Thursday, 31 July 2008

Thursday 31st July

More butterflies...well in their juvenile form! Mike Easterbrook informed that a number of Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars were feeding on some nettles on the East Malling Research site, and sure enough there they were! What they come to I'm not sue, but fingers crossed they survive what ever seems to be decimating the species to repopulate next year.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Wednesday 30th July

A fine start to the morning with more Swallows near Kiln Barn farm, Ditton and a female Sparrowhawk after starlings that were congregating near Gallagher's Gallop. The sun and warmth had returned by lunchtime so I ventured out after the Silver-washed Fritillary again. No luck today, but good numbers of Peacock and a couple of Red Admirals to boot.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Tuesday 29th July

What a difference a day makes! After last night's downpour the temperature had settled down to something fairly comfortable but a few spits of rain accompanied me as I cycled into work at 07:15. A single Swift flew overhead by Kiln Barn Farm, Ditton and it was quickly followed by a small party of House Martins zipping low over the track. All heading south! The Little Owl chose a new position, sitting on a fence post near Kiln Barn Farm having being evicted by hay bales that reach the roof of it's favourite roosting barn. A lunchtime cycle to the buddleia where the Silver-washed Fritillary was seen yesterday proved fruitless - the bush had held 2x Comma, 6x Peacock and Red Admiral yesterday, but nothing today. As I cycled back to work, I noticed a flock of Swallows had replaced the House Martins seen this morning - they dipped low over the fields, resting on Gallagher's Gallop fence as the spits of rain intensified...and the cows all lay down...just about says it all! After a short rest they were back up in the air, and off, again south and out of sight.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Monday 28th July

A fantastically warm day again, even tempting a Common Lizard into one of the strawberry punnet trays at work. We've had also sorts of damage to strawberry fruit in the past including from Linnets and Badgers, but Lizards...! However the best sighting of the day was a Silver-washed Fritillary in Oaken Wood, Barming. I'd been hoping to see one, and sure enough on a lunchtime ride looking for White Admirals, I noticed what looked like a large Comma on a buddleia. It fed for short periods before gliding around the clearing and occasionally chasing a Brown Hawker. Unfortunately it favored the highest, most obscure racemes so didn't pose particularly well for any photos (but notice the underside of a Comma alongside on the left , didn't notice it until looked at the pics on the PC!). Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday 25th July

The hot weather continued and drew me out butterfly hunting again. I cycled around Oaken Wood, Barming during my lunch hour and was pleased to find my first Painted Lady of the year (well for Kent anyway) feeding on buddleia alongside a Red Admiral and 3x Peacocks. Good numbers of Gatekeepers were on the wing and a Holly Blue was seen, but no White Admirals today. Dragonflies were also in good numbers, predominantly Brown Hawkers.
I stopped off to check at the nest near Palmer's Rough to see if I couldn't spot a parent going into feed the chicks - no cativity after 10 minutes so I checked the nest. Empty! All the chicks had gone, obviously too early to fledge but most probably predated. Guess I'll never know what they were.
Later Adrian described a Little Grebe chick he'd found bedraggled on the stream near Bradbourne House, East Malling. Eventually he decided to move it back up to the main lake as it was a good distance, and waterfall, away from there. Hopefully it'll fair better than the nestlings.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Thursday 24th July

Is this female Ruddy Darter? Seen on East malling Research Station site today with good numbers of butterflies including Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large White and Skipper sp.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Monday 21st July

At last the sun seemed settled and it was relatively warm as I cycled into work from Barmiong to East Malling. I took a slightly different route, skirting the edge of Oaken Wood, Barming on a track sandwiched bettween the wood and Gallagher's Gallop. There were a number of Buddleia in fill bloom, and this had worked wonders in attracting butterflies. A couple of Peacocks were my first here for the year, a Gatekeeper, Red Admiral and Large White added to the mix, but best of all was another White Admiral - a new location in the wood (TQ723555) the fourth location this species has been seen in these woods in last 2 weeks. The Little Owl sat atop the barn reliably as ever.

Sunday 20th July

A late trip to Tonbridge, to see if the Grasshopper Warbler was around. It was, along with a second bird, but the reeling was somewhat drowned out by a haymaking in adjacent fields. A couple of Reed Buntings, Grey Wagtails and Grey Herons were all added to the list, as were 5x Turtle Doves sitting on the roof of the grain store, Cuckoo Lane, just outside Hadlow on the way to Tonbridge.

Saturday 19th July

My wife had worked a night on Friday so I was looking after the kids on Saturday morning. After visiting B&Q I decided to make a spotaneous detour to Dene Park, Tonbridge way spurred on by Mike Easterbrooks report of various butterflies there yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, as with all spontaneous events, it went wrong. We got absolutely soaked while scanning okas for Purple Hairstreaks and Emperors. Eventually the sun came out, and I got excited and chased a suspect Silver-washed Fritillary which turned out be a Comma, but at least the Purple Hairstreaks put in an appearance - they were everywhere!

The afternoon brightened up wonderfully and we spent the afternoon enjoying the village fete held in the Parish Fields, Church Lane, Barming - I was intrigued by the 'Human Fruit machine' (photos to follow!), but impressed to see an adult Med Gull float over towards West Farleigh. Later a small flock of gulls was seen on the bank of the River Medway below West Farleigh church following a tractor that was hay-making - too far to see if the Med was amongst them.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Friday 18th July

I wouldn't normally go anywhere a nest while it was occupied, but one of the entomologists from work called this morning to say she'd happened upon a what was a presumed Skylark's nest in Palmers Rough (just east of Kiln Barn Lane, Ditton), East Malling Research station site as she did some insect sweeps. However there is some doubt if they are Skylarks, maybe possibly Yellowhammers? Any suggestions? She was worried that with tractors and combine harvesters being in action not too far away the nest would be destroyed. We visited the site after work and after a little bit of confusion and searching around she relocated the nest. We dutifully marked the position with bamboo canes so these little blighters should get the best chance they can!

Thursday 17th July

On possibly the worst day of the week in tersm of weather I snatched the opportunity to go off patch and down to New Hythe to see if any Purple Hairstreaks were barving the wind anad rain. With some directions from Steve Nunn, Mike Easterbrook and managed flitting glimpses of 3 (or maybe just the same single) Purple Hairstreak high up in a Ash tree at the south end of Abbeymeads. On the way back to the car Mike pointed out a couple of plants of White Mullein, but no camera with me to record the fact!

After the early evening rain I was still itching to get out, and taking a major detour on my way to East Malling for a party, I found myself walking along the River Medway east from Tonbridge. I'd be prompted by Carol Goulden's report of a Grasshopper Warbler near a lock east of the town. I arrived late, 20:30 to be precise, and having ticked off a Kingfisher I loitered, listening for the distinctive reeling that would give my quarry away. Nothing. I noticed a Barn Owl box acros the river, and as the light died hoped to get a glimpse of a quartering owl. Nothing. About to give up, I suddenly heard a light, faint reel. Moving across the lock, it intensified and very soon I'd located it's position. There it was, a Grasshopper Warbler, gap wide open reeling away - I though they were a hard species to spot! It took flight after a minute or so and perched across the stem of a Hogweed, pausing momentarily before go full blast again. Too dark for photos, but an excuse to appreciate this fantastic little bird.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Wednesday 16th July

Good numbers of butterflies were seen on the wing on the Research Station land, East Malling this afternoon. Prompted by a report of a couple of Small Tortoishells on site from Mike Easterbrook, I went to hunt them down at lunchtime. Sure enough I managed to find a couple of pristine examples. I've now got a double figure count for this species for the year, from all around the county admittedly, but an vast improvement on last years single record! Are they making a comeback??? Other butterflies encountered included 3x Comma, 2x Speckled Wood, 1x Holly Blue, 12x Gatekeepers and numerous ragged looking Meadow Browns and Whites.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Monday 14th July

I cycled into work this morning via Oaken Wood, Barming and was pleased to see a few butterflies in flight so early in the morning -1x Holly Blue and 2x White Admiral (at the location reported last week). The White Admirals were staying quite high up and I managed a shot of one through the leaf - maybe Mike Easterbrook could come up with a book of silhouettes of tree top-loving butterflies, it would take some of the strain out of identifying the hairstreaks and admirals and emperors at this time of the year! A quick scan of the cattle shed at Kiln Barn Farm showed up one the Little Owls looking rather dumpy as they do in silhouette. Not a bad start to the day.
Later, after work I visted West Farleigh and got a few glimpses of one of the Barn Owls in flight across the meadows by the church at around 21:00. A couple of Little Owls also flitted around. Three Glow-worms were seen in Oaken Wood as the sun finally died.

Sunday 13th July

I got up early today, but not early enough to catch up with the KOS walk at Cliffe. 09:00 saw me rushing along the track to the Black Barn to catch up with Gordon Allison et al. I'd already missed a Spotted Redshank and Ruff by the time I'd arrived, but saw the Knot with a little bit of help and a rather tame looking Water Vole alongside the 1st mound. The report of the rest of the walk appears elsewhere, suffice to say I was pleased to find an early Whinchat (sorry for poor photo) and good numbers of Marbled White. A Small Tortoiseshell landed on the back of Gordon Allison's pickup as he parked up by Cliffe Church, my second in as many days! Any clues on ID of the dragonfly anyone?

The kids were pretty bored later in the afternoon, as Sunday afternoons can tend to be a 4 and 18-month old, so I decided to play 'turn-over everything in the garden to see what lies beneath'. To my suprise we found a newt and Slow Worm (my first for the garden). I think we'll be playing this game again!

Saturday 12th July

A trip down to the coast to visit my wife's aged grandmother didn't present too many wildlife opportunities, but a lunch with her at Lathe Farm, Donkey Street, Romney Marsh showed up a Red Admiral and even better a fresh Small Tortoiseshell. Later, a walk down the zig-zag path to Lower Leas, Folkestone was greeted by a summer-plummaged Med Gull flying along the beach, you don't really need to look for them in the neck of the woods!

Monday, 14 July 2008

Friday 11th July

News came through today of a couple of unusual species for the Research Station site in East Malling. A Ring-necked Parakeet had been seen on two dates recently in the apple orchard to the north of the footpath from the main building to Kiln Barn Road; and a Barn Owl was seen in flight over Ditton Rough from Kiln Barn Road on Wednesday.

I managed an evening stroll out with my two lads through the orchards by South Street, Barming this evening. The sky was tiered with hirundines; Swifts high overhead, Swallows sweeping around the apple trees and House Martins skimming along the River Medway below us. East Farleigh looked so picturesque nestled in the valley.

Thursday 10th July

A call at lunchtime from Ross had me rushing down to Bradbourne House, East Malling. While on one of his entomological wanders he'd managed to locate a pair of Tawny Owls roosting in the uppermost branches of one of the trees down there. I managed a couple of records shots before leaving it enjoy the rest of it's afternoon snooze.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Monday 7th July

Heavy rain and thunderstorms were the order of the day. Large numbers of Swifts were seen racing ahead of the storm clouds in Barming. Lots of birds in the garden seemed agitated and I clocked up a count of 13 species in 20 minutes as the storm brewed. Unfortunately this included a Jay with Blackbird nestling in beak, the third to be predated by a jay in my garden this year.

Saturday 5th May

2x White Admirals seen in Oaken Woods, Barming along with 3x Red Admiral and a Comma. White Admirals along the ride from the water tower towards Luckhurst farm (approx TQ715555).

Late news from Friday: No sign or sound of Nightjars in either Oaken Wood or deserted Orchard south of Cottenham Close, East Malling.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Friday 4th July

A lunchtime sortie turned up one of the reported White Admirals on the edge of Barming Woods, from the footpath by Luckhurst Farm (TQ713557). My first seen in these woods. It made up for having to endure the company of Ross, who only yesterday had misinterpreted my message and gone to Mereworth Woods instead of Barming, but still managed to locate a White Admiral...sickening! Mike Easterbrook provided better, and more informed company and I'm also grateful to Mike Solomon who interrupted one of his erratic training runs to confirm what he'd seen and pass the message on.

A couple of Bullfinches flew across our path and Chiffchaffs called from the coppiced plantations.

Wednesday 2nd July

Another Hobby flying low over the glasshouse area on the East Malling Research site (viewable from the public footpath) as I left work at 18:00.

Yellowhammers seem to be out in force at the moment. A walk from East Malling church, across the research centre land by the public footpath to Kiln Barn Road or Hermitage Lane is guaranteed to throw up at least a couple of males singing from the top of the Italian Alder windbreaks. Pairs of Linnets and Goldfinches also occupy these windbreaks and can often be seen perched on the wire fence at the base of the trees. Skylarks are also in full voice, with the set aside areas near the cereal and linseed plots between Kiln Barn Lane and Hermitage Lane (also viewable from the public footpaths) being particulary reliable.

Sparrowhawks are also daily sightings, the one on East Malling Research site seems to favour the area just east of the main buidings often flying down from one of the windbreaks, low across the turfed area trying to pick of unsuspecting finches and sparrows that feed by the buildings. In Barming one is often seen flapping and gliding at the top of Gallagher's Gallop, near the eastern edge of Oaken Wood. Along with the Kestrels, occasional Hobby, Little and Barn Owls, and odd sighting of Buzzard or Red Kite the area is becoming raptor rich!

Tuesday 1st July

Swifts, Swallows and House Martins everywhere over the East Malling Research site today - practically swarming over one wheat field near Newgates.

A walk down the River Medway east of Barming Bridge towards East Farleigh turned up a pair of Turtle Doves gently purring in the trees bordering the railway line. There was no sign of the Spotted Flycatchers that had frequented this stretch of the river in previous years. Just before dark I ventured up to Oaken Wood, Barming in the hope of catching the sound of a Nightjar, but after an hour's walk around suitable coppice I failed to hear or see any....another year without them in Barming! I did see 3x Glow Worms, at least they're still around!