Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Blean Woods

Yesterday we decided to go to the RSPB Reserve at Blean woods. The day was changeable in that it was overcast for most of the day but not cold, with the sun quite powerful and occasionally breaking through the cloud cover. We didn’t get there until about , and I was aware that both the weather and the time of the walk would cut down on what we saw, though I didn’t realise until afterwards by how much. In addition the canopy was so dense that not enough like filtered through to get a fast enough shutter speed and only one of my pictures came out, so I have used a few of my (unrelated) older pictures to use as breaks in this posting. Sorry!

Male Chaffinch - Cliffe Pools 6-5-2010 - Olympus SP590UZ
At the car park there is a map of the woods showing four specific footpaths. We found the reserve to be well maintained with the footpaths clearly marked with route markers showing you which walk you are on; there is even a  separate route specifically for dog walkers. and although one or two dog owners chose to ignore the no dog signs, this was only on the footpath back to the car park.Cycling on the footpaths is prohibited, but only shown on a small sign at the start.

Female Blackcap - Leybourne Lakes 25-9-2010 - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The woods initially appeared to be full of life and awash with song. Within the first ten minutes I heard Chaffinch, Robin, Willow Warbler, Blackbird and Great Tit – and yet saw none of them. I searched through the dense foliage with my binoculars but they all remained elusive and five minutes further into the walk all was silent. This was almost a template to rest of the walk with periods of quiet interspersed with short bursts of song, usually from behind several layers of vegetation. However dogged patience brought a sighting of one of the Willow Warblers, and before lunch we added Blue Tits and a Nightingale to the heard but not seen list. By the end of the walk all except the Nightingale and Chaffinch we were able to add to the seen list.

Goldcrest - Seasalter 12-10-2010 - Canon 400D + 100-400mm (and 3 hours of waiting)
During lunch I heard a Chiffchaff calling, which afterwards I was able to track down at the edge of a clearing. It was about ¾ way through the walk before I managed to spot a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers high in the canopy where they were attacking leaves at the tops of the trees. I assume this is where a lot of the insects were to be had as this was also where the Blue Tits were feeding. Other sightings for the day were a male Blackcap, a female House Sparrow, several Jays, a Rook (at the reserves edge) and a Wood Pigeon. All in all a very short day list.

WhiteStork - Cadzand Bad, Holland 6-8-2010 - Olympus SP-590UZ
So what about the insects and associated mini-beasts? There were only two types of insect we saw, the first was a wood ant, in fact these were almost everywhere, rivers of them climbing up and down the trees in continuous processions – it was fascinating to watch, we also came across one of their nests (the only picture to come out of the day), you cannot see it, but it was covered in ants. They were good to see in such numbers throughout the walk as they are an indicator of a healthy deciduous woodland. The second insect was the mosquito, I was bitten at least 13 times – and that’s only the ones I can see on my chest and arms!

Wood Ant nest - Blean - Olympus SP-590UZ
All in all it was a nice walk (except the insect bites), end of May is a bit late in the year to expect too much and as it was Bank holiday Monday there was probably a lot more human disturbance than normal, but I was still disappointed that I failed to find any Nuthatch or Tree Creepers. This will not deter me from revisiting Blean Woods probably late evening for Woodcock and Nightjar – this time with insect repellent! 

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Oare Marshes

Today was an overdue trip to Oare Marshes, I try to get there at least once a month but it had been 5 weeks. The weather was still blustery and I think this kept most of the smaller birds quiet; that is all except for the Cetti’s Warbler behind my car in the car park. As always, it was heard but not seen, though I did catch a glimpse of a Reed Warbler it was in competition with. I started off with a walk to Dan’s dock and back. All was relatively quiet, however I was treated to the sight of a Merlin hunting along a stream, shooting past a mere 30 feet away, it then took a dragonfly which it started to eat on the wing. At Dan’s Dock all was quiet with a Linnet being the only sighting. Other sightings from the Car Park to Dan’s Dock consisted of Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Coot, Carrion Crow, Little Egret, Little Grebe, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Heron, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Shelduck, Yellow Wagtail and Whitethroat.

I then went to see what was on the East Flood, and found an Avocet and Little Egret who were happy to pose for me (today I had the Canon 400D).

Avocet  - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Little Egret  - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
The flood enabled me to add Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Black Tailed Godwit, Greylag Goose (with Goslings), Pochard, Starling and Mute Swan to the list, also a solitary Shoveler whose plumage was a bit rough to say the least. There were also a number of Shelduck chicks on one of the islands.

I then wandered up to the cottages and back enabling me to add, Collared Dove, Swallow, House Sparrow ( it still stuns me how rarely I see these birds now) and  Lesser Whitethroat (first of the year for me). Heard but not seen was a Chaffinch.

House Sparrow  - Canon 400D + 100-400mm
On the way up to the sluice gate I spotted this mating pair of what I believe to be Emporer Dragonflies.

Emporer Dragonflies (I believe)  - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

Just past the sluice I spotted a Sedge Warbler, but it didn’t hang around long. At the Sea Wall Hide I looked over the Swale to find three Little Terns, sadly the photo was taken at some distance but (it was clearer through the scope) another year first for me.

Little Tern - Canon 400D + 100-400mm

It was a nice day at Oare, I did not realise how nice until I felt the sunburn at home!!! 

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Just getting started

It will take me a little while to get into the swing of things, so as a practice for me and an introduction to the blog I am just going to post a few photos together with a summary of where and when and hope it takes off from there.

Earlier last month I went to North Wales, the weather was a bit changeable, however the visit ended with a trip to South Stack near Holyhead, run by the RSPB. It was a fantastic day, seeing the cliffs lined with hundrreds of Guillemots and Razorbills.

Guillemots lining the cliff at South Stack - Canon 400D +100-400 zoom

Pair of Razorbills at South Stack - Canon 400D +100-400 zoom
Choughs were sparodically flying overhead and below.

Chough at South Stack - Canon 400D +100-400 zoom

A few pairs of Fulmars were also perched on the cliff faces. The below pair were first timers on this particular ledge.

Pair of Fulmars at South Stack - Canon 400D +100-400 zoom

To top it off a few Puffins popped in and out of their burrows. Sadly these burrows were at quite a distance.

Puffin at South Stack - Canon 400D +100-400 zoom

My local haunt is Leybourne Lakes.This area is already covered by several excellent nature Blogs, so I probably won't report to often from there, however here are a few snaps from my most recent visits. It was a blustery day, so not much was about.

(I believe) a Common Blue Damselfly - Olympus SP-590UZ

Banded Demoiselle Damselfly -  Olympus SP-590UZ

Grelag Goose - a very young one - Olympus SP-590UZ

My visits to Mote Park a few years ago resulted only in the usual ducks, however a Mote Park Blogger nudged me into a revisit. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety I heard and irritated immensely by how well it all remained hidden. Very few pictures taken, however it was fun to see a swarm of bees attached to this tree by the lakeside, I hope they found somewhere safe to settle.

Bee Swarm - Olympus SP-590UZ
Thats it for my first post. It took several hours to do the photo editing, however a bit of practice and I should get quicker. The future should see a more in depth report style, dated and with a full list of sightings.