Sunday, 29 July 2012

Many damselflies

Saturday 28th July 2012
Warm, overcast and s/w breeze.

This morning I spent a few hours looking for various damselflies. First stop was another walk at Marshside to see if the numbers of Willow Emeralds had increased over the last couple of weeks. It was quite dull when I arrived, and it took ages to locate a couple of them, high in some trees, but a little later the sun came out and I was able to find at least 9 Willow Emeralds, though there probably quite a few more around.

I was joined by a few more dragonfly enthusiasts looking for the same damselflies as me, so I wandered up the road a bit, and looking over the small river I managed to find quite a few Red-eyed Damselflies, sitting on the floating vegetation. Then the sun came out again and suddenly there were damselflies all over the river, and quite a few Small Red-eyeds appeared, as well as Common Blue and Blue-taileds.

Another wander back to see the Willow Emeralds revealed quite a few within range of the enthusiastic photographers gathered around the hedge, and then it was off home for me.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Chalkhill Blues

Wednesday 25th July Hot, sunny, calm and dry (30C) Another early shift at work, so as per yesterday I took my camera and bins with me in the morning, and at 4.30pm I was out the door and on my way to Lydden to look for butterflies. Apart from one or two dog-walkers, I had the hills to myself on another beautiful warm evening, with hardly a breath of wind. There were Meadow Browns dashing all over the place, but at first glance there appeared few other butterflies. However, a slow wander along the trails that cut across the hills revealed loads of Chalkhill Blues, mostly sitting wings closed.
Apart from the more common butterflies, the whites, Gatekeepers and skippers, there were a few Marbled Whites and many more Chalkhill Blues, a few of which were sitting wings open enjoying the warmth of the sun. Another lovely evening in a superb location.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Hothfield Common

Tuesday 24th July 2012
Very hot 30C, calm, dry and sunny.

I've been working far too much lately while it's hot and sunny outside, so with an early shift finishing at 4.30pm in Ashford I took my camera and bins to work and hoped if I finished on time I might get out for a walk in the evening sun.

By 5pm I was drawing into Hothfield Common car park, and only 1 other car in the small car park. Perfect for a quiet walk. I strolled over to the bog where there are Keeled Skimmers every summer, and as I approached the walkway I could see about a dozen of the dainty skimmers, some sitting on sticks in the bog, and a few darting around. Most of the skimmers were looking a bit tatty, I guess in previous years I have been over a bit earlier in the season. Still, it was nice to see them.

I sat in the sun watching them for a while, to the backdrop of Yellowhammers singing and calling, and young Green Woodpeckers 'chuckling' softly.

Walking around the reserve there were very few other dragonflies, just a couple of darters that wouldn't sit still. Only 1 darter landed within view, and although a bit far off I'm fairly sure it was a Ruddy Darter (legs looked all black).

Butterflies seen included Large White, Comma, Small and Large Skippers, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and a beautiful Small Copper.

A rather nice evening stroll in very warm sunshine.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Sunny Sunday

Sunday 22nd July 2012 Warm, sunny and calm After a late night at a wedding I wasn't up for an early start, so it was mid-morning by the time I made my way over to Chislet to look for damselflies. Having seen Willow Emeralds a week ago I was hoping there would be a few more about, with the prospect of a few photos. I struggled to find any, eventually finding a female quite high in a tree. I took a photo, but I was at full stretch so it didn't turn out too well. However, I have heard from Marc Heath this week and he has been trying for a photo of Willow Emeralds as well, and he can't stretch nearly as far as me, so I will put this one up for his benefit:
Other bits seen while wandering along included this family of Mute Swans:
A little later I spent some time around the Reculver marsh, adding Black-tailed Skimmer, Emperor, Common Darter, Azure, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies and this rather obliging Red-eyed Damselfly:
I had a pair of probable Small Red-eyed Damselflies, which would be my first of the year, but they were out over the water and just a bit far to be sure. Back home in the evening I had a walk round Church Woods where I saw both Southern and Brown Hawkers

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Willow Emerald Damselfly

Sunday 15th July 2012
Mostly cloudy, 19C with westerly breeze.

I arrived back in Kent late Friday evening after 6 days in the Brenne. Mostly the weather was poor, which rather took the edge off the trip. The locals said it is the worst summer they can remember. However, we did enjoy our time, and once I have looked through the photos I shall put a short trip report up.

Anyway, today I decided to have a trip Reculver to see if the Small Red-eyed Damselflies were out yet, but just before leaving I noticed a bird behaving rather unusually at the bottom of the garden. It appeared to be ripping something up, so I grabbed the bins and saw a large female Sparrowhawk eating a Woodpigeon. She sat for a while, long enough for me to take a few pics through the double glazing.

I spent a while at Reculver, but failed to locate many Odonata, the wind was rather strong, making it quite unpleasant. Next I took a trip to Marshside to look for Willow Emeralds. Having seen quite a few in France last week I figured they should be out here soon.

After some considerable time and effort I eventually located 5 Willow Emerald Damselflies sitting in the low vegetation over the river, very well concealed. Of course, I gave photography my best shot, but the sun was completely hidden behind a large hedge, and the damselflies were a little way off, so this isn't much more than a record shot.

Little else of note, apart from a couple of Whimbrel high over south, and a pair of Turle Doves.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Insect life in east Kent - and now for La Brenne

Week of 2nd July - 6th July
Warm, mostly south westerly winds, and a bit damp at times.

I had the last week off work, mostly to spend time with the family, as both kids are home for the summer. I managed an early morning walk at Reculver on Tuesday, after waking at 5am at home I strolled from Reculver towers to coldharbour and back. Rather quiet, though there were a few waders moving. Over 20 Lapwing flew s/w, as did a single Greenshank, a few Curlew flew west and there was a Green Sandpiper in coldharbour lagoon. Quite a few Yellow Wagtails around, numbers building up as usual this time of year, and an adult Med Gull flew west.

On Wednesday afternoon the sun came out, so I went back to Reculver for a few hours to look for dragonflies etc. I was really happy to find several Banded Demioselles, I thought they may have been lost from the area. At Chambers Wall there was an obliging Black-tailed Skimmer, plus an Emperor Dragonfly patrolling the Wantsum. I added Red-eyed, Blue-tailed, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies to the day list.

I paid a visit to East Blean Woods, where there were huge numbers of the wonderful Heat Fritillary floating around, and then a trip over to Thornden Woods where in the cool of the evening I found many skippers. In the evening I had a wander into Church Woods and enjoyed several sightings of roding Woodcock, and then I was treated to a fantastic display by the Nightjars, first seen at exactly 9.30pm and still flying around and churring until gone 10 o'clock.

On Thursday I set off towards Wye about 1pm, with a hot sun breaking through the clouds. On route I decided to have a quick look at Denge Wood, a place I haven't been to very often in July. Four hours later I left, never having made it to Wye, but having enjoyed a brilliant time watching the variety of butterflies in these lovely woods. I started off with Red Admiral, Meadow Brown and many Ringlets, and upon reaching an area of grassland I could see loads of Marbled Whites and all three skippers. A Comma flew past a couple of times, and having had a brief sighting of a White Admiral, on the return journey I came across another sunning itself on some leaves. The only frustration all day was trying to capture an picture of the Marbled Whites, they just wouldn't sit still very long. All in all, a great day out.

And now I have 6 days in the Brenne with Patrick Giles, hoping for many new dragonflies and butterflies, as well as some nice birdlife.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The month of June

June is not the most exciting month for birding, so I usually spend my free time enjoying casual trips out around east Kent to see butterflies, dragonflies and a bit of birding away from Reculver.

This year, however, the weather has been miserable through most of June, with strong winds most weekends, and little warm sunshine. Add to that Euro 2012 has been on most evenings, and my time out has been rather limited.

Below are a few photos from some of my walks, starting with a picture of an adult male Blackbird sunning itself on the garden lawn.

These Heath Fritillary butterflies were taken in East Blean Woods:

and a little later the same day the Speckled Wood and Variable Damselfly were taken in dull light at Stodmarsh:

On June 13th the weather was lovely, so after work I went for a walk in Thornden Woods. There was a big match on at 7:45pm, so I made my way home just in time for kick-off. The match had just started when I had a call from Marc Heath to say he had found a Norfolk Hawker in Chislet. Not only a new dragonfly for me, but possibly only the 3rd recorded in Kent. Needless to say, I made a hasty trip over, and thanks to Marc's patience in waiting for me to arrive, I was lucky enough to see the hawker hanging from a small branch of some bushes, and a little later enjoyed it hunting along the hedge. Rather an orange glow in the photo, which was taken around 8:30pm. I also enjoyed superb views of a hunting Barn Owl at the same location.

The following week I had a trip up to Shuart to look for Small Blue butterflies, which Julian Perry had found along the railway embankment. Sadly I think I was too late in the evening for them, though a few had been seen flying around earlier in the day. On the way back there were a couple of Small Tortoiseshells and a Red Admiral enjoying the warm evening sun.

On Sunday 24th June I had another walk at Thornden Woods in the late afternoon. The sun was out after another dull day, and the wind was easing slightly. There were loads of Heath Fritillary butterflies, some landing by my feet along the edge of the path. There was also a cracking immature Broad-bodied Chaser sitting on some bramble in a little sun-trap:

The month ended with an afternoon walk after work on Saturday 30th June. Again, there was a strong southwesterly wind blowing, but out the wind it was quite pleasant. I had a walk at Reculver, and where I found some shelter I had a really lovely few hours watching the insect life. I managed to find Red-eyed, Blue-tailed and Common Blue Damselflies, my first sighting of Banded Demoiselle this year in the area, and a couple of Black-tailed Skimmers, which took some capturing on the camera.

There were also several butterflies, including Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Browns and a few Large Skippers

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A singing Quail

Tuesday 29th May Having been alerted by Chris Hindle to a singing Quail near Chambers Wall during the morning, I thought I ought to have a trip over in the evening for a listen. Arriving just after 8 o'clock, I had only been waiting about 15 minutes when the Quail started singing not far from the car park. It was a lovely peaceful, calm evening, and hearing the Quail was really quite enjoyable.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Nightjars and friends

Monday 28th May A warm, clear, still evening. At around 8.30pm this evening I decided to take a walk into Church Woods. I am fortunate that my garden backs onto the woods, so it's only a 10 minute stroll to the best area for listening for Nightjars. A couple of Woodcocks flew overhead, and 2 Nightingales were singing when I arrived, and just after 9 o'clock a Nightjar started 'churring' close-by. It sang for a long time, then relocated position and started again. A few more short flight views later, and it settled no more than 40 yards from me at the top of a dead tree. What a fantastic bird. As darkness drew in, I had several sightings of a Hobby, and a Tawny Owl was calling. A second Nighjar started churring for a while, and at 10pm I set off for home.

An unexpected Gropper

Monday 28th May
A warm night, clear skies, no wind.

This morning's report really felt like last night's birding, as the wife accompanied me round some of TR16 woods and scrub listening for Nightingales as part of the night survey for the BTO. We started at midnight, and finished a little earlier than the last night visit, just after 2am, as I had to be up for work in a few hours.

Once again there were several singing birds, this time north of Thornden Woods, and in passing, also in Church Woods.

The 'highlight' I heard out the car window whilst slowly driving towards Greenhill was a Grasshopper Warbler in full song, not far into a field. Even the wife was impressed with that one.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

A hot weekend!

Saturday 26th May 2012 Hot and sunny, light N/E breeze. I was working Saturday morning, and I received a message that 2 White-winged Black Terns had been found by Martyn Wilson at Stodmarsh, so when I got home I had a quick bit of lunch and a change of clothes I headed over to have a look. They are really lovely birds, so I was happy when I got there and they were showing well, feeding over the main lake the whole time I was there. I stayed a couple of hours, enjoying the birds, and attempting some photos. The sun was right in my eyes, so the photos aren't great, and my lens seems to struggle to lock-on to birds in flight. Anyway, record shots below:
Sunday 27th May 2012 Hot and Sunny, light east breeze. This morning I was at Chambers Wall by 5am, in search of migrants, but the day was just too nice. There were hardly any birds of note: 1 Common Sandpiper in Coldharbour, 2 Grey Partridges, 1 Wheatear along the embankment, 1 Marsh Harrier and a few Yellow Wagtails. At about 7:30 I drove round to Shuart, and took a walk up to the coast, where I met Tim for a chat. Again, little to see, a pair of Turtle Doves, more Yellow Wags, the usual warblers. About 9.30 I took a walk down to Brook to look for dragonflies. Loads of Hairy Dragonflies, none of which settled, and plenty of Common Blue Damselflies. Out on lillypads away from the bank were a few Red-eyed Damselflies:
A Common Buzzard flew over being harassed by a couple of crows, and a Hobby passed over as I was leaving. I had a short walk round East Blean Woods looking for butterflies, of which there were none, though a Nightingale was singing by the car park. Last stop of the morning was Thornden Woods, where at last I found a few Heath Fritillaries:
This evening I took a walk at Westbere, inspired by Marc's sighting of a Scarce Chaser recently. On the trail behind the lake, leading to the river, there were loads of Blue-tailed Damsels, and several Red-eyed Damsels, though as at Brook earlier today, the Red-eyeds were away from the bank. There were also many Hairy Dragonflies. I've seen more this year than in any other year. Along the river I came across a few Banded Demoiselles, mostly males but 1 or 2 females:
I spent a couple of hours strolling slowly along the river, finding a few Azure Damselflies, and an immature Scarce Chaser. It must have been my lucky day, because the chaser eventually landed on some nettles, within reach of the long lens.
What a fantastic day out.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Dragons n damsels

Thursday 24th May 2012
Very warm (23C), calm and sunny all day.

The day started wonderfully with Large Red Damselflies emerging this morning from the garden pond. My wife arrived home from work as I was loading the car to set off for the day, when we noticed quite a few damsels fluttering away from the pond. On closer inspection, there were 20 or more exuvia on the plant stems, with some of the newly-emerged adults still waiting for the sun to warm them.

I took a trip down to Lydden to look for Adonis Butterfly, walking up from the KWT car park. There weren't huge numbers of butterflies around, and I guess that even though it felt like a mid-summer's day, it was still only just gone mid-May. Anyway, I enjoyed a lovely walk around the reserve, seeing 4 new butterfly species for the year, and a single Hobby high over. Although I failed to see Adonis, I managed a list of Wall, Common Blue, Dingy Skipper, Orange-tip, Large White and Small Heath.

Next I paid a visit to Stodmarsh. I was hoping to see a few dragonflies, and I wasn't disappointed. The intention wasn't for a long walk birding, but more a relaxing walk along the path to the marsh hide. As soon as I got out the car I saw a 'flock' of Hobbies over the nature trail, so quite excited I set off. There were a few Large Red Damsels by the stream near the car park.

I took the path to the marsh hide, and as the path openes up there are several small pools. There were several Hairy Dragonflies, and 2 immature Broad-bodied Chasers. By now I could see the growing numbers of Hobbies above me, presumably attracted to the same part of the reserve as me because of all the insects in the air. They are impossible to count, but I wouldn't be surprised if there were over 30 birds in the area.

Whilst watching the Hobbies, I also came across a few Variable Damselflies, which were my target for the trip.

On the return walk there was a Speckled Wood flying around, my first seen this year.
Back at the car park I had a bit of a missed oportunity with a distant raptor. Only bins at hand I saw a harrier very high against the bright clear sky, which appeared to have a white rump showing i.e a ring-tail harrier. The choice I had was to run for the scope, which was in the boot of the car, carry on following the bird with the bins and hope it came closer, or try for a 'record shot' with the long lens. I chose the latter, which was a mistake because the lens failed to locate the pale raptor against the bright sky, and I never saw the bird again. A frustrating end to my trip.

The day was extended around midnight, when my wife and I went out listening for Nightingales, as part of the BTO survey night visits. I was kind of hoping not to hear any, indicating the spring-singing birds have been successful in attracting a mate. However, the BTO wish surveyors to wait for 20 minutes in any area that a spring bird was heard singing during the day-time visits. That could have made it a long night!

As it turned out, we managed 3 and a bit tetrads, with quite a few birds singing. It was a perfect night for listening for singing because it was so calm, meaning I could listen for birds from a distance without having to walk too far into woods. Not sure what it all means yet, but it was good fun, hearing a few birds from neighbouring tetrads as well as my own.

Home by 3am and a long day complete, and what a fantastic day it was!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Common Blue enjoying the sun

Wednesday 23rd May 2012
Light winds, sunny, warm (23C)

This afternoon I took a trip up to Shuart to look for Large Red Damselfly, a rare sighting in the Reculver area. Julian Perry had seen one (or more) at a small dyke and told me where to look, but despite a thorough search in sunny and calm conditions, I failed to locate any. I did manage to see Hairy Dragonfly and Blue-tailed Damselfly.

Next I took a walk around East Blean Woods in the hope of an early sighting of Heath Fritillary, but again I failed to see any. I suspect I am a week or so early for them, but it was such a nice day I thought it worth a try.

I took a look over at Brook, where I finally had a bit of success. Not only were there Hairy Dragonflies and Blue-tailed Damselflies, but my first Common Blue Damselflies of the year, and lots of them, which was really nice to see.

Back at home the Large Reds were drifting around the garden pond on the warm air.

Monday, 21 May 2012

May struggles on

Saturday 19th May 2012.
Calm, mild, overcast with a bit of sunshine.

I had to work Saturday morning, but just as I left home I had a text from Marc to say he had found a spring pumaged Curlew Sandpiper at Coldharbour, so after lunch I headed over to Chambers Wall and took a walk up to the coast. I was struck by how quiet it was, with only a few Reed and Sedge Warblers singing, and a few of the resident birds breaking into song occasionally. There were a few Yellow Wagtails, a Turtle Dove and a Cuckoo, plus a male Marsh Harrier drifting along the dykes.

After a bit of searching I eventually found the Curle Sand, tucked away in the grass. A little later it emerged and started feeding along the muddy bank, rather distantly from the sea wall.

Sunday was very different weather, with a strong north east wind blowing, a heavey showers first thing. I had a short seawatch from the towers from 6am til about 7.30, but all i managed were a few Common Terns, 1 gannet and a large auk flying east.

I drove round to Shuart and as I opened the door I could hear a Golden Oriole sing from the trees just behind me, above the horse paddock. After texting a few friends I poured a coffee and stood listening to it for a couple of minutes, then I took a walk east towards Brooksend.

At waterdrill there was a Cuckoo, a Turtle Dove and a Spotted Flycatcher, as well as a family of Long-tailed Tits, and the common warblers in song. Further east there was a male Cuckoo sat on a telegraph wire.

A pair of Grey Partridges were sitting out in a field, and there were several Red-legged Partridges scurrying along the paths.

This morning (Monday 21st May) I had a couple of hours early morning at Shuart, but it was very quiet. Again, the weather isn't helping, with a strong, cold northerly wind blowing across the marsh.