Friday, 15 April 2016

Friday 15th. April 2016

A wet afternoon gives me a chance to catch up on a few recent outings .
I jumped at the chance to help a licenced Great Crested Newt handler with an amphibian survey on a pond in a country park just outside Bromley . We searched both in the water and under log piles , finding 9 GCNs
in total . In this shot are male , in front with white flash on his tail and female behind , without a flash . The crest of the male just flops over his back when out of water . We also found good numbers of Common and Palmate Newt both in and out of the water . This is a male Palmate Newt , identified by the filiment at the
end of his tail and also by the partially webbed back feet , from which it gets it's name . One sweep of the net
also found a Water Boatman / Corixa punctata .
A visit to Sevenoaks Reserve on an overcast and drizzly day , did find a pair of Gargeney , possibly the pair
that I saw at Bough Beech and mentioned on my last post , as they were not to be seen when I had a look on my way home at lunchtime , and were recordes at SR early that afternoon . A mentioned , the wether was grim but at least they were somewhat closer and out in the open this time . With a bit of sunshine , the drake
makes a really dapper individual , maybe next time . Also seen on the visit , a small number of Little Ringed
Plover , but they kept to the furthest islands from Tyler Hide .
A visit to New Hythe , primarily for newly arrived Nightingales , produced just two birds , both around the fishermen's car park , but neither were willing to show themselves . The only shot I managed was a silhouette
of one in full song , at the back of thick shrubbery , but just listening to that song again was worth it . I did better with a Water Vole though , as after scuttling off initially , went about it's routine , without taking any
further notice of me . Having been lucky with Nightingale sightings around the water treatment entrance , I tried there but it wasn't to be this time . But , on passing the large water sport lake , a splashing amongst the
overhanging vegetation turned out to be a Cormorant , having just caught a good sized eel . The bird immediately made for deeper water , struggling with the eel . Once somewhat subdued , it tried to swallow
 the eel . It seemed that it was on the verge of succeeding , when the eel was re-gurgitated back into the
water . A short stop for breath , then back to swallowing attempt , and after quite some time , it looked as if
it was going to be success at last , with just the tail to go . Once down , the Cormorant went into a strange
swimming action , with a very full neck , but it worked , as after a few seconds it took off and flew to the other side of the lake , no doubt to do a bit of dijesting .
Already , the weekly butterfly transect has started at High Elms LNR , but butterflies found were very thin on the ground . The first transect produced 3 male Brimstone , and the second , 1 male Brimstone and jus for a
change , a Comma .
A look up on the Downs was disappointing as regards Adders , with just a single male found after 2 hours of
 searching . Common Lizard and Slow Worm were more numerous , and on one piece of felt I found a Glow
 Worm larva , and after finding several Early Purple Orchid with just basal leaves , I finally found my first one
 in flower this year , just . Butterflies did better , with 11 Brimstone and a single Peacock being recorded . On the way back home , I stopped off at HE , where I had seen a pair of
Nuthatch , busily preparing their nest hole , whilst I was on the butterfly transect . The pair were still busy
when I arrived , bringing mud to reduce down the size of the entry hole . I spent a pleasant half hour
watching the industrious pair going about their work , which looks as if it is almost complete .
After reading one evening that 3 Ring Ouzel were seen on the edge of a Croydon Park , I made an early start the following morning , hoping that they were still around , Three and a half hours later , and not a Ring Ouzel in sight , I happened to meet the birder who had put the word out , only this time he added a few extra words , ' and they flew off over that way ' . End of story . The time wasn't totally wasted though as this
female Kestrel , having just been mated by her partner , flew down and fed on worms on what looked like a freshly cut cricket square . A visit at a Surrey reptile site produced just two male Adders , and on the way
 back home , I was treated to a distant Red Kite .
Yesterday , I made a visit to Asdown Forest , hoping for a few migrants . Almost immediately on arrival , Willow Warbler and Cuckoo were heard , and soon after I saw the back end of two Cuckoos , heading towards the car park , which I had recently left . That was soon made up for with a Tree Pipit on overhead
wires , just one of 3-4 that were singing in the area . I was hoping for singing Woodlark , but had to be
satisfied with two feeding on the ground . Just 3 Common Redstart were seen / heard , and this male was
more interested in attracting a mate than posing for my camera . Not a single raptor was seen , but a distant
Raven , ' cronking ' as it went was some compensation . On the way home , I stopped off at another Early
Purple Orchid site , where the plants were much more advanced .

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Saturday 2nd. April 2016

Once again this year , the Long-tailed Tits on the Common started building their nest .

Slowly but surely , their work of art grew .

Until , after just over two weeks , the nest was completed .
Two days later , it was ripped open and abandoned . The culprits , probably the flock of 5/6 Jays that are constantly seen in the area .
Also seen on site , Comma ( pictured ) , along with Brimstone and Peacock  and the first Bee-fly /
Bombylius major , seen this year . A visit to the area around Bough Beech Reservoir wasn't very productive
but \I did come across this skull of a small mammal , which would appear to be that of a small rabbit ,
and under the feeders , the Bank Voles were busy collecting and fallen morsels .
A look around High Elms LNR found the first few Butterbur / Petasites hybridus , a member of the Daisy family and closely related to Winter Helliotrope , just pushing through . On a roadside verge , the Green

Hellbore / Helleborus viridus , a member of the Buttercup family , were found already in flower . Next week will mark the start of the weekly butterfly transect here .
On a visit to Elmley Reserve , I was closely watched as I entered by this Little Owl .
All the species seemed geared up for breeding , including this male Pheasant in his finery .
Fewer Lapwing were seen along the track , probably due to nesting , which meant that the partner's job was to deter the Marsh Harriers who were looking for an easy meal .

I spent a long time watching and trying to photograph the Brown Hares again , this time out in the open but
distant from the track , and couldn't believe my luck when I witnessed another bout of boxing . Who says lightning doesn't strike twice ? With sightings going quiet , I headed for Capel Fleet . On the slow run down
to the raptor viewpoint , a male Kestrel posed just long enough on the wires , and below amongst the
 brambles , a small flock of Corn Bunting were keeping in touch with each other , 'jingling their keys' .  With
them was a single male Reed Bunting . From the view point , I had a distant view of a raptor and initially thought it was a ring-tailed Hen Harrier , but as it got closer it's true ID beacame evident , a Common
Buzzard with an unusually pale rump . As it flew towards the Fleet , it joined a second bird and for a moment
I thought I was in for some talon grappling , but it didn't quite happen this time . On the return , a male Linnet
was singing , perched on the roadside fence , a pair of Red-legged Partridge were sheltering in the brick
ruins , a probable male Wheatear that flew off a fencepost before I could get the binoculars on it , and both
sides of the road , lots of newly born lambs , including several almost black individuals . A look at Shellness proved very quiet , but the tide was still well out so not surprising . Large numbers of Oystercatchers could
be seen out on the waters edge and a 50+ flock of Brent Goose flew by to land on the Swale . Most striking thing along the track was the amount of Alexanders / Smyrnium olusatrum , a member of the Carrot family
that was on view , it was literally everywhere .
A look around Hutchinson's Bank , and meeting up with Martin , produced a couple of butterfly species on

the wing , being 4 Brimstone , including one female and two Small Tortoiseshell .
Up on the Greensand Ridge , after the initial emergence , things seem to have ground to a halt , with just 7 male Adders being seen . As usual at this time of year , the males gather together and bask in the sun , like
these four individuals . Three heads in the middle of the shot and the fourth middle right . Mind you , when
this one caught my scent , all four quickly disappeared . Also found on the visit were a few Common Lizard ,
including this individual which had lost the end of it's tail , and my first live Slow Worm of the year , having
found a dead one with puncture wounds last week .
Today , I did the Down House bird survey and recorded an above average 24 species . The only possible summer migrant was a singing Chiffchaff .