Friday, 25 September 2015

Friday 25th. September 2015

The recent weather combined with some 'need to do' jobs , have somewhat curtailed my getting out of late , the most difficult being finding suitable conditions to do the High Elms and Down House butterfly surveys , the DH surveyor being on holiday . I just managed to do both last week , but it was the day after the 'Wednesday deluge' , so the results were on the poor side to put it mildly . HE produced 14 from 6 species , with most looking past their sell by date , like this female Meadow
Brown . DH , with all the paddocks having been cut , produced just12 from 3 species , along with 15
Large White larvae that were doing their best to demolish the brassicas in the walled garden . With the season coming to an end , these will feed up and over-winter as chrysalis , appearing as adults
next Spring .Only other interest found was a Shaggy Parasol / Lepiota rhacodes , in the Sandwalk
woodland at DH , and some fine specimens of Turkey Tail / Polyporus giganteus , on the base of a
Beech tree outside the car park at HE .
With the promise of a dry day on Wednesday , I headed for Reculver , mainly to try and catch up with the late emerging Willow Emerald Damselfly , but on arrival found myself drawn to the areas of
Everlasting Pea / Lathyrus latifolius , the foodplant of the migrant Long-tailed Blue butterfly . I had read that the odd one or two had been seen in Sussex recently , and hoped that I might find one here . Three hours later , having scoured every pea flower in the area , I gave up , not having even had a glimpse of my hoped for rarity , the wind , blowing in off the sea didn't help . The only butterflies
seen were a dozen or so Small White , a single Peacock and Comma and two Large White . A lone
male Migrant Hawker was found warming up in the sun , whilst the Common Toadflax was still
trying to shake off it's morning dew . Disappointed , I moved on to the other side of the Thanet way to search for thr Willow Emerald Damselfly . If anything , the wind was even stronger here , but it
was also a bit warmer . The North Stream only turned up a female Migrant Hawker , so I started searching the overhanging Willows and the roadside hedges , where the Ivy flowers were busy with lots of Common Wasps , various Hoverflies , but dominated by the recently colonizers  from Europe ,
the Ivy Bee / Colletes hedera , with it's ginger thorax and strikingly striped abdomen . They were first
found along the south coast some 20 years ago , but have now spread well above the Thames valley from what I have read . Eventually it was back to the overhanging Willows on the North Stream and
after a bit more searching , found my first of 3/4 WEDs . With the wind , they were tending to stay
close to the ground , making them not very easy to photograph . One individual did try to help though
, when it landed on my hand . Before leaving the area , I returned to the towers and walked out to Coldharbour and back in pleasant conditions . The tide was just on the turn back out again , but birds were definitely at a premium . Half way down , I met a birder on his way back to the car park , and he said nothing to raise my hopes of a find . A small flock of Meadow Pipit danced on the shingle and
the sea wall in front of me , one posing momentarily , a couple of Stonechat , always keepng just out of camera range , a flock of Goldfinch , plundering the seedheads and two Wheatear , one caught in 
the split second between landing and immediately taking off again  . Most plants along the way had gone to seed , but a couple of Yellow-horned Poppy / Glaucium flavum , had single flowers and their
long seed pods from which the 'horned' part of their name comes from . Apart from that , it was the expected species , and no sighting of the hoped for Black Redstart .
This morning I did what will be the last full transects at HE and DH . The latter produced just 4 Meadow Brown and 2 Speckled Wood , and a brief sighting of a female Roe Deer . HE went one 
better with 4 Meadow Brown , 3 Speckled Wood and a single Holly Blue , a female , faded , but still 
good to see . The only surprise was 10/15 Hornets , mostly near the golf car park and a couple in the

bottom glade . This one posed head on and threatening , but was more interested in warming up than bothering with me .
This afternoon , making the most of the weather , I headed up onto the Greensand Ridge looking for
any sign of breeding . The only Adders found were this male , and a year old female , probably born
about this time last year . No neonates were found on the visit , all in all , I don't think this was a good breeding season up on the Ridge .

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Saturday 12th.September 2015

The latest High Elms LNR butterfly transect once again shows the season winding down , although 11 species were recorded , only Meadow Brown (46) managed more than 5 in number . Brown Argus
are still showing , a really good season for this species . Whilst passing , I had a look for White Admiral larvae , and although I found a couple of Honeysuckle leaves bearing the feeding trait , they
always feed from the unattached end and leave the center vein in tact , no larvae were found , nor any sign of their hibernaculum , a folded leaf attached to the plant by silk thread .
The promise of some reasonable weather was enough to visit Sevenoaks Reserve , but unfortunately the forecast again was unreliable , with the cloud failing to break up , and no chance of finding any
Odonata . A look at Willow Hide did produce a single Little Egret that flew and perched in the trees
on one of the islands , a couple of female Teal , dabbling about just in front of the hide . The only surprise was a Kingfisher , that after doing a few laps of the lake in the gloom , settled momentarily
in the half gloom , on the original stick out front , seemingly not interested in the two new ones that have been placed closer . That was the first time this year that I have managed to see one perched here this year . A walk around the other side of the East Lake failed to find anything more than a few
Gulls and the resident geese until on some Buddleia  , a female Painted Lady was seen . I'm sure she was shivering in her faded state . On my way home , there was a slight improvement in the weather , so diverted to Bough Beech . On arrival I heard the 'cronking' of a Raven over Winkworth Woods , but never saw the bird . Looking over the hedge onto the North lake , the Greenshank was still around , keeping well away over by the island , but no sign of the Spotted Redshank , but new since my last
visit were two Black-tailed Godwit . Also on show on the bank by the spillway , a Common Snipe ,
unusually out in the open . At least two Kingfisher were seen or heard , one flew low over the causeway onto the main reservoir , fortunately no traffic was passing at the time , another was looking for a meal in the culvert that runs under the road , and after a couple of attempts , caught a
fish that should have filled him up . That improvement didn't last long with grey clouds rolling in , and me heading for home .
With a sunny start on Thursday , I set off for the high ground where I managed to see the Ring Ousels passing through in the Spring , or any other migrants on their way home . Unfortunately birds were almost non existent , never mind migrants , with just numbers of Pheasant being the only species seen
in any number , mid you , their days might well be numbered with shotguns discharging in the surrounding area . On the way home I stopped off on the Common for a look round , and was surprised to disturb a juvenile Common Buzzard that was perched no more than 15 metres away . On previous visits I found the remains of a Roe Deer in an area rarely frequented by people , but on each visit the remains had been moved about . I had put it down to fox or badger , but when the bird flew
off , it landed briefly in the tree above the remains before flying off again to a dead tree on the edge of the area . Once again , the 100mm. macro lens was on the camera , hence the distant shot .
That evening , I trawled the bird sightings around Kent , the few that there were anyway , but decided to get away fro the day on Friday , heading down to Elmley on the Isle of Sheppey . Better weather , but still a lack of birds as I headed slowly down the entrance track on arrival . By the time I reached
the car park , the only shot taken was of a confiding Skylark , not a migrant in sight . In pleasant conditions , I parked up and set off for the hides , some one and a half miles away . The tide was on it's way in but that did not mean lots of birds , in fact apart from distant geese , the odd distant Marsh Harrier and a few Coot was as good as it got . Wellmarsh Hide produced a single distant Little Egret that flew off almost immediately and South Fleet Hide produced even less on arrival . A few juvenile Shellduck and more geese in the distance was it . The drought was broken by a pair of Green
Sandpiper , calling and chasing each other around the reedbed out front . Eventually , one flew off
and the other performed it's party piece , walking on water . A large shadow spooked that one and
announced a fly-over by a juvenile Marsh Harrier , which left as quickly as it arrived . I started back
with a male Kestrel looking for a meal along the sea wall and , having a sneak look over onto the
Swale , found two Black-headed Gulls . Half way back , three Curlew flew off the fields , heading for
the Swale or beyond . A pair of Little Grebe , a few Mallard and the odd Reed Bunting and the occassional Swallow , and I was almost back at the car , finding a Pied Wagtail on the post and rail
fencing , and not having seen a single person on my treck . As I slowly returned down the track , a
Common Buzzard passed overhead , just allowing a few shots as it did so . I pulled over where I saw the hares on a previous visit , but they too refused to show , but whilst waiting , I spotted a small bird
being blown about on top of a distant fence post , a Whinchat . Down at the entrance I spotted the
pair of Little Owl , in a different position to last time , but one flew off , the second froze . Almost at
the road , a female Kestrel was hunting over the rough grassland , she too looking for a meal . By the time I reached Leysdown the tide was fully in , so I parked up and had a look around the pitch and
putt . Amongst the gulls roosting were 6 Sandwich Terns (3 pictured) , an unexpected bonus . With cloud building and with it the wind , I decided to have a look at Capel Fleet before heading home .. The fleet held swans and lots of Coot , The bushes to the raptor viewpoint held a few Corn Bunting , but nothing from the viewpoint itself and the wind in the reedbed made it impossible to hear a Bearded Tit never mind see one . The only photo opportunity was on the road down from the hill , a
 small group of Red-legged Partridge , all but one in ' run from the camera ' mode . And so ended the day , without a single hoped for Yellow Wagtail or Wheatear .
And finally , from the garden , a new , colourful shieldbug for me , the Juniper Shieldbug /
Cyphostethus tristriatus , and the colourful fungi Calocera cornea , sorry , no common name for this
one .

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Thursday 3rd. September 2015

A trip with Martin from Hutchinsons Bank was a bit of a chance , after reading that the two guided events at Steyning Rifle Range in Sussex both ended in failure , the first because it was just too hot on the Saturdat of the Shoreham air crash and the following day being too wet when the heavens opened . We arrived in good conditions , but our target species , Brown Hairstreak , were still in bed , so we had a look around the rest of the site , finding a couple of Wall and a few Common Blues , but not much else . Unexpected cloud rolled in and it started to rain , not good , but by 11.15 , the clouds
started to break up and the first of 5/6 Brown Hairstreaks was seen , all females , and all intent to lay
their eggs , this being the first decent day to do so for ages . Because they were so intent on doing so ,
they rarely stayed still .clambering amongst the youngest shoots of the Bullace plants to do so .
Having layed that one , the small white spot just above the end of her abdomen , it was off to find the next suitable place . When things went quiet , we had a look around another recently cleared area , but here too , butterflies were very few . Only other interest found was a male Brown Hawker ,
warming up in the sunshine just after we arrived . Before heading home , we had a look around Cissbury Ring , but apart from fantastic views all around and a strong wind blowing over the site , butterflies here too were in short supply , but Martin did spot this large fungi , between bread and
dinner plate in size across , Lepiota procera / Parasol Mushroom .
A couple of days later after a wet morning , I managed a bit under an hour looking up on the Greensand Ridge for any signs of reptile breeding , but I only managed to find two males , one
stretched out to make the most of the warmth , the other two weren't so trusting on the weather ,
staying tucked up together .
With the start of the new hedgelaying season , we spent a very wet few hours last Saturday coppicing materials for the first hedge next Saturday . On the way back , a brief spell of broken cloud allowed a look around the Common . Needless to say , everything was very wet , but I did record four species
of butterfly , including a couple of Small Heath , a species that has been very scarce on site this year .
Yesterday morning I managed to do the High Elms Butterfly transect , having not been able to get out and do it last week . The recent rain and colder temperatures had obviously taken their toll as numbers were again well down , but I did record 11 species , which included the first Small Copper
of the year on site , most unusual , and a single male and female Silver-washed Fritillary on the wing . Six Hornets were also seen , four of them seemingly working together as a pack . On the way
around the Conservation field , almost every fence post had a Robber Fly / Asilidae sp. , either warming up or looking for it's breakfast , and on Burnt Gorse looking almost
dead , but in full flower , Carline Thistle / Carlina vulgaris . This is as flowery as it gets . In the afternoon , whilst helping Carol with the garden , I found a Cricket that usually spends it's time in the canopy of large trees . This one , the Southern Oak Bush-cricket / Meconema meridionale , probably
got dis-lodged during the heavy rain and winds recently .
Wasn't sure where to go this morning , but finished up at Bough Beech Reservoir , and on arrival got
a Sparrowhawk circling the causeway before flying off , result . A look over the hedge at the North
Lake produced a small flock of Teal , two juvenile Shellduck and over by the island , a Greenshank .
Another scan around found it's cousin , a Spotted Redshank , and it got even better when the
Greenshank flew over and joined it's cousin . Meanwhile , over Winkworth Woods , what looked like
a family group of four Common Buzzard appeared above the tree line for a short while , before
disappearing below again . One of the group did re-appear over the North Lake , putting everything up . If that wasn't enough , we were then treated to a Red Kite which flew high over the North Lake ,
before thermaling up into the sun above the causeway . One , probably two Kingfisher , darted backwards and forewards across the North Lake , one eventually settling for a few seconds on the
culvert wall . Two having appeared briefly earlier , we were then treated to a small herd of 9 Fallow
Deer that stayed for a minute or two , grazing on the far bank of the North Lake , just left of the island . Apart from the Snipe on the North Lake and a fly by just before I left , from a male Kestrel ,
it was quite a quiet visit .