Monday, 18 August 2008

Saturday 16th August

Prompted by Simon's reports from the River Medway (Mote Park) I decided to pay a long overdue visit to the river, it is only after all only 5 minutes from home! As reported a Spotted Flycatcher was seen on the West Farleigh bank, below the church. It sallied around and preened quite happily, allowing some distant shots to be taken. A couple Green Woodpeckers yaffled from the oaks in the same area and a Little Owl was seen briefly in flight. On the return leg to Barming Bridge a charm of 30+ Goldfinches flew in a wave across the river to the old orchard where a party of 5 Bullfinches, including one juvenile, remainined largely veiled by the heavily lain boughs of apple trees. A suprise find was a Turtle Dove, sitting resolutely atop a hawthorn tree, undetered by a the GS Woodpecker scaling the trunk below it.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Friday 15th August

After a trip out of the county up to Thamesmead last night to see the White-winged Black Tern (which showed well, along with a Ring-necked Parakeet by the driving range and 80+ Swifts congregating over the M25/M2 junction on my return trip), I settled back into rustic Barming! A cycle around Oaken Wood at lunchtime produced very little in the way of birds and no calls or sight of Crossbills (although I've just seen Simon had12 in Mote Park today). I concentrated on the dragonflies and butterflies instead, and was pleased to see another Painted Lady, in the same location I'd seen one last week, but definitely a different individual has it had undamaged wings. A couple of Red Admirals and up to 10 Peacocks kept it company. An Emperor dragonfly majestically zoomed along the coppice with Southern and Migrant Hawker and Common Darter also putting in an appearance.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Wednesday 13th July

I managing to get ahead of the blustery showers this morning as I cycled alongside Oaken Wood, Barming on my way to work. Birds have rather taken a back seat over the last few weeks so it was nice to see a couple of calling Chiffchaffs mixed in a flock of Long-tailed Tits and Blue Tits. A lone Willow Warbler (aren't they yellow!) flicked around the low coppice and a small flock of Goldfinches 'tinkled' overhead. I then heard a loud bisyllabic 'jip-jip' call from the top of one of the Oaks opposite the water tower, a bit reminiscent of Chaffinch but louder and slightly harsher and not dissimilar to the calls I'd heard in Hemsted Forest at the weekend. A second bird called the same call from a neighbouring Oak a few seconds later.......Crossbills??!! I strained to see where the call was coming from and scanned the tree tops but to no avail. The call was heard again about a minute later from deeper in the wood, but then nothing. Maybe with all this news of Crossbills in Kent and my recent sightings of them in Hemsted and reports from New Hythe my mind was racing ahead...I'll have to put this down to one (or two) that got away....but I'll be checking!

A couple of fresh Red Admirals added interest to the rest of the journey, and the number of Speckled Woods seem to have increased since last week, but with Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers down to singles. A Migrant Hawker and Common Darter basked on the coppice - can't believe I'd use the term bask looking out the window now at the heavy rain!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sunday 10th August

Am I giving of some butterfly attracting pheromone (don't even bother commenting Ross)?! Another Small Tortoishell, rather fragile and worn was seen as I trotted out with my eldest this afternoon. In the saluborious location of St. Margaret's Church car park, Barming he played on the heaped up roadstone with his tractor, only to point out a butterfly (as he has always been told!) basking on a lump of tarmac - this is now my 15th record for the year, and another new location. There are swathes of nettles in this area so hopefully it's carried out it's life purpose and laid some eggs to bolster the population for next year.

Saturday 9th August

With my parents down and keen to spend some time with the kids and my wife at work, I made my escape, and went off patch, inland, to follow up an earlier report of a flock of 25+ Crossbills at Hemsted Forest, nr Sissinghurst. The sky was still blue when I arrived with no sign of the impending rain, and it was nice to see good numbers of Brimstone, Peacocks and singles of Large Skipper and Common Blue. Migrant Hawkers dominated the dragonfly count. After an hour, and with strained neck, I was glad to I see a flock of 20+ Crossbills fly high across one of the tracks. Scanning the tree tops with the scope I located 3 fine examples, a male and 2x juveniles. They moved on quickly flying into the sun and lost to sight. Buoyed up by this and the continiuing good weather I cut cross-country to Dungeness. The ARC pit was my first port of call, and from the viewing ramp saw a juvenile Wood Sandpiper looking rather elegant alongside it's rather dumpy counsin, Common Sandpiper. A couple of Little Stints scurried around the feet of the static Lapwings and Snipe. A trip to the fishing boats in the hope of seeing the adult (?) Yellow-legged Gull proved to be a no-show, although 3x Artic Skuas gave reasonable views as they harassed the Common Terns in the bay. Large flocks of Swifts flew at head height along the beach, battling the SW wind that eventually brought in the heavy rain forecast. Time to go home!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Thursday 7th August

Ross had come up with the goods again. A phone call in the afternoon informed me he had seen a Common Sandpiper strolling around the edge of Bradbourne House lake, East Malling at lunchtime. I made my way down there, and sure enough, there it easy as that! Only the second record of this species at this location (that we know of). 50+ Canada Geese sat in the shade of Plane trees and a adult Little Grebe bobbed along on the lake.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Monday 4th August

All fairly quiet on the East Malling Research Station in terms of birds at the moment - apart from the occasional honks of the resident flock of Greylags and the distant whisps of Skylark and Yellowhammer song. I decided to check the Buddleia plot on site again in the hope of turning up some butterflies. Apart from a crisp, but flighty, Red Admiral there was nothing out of the ordinary in terms of butterflies. However I was buzzed a couple of times by this hornet-sized hoverfly. It eventually landed to feed on some elderflower. Volucella zonaria? Is that familiar Ross or Greenie? A bloody big hoverfly of some sort!

The wind dropped later in the afternoon and as soon as I got home from work I grabbed my camera and bins (once bitten and all that!) and headed of to the orchard off South Street, Barming to see if I couldn't relocate the Spotted Flycatcher that had delighted me with it's twisting sallies on Sunday. No luck! Feeling the need to photograph something I made my way upriver, and slightly off patch, to Teston/West Farleigh. On Saturday I'd managed to confirm the Barn Owls in this area had young, and tonight I managed to see the whole family goup sitting out on a branch in front of the nest box - 2 adults and 3 young. Used to homing in on the smallest of rodents in the dark, my fumbling 6ft bulk presented no challenge, so as I desperately fumbled for my camera they rapidly took flight into the surronding oaks. One of the adults was decent enough to return briefly for this rather shaky shot in the dying light.

So no flycather, but a decent view of 5x Barn Owls, and all topped off with another fantastic 'Teston Sunset'.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Sunday 3rd August

A brief respite in in the drizzle gave me the oppurtunity to take a wander through the apple orchard between South Street, Barming and Rectory Lane, East Farleigh. I was with my father and didn't expect to see anything different from normal. A pair of Sparrowhawks were drifting high, a pair of Swallows zoomed low and good numbers of House Martins busily fed over the river near Barming Bridge. However the highlight of the walk was my first Spotted Flycatcher of the year on this patch. I'd been watching this particular piece of land adjacent to the orchards for a number of months now - everything about it looked like right for a flycatcher- dead spindly branches, ivy-clad shrubs and concrete pill-boxes, slightly damp ground so obviously lots of flies, but nothing had been seen...until the day I went out for a non-birding walk without the camera! I'll revisit the site and see if I can't get some pics.

Saturday 2nd August

Over 60 Swifts swarmed over the cereal fields adjoining Hall Place Farm, Barming this evening - quite a distraction as I drove along the A26 Tonbridge Road towards Teston. Unfortunately, further on, a dead adult Badger was seen near South Lodge Corner, Teston, the second victim of this busy road in as many months. I continued over Teston Bridge to West Farleigh and after a short walk from the church located 4x Barn Owls, 2x adults and 2x young, screeching from an Oak tree near the River Medway. A mackerel sky warned they'd be trouble ahead on the weather front!