Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Rye Meads in Mid-summer

7th July 2014

I had gone to Rye Meads in the hope of getting some more photos of the Black-necked Grebes which had now left the nest. Unfortunately, although they were visible from the Gadwall Hide, they were a long way away and far too distant for a photo, unlike these shots when they were still on the nest. I therefore moved on to the Kingfisher Hide to see what the Kingfishers were up to.

The Kingfishers were on their second brood and, although the young were still in the nest, they were about to fledge any day now. Also, a fresh nest had been excavated for a third brood. There were several long waits between the adults flying out to feed and returning to the nest with fish for the young. However, the male in particular had a ritual which made the photography a little easier. On his return, he would land on the furthest perch before then flying to the nest to feed the young. On emerging from the nest he would plunge in the water to wash off the sand and then fly to the middle perch, and would occasionally fly to the nearest perch before flying off for more fish.

Also, knowing that he was going to plunge into the water on leaving the nest, it was possible to focus on the water and get a shot as he emerged from the water.

As I strolled back to the centre I decided to have a quick look at the view in front of the Draper Hide. The habitat looked ideal with plenty of muddy margins for waders, ideal apart from the fact that there were no waders. Then, from the far side of the scrape Green Sandpipers started to fly in, landing in the pools to the left of the hide. Eventually a total of seven birds had arrived and started to feed in the shallows.

One of the sandpipers was sporting a set of colour rings. Green Sandpipers are caught and ringed at Rye Meads and Lemsford Springs and are the subject of a colour-ringing programme coordinated by Barry Trevis. Each bird has a unique combination of colour rings on its legs, which has that advantage that individual birds can be recognised from a distance without the need to recapture them.

The combination for this bird is Yellow left and Blue over Red right. Armed with this information we know that it was ringed as a juvenile at Rye Meads on the 6th August 2013. So if you see any colour-ringed Green Sandpipers contact Barry Trevis (trevis1@tiscali.co.uk) with the details.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Wagtails on the Layer Breton Causeway

5th July 2014

It is that time of year when everything is so quiet, but could take off at any time. So today's plan was to visit Abberton Reservoir to see if there were any early autumn migrants whether they be waders or passerines on the banks of the Layer Breton causeway. The compulsory Lapwing was present and strutting his stuff at the water's edge, occasionally stooping down to pick up a morsel.

I had hoped that there would be a few pipits or wagtails present as when the water levels are high, as they are at the present time, they can be quite photogenic. No pipits sadly but I didn't have to wait too long for an adult and young Pied Wagtail to appear running around feeding at the water's edge.

But then the moment I had been waiting for, the call of a Yellow Wagtail flying overhead. I eventually tracked it down and started to take some photos. Then another appeared, and another, but what I found intriguing was that they were all bright adults whereas I am normally photographing juveniles. It was only when they started collecting food that the penny dropped. I was here a lot earlier in the year than usual and instead of the usual migrants these were breeding adults collecting food for their young in the surrounding fields.

At that point one of the birds left the water's edge and flew into the vegetation half way up the bank. This was an opportunity too good to miss. I edged closer and to my astonishment the bird flew out of the grass and landed on top of the vegetation. This is what I call cooperative photography!!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Rainham Marshes in Mid-summer

2nd July 2014

Another visit to Rainham Marshes on a lovely sunny day in the hope of getting some photos of Water Voles or Bearded Tits. A few yards along the clock-wise route brought me to the bridge over the stream just before the Purfleet Hide, where I had been advised that Water Voles had be seen regularly over the past few days. I settled down for what could be a long wait with only a singing Reed Warbler to keep me company. Although it was clearly unconcerned by my presence, it remained tantalisingly behind a few Phragmites stems so it was not possible to get a shot in the open, but mustn't complain.

At that point I could hear some movement in the reeds just below the bridge and I could just about make out a Water Vole well hidden in the reeds. It was feeding on some stems and therefore was in no hurry to come out so I had to be content with just a beady eye peering at me. Eventually it did move further back into the reeds only to break cover further downstream.

A little further along the stream my attention was drawn to a pair of Little Grebes that were feeding their young. The male was very active bringing food to the chicks including some very large dragonfly larvae, but the female stayed well inside the reeds with her young on her back. During all this activity yet another Reed Warbler and Water Vole were on show.

Moving on to the dragonfly pools I came across another pair of Little Grebes with young, although this time the young were much larger and quite confiding. Also sunning itself on the boardwalk was this male Black-tailed Skimmer

I was now approaching the Butts Hide, an area of grassland which turned out to be insect city. Skippers were making the most of the flowers of Creeping Thistle like this Small Skipper. However, I was particularly pleased a shot of a second skipper because when I got it home I could see by the black ink dots on the underside of the antennae that this was an Essex Skipper. There was also a Meadow Brown.

Also feeding on the Creeping Thistles was this rather attractive micro moth which turns out to be Sitochroa verticalis. This is a resident in the south of the country, but can sometimes be increased by migrants. Also on the thistles were a number of Soldier Beetles and Thick-legged Flower Beetles.

Dragonflies were relatively few and far between but that was more than made up for by this cracking male Ruddy Darter with it crimson abdomen and jet-black legs.

And finally on to the cordite stores to see if I could add to my hoverfly list. There was certainly a good number nectaring on the brambles, but most were readily recognisable as the more common species. Then, just as I was about to call it a day I found this stripey individual nectaring on Hogweed, which I have subsequently identified as Cheilosia illustrata, a new species for me and now number nine on my list of species.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Lodge in Mid-summer

29th June 2014

As we are in mid-summer and the birds everywhere are very quiet the primary objective of going to The Lodge was to try and increase my list of hoverflies. Just as well, as the day was warm but gloomy and therefore I set off down to the gardens. There were certainly plenty of hoverflies around, although few were cooperative. I did eventually manage to get a few shots and increased my hoverfly list by one. These were two of the better shots.

 Episyrphus balteatus

Helophilus pendulus

On the way back to the hide I came across a bramble patch surrounded by bracken. This was attracting quite a few butterflies including this Comma and Meadow Brown. As I was photographing the Comma a much larger and brighter butterfly was circling round, a Silver-washed Fritillary, but never settled for a photograph.

I then moved on the the hide for a spot of lunch not expecting too much activity at this time of year, although I was pleasantly surprised. First to pay a visit was the resident Red-legged Partridge obviously attracted to the seed that had been dropped from the feeders. Hardly an arable field habitat where you would normally expect to find them but welcome nevertheless.

Next to take advantage of the free food was a Jay and a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker. Adult Great-spots have black caps with the male having a red spot on its nape, but juveniles have an all-red cap making them easy to identify.

But the star of the day was a Spotted Flycatcher which was feeding in the Silver Birches behind the hide. It wasn't very cooperative, especially on a rather dull day, but I did manage to get at least one reasonable shot.

In the end proved to be better for birds than insects.