Monday, 28 April 2014

Sunday 27th. April 2014

Another  damp , drab morning , but at least it gives a chance to catch up on processing pictures and catch up on a couple of recent visits .
For once , I managed to get to Burnt Gorse at High Elms LNR in warm conditions , with some sunny intervals . It took some time before I found my first butterfly species , but it was one that I have been looking for on previous visits , the Green Hairstreak . Two males were found , spending much of the
time in aerial combat , but , every now and again , resting in the sunshine , before the next scrap . Hairstreak is a bit of a misnomer for this species , as unlike the Purple , White-letter , Black and Brown members of the family , the streak is reduced to a row of white dots , sometimes none at all . Another anomaly is that it is the only family member not to have 'tails' on it's hindwings . The green metallic colour is unique amongst British butterflies , and is produced byeffects of light on the scales on the wing only allowing the green colour of the spectrum to reach the viewer's eye . I also managed
to record my first Dingy Skipper on site this year , this , one of four found was nectaring on Bugle . Whilst on Burnt Gorse , I also found a couple of insects that I didn't recognise , and spent a lot of time searching books and the web , without success . I would like to say I finally found them , but it was down to two enthusiasts on 'I-spot' who came up with the identifications . The first was a
strange looking red and black beetle on a Wayfarer leaf which turned out to be a Hazel Leaf-roller Weevil / Apoderus coryli , and the second that looked to me like a Long-horned Beetle , but the
antennae weren't long enough , and turned out to be a Click Beetle / Agrypnus murinus . Shortly after this shot , it flew a short distance with a surprise , and landed again . I got in position and waited for it
to do the same again , which it did , giving the same surprise . The last find on BG was 6 Fly Orchid /
Ophrys insectifera , clustered in a loose group , one of which was just coming into flower . On the Orchid Bank , after a fantastic season last year , the Common Twayblade / Listera ovate , seems to be
having a rest this year , with just a few of the specimens found , though not yet in flower . Neither were
either of the Man Orchid /Aceras anthropophorum found , one being perilously close to the edge of the path that runs through the middle . The walk back to the car produced a concealed Fox which
took no notice of me , seemingly with it's eye on something else , and some Town Hall Clock /
Moschatel , getting it's common name by having four flowers , each at right angles to the next one , and one on top for good luck . But being green and small , amongst a mat of green leaves , it's not the easiest of species to spot . Back in the garden , I missed the first Damselfly to emerge from the pond ,
a Large Red , identified by the dark and light bands on the legs of it's larval case or exuvia , left behind when it took it's maiden flight .
A bit of brightness yesterday afternoon had me heading for the Greensand Ridge , and in not the best
of conditions managed to find 7 Adders . One was the big female that mated with the large Black and white male , seemingly at ease with the world . The other female amongst the 7 was found lounging
with a male that looked very much like the one that was vanquished in the epic 36 minute combat .
When I looked in on them again later , it had escalated from lounging to the precursor of mating , but
this pair were a bit more dignified , moving well into cover before completing the business in hand . That makes four matings that I have witnessed this Spring up on the Ridge , so probabilities say there must have been at least double that , good news for the species .

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Thursday 24th.April 2014

I set off yesterday morning for Elmley , and once again found the top of Wrotham Hill enshrouded in mist , and things further East looking not much better . But a glint of sunshine , just before Jct.4 of the M20 , had me diverting to New Hythe , to look and listen to Nightingales . As it was early , I considered that the local Blogger would still be testing the yolk of his egg and thickness of the accompanying soldiers , and felt safe to have a look around . The next hour and a half produced 8/10
singing male Nightingales , along with good numbers of other migrants . Although plagued by twigs ,
I've included the first shot to show just how much effort goes in to produce those superb notes . In an
adjacent Hawthorn , a Woodpigeon was trying to get some shut-eye , whilst sitting on it's nest . In the
time I was on site , the air was full of song , not only from the Nightingales , but backed up by lots of

Common Whitethroat , Blackcap and the resident species . No sign of any Water Voles on the visit ,
 but I did catch one Coot doing his morning limbering up routine , and appropriately , given the day , found a nice group of St.George's Mushroom / Tricholoma gambosum , looking somewhat like Field
Mushroom , but with white gills underneath the cap , instead of brown . I left with the Nightingale song audible right back to where I parked , and best of all I didn't get caught !
Arriving at Elmley , the weather was mixed , but was welcomed , just inside the first cattle grid by a
vocal and , unusually for the species , a photogenic Red-legged Partridge . Plenty of Lapwing along
the track , showing off their aerial skills , but one of these was driving off the other , and a little later
the reason became apparent , when three very young chicks came into sight . The first of 5/6 Yellow
Wagtails was seen a bit further on , this one having just caught and in the process of swallowing a large insect . Though there are no 'avian crossings' along the track , I had to stop to allow these two
Redshank 'the right of way' . Corn and Reed Bunting were both heard but not seen before reaching the car park , where Several Swallow were hawking for insects , and occasionally resting and
preening on the overhead wires . No sign of life in either Owl box , but in the scrape behind the toilet
block , a distant pair of Avocet was the only notable sighting . Speaking to a returning birder from the hides who said that he hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary , and with the weather seemingly
deteriorating , I decided to return down the track . In the ditches , the constant , raucous calls of
Marsh Frogs , and just coming into flower Water Crowfoot , probably Common / Ranunculus aquatilis , a member of the Buttercup family . In another ditch , this Little Grebe was managing to
find it's fishy breakfast , no trouble . Whilst photographing another Yellow Wagtail , this time posed
nicely on a rock , WW3 was brewing up in one of the larger ditches , with several species attempting to drive off two Marsh Harriers . By the time I arrived close by , both birds had dropped out of site ,
but shortly after a female lifted out of the ditch , followed a few seconds later by a male a bit further
along the ditch . Both were chased off by the residents , but further along , they seemed to find what they were looking for , at the expense of the family of a pair of Mallard . On a five bar gate , I saw a small bird perched and got a couple of shots through the windscreen , which were useless , but having stopped and the bird dropped down , I moved into the passenger seat and was pleased when the
Meadow Pipit re-appeared and perched on a small twig , affording great views before dropping to the
ground and feeding . One of many Little Egret seen on the visit , a species that is doing very well
here . I stopped further down watching two Lapwing in a synchronised flight display , probably
courting , and noticed a movement in the grass , which turned out to be this youngster , all on it's own , but the parents were probably watching from a distance . The mating theme continued with a
pair of Oystercatchers , wheeling around and piping , before coming in to land . Even the Redshank
got in on the display act , with this one showing it's best bits . As can be seen from the last few shots , the weather was really closing in and getting very cool , so I decided to call it a day and headed home . As it happened the further I travelled West , the better the weather got , and on the spur of the moment , again turned off the M20 at Jct.4 , for a second dose of that Nightingale song . As I walked towards the area where I had the best singing male , I could hear him still belting it out , and turning a corner towards him , walked straight into New Hythe's own 'Batman and Robin' , Phil / Sharp by Nature and Terry Laws , and got caught red handed . They too were after the loud male , but with the light and his insistence to stay in cover , the Nightingale not Phil , it proved difficult to get any shots .
So talk turned to cameras and lenses , and a general catch up . I did manage a few shots , but the sun's
position earlier in the day was definitely better . A call on the batphone  from Batwoman started the
break up of the meeting , and whilst the pair headed over the railway to where they parked their batmobiles , I headed back to my car , and this time , I did go home .
Mike , I see we were both looking at the same Nightingales after reading Phil's posting , your visit probably between my two . Perhaps next time ?
And finally , from the garden today , a very freshly emerge Holly Blue , a female identified by the

large amount of dark blue marking on the top forewing .

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wednesday 23rd. April 2014

Monday , I went up on the Downs in search of the species I didn't find at High Elms on my last visit
there . In perfect butterfly conditions my list comprised ; Green Hairstreak (12) , this one showing part of it's brown upper wing , Holly Blue (3) , Comma (1) , Small White (1)  Peacock (3) ,
Dingy Skipper (13) , all very active , this being the only one that settled for a few seconds .
just a single Grizzled Skipper ,
Brimstone (23) , including these two males , both trying to out do the other and catch the eye of the
female . Also found , the my first Burnet Companion of the year , and the caterpillar of the Burnet
Moth , this will pupate typically at the top of a grass stem in it's paper-like cocoon .
Two areas of grassland each produced in excess of 25 Early Purple Orchids ,
Just four Adders were found , all females , which tells me that the mating period is probably over
now . A few Slow Worms and an incomplete Common Lizard , completed the reptiles found .
A Common Buzzard , with a full crop was moved on by the local Corvids . Quite pleased with the
shot considering it was taken with the 100mm. macro lens . The overnight rain ensured plenty of Roman Snails about , and under an old piece of wood , a Bank Vole had made a home and had 5/6
newly born , blind , hairless youngsters to support . On the way home along the bottom lane , Greater
Celandine / Chedonium majus , a member of the Poppy family was found in flower , not to be confused with Lesser Celandine / Ranunculus ficaria , a member of the Buttercup family , which is one of the earliest plants to flower .
I was going to include today's visit , but with plenty found , I will post again shortly , leaving just
a taster .