Archive for the ‘Kent’ Category

On Monday Sue and I travelled down to Sevenoaks Nature Reserve to meet our friends Keith and Elaine for a, socially distanced, picnic lunch. It was the first time we had been able to meet up this year. After lunch Keith and I went for a walk around the reserve.

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs provided most of the musical accompaniment as we searched each of the lakes that make up this reserve. Although the number of bird species present was low (not surprising at this time of year) we managed 6 species of Butterfly and 5 species of Dragonfly. it was a lovely summer afternoon and a lovely walk around the lakes.

There is something about this stand of trees by the Oast House pool at Bough Beech that fascinates me.

Our trip out this week was a return to Bough Beech near Sevenoaks. I was returning for two reasons. One the local dragonfly recorder had asked for photographs of the Brilliant Emerald Dragonfly I had seen last week in order to confirm the record (I hadn’ t managed any last week) and secondly because a Western Osprey had been hanging around the Reservoir all weekend.

Our first sightings, however, were of a human kind as we met up with Andrew and Nicole, who we hadn’t seen since before lockdown and so it was good chance to catch up with them. They directed me to a Little Ringed Plover they had found on the edge of the reservoir and also described another wader which they had seen briefly in a channel in the vegetation on the north pool before it had disappeared from sight into the vegetation.

After they had left, I got another brief view of the mystery wader and although not totally sure thought it was probably Green Sandpiper. Amongst the other birds on the reservoir today were Common Terns and Grey Wagtail as well as the usual selection of Ducks, Swans and Geese. A female Mandarin Duck with 12 chicks was a pleasant sight.

I then decided to walk up to the Oast house to see if I could get the photographs of Brilliant Emerald. What a difference a week makes! the temperature was about 10 degrees lower than last week and whereas then there were about 40 insects from 5 species present, not a single one was to be seen today. I did hear Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff and got excellent views of the resident Kingfisher.

Common Whitethroat. Photo by Nicole

Back at the Reservoir, I though I would give the mystery wader one more go. Imagine my surprise when I looked into the channel and there it was, a Green Sandpiper, sitting out on a rock in plain view. I tried to get a photo but the hedge vegetation has grown so high that I couldn’t get a clear shot before it wandered off into the vegetation and out of view.

Green Sandpiper. Photo by Corine Bliek (https://www.flickr.com/photos/147485441@N04/)

A good end to our trip.

Venturing Forth

Posted: June 4, 2020 in Dragonflies, Kent, Natural History, UK

Our first trip out in 10 weeks (except for shopping) was a couple of hours at Bough Beech near Sevenoaks. As we arrived a Cuckoo departed and was not seen again, apparently, we had also just missed a Red Kite. The reservoir was fairly quite. By the evidence of the number of young Grey Herons present, the local heronry had experienced a good breeding season.

But the stars of the trip were 5 species of Dragonfly including one male Brilliant Emerald, only my second sighting in the UK. This local species is only found in West Kent and Surrey and in 2 areas in West and North East Scotland.

Brilliant Emerald. Photo by Paul Ritchie (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thelizardwizard/)

Before going to the meeting of the local RSPB group, Keith and I had a walk along the riverfront at Gravesend. Good numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Redshank along with a little Egret.

Rochester Castle

Posted: July 10, 2019 in Kent, UK
Tags: ,

Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

The first castle on this important site where the London Road crosses the River Medway was built by  Odo, the half-brother of William the Conqueror shortly after their victory in 1066. In 1088, following Williams death, Odo supported the King’s eldest son Robert for the crown and the castle was besieged by forces supporting the eventually successful son William Rufus. Records show that the following year repairs were made to the castle by Gandalf, Bishop of Rochester. The tower keep, much as it is seen today, was built in 1127 by William, Archbishop of Canterbury,  who had come into possession of the castle.

The Keep at Rochester Castle

The Keep at Rochester Castle

In 1215 the castle was taken by the rebel barons and was subsequently besieged by the forces of King John. The defenders held out for two months but eventually, starving, they had to surrender the castle. It was besieged again in 1264, this time holding for the King against rebel barons although the outcome was different as the castle was relieved after a week by Royal forces.

The Castle Keep

The Castle Keep

In 1381  the castle was captured and ransacked during the peasant’s revolt. It was badly damaged and this seems to have made it turning point in the castle’s history  as although repairs were carried out and people continued to live in the keep, the records show that the amount of repair work done was insufficient to keep the castle in a fully functional state and eventually it fell out of use. Much of the stone from the external walls and outbuildings was carried away and used on other building projects such as nearby Upnor Castle.

One of the few remaining portions of the external walls of Rochester Castle

One of the few remaining portions of the external walls of Rochester Castle

In 1870, the site was opened as a public park and eventually passed into the hands of the local authority, then the ministry of public works and finally to English Heritage.

Keith and I were fortunate that as we were exploring the grounds of the church in Snodland, a lady kindly offered to open up the church so we could have a look inside.

There is a possibility that there was a church on this site from around 660 AD although the first written record is from around 1000. The church was rebuilt in stone around 1100 and there is evidence that some of this came from a near-by Roman Villa as tiles and other Roman masonry have been found in the walls and in the infill.

The church was enlarged a number of times in the 13th-15th centuries, probably due to its position at the place where the Pilgrims Way from London to the tomb of St Thomas Becket in Canterbury crosses the River Medway (originally there was a ferry).

The tower included a Priests room, although this seems to have been converted into a lock-up when a rectory was built nearby in the 17th century to house the priest. There was much renovation in the 19th century and a vestry was added to the south side at this time. There are only a few fragments of original medieval glass as a land mine fell nearby in 1942 and shattered the windows. Some 19th-century windows remain plus more modern replacements.

A Bank Holiday Monday morning visit to the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Sevenoaks to look for Little Ringed plover and other migrants.

The reserve is based around two large lakes which were originally dug for sand and gravel extraction. My first stop was at the hide overlooking the west end of the main lake. This was where the Little Ringed Plovers had been seen the previous day but there was no sign this morning. More common birds were present including Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe and a single Mute Swan.

Eurasian Teal (m)
Wood Forget-me-nots

I then walked through the wood to the hide at the other end of the main lake but only saw the same species. Blackcaps were singing in the trees but no other migrant warblers were heard. My final stop was at the hide on the second lake. Here there was a group of Greylag Geese. The feeding station was not busy and only a couple of Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Dunnock and a Magpie visited whilst I was there.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

A winters day and a chance for some birdwatching in Kent with Keith. Our first stop was a housing estate in Strood, which is now becoming a regular spot for a wintering flock of Bohemian Waxwings, a Scandinavian bird which only comes to the UK in years when the berry crop on the continent is not enough to sustain them. Some years there are huge eruptions with many hundreds or even thousands of birds coming over the North Sea. This is not one on them and this winter there has only been a handful in the South of England, so we wanted to take the opportunity to see if we could catch up with them. We had to wait over an hour, but eventually, the group of 6 birds dropped into their favourite feeding tree and stayed for about 20 minutes before flying off.

After a break in a local cafe for lunch, we made our way down to the River Medway at Rochester looking for Common Sandpiper, a species which winters on this stretch of river. As the mud was exposed on the falling tide there were Northern Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Common Redshank feeding on the mud together with Mallard and a single Little Grebe.

Mallard
Common Redshank

Then out from one of the little creeks came a Common Sandpiper and we got close views as it began to feed.

Common Sandpiper

As we walked along the riverside to the Railway station we saw a second Common Sandpiper. A good day with both target species seen well.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Little Grebe [sp] (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Eurasian Oystercatcher [sp] (Haematopus ostralegus)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Collared Dove [sp] (Streptopelia decaocto)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Bohemian Waxwing [sp] (Bombycilla garrulus)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
Mistle Thrush [sp] (Turdus viscivorus)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)

In Gravesend on the River Thames today for an RSPB meeting so Keith and I arranged to meet early and go for a walk along the promenade to see what was about on the river.

The River Thames at Gravesend

As we walked along the riverside, there were groups of Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud.

Black-tailed Godwit
Black-tailed Godwits with Black-headed Gulls

Nearer to the fort, there were some Common Redshank

Common Redshank
Common Redshank

As we walked into the riverside park a Eurasian Sparrowhawk flew over attracting the attention of one of the resident Carrion Crows which harried it till it flew on. The lake contained only a small party of Moorhen and the sheltered gully only the usual residents.

As we walked back towards the town, a man was feeding the Black-headed Gulls and the Mute Swans and a couple of Common Gulls were present.

On one of the peirs, we spotted a small party of Ruddy Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Black-tailed Godwit [sp] (Limosa limosa)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Mew Gull (Common) [group] (Larus canus canus/heinei)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)