Saturday, 30 July 2011

Early morning at Reculver

After a long week at work I was determined to make the most of my day off, so I made it to Reculver by 5:30am this morning. There was quite a stiff northerly breeze and it was decidedly chilly so on went the coat and hat, and I slung my telescope over the shoulder in the hope of a few seabirds moving through.

About an hour into my walk towards Cold Harbour I was caught up by Marc Heath, and by this time we had seen very little. We added a few nice birds on the way to Chambers Wall, and then we headed back the same way.

There were a couple of Common and a Green Sandpiper near Cold Harbour, and a family of 2 adult and 8 young Shelduck flew out the lagoon. On the beach we found a single Whimbrel and about 14 Redshank and small numbers of Ringed Plover and Oystercatchers. There were also a couple of juv Stonechats by the Green Wall, and 5 or 6 Little Egrets on the oyster farm.

As Marc left for Grove, I went down to Shuart for a short stroll out the wind. There quite a few Gatekeepers, a Red Admiral and a few Speckled Woods.

A few Migrant Hawkers were flying quite high over the trees, and a Black-tailed Skimmer posed for a long time in the sunshine enjoyin the warmth.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Willesborough and Hothfield Common

I planned to do a breeding TTV survey yesterday morning before work, but too much wine Friday night left me a little tired Saturday morning. So today saw me wandering the streets around Willesborough before 6 o'clock to complete my atlas surveys for the breeding season. I was surprised at the number of people out and about that early on a Sunday morning!

The survey went well, I found the usual common breeding birds, plus one or two surprises, such as Reed Warbler, plus a family of Bullfinches.I got a McDonald's breakfast and drove to Sevington where i could hear a Yellowhammer singing, and 3 Common Buzzards were soaring upwards on thermals.

With the sun breaking through the clouds I headed off to Hothfield Common in search of Dragonflies. I had barely set off when a Speckled Wood landed briefly on a bush next to the path:

It's a lovely place to walk, and luckily there weren't many people walking their dogs. I could hear Yellowhammers singing continuously, while young Great Spotted Woodpeckers called noisily from tree tops.I headed over to the little walk-way that crosses the acid bog and settled down for a while. Patience was rewarded with brief views of a male Keeled Skimmer. This is the only site in Kent for this dragonfly. Eventually a few males were watched, but unlike previous visits, these neat little dragonflies wouldn't come near the path, so I settled for a few distant pictures:

Gradually more and more people started walking past, and I was becoming the focus of fascination for many groups, and their dogs. I'm sure they were wondering why this scruffy, bloke was pointing a long lens at some muddy bog. Eventually I tired of hearing dog whistles blowing, and shouts from owners who's dog had wandered off somewhere. The final straw came when a Spaniel leapt into the bog in front of me and scared everything off. The owners hadn't a clue that this may have ruined my morning, they're only concern was the smell of the dog covered in mud.

I walked over to an area that looked quieter, with more flowers and trees. Here there were many butterflies, I saw Peacock, Red Admiral, Holly Blue, Large, Small and Green-veined Whites, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper:

I also found lots of lovely Brown Hawkers, but sadly they wouldn't land, so no photos. There were also Common Darter, Migrant Hawker and a male Banded Demoiselle. I did get a reasonable photo af a Peacock:

At half past twelve i decided to head back to the car, but stopping every few minutes for photos meant it took nearly an hour to get back. I watched one of my favourite dragonflies, a Southern Hawker, patrolling the path.

Once home I went down to the lower garden and there was a young Blackbird:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Another try for Purple Emperor

Sunday 10th July was a lovely morning, mild and with light winds. I went early to Hoades Wood, just west of Ashford to carry out a TTV. Highlight today was without doubt when i heard Crossbills calling , and looked up to see 4 birds fly over. Shortly after, I could hear them calling again, much closer. Then I had some real luck, as first a brick-red male Crossbill flew in and sat on top of a tree no more than 20 yards away, followed by a female, and what looked like a young bird. I could hear a 4th bird calling but couldn't see it. For a few minutes I enjoyed these fantastic views, wishing I had my camera with me.

After a drink and snacks I drove up to Dene Park to look for Purple Emperor, and on arriving in the car park at the woods I became aware of a gathering of butterfly enthusiasts, all with the same idea as me.

I walked up the short path to where Purple Emperor has been seen recently, and stood for 2 hours watching the oak tree. Alas i had no sightings, but did see a Silver-washed Fritillary, Comma, Red and White Admiral, Large Skipper, Large White, Purple Hairstreak and Meadow Browns, as well as a fantastic Brown Hawker.

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

During the week I received a photo of a damselfly from Chris Hindle taken at Chambers Wall, asking what i thought it was. It was a teneral male Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

So today (Saturday 9th July) I went over to the fisherman's car park with my camera to hunt for damselflies. I needn't have worried, there were loads of damselflies with red eyes sitting on the vegetation on the Wantsum. Although very windy, I took a walk along the riverbank, pausing at each swim to look for insects. I counted at least 70 Small Red-eyed Damselflies, around 20 Red-eyed Damselflies, and probably about 50 others best left unidentified. This is the first year Small Red-eyeds have been seen at this sight. The 2 species with red eyes aren't too hard to tell apart from each other with a reasonable view.

Small Red-eyed above, Red-eyed below.

Also seen today were Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies, Emperor Dragonfly and Black-tailed Skimmer.

The wrong woods

Saturday 2nd July was an early start, driving over to Lenham to carry out a TTV. I have really enjoyed doing the TTVs in areas where I would never normally go birding, finding some nice birds on my travels.

As usual it was a 2 hour visit, starting off walking around a housing estate, then moving out across the wider countryside.

Once complete I decided to carry on driving west in Kent to Dene Park, near Tonbridge to a sight for Purple Emperor butterfly. I didn't have a map, but how difficult could it be to find a great big woodland? Well not easy as I can vouch, as I got very lost and in the end pulled over in a layby along the A227 just so I could at least get out for a walk. I still don't know where I was walking, but I did enjoy my time there.

Next I drove to Troseley CP to look for Dark Green Fritillary. Again I had a lovely walk, and again I failed to find the butterfly I was after. However, on this occasion I had a bonus in the form of a female Beautiful Demoiselle, my first sighting in Kent, so I went home happy.

Actually, I didn't go home at all, I drove to Reculver to look for dragonflies. I managed to photograph a female Emperor Dragonfly ovipositing at Brook, i've been trying to get a picture of one of these fantastic dragonflies at Reculver for ages:

There were loads of common butterflies and damselflies enjoying the warm sun, and i saw my first Small Heath of the year.


Friday 1st July was another warm evening, and with Birdguides announcing there were 2 juv Night Herons at Stodmarsh I decided on an evening walk there.

It was lovely to be out on the Lampen Wall watching a Hobby hunting, and 2 Bitterns flew over-head, but sadly I didn't get top see the Night Herons.

I waitred until 9:45pm, then walked slowly back to the car park, hearing Tawney Owls on the way.


Living so close to one of the best Nightjar spots in the county, I really ought to go and listen to them more often. Monday 27th June was a very warm, still evening so I took myself into Church Woods just before 9pm.

I was just walking up to the heathland site about a 10 minute walk from home when I heard a short burst of churring. Soon after I was joined by a lady out for the evening as well, and we were treated to a fantastic show, with at least 4 male birds churring, wing-clapping and hawking around us until nearly 10 o'clock.

It seems a shame to leave when the birds are still singing, but it was getting quite dark and I couldn't see anuthing so I wandered home, counting gloworms on the way. Back at home there were 2 gloworms in the garden, a highlight each year for me to find them out on the lawn. They glow so bright they can be seen from the bedroom window!

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Day trip to France 19th June

I decided to take my second day trip to Romelere and near-by Clairmarais Forest in northern France this year, with my friend Patrick Giles on Sunday 19th June. We had gone in May with 2 other pals on a birding trip, and the two of us really wanted to try the area in June for butterflies and dragonflies, as well as the brilliant birds found in there which are scarce in Kent.

The weather wasn't predicted to be too good and ideally we wanted calm, warm and sunny conditions, but the forecast was for windy and cloudy. I picked Patrick up just after 2:30am and we caught the 4am train through the tunnel. We decided on a walk in some woodland west of Calais in the early morning to keep out the wind. This was a good choice, not only was it sheltered, but we found some really good birds, including Honey Buzzard.

As the sun started to warm up we headed to St Omer and the small wetland nature reserve. This is a beautiful place, so tranquil. We wandered round the reserve for a couple of hours, hearing loads of warblers singing, including snatches of Savi's, plus a lovely Marsh Warbler which sat up in view singing away for ages. Just outside the reserve on the vegetable plots I noticed a small dark bird feeding at the edges of some crops - a Bluethroat, one of the special birds of the area.

After some lunch we drove the short distance to the forest, by which time the sun was trying hard to break through the clouds. There were stacks of damselflies and butterflies, and we had a rush of excitement noting many White Admirals and Large Skippers. Wandering slowly along the tracks we made our way down to a lake surrounded by trees, with a few ready banks attracting loads of dragonflies. Here we added Scarce Chaser and Black-tailed Skimmer to our trip list, and Patrick spotted a Large Tortoiseshell flying a little way off, which we managed to stalk up to and get a few photos. These are now extinct in Britain, and this was a new butterfly for both of us.

Whilst distracted by all the insects, we also could hear Golden Oriole singing frequently, and saw a few Honey Buzzards overhead. A little later we bumped into a couple of chaps from Belgium who were also over to enjoy the insects of the forest. One was particularly knowledgable and directed us to a site where we found 2 new dragonflies, an immature male Scarlet Darter and a Western Clubtail. We also saw a Silver-washed Fritillary on the deck by the lake.

Walking back to the car six hours later we were still seeing various butterflies and dragonflies along the bushes, and it's so hard not to keep stopping and taking photos, even though I already had over a hundred already taken.

All that was left was the drive bacl to Calais and through customs to the tunnel. In the queue to show our passports to the French control a bloke was swiping all the cars doorhandles and steering wheels with a stick then moving to the next car, When he got to us he did the same, then proceeded to ask where we had been, what we had been doing etc. I joked to Patrick that just for once it would be fun if they really grilled us and we could show them all our optical gear and photos etc. Sure enough, when we got to the border control we were ushered to one side where upon a young lady came over and asked many questions, culminating in her requesting to see my photos. I was well pleased, and showed her over 40 photos before she got bored and said she had seen enough. A quick look in the boot, noting old trainers, crisp packets, a couple of flasks and a telescope and we were waved on. Great fun.

And home by 8pm GMT, tired but having enjoyed a brilliant day