exciting , except when a pair of Common Buzzards flew close to the Heronry , which put about 30 birds up in the air , 20+ in this shot . 
On the bottom lane , 9 nest are now completed at the Rookery , and the noise level is definitely rising . Interestingly , the Winter gales removed ever scrap of last year's nests , but a Carrion Crow nest in a tree close by , is still intact .

Getting ready to leave the house early for the last hedgelaying outing of the season , Carol spotted this fine specimen strutting about the back garden . I just managed a few shots before he flew off noisily back towards the woods .

And finally , although it is out of the news now , the flooding still continues locally , with several gardens and two rugby pitches under water . Mind you , that could be the least of their problems after what I spotted on the way past ! There are also a large number of yellow plastic ducks floating on the surface , so Jaws shouldn't go hungry .
And really finally , The Robins seemed to desert their nest down the garden in Honeysuckle , but today we noticed them in and out of the Ivy on the garage . Sure enough , another nest , this time in a spot where they can see Carol putting out the mealworms that they have been feeding on all Winter .

Monday, 10 March 2014

Monday 10th. March 2014

A catch up on visits over the last few days , starts with the bird survey at Down House . A sunny , crisp visit produced 19 species , just on the higher side of average for the site . The birds were in fine song , like us , probably glad to see and feel that sun . Great Spotted Woodpeckers were duelling on
their favoured drums , this one over by the cricket field , the other was answering from the formal garden . In the large paddock , a Green Woodpecker swooped down , probably to feed on ants . I tried
to get close , but just after this shot , I was spotted , and it was gone , along with a noisy 'yaffle' . In
the formal garden , tucked under a hedge , an Earthstar fungus / Geastrum triplex , the fleshy outer layer splitting backwards under fruiting body raised above the ground . Anything touching the spore sack , even raindrops , producing a jet of spores to be emitted from an opening on the top of the sack . Walking back to the car along the lane , a splash of blue close to the ground caught my attention . My
first thought was Borage / Borago officinalis , there being not that many blue flowers , but that grows to quite a good sized plant , and the top of this flower stalk was only 30 cms. off the ground . From the books , I now think it might be Abraham , Isaac and Jacob / Trachystemon orientalis , or maybe not ?
As the week warmed up , I made several early morning visits to an area I passed through many times en route to hedglaying over the years , and on 3/4 occasions , had sightings of Brown Hares . Unfortunately , the Hares didn't show , but it was worth while just for the song of the Skylarks . The only shot I took on the visits , was this rushed one , without a chance of changing any settings , of a
male Pheasant that appeared flying from behind a rise and disappeared into some adjoining woodland . After each failed visit , I consoled myself with a stop up on the Greensand Ridge , where
the warm weather has encouraged more Adders to come out of hibernation . Singles are still to be

found , but more doubles and trebles are becoming more frequent . Sorting out the number of heads
and tails , I must admit , is made much easier when the animals help out and stay separate . My best animal count to date is 12 , one of which I was really glad to find , a youngster born last Autumn ,
and proving breeding on the site .
This morning , with cloud forecast to take over from lunchtime , I headed to Sevenoaks Reserve , and
was welcomed by one of many Wrens , singing their hearts out . I was hoping to find Great-crested Grebes displaying , but only found two pairs , one intent on feeding , the other mirroring each other at distance and behind a reedbed . A very quick look in at Willow Hide , as someone had decided to leave their last meal over one end of the hide . The island on the East Lake was noisy , with this pair
of Egyptian Geese evicting the Canadas and Greylags , even though both species are bigger than them . A bit further along the track , another , or the same Jay , allowed me to get a few shots , before
flying off . But even that was eclipsed later , when I spotted a Treecreeper land on a tree just off the track , then fly on to a nearby Ivy clad tree . I waited a while , then it flew back past me , before returning again as before . I made my way to the area that the bird had been heading to , and got the camera ready , albeit not good light and lots of vegetation between , as I didn't want to get too close . The following shots tell their own story :

Assuming I was watching the female , she came backwards and forwards 7/8 times whilst I was there , with different nesting materials , whilst , who I assume was the male , took no notice of me ,
and stood guard on the surrounding trees , at one time landed on a close Elderberry , almost too close for the camera to focus . A few minutes that I will never forget . I moved on , hoping that the pair will
be successful . From Tyler Hide , a fine looking male Shellduck , but no sign of a partner . Whilst out
on the back of the nearest island , 13 Common Snipe , with another 3 just out of the shot . More
Wrens from Slingsby Hide , along with a male Reed Bunting , also singing his heart out . Around the site , Goat Willow , a great early provider of nectar was attracting lots of Bumble Bees , mostly
Buff-tailed , and also another Comma . With the first clouds showing , I headed home , and as I approached the bottom of Poll Hill , could see a Common Buzzard , quartering the adjacent fields . I
managed to get on a quieter lane and got a distant shot , unfortunately into the now milky sun . I
watched and waited , and was eventually rewarded with a better shot , as it turned towards the sun . By the time I got home , the cloud cover was complete .