Wednesday, 30 May 2007
The sun eventually made an appearance as I left work and the reported Squacco Heron at Thamesmead was making me twitch! After a bit of negotiating with Liz (I was supposed to be packing for going away tomorrow!) I set off for Thamesmead. I eventually found the scrape the Heron had been reported on and immediately saw the Squacco Heron strutting around on the scrape margin. It seemed quite happy and feeding voraciously. An absolutely fantastic bird, a lot smaller than I imagined. After about 15 minutes of watching the bird I decided to make a move back, and as I left the viewing platform I noticed a large bird gliding into the marsh area quite a distance off (in front of 2 pylons). I got my bins on it and was surprised to see it was a Purple Heron!
Friday, 25 May 2007
Thursday, 24 May 2007
A trip out to Mereworth Woods at 20:30 saw 3 Woodcock roding and again fantastic views of a pair of Nightjars from 21:00 onwards. A male performed fantastically, wing-clapping, 'engine-breaking down' noise, etc and was quite active flying above us, up and down the rides.
Wednesday, 23 May 2007
It was exceptionally quiet this morning, and then I realised why - the main A26 Tonbridge Road was closed off by the ploice. I'm not sure what had happened but it rather marred a fantasticlly bright morning. A Cuckoo was heard again on the way into work - but distantly, possibly by Maidstone Hospital. The Little Owl showed well again - as if it hadn't moved from where I saw it yesterday. The first flower on the Bee Orchids on the Research Station had opened.
I made the right decision to turn down a lift and walk home last night. Within minutes of leaving the office a pair if Bullfinches flew up from the newly mown area alongside the entrance road to the Research Station. I had sepnt the best part of January and February searching out these little blighters to add to my year site list but without success....although I seemed to be seeing them everywhere else! And here I was in late May and in the place I though I was most unlikely to see them! If I'd reported this 20 years ago the farm manager would be out with his traps - luckily strawberries aren't as appetising as Conference pears. The Cuckoo continued to call from the Sweets lane area, and the Little Owl was still swinging on the suspended light in Kiln Barn Farm barn.
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
Ditton Quarry was a picture - pre-Raphalite in places even. Usual bid species were present and butterlies were more numerous - 1x Small Copper, 3x Common Blue, 5x Brown Argus. Also the first dragonfly of the year - Hairy Dragonfly, zigzagging erratically through Damselflies - including Common Blue, Azure and Blue-tipped Damselflies.
Monday, 21 May 2007
Banded Demoiselle were the stars of the day - 8 in total along the riverbank between Barming Bridge and Teston. Birds were comparatively low in numbers, although the resident Goldfinches bounced ahead of us like puppets on strings. Whitethroat babbled away in the deep shrubbery, and the Cuckoo announced it's prescence occasionally on the West Farleigh bank. The Spotted Flycatcher haunts were still vacant - maybe I'm getting too impatient. The abscence of Kingfishers was particularly noticeable, but I had set out wanting to see that electric blue dart across the river, so they were bound to be elusive! A couple of Common Blues flitted around and a Red Admiral posed beautifully in the sun. The riverbank always looks at it's best in mid-May, the sheer lushness and exuberance of foliage, along with the fresh, fresh, greeness of everything, remains, for me, the defintion of a typical early summer's day.
A dusk visit to Oaken Wood, Barming to catch up with crepuscular creatures turned out to be rather disappointing. A single, unidentified bat relentlessly chasing unseen prey up and down one of the rides was as good as it got! No Nightjars, owls or glow worms....I am getting too impatient!
Cracking morning sunshine, but not too much bird life to go with it. A lone GS Woodpecker was a first for 3 weeks. The flight pattern of woodpeckers always amazes me, it's as if each undulation in flight is going to see them belly out on the ground until a sudden burst of energy pulls them back up into the air, almost like someone pulling themselves up for air while swimming! A male Linnet proudly sang out his territory while sitting on one of the racecourse fenceposts, his 'bloodstained' chest very apparent in the strong light. The House Martins has returned to Kiln Barn Cottages, the 'orca' head of the female pocking out cosily from her mud nest under the gable end eaves. I was lucky to see House Martins, Swallows and Swifts performing their tiered, aerial acrobatics through the sky by the railway embankment, probably the first time I've seen all 3 species in the same field of view this year.
Thursday, 17 May 2007
The nettles supporting the large population of Harlequin Ladybirds had been strimmed this morning, but checking the remaining nettles it appears that this has just displaced them - there were large numbers of Harlequin larvae outnumbering the 7-spts by about 2 to 1.
The rain continued this evening and almost made me postpone my trip to Mereworth to check out the Nightjars again. It had cleared slightly by 19:30 so I decided to go. We were rewarded with Woodcock roding on at least 6 occasions , a couple of times individuals flew directly overhead. A Willow Warbler was found in the same location as on Saturday, and a few Whitethroats bellowed away in the conifer plantation. The first Nightjar was heard churring just after 9. The Collins Guide to Bird Song describes the 'churr' as a constant 'reel' similar to a Mole cricket (if that helps!), but James described it perfectly, "the sound of a mudguard trapped against a rotating bicycle wheel!". The perfrect description! The churring was so intense that we were able to locate the bird quite easily, where upon we had excellent views (well as good as they get at dusk!) of a Nightjar using the top of a dead tree as a song perch. It flew out a few times, and onto another song perch before returning and eventually taking flight in the direction of the newly felled area. A pint of 'Whooper' in the Swan on the Green, West Peckham ended a perfect evening.
Wednesday, 16 May 2007
'Lord Nelson' (if only I get used to the time delay on digital cameras!)
The sun finally emerged as I went for a lunchtime walk round Ditton Quarry. A far off whistle from the railway alerted me to a steam engine on it's way - a Southern steam loco 'Lord Nelson' sped past towards Maidstone pulling green liveried coaches, an added bonus to the day. The number of ladybird larvae on on the stinging nettles on Kiln Barn Lane seemed to have increased two-fold since last week and closer inspection revealed, unfortunately, that some were Harlequin larvae. A further scout around the nettles in the quarry also turned up a number of Harlequin ladybird adults.
A record 8 Common Lizards were seen today, including a pregnant female. 2x Common Blue and 1x Red Admiral were the only butterflies. A number of Azure Damselflies were floating around in tandem near the pool at the east end of the quarry.
An offer of a lift to Dungeness for the Audouin's Gull at 17:15 was unexpected - but we got there 25 minutes too late. A juvenile Little Gull on the patch and dark-phase Artic Skua flying east, close into the shore didn't make up for the disappointment. With heavy hearts, and heads filled with the image of the thousands of gulls we had scanned at Dungeness, Scotney GPs, Jury's Gap and Camber Sands , we made our way back home. On the way back we stopped to watch a Barn Owl quartering precauriously close to the Rye-Lydd road. See what tomorrow brings!
Monday, 14 May 2007
The wind seemed to die down early evening and the dying sun tempted me to make a visit to Mereworth Woods, not least to catch a roding Woodcock and may be hear an early Nightjar. The descending tones of a Willow Warbler were heard as I stood waiting for dusk to fall. Then a high-pitched pip and grunt (so unique!) alerted me to a roding Woodcock, circuiting it's territory. Woodcock were seen a further 8 occasions before dusk finally fell. Then the churring began...distantly at first, with the characteristic change in tone as the Nightjar moved it's head, and then closer before falling silent. It had obviously moved but I did manage to see it. A trio of bats flickered in and out of my path as I made my way back to the car, but not before hearing a second Nightjar adjacent to a newly cleared area a little way on.
Friday, 11 May 2007
A Sparrowhawk floated over the glasshouse cold-store as I took delivery of some plants at 09:30, and a new influx of House Martins were making use of last year's nest under the eaves of the caretaker's house.
The Lesser Whitethroat was heard calling in Ditton Quarry again at lunchtime, along with all the other usual suspects. My second Sparrowhawk (female) of the day swooped down on to something on the scrub area, but noticed me and took off again almost immediately -I searched the ground but couldn't find what it was after. 7x Common Lizard in 2 locations were sluggish in the strong SW wind which also buffeted 3x Common Blue and 1x Peacock along. A Cuckoo called in the distance, an uncommon sound in the quarry, although I suspect it may have been calling from the Research Station land.
Collecting crates this afternoon I came across a Blackbird's nest that had been made, precariously, in the bottom of a crate. I could hear the alarm call of a Blackbird in the distance so retreated as soon as I had taken a photo.
Thursday, 10 May 2007
My first walk in for 10 days - how things have changed since my last walk...nature waits for no man! The bluebells had come and gone and everything was in leaf. The Sweet Chesnut coppice had greened up and blocked views of across some of the areas I watch, particularly the path beside Gallagher's Gallop. 5x ChiffChaff (one on a TV aerial!),3x Blackcap, 2xWhitethroat and 5x Yellowhammers sang. A Goldfinch and Linnet made up the duet in the 'Duet Tree'. 10 Linnets in total were seen, 1 female of a pair carried nesting material in her beak, and a male Bullfinch showed briefly before disappearing back into the undergrowth. 2x Swifts scythed their way north as I approached Kiln Barn Farm and a Swallow dipped over the hedgerow and low across the pasture. A second Swallow was seen on the wires at Kiln Barn Lane corner.
Another Swift flew South over the strawberry plots mid-morning, and 3x House Martin weretaking water from apuddle at the back of the site garages.
Wednesday, 9 May 2007
Friday, 4 May 2007
3x LBB gulls, 3x Skylarks and 2x House Martin were seen on the Research Station this afternoon.
Thursday, 3 May 2007
No walk in nor trip to the quarry at lunchtime, so had to be satisfied with a lone Swallow on the wires at the junction of Kiln Barn Lane/Sweets Lane, Ditton on my way home.
Tuesday, 1 May 2007
A fantastically sunny day, but cold in the strong SW wind at times. A visit to Ditton Quarry at lunchtime yielded my first Swift of the year flying fast NE and also the first Garden Warbler I've heard at the quarry this year. I went with the intent of looking for butterflies and had 2x Red Admiral, 1x Speckled Wood, 1x Small Copper, 2x Common Blue, 1x Brown Argus (or female Common Blue). Also an interesting and colourful moth - identity yet to be checked (see photo).
Passing through East Farleigh after work I noticed a very large, mixed flock of gulls in a tilled field between Forge Lane and Lower Road (TQ738533). A quick scan revealed at least 5x Med Gulls in fantastic summer plummage, but suspecty the number had been higher if I'd been able to get a better view of a separate flock at the bottom end of the field.
A trip down to the lakes even later after work resulted in 7x Nightingales (1 showed very well on top off brambles at north end of Abbeymeads), 3x Cetti's Warbler, numerous Whitethroat, Blackcap and Sand Martin. No sign of Hobbies, Whimbrels or Little Gulls though! 4x Hairy Dragonflies were seen (inc 2 females).
A second Swift was seen scything across New Hythe Lane, Larkfied and under the eaves of a house on my way back from the lakes. The world still spins round!