Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Macro only

For various circumstantial reasons, I found myself at Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve yesterday armed only with camera and my 180mm macro lens (aka the BigMac). No birding lens and no binoculars. It was a lovely afternoon, though, and there was no shortage of suitable subjects for the close-up stuff.

We stopped on the way at Bradbourne Park Lakes, the duckponds off Bradbourne Park Road. This is the local dumping-ground for unwanted pet ducks as well as home to some actual wild Mallards like this one. There's also a little weir in here which explains why I've sometimes heard Grey Wagtails in the vicinity.

Still not at the reserve yet - a few photos from gardens on the way. Some nice variegated Holly.

Some kinda heather, out a few months ahead of our various native species.

And we're there. The wildlife garden proved a good hunting ground, with lots of Primroses growing on the grassy banks.

And now my plant ID skills start to show their shakiness. I think this is Bugle, about to flower.

More confident of this one - it's Green Alkanet. An extremely common 'wayside' plant and looking its best right now. Why it's not called 'Blue... something-or-other' I don't know.

I think the Cowslips in the wildlife garden are planted rather than naturally occurring.

Ditto the Forget-me-nots. It took a while to find a cluster of flowers that included a pink, newly opened one.

Another uncertain ID - Honesty?

Two people were sitting on the grass right in front of the particular 'minibeast hotel' that I wanted to investigate, as it seemed to be attracting much attention from bees, so I couldn't get hear it. Then they up and left while I was elsewhere in the garden, and when I went back to that spot I found that one of them had left her handbag behind. So I was obliged to take it to the visitor centre and hand it in. I decided from there to look at the rest of the reserve.

Elderflowers in bud. The walk to the Willow hide and back was very nice, though didn't yield many photos. Blackcaps and a Willow Warbler were singing, and from Willow hide we watched as a pair of Egyptian Geese carefully shepherded 10 tiny goslings into the water at the far side (only to hastily shepherd them out again when a raucous gang of Canada Geese and Greylags crashed down in the centre of the lake).

There were a few butterflies on the wing. Here's an Orange-tip. I also found an Orange-tip egg on a Cuckoo-flower bud. And there were Speckled Woods out and about.

Back at the wildlife garden, I caught a Bee-fly in its hovering flight, about to stick its javelin schnozz into a Ground Ivy (?) flower.

A Peacock with slightly mangled hind wings but plenty of joie de vivre led me a merry dance before finally joining its shadow on the bench for a moment.

One of the ginger bees investigating holes in the minibeast hotel. I think this is Osmia rufa.

And this one... isn't, because I saw it alongside the one above and it was much smaller. I expect this is the least helpful angle for ID but does anyone have any ideas?

Heading home now, and I stopped to take a pic of these lovely crinkly opening leaves. Not even going to make a guess at the species.

And finally, one of my favourite flowers, Herb Robert, growing in a shady corner but spotlit in a stray sunbeam.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Two legs good, six legs better

This morning I went to Rainham with Shane and Graham, and we had a nice walk around on a day best described as bright and breezy. Out on the reedbed areas it was very breezy indeed and a little chilly, with little in the way of birdlife around, but in the shelter of the woods things warmed up a lot, enough for good numbers of insects to come out and show themselves. Three Curlews lifted off from in front of Purfleet hide as Howard handed us our raffle tickets and told us what was about today (not that much).

This Chiffchaff was confidently singing and preening by the cordite store, and let me get really close. Thanks, Chiffchaff.

Wrens were also in good voice, though not so willing to pose. There were also many singing Blackcaps, and crazy numbers of Cetti's Warblers (not that any of the latter wanted to give us more than a glimpse of disappearing rectrices).

My first Green-veined White of 2014. Today also brought my year-first Small White, Orange-tip and Speckled Wood, plus a couple of Peacocks.

The woods were Goldfinch city. Some were singing and apparently holding territory, others chasing around in small groups. I have read somewhere that Goldfinches are sometimes vaguely colonial when nesting, maybe that's what was going on here.

We left the shelter of the woods and headed out through the reedbeds that go past the Ken Barratt hide and on to the Tower hide. On the way, a Buzzard wafted over at a great height - nice to see, though not as nice as the Osprey that a lucky few had at 8am this morning... We also had a couple of Marsh Frogs, a smattering of Reed Buntings, lots more invisibly singing Cetti's, and then a little long-tailed thing that 'pinged' furiously as it bobbed across the path in front of us, disappearing deep among the reeds. My first Rainham Bearded Tit for a while - pity it didn't want to pose. The pools were very quiet but we did find several Pochards and a pair of Great Crested Grebes.

From the Tower hide, a preening Mute Swan was about the only close-range thing to look at on a very flooded vista. Further out, a Little Egret waded and a few Gadwalls dabbled. On the other side, the marshes were festooned with Shelducks, Teals and Shovelers.

As we continued our walk, something put up all the wildfowl on the marshes. No sign of a passing raptor - I think the culprit was a plane. Without much hope, we checked under the refugia and Shane found a shrew which scarpered before the rest of us got a look at it.

The Marshland Discovery Zone is in full Kingfisher mode, but no 'fishers showed during our (admittedly brief) visit. A Little Grebe was fishing enthusiastically in front of the window, as if to make up for lack of Kingfishers. We carried on, seeing nothing much from Purfleet hide, and just about seeing a very high-flying Peregrine by the riverside. Then it was tea and cake time.

Rather than do our usual post-lunch riverside loop, we returned to the woodland for a little while, to look for insects. There were lots of Seven-spot Ladybirds around, some of them intent on making more Seven-spot Ladybirds. Not a Harlequin in sight, which I guess is a good thing.

Cepaea nemoralis, or possibly the other one. A banded snail, anyway.

In the cordite store, at last one of the Cetti's gave itself up to my lens. The spot it chose to pose in (for a fraction of a second) was extremely shady, and it's taken some significant bullying in Photoshop to render this photo recognisable. Still, it's a Cettis'!

I was watching a Small White in flight, hoping it would settle, when another butterfly had a go at it and chased it off. That other butterfly turned out to be a lovely fresh Speckled Wood.

Kestrel, skimming the edge of the woodland. Raptor no. 3 of the day (still no Osprey though!)

A gorgeous mini-bee. I think it may be Andrena haemorrhoa but I'm really not sure, opinions welcome.

Fifty shades of beige. This Collared Dove was visiting the reedbed feeding station. From here I also heard (but didn't see) my first 2014 Reed Warbler.

A perhaps even more gorgeous little bee. I know this one (because Howard IDed it for us) - Andrena fulva or Tawny Mining-bee.

And the firsts kept coming - a Beefly, which sadly I couldn't catch in its hovering flight, but you can see (just about) its fabulous drinking-straw mouthparts as well as its dapper patterned wings.

We walked two laps of the woods, then headed home, adding a Long-tailed Tit doing its best to brighten up an overcast moment, and a young Grey Heron enjoying a sunny one.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Back in Cornwall

I was lucky enough to get the chance to spend another week in Mousehole at the end of March. Had to spend much of it doing work, but there was time for a few trips out. Highlights included first Wheatears of the year, and Manxies and unphotographably close Common Dolphins from a boat trip out of Falmouth. The photos, in no particular order...

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