Sunday, 30 June 2013

A few more insects in the sun

Sunday 30th June 2013. Very warm, sunny and dry with a light breeze. This morning started with a return to Thornden Woods where I enjoyed the Heath Fritillaries in large numbers, and very active even before 8am.
Then I took a trip over to Chambers Wall to look for damselflies. There were stacks of Red-eyeds on the floating vegetation, but they are quite twitchy as I approach. Must be nice to be a little shorter in stature and able to creep up on insects without spooking them. I found a little spot where a Red-eyed kept flying off and returning so I lay down in the grass and muddy edge of the river and waited. Eventually the damselfly I had been watching came back and I took a few photos.
A walk along the wantsum was really enjoyable and relaxing, and a little surprise was disturbing a Kingfisher from a tree along the water's edge. Not often seen in this part of Reculver in mid-summer. Later I had a walk around Shuart where i saw my first Painted Lady of the year, though it wasn't very approachable. Altogether a lovely morning, spoilt slightly by the hayfever taking hold by late morning. It became all too much so I headed home around 1pm for some lunch and a bit of time with the family.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

A new pond and early visitors

Saturday 29th June 2013 Warm, broken sunshine, winds easing. I am fortunate to have a garden with 2 ponds. One I dug out myself a few years ago, and a pond that was already in the garden when we moved in 16 years ago. The old pond was overgrown but we did have Large Red and Azure Damselflies breeding. Large Red are a favourite of mine, they don't seem in the least bit wary of people round the pond, and in past summers will regularly sit on the page of a book I'm reading, or on the end of an outstretched finger. Anyway, the old pond sprung a leak last summer and almost dried out through the winter. After much discussion the wife and I decided to have it relined (at great cost) and start again. We employed The Whistling Gardner from Eastry (and yes he did whistle while he worked), and after 2 days hard slog the pond was rebuilt and had a selection of the gardeners favourite pond plants round the shelves. The plants have been chosen to attract wildlife such as the damselflies. Today was a lovely sunny day and I was hoping to get out for a walk in the woods, but a call from work spoilt my plans. I had to spend the whole afternoon at work, and feeling dejected I took a few minutes to look at my new pond before leaving home. There to my surprise, the day after the gardner finished filling the pond were Large Red Damselflies flying round it, and even better a pair landed on the floating pond weed. Hopefully next year's generation of damselflies are on their way. Made my day.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Sunshine and dragonflies

25th June 2013 Warm, sunny and clear skies, and a gentle breeze. I was on a late morning start at work today, so with the sun shining and air temperature promising to reach high teens I took the opportunity to look for Keeled Skimmers at Hothfield Common. Although it was a chilly start to the day, on the drive over the temperature guage on the car suggested it was about 15-16C by around 10am. I took a walk over to the bogs where the skimmers are most easily observed, but I could only see a single male sitting some way from the boardwalk, sitting in the grass or making occasional brief flights. I hoped it was only because it was still relatively cool, rather than lack of insects, that meant there was little activity. I took a walk round the common and saw a few Broad-bodied Chasers buzzing around some small ponds. There were Yellowhammers, Whitethroats and Blackcaps singing away, a single Crossbill flew west, Common Buzzards flew over quite high and 2 Grey Wagtails flew west. Back at the bog there were loads of male skimmers chasing around low over the vegetation now it was warmer. They are cracking little dragonflies, really quite petite and unobtrusive. Eventually a pair flew in tandem and landed near the path in some vegetation. Nice to spend some time relaxing before work.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Evening insects

Wednesday 19th June 2013 Warm, sultry, overcast. I was keen to get out for a walk after work and have a look around the Chislet marshes for dragonflies. This time last year Marc Heath found an immature Norfolk Hawker whilst out looking for Barn Owls, so I figured just maybe they were breeding in some of the many dykes or streams around the marshes which aren't watched regularly. I had a couple of hours walking but failed to see much. There was no sunlight, and perhaps that's why very few insects were flying, though it was over 20C while I was out. All I saw were a few Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies, although it was nice to hear singing Turtle Doves, Cuckoo, Yellowhammer and Yellow Wagtails.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Heath Fritillary at last

Saturday 15th June Very windy, some showers, sunny start then mostly overcast, 13 - 16C This morning I was picked up by my old pal Patrick Giles who was on a visit to Kent for a long weekend. NOt the best weekend weather-wise, but we make the best we can. The Heath Fritillaries around east Kent are normally on the wing by now, but I haven't seen any yet this year. Patrick was keen to have a look for them, so as it was quite sunny 1st thing we headed over to Thornden Woods for a look. In my experience they are seen in Thornden several days earlier than in East Blean. After a short walk we came across 3 pristine butterflies enjoying the sun.
We failed to find any more butterflies in Thornden woods, so we went over to Reculver where we saw several damselflies, a Broad-bodied Chaser and a Small Heath. After enjoying a bit of shelter from the wind and watching a few more common insects we took a trip to Faversham to look for the Black Kite. We spent nearly 3 hours in the area where the kite had been seen earlier in the day, but we were out of luck. Birds we did see were Hobby, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard, plus a Yellowhammer. We took a walk late afternoon round Oare Marshes, but this wasn't the best decision due to the very strong winds blowing acros the marsh. There were a huge number of Swifts feeding low over the flood, and the usual selection of waders but it wasn't much fun in the gusty conditions. Probably the biggest thrill was when a Vulcan Bomber flew low over our heads. All in all a fun day, but hoping for calmer conditions tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Late evening raptors

Sunday 9th June Cold, dull and strong northerly wind again today. I spent several hours wandering local woods this afternoon just trying to keep out the biting wind. Very little to see, but some lovely bird songs, including Blackcaps, Garden WArblers, Chiffchaffs, Willow WArblers and a Nightingale gave a few short bursts late afternoon. This evening I took a trip up to the road running from Faversham to Selling, hoping to connect with the Black Kite that had been hanging around all day. By the time I arrived it was already about 7:20pm, and I didn't hold much hope of it taking flight as the air was cold and the wind still howling. When I arrived there were a couple of birders looking, but no reports for nearly an hour, but at least I knew roughly where to look. One chap left and another couple arrived, and just as most of us were thinking about giving up I picked out a large raptor very distantly low over some trees, and soon we were all enjoying the kite as it drifted back and forth over the fields, then soaring high above the tree line, before dropping down out of sight again. Other birds seen during the half our or so we were there were Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Hobby and a Kestrel. So today wasn't so dull afterall.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Butterflies of Wye and nearby woods

6th June 2013 Warm, sunny and a strong northerly breeze. Today started late morning with a short stroll around the Wye Downs looking for butterflies. The wind was howling across the top of the hills but I managed to find a couple of places which offered some shelter, though it was difficult to avoid it completely. Nevertheless, it was lovely to be out on a sunny day, and I quickly came across a few firsts for the year: Common Blue, Small Heath, Meadow Brown and several Wall butterflies. I spent a bit of time trying to take some pictures, but apart from the Small Heath, which settle down deep in the grass, the wind was blowing too much for photos. There were a few Yellowhammers calling nearby, a Buzzard flew over and a Kestrel seemed quite happy perched on a branch of a tree by the path. To escape the breeze I headed a few miles north to some woods where I spent a few hours enjoying the warmth of the sun, the songs of a few Blackcaps and one or two Garden Warblers, and loads of butterflies. Along the roadside verge where I parked there were Speckled Woods and several Orange-tips flying back and forth, and with a bit of patience I saw a nice female land for a while. Only one dragonfly today, but i didn't really expect many in the woods at this time of year, but a Hairy Dragonfly is always nice to see. There were plenty of Common Blues, Peacocks and Orange-tips on the wing, a few Dingy Skippers and I found 2 rather worn looking Duke of Burgundys; perhaps the last I will see this year. A couple of Crows were heard mobbing a Buzzard, but not many birds were seen.