Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

At present both the Big Butterfly count and the national Dragonfly survey are both running and so I decided to combine counts for these with my weekly counts on the local patch. It was a warm but quite windy day and so conditions were not ideal and this was reflected in the low butterfly count – just a Small White and a Speckled Wood seen. However there is always something to find and today it was two new records for me – the first of these was a female Tufted Duck and 4 young. Although the Tufted Duck are present all year round on the Tarn, this is the first time I have seen evidence of successful breeding. The youngsters are quite large now and look very healthy so hopefully, they will make it to adulthood.

The second new record was 2 Jersey Tiger Moths. This bright, colourful day flying Moth is a relative newcomer to London. In a 1903 survey, it was found only in one location in Devon and in the Channel Islands, but in recent years it has spread throughout southern England and arrived in 2004 in London where it is now regularly recorded.

Jersey Tiger Moth. Photo by AJ Cann (https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/)

Jersey Tiger Moth.

Young Grey Heron on Tarn

 

After completing the weekly survey I went onto Eltham Palace to check out the moat for Dragonflies and was pleased to find a number of Small Red-Eyed Damselflies plus a single Migrant Hawker

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Bracket Fungus

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)

 

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Speckled Wood [sp] (Pararge aegeria)

Jersey Tiger Moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria)

Small Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma vindulum)
Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

On Wednesday Keith and I went on a boat trip up the River Medway from Rochester and across the Thames to Southend. It was a great opportunity to do some birdwatching from a different perspective as we passed the marshes on the estuary. When we arrived in Southend we took a walk along the foreshore to Southchurch Park and this was probably the most productive part of the day, wildlife-wise.

Highlights were the Ruddy Turnstones on the end of the pier, many in Summer plumage, a group of Meditteranean Gulls on the foreshore and around the Pier and a pair of Little Grebes on the lake in Southchurch park.

 

 

Ruddy Turnstone. Southend Pier

Ruddy Turnstone, Southend Pier

Mediterranean Gull, Southend Pier

Mediterranean Gull, Southend Foreshore

Cormorant, Southend Foreshore

Southchurch Park Southend

Little Grebe, Southchurch Park

Little Grebe, Southchurch Park

We had hoped that we might also find some insect life in the rough meadow areas of Southchurch Park, but the weather conspired against us and all we found were a single Meadow Brown and some ladybirds.

Ladybird, Southchurch Park

 

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Eurasian Curlew [sp] (Numenius arquata)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Mew Gull [sp] (Larus canus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Pigeon [sp] (Columba livia)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Common House Martin [sp] (Delichon urbicum)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

Whilst out surveying three sites this morning for the Great Butterfly Count (a nationwide 10-day survey) I came across the female kestrel from the pair in Oxleas Meadows perched in a tree between hunting forays. She didn’t stay long and was soon off hunting again.

On the butterfly count, I recorded 8 species across the 3 sites but was surprised that there were not higher numbers of each giving the temperature was 23C and it seemed like ideal conditions. I do hope this doesn’t mean it is going to be a bad year again!

Gatekeeper

Small Tortoiseshell

Red Admiral

Speckled wood

Meadow Brown

A warm sunny morning saw Keith and I at West Court Farm near Cliffe in Kent for our usual morning stop at Tabitha’s snack waggon before proceeding onto the nearby RSPB reserve. The farm fields were very dry and there were not many birds to see although we did see a passing Marsh Harrier and a Mute Swan.

Moving onto the reserve we quickly located two spoonbills feeding on one of the pools.

Spoonbill. Photo by Steve Childs (https://www.flickr.com/photos/steve_childs/)

 

Generally, though bird numbers were low and it was the butterflies and Dragonflies that held our attention.

Small White

Red Admiral

Meadow Brown

Azure Damselfly

One excellent bird sighting was a Common Whitethroat singing from a wire

Common Whitethroat

Common Whitethroat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this strange looking bird – which is actually a juvenile Robin

Despite the apparent quietness we still recorded 50 species of birds, which is not bad for this time of the year here along with 9 species of Butterflies and 5 species of Dragonfly.

Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal [sp] (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Cuckoo [sp] (Cuculus canorus)
Common Swift [sp] (Apus apus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Lesser Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia curruca)
Common Whitethroat [sp] (Sylvia communis)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Song Thrush [sp] (Turdus philomelos)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Linnet [sp] (Carduelis cannabina)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Butterflies

Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Green-veined White [sp] (Artogeia napi)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

 

Dragonflies

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)
Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)

One of the world’s iconic and easily recognised buildings

Through My Lens

The iconic Sydney Opera House, as seen from Toronga Zoo.

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Having been away from home for a while it was good to be able to do the Butterfly and Dragonfly survey on my patch today. It was a lovely sunny day although thankfully the temperature had dropped some degrees from the previous week, which made it more pleasant to be outside.

There were a number of Butterfly species to be seen with a good number of Commas and Meadow Browns, my first records of these on the patch this year, along with large White and Speckled Wood. the star undoubtedly was a Large Skipper. This is only the second record for the patch since I started recording here.

Large Skipper

Comma

Speckled Wood

On the Dragonfly front, there were good numbers of Azure Damselflies and a single Large Red Damselfly. Most of these were well away from the pond where they breed. I did check as many as possible to see if there were any Common Blue Damselfly, of which we occasionally get a few, but I couldn’t see any. On the main lake an Emperor Dragonfly was patrolling the margins.

Azure damselfly

Red Kite

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Birds, Natural History
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It is amazing to remember that when I started watching wildlife back in the 1980’s the Red Kite population had reduced to less than 20 birds in one area of West Wales. This was largely down to persecution and ignorance. Tales abounded about Kites taking all sorts of prey including sheep and small animals. In fact there live on carrion (that is meat that is already dead) and worms. Occasionally they may take small mammals such as mice and rats but scientific studies have shown that they cannot handle anything larger unless it is already dead.

 

 

From these dark days of the 1980’s when many presumed the species would die out in the UK due to in-breeding the picture has changed dramatically. A program of re-introductions into different parts of the country has been very successful and there are now reckoned to be around 2000 breeding pairs in the UK. These attractive birds can now be seen and enjoyed in many parts of the country.

These pictures were taken in Wales recently at the Nant yr Arian feeding station.

Croydon Sunset

Posted: June 21, 2017 in Landscape, London, Natural History, UK
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Returning from a meeting in Croydon a few days ago there was a spectacular sunset.

photo by Sue

 

 

Photo by Sue

 

 

A bright sunny morning saw myself and Keith on our way to the Minsmere nature reserve with Gravesend RSPB group.

On arrival, we decided that rather than try and get around the reserve and all its different habitats we would focus our attention on seeing and photographing certain key species.

The first of these was a Marsh Warbler. Although common on the European continent, they are rarely seen in this country and so this one which had appeared at Minsmere that morning was the top target. It was a very obliging bird and although it spent some time playing hide and seek behind bushes, whilst singing loudly to let us know it was there, we eventually got great views.

Marsh Warbler

Our next target was Eurasian Bittern, which breeds at Minsmere. We have been unlucky in our attempts to catch up with this species this year and so it was fantastic to get great views of one crossing a pool right in front of the hide.

Eurasian Bittern

Eurasian Bittern. Photo by Keith

 

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Island Mere hide and the target bird was a Savi’s Warbler, another rare continental visitor and which had been heard singing in the area for the previous few days. Whilst here we had good views of Bearded Reedling, Marsh Harrier and of 2 more Bitterns. Eventually, after about an hour, some people, including Keith, heard it singing very briefly – unfortunately, I was not one of them. We waited another 30 minutes but it remained silent and we decided to move on.

Eurasian Bittern coming into land. Photo by Keith

We made our way down to the wader scrape and added a number of species including ducks, geese and wading birds, oh and another 2 Bitterns!

Along the paths and amongst the pools we found many Butterflies and Dragonflies.

4 spotted Chaser

Red-eyed damselfly

Cinnabar Moth

Comma

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was soon time to return to our coach. An excellent day with a wonderful variety of wildlife and so many sightings of Bittern, but the Marsh Warbler was undoubtedly the bird of the day.

Red-legged Partridge [sp] (Alectoris rufa)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)
Eurasian Bittern [sp] (Botaurus stellaris)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Little Egret [sp] (Egretta garzetta)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Ringed Plover [sp] (Charadrius hiaticula)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Sandwich Tern (Thalasseus sandvicensis)
Common Tern [sp] (Sterna hirundo)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Bearded Reedling [sp] (Panurus biarmicus)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Barn Swallow [sp] (Hirundo rustica)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)
Eurasian Reed Warbler [sp] (Acrocephalus scirpaceus)
Marsh Warbler (Acrocephalus palustris)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Carduelis chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Butterflies

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small Copper [sp] (Lycaena phlaeas)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)
Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Dragonflies

Blue-tailed Damselfly (Ischnura elegans)
Common Blue Damselfly (Enallagma cyathigerum)
Red-eyed Damselfly (Erythromma najas)
Norfolk Hawker (Anaciaeschan isosceles)
Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator)
Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)
Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum)

The Quarry Pond, Shrewsbury

After leaving Aberystwyth I travelled to Shrewsbury en route to a meeting in the Brecon Beacons. Whilst in Shrewsbury, I popped down to one of the parks where a Black-Crowned Night Heron has been in residence for a couple of months.

 

 

There is much debate as to whether this is a bird that has escaped from a collection – it certainly seems tolerant of people, but regardless a lovely bird and great for photography.