Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

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A beautiful day to be out and about. I travelled a few miles to Lesnes Abbey in south-east London to attend a field studies council teaching day on the identification of Spiders. Now, as regular readers know I do recording for Butterflies, Dragonflies and Bumblebees on my local patch but I have to confess that I know next to nothing about spiders. Unlike the others, they don’t tend to make themselves obvious, quite the opposite in effect so I thought this course, part of the FSC’s Biolinks project was an excellent opportunity to at least start to remedy that.

The morning was taken up by an introductory talk on common spiders and how to recognise them. Species-level identification can be very difficult in the field so it is often about just identifying the family they come from – in some case there are only one species in a family which helps. In the afternoon we spent the time in and around Lesnes Abbey. We started with a wall in the ruins and soon had examples of 5 or 6 species to look at – who would have guessed that so much lived in an old wall. The highlight was a large but very agile example of the Lace web Spiders (Amaurobius ferox) along with a Zebra Spider (Salticus scenicus)and the more common lace web spider (Amaurobious similis).

Amaurobious Ferrox

Zebra Spider (left) and House Spider spp (right)

Next, we examined a bush and found another group of species. My favourite was the Cucumber Spider (Araniella cucurbitinia).

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Cucumber Spider. Photo by Mary Shattock (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maryshattock/)

Our final stop was some grassland where we found some Large Jawed Spider (Pachygnatha spp) along with Wolf Spider. My favorite here was the Cricket-bat Spider (Mangora acalphya).

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Cricket Bat Spider. Photo by Christophe Quintan (https://www.flickr.com/photos/34878947@N04/)

This was a very worthwhile and productive day. Thanks to Lawrence and Keiron who led it. I would encourage anyone who wants to improve their invertebrate identification to check out the Biolinks page at http://www.field-studies-council.org/individuals-and-families/fsc-biolinks-courses.aspx

Spider spp seen

Buzzing Spider (Anyphaena accentuata); Crab Spider spp; Running Crab spider spp; Cucumber Spider (Araniella curcurbitinia); Nursery Web Spider spp; Lace web Spider ( Amaurobius similis and Amaurobius Ferrox); Zebra Spider ( Salticus scenicus); Money Spider spp; House Spider spp; Wolf Spider spp; Large Jawed Spider spp; Cricket-bat Spider (Mangora acalphya).

Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)

Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
Small Tortoiseshell [sp] (Aglais urticae)

Amazing poto of a Sparrowhawk visiting a garden in Wales.

Via Sue Lewis….this female sparrow hawk has been marauding around Sue’s garden… helping herself to the feeding birds much to sue’s annoyance ..but still a very likeable visitor.

via Sparrow hawk .Llandegley — Radnor Bird Blog

Have only had the same experience once and it was amazing. (See https://petesfavouritethings.blog/2013/09/27/naturelog-thursday-26th-september/ )

 

Bufflehead

Posted: April 17, 2018 in Birds, Natural History, USA
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The Bufflehead is an attractive small sea duck of the Americas. The name is derived from buffalo-head, a comment on its rather large bulbous head. It winters on the East and West coasts of North America and breeds in Alaska and Canada, where it uses cavities in trees previously excavated by birds such as woodpeckers.

Unlike a number of other sea ducks, which are showing a decline, the population of Buffleheads appears to be remaining fairly constant at this time.

Today’s venue was the New Hythe and Leybourne complex of lakes in the Medway valley in Kent. This is one of the best venues to hear and see Nightengales when they first arrive and so Keith and I decided to visit to see if there were any early returners.

Certainly, there were migrants establishing territories and a number of Chiffchaff and Blackcaps together with a single Willow Warbler were heard and in some cases seen. Apart from these birds, it was relatively quiet on the lakes and there was no sound of any returning Nightengales yet.

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Blackcap (m)

The other highlight of the day was a number of butterflies, probably all overwintering species brought out by the warm weather. Brimstone, Red Admiral and Peacock were all seen.

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There were plenty of Rabbits as well

 

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Pheasant [sp] (Phasianus colchicus)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mediterranean Gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Willow Warbler [sp] (Phylloscopus trochilus)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Goldcrest [sp] (Regulus regulus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Pied Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

A bright Sunny day and so a good opportunity to do this week’s invertebrate survey. Finally, there seems to be some movement towards spring and in the garden, I recorded 4 species of Bee including Tree Bumblebee which as far as I can remember I have never seen here before. I also found a single Comma butterfly.

Tree Bumblebee (left) and Comma Butterfly

Around the Tarn, it was much the same picture with the same 4 species of Bumblebee including another Tree Bumblebee but no butterflies to add to the count. I did see a Slider, an American species of Terrapin which has been introduced into our waterways by pet owners who no longer want to look after them.

Red Slider and Common Moorhen

 

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Rock Dove [sp] (Columba livia)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

Comma Butterfly (Polygonia c-album)

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum)                                                                             Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestis)                                                                                   Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum)                                                                                           Honey Bee

 

We had debated whether to go Bough Beech Reservoir today as planned as the weather forecast wasn’t very hopeful. But by 1100 it appeared the rain had passed and so Sue and I made our way to this site near Sevenoaks in hope of catching up with some spring migrants. Parking on the causeway I began to look out over the water and there were good numbers of duck, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebes and Great Cormorants but no sign of any passage birds.

Great Crested Grebe

Tufted Duck

Eurasian Wigeon

Mallard

About 30 minutes after we arrived it started to rain and eventually this was so hard we took shelter in the car using it as a hide to watch for any birds flying through. A Great Spotted Woodpecker, a pair of Buzzards and a Chiffchaff were the best sightings. After a further hour the rain was getting harder and looked set, so we decided to call it a day and come home.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Chiffchaff [sp] (Phylloscopus collybita)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)

An Amazing Jouney

Posted: April 2, 2018 in Birds, Natural History
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We sometimes look at species that are with us all year round and miss the fact that our populations are often changing. A species may always be present, but individuals can be very mobile.

 

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Richard Bonsor, a local naturalist, posted this picture of a Black-headed Gull on Facebook last week. From its leg ring, he had been able to trace its amazing journey.

Richard Bonser to Friends of Erith Marshes

I saw this Black-headed Gull SN2N on Thamesmere, Thamesmead (London UK) on 3rd March 2018 – it was ringed at Jakuševec dump, Zagreb, Croatia on 26th February 2017 and seen in Mannheim, southwest Germany on 23rd December 2017. And then yesterday, just 22 days after my sighting, it was on the River Nemiga, Minsk, Belarus – 1,165 miles in 22 days!

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Peter Scott was born in September 1909. His father, the Antartic explorer, Robert Falcon Scott, died when he was only 2 years old. In his last letter to his wife, he encouraged her to get his son interested in natural history. Peter Scott read natural sciences at Cambridge but after graduation took up his interest in painting and had his first exhibition in London in 1933. He was also an excellent sailor and represented Great Britain at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, where he took a bronze medal. He served in the Royal Navy during world war II seeing service in the North Atlantic and the English Channel and was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. Using his artistic talent, he designed a new camouflage scheme for ships and by 1941 this had been adopted by the Navy. For this, he was awarded an MBE. Leaving the Navy in 1945 he stood for parliament but was not elected.

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In 1947 he founded the Severn Wildfowl Trust near Slimbridge (now the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) and in 1951 he was a co-founder of the World Wildlife Fund. At Slimbridge in the 1950’s, he made his name in conservation by masterminding the Nene project which ensured the survival of the Hawaiin Goose which was on the brink of extinction in its natural habitat. From 1955 until 1981 he appeared regularly on the BBC programme Look as well as doing other documentaries. He continued to be an acclaimed wildlife artist and was the founder of the society of wildlife artists.

Peter Scott died, aged 79, in August 1989. One of his biggest wishes was to have a Wetland Centre in an urban environment and this was achieved when the London Wetland centre opened in 2000. This statue of Peter Scott stands at the entrance to the centre as a memorial to the man, his life work and his legacy.

 

Now it had already been a very good morning already at the Wetland Centre when the news broke of a Bluethroat at Walthamstow Wetlands. Now I am not normally driven to chasing around after birds but there are some species for which I would make an exception – Gyrfalcon would be one and Bluethroat would be another. So it did not take much thought to abandon all previous plans and head off to the opposite side of London to see if I could see a Bluethroat for the first time. Would it still be there when I arrived?

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And so an hour or so later I found myself, along with a group of about a dozen others on the banks of the East Warwick Reservoir which makes up part of the Walthamstow complex. The bad news was immediately forthcoming – the bird had not been seen for an hour or so. Then one birder relocated it – it was partially hidden by the vegetation and the bank of the reservoir and it took me a while to get into a position where I could see the area where it had been seen and there it was, standing with its back to me! No sight of the amazing colouration on its throat and chest and then it was gone back into the vegetation. Over the next hour or so I got four brief views and the bird was revealed in all its glory. Sadly too far for any photos but I just enjoyed watching it.

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Bluethroat. Photo by Keith Cutting. Taken at Dungeness in Kent a few days before I saw the bird at Walthamstow

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Bluethroat. Photo by Karsten Wentink. https://www.flickr.com/photos/vankarsten/

On the way back to the reserve entrance I stooped off for 15 minutes to see if the Little Bunting would appear to crown the day – but no luck – well perhaps I was expecting too much!

Eurasian Magpie (top left), Canada Goose (top right), Greylag Goose (centre right) and Reed Bunting (bottom)

What a day – I think one of the best I have had- some very good birds.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Bluethroat (White-spotted) [group] (Luscinia svecica cyanecula/namnetum)
European Stonechat [sp] (Saxicola rubicola)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
Common Linnet [sp] (Linaria cannabina)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

A free day and a chance to get out and do some birdwatching. Keith had been to the wetland centre the previous week and had some good sightings so that was where I headed to.

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I arrived at the Tower hide and was greeted sights of a Marsh Harrier which had roosted in the reed-bed the previous evening. It was having a torrid time as every time it tried to fly it was hounded by the Carrion Crows who drove it back into the reed-bed, where it eventually perched.

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My attention was diverted elsewhere and so I didn’t see it leave but it hasn’t been reported since so I imagine that it had had enough and departed for some other place where it would get less hassle from the locals.

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Water Pipit. Photo by Radovan Vaclav (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rado_vaclav/)

On the wader scrape a Water Pipit wandered in and out of the vegetation and in the same area a Jack Snipe fed in a pool and showed its characteristic bobbing motion. I also got to see a Water Rail.

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Jack Snipe. Photo by Natural England (https://www.flickr.com/photos/naturalengland/)

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Water Rail

All in all this was turning out to be a very good day and just as I was wondering what to do next – try to get some photos of the Pipit and Snipe; look for a Bittern or go and have some lunch – the news came through of a Bluethroat found at Walthamstow Wetlands – but that’s another story.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Western Marsh Harrier [sp] (Circus aeruginosus)
Water Rail [sp] (Rallus aquaticus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Water Pipit [sp] (Anthus spinoletta)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)