Sunday, 29 March 2015

Sunday 29th. March 2015

Have been quite busy recently , combined with changeable weather and finding little of interest on the outings that I did manage , most of which were short visits to monitor the Adders up on the Greensand Ridge . What I had hoped was going to be a good emergence this Spring , 13 males as
reported on last post , has stuck at that number ever since . Normally there is a variance from one hibernacular to another , depending on position and shading , but this Spring , the hibernacular that
usually shows first hasn't produced a single sighting and a hibernacular that is usually two weeks or so later than the first , still hasn't produced a sighting either . Under normal conditions , females should have started to show by now , but none have been seen . Rather worrying , but perhaps less changeable weather conditions might improve the situation .
As the light was fading a few evenings ago , I spotted this bird waiting nervously to come down and finish off the seed on the path . I managed a hasty shot through the back bedroom double
glazing before it flew off . I'm glad to say it showed again the next morning , when the mystery was solved . See at the end of this post . Another morning produced a couple of visitors to the feeders who
managed to see off all comers , until a gang of Greenfinches arrived , when they decided that withdrawal was the best option .
A visit to Bough Beech Reservoir found the site almost birdless , not helped by the still very high water level , with no muddy margins showing at all . A visit to the small reserve with the feeders was
also very quiet , but the LTTits have completed their nest , the entrance hole can be seen top right . A
lucky look skywards caught a male Sparrowhawk , just it disappeared behind the trees , and whilst trying for a better shot of the male Bullfinch , which didn't happen , had a glimpse of one of two
Treecreeper , before it scampered skywards .
A look around the Common proved just as quiet , but a single male Brimstone and my first moth of
the year , the moth equivalent of a LBJ . Only other interest was an egg shell which looked like it had been predated rather than something having hatched from it . I have looked in my 'Observers Book of
Birds' Eggs' , but cannot find anything similar , here with a 35mm film canister for size comparison .
Any thoughts appreciated .
With this weekend's forecast being pretty miserable , I took the chance and headed for Elmley Reserve yesterday morning . En route , I had a Red Kite over , just before joining the M25 at Junct.4 , and two Common Buzzard over the M20 as I climbed a very foggy Wrotham Hill . Arriving and driving down the track , there was plenty of Lapwing , Skylark and Redshank , some displaying like
this one to a non-interested partner . Not really the day for photographs , but a flyover Curlew , one of
several seen , got the shutter going , as did a male Marsh Harrier , hanging effortlessly on a chilly ,
strong wind . I must say that the water levels along the track were spot on , with all the gullies and scrapes well topped up to welcome those long awaited Summer visitors . Approaching the car park ,
some more displaying , this time a male Pheasant trying to impress a female . He tried really hard , but in the end , she flew off . At the car park , the wind was even stronger , even the scrape behind was bird-less , so I decided to try the path just before the car park , in the hope of picking up a migrant or two . That didn't happen , but several Skylark , 4 Marsh Harrier , quartering the reedbed down by the Swale and a small flock of Shellduck , who saw me before I saw them and lifted off , was as good as it got . By the time I returned to the car park I was frozen , and pleased I hadn't headed down to the hides . A few Pied Wagtails as I started back down the track , not the hoped for Yellow , before I slowed to check out a brown hump way over on the left . A brown hump that moved and soon joined by another . The two Brown Hares were on the skyline towards the Swale ,

but slowly but surely they came closer and into camera range . Whilst watching the pair , a movement
in the nearby ditch produced a third animal . Further down the track , one of several Little Egret
seen , it's head plumes showing just how strong that wind was , even in the comparative shelter of a
ditch . Whilst all the birds are waiting for their young , the resident cows have already had theirs , although some look like they don't think it was a good idea .
And finally , the mystery bird . It turned out to be a female Chaffinch with a bit of pigment disorder .
We saw her a few times after , but now seems to have moved on .

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thursday 12th. March 2015

Another picture catch up post .
Last Saturday , en route to the last hedgelaying day of the season , saw a juvenile Common Buzzard
swoop across the A25 near Dorking , and land in a tree in a garden centre car park , then drop down , probably to get some breakfast worms . I tried to get closer , but as soon as I moved , it flew off .
A walk across the Common on Sunday morning produced a very vocal Jay .
Stopping off at Bough Beech Reservoir en route to the small reserve with feeders in the woods , found a pair of courting Great Crested Grebe in the early morning sun , but things changed when
another bird charged across the water at the happy couple .
I was met at the entrance to the small reserve by a pair of Bullfinch , but only the male was willing to pose .
A pair of Marsh Tits were found feeding on Hazel .
I spent the best part of an hour watching a pair of Long-tailed Tits building their nest .
Although part of the dome was still needed , one bird , probably the female , was already dealing with the interior design .
Across the site , possibly 100 frogs were calling , amongst large amounts of spawn , whilst overhead , a Raven 'cronked' as it flew high over .
A visit to Kelsey Park in Beckenham found many Rose Ringed Parakeets nesting . The female had just entered this hole and the male was guarding . Just one Nuthatch was seen/heard , so hopefully the female is laying .
Far fewer Grey Heron pairs than usual were nesting , with about 6 occupied nests , but one nest in
particular had well advanced young , begging for food as normal .
Adder numbers up on the Greensand Ridge have increased to 13 , all males . At the moment they are
willing to lie together , but that will change when the females emerge . Two animals on the shot
above , and not so easy to see , three on the shot below . Two are together on the left , the third , harder to see , under vegetation on the right .
Today , whilst working up on the Common , one Small Tortoiseshell along with several male Brimstone . Haven't managed to get one of them in the viewfinder yet though .

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Thursday 5th. March 2015

A sunny visit n Monday to Old Lodge Reserve on Ashdown Forest , in the faint hope of finding the Little Bunting with a small flock of Reed Bunting , was fated from the start with a very strong wind blowing across the site . To keep warm as much as for anything , I criss-crossed the reserve , finding very little , and after 3 hours , the only sighting of interest was the back end of a Raven , heading
towards the usual breeding area . In an attempt to salvage something from the day , I headed for RSPB Broadwater Warren , a reserve that I have never visited before . A previous conifer plantation , still in the process of being cleared , and revealing heathland habitat as a consequence . Fortunately maps were available at the car park , and with one in the pocket , set off along one of the tracks . The site with surrounding woodland was more sheltered than Old Lodge , and in the sun it was pleasant , but very few birds around . Halfway across a cleared area , a male Stonechat was my first sighting , closely followed by the melodious bubble of Woodlark , and the sight of the backend of two birds flying away and disappearing in the distance . At a junction , the map showed a pond to the right and that's where I headed . Still in it's early stages , but given time I can see it becoming a very productive Odonata habitat . On a sunny bank were some refugia , felts and tins , which needless to say were
turned over , producing my first amphibian of the year , a Toad under one of them . A bit further along the track I met the only other birder there , and fortunately he was a local , who had been told that the Larch area on the side of the quarry held good numbers of Siskin and was out looking for them . I tagged on and we slowly climbed to the far side of the reserve , with the wind increasing with every step . By the time we reached the quarry , the wind was as strong as at Old Lodge and the tops of the Larches were swaying in it . But even so , above the wind , the constant chattering of Siskin , a sound I have missed this Winter , could be heard , and with strained necks , we started seeing them in
the tree tops . Every now and again , the odd one or two dropped down a bit lower , like this pair . Impossible to get an exact figure , but my estimate was 50+ . Other species were also seen or heard including at least 3 Lesser Redpoll , my first of the Winter , Marsh , Coal , Great and Blue Tit and even Nuthatch . My fellow birder could only stay a short while , but I stayed on enjoying the sights and sounds . Eventually I started back to the car , and must admit was glad to get out of the worst of the doing so . When I reached the junction where I saw the Stonechat and the Woodlark , I turned off the main track , and before long re-found the Stonechat ,
which turned out to be a pair . They were very flighty , but eventually I managed to get each into the
viewfinder . Feeling well pleased I retraced my steps , when within seconds I heard again the bubbling song of Woodlark , and searching , found a bird just 10 metres away , looking for food , and blending in very well with the heathland habitat . I had it in front of me for just a few seconds , before
the second bird appeared and the two flew off . What could well have been an almost bird-less visit had turned into a very enjoyable one , thanks in a large part to that fellow birder .
On Wednesday , I did the Down House Bird Survey , which produced a very good total for the site of
24 species , which included Common Buzzard , for only the second time , Sparrowhawk , Fieldfare  Redwing , and at least two Goldcrest . Once I finished the survey , I went back to the area where I had seen the Goldcrests , and spent a very pleasant half an hour attempting to photograph this difficult species , which don't know how to keep still , constantly on the move looking for food . Once home and looking through the shots taken , a large proportion went straight in the bin being
blurred , rear ends or headless specimens , but the odd few were worth keeping , thank goodness for
digital photography . With the weather remaining reasonably mild , I made my first visit of the year up onto the Greensand Ridge to see if any reptiles had emerged yet . After an hour of searching ,
three males were found , enjoying the warmth of the sun . If the weekend proves to be as warm as
predicted , many more animals should emerge from their underground hibernation and start showing
across the site . Also noticed was a pair of Long-tailed Tits , busily going about the construction of
their nest , somewhere amongst the Gorse .
Today , whilst working up on the Common I saw my third species of butterfly this year . After Red Admiral in January and Small Tortoiseshell in February , a male Brimstone .