Friday, 31 August 2007

Thursday 30th August

A quick walk over to St Margarets Church, East Barming this evening saw a mixed flock of Herring and LBB gulls feeding off a newly tilled field. A Kestrel watched on from the telegraph wires along Church Lane and good numbers (30+) of Swallows and House Martins swarmed over the river at Barming Bridge.

Wednesday 29th August

More Painted Lady butterflies on East Malling Research Station today with 4 seen around a flowering hebe in the glasshouse area (adjacent to the public footpath). Interesting to hear that a Large Tortoiseshell was reported in Grove Green, Maidstone yesterday which makes my possible sighting on Saturday all the more intriguing.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Tuesday 28th August

After an eventful weekend - missing both a Hoopoe and a Wryneck on the east Kent coast and watching what could well have been a Large Tortoiseshell butterfly float away from my neighbours garden (South Street, Barming) before I could get my bins on it I was relieved to get back to work! Nothing out of the ordinary on my walk in, but a lunchtime visit to the Bullock Yard Buddleia plot on East Malling Research Station land resulted in 2x Painted Ladies, 4x Red Admiral, 4x Comma and 3 Bullfinches....much better than the zilch I got a week ago! A squashed Slow Worm was found opposite Church House, Church Lane, Barming this evening - I'd heard they'd been seen in the area but unfortuntely this was the first evidence I'd got of their prescence.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Friday 17th August

A couple of Chiffchaffs were seen flycatching off the fence by the Pea Field this morning, initially I thought I'd got another family of flycatchers! Quite a chill in the air and carpets of fallen acorns (green), brought down by the wind made it feel very autumnal. A GS Woodpecker made a brief appearance by the underpass as did a Jay, 2 birds I've not seen on the walk-in for about 4 weeks now. Only 1 Swallow was seen in the cattle field, although the House Martin numbers were still in double figures.

It ended up being a nice evening so I decided to walk back home from work, after only seeing 1 Swallow this morning I was suprised to see a swarm of them flying round the cattle on the way back...30+. Occasionally then entered the higher tier of House Martins who were flocking in similar numbers.

The Barn Owls at Teston were a no show, although I was only down the riverbank from 21:00-21:30. I met one of the Country Park wardens locking up as I arrived and he told me one had been seen earlier hunting over the marsh area by Teston Lock at 06:30 earlier in the week.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Tuesday 14th August

After the excitement of the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper at Oare on Friday, I settled back to 'normal' life. Interestingly I spoke again to the Polish farm worker who had seen the Merlin last week and he told me it was still present later in the evening of the 9th, sitting on a fence post in the apple orchard adjacent to the entrance road to the research station. In perfect conditions he was able to see it was a male, but unfortunately it had flown by the time he returned with his camera and scope!

Clearing up in my back garden in Barming at the weekend I found a Common Newt curled up in the hole of a discarded air brick, the first I've found here.

Unfortunately my camera's on the blink, hence no decent photos recently.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Thursday 9th August

A chilly start again this morning, a Chiffchaff was seen in the Oak by the Pea Field, calling and flitting from branch to branch. A pair of Bullfinches called softly to each other by the Duet tree but weren't seen. After Warren's success with Wheater and Yellow Wagtails in Hadlow I paid extra attention to the mown areas alongside the agllop and the paddocks by Kiln Barn Lane, but nothing was present. The barn that held the Little Owl is now full of hay bales, to the extent that I can no longer look in, so I'm unlikely to see the owl for sometime unless I catch it on a fence post.

A Whitethroat skulked in and out of the shrubbery by the entrance path to Ditton Quarry at lunchtime, rather subdued in comparison to their behaviour back in June! A Bullfinch called from an Elderberry bush. A second call was heard distantly and as I went to investigate I saw a juvenile Bullfinch on the path ahead of me. It's been a few years since I saw a juvenile and I forgot how strange they looked - the white rump was apparent along with black markings an white markings on the wing, with a hint of indigo blue (reminiscent of the Hawfinches I saw a couple of years ago in my garden!), but it's top half was 'boring' brown, and minus the black cap it's eye looked very prominient, as did it's beak. It was confiding enough to let me get within 10ft of it before flying off. Bullfinches seemed to be the order of the day and a further 3 were heard, all in different locations, within the quarry complex. A large hedge of Buddleia was frequented by just 5 Gatekeepers, despite being in full bloom and a large area of majoram below them - guess this just isn't the year for butterflies. 3x female Common Blue and a number of Meadow Browns were the only other butterflies seen. By the pond 6 Common Newts were found under a rock, and more shell fossils were found.

One of the Polish farm workers, an experienced birder, spoke to me after work to tell me he'd seen a Merlin fly east over site this afternoon.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Wednesday 8th August

A cold start after last night's heavy thunderstorms, but eventually the sun broke through. A female Sparrowhawk was seen to take a Song Thrush on the research centre land this afternoon, and 15+ Swallows swept east across the strawberry fields, the first I've seen on the site for a few days. House Martins are still in evidence but in much reduced numbers and no Swifts for over a week now. Some of the straw in alleys of the strawberry beds had obviously been disturbed and a trail of loose straw led towards the Badger sett - remaking their beds!

A quick look at the Buddleia trials resulted in singles of Red Admiral and Gatekeeper, disappointing as the flowers should be covered with butterflies at this time of year in in these conditions.

An unusual find was a Macaw tail feather by the recorders' hut. It was quite dirty suggesting it may have been there for some time - I've yet to hear of a report of one on site, but who knows, a Eastern Rosella was found roosting in the car park shrubbery in May!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Wednesday 3rd August

Fantastically sunny morning - 2x pairs of Bullfinches along Gallagher's Gallop and male Yellowhammers 'bread and no cheesing'. No sign of the Spotted Flycatcher family nor Little Owl. Hirundine numbers also down, with no Swifts (2 seen yesterday), 2 Swallows and 5 House Martins. Good numbers of Gatekeepers were seen along with 2x Speckled Wood.

Tuesday 2nd August

A quick walk to visit the Buddleia plots at work resulted in only 2 Red Admirals, very disappointing. The only other thing flying was a Mark IX Spitfire that did a couple passes overhead!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Monday 1st August

Walk in this morning was pretty quiet, until I reached the new underpass that Gallagher has built for the public footpath into Barming Woods. A bird flitted out of one the mature Sweet Chesnuts and quickly back in....a Spotted Flycatcher at last! Persistence paid off and eventually a count of 6 (presumably new family) were seen flitting in and out of the trees and often resting on the fence bordering the gallop. Further on there was no sign of the Little Owl, but a female Sparrowhawk harassed the large number of Collared Doves that have taken up residence on the corner of Kiln Barn Lane. A Rook was seen flying east as I walked along the entrance track to the research station - first for the year on this site!

A trip up to Oaken Woods, Barming to check for the elusive Nightjar between 21:00-22:30 was unproductive, it's frustrating not to have my earlier report confirmed. However on the path up from North Pole Road I saw 20+ Glow Worms. 3 falling stars seen clearly from the coppiced area went someway to making up for the disappointing.