Thursday, 22 March 2018

Bluethroat at Dungeness.

Until last year, when Paul and I saw the Bluethroat in Lincolnshire, this bird was on my list of birds that I would really love to see. So when 2 were found at Dungeness last weekend, which included a mature male with a beautiful blue chest, I was keen to go and see if I could get my 2nd sighting of this species. The Lincolnshire bird had performed so well I didn't think I could get better pictures, but I was more than happy just to watch and admire them this time. As it happened by Tuesday there was only one bird remaining, but at least it was the mature male. The bird was very active and on view most of the time we were there, although it generally kept low in a ditch, which didn't help with the photography. Later it did come up to feed on the opposite bank, but it was some distance away at this point. however, the bird certainly was well worth watching through the binoculars. As it happened, the following day it did perform for some cameras very well indeed, but I was still very happy to see it and spend some time watching this rarity. There was also a side show of several stunning Firecrests to watch all the time we were there as well as a stunning male Wheatear.

The Lincolnshire Bluethroat from 2017.

Bluethroat at Dungeness.

On the walk to the bird we did come across a Fox that was laying in the sunshine. Unfortunately, when it got up to walk away it was very badly injured with one front leg being totally useless. It had terrible trouble walking, and it seemed to have a de-formed back due to this, so I assume it has been injured for some time.

Fox soaking up the sun.

Fox with injued front right leg and a curved spine.

Following this we headed to the beach hoping to find the Glaucus Gull that has been regular there for the past couple of months. It was not in its usual spot when we arrived, but just as we were about to give up I suddenly spotted it in the small Gull flock. It certainly did stand out as it was considerably larger than all the other Gulls.

Glaucus Gull.

Glaucus Gull ready for take off.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Fulmar Boots!!

With a half decent tide running and the slim chance of an early Wheatear I decided to go and have a look for the Purple Sandpipers before they fly North again. However, the tide wasn't quite right still so it was then a stroll hoping for the non-existent Wheatear. It wasn't long before I gave that up as a lost cause. I then decided to see if I could have a bit more luck with the Fulmar, which I had recently failed with. It wasn't long before I saw 4 in flight, although to start with they stayed some distance away. Eventually though I had some extremely close fly-bys with the camera struggling to focus quick enough. These superb flyers were soon giving me an exhibition in flying skills and eventually they started to pass at a distance where I could get some shots off. It's always a case of shoot and hope, but I ended up with many shots worth keeping and only a few deletes. In the sea below me a Harbour Porpoise was performing close to the shore, however, where I was it was much too far away to photograph.

Northern Fulmar.

The sheen on the wings varied from the way the light hit them.

A different type of shot with the sea sparkling in the distance.

Back at where I had parked the car a Grey Squirrel was enjoying going through the rubbish bin looking for any tasty morsels.

A Grey Squirrel that knows its place!!

Later in the day a walk in local woodland produced a Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral. It was also great to hear a Chiffchaff calling which made it really feel like Spring. That may well change over the weekend though with more snow promised!!

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Taste of the Mediterranean.

No, not Sangria or Sardines grilled on the beach, but the wonderful Mediterranean Gull, one of our most handsome regular gulls. David and I ventured down to Rye Harbour in the hope of seeing a few of these beauties at close range. It wasn't long before we saw and heard a few of them as they mixed in with the much more numerous Black-headed Gulls. It didn't look as though we were going to get any close views as the Black-headed Gulls had control of the nearest island, but eventually a very smart Mediterranean Gull landed on the end of the island and we both managed to get a few shots. With another landing next to the first one we even saw a little bit of courtship. Eventually we headed round the rest of the reserve hoping for an early Wheatear, but no luck on that front. The weather at this point felt far from the Mediterranean with a cool wind blowing, and it felt freezing. We did see a female Sparrowhawk taking apart some prey that it had caught, and also on the way to Rye we did stop off and see a female Hawfinch.

Mediterranean Gull giving it some!!

A little courtship.

Mediterranean Gull showing off his good looks.

The following day with much brighter weather forecast we headed to the North Kent marshes. Although we didn't get to see or photograph several targets we did still have a good day photographing some of the common waders from the car. We also saw many waders at another stop on the coast. Certainly the Redshank performed very well for us as well as some boxing Brown Hares. Several distant Marsh Harriers were also seen.



Lapwing takeoff.

Oystercatcher and Redshank.

Red-legged Partridge.



Monday, 12 March 2018

4 Species In One Day.

On Saturday I had another long scrub clearance session on the patch. Whilst I was working I came across 3 Wall Brown larva. As it was so mild I decided that once I had finished the clearance I would spend 10-15 minutes to see how many in the vicinity I could locate. The milder weather certainly had brought the larva out in force and in quite a small area I had my highest ever count of 20. This was the 2nd time this week that I had beaten the highest count, so on Sunday, with unexpected warm weather I headed back for a more detailed count and although several of the larva that I had found Saturday were hiding, I once again had my highest count, this time seeing 34. This is a figure I never thought would have been possible of the fast declining butterfly. Hopefully many of these will avoid predation and make it a good 1st brood in the next few weeks. 

As well as all those Wall larva I also found a single Speckled Wood larva as well as seeing both a Brimstone and Peacock on the wing. So of the 4 species of butterfly seen on the day 2 of them were larva, so maybe not really 4 species!!

Today, after a very wet morning I had a very short visit and only found a few larva. In these conditions they are quite visible as the water droplets can get stuck in their body hairs, so they probably hide deep in the grass to avoid predation.

Speckled Wood larva.

Wall Brown larva (near fully grown).

Wall Brown after a very wet morning.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Butterflies Are Go!!

With another surprisingly sunny day I headed off to local woodland to see if I could find any signs of butterflies or early stages. With a pretty strong breeze though it seemed that the chances of an adult butterfly was remote. However, towards the end of the walk a Red Admiral was suddenly flying around me, eventually landing on the ground nearby. It is quite unusual for my first butterfly to be as late as the 8th March. Most years I would have seen one in January, or at worse February. 

Red Admiral.

I also had a good search on the Oaks hoping to find Purple Hairstreak eggs. I was really pleased to find one on one of the Oak buds.

Purple Hairstreak egg.

I also saw a couple of Woodcock and a Buzzard carrying nesting material. On a later walk on the patch 3 Brown Hares were a good sight as these animals have not been seen as frequently in the past 2 years as the Vineyard has become busier. A large flock also of Fieldfare over the vineyard and Mediterranean Gulls also seen.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Lepidoptera Season Approaches.

Yesterday I had a fellow enthusiast that wanted to see the Wall Brown larva that I monitor locally. Following the really cold spell, when all the larva went into hiding for obvious reasons, I was confident that we would find a couple for him to see. As it was the larva were well out in force and a new record count of 17 was observed. This included 2 eating the same bit of grass with them facing each other and getting very close. The one at the top was just about to fall!!
As well as all the Wall Brown larva a couple of moth larva were also found including a very smart early instar Oak Eggar. My thanks to Nigel for the id for this larva. I was unsure as at this stage it is very different to the fully grown stage.

Wall Brown larva.

Early instar Oak Eggar larva.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Snow Thrush.

Each Winter Britain is invaded by large numbers of Thrushes from Scandinavia. With milder winters over here they can normally find enough food to survive the winter, although these days too many of the hedgerows are cut far too much which means there are far fewer berries around that should be there for these birds. 

Many of the influxes of both Fieldfare and Redwing from the early Winter seemed to have moved on, that was until the really cold spell that hit us last week. Then the Winter Thrushes started to appear again as they grew desperate for food, with many being found in gardens as they hunted out fallen apples from the Autumn.

Phil gave me a ring on Thursday to tell me he had several Fieldfare and Song Thrushes feeding on some windfall apples in his garden. He had already filled his boots with photos so he kindly invited me over to see if I could also take advantage. I wasn't able to until Saturday, when on getting up the sky was full of heavy cloud and it looked like I was going to be out of luck. Suddenly the skies cleared though and I quickly got the gear together and headed over to him. The big thaw had already started and the snow was beginning to go. The Fieldfares had also done a disappearing act so I sat in his Land Rover, that was acting as a makeshift hide, and waited and hoped. After around 15 minutes a single Fieldfare suddenly arrived to feed on the apples. I quickly ran off a few shots before someone walking down the lane disturbed the bird. However, it wasn't too long before the bird returned. This is without doubt the smartest thrush that we have in Britain and it was great watching it at such close quarters. In the hour I was there it came in around 6 times along with several Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. It was also good to sit in a bit of comfort and have a cuppa delivered too. A wonderful way to spend around an hour. By the time I had finished there was a lot less snow on the ground too so it was a good job I hadn't waited any longer before getting there. My thanks as ever to Phil for letting me share these wonderful birds.

Fieldfare enjoying the apples.

Song Thrush.


Female Blackbird.

Male Chaffinch.