Saturday, 29 August 2009

Mallards at Stoke Lake.

Mallard is the most commonest duck and therefore often not observed that closely especially when there is plenty of other avian species to watch. After my encounter with the Mute Swans at Stoke Lake, with little else happening, I decided to stop at the picnic bench and partake of a little snack. Well with a sandwich in one hand and the camera close to hand it didn't take long before the local inhabitants crossed the water to check out if I had any 'handouts'. At this time of year the Mallards are in their 'eclipse' plumage and whilst it might not be that colourful I decided to take a few snaps.

A bit of preening to keep the feathers in good order.
Searching for the odd morsel that may have been missed by his friends.
And finally a couple of portraits.

The only other sightings as another band of rain drifted through were 2 Great Crested Grebes, Coot, Moorhen, Carrion Crow and a brief visit by 2 Black-headed Gulls. FAB

Friday, 28 August 2009

Mute Swans - Stoke Lake

On Wednesday the weather forecast was showers and strong winds and whilst this would not be ideal for wildlife watching I took a spin over to Stoke Lake to blow the cobwebs away! As expected there was very little avian activity as I followed the tow path and then crossed the boardwalk heading towards the lake. I did see Common Blue Damselflies and Common Darter battling the strong breeze at the waters edge but rarely perching for a rest or indeed a photocall.
At the top end of the lake there were masses of Canada Geese and as I paused a family group of Mute Swans drifted over to investgate this intruder.

One of the parents headed straight for me and gave me the once over and .......
satisfied that I presented no threat adopted the classis "S" shape pose.
The cygnets were also very much at ease as they drifted around looking for something tasty to eat.

And finally did a bit of preening.
The next inquisitors were a party of Mallards but I'll leave them for another post. FAB.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Back to "The Glade" - Darters &...

Last weekend Anita and I made a return visit to 'The Glade' within Hill House Wood at Bookham Common. It was fairly breezy and very little avian life was showing although Nuthatches were calling all over the place. Butterflies were also thin on the ground with just brief sightings of a very tatty Silver-washed Fritillary, Speckled Wood and a Gatekeeper. However there were a few Darters around and using the 70-300 lens I found what I believe is a female Common Darter.

Tatty Silver-washed Fritillary
Speckled Wood
A Ruddy Darter

Friday, 21 August 2009

Oare Marshes - A day alone!

Last weekend I decided that I needed some time to myself and headed to one of my favourite locations, Oare Marshes, on the north Kent coast. When I started out on the two hour drive the weather looked promising but the closer I got to my destination the clouds thickened and there was the hint of rain in the air (not going to be good for taking pics!). This long distance view over the fields showed a lot of activity on The Swale with many sailing vessels on the water and explained why there was no space in the very small car park. A view of the East Flood taken from the car before I located the last available roadside space to park the car. This is the place to view waders resting around the shallow pool and on the low islands at high tide.
Most of the waders, Black-tailed Godwits (too many to count), Redshanks, Golden Plovers and Lapwings had decided on this day to stay well away from the road and the poor light made it difficult to get any decent pics. However there was one Ruff feeding fairly close by.
Then a single Lapwing walked past.
It then flew up into the air uttering it's unmistakable 'peewit...peewit' call as it joined its friends.
The Golden Plovers showing their black bellies were all grouped together and I managed this record shot by digi-scoping.
My previous post shows the effect on the waders when the cows walked through the pool. During the mahem that ensued I saw 10 Avocet take flight but they failed to re-land on the flood. Other sightings included a single Greenshank, Cormorants, Grey Heron, Mute Swans, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Teal, Coot, Moorhen and Shovellers.
From the hide I carefully searched through the 100's of Black-tailed Godwits and eventually located a single Dunlin and then a Curlew Sandpiper (another first for 2009). In the far distance a Marsh Harrier was drifting over Mocketts Hill on the other side of The Swale. Leaving the hide my attention turned to a small flutter, a Skipper, that eventually stayed still long enough for this shot.
A moment later my peripheral vision caught sight of a blue shape perched on a post in a ditch near the path and as I turned around a Kingfisher took flight, obviously aware of my presence, and headed towards the sluice gates. A few moments later it returned and flashed past me in the opposite direction and disappeared. (One day I'll get a photo!) Below is the view up into Faversham Creek with the tide receding.
From the creek I looked back onto the flood pool and whilst battling the strong wind I located these few Black-tailed Godwits sleeping and feeding.
While also watching 2 Little Grebes constantly diving I just caught a hint of the sounds of Bearded Tits calling as they moved through the reeds but never showing themselves. This Black-headed Gull was searching the seaweed for a meal as the tide continued to turn exposing larger expanses of mud.
Using the scope I was able to locate a few Common Plovers, Oystercatchers and a single Whimbrel easily distinguished from a Curlew by its smaller size, striped head markings and its shorter decurved bill. A small group of young Pied Wagtails also moved past searching for flies.
Heading west towards Dan's Dock there were at least a dozen Little Egrets on the West Flood plus lots more Coot and then another distant Marsh Harrier floating over the reed bed. Single House Martin and Swallow flew westwards. Various 'flutters' (Painted Lady, Gatekeeper & Common Blue) appeared and disappeared, blown about by the strengthening wind. My attention then turned to these other residents. First a male Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum) and then....
this female Common Darter perched on the pathway just long enough for a few quick shots.
A few minutes later I took this pic and the realised that it was a Ruddy Darter (Sympetrum sanguineum), distinguished from a Common Darter by the lack of pale panel markings on the thorax, the noticeable constriction of the abdomen around S4 plus two black marks on S8 & S9.
This is the view towards Uplees Copse from Dans Dock with the sound of a Skylark somewhere in the sky above me.

One day I will walk the full circuit but on this occasion I decided to return to the car and head home after a very enjoyable and productive few hours in the company of wildlife that keeps me sane. FAB

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Mobile Bird Scarers.

During a recent visit to Oare Marshes I witnessed these cows crossing the East Flood and the resulting effect on the various waders that were quietly feeding or sleeping until their space was invaded!

I will post my other sightings and a few pics when I can find some time away from other issues that are needing my attention at this time. FAB

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Waiting in the rain!

Carrion Crow patiently waiting for something and captured using the car as a hide......yes it was raining again as I left work tonight!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Jersey - Final Post.

This is the final post of our recent trip to Jersey (Channel Islands) and here are a few more views of the northern coast. [Please click any image in this post to enlarge].
I couldn't resist including one of the many Herring Gulls that patrolled the cliffs during our various walks along the coastal pathways.
This fellow was not very co-operative but I managed a record shot of this Green Hairstreak.
This Mallard family was sighted during a gentle stroll to one of the reservoirs.
Most days we took a circular walk around the roads close to our hotel and one morning the '" call of a Common Buzzard prompted me to look up and catch this individual flying overhead.
This was the closest we got to seeing a Puffin.
A "Maid of the Meadows, a true Jersey cow.
A Magpie keeping the insect numbers down - something I don't recall seeing before.
Dammed shame I can't move very far!
This was the only cockeral that didn't wake us up in the mornings!
Foxgloves were abundant alongside the coastal paths. The lilies were a present to Anita from Charlie (a daffodil grower friend) who we visited and were brought home in a large box packed in one the cases together with some Jersey spuds.
Thank you Jersey for a pleasant break away from work. Maybe we won't leave it another 30 years before returning.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Pollen Providers during July

Throughout July there have been many colourful blooms in our garden but also a good supply of pollen - food for the bees, butterflies etc.

Small patch of Helenium (taken earlier in July) that now needs dead heading to promote some secondary blooms & a good location for capturing the occassional butterfly that perches (see previous posts). Hibiscus syriacus, a deciduous shrub that prefers full sun on well drained soil but we have heavy 'London' clay. Over the 10 - 20 years since they were first planted they have become overshadowed by other trees and are not producing quite the volume of blooms as in the past.
Top L - H. Hamabo; Top R - H. Red Heart;
Bottom L & R - A seedling of H. Red Heart that as usual reverted to produce mauve-blue flowers.

Clematis (possibly Polish Spirit?) now climbing high into the Prunus & Hawthorn.

Despite the problem of the Lily Beetle I still enjoy growing Liliums. Many are grown in pots but a couple of clumps of Lilium Golden Splendour, Casa Blanca, Lady Alice & the turkscap Black Beauty are now performing well directly planted in the garden but all need supporting as they grow quite tall. (L. Golden Splendour now reaches over 6 feet!)
Top L - L. Casa Blanca; Top R - L. Black Beauty

More Liliums
Top L - L.Calgary; Bottom L - L.Lady Alice; Bottom R - L.Golden Splendor

One of many bees enjoying the Echinops.
Dahlia with plenty of pollen for a passer by.
Now all we need is some continuous sunshine for more blooms to appear and provide food for the bees, butterflies and bugs that might pay us a visit.


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